Heating Season

Attila turned the heat on yesterday morning. After a chilly night, the indoor temperature had fallen to 18C, which is a little cooler than we like it, so the thermostat was set to 21C, and the heating season has begun.

I’ve been busy in the kitchen.

I was going to be spending a lot of time organizing the freezer. As usual plans change, a distraction appeared, in the form of a bushel of Northern Spy apples. Saturday was dreary, so after making a call to ensure availability, we took a drive out the apple ‘farm”. It was more like a carnival site than a farm. I grew up on a farm, and it was nothing like a producing enterprise. It was a “do-dad” store. Sure, there were bins and bushels of apples, at sky-high prices, but there was mostly astronomically priced goodies, that looked homemade, but probably were not. $10 for a small jar of jelly seems a little over the top, but people were lined up at the cash register, and most of the high-priced baked goods were gone. We looked around, inwardly gasping at the prices, then found what we were looking for, bushels of Northern Spy apples. The store owners were cunning. They gave the grade of their apples their own names, so they didn’t have to meet government grading standards. The told us we were buying their highest quality apples, at $27 a half bushel, $37 a bushel. Baloney. What we bought were seconds. The size ranged from 2 1/2 inches in diameter to 5 inches in diameter, there were significant blemishes (cosmetic) on many of the apples. A bushel of Northern Spy apples was purchased. Next autumn I will be looking for an alternative, and more honourable, source for my apples. Still, I was thrilled to get my favourite apples!

Northern Spy Apples

These are not first grade apples, these are seconds. The apple store claimed they were best grade apples, I would hate to see what their seconds looked like. Cunning avoidance of quality standards. Still, the blemishes aren’t a problem for my purposes, I just resent the top quality prices being demanded for lower grade produce. I will be trying to find another farm to deal with next year.

Since the apples were not number one grade, they needed to be processed sooner rather than later. So Saturday afternoon, and Saturday night, I got busy and made applesauce from the first half bushel. I removed the stems and blossom ends from the apples, quartered them, and filled the 16 quart stock pot, and a 6 quart stock pot. Northern Spy apples are very dense, as they cooked down, they became thicker and thicker, so more and more and more water was added, quarts of it, and still the applesauce was very, very thick. Late Saturday night, Attila helped by putting the cooked apples through the food mill, while I cleaned the equipment. Exhausted, we went to bed, leaving a clean kitchen and the 16 quart stock pot four fifths full of very thick strained applesauce.

As is often the case when I work late into the night, I don’t sleep very long. By 6:00 a.m. I was up and enjoying my morning coffee. 7:00 a.m. found me dressed, in my apron, heating up the applesauce, washing canning jars, and heating up the steam canner. By 10:30 eleven 1 litre jars of applesauce were lined up neatly on the countertop.

Just as a note to self, the applesauce was so thick that I added a can of apple juice to it to thin it down even more, and simmered it for ten minutes to prepare it for the canning jars. It was so thick that it was difficult to stir with a regular wooden spoon, so the recently purchased “canning paddle” (Canadian Tire) was christened, and it worked wonderfully.

Cooked northern spy apples, with wooden spoon standing up in them.

This was the cooked Northern Spy apples, so thick you could stand a spoon up in them!

What was my rush to get the applesauce canned? We had other plans for Sunday!

Attila likes to sleep in, so that is what he did on Sunday morning, while I was canning in the kitchen. After he arose he began to organize tools and equipment, and to load the car. As soon as my jars were lined up neatly, and I had a little sit down after all my toiling, we were off to the Rideau Camp.

Lucky! The day was magnificent. Cloudy and sunny by turns, warm and cool by turns, it was a dry and rustley and colourful autumn day. There was much to do, to winterize Grace the Trailer, and get everything ship-shape for the coming cold weather.

When we arrived I made a beeline for the mouse trap inside Grace. Sure enough, there were two more mice in the bucket trap. Arghhhh! However, there were few droppings, so the cleanup was minimal. They were starting to build a nest in the sink drain, which was secure, chewed wood in the drain and underneath the drain. The mice are damaging something, but it isn’t evident just what. Two of the burners on the range no longer function, so I suspect they have been at the propane lines, I hope not, but it will need investigating. I HATE mice.

After taking the bucket trap out to Attila, who buried the mice in the bush, I moved the furniture around so that the slide could be retracted into the trailer. All of the bedding, and anything fabric, needed to be removed, and the lanterns and few remaining liquids, bleach and hydrogen peroxide. It didn’t take long. While I was setting Grace to rights, Attila started a camp fire, getting a good blaze going to build up some healthy embers for cooking.

We enjoyed the campfire tremendously. When the embers were just right, Attila cooked grilled cheese sandwiches over them, and we ate them hungrily, with homemade chili sauce on the side. This meal was so good! It was however, the entire sodium quota for the day, so nothing else containing sodium could be consumed for the rest of the day.

It was sad to pack up the Rideau Camp for the winter. We will be out there again though, if it can be managed. There are three newly dead elm trees that need to be felled, and it is best to do it when the leaves are off the trees, for better visibility.

When we arrived home I cooked a spaghetti dinner, using the very last jar of frozen spaghetti sauce from last year, while Attila picked the full-sized green tomatoes from the garden. The garden is still bringing on fruit, so it will be kept going, with frost covering at night, for as long as possible, to harvest as much as possible.

two boxes of green tomatoes

Full sized green tomatoes from the garden. On the left are San Marino, and on the right are Amish Paste and Health Kick (larger) tomatoes.

Yesterday it was back to the weekly routines.

Tank is having problems. I noticed it a few weeks ago, and then again last week when driving to the grocery store. A week ago I dropped into the garage we favour and made an appointment, to have Tank looked at, for last Friday. So I’ve been without a vehicle ever since. The upshot on Friday was that the job was too big for the mechanics setup, so another appointment was made for later this week at a different reputable garage. The problem has something to do with timing, and apparently the whole motor has to come out to replace the part, so the bill will be thousands of dollars. Sigh. Time to tighten our belts. Owning a vehicle is a constant source of expense, they aren’t free transportation by any means.

When it rains it pours of course.

Yesterday, as I was busy in the kitchen, I noticed the dehumidifier in the basement was making a very loud noise. An investigation resulted in shutting it down, and trying to remove the filter for cleaning. Eventually this was accomplished, when it thawed, it had been frozen in place. It was very dirty. After starting the dehumidifier up again, the problem persisted. Attila has determined that is in need of repair, and would like to tackle the job himself. I have no optimism about this, it will be time-consuming and is probably fruitless. In the meantime, the dehumidifier we had at the country house was pressed into service. It is beginning to smell musty down there, so the backup humidifier is not up to the job at hand. I see another big expense on the horizon! Actually, today will be research day, I won’t let this mustiness go on for very long, as I am the one who will be cleaning up mold and mildew, and prevention is more important to me than saving a bit of money trying to fix the old one.

The freezer organization project is not completely on hold. A bag of mystery frozen food was brought upstairs and investigated. The contents were, a pound of lard wrapped in foil, a plastic container of squash, suffering from some freeze drying, and two bags of mystery meat. The pound of lard went into the garbage, it was dried out. The plastic container of squash was placed in the freezer with the other containers of squash, and the mystery meat was put on a plate to thaw. The mystery meat ended up being sliced turkey breast and some small pieces of dark turkey meat.

The white meat was chopped, and went into the Instant Pot to become Sweet and Sour Turkey with Vegetables and Rice, and it was delicious. The dark meat was chopped and went into Attila’s turkey soup, which he made last night, using the carcass of the roast turkey enjoyed the weekend before last.

The vintage mystery food of the day today is a bag of frozen peas, a little worse for wear, and a container of homemade fallafels. Fallafels are on the menu for tonight or tomorrow night. The peas are awaiting the next Instant Pot meal.

Note to self. When salvaging vegetables with freezer burn and significant ice formation, place in colander and run under cold water until the ices has melted away, consume immediately.

Well that’s me. Not too exciting, I think it probably lives a lot better than it sounds.

Worldly

Weather

5°C
Date: 9:00 AM EDT Tuesday 16 October 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.0 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 5.4°C
Dew point: 2.1°C
Humidity: 80%
Wind: W 18 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”
Maria Montessori
1870 – 1952

Anti-micromanagement theory.

Still Moving In!

When we moved to Mist Cottage, just over three years ago, we were overwhelmed by possessions.  What comfortably furnished an 1800 square foot home did not fit comfortably into an already fully furnished 640 square foot home. Boxes were stacked to the ceiling, and tunnels through them led to the kitchen, the bathroom and the beds.

We have come a long way since that week of moving our household.  Much was given to Terra and Lares, a custom-made pine dining set, an antique oak dresser… Much was given to the local Women’s Shelter, and Men’s Shelter, dishes, two television sets, clothing and much, much more… Some things were given away via kijiji.  Other items were sold via kijiji.  I discovered I do not like selling via kijiji, finding a meeting place to exchange money for items, or having people pick things up at the house… nope, I don’t like that much.

Because Mist Cottage was already a fully functioning home, fully furnished, supplied with food, and the necessities of day-to-day life, we had duplicates of just about everything.  Three years later we are just about through either using the duplicates (e.g. two jars of mustard), or finding a new home for one of the two items.

The second phase of moving in is just beginning. There was a missing link when we arrived three years ago, the garage.  It leaked, badly, so that things that would normally be stored there were stacked in the basement.  Attila replaced the garage roof with a spiffy new metal roof, which does not leak.  The garage is now dry.  Attila is slowly going through items, sorting and deciding what can go where.  It is going to take a good long time for that project to be finished.

Other things crop up that get in the way of the garage organization being tackled full steam ahead.  For instance, Thanksgiving weekend saw Attila working on some of the last touches on the bathroom renovation, which began in 2013, five years ago, so it is time!  The work that was holding him up was drywall mudding and painting, which needed an open window and the furnace shut down.  At last, the time and the opportunity to work on the bathroom occurred this past weekend.  Now all that remains is the last piece of baseboard… it was cut and ready in 2013, but has since gone missing.  Attila says he is looking for it… I think I might have push a bit on this last bit, perhaps go out and buy additional baseboard to get the job done.

On my end, the freezer situation is being taken in hand.  It is a slow process, defrosting, cleaning, and organizing freezers.  I keep running into vintage food, and attempting to cook it as soon as I discover it.  Since the Thanksgiving turkey dinner will provide leftovers until the weekend, there is no need to cook meals.  This week the vintage food found in the freezer cannot be made into meals.  What to do!

Canning!

Several bags of fruit did not weather the move well.  They had thawed slightly and then iced badly over the last three years.  There was one bag of chopped strawberries, and one bag of diced rhubarb.  After removing the ice, into the pot they went, combined with sugar, and were stewed together to make stewed rhubarb and strawberries.  The mixture, when cooked, filled two and half mason jars.  The two full jars were canned in the steam canner, for 15 minutes.  The half mason jar went into the refrigerator, to enjoy for the rest of the week.

Worldly

Weather

22°C
Date: 2:00 PM EDT Wednesday 10 October 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.3 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 21.5°C
Dew point: 19.4°C
Humidity: 88%
Wind: SSW 9 km/h
Humidex: 29
Visibility: 24 km

The weather is crazy! Yesterday the humidex was well over 30C, and today it was just a high. The air conditioning is turned on, to reduce the humidity in the house, in October! The garden likes this weather, more tomatoes, peppers, and beans coming on.

Quote

“The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.”
George Bernard Shaw
1856 – 1950

Pressure Canner: Tomatoes 2018

Another info-note to self about my canned tomatoes.

Three dozen jars of tomatoes were canned in September 2018.  The first two batches were Roma tomatoes purchased from first NoFrills in a 20 pound box for $7,99, then a second box was purchased from Metro in a 25 pound box for $8.00.  The third batch was canned in two sessions on September 26th and 27th using garden tomatoes: Pink Girl; San Marino; Health Kick; and Amish paste tomatoes.

Tomato preparation:

The Roma tomatoes were washed and the stem ends removed.  They were placed whole in a 16 quart stock pot, then brought to a boil and simmered until stewed.  Then they were processed through the Cuisinart manual food mill, using the largest size sieve plate.

The garden tomatoes were frozen whole as they ripened, stems removed.  The frozen tomatoes were placed in a 16 quart stock pot with 1/2 cup of water, set on a low heat until they began to thaw and soften.  The tomatoes were stewed at a low heat.  Then they were processed through teh Cuisinart manual food mill, using the smallest size sieve plate.  This size was used because of the minute size of the tomato seeds in the Amish Paste tomatoes.

Jarring the tomatoes for canning:

The Roma tomatoes from NoFrills were canned using 4 tablespoons of vinegar per 1 litre jar.  Rims were checked and cleaned then lids and rings were applied and finger tightened.

The Roma tomatoes from Metro were canned using 2 tablespoons of lemon juice per 1 litre jar.  Rims were checked and cleaned then lids and rings were applied and finger tightened.

The garden tomatoes were canned using 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid per 1 litre jar.  Rims were checked and cleaned then lids and rings were applied and finger tightened.

Pressure Canning:

The jars of tomatoes were canned in the pressure canner for 15 minutes at 11 pounts pressure. The All American pressure canner was set on the electric coil burner at 6/10 heat until pressure was reached, then the heat was reduced to 5.5/10 for 15 minutes of canning timed when pressure was reached.

Steam Canner

Victorio Steam Canner VKP1054

This is the Steam Canner I purchased. It can only be used on coil electric, or gas burners, no flat top. There is another model they sell, suitable for flat top stoves, but not this one.

This entry is mostly an info-note to self about my new steam canner.

When I tested it, as suggested in the manual, by canning four 1 litre jars filled with hot water, and watching the gauge, one of the jars cracked on the bottom. I began at a 6/10 heat on my burner, I never go higher than 7/10 because my pots are heavy and don’t need a higher heat, nor do they benefit from a higher heat. I waited until the lid rumbled a bit and steam forced it up a bit, then checked the gauge reading, lowering the heat to 4.5/10, which provided a full rolling boil and a steady, strong stream of steam. I thought that perhaps a bit higher heat was desirable.

When I made my first batch of Crabapple Jelly, two 500 ml jars, I heated the water in the canner to a boil, added the jars, then turned the heat down to 4.5/10. This was again, a full rolling boil. Only one of the two jars sealed.

When I made Crabapple Jelly this morning, eight 500 lm jars, I heated the water in the canner slowly at 3.5/10, added the jars, left the stove temperature at 3.5/10, waited until the gauge indicated it was up to heat, then set the timer. After waiting five minutes after the heat was turned off, the jars were removed from the canner and set out on a towel on the counter. Within five minutes the first five jars sealed, after fifteen minutes one more sealed, and within a half an hour the last two sealed.

My conclusion is that on this stove, I will preheat the canner at 3.5/10 heat, and leave the stove at that temperature for the entire canning process. The reading on the gauge need only come as far as my elevation minimum, no more. I am 278 feet above sea level here, so these are the settings that I will use going forward, with this canner, for this location, and on this stove.

The Crabapple Jelly is delicious. The Crabapple Jelly recipe used is from the National Centre for Home Food Preservation, but I made one change. Instead of processing for 5 minutes, I processed for 10 minutes. The reason I did this is that jars would need to be sterilized for processing times under 10 minutes, so by processing for 10 minutes I was able to eliminate the extra step of sterilizing the jars and lids.

The end result was:
9 full, sealed 500 ml jars of Crabapple Jelly;
1 full unsealed 500 ml jar of Crabapple Jelly;
1 partially full 500 ml jar containing the last dribbles of the first and the the second batch;
1 cereal bowl of sweet foam, skimmed from the top of the boiling jelly;
1 peanut butter and jelly foam sandwich, down the hatch, yum!

Worldly

Weather

8°C
Date: 11:00 AM EDT Friday 5 October 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.6 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 8.4°C
Dew point: 0.3°C
Humidity: 57%
Wind: NE 15 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Yay, no frost here last night! The garden will keep going for a few more weeks, so more tomatoes, peppers, basil, and beans on the way!

Quote

“Statistics: The only science that enables different experts using the same figures to draw different conclusions.”
Evan Esar
1899 – 1995

This was meant to be amusing, and it would be, if it weren’t true. GIGO

Cancation

There are vacations, staycations, and I have just decided that what I had… was a cancation. I stayed home and canned for a week. And I enjoyed it. Attila stayed home and enjoyed being home, low-key, low pressure, he loved it. And I, and Attila, will enjoy the results of the cancation for months and months to come.

In total, I have canned over 100 jars of food since the first weekend of September. I am now perfectly comfortable using my All American pressure canner. There are only one dozen empty canning jars left in the canning supplies, so another dozen were ordered on sale from amazon, to arrive sometime this coming week. Canning lids were a reasonable price at the local dollar store, so a season’s supply were purchased, ready for next year’s cancation.

And still, apple season is just getting into full swing, so there may be a bushel of apples needing to be canned in the near future. The canning equipment is on standby.

Also, somewhere in the deep dark of the chest freezer lurks a large bag of beef bones, that were part of the quarter of grass-fed cow that we purchased quite a few years ago now. That needs to be turned into bone broth for soups, which will be pressure canned.

It will be a few weeks yet before canning season is over for 2018.

Since the cancation involved no financial outlay for entertainment or travel, no eating out, no drinking out… well, it didn’t cost a cent. So Attila and I both agreed that an indulgence was in order. We bought a 15 cubic foot chest freezer! It doesn’t sound like an indulgence I know. But we could limp along with the banged up, small, used chest freezer that in use at the moment, bought for a song quite a few years ago. It still works well. That is why this is an indulgence, a new chest freezer is not actually NEEDED, but it will certainly improve the quality of life here at Mist Cottage.

The new chest freezer was delivered last week, and installed by the delivery fellows. They were quite helpful, installing the casters for me, setting it up where I wanted it, plugging it in, making sure everything was tickety boo. The all-summer heat wave was still clinging to us at that point, so I made sure they parted with cold beverages in hand.

I have decided to take exclusive responsibility of the frozen food here at Mist Cottage. It is beyond Attila, who works full-time, and has other areas in the house to keep organized, like the garage.

My first step was to measure the interior of the new freezer, then head to the Dollar Store. Stackable baskets with handles were purchased to aid in keeping like items together and easily accessible. Wish me luck with that.

The next step, the one currently underway, is to slowly remove items from the old freezer, and place them in the appropriate baskets in the new freezer. This is a slow process, because there are many surprises in the old chest freezer. For instance, Attila thought he had found all the frozen tomatoes last year, for me to stew and freeze. Well, he missed a few, two big bags of them actually. So my efforts were diverted into dealing with the tomatoes, which were stewed and ended up in last night’s dinner, Lebanese Beef and Green Bean Casserole, in the Instant Pot of course. Then there was the bag of pineapple, with the missing tag, open to freezer burn. That was stewed as well, taste tested, Attila approved, then pureed as an ingredient for muffins. Today, a small container of chopped turkey breast was rescued from the freezer, and it will become tonight’s dinner, Mongolian Turkey, in the Instant Pot of course. So you can see how this freezer organization is going, slowly but surely.

So here I am, inventing ways to make dribs and drabs of vintage food palatable. It is my ongoing fantasy (decades of dreaming) that the chest freezer will be organized, and that food will be easily identified and used in a timely manner. I can dream can’t I!

Attila has been dehydrating cayenne peppers from our garden, a work in progress. I have dehydrated three 500 ml jars of tomato powder, which is the skins and seeds of the tomatoes, dehydrated in the oven, then put through the blender to powder. The real dehydration coup though, is the onion tops, walking onions, which Attila dehydrated, and are amazingly tasty. These onion tops would have been composted, but now they are going to a welcome addition to many soups, stews, and casseroles.

A project under consideration is freezing chopped onions. They can be purchased cheaply in the autumn in large 10 pound bags, chopped and frozen on cookie sheets, then taken out of the freezer throughout the winter for soups, stews, and casseroles. I don’t mind chopping onions every day for cooking, when they are freshly harvested and crisp, it is actually enjoyable. But as the winter progresses the onions available are decreasingly fresh, and become more and more difficult to chop; that is when frozen chopped onions will seem like a great idea.

Before seriously considering this onion chopping project, an experiment was conducted. Two onions were chopped, then frozen, then used to create last night’s dinner. They sautéed very nicely, and there was no noticeable difference in the dish, compared to using freshly chopped onions. So the decision was made to chop onions for freezing.

Now, if you chop onions, you know it is a sad affair, lots of tears. After reading a lot of advice online, for chopping onions in quantity, I decided to purchase an onion chopper, which will arrive sometime this week. The amazon ratings aren’t all that high, but the personal accounts I read online were more glowing. I chose this unit because of the personal anecdotes I read, the price, and the size. Storage is an issue here at Mist Cottage, and this item has a relatively small footprint. I hope to use it to chop onions for daily use, when frozen chopped onions are not available. This little unit should be easy to clean, in the sink or dishwasher. I could use the food processor, but I don’t like the inconsistent size of the onion pieces, and the cleanup is not something I would tackle on an onion a day basis. We shall see if my reasoning and plans for the onion chopper work out the way I hope they will.

Wordly

Weather

9°C
Date: 8:00 AM EDT Sunday 30 September 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.8 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 9.1°C
Dew point: 5.6°C
Humidity: 79%
Wind: W 10 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

It was 7C outside this morning at 6:00 a.m., and 21.5C in the house. The heating system has not been turned on yet this fall, so we are maintaining our comfortable indoor temperature due to heat retention from body heat, cooking, and sunshine through the windows. This feels pretty good.

Quote

“We don’t know a millionth of one percent about anything.”
Thomas A. Edison
1847 – 1931

Mind boggling but true, in my opinion. What this means to me is that life is never boring. I feel it is cowardly to think you know everything, and foolish to think you are an expert at anything.