“Keep Calm and Carry On”

Tank was supposed to be ready by noon yesterday. I heard nothing from the garage. Attila called them when he got back from work, and they said they just had to check it out to make sure everything worked, wanted us to come get it the next day, Friday. Attila told them his wife would like it today, Thursday, and that we would be at the garage at 5 p.m. to pick up Tank.

When we got to the garage it was very busy, and Tank was nowhere to be seen. We greeted the desk staff, who said that it wouldn’t be long. Then we saw Tank arrive back from the test drive. We waited patiently. We watched as Tank was driven off the lot again, alerted by the terrible noise she was making as she drove away, she sounded like a diesel truck. Tank does not have a diesel engine. Not good. They explained something about two cylinders not working, they were working when she came to the garage, now they are not working. Not good. The fellow told us Tank will be ready today.

When we were there I decided to take charge of the interactions, after all I am here during the day, so I can call them. Actually I am the “bad cop” when we approach situations like this, a role I can easily assume. I pleasantly but firmly told the fellow that if Tank were not ready by Monday morning, they would HAVE to provide me with a courtesy car. I asked that I be called today to let me know what is going on with the vehicle. It was just after 1:00 p.m. and I hadn’t heard from them yet, so I called them. They are ordering parts directly from the dealer he said. No word on when the vehicle will be ready. They will call me this afternoon to keep me up to date on how things are going. At least no empty promises were made.

It is hard to remain optimistic about this situation. These guys are clearly in over their heads with this repair. I think they will try to make it right, but my GOD this is getting ridiculous. I had a very bad experience with a garage when I was doing research for my PhD and needed a vehicle. The garage was awful, wanted a fortune to return the vehicle, not having fixed it. I took them to small claims court and won, and since they were a franchise I called the mother company. I did not let that one lie. That garage lost their franchise, and I didn’t feel in the least bit sad about that. The consequences of the lost vehicle were catastrophic for me. It wasn’t until this morning that the bad feelings about that past fiasco resurfaced. This situation is going on way too long for comfort.

Feeling so tense, so irritable, what to do!

Why can of course!

I had saved all the apple peels from the 26 Northern Spy Apples that I used to make and can applesauce. They had been boiled until transparent, then strained. The liquid sat all day yesterday, I was too distraught to function in the kitchen. I did boil it for five minutes though, since it was sitting on the range for the day. This morning I made Applescrap Jelly with it. It is so good! I used the Apple Jelly with no pectin recipe from the National Centre for Home Preservation, and included the lemon juice. When the liquid was first strained there were eight cups, which were boiled down to four cups. The jelly had to cook for around twenty minutes to reach the sheeting stage, and it seemed as if it was not going to jell, but finally it did. The yield was small, but oh so good!

Two 500 ml jars of jelly.

Applescrap Jelly made with no pectin. Thank goodness for the new steam canner, which makes canning this wee bit of jelly perfectly viable. Both jars sealed as soon as I took them out of the canner. The partially full jar will go into the refrigerator to be used right away.

Worldly

Weather

4°C
Date: 1:00 PM EDT Friday 26 October 2018
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 102.1 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 3.6°C
Dew point: -4.3°C
Humidity: 56%
Wind: E 10 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or to lose.”
Lyndon B. Johnson
1908 – 1973

You win some…

Although I am an experienced canner, I am no stranger to failure. My penchant for experimentation gets me into trouble sometimes, other times it has delightful results. Yesterday was one of the times that things didn’t go according to hopes.

The first batch of canned Northern Spy Apples was successful, but for the packaging that was mistakenly left inside the canning lid during the canning session. The resulting canned apples were delicious, almost perfect, but there was some concern that they were shelf safe, so into the refrigerator they went. The first jar was opened and tasted wonderful!

Yesterday another 26 Northern Spy apples were peeled, cored, and diced. That was a big job. Then one teaspoon of sugar was added to each canning jar, the apples ladled into the jars, topped up with the water they had boiled in. Rims were checked, lids were placed on the jars, and the rings were screwed on the to the new very light “finger tight” that I had seen in a video. My usual finger tight is much tighter than this, so this was the first time I tried this new method of finger tightening in the pressure canner. The jars were pressure canned at 10 psi for 8 minutes.

The jars were removed from the canner when the pressure had fallen to zero. There was a surprise in store. The liquid in the jars had leaked out, about half of it from each jar. The jars were sticky, so the sugar must have dissolved so that it was a sugar syrup that escaped from the jars. All of the jars were sealed.

canning jars of apples with half the liquid missing

Half of the liquid leaked out of these 500 ml jars of Northern Spy apples. All of the jars sealed. The jars were very sticky! The one teaspoon of sugar that was added to the bottom of the jar, before adding the apples, must have dissolved. A failure in that the liquid escaped the jars. A success in that the jars all sealed.

I am suspicious that the leaking liquid was a result of the lightly finger tightened rings. I will try this again sometime, but jars headed for the pressure canner will be finger tightened more securely. The lightly finger tightened rings are fine for the steam canner, but not for the pressure canner.

I had a half a jar of these apples for breakfast, with fresh-baked biscuits. Oh my they were good! Not very sweet, but not tart either. An apple a day is what they say!

I tired myself out yesterday, preparing all those apples for canning. Today is a day to take it easy, paying bills, putting away canning equipment, reading, and anything else that takes my fancy. And I think I’ll just have myself another one of the biscuits!

Worldly

Weather

7°C
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.5 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 7.4°C
Dew point: 4.8°C
Humidity: 83%
Wind: ENE 7 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“All love that has not friendship for its base, is like a mansion built upon sand.”
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
1850 – 1919

Last Vegetable Standing

squash growing into chain link fence

Blue Hubbard Squash: This squash choose to grow on the fence, and is the last vegetable standing (or clinging) in the garden.

Bex makes hats. Lots of beautiful hats. Bex may be grandly addicted to making hats. I see this as a good thing, and hundreds of other people who will be warm this winter will definitely agree.

I can food. I can lots of food. I think I may be grandly addicted to canning food. I see this as a good thing. My range is very limited, only Attila and I will eat this food.

On Saturday I canned six half litres of Green Tomato Mincemeat and three half litres of Sweet Green Tomato Relish. Last night I thought, there, done for the season!

jars of mincemeat and relish

Saturday’s canning session yielded six jars of Green Tomato Mincemeat, and three jars of Sweet Green Tomato Relish

This morning when Attila and I talked about the meals I would be cooking early in the week, I realized that the tomatoes I had been chopping and stewing and adding to a mason jar in the fridge, would not get used. Not wanting to risk losing the lovely tomatoes, and waste all my hard work chopping and stewing them, I decided to can them. So I prepared my jars, heated the tomatoes, added a 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid to each jar, ladled in the tomatoes, and soon had two half litre jars of organic tomatoes to go into the steam canner.

But, that wasn’t enough for me. I had some sugar syrup left from my latest attempt at fermenting our own apple cider vinegar. Not wanting to waste this little bit of syrup, it seemed like a good idea to can apple slices, and use it as the liquid in the canning jars. Four Northern Spy apples were peeled, quartered, cored, and sliced into a bath of ascorbic acid and water. The slices were too big to fit easily into the jars, so the apples were chopped. The water was drained from the chopped apples, and they were added to the sugar syrup in a saucepan. After being boiled for five minutes they were ladled into two half litre jars, which were soon ready to go into the steam canner.

The apples needed to be processed for 20 minutes. The tomatoes needed to be processed for 35 minutes. I processed both the apples and the tomatoes for 35 minutes.

jars of tomatoes and apples

Two jars of organic tomatoes and two jars of Northern Spy Apples.

But I was in for a very big surprise! When I took the lid off the canner, I discovered that the protective cardboard packing had been lodged in it. The steam canner had cooked it too! I was worried about the effect that would have on the canned goods, but the seals all popped, although it did take a lot longer than usual for them to do so. It was a success, but these jars will go into the fridge to be eaten over the next week or so. As Attila pointed out, I won’t ever do that again! Not only will I always check now, there is no longer any packaging to discover.

soaking wet piece of cardboard

Freshly steam canned packaging.

If we like the apples, I will can a lot more in this way, a perfect snack. However, in future they will be packed in water only, no syrup.

Worldly

Weather

3°C
Date: 7:00 PM EDT Sunday 21 October 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.9 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 2.5°C
Dew point: -6.0°C
Humidity: 54%
Wind: WNW 10 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.”
Niels Bohr
1885 – 1962

I am working on it!

Sing Your Song

The weather yesterday and today has been grand! Blue skies and very windy, but lovely for a late October day.

There are times when a lot seems to go wrong, not tragically wrong, just exasperatingly wrong.

Tank was having issues almost two weeks ago, and I’ve been without a vehicle ever since. I’ve had to cancel a few appointments. I took her to the first garage, then waited four days for an opening for the mechanic to take a look at her. He did so, and informed me that he couldn’t do the job, too big for him, so Attila took Tank over to another reputable garage and they agreed to do the job, telling us it would be done by the following Tuesday. The quote was for a few thousand dollars, ouch!

On Monday the garage called to find out what I wanted to do, they didn’t realize the part would be another $800. The choice was a new used vehicle or have Tank fixed. I took a chance on Tank, a new vehicle just isn’t in the budget, and a new used vehicle has as much chance of having serious issues as does Tank. They told me Tank would be ready by yesterday.

Yesterday I heard nothing from them. Attila called them when he got home from work and they told him they just got the part, Tank won’t be ready until late Tuesday. I will believe that when I see it!

I am kinda grouchy as a result of all this virtual running around, with one foot nailed to the ground.

What to do?

Why do some canning of course! And cook some meals in the Instant Pot of course!

We got a hard frost last Thursday night, so the garden is done. Yesterday I spent a few hours picking all of the green tomatoes I could find, and folding up some of the plastic sheets that were used to protect the garden from frost. The yield was about 15 pounds of green tomatoes. There were many that would not ripen well indoors, these were chopped fine to be used in two new recipes: Green Tomato Mincemeat, and Pickled Sweet Green Tomato Relish.

Yesterday the first canning project was started, the Mincemeat. A recent gift from Attila made preparation relatively easy, an onion chopper, Prepworks by Progressive, which made chopping green tomatoes really easy. The tomatoes could be chopped in the food processor, but the resulting product is unevenly sized, whereas with the onion chopper the product is uniform in size. The Mincemeat had completed boiling for an hour and a half, just in time to turn the range off, put the lid on, and go to bed.

This morning the project resumed, and by 10:00 a.m. six half litre jars of canned Green Tomato Mincemeat were lined up on the counter. All of them sealed within minutes of removal from the steam canner.

The steam canner is amazing! No more hot water bath canning at Mist Cottage!

The afternoon was spent preparing dicing another 8 cups of green tomatoes, and two onions. They are soaking in pickling salt as I write, and at 7:30 p.m. I will be away from the computer for some time… the Sweet Green Tomato Relish will be in progress.

I hope it goes well, as my nosebleed began a few days after the heat was turned on in the house. Tonight as I was eating my dinner, another spontaneous nosebleed started, and recurs every time I move around. Attila might just have to assist with the Relish!

Worldly

Weather

9°C
Date: 7:00 PM EDT Saturday 20 October 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.3 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature:8.9°C
Dew point: -1.8°C
Humidity: 47%
Wind: W 13 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.”
Chinese Proverb

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.