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.

Kitchen Magic

I have always loved the kitchen. I love everything about the kitchen, acquiring food to put in it, preserving food, storing food, preparing food, baking, cleaning, organizing, the list goes on. I’ve always been this way, ever since I can remember. My Aunt had a picture of me, at age about five, sweeping the kitchen floor at our farm, and the caption reads, “Mother’s little helper”. That about sums it up, I liked my mother’s kitchen, I liked doing things with and for my mother in the kitchen, it was my favourite room in the house. It was a farm kitchen, and my mother always was a good cook, who liked to cook, and to preserve the produce we had fresh from our farm. I grew up thinking that canning, jam and jelly making, baking, freezing, and all kinds of other kitchen and food related activities, were normal, and fun.

In addition to Mom’s kitchen, there was Granny’s kitchen. That wondrous place where the wood stove represented wonderful meals. There wonderful things happened when we brought home fresh picked wild fruit, choke cherries, raspberries, black raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and high bush cranberries. My Granny and Grandpa had a magnificent garden, so there was always fresh vegetables during the growing season. My Grandpa loved to fish, as we all did, so there was fresh fish to fry in farm fresh butter. And the highlight of the culinary delights at Granny and Grandpa’s house was the homemade maple syrup, which they made every spring from the trees on their property. Oh the pure joy of a small bowl of maple syrup with homemade bread and fresh butter!  Heavenly.

Kitchens are magic.

It wasn’t surprising that I pursued my first degree in Food and Nutrition. The chemistry (and politics of food) behind the workings of the kitchen opened up another realm of information, and more magic.

*************************************

Has it really been a week since I last posted! Time is flying by. This is not surprising, as it is autumn, and harvest season.

The Instant Pot is still in daily use. I haven’t used the range or the oven for anything but food preservation ever since the Instant Pot came into the house. Last night I made up a new recipe that Attila loved. It was basically a hamburger gravy cooked in the instant pot with fresh green beans from the garden, and a chopped onion. I thickened it after it was cooked, on saute, then served it over small new potatoes. It was lovely. Tonight it will be chicken, although I won’t know what recipe I am going to make until five minutes before I begin meal preparation. A shout out to Teri, thanks for sending me a yahoo link to a great many Instant Pot recipes, I will have fun there.

I put filtered my apple cider this past week, removing the mash from the liquid.  It is now in the final step, which can take many weeks, as the apple cider slowly turns to vinegar.  I have had to remove a wee bit of mold from the top, but from what I read online, this is not something to be concerned about.  The blackberry mash and water are still in the first phase of the process, slowly turning into cider.  I wonder if cider is right word to use with this, blackberry cider.  Hmm.

Since Monday I have canned 14 litres of tomatoes. The tomatoes are from our garden, and were frozen whole as soon as they reached their peak of ripeness. It has been quite a job, thawing them, boiling them down, putting them through the food mill, boiling them down again, then pressure canning them. I love my All American pressure canner! The last five litres are just now cooling on the kitchen counter. Tomorrow I will test their seals, then pack them into the box with the rest of the canned garden tomatoes, and put them into storage in the basement. When I consider that the current price for organic canned tomatoes, in a glass jar, is $8.99 per 680ml, well, we couldn’t afford to eat this quality of food if we hadn’t grown and preserved it ourselves. To buy the equivalent amount of canned organic tomatoes in jars that I canned from our garden, would have cost $185, and generated 20 empty glass jars to be recycled. As it was this year, the garden tomato plants cost less than $10, with free fertilizer from the compost bins. What we saved in dollars was made up for with time, sweat equity. Attila gardened, I canned. Of course, there is the added bonus of the powder I make from the dehydrated skins and seeds from all of these tomatoes, it is very tasty, and I don’t see such a product available in any of the grocery stores I frequent.

Attila renovate and gardens, I administer and preserve food, and in this way we keep our heads above water. Attila is on board with this approach, he has always been on board with this approach, even when he was set on moving out on his own, he was on board with this approach. It isn’t glamorous, newsworthy, unusual, or noteworthy, it is just how we do things, as individuals and as housemates.

mason jar, with coffee filter on top to separate liquid from mash.

Making Apple Cider Vinegar: This is the setup I devised for filtering the apple skins and cores out of the apple cider. First I placed a sterilized wide mouth mason jar on the counter. Then I placed a stainless steel wide-mouthed funnel in the far. Then I placed a coffee filter in the wide-mouthed funnel. Then I place the sterilized jar ring in the coffee filter, to prevent the filter from falling through the funnel. Once this setup was complete, I poured the liquid from my apple cider jar into the coffee filter, so that it passed through the filter and into the mason jar below.

sieve of apple mash draining on coffee filter

Making Apple Cider Vinegar: After pouring as much liquid as possible from the apple cider jar into the mason jar, the mash was placed in a sieve, which in turn was placed on the coffee filter, to allow the remaining liquid to drain from the mash.

bakset of frozen tomatoes

This is half of the frozen tomatoes from our garden.

The frozen tomatoes were place in a 16 quart stock pot over a low heat, to thaw and simmer.

Stock pot containing tomato sauce, with reflection of Maggie's legs.

The tomatoes were simmered in the stockpot, put through the food mill, then returned to the stock pot to simmer. And here you have, as a little extra bonus, a stealth picture of me taking the picture. Mrs. Tomato Head.

canning jars in a pressure canner

And here are the jars of canned tomatoes, ready and waiting to be canned in the pressure canner, then onto the counter, where they will cool for 24 hours, before testing the seals and storing them away.

groceries with total cost of 95 cents, includes 3 frozen turkeys, socks, green peppers, red peppers cilantro and two packages of English Muffins.

Another little bonus shot. Attila watches points when we shop. He loves numbers, and his passion for numbers is put to good use with points. This was our grocery haul this week, total cost, cashing in points, 95 cents.

Worldly

Weather

16°C
Date: 2:00 PM EDT Thursday 27 September 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.1 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 15.5°C
Dew point: 8.9°C
Humidity: 65%
Wind: S 14 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

OK, here is the thing! When I went to bed last night the temperature in the house was 22C. The heat is not turned on. Last night I forgot to close the windows, and the temperature outside went down to 10C overnight. Yikes!

And you know what? When I woke up this morning, the temperature in the house was still 21C! It only went down 1C degree! The attic insulation is doing an amazing job. Who knew! Well, I sorta knew, but I didn’t realize it would be this good.

Quote

“A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures.”
Daniel Webster
1782 – 1852