Canning Beans

Although the weather is springlike, it is early springlike. The wind is strong and nippy, even though the sun is strong. I am still wearing a wool scarf, a wool hat, gloves, and a parka to go for my walks. It isn’t the kind of weather to sit outside and relax in the sun! So I have been turning to indoor tasks.

The Chili Beans I canned over the winter were almost gone. We like our beans, and cook all sorts of dishes with them. I decided it was time to replenish the supply. Monday I canned seven litres of Chili Beans. Yesterday I canned 14 “pints” (500 ml jars) of Molasses Beans. It was the first time I had tried canning a full canner of smaller jars, which are stacked in the canner in two layers.

Canning requires a lot of time on my feet. I did very well with it, but yesterday my knee began to complain, and I could feel it this morning when I swung my legs over the side of the bed to arise. Time to slow down a bit I think!

I like pressure canning. It is extremely precise and time consuming, but for those of us who spend our days at home it is not really an intrusive pastime. Like bread making, it requires input at specific intervals, leaving plenty of time for other tasks over the course of the day.

I used the down time during canning to work on one of my web sites. I have finished transferring the data to a new database, which was extremely time consuming. Now I will move on to more specific design elements, like SEO, setting up statistical reports, and forms of linked social media. Always a learning curve with these things, which makes it interesting.

When the web site I am refurbishing is completed, and has gone live, I will turn my attention to another web site that needs a similar update. This should take me right into the summer as far as projects are concerned.

Terra and Lares dropped by yesterday for a short visit before they met friends for dinner. Terra showed me lots of pictures from their recent trip to a Panama resort.

Next week I will be thinking about heading to the country house, so I let Terra know that arrangements will have to be made to transport Diesel back to Terra’s house. They anticipate that Diesel is not going to be pleased about the change of residence, from being an “only cat” to one of three cats, and two dogs. I wish him well, he has been such a great companion. He cannot come north because he does not tolerate car travel well, even a short trip disorients him for quite some time. A five hour drive might do him real damage. Perhaps he will visit me again when I return to the little house for the bug season.

While Tera and Lares were here I asked Lares to assist me by fetching the ladder, accessing the attic, and bringing down the live trap. It was empty! Hooray! I had decided against trying it myself, while I am here alone. If something happened I would be in a right pickle.

An enterprising squirrel has chewed through the exterior roof trim just under the roof, and is building a nest in the roof. Sigh.

Behind the houses, across the street, there was a small forest. A developer owns the property and decided to build a seniors complex there. Last fall he brought in fellows with chain saws and a giant chipper. The forest is gone. Right now there are diggers and dump trucks working over there. Progress. Maybe, but the squirrel does not think so. She has decided to move in with us, since she was displaced from her natural habitat.

We will not share the house with a squirrel, and her planned family. She has to go. I will bait the live trap, and keep an eye on it. If I catch her, I will take her to a forest far out in the countryside, and wish her luck in her new life. Then, when next Attila visits the little house in the city, he will nail a piece of metal across the area where she chewed through the 2″ thick boards.

We seem to have a distinct animal theme here at the little house in the city! They are our most frequent and avid visitors!

Worldly Distractions

Weather

Little House in the City
0°C
Date: 7:00 AM EDT Wednesday 8 April 2015
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.8 kPa
Tendency: falling
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: -0.3°C
Dewpoint: -10.6°C
Humidity: 46%
Wind: NE 22 gust 32 km/h
Wind Chill: -6

Country House
0°C
Date: 7:00 AM EDT Wednesday 8 April 2015
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: -0.1°C
Dewpoint: -13.6°C
Humidity: 36%
Wind: E 9 km/h
Wind Chill: -3

Quote

“The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.”
Joe Ancis

Canned Beans

The web site I designed as a donation has been reviewed by the congregation, and others, and only one edit was needed, the addition of a link to the links page. I am very pleased with the site, and very glad that the church members feel the same way. Yesterday I prepared a document to send them, to hand over the site, with all the passwords and details they will need to administer it ongoing. It has been a good experience thus far.

I submitted my receipt for yesterday’s physiotherapy, and found that they are requesting an audit. I don’t have my printer/scanner here at the little house, so I used my MacBook Air and Photo Booth to take a photo of the receipt, then uploaded it to the insurance people. I hope there isn’t a problem, because I am staying at the little house, with the little house address, which isn’t the address on the insurance account, they have the country house address. It will all work out in the end, but I am hoping that I don’t have to jump through hoops to get it all sorted out. Then again, they may just accept it as is. Who knows. I am expecting a problem with it though, because it is unusual to have two addresses, and corporations HATE the unusual. The unusual is not yet punishable by death here in Canada, only by endless contention.

Today I am canning beans. Attila has eaten all the home canned beans at the country house, so I need to replenish his supply.

Yesterday I purchased 8 small stainless steel condiment cups, for $2.50. I washed and dried them, then set out 7 of them, and into each of them I measured the correct amount of herbs and spices for one jar of canned beans. Now, when I need to add the herbs and spices, all I have to do is pour the contents of one condiment cup into the jar. This will greatly simplify the preparation for canning.

This morning I chopped garlic, red peppers, and onions for the project. I distributed the chopped vegetables on 7 saucers, ready to be added to the canning jars.

All ready! Here are the condiment cups containing the measured herbs and spices, and the saucers with the chopped red pepper, chopped onion, and garlic.
ChiliBeans3Mar2015

The mason jars were lined up on the kitchen counter, ready to be filled. I measured the beans, one cup at a time, into a strainer, washed them, and added them to the washed mason jars. Then I added the vegetables, and herbs and spices to each jar. While I was doing all that I had a one saucepan on the stove heating the jar lids and rings, another boiling the water to be added to the beans, and the pressure canner on the heat with 3 inches of water in it.

The lineup! Here are the mason jars, containing the measured beans, the herbs and spices, and the chopped vegetables. Time to fill them up with boiling water, leaving a one inch head space.
ChiliBeans3Mar2015 2

After filling the jars with boiling water, the lids were carefully placed on them, and the rings screwed on “finger tight”. Then I lifted the hot jars carefully into the pressure canner, placed the lid on and levelled it, carefully screwed it down, and turned on the heat. After ten minutes of venting, I put the weight gauge on the canner and settled down at the kitchen table to review the manual once more.

I like to stay in the kitchen when the pressure canner is doing its thing, I like to keep an eye on it, ensure it is maintaining the correct pressure, alert to any problems. Today I got a good seal on the lid, which is an improvement over my earliest attempts to pressure can. That little dab of olive oil around the rim of the pot works wonders!

While I was whiling away the 90 minutes that it takes for the pressure canner to work its magic, this little video made me laugh out loud. It is a comedy skit, but I do believe delightful things like this can happen, when you least expect it!

Worldly Distractions

Weather

Little House in the City

-18°C
Date:6:00 AM EST Tuesday 3 March 2015
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.9 kPa
Tendency: falling
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: -17.7°C
Dewpoint: -19.2°C
Humidity: 88%
Wind: N 2 km/h
Wind Chill: -19

Country House

-22°C
Date: 6:00 AM EST Tuesday 3 March 2015
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.7 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
-22.0°C
Dewpoint: -23.7°C
Humidity: 86%
Wind: ESE 5 km/h
Wind Chill: -27

Quote

“Do not believe that he who seeks to comfort you lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes do you good. His life has much difficulty… Were it otherwise he would never have been able to find those words.”
Rainer Maria Rilke
1875 – 1926

Pork n Beans

Friday, October 2, 2014

I am sitting on the back verandah at the little house in the city. It is 8:00 a.m., I have already chatted with Attila, enjoyed a cup of coffee, paid the dreaded bills (ouch!), and put the blue box out to the curb for pickup. While taking out the blue box I was struck by what a beautiful morning it was, and decided to write outside on the verandah, while the sun shines. There are no mosquitoes, no black flies. This afternoon the clouds are supposed to roll in, and stay for an extended visit. Plenty of time then for indoor pursuits.

Attila was sounding very tired this morning. He does not take enough time away from his many projects, when I am not around to insist on his spending down time. Pacing yourself is such an important part of life, the importance of which was demonstrated to me by my Grandpa. He was installing a new metal roof on his house. During his project I visited frequently, and observed that he would do a bit of work up on the ladder, high in the air, then come down and rest for a bit, read, have a cup of coffee. Back up he would go when well rested, until he tired a wee bit, and back down he would come. This went on for the entire project.

He was in his eighties at the time, and slowing down, but still spryer than most young people. Have a look at the house, that is the roof my Grandpa put on the house all those years ago, and would accept no help from me!

Here it is October already! Flocks of geese fly over the house frequently, honking farewell as they go. Some of the trees have completely shed their leaves, while others are still clothed in green. The air is fresh and clean, pushing the clouds along impatiently, nudging the trees, sighing through the Spruce beside the verandah.

Cicadas. They usually herald the end of summer, beginning sometime in August, singing at dusk. Not this year though, not a single song has been heard at the country or the city house!

Credit Cards

I have been thinking about something Terra said yesterday, when she dropped by during her lunch break. We were talking about the curse of credit cards, and she observed that “you can’t live without debt these days”. I informed her that you certainly could live without credit card debt. She informed me that no one does. I could not argue with that!

Credit card debt seems to be accepted as “normal”. Not by me. I regard it as a blight, a disease, something to be cured of. Attila and I have some debt, related to housing. Until that debt is gone we will be thinking every single purchase through, weighing the pros and cons. We make choices that others would not, and that is to be expected, variety is the spice of life. In my view everyone has the right to create their own priorities, in how to save money, how to spend it, and how to handle debt. Credit card debt is a choice.

Terra stopped by twice, once before she headed off to work, and once during her lunch break. What a welcome bit of cheer she brings. She does most of the talking, telling me about her “day” at work, funny stories, sad stories, stories that make her angry. I listen, occasionally commenting. This one sided “conversation” nourishes us both. She is heard, accepted, and I am entrusted, blameless. She seeks no action from me, no solutions, I offer none. I do throw in the odd comment to challenge her, and she usually rejects this input, in the moment. What I notice is that, much later, she has thought over what I had to say, made it her own, incorporated it into her life in her very own way, and made good use of it. This is very satisfying, and affirms my hope for the species.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Cloudy skies and rain today. The temperature fell from 15C in the morning, to 11C in the afternoon. Fall weather has arrived.

The morning view from the breakfast table, dreary, and yet beautiful.
RainyOct2014

After chatting with Attila, I considered the day as I sipped my morning cup of coffee. Cooking and canning, yes, that is how I decided to spend my day.

First, a batch of basmati rice was cooked in the microwave. While that was cooking, a quart of fresh mushrooms were sliced. A generous few tablespoons of olive oil were added to a large saucepan, and when that was heated, in went the mushrooms. While the mushrooms cooked, four small onions were diced, then added to the saucepan. The mushrooms and onions cooked until there was some browning on the bottom of the saucepan, then the heat was turned off. The cooked rice was fluffed and made ready to be added to the mushrooms and onions. As the saucepan cooled, it deglazed easily, the rice was added, and all was stirred well. Into a large bowl it then went, was covered, and refrigerated for future meals. This mixture will be heated with a generous teaspoon of dried garlic and pepper herb mixture added. This is one of my favourite meals.

Then it was time to peel apples, for another apple crisp. The recipe used is quite good, but this apple crisp is meant as a breakfast food, not as a dessert, so the sugar and fat will be reduced to half, and the salt omitted. This apple crisp also makes a healthy snack, particularly when accompanied by a cold glass of milk, mid-morning, mid-afternoon, or in the evening.

After lunching on mushrooms and rice, and a small portion of the Apple Crisp, one has to try these things out while they are at their peak, it was time to ready the kitchen for a pressure canning session.

Beans in tomato sauce were on the roster for today. Using the recipe from The National Centre For Home Food Preservation, I made the sauce, filled the jars with beans and sauce and boiling water, placed the lids on finger tight, and got the pressure canner going; of course following my manual and all the necessary steps and precautions. I followed the written instructions carefully, and will for quite a while, until the process become second nature. I am one of those people who can discover almost EVERY WAY to make a mistake. This time, I made the mistake of positioning the canner to face the back of the range. It is impossible to rotate the monster once it has water and full canning jars in it. Now, this will have no ill effects on the canning process, but what it does mean is that I have crane my neck to see the reading on the gauge, and cannot watch it from a seated position at the kitchen table. Annoying, and I will not make that mistake twice!

The range at the little house offers inconsistent heat. The entire canning session demands my attention to the dial, trying to balance the pressure so that it does not fall below the required level, or rise above the required level. The heat is turned down, then the heat is turned up, the heat is turned down… you get the picture. It was a long 65 minutes!

I think I may have my siphoning problem beat. Siphoning is when some of the contents of the canning jars ends up in the water in the canner instead of in the jars. This time around, instead of lifting the weight gauge quickly off, it was eased off very slowly, a little at a time, to release the pressure by small increments. No siphoning. The jars of beans in molasses sauce are still bubbling a bit, even after four hours on the counter to cool. They won’t be touched until tomorrow morning, when I will check the seals, and if the seals are good, store the jars away in a cool dark place until we are ready to eat them. Well, I will probably sample one of them tomorrow!

Nine 500 ml jars of beans in molasses sauce, aka pork n beans without the pork. So far so good, tomorrow I check the seals, and then try some of the beans. I wonder if they cooked enough, they don’t really look like it at this point, but looks can be deceiving!
BeansINtomatoOct2014

I meant to take a walk today, but was too busy with my projects in the kitchen to get away. Maybe tomorrow!

So here it is, the end of another day. Time passes quickly here at the little house in the city, not as quickly as it does when Attila and I are together, but quickly enough. As the light fades, I am happy to observe that the temperature inside the house is steady around 20C, without any heating equipment operating. I am as snug as a bug in a rug. Hmm.. I wonder where that saying comes from.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

17°C
Date: 8:00 AM EDT Friday 3 October 2014
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.4 kPa
Tendency: falling
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 17.0°C
Dewpoint: 14.0°C
Humidity: 82%
Wind: SSE 35 gust 45 km/h

13°C
Date: 5:00 PM EDT Saturday 4 October 2014
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.1 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 13.2°C
Dewpoint: 7.3°C
Humidity: 67%
Wind: WSW 33 gust 45 km/h

Quote

“Once the game is over, the King and the pawn go back in the same box.”
Italian Proverb

Carrots

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Goodness, I am still posting a day late! I do not like it! Sigh. It is in my power to change it. Maybe later… that is how this cycle of late posting started!

Sometimes it takes me a while to get up to speed, and food preservation is one of those activities that gets easier the more time spent. The last ten pounds of carrots were peeled this morning. As I prepared the cutting board to chop them up for cooking in the pressure canner, I remembered that I had a far easier way to deal with chopping bulk vegetables. The food processor!

I bought my food processor back when I was a Home Economics teacher in the public school system. It is a Cuisinart, the largest model at the time, one of the original machines. It was an ambitious purchase for a young woman, living in a small apartment, but I never regretted it! It has been in steady use for over 35 years. About fifteen years ago a replacement bowl was purchased, the first one simply wore out from frequent use.

This Cuisinart came with slicing attachment disks. So, I set it up with the largest slicing disk, and in three minutes I had sliced the whole ten pounds of carrots.

Slicing the carrots with the Cuisinart.
CuisinartCarrotSlice

The sliced carrots went into the pressure canner, with four cups of water, the canner was closed, the weight gauge placed on the lid and the heat turned on. This time it took about twenty minutes to bring the pressure up to fifteen pounds, then the heat was turned off and the canner was left to cool till the gauge read zero. After removing the lid, the fully cooked carrots were gently scooped out of the liquid and put in a colander to drain over a bowl. The cooking liquid went into the soup pot, another stone soup with dumplings for dinner.

When the carrots cooled I spooned them into 12 plastic cups, placing the cups in a cake pan which when fully loaded was set into the freezer to flash freeze the carrots. When they were solidly frozen I dipped the cups into hot water, one by one, tapping the bottoms of the cups to release the carrot pucks into a plastic bag, to be stored in the freezer until use.

The sliced, cooked carrots are ready to go into the freezer. They were cool when I put them into these plastic cups, I always try to avoid letting hot food come into contact with plastics. They were purchased as “disposable” cups about twenty years ago. The advantage to them for this kind of freezing project is that the bottoms are a bit flexible, which means they can be pressed to release frozen contents. Glass just would not work as well for releasing frozen contents easily. Hmmm… I wonder if there are silicon cups that would do this job equally well. Something to explore on a slow day!
CookedCarrotFreezing

All of this was accomplished by 9:30 a.m. this morning. When I finally sat down to enjoy a cold glass of water, the sun was shining and we were well into another beautiful autumn day.

Terra called this morning, from an apple orchard! She and a friend were picking at a “pick your own” apple farm, and she wanted to know if a half bushel of apples would make a good amount of applesauce. I told her it would, but since I could not see the size of the apples I couldn’t really guess how many apples it would take to fill a one litre jar with applesauce. I could tell her that it cooks down significantly, the volume of apples is not the same as the volume of the resulting applesauce from those apples.

There was a lot of rain here, and north of here, last weekend. The storms explain why our power was out when we arrived home at the country house late Sunday night. North of the country house, in the area where our camp is located, there were serious problems with rising waters. In fact there were a good many roads there that were not “car passable”. There were creeks running over the roads, and some sections of various roads were washed out. Harriet and Hogan happened to be at their cottage on Sunday, and she told me that the creek just down the road from their cottage was running six inches deep across the road. We haven’t been to the camp to see how it fared during this extreme weather, we have our fingers crossed that all is well there. We will have to drive up to check on it soon, and to check on Granny and Grandpa’s house as well, which is high and should be dry.

Left to right, five one litre jars of Chili Sauce, six 500 ml jars of Tomato Pepper Salsa, six 500 ml jars of Tomato Salsa. This might last six months, but perhaps not, Attila loves acidic foods, and loves this Salsa. I am a big fan of the Chili Sauce.NOTE: I am still using the bulk pickling spice I purchased more than 25 years ago. It had no preservative in it, and is still providing excellent flavour in the Chili Sauce. The current pickling spices on the market today all contain preservatives, and I am allergic to them. Soon I will have to make my own pickling spice. It seems gratuitous to me, to be adding preservatives to a product that can maintain its quality for more than 25 years without any preservatives. Are they thinking this stuff needs to last for thousands of years?!?!? I am a little miffed at the companies that use preservatives, when none are needed for a reasonable shelf life of the product. Concentrated lemon juice is another product laced with preservatives, for no reason other than extending an already long shelf life. Really, who wants to buy concentrated lemon juice that is a decade old?

ChiliSauceSalsas

Worldly Distractions

Weather

14°C
Date: 8:00 PM EDT Wednesday 24 September 2014
Condition: Clear
Pressure: 103.2 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 13.6°C
Dewpoint: 13.3°C
Humidity: 98%
Wind: ESE 5 km/h

Quote

“Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it’s just the opposite.”
John Kenneth Galbraith
1908 – 2006

You know, I find it difficult to fathom that John Kenneth Galbraith was actually an Economist! The one’s I met while in graduate school bore no resemblance to him, intellectually or philosophically. I have always enjoyed Mr. Galbraith’s writing, and his insights. I wonder if what I “hear” when I read his words are actually what he was “saying”. All too often it is the case that fine words are stealthily crafted to cloth the beast of the machine, the wolf in sheep’s clothing, so to speak. I truly wish I could have met the man, face to face!

Pressure Canning

I am getting better at this pressure canning thing! One of the features/challenges of the All American Pressure Canner is the metal to metal seal. There is no gasket to replace.

The metal to metal seal takes some getting used to. My first foray into pressure canning was pressure canning beans, while we were at the little house. I had a 100% success rate, the jars all sealed properly. But getting it done kept me hopping, and wondering, the whole time. There was some venting around the seal at that time, but it was not serious enough to drop the pressure. During that first experiment I was afraid that the canner would run dry, run out of water. When I opened it up I discovered that my fears were groundless, almost laughable. There was almost the same amount of water in the canner at the end of the process, as there was at the beginning of the process.

Yesterday I used the All American to pressure cook ten pounds of vegetables at a go. It worked very well. But there was a significant amount of venting in three spots around the seal. I thought about it, and decided it could be down to one of two things, or both of them. First, there might not have been enough lubricant applied to the area of the seal that vented. Second, the lid might not have been adequately levelled to ensure a good seal.

The first possibility was addressed by applying olive oil to the areas of the seal where venting had occurred. The second possibility was addressed by seeking out an object with which to measure the gap between the lid and the canner, to ensure the gap was equal all the way around. I tried a table fork handle, too thin. I tried a clothespin, too thick. I tried this and that, until finally I got out a bag of Ikea allen keys, and one of them was perfect. That allen key is now kept in the envelope with the weight gauge, so it will be handy for every canning session.

This morning Attila requested canned beans for supper. I agreed to postpone processing the last ten pounds of carrots, so as to focus on canning more Chili Beans.

When it came time to close up the canner, I measured the gap precisely, and very carefully applied equal pressure to opposite tightening screws. The proof is in the pudding as they say, and my hunches were correct, the added lubricant (olive oil), and the careful measurement of the gap, and tightening of the screws, succeeded in preventing venting around the seal.

I didn’t manage to get the heat turned low enough though, to keep the weight gauge rattling only several times a minute. That gauge rattled nonstop the whole 90 minutes of processing, as I kept lowering and lowering the heat, by small increments. The pressure gauge read 11 pounds throughout the entire process. The water level was down when I opened the canner, but it was not in danger of going dry. Five of the seven quarts sealed immediately after I took them out of the canner, the rest sealed sometime during the morning.

When I opened the canner the water inside was little bit murky. A small amount of the jar contents had siphoned out. This probably occurred at the end of the canning process, when I released the pressure in the canner by removing the weight gauge. Note to self, wait a half an hour or more to remove the weight gauge, after the pressure gauge reads zero. It will be interesting to see if that solves the siphoning issue.

There is one ten pound bag of carrots waiting to be cooked tomorrow in the pressure canner, and then all of the bulk produce that was purchased will be preserved for winter use, and Attila will also have his beans.

The “new” spice rack at the little house in the city. This rack was on the wall when we moved into our country house. We are not knick knack people, so it sat empty on the wall for a year or so, then we took it down. Of course, as we usually do, we stored it away in case we needed it someday. It works perfectly at the little house in the city, as our “new” spice rack. Attila painted it to match the kitchen cupboards, and it graces the unused wall space behind the bifold door in the kitchen, well out of direct light. The 500 ml tinted mason jars fit perfectly into the openings! Eventually I will replace the two piece mason jar lids with one piece lids, which will be easier to manage during a cooking session.
Spice rack

Worldly Distractions

Weather

18°C
Date: 12:00 PM EDT Tuesday 23 September 2014
Condition: Sunny
Pressure: 102.5 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 17.6°C
Dewpoint: 12.5°C
Humidity: 72%
Wind: W 17 km/h

Quote

“To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals.”
Benjamin Franklin
1706 – 1790

This is not true for the vast majority of humans who live on our planet, quite the opposite. I wish it was true for all of us though, I really do.