Preservation and Preparation

Fresh Organic Dandelion Blooms, just the thing for jelly! Their season is short, but I managed to capture them at their peak!

Wow, it has been a while since I last wrote an entry!

I’ve been busy, playing in the kitchen, or is it a lab, not much difference when you come right down to it.

New technology is always fun. Over the last year or so I’ve added a steam canner, a steam juicer, and Tattler reusable canning lids to my kitchen equipment.

I love the Victorio steam canner. Purchased last year, it is a game changer, no mistake about it. I gave my water bath canning equipment to my sister! The steam canner is lightweight aluminum, so I can easily grab it out of storage in the basement, and get it up and down the stairs without straining myself. It requires comparatively little water to operate, so I can easily carry it to the sink, add the water and carry it back to the stove. It is easy to lift the jars in and out of the canner, making it a breeze to use. And after making my usual first attempt boo boos, it works perfectly every time.

The newly acquired Victorio steam juicer has added a whole new dimension to my home food preservation activities. I have only tried Rhubarb Juice, as it is the only ripened produce coming out of our garden so far this spring, and it is a big hit here. The fruit pulp that remains in the juicer makes a lovely fruit leather, so nothing goes to waste. And of course, there are my learning curve bloopers, I always make them. I was using the oven to dry my fruit leather. I share the kitchen with Attila, I should have thought it through. I left the fruit leather in the oven after I turned off the oven early in the day when the price of hydro doubled, meaning to turn it on again when the hydro price dropped again, later in the day. Attila decided to roast potatoes, and I forgot to warn him about the fruit leather. It didn’t go well, the fruit leather is toasted rather than dried. I will be doing the fruit leather in the dehydrator from now on.

The Salton dehydrator was purchased at a discounted price, an entry level unit. Since we had not tried using such an appliance before, it didn’t make sense to purchase top of the line equipment. If we decide it is going to be a technique of food preservation that we come to rely on, a high quality unit will be purchased. So far the little unit we have, a birthday present for Attila years ago, is meeting our needs.

The Tattler lids are exciting, they are reusable. All of my canning career, which spans around five decades, I’ve used metal lids and rings. I’ve never had a seal fail on me, not even once. I was surprised to learn it could even happen. But throwing out all those lids just seemed so wasteful and expensive. So when I came across reusable Tattler lids I decided to buy a few and see how they work. Well, it seems my blooperness has gone into overdrive with these lids.

I am teaching myself to use the Tattler lids by canning water. The first time I tried them in the steam canner I had 50% failure to seal. The second time I had 100% success. But the story doesn’t end there. I then used them to preserve food. Two jars of Dandelion Jelly, to start with. They sealed, and after 24 hours I took them down to store in the basement. I checked on things yesterday, and the lids came right off! Oh dear, false seals! I reprocessed the jelly with metal lids, they sealed and are now stored away.

Tattler lids were also used for another seven jars of steam canned jelly, and juice, and three pressure canned jars of Taco Soup. I am watching these jars very carefully, checking the seals several times a day for failures. The sealed soup jars are in the refrigerator, so if the seals fail, the soup will be preserved and can be frozen instead. One of the jars of soup did not seal, I think I know what I did wrong with it, it is in the freezer.

So Tattler lids are putting me through my paces, for sure. Are they worth the trouble? Well, I haven’t decided on that yet, it is early days. Usually, after working with things, I get a feel for them, and get better and better at doing them successfully. I am hoping that will be the case with the Tattler lids. So far I haven’t lost any food items, so I am not discouraged.

On the homemade bread front progress has been made.

I am now milling all of our flour. We buy the wheat berries, which are extremely difficult to source at a reasonable price, to mill the flour. The grain mill, a Wondermill, is easy to use. Of course I have my bloopers with it too. I discovered that if you add too many wheat berries at once to the feeder, the flour container will clog, and it makes quite a mess, and requires quite a clean up. Whoops. I’ll only make that mistake once. It didn’t damage the machine because I always hit the off switch or pull the plug at the first sign that anything is amiss with an appliance.

I have a Black & Decker bread machine, purchased at a considerable markdown. I don’t like it, but so long as it does the job it won’t be replaced. I have made enough so-so bread in it, trying new things, until now the bread I make in it is lovely. But, that is one loaf at a time, not enough, with Attila taking lunches to work. He is using a lot more bread than he otherwise would, because it is homemade and delicious. I need four or five small loaves a week.

So I decided to try making five loaves at once. This is where the Bosch Universal Mixer comes into play. Again, this has not been an instant success. My first attempts yielded acceptable but not lovely results. I continued to research and read what other people were doing, and tweaked and tweaked my technique. The last batch was lovely, and thankfully I took the time to write down the process I used, and the ingredients.

Just a note about the links to amazon that I have included for the equipment I use. I didn’t buy any of it at those prices. I didn’t buy all of it at once, or even recently. I have purchased my equipment over a period of many years, and expect it to last a lifetime. I often buy equipment directly from the manufacturer (e.g. Tattler), or when I find it on sale for an excellent price, sometimes watching prices for years.

My policy on spending money has changed little over the years. For instance, I have a Cuisinart food processor that I purchased for myself in the 70s, when I was a Home Economics teacher, and it has been in constant use since then, and I expect it to be in constant use until Attila and I no longer have the need or wherewithal to use it.

I am the same with clothes, my parka was purchased in the early 90s and is the only coat I’ve worn since, and it is still going strong. I have a pair of pants that I am considering throwing out, purchased about 30 years ago, they are badly worn now. Items that wear out after only a few years are regrettable failures .

Another example is my sewing machine. When I was studying Couturier clothing design and construction I purchased an inexpensive Singer sewing machine. It was a disaster, and was negatively impacting my studies. So I returned it, went into debt, and purchased an Elna sewing machine. I have used my little Elna since 1969, and it is still humming along the same as it always has. I think that was my first experience with the difference quality can make, it was a lesson well learned.

I guess all of this illustrates why the Tattler lids hold such appeal for me!

Worldly

Weather

15°C
Date: 9:00 AM EDT Thursday 6 June 2019
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.0 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 14.8°C
Dew point: 13.2°C
Humidity: 90%
Wind: N 11 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

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

Harvest Season Vacation

My vacation this year was taken primarily in the kitchen over a hot stove. Pressure canning!  Doesn’t sound like a dream vacation does it?  It didn’t sound that way to me, but the reality is very far from the experience.  I love canning, I love harvest season, I love spending time in my kitchen, I love good fresh food, and I loved having Attila around and about the place, sometimes helping me, sometimes off puttering in the garden or the garage.  Most of all I love to get my teeth into an activity, tackle it, and accomplish a goal.

Here are a few pictures of my canning adventure.

canning assembly line in kitchen

This is the canning assembly line in the kitchen. There were no meals cooked during the canning days, all available space was used for at least 12 hours each day, and usually deep into the night.

Jars of Tomatoe Red Pepper Sauce

The first 23 jars of Tomato Red Pepper Sauce cooling on the table. Pressure canned jars need to sit undisturbed for 24 to 48 hours, before moving them into storage.

tomato puree

Cooking the tomato puree, in the 16 quart pot. The smaller pot was used for boiling water to sterilize the jars, rings, lids, attachments, for canning.

jars of tomatoes on kitchen counter

The results of the canning marathon! 12 Litre jars of Tomato Puree. And there is my All American Pressure Canner, resting after all its hard work.

dehydrating tomato skins and seeds

After making tomato puree with the food mill, the skins and seeds were spread on silicon sheets and placed in a 200F oven for an hour or so, this was done several times.

Jar of powdered tomatoes, with three layers.

The dehydrated tomato skins and seeds. Multiple methods of dehydration were used and can be seen in the layers in the jar. The bottom layer was air-dried, then put in the blender to create the light coloured tomato powder. The middle layer, a little darker in colour, was baked briefly in shallow baking pans, then powdered. The darkest layer, the top layer, was baked on silicon sheets in the oven, then powdered.

large pot of applesauce

The apple puree in a 15 quart stock pot. The half bushel of apples had the blossom ends and stems cut out, were quartered, boiled till soft, then put through the food mill. This was a lot of applesauce, and the pot was almost too heavy for me to lift myself.

jar with apple skins and seeds and botto of apple cider vinegar

The skins and seeds, taken from the food mill and placed in a 1 1/2 litre mason jar. To this I added 2 tablespoons of sugar dissolved in water, 2 tablespoons of
apple cider vinegar, and water to cover all of the skins and seeds, which almost filled the jar. It is sitting a dark cupboard for two weeks now, with a coffee filter covering it, held down by the screw top lid. This may or may not yield apple cider vinegar.

9 jars of applesauce

The applesauce made from 1/2 bushel of Paulared apples. The jars were pressure canned, and they all sealed as they should.

comsumers mason jar

I have been canning for decades. This was one of my first set of canning jars, a Consumers Mason jar. I have only a few of these now. I don’t remember where the others ended up, probably given as gifts, filled with some canned delight.

Atlas Mason jar

This Atlas mason jar is one I acquired somewhere, no idea where. It is an American Quart, rather than a litre.

Douglas Mason jar.

I have five or six of the Douglas Mason jars in my collection.

Dominion Mason jar.

The Dominion Mason jar, I have a few of these as well. I originally had a dozen each of the Consumers Mason, Douglas Mason, and Dominion Mason jars. I don’t remember ever having broken a jar, so I suspect I gave the missing jars away, filled with food.

different varieties of tomatoes on a plate

In the summer of 2018 we grew four varieties of tomatoes.
Upper Left: big round Pink Girl
Upper Right: one short oblong Health Kick tomato
Middle: elongated tomatoes, San Marino
Bottom: Amish Paste tomatoes
I would not grow the Pink Girl tomatoes again, they were nice but not outstanding and took a long time to ripen. The others were very nice tasting, and were wonderful for canning.

The beat up chest freezer.

And finally, the poor old thing!  This is the little second hand chest freezer I bought years ago. It was only meant to be a temporary solution to keeping frozen foods at Mist Cottage before we moved here. But when we sold the Country House, the buyers wanted our bigger, new freezer, so we had to let it go. Now this is the main freezer. It is not energy efficient, and it is very beat up, that is why I got if for a song. It works, but it doesn’t provide as much storage as we need. That is why I am canning and not freezing during this harvest season.

Worldly

Weather

13°C
Date: 1:00 PM EDT Monday 10 September 2018
Condition: Light Rain
Pressure: 102.2 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 12.6°C
Dew point: 11.4°C
Humidity: 92%
Wind: ENE 10 km/h
Visibility: 13 km

It was less than a week ago the humidex was hitting 40C! Look at that high today 13C! The weather people say warmer weather is on the way. That will give the garden a chance to yield lots of produce before the first frost hits.

Quote

“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”
Bertrand Russell
1872 – 1970

What I Get Up To

purple ball in the back yard called wallyball

This is the purple ball that blew into our yard some time ago. It blows from place to place with the passing winds, and I enjoy watching what it is up to. Attila has named it Wallyball.

chimes hanging on the back porch

These are chimes I bought at the dollar store. They pass along whispered messages from the wind. I love them.

perper lunch bags containing seeds haning on the clothsline

These paper lunch bags contain seed heads from the Cosmos, the Giant Marigolds, and the Marigolds. The bags are labelled and hanging out to dry. This method of drying seeds seems to be working rather well!

Giant Marigolds, yellow, and Cosmos, White

These Giant Marigolds are so very beautiful! Behind them are Cosmos. I am really enjoying the flowers this year!

clump of wild flowers, small white flowers, left standing as the lawn was mowed around them

When Attila mowed the lawn this week, he left a bouquet of flowers just for me. This bouquet sits prominently in the middle of the back yard! It is the little things.

nasturiums

The Nasturtiums are doing very well, nestled up against the compost bin. I have been plucking the blooms, washing them, then popping them into my mouth. They taste sweet and peppery. I love them, the way they look, and the way they taste!

Canning assembly line.

The tomato canning assembly line. Top to bottom, the tomatoes were washed in a sink in cold water, then set in the next sink to drain, then cut into pieces on the cutting board, then placed in a large pot (in which they were boiled until soft), then ladled into a food mill which was placed on the 16 quart stock pot.  The tomato skins that were removed from the food mill were placed in the white bowl.

tomato puree

Cooking the tomato puree, in the 16 quart pot. The smaller pot was used for boiling water to sterilize the jars, rings, lids, and attachments for canning.

tomato skins spread out in pan and cleaned egg-shell on small plate

The tomato skins, having been dried in a warm oven, in a pan lined with a silicon sheet, and an egg-shell, drying on a plate. The tomato skins were separated from the pulp using the food mill, then spread in the pan and dried at 200F in the oven, off and on, over the course of a few days. All egg shells are cleaned and dried, then crushed to use as a soil amendment.

jars of tomatoes on kitchen counter

The results of the canning marathon! 12 one litre jars of Tomato Puree. And there is my All American Pressure Canner, resting after all its hard work, and behind it the Instant pot, waiting patiently to prepare our dinner.

Attila’s ankle is getting better, bit by bit, day by day. He will begin physiotherapy soon, and hopefully that will help alleviate the pain. He has two issues, one an injury to his back, and the other an old injury that has been flaring up in his ankle. He seems to be able to control the pain using Voltaran (Diclofenac) rubbed on his ankle, this allows him to sleep at night. I think that applying this locally is much better for him than taking Ibuprofen tablets, as those could affect his stomach.

Yesterday was very hot and muggy, and it did not cool down much during the night. It was, and still is, very windy. The wind toppled the Giant Marigold plants, and one of the Cosmos plants. They were then staked, and fingers are crossed that the plants will suffer no ill effects.

The garden continues to yield a small but steady harvest of tiny tomatoes. They are washed and frozen after they are harvested, to be processed all at once when the harvest season is over, and any green tomatoes have ripened. A total harvest of about two six-quart baskets is anticipated. The tomatoes from our garden will be organic tomatoes, heritage varieties, no GMO.

Last night we ate a quick supper of leftover Lebanese Instant Pot Beef and Green Beans over rice, then loaded the car and headed out to Grace the trailer. On the last visit Attila applied Mouse Free compound to the undercarriage of the trailer, and I set out numerous cotton balls infused with Peppermint Essential Oil. Two bucket type mouse traps were set and left to catch any remaining mice in Grace.

I looked for an image of the setup for the mouse trap, and found only one image, which included the deceased mice, which I didn’t need to see, and probably you don’t either. All of the other bucket mouse traps were more elaborate than ours, involving beer or pop cans. They may be more efficient, I don’t know. I am very happy with the efficacy of the trap we set. The first time we set it we caught two mature mice, while the traditional snap traps were all empty.

To create the Mouse Trap that works for us:

Materials
5 gallon bucket
two tablespoons peanut butter
table knife
water
piece of wood for a ramp

Instructions
Using the table knife, smear peanut butter horzontally to the inside of the bucket about six inches down from the rim.  A one inch by three inch smear works nicely. Pour water into the bucket to a level about in inch below the peanut butter.  Place the wood as a ramp up to the rim of the bucket, resting  just above the smeared peanut butter.  I make sure the ramp rests just on the rim, firmly.  Check occasionally for dead mice.

When I opened the door to Grace last night, I knew from the smell that we had caught mice. They must have passed away the first night we were gone, more than a week ago. In this heat, well, it wasn’t pleasant. Four mice were caught in the living room. There were no mice caught in the boot or in the bathroom traps. Although less humane, the bucket allows for much easier clean up. We burn or bury the mice we catch in the trailer, because we have warfarin laid out. It is undesirable that animals further up the food chain eat any of the mice caught in the trailer. The trap was washed with bleach, sun-dried, reloaded and set back in place, in case there are any more mice in the trailer.

When Attila applied the Mouse Free he found two hidden entry points that hadn’t been located or blocked previously. Those entry points were plugged, so that in theory any mice in the trailer from that time forth would be trapped there. The Mouse Free, in theory again, will repel further attempts by mice to enter the trailer. We are hoping that the recently trapped four mice were the last mice in the trailer.

We sat under the trees at the Camp until dark, letting the trailer air out. It was hot, humid, and windy. A flock of geese flew overhead, in V formation, heading away from the lake, probably to a nearby wetland to shelter for the night, or perhaps they would press on. It is getting to be that time of year, when the geese begin thinking of migration. Oh how I love the quiet of the bush.

Worldly

Weather

26°C
Date: 10:00 AM EDT Wednesday 29 August 2018
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.1 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 26.2°C
Dew point: 23.9°C
Humidity: 87%
Wind: S 25 km/h
Humidex: 37
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not lived at all. In which case, you’ve failed by default.”
J. K. Rowling