What I’ve Been Up To

Jar from top showing pickle pebble and foam from fermentation.

Looking at the apple cider from above, lid off. Above the pickle pebble this foam appeared, and overflowed from the jars. A lot of healthy fermenting going on in there!

mason jars at the back of the lowest shelf of a trolley

In the dark! Two 1 litre jars, and one 500 ml jar of crabapples becoming hard apple cider. These needed to be checked every 3 days. The calendar on the computer was setup to sound alerts every three days, so as not to forget. And it is a good thing too, because they bubbled up and through the coffee filters, right onto the floor below the trolley.

Straining the hard apple cider into a large mason jar.

After two weeks sitting in a cool dark place, the hard apple cider was ready to be strained to remove the crabapples. The smell of alcohol was very, very, very strong! Attila and I both had a taste, whoa!

Hard apple cider bubbling in mason jar.

The hard apple cider is still bubbling away in this 1 litre mason jar. It is now being kept in the cool dark place for four to six weeks, as it slowly turns to apple cider vinegar.

Worldly

Weather

9°C
Date: 1:00 PM EST Wednesday 7 November 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.1 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 9.3°C
Dew point: 2.8°C
Humidity: 64%
Wind: SW 44 gust 61 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousand of miles and all the years you have lived.”
Helen Keller
1880 – 1968

Furnace Fixed!

The oil furnace is the auxiliary heat at Mist Cottage, and it wasn’t kicking in when it needed to.

The first thing we thought of was the thermostat, but it seemed to be working as expected.

When the temperature drops 2C below the target temperature, the oil furnace is supposed to come on to bring the interior temperature up to the target. This doesn’t happen very often when the heat pump is heating the house, as it kicks in if the temperature falls by 1C. It is only when the weather throws a quick and extreme temperature drop at us that this whole sequence comes into play.

Attila had some ideas, and started with the simplest, checking all the wiring that was visible. Sure enough, one of the connectors was dislodged! He secured the connector, turned the heat up to 27C (from 21.5C) and bingo, the furnace instantly began to do what it is supposed to do! I turned the thermostat back down as soon as it was a sure thing that everything was working as it should.

Relief!!

This morning Attila looked very stern minutes after he got out of bed. He was pondering and worrying over the furnace issue, as well he might. That worry has now been allayed.

At some point our oil furnace will need to be replaced, but we are in no hurry to do so.  When and if the oil furnace fails, the new furnace will be a natural gas furnace, and when the natural gas supply is connected the electric hot water tank will be replaced with an on-demand hot water heater.  If we are lucky, this won’t ever be necessary.  Dollars to donuts though, at some point the heating system will need updating, even if it is only because the insurance companies refuse to cover a perfectly good oil furnace and tank.  Time to open a savings account for a new heating system, start now and hope for the best.

Worldly

Weather

5°C
Date: 4:00 PM EDT Saturday 3 November 2018
Condition: Light Rainshower
Pressure: 101.3 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 4.8°C
Dew point: 1.7°C
Humidity: 80%
Wind: W 36 gust 46 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Those little nimble musicians of the air, that warble forth their curious ditties, with which nature hath furnished them to the shame of art.”
Izaak Walton
1593 – 1683

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, the 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

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