Experimentation

When canning I seldom experiment beyond what sounds good to me. No failures to date, all the things I have canned we have loved, either as a food, or as an ingredient.

But all these Zucchini needed attention! Today!

I have enough relish, more than 24 jars, and only I eat it, so really, I don’t need more relish. So, I can afford to make a batch of relish a little differently. If I fail to produce something I like with this zucchini, well, it wouldn’t be the end of the world as I know it, now would it.

So I decided that this morning it was time to experiment with Liquid Stevia as an alternative to sugar in high-acid canning, relish in this case. I could have chosen pickles, but I prefer cucumbers for pickles, and I eat those raw as fast they are harvested. So relish it was. Liquid Stevia was substituted for the entire amount of sugar called for in the recipe: 2 1/4 cups of sugar translated into 2 1/4 teaspoons of Liquid Stevia. The Liquid Stevia was used in the recipe in the very same way that sugar would have been.

A few interesting things were noted. One is that the vinegar/stevia/herb mixture was not sticky, as it is with sugar. This meant that none of the herbs stuck to the sides of the pot during the cooking process. The other interesting thing is that Liquid Stevia does not cut the taste of acid the way sugar does, and that came as a surprise. The batch of relish was much tangier than those made with sugar.

All in all, the experiment could be considered a success. The taste is tangier, but that might be pleasant. All five jars sealed.

My other early morning project was to cook chick peas, one batch for hummus tonight, and three batches to be frozen for future hummus. Attila always feels wealthy when he has cooked beans, and chick peas, cooked and ready create his favourite second suppers.

In the early 70s I was teaching food science in the public school system in Toronto. One of the indulgences I gave myself was the purchase of a commercial grade Cuisinart food processor, the DLC-X. Well here I am, over 45 years later, and this appliance is still used three or more times per week. It has seen a lot of use! The appliance was made in Japan, but in the early 80s the company was sold, this appliance went out of production, and the quality of their food processors changed, not for the good. Replacement parts for the DLC-X appliance are no longer made.

A few months ago I noticed it was not working as well as it used to. I found that the plastic bowl, which I had replaced in the 1990s, had a broken piece. I thought that might be the problem, so began to search for a replacement bowl. I didn’t find one, I am still looking.

Then I happened to notice that the grips on the original chopping blade, where it attached to the base of the food processor, had worn away to almost nothing. Aha. I found a new blade, a company in Vancouver had a few of them left, so I ordered it. It was costly, $80, but you cannot buy a new food processor of this quality anywhere in the world, they just are not made anymore, so $80 seemed reasonable to keep the old girl going. And it works like a charm!

But now I am seeking the plastic parts for the DLC-X, wish me luck with that. Each model of the Cuisinart food processors has a unique sized bowl, so the bowls that look a bit the same won’t actually fit. It has to be exact model of bowl to fit the DLC-X. I have scoured the internet, and come up with an obscure, at least to me, company that seems to have some old stock, including the parts I want. It might be a web site that has not been updated. The big issue, if they actually do have the needed parts, is the cost. Well over $300, yikes. But we are considering it. This food processor has been in constant use for over 45 years, and I am sure that if we get new plastic accessories for it, it will serve another 45 years without any issues. And at my age, that means it will last me the rest of my life! Unless of course I become a contender for the book of world records for longevity.

Well, here it is, lunch time! What to have! I think raw diced cucumber and pepper rings, dipped in an onion and roasted pepper dip, would hit the spot!

Worldly

Weather

18°C
Date: 12:00 PM EDT Wednesday 25 September 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.0 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 17.8°C
Dew point: 16.8°C
Humidity: 94%
Wind: S 23 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“The cruelest lies are often told in silence.”
Robert Louis Stevenson
1850 – 1894

Nowhere more true than in politics.

Squirrels with Nuts

The first day of autumn, yesterday, was warm and sunny, a high of 24C here. Today it is hot and sunny, and humid. Not at all like autumn.

Attila is working on finishing the new storm door, which of course needed a frame built for it. Renovating an old house is full of unusual and interesting adjustments.

Here at Mist Cottage, we are like a couple of squirrels gathering nuts for the winter.

The garden loves this weather, and the harvest continues to be bountiful.

Today Attila harvested:

  • Cherry Tomatoes,
  • Beefsteak Tomatoes,
  • Black Russian Tomatoes,
  • Roma Tomatoes,
  • another variety that I haven’t poked around to see what the seeds said they were,
  • Scarlet Runner beans to eat,
  • Scarlet Runner Beans that had gone to seed for planting next spring
  • two large Zucchini
  • a quart of hot peppers, Cayenne, Jalapeno, Serrano, Habanero
  • a pint of Ground Cherries
  • one English Cucumber
Scraps in the steam juicer, on a hotplate, on the table, on the back porch. Also harvest bowls of Scarlet Runner Beans, Zucchini, Ground Cherries, Tomatoes, Tomatoes.

The tomatoes will go into the basement to finish ripening, then will be made into pizza sauce. The only other produce harvested in a quantity suitable for preservation are the zucchini, and I am thinking about what to do with the zucchini!

We went early to the grocery store to pick up a few supplies this morning. Oh dear, the Red Shepherd Peppers looked amazing, so I had to buy a second half bushel, I had roasted and frozen the first half bushel. Once I got it home I washed all of the peppers in a cold water and vinegar bath, then sliced half of them into strips, which I laid on a tray and placed in the freezer. The tray took up the last few available inches in the freezer!

With no more room in the freezer, I had to find some other way to preserve my peppers. I decided on pressure canning them in water, and after quartering them all, removing seeds and stems, I blanched them for three minutes, and drained and packed them into 500-ml canning jars. To each jar I added boiling water and one tablespoon of vinegar, then pressure canned them at 10 lb. for 35 minutes. I canned six jars of Red Shepherd peppers.

The Pressure Canner at 10 lbs. pressure, in 35 minutes the canned peppers will be done, the burner turned off, and the wait will begin for the gauge to fall back to zero pressure.
Six 500-ml jars of pressure canned Red Shepherd Peppers, all sealed. These will sit undisturbed until tomorrow morning, when I will remove the rings, wash the jars, write the contents and date on the lids, and carry these babies down to the basement to begin their new life on a dark shelf. I’ve not tried canning peppers before, so it will be a learning experience, and I hope we like them!

When we prepare all of this bounty for preservation, or right away for our meals, we save the scraps in one quart bags in the freezer. Today, with all of the red pepper scraps, I decided I had enough to justify a steam juicing session. I added the two quarts of pepper scraps, and six quarts of other vegetable scraps, to the the basket in the steam juicer. I set it up outside on the portable electric burner, where it steamed away for a few hours and produced about a quart of vegetable broth. The remaining scraps were cooled and added to the compost.

All of this food preservation going on, and apple season is just getting going! I will be canning apple pie filling and apple sauce when Northern Spy apples are available.

Yesterday though, we decided to take a break from our squirrelly ways. We took a drive out to the camp to check on things there. Everything looked fine, although we could tell someone had been on the property from the tire tracks they left. I guess they were just having a look, nothing had been interfered with.

I was thrilled that there was no sign of mice in Grace the trailer!!! Nothing in the trap, and no droppings anywhere. Wonderful.

We enjoyed the sunshine, the breezes, and the two deer that wandered by, paying little attention to us. I even saw the biggest millipede I have ever seen in my whole life, it must have been three inches long. Attila and I watched it as it made its way across the campfire area, and carried on into the bush.

Attila cut grass, and used a leaf blower to clear the driveway. He also applied spray foam to a few of the small openings we found on the underside of Grace the trailer. We keep trying to keep those critters out!

I burned brush. Since we were last there quite a few small branches had fallen out of the trees, so I gathered those up, and built a camp fire.

For our lunch, we roasted wieners over the coals, and enjoyed hot dogs on homemade bread, topped with garden tomatoes and Vidalia onions. We stayed until Attila began to feel hungry again, then off we into the sunset, home.

We had such a good time!

Worldly

Weather

22°C
Date: 5:00 PM EDT Sunday 22 September 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.3 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 22.2°C
Dew point: 21.4°C
Humidity: 95%
Wind: S 15 km/h
Humidex: 31
Visibility: 19 km

Quote

“Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.”
Henry Ford
1863 – 1947



Roasting Peppers

Who knew!

Well I did, really, but still, what a great discovery.

I knew that peppers could be roasted. My friend Joannie is a chef, and I had seen her roasting peppers over a gas burner, decades ago, then it was new information for me. I assumed I needed a gas burner to do it, and never thought about it again, until last week. Last week I bumped into a video that demonstrated roasting peppers in the oven. Well heck, I can do that!

Yesterday I purchased a half bushel of Red Shepherd Peppers, and went to work as soon as I got them home. I decided to roast only two pans of peppers, to see if I could do it, and if I could, to see if we liked them.

We don’t just like them, we LOVE them!

So this morning I am roasting the rest of the peppers. It will take two baking sessions, using four baking sheets. I am placing the peppers on silicone mats on the baking sheets, because the clean up is so very easy.

I got the instructions from a well researched, accountable web site called Healthy Canning. It has good, reliable, safe, tested, information, with specific instructions for roasting peppers here. If you are going to preserve food this is one of the good sites for information. Another is the National Centre for Home Food Preservation, all USDA tested recipes, and USDA recommended techniques. The NCHFP is affiliated with the University of Georgia and the USDA. Canada has very little to offer when it comes to home food preservation information, but the US information is available online, so that is what I follow. I don’t rely on youtube videos for anything but ideas when it comes to home food preservation. I rely on resources that take the consequences of the advice they give as their responsibility. Cooking, well the sky is the limit with creativity there, but not when it comes to food preservation, botulism kills.

I have chosen to freeze the roasted peppers, rather than can them. I freeze them on cookie sheets, on waxed paper, then place wax paper between the frozen peppers and freeze them in heavy plastic bags. It is a time consuming operation, but I anticipate we are going to really enjoy the flavour kick these peppers will provide this winter!

So that is what I do for a good time on a long weekend at the end of the summer. I am also canning a lot. I canned 5 jars of tomato sauce yesterday, and five jars of zucchini relish. The zucchini relish will not last long, as I’ve discovered it gives a real flavour kick to sandwiches, and on meats etc., which is particularly appealing since I don’t use any salt at the table, or in cooking. And I don’t use salty condiments like mustard, ketchup, soy sauce, etc. No no-sodium relish is something I will really appreciate. Today I am also canning more Cherry Bomb Tomatoes, to make two dozen jars for Attila.

Attila is out in the garden. I don’t really know what he is doing out there, but I do know I like it. Every day he brings in bowls of food for me to preserve, and for our dinner. So whatever it is he is spending his time doing out there, it is time well spent. Attila loves his garden. My raised beds get a little bit of attention from him, he waters them for me when he waters the gardens, but all the rest is his playground.

And here we are, the first day of September already. And all of my windows are open. A beautiful day!

Worldly

Weather

20°C
Date: 11:00 AM EDT Sunday 1 September 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.6 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 19.6°C
Dew point: 13.3°C
Humidity: 67%
Wind: SSE 20 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“Martyrdom is the only way in which a man can become famous without ability.”
George Bernard Shaw
1856 – 1950

I think politicians have disproved this.

Fine Wine

The garden just keeps on giving us a little of this, and a little of that. Today a rogue zucchini will provide a lovely stir fry for our lunch. It was ready to be picked days ago, but was missed and just discovered, and is larger than would be ideal. It was delicious.

Attila picked 4 cups of Basil for Pesto, which is already made, spooned into a muffin tin, and is in the freezer. Later today there will be the last of green string beans, the bugs are decimating the plants, so this will be the last harvest from these plants. Two of the Cabbages are ready, so hopefully one of them will be made into Sauerkraut, which I’ve not attempted before, and can’t eat anyway because of the high sodium content, but Attila loves it, and if it turns out, then yay!

The big canning jobs at Mist Cottage are tomatoes and apples. Their season is yet to come. A few of the tomatoes in the garden are light red, not quite there yet, but there are many more to come, barring disaster, weather, rodents, insects, birds, or humans.

It is hot and humid today. I enjoyed the open windows so much yesterday, that I have left them open again today. It is warm in Mist Cottage, but I am staying comfortable by sitting in the breeze of a fan, and wearing my neck scarf cooler. It is a thin cotton bandana type scarf, which is a tube with silica gel in it. It swells with soaking and once adorned, the water in the silica gel slowly evaporates, creating a circle of coolness around my neck. This works very well in keeping my core temperature down, which is really important during a heat wave.

The open windows are allowing the bird song and breeze in, but they also allow in the rat-a-tat-tat of the roofer’s hammers, they are just at the end of the street. Three young men in shorts, work boots, shirtless, are working hard in this heat, and under the relentless sun. I could do things like that in my youth, and did, I have worked to shingle several roofs. Not now though, those days are long gone. Roofers work hard! And I am busy these days doing my fine wine thing… aging.

Worldly

Weather

27°C
Date: 4:00 PM EDT Saturday 3 August 2019
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.3 kPa
Tendency: Falling
Temperature: 27.3°C
Dew point: 19.0°C
Humidity: 60%
Wind: SSW 23 gust 34 km/h
Humidex: 34
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.”
Mark Twain
1835 – 1910

This quote leads me to wonder, do animals have a sense of humour? Some say yes, some say know. I could find no scientific studies on the subject, so it is all anecdotal. And how would we humans know, if an animal had a sense of humour?

Cherries and Zucchini Relish

I’ve had a pretty good week. Little things, of course, little things, and no drama.

Today it is hot outside, but not too humid. I opened the windows this morning, no regrets there, even though it is much warmer in the house than is comfortable. The birds sound amazing.

Attila has been working on Tank off and on for weeks. He has removed some substandard superfluous wiring that had been installed by a previous owner. He has researched, and identified a faulty part, which he dismantled and cleaned, and which fixed a small problem. And I’ve kept the process going by joining an online forum, submitting questions, and assisting Attila in discussing the issues in the forum. The very last suggestion given to us on the forum, after weeks and weeks of trying all sorts, was to add an octane booster, to see what would happen. While at Canadian Tire it was discovered that octane booster needs to be added when the gas tank is low, so although the product was purchased, using it had to be delayed. But Attila spotted another product that could be tried immediately, injector cleaner. After using that, there was improvement. When I drove Tank a few days later, it was as if there had never been any issues! The heady feeling that the issue is resolved may not last, but it sure was encouraging. Tank is a 2007 model vehicle, and in very good shape, except that she doesn’t run properly. Two reputable garages have utterly failed to diagnose and resolve her issues. If we get this issue resolved ourselves, it will feel like a miracle. Fingers crossed.

On the last day of July I found a retail outlet, about an hour drive from Mist Cottage, that had pitted sweet and sour cherries for sale, in decent size buckets. The drive turned out to be worthwhile, but we had to visit several retail outlets to get what we wanted. At the first grocery store, there was one 7 pound bucket of sweet pitted cherries left. The label said, “Freeze by August 1st”, and it was marked down from $29.00 to $5.00 to sell it before it expired. We purchased that bucket and put in on ice in the cooler we brought with us. But that store had no pitted sour cherries. The next store had the sour cherries we were looking for, 11 pound buckets for $29.99. One bucket was purchased, and into the cooler it went.

Yesterday I had my work cut out for me. The sweet cherries had to be either frozen or canned. The freezer is full, so canning it was. While all the equipment was setup, the sour cherries were also canned. All in all, 18 pounds of pitted cherries were canned yesterday. That felt pretty good, and they all sealed.

8 jars of sour cherries
3 jars of sweet cherries
5 jars of Chocolate Cherry Jam
4 jars of Sour Cherry Jam.

Our Zucchini plant has been thriving. The fresh zucchini is a bit more than I can comfortably eat fresh, so it was time to come up with a way to preserve the extra. This morning three 500 ml jars of Organic Sodium-Free Zucchini Relish came out of the steam canner, and the seals pinged right away.

3 jars Organic Sodium-Free Zucchini Relish

For the time being I have given up on using the Tattler reusable lids and rings. Almost every jar failed, either immediately, which was easy to deal with, or after weeks of sitting on the shelf, which was a serious issue. I’ll get back to playing with them, canning water, at some point. But for now all the work that goes into canning is worth the cost of the reliable one-use metal lids.

The spinach was beginning to bolt, so all but two plants were picked the day before yesterday, roots and all, and are sitting in the refrigerator waiting for me to do something with them. They will probably be frozen for winter enjoyment, they cannot be safely canned. Tonight, it is a job for tonight.

Attila has just let me know that the basil is ready to be picked again, so another batch of pesto is also on the roster for tonight’s activities. I don’t mind really, Attila helps out with the evening food preservation projects, so even though I am tired, it all goes rather smoothly.

As I was sitting in the living room yesterday, the sun was shining brightly on the front porch, I could see it through the edge of the front door. Wait a minute, the front door was closed “tight”! Oh dear, it might be getting to around that time when the front door just has to be replaced. It was in very bad condition when we bought Mist Cottage, just over ten years ago, and it has not improved with age. Every winter duct tape is used to try to seal around the edges of the door, to keep the winter wind out. The sun shining through is a new issue. Up until now replacing the door has not been a priority, but since there are no other renovation projects on the table for this summer, it just might be something that gets tackled before the cold weather sets in. I’d like that, it would be less drafty in the living room if the front door were replaced, and it would reduce heating bills as well.

Worldly

Weather

25°C
Date: 12:00 PM EDT Friday 2 August 2019
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 102.1 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 25.4°C
Dew point: 16.4°C
Humidity: 57%
Wind: S 17 km/h
Humidex: 30
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”
Martha Graham
1894 – 1991