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

End of the Visit

Here it is, my last full day at the little house in the city, for this visit. There is so much to do!

After chatting with Attila, enjoying my morning coffee and slice of breakfast apple crisp, I began bottling yesterday’s cooked and cooled tomatoes. I labelled the jars and found room for them in the freezer. Then I blanched the tomatoes that I picked from our garden yesterday, peeled and chopped them, and stewed them for freezing. While they cooled I cleaned the beets, and readied the pressure canner, which I then used as a pressure cooker, to cook all the beets at one go. By 11:00 a.m. I had everything cooked and ready to package for the freezer.

Beets, cooked whole in the pressure canner, skins, tops and roots left on. They will be peeled and trimmed, quick frozen whole on a tray, then bagged for storage in the freezer.
Beetswholecooked2014
The tomatoes from our garden, stewed and ready for the freezer. These tomatoes were very small, it was a lot of work to blanch and peel them all, and the yield was small; but oh so tasty!
Gardentomatoesstewed

The day started off with sunny skies, but by noon the sky was mostly cloudy and a stiff wind rose out of the southwest. I could hear the wind, it was sighing at the back door, trying to get in, and so caught my attention.

The heat pump has not turned itself on since Monday night, in spite of the drop in the temperature outside. I attribute this to my cooking and canning activities, which seem to be providing enough heat to heat the house. This is a good thing, but there is a drawback. It means that cooking indoors when it is hot outside needs to be avoided, as cooking easily increases the temperature indoors. I would love to have a summer kitchen, for baking and canning in the summer. Some of the old Mennonite farms, in the area where I grew up, had summer kitchens, rooms attached to the house by a walkway, a room that had many windows that would open, and was not heated during the winter months. That is my dream kitchen, two sections, one in the interior of the house for the winter months, and one separate from the house for the summer months.

I am totally against running an air conditioner to cool my home, if the need is generated solely by cooking and canning. Attila sees no problem with it, but he doesn’t like huge hydro bills either. The heat pump also acts as an air conditioner in the summer, so this is now a topic of discussion in our little universe. Attila loves to use the oven all summer long, and at the country house, but I strongly object to it. Since I am the one spending every hour of my existence in the space in question, he respects my wishes; after all he will only be in the house for a few waking hours each day. He is free to use the Nesco portable oven on the screened in porch, anytime he likes during the summer.

I spent a pleasant afternoon with Terra, we went shopping. I seldom see anything I need, even want, but Terra needed a few things, so the trip was successful. We visited two stores and did a lot of walking, which was good for us. Terra bought herself a little treat, and it looked so good I bought a little treat for myself. I regretted it though, as after eating empty calories I always feel lethargic and bloated. After shopping Terra needed to get back to her dogs, who needed to go for a walk.

After Terra dropped me off, I set to work freezing the stewed tomatoes from my garden, and peeling and freezing the cooked beets. Then the cleanup began. It is never fun cleaning up after a session cooking beets. The beets bleed into the water in the pressure canner, and that deep red water seems to end up everywhere, and it stains! Eventually though, I did get the kitchen set to rights, took all the peels and compostables out to the compost pile, and washed the pressure canner carefully. It will not fit in the sink, so I wash it as it sits on the counter.

Green tomatoes set to ripen. The tomatoes in the pan in the front are from our garden, and the tomatoes in the box in behind it are rescued from Terra’s garden.
Greentomatoes2014

One project I did not get to, on this visit, was sewing curtains for the dining area of the kitchen. The ones that are already there work well, so I do not feel concerned about it. I also meant to do a thorough cleaning of the house, but didn’t manage to get that started either. These projects can easily wait for another visit.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

15°C
Date: 10:00 AM EDT Wednesday 8 October 2014
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 100.5 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 14.5°C
Dewpoint: 10.6°C
Humidity: 77%
Wind: WSW 25 gust 43 km/h

Quote

“Assuming either the Left Wing or the Right Wing gained control of the country, it would probably fly around in circles.”
Pat Paulsen

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!

Little Bits

Congratulations are in order for Rymal, who recently took possession of a new apartment. Sending good wishes for you in your new home!

During our renovation vacation we managed one recreational day. We sort of blew it though. We started out with a picnic lunch, heading for a provincial park for a hike. However, I just wanted to peek at the fabric store as we passed by, as there are NO fabric stores close to our country house, and we would be driving right by one, an opportunity not to be missed. We took the scenic route, after making a wrong turn, and enjoyed passing farms and forest.

A farm with a long driveway, along our route to the fabric store.
Vacation2014driveFARM

Well, while I was selecting the fabric for the curtains in the kitchen and dining room, Attila was out exploring the shopping plaza. When all was said and done at the fabric store, Attila hastened me over to a discount store he had found. Wow, we found a great Christmas gift for Terra and Lares, and a few items for ourselves too. By the time we left the discount store it was too late in the day to head to a provincial park.

We were hungry, so we found a park close to the shopping area and headed over there to eat our picnic lunch. It was lovely, we managed to walk for several hours on the paths, by the shore of Lake Ontario. We did not reach our original destination, but we had a lovely time at the park anyway.

We came across this lovely spot, the bench overlooks Lake Ontario.
Vacation2014parkbench

Last Saturday I worked, an hour away from home. When I got back after 1 p.m. Attila loaded the car with some wood for Terra and Lares dining room, and our luggage, and off we drove to the little house in the city.

When we arrived Lares was there, and had been there all day. He installed a heat pump for us, and finished the job around 4:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. Lares is fully qualified to install furnaces and air conditioners. What a whirlwind he is! We did not expect to have the unit in for weeks, working on it a bit at a time at each overnight visit. And there we have it, one overnight visit and the installation is complete!

We now have a dual heating system: an oil furnace and a heat pump. The heat pump will also provide air conditioning. It works like a charm AND we can monitor the interior temperature and humidity of the little house, from the country house! That will come in handy, keeping an eye on things during the times when we are not there.

Of course, we won’t need to use the heat pump for a while yet. Without the aid of the heating system, the interior temperature of the little house is holding steady at 20C, which is perfect. The heat pump will operate when the temperature falls a bit, and heat is needed, but not a lot. In the dead of winter the oil furnace will be providing the heat, but it need not come on at all until it gets very cold outside. We will be monitoring our use of hydro carefully, to assess the hoped for savings. The price of electricity to run the heat pump compression chamber and fan is the only cost involved in heating the house with the heat pump. Electricity costs a lot, but then so does fuel oil, so it remains to be seen how much this will keep our bills down.

We arrived home last night, after 10 p.m., it was an awfully long drive in the dark, and the heavy rain. Attila called out to me from the country house, as he unlocked the door, that the power was out. We have no idea how long it had been out, and it was still out when I went to bed. Attila stayed up late to burn a small fire in the little wood stove, just to take the chill out of the air in the interior of the house. He said the power came back on around midnight.

While we were at the little house I did the usual stocking up on food supplies. This time I bought ten pound bags of vegetables. Three ten pound bags could be had for $5.00, a very reasonable price. I bought three bags of onions for $5.00, three bags of potatoes for $5.00, and two bags of carrots and one bag of beets for $5.00.

The vegetables from the store where I made this purchase are often near the end of their best shelf life, so they need to be dealt with quickly, so as not lose any to spoilage. So today I used my 21 1/2 quart pressure canner to cook ten pounds of beets, and ten pound of carrots. All of the cooked vegetables were flash frozen, and bagged, for winter meals.

This is a lot of work. The cost of the vegetables is about 37 cents a kilogram, and because we already own the freezer, and the pressure canner, and I have enough time to devote to processing the vegetables, we are saving a pretty penny. It doesn’t cost much to process the vegetables, the beets took 15 minutes, the carrots took 4 minutes, and the cost of freezing is negligible, as the fuller the freezer, the more efficiently it runs.

I still have another ten pounds of carrots to process. After that I will be ready to can some more Chili Beans for Attila. The Chili Beans are a great success! Attila eats them with hot peppers, for a snack. He has already eaten two one litre jars of the canned beans, so I will be kept busy keeping up with his appetite!

Worldly Distractions

Weather

11°C
Date: 3:00 PM EDT Monday 22 September 2014
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.8 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 10.6°C
Dewpoint: 3.3°C
Humidity: 60%
Wind: WNW 18 gust 37 km/h

Quote

“The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.”
George Bernard Shaw
1856 – 1950