It is snowing here this morning, lots and lots of snow. It is melting too, but enough is falling out the sky to accumulate significantly on the branches of the tree branches outside my windows, about 4 inches so far.
I love the first snowfall of the season! It is pretty. But beyond the visual is the feel of the soft white blanket that now surrounds my little house. The busy brashness of late autumn sounds has been muted. White brings sharp visual contrast to the landscape. I can see paths in the snow, where squirrels and rabbits have made their way in our yard. That is on the outside of me.
On the inside of me is a deep feeling of containment and contentment. I am cozy here in my little house, warm enough, well fed enough (understatement), and peacefully occupied enough to love where I am. The first snow always brings into sharp focus how wonderful it is to have a peaceful home to live in. I stepped out onto the back porch this morning, to take out the compost bucket, and to bring in some washed and dried plastic bags that were hanging on the clothesline, and oh what a pleasure to breath deeply that air, so sharp and crisp and biting. And then, what a delight to retreat back into the warmth of this little house.
These feelings of wonder at the first snow never get old. They return every year in late autumn, when the world first turns white. It is amazing to me that I feel this way every year, despite having experienced late winter impatience for it to melt away.
The first snow marks a turning point in the seasons, a natural turning point, dictated by mother nature herself, and it is delightful.
There is another turning point at this time of year however, that is not so delightful, nor is it natural in any way. It is a corporate interest turning point that occurs here in Ontario, where we have Time-Of-Use monitoring and billing for the electricity we use. It is the perfect opportunity to increase prices, and inflict restrictions on the domestic population of Ontario, Canada.
On November first we were switched to winter rates and time schedules. The rates have increased of course. And what this also means is that I must do my daily tasks that use electricity either before 7:00 a.m. in the morning, or after 7:00 p.m. in the evening. In other words, the most economical hydro is largely available overnight, when I sleep. This is very, very inconvenient, and changes the way my whole day is structured.
There is a period of mid-peak pricing from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., when I will undertake tasks that I feel just cannot be done during the 12 nighttime hours when the electricity is least expensive. But I try to avoid doing that, because it will affect our monthly billing.
It seems Hydro One is determined to make the short cold winter days as dark and dreary as they possibly can.
Heating is our priority, and it is a service I do not want to cut back on significantly, despite the government urging seniors to turn their heat down! The government paid for ads a few years ago, showing an elderly woman wrapped in a blanket, turning down her thermostat, like that was the RIGHT thing to do. I hope the genius who thought up that ad, and the one who chose to run with it, have severe arthritis in their older years, and find themselves wrapped in blankets in chilly homes, doing the RIGHT thing. Heartless campaign.
I’ve been busy. One of the things that has come to my attention is that I experience significant pain if I try to get down on the floor, or back up from the floor. Arthritis is not my friend. All of my life I have been physically nimble, hale and hearty. Age is having none of it! So I did a bunch of research on techniques for getting down on the floor, and up from the floor, and have been practicing. And the practice is paying off, after a few days of cleaning shelves that can only be reached if one is down on the floor, I can now get down, and up again, without experiencing pain. I still forget I am not young anymore, and without thinking try to get down, or up, as I had whole life through, for decades and decades. But pain is a determined reminder that adaptation is required.
On Tuesday I made a loaf of 100% whole-wheat low-sodium bread in the bread machine. The whole loaf contained only 1200 mg of sodium. I added dried mango and dried cranberries to it. Wow, it was so good. I love bread with dried fruit in it.
When I was a single Mom on a tight time and financial budget, a loaf of bread with mixed fruit in it was my only special treat. I even dreamed about that loaf of bread at night, watching the slices fall as I opened the bag. I love breads and pastries. Yesterday, I could not resist having my homemade bread with butter for breakfast, again for lunch, and as a bedtime snack. And I had it for breakfast again this morning, and again at lunch. I know I will not want to eat anything else until that loaf of bread is all gone, and it won’t be long. Well, it is best fresh, right?
I was so in love with the bread I made, that I decided I needed more dried fruit in the house, with which to make it. Out came the dehydrator, to dry the Gala apples purchased at the grocery store this past week. They are Ontario apples, and on sale at the moment for $1.00 a pound. They were peeled, cored, sliced thin, then spread out on the racks. I ran the dehydrator at 140F last night after 7:00 p.m. when the hydro cost dropped to off-peak pricing, and turned the heat down to 90F for the night, to let it run overnight. It seemed best to keep the temperature down when the unit was not being supervised. It was turned off this morning at 6:58 a.m.. The apples are not dry yet, a little rubbery, so they aren’t done. Tonight the dehydrator will be turned on to 140F again at 7::00 p.m. and will run again all night if need be.
The apples cores and peels are now in the crock turning themselves into Apple Cider Vinegar, which needs to be stirred daily to prevent mold.
Last Friday the pressure canner was put into service again, this time to can six 500-ml jars of Taco Soup. These are intended for my lunches, on those days when I am suddenly hungry and just can’t figure out what to eat. Since there were no empty jars left, the pressure canner was cleaned and back into storage it went. But Attila, upon finding out that the jars were all in service, picked up another dozen jars when he was out and about. So there will be more canned instant meals on the way soon.
The cabbages were first harvested in September. Each stem that was left started to grow new little cabbages. Attila harvested them on the weekend, and now we have a 1 liter jar of sauerkraut fermenting in the basement. Hopefully this batch will be a success!
Date: 11:47 AM EST Thursday 7 November 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.3 kPa
Dew point: -3.5°C
Wind: NNW 14 km/h
Wind Chill: -6
Visibility: 16 km
“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy: They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust 1871 – 1922
Early last week I ran into a problem with a piece of software on one of my older Macs. It was a result of an incompatible update, which had auto-updated. I began interacting with tech support for the software company, the issue was escalated to more technical support team. I interacted with them for days, tried all their suggestions, and nothing worked. The old Mac just would not connect to the internet. I feared its functional life was over.
Frustrated with the software tech support, this morning I got out of bed, immediately setup the computer, and started to play around. I kept playing around for over an hour, then I found the issue and fixed it. It was a setting buried deep in the software, which needed only to be toggled off, which let me connect to the internet, which let me update the software to get rid of the issue. It is a wonder the tech support didn’t start with that setting when they were troubleshooting with me! I feel very satisfied that I fixed the problem, despite, and not because of, technical support.
Today is an apple day. I am finally sitting down, after being on my feet since 9:00 a.m., it is just after noon now. One half bushel of apples has been peeled, cored, diced, and is now sitting in pots on the stove, on a low heat, turning itself into applesauce. Attila peeled, I cored, sectioned, and diced. I hope we get to the other half bushel today, but I don’t hold out much hope. Sixteen quarts of apples are going to take some time to cook into applesauce, and can.
These Northern Spy apples are very dense. Water needs to be added at regular intervals when it is being cooked and made into applesauce. Stirring it is hard work, and it cooks very slowly, so there is a lot of stirring. My arm and wrist are very sore.
The peels and cores are being saved to make apple cider vinegar. Our first batch, made last fall with crab apples, is fantastic. So we are in high hopes that these apple scraps will give us some wonderfully flavoured apple cider vinegar.
Monday, October 21, 2019
This morning the fog was thick and the air was chill.
It got busy around here after I wrote Saturday’s entry. I added the photographs and wrote the captions today.
Sunday Attila peeled all but a dozen or so apples from the second half bushel. I cored, and processed them in the food processor. They took about four hours to cook, using two large stock pots, even though the apple pieces were pea size. And I had to add a little more than 4 litres of water to keep them from becoming too thick to stir. Wow, I don’t remember Northern Spys being so difficult to cook. Attila thinks it is due to the very dry summer we have had this year, so there is not much moisture in them, and they are very dense.
I ended up with 5 more quarts of applesauce for the shelf, which were washed, labelled and put away on the basement shelf this morning.
The apple cores, and bits that didn’t make into the applesauce pot, were placed in a 5 liter fermenting crock. After covering them with a water/sugar mixture, I added a few tablespoons of active apple cider vinegar. A clean cotton cloth was placed over the crock, which was secured against fruit flies, and other interested parties, with an elastic band. This will be stirred every morning for two weeks. Then the liquid will be strained from the fruit and returned to the crock to turn itself into cider, then vinegar.
My next canning project presented itself to me yesterday. I was about to make dinner, an Instant Pot rice dish with turkey and hot chili, very tasty. But I suddenly realized that all of my vegetable broth was frozen! Oh dear, I had to thaw it slowly in the microwave, adding quite a bit of bother to the meal preparation.
I started making vegetable broth from vegetable scraps in August, when our garden started to deliver a lot of fresh produce. A total of about 10 quarts have been made since then, five of them I have used already for cooking. The other 5 are still in quart jars in the freezer. I was so busy with canning and roasting and drying and fermenting, and the broth was being produced only a quart at a time, that it just seemed more practical to freeze the small quantities vegetable broth.
But frozen vegetable broth does not work well for my style of cooking!
So today I have five quarts of frozen vegetable broth thawing on the counter. Once I can get it out of the jars, I will put it into the 16 quart soup pot, boil it for 10 minutes, then can it in 500-ml jars. Then it will be sitting ready to use on the shelf when I need it, no forethought required. These will be pressure canned.
Attila loved the Fermented Jalapeno Peppers I made for him. They are all gone now. We have a few ferments on the go, green tomatoes, and Brussels Sprout leaves. Attila also has a ferment of his own on the go, hot peppers. Yesterday he started yet another ferment, green cherry tomatoes, with fresh coriander seeds and garlic. Fermenting is easy. But we did have a failure, the second batch of sauerkraut. We will try another batch of Sauerkraut when the fermenting crock is free again, as it is now being used to make Apple Cider Vinegar.
And still there are things to preserve! There are about 20 pounds of tomatoes ripening in the basement. Thankfully all of the tomatoes have been harvested now, no more coming in from the garden. The Swiss Chard was harvested as well, and it will be processed tonight, probably blanched and frozen. BUT Attila says the Swish Chard has not given up, and it is growing like crazy right now, so there might be another harvest. There are some small cabbages that grew from the roots of the earlier harvested cabbage plants. And there are six more Brussels Sprout plants to harvest, Brussels Sprouts and leaves. And beets, lets not forget the beets that are still to be harvested.
Three months of steady food preservation activity. And I have so many conveniences, choppers, shredders, pickle pipes and pucks, a fermenting crock…
I do this because I choose to do it, because it is a hobby with benefits, lots and lots of benefits.
But can you imagine having to do this for a family with many children, on a wood stove… before all this modern technology, because someone HAD to do it, to be on the home front making sure the food supply didn’t spoil. This work was a respected part of the art of survival.
11°C Date: 11:37 AM EDT Monday 21 October 2019 Condition: Mostly Cloudy Pressure: 102.0 kPa Tendency: Rising Temperature: 10.5°C Dew point: 10.5°C Humidity: 100% Wind: NE 13 km/h Visibility: 16 km
“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.” Martin Luther King Jr. 1929 – 1968
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!
Date: 12:00 PM EDT Wednesday 25 September 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.0 kPa
Dew point: 16.8°C
Wind: S 23 km/h
Visibility: 24 km
“The cruelest lies are often told in silence.” Robert Louis Stevenson 1850 – 1894
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:
Black Russian 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
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.
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!
Date: 5:00 PM EDT Sunday 22 September 2019
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.3 kPa
Dew point: 21.4°C
Wind: S 15 km/h
Visibility: 19 km
“Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.” Henry Ford 1863 – 1947