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!

Pressure Canning

I am getting better at this pressure canning thing! One of the features/challenges of the All American Pressure Canner is the metal to metal seal. There is no gasket to replace.

The metal to metal seal takes some getting used to. My first foray into pressure canning was pressure canning beans, while we were at the little house. I had a 100% success rate, the jars all sealed properly. But getting it done kept me hopping, and wondering, the whole time. There was some venting around the seal at that time, but it was not serious enough to drop the pressure. During that first experiment I was afraid that the canner would run dry, run out of water. When I opened it up I discovered that my fears were groundless, almost laughable. There was almost the same amount of water in the canner at the end of the process, as there was at the beginning of the process.

Yesterday I used the All American to pressure cook ten pounds of vegetables at a go. It worked very well. But there was a significant amount of venting in three spots around the seal. I thought about it, and decided it could be down to one of two things, or both of them. First, there might not have been enough lubricant applied to the area of the seal that vented. Second, the lid might not have been adequately levelled to ensure a good seal.

The first possibility was addressed by applying olive oil to the areas of the seal where venting had occurred. The second possibility was addressed by seeking out an object with which to measure the gap between the lid and the canner, to ensure the gap was equal all the way around. I tried a table fork handle, too thin. I tried a clothespin, too thick. I tried this and that, until finally I got out a bag of Ikea allen keys, and one of them was perfect. That allen key is now kept in the envelope with the weight gauge, so it will be handy for every canning session.

This morning Attila requested canned beans for supper. I agreed to postpone processing the last ten pounds of carrots, so as to focus on canning more Chili Beans.

When it came time to close up the canner, I measured the gap precisely, and very carefully applied equal pressure to opposite tightening screws. The proof is in the pudding as they say, and my hunches were correct, the added lubricant (olive oil), and the careful measurement of the gap, and tightening of the screws, succeeded in preventing venting around the seal.

I didn’t manage to get the heat turned low enough though, to keep the weight gauge rattling only several times a minute. That gauge rattled nonstop the whole 90 minutes of processing, as I kept lowering and lowering the heat, by small increments. The pressure gauge read 11 pounds throughout the entire process. The water level was down when I opened the canner, but it was not in danger of going dry. Five of the seven quarts sealed immediately after I took them out of the canner, the rest sealed sometime during the morning.

When I opened the canner the water inside was little bit murky. A small amount of the jar contents had siphoned out. This probably occurred at the end of the canning process, when I released the pressure in the canner by removing the weight gauge. Note to self, wait a half an hour or more to remove the weight gauge, after the pressure gauge reads zero. It will be interesting to see if that solves the siphoning issue.

There is one ten pound bag of carrots waiting to be cooked tomorrow in the pressure canner, and then all of the bulk produce that was purchased will be preserved for winter use, and Attila will also have his beans.

The “new” spice rack at the little house in the city. This rack was on the wall when we moved into our country house. We are not knick knack people, so it sat empty on the wall for a year or so, then we took it down. Of course, as we usually do, we stored it away in case we needed it someday. It works perfectly at the little house in the city, as our “new” spice rack. Attila painted it to match the kitchen cupboards, and it graces the unused wall space behind the bifold door in the kitchen, well out of direct light. The 500 ml tinted mason jars fit perfectly into the openings! Eventually I will replace the two piece mason jar lids with one piece lids, which will be easier to manage during a cooking session.
Spice rack

Worldly Distractions

Weather

18°C
Date: 12:00 PM EDT Tuesday 23 September 2014
Condition: Sunny
Pressure: 102.5 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 17.6°C
Dewpoint: 12.5°C
Humidity: 72%
Wind: W 17 km/h

Quote

“To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals.”
Benjamin Franklin
1706 – 1790

This is not true for the vast majority of humans who live on our planet, quite the opposite. I wish it was true for all of us though, I really do.

Projects Of My Own

Saturday, September 13, 2014

We are still at the little house in the city.

Great fun in the kitchen over the last few days! I have blanched and frozen most of the celery given to us by Terra and Lares, and dried and powdered about 250 ml of dried celery leaves for flavouring in soups and stews. I have pressure cooked the beets, which we enjoyed the whole day, eating them as a mid-morning snack, and as a side dish with every meal of the day. I like them with hot sweet mustard. What a treat!

The next day I reread the manual for the All American pressure canner, and began the prep work for my very first foray into pressure canning. On this vacation I brought along three types of dried beans, kidney, navy, and pinto beans. I also brought along the video I found online, which outlines how to can chili beans in a pressure canner, using dry beans. All in all, by the time I was ready to put my hand to chopping vegetables, washing canning jars and setting up the pressure canner, it was already well past 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon.

Finally, at around 3:30 p.m. I was ready to lower my bean, vegetable, spice, and water filled jars into the canner, to begin the canning process.

I do not think I have tackled many projects with as much reading of manuals, watching of tutorials, and thinking, thinking, thinking about what I was going to do, and how I was going to do it.

And of course, as soon as I got the pressure canner going, I was sure I hadn’t set it up properly, that it would run dry on me, that the jars would break, that the range couldn’t handle the load…

Let me just say that it was a very, very tense 120 minutes, from the time I turned on the heat, until I turned it off again. I sat in the kitchen and watched that pressure canner like there was no tomorrow. I wondered that steam occasionally came from the rim rather than out the weighted release valve. I wondered if the roiling sounds inside the canner meant the jars were bursting. I wondered if it mattered that the weight did not rattle three times a minute if the canning process was compromised, even though the gage read a steady pressure. I wondered why the weight rattled almost constantly when I turned up the heat a smidgin. I just wondered about the whole thing, from beginning to end. I had a sore neck and a tension headache by the time I turned off the heat!

What I found out was that I had plenty of water left in the canner at the end of the process, and it would not have run dry, even if the weight had rattled a lot more than it did. The canner lost a surprisingly small amount of water! I found out that I really had needed to add vinegar to the water before closing up the canner, because the canning jars came out coated with minerals. I found out that the canning was successful, 100% successful, as every jar pinged as it sealed. I watched the contents of the jars “boil” for almost half an hour after I removed the jars from the canner.

And best of all… I found out that Attila LOVES the beans!

The next time I try pressure canning I won’t be nearly so nervous about it.

We managed to get out to Terra and Lares house this past week, and had a wonderful time, sitting on the verandah chatting, watching and occasionally helping Lares with the last wall of siding on the house, sharing a wonderful meal of hamburgers, and corn and potatoes that Terra picked in the garden just before putting them into the pot to cook. We ended the evening by watching a movie, Bad Words, which I really enjoyed.

Yesterday evening Terra and Lares came to ours for dinner, which was “holiday food”, french fries and chicken nuggets. Not really that bad considering we have been out of cooking mode for the entire holiday due to the window replacement project in the kitchen and dining room.

One of the things I love about our time at the little house in the city is being able to see Terra and Lares with some frequency.

It was Tink’s birthday last week, her fifth, so we called her using Skype. She is such a character. She told us she was having “frozen cupcakes” for her birthday. Attila and I both thought, “whatever turns your crank!” Luna explained to us later that “frozen” was a movie, and the cupcakes were part of the movie themed birthday party. We all had a good laugh about the frozen cupcakes.

Yesterday Attila spent the entire day just puttering. He touched up the paint on the exterior of the house, where it had peeled, apparently not quite dry when the we painted the house a few years ago. He replaced bits of rotting siding on the garage, and painted them. He cut and painted trim.

Today I decided that this year I am making chili sauce. I like my homemade chili sauce, and have found no affordable substitutes. We do buy a commercial chili sauce, but it is almost $5 a jar, and is thickened with a thickener, it tastes and feels like cornstarch to me, which isn’t real chili sauce as far as I am concerned.

I talked to Terra about a possible source for a half bushel of tomatoes, she did not know of one. Then I poked around the internet, searching, searching, searching. I found a farm just 5 km out of town, that sells all kinds of fall vegetables, including tomatoes. So I called ahead, then headed out to the farm for tomatoes. Goodness I had a good time. There were many kinds of squash, I bought three different varieties. There were freshly dug potatoes, I bought two baskets. There were hot peppers, I bought them all. There were green peppers, I bought three. I came home with a trunk full of vegetables!

Then I headed off to the hardware store and purchased another dozen 1L canning jars. I always buy North American made canning jars. In Canada that means BERNARDIN, a company I trust. Canadian Tire had another brand of canning jars, that I don’t think are made in North America. I won’t buy them. I will not buy products made outside of North America unless I have no other options. Today I had options, I bought Bernardin.

Another project I tackled after the kitchen chaos cleared, were curtains for the kitchen window. I spent an entire day sewing a set of simple kitchen curtains for the new kitchen window, installing the curtain hardware, and hanging the curtains. Again, I love them!

I have the same material to make new curtains for the dining room windows, but will tackle that project when I am visiting the little house in the city by myself. Then I will be able to pace myself, sewing over the course of a few days, instead of soldiering on and pushing the project through in one day, as I did with the kitchen window curtain.

Our evening began when Terra and Lares dropped by with another bunch of home grown celery. I had asked her earlier in the day if they had any more that they were wanting to give away. I need this bunch of celery for my chili sauce! After they left Attila and I got down to removing all the leaves, washing them, spreading them on cookie sheets, and drying them for future use as flavouring.

It was cold and raining today, not at all pleasant out there! We were warm enough in the house though, our little bit of cooking for lunch and dinner kept the house pleasantly warm.

Attila had his meltdown today, the last full day of our renovation vacation. He was determined to install the bathroom baseboard, but ran into a few issues caused by the uneven walls and floor in this old house. He felt very frustrated. Time to end the projects for this visit!!! I pointed out that he had accomplished an incredible number of projects with great success. An evening of fun was in order. So we got out the popcorn maker, found a BBC drama to watch on youtube, and sat ourselves down for a few hours of mindless entertainment.

Here is the dining room, new windows and table in place. The curtains are shower curtains, which are not ideal, but they work. Actually they work very, very well, with shower curtain hooks on the curtain rod the opening and closing of the curtains is easy indeed. The material for the new curtains is sitting in the living room beside the sewing machine, just waiting for my attention!
DiningroomEndOfRenoVac2014

And there ends our two weeks of renovation vacation, our fifth year of spending our entire vacation time renovating our little house in the city. I guess that would be a total of about ten weeks of renovating, not a lot of time, as renovations go. We usually have a good time and are happy in our work, just not every day, ahem, and the results are so very satisfying!

Worldly Distractions

Weather

10°C
Date: 8:00 PM EDT Saturday 13 September 2014
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.2 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 9.6°C
Dewpoint: 7.1°C
Humidity: 84%
Wind: WNW 13 km/h

Quote

“Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories.”
John Wilmot

I found this quote very amusing! I raised my girls as a single mother, and had to deal with childless authority figures in the academy while studying for my Honours BA, MA and PhD. I have to say, those childless, intellectual “experts” on childrearing were a baneful bunch! It is little wonder that I have theories about theories!

Pressure Canner

It ate a whole day, did the new pressure canner. And I did not even touch it!

First, I read the manual. Then I looked at various web sites dealing with pressure canners. The general advice was that the pressure gauge needed to be checked annually, either in the spring or the fall. In the USA this can be accomplished through many of the State University extension offices, and by private businesses such as Lehmans. But where in Canada could a pressure gauge be tested. I called the Ministry of Agriculture, they do not even employ a Home Economist anymore, and do not seem to concern themselves with domestic food storage issues. I called Foodland Ontario, and although they have information on how to pressure can on their site, they knew nothing about pressure canners, or testing pressure gauges. I called eatrightontario.ca, and they knew nothing about pressure canners, or testing pressure gauges. I wrote to Bernardin and they suggested contacting the manufacturer, which I had already done. My oh my, how things have changed since I was in my twenties!! Not even the self-proclaimed food experts in this day and age have much knowledge or experience with domestic food preservation, it has ceased to be relevant I suppose. This feels wrong to me.

My next approach was to look at private testing facilities. I wrote to Reed Instruments Canada, who were extremely helpful. I think they might have been able to do it, but while I was interacting with them I heard back from the manufacturer of the pressure canner and received some very good news… I can test the pressure gauge myself. So, for anyone who has an All American pressure canner, this is the testing method that was outlined over the telephone by the manufacturer: “Add 2 1/2 quarts water to the pressure canner, secure the lid, bring it up to pressure, put pressure regulator on vent pipe, once it reaches setting it is set to, disk will start to rattle, look at gauge, if the gauge is showing, for 10 lb. pressure regulator, 8 -12 lbs. then the gauge is functioning correctly. If the gauge is not functioning correctly, remove it and send it to manufacturer for testing. Sometimes they have to be replaced. Everything on lid is replaceable.” Call the company, or check their website for updated instructions, as I can take no responsibility for this technique, use at your own risk.

I was typing as fast as I could as she outlined this technique, so I hope it makes sense, as it is not word for word. The friendly and helpful person on the phone was a pleasure to talk to. I suggested that this information be posted on their company web site, as I looked for it, even found a comment from someone looking for the same information, but could find no answer. Resolving the annual pressure gauge testing situation took from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., phew!

I was then ready to move on, began to look for videos that outlined the use of the unit. I found videos on youtube, by private individuals. Although the details I was looking for were not all included on any one video, by watching a half dozen of them I was able to make a list of all the crucial steps involved in the pressure canning process. The main inspiration to use a pressure canner was canning dry beans. There were lots of videos demonstrating how to can beans, and it was interesting to watch those. By the time I had collected some recipes and techniques for pressure canning beans in particular, it was the end of the day and Attila was arriving home.

Today I washed the pressure canner in hot soapy water, rinsed it, and let it thoroughly dry. Then I followed the instructions in manual to lubricate the parts indicated. The pressure canner was ready for a test run! That was left for another day. One thing is for certain, I will never be lifting that canner while it contains water! I could barely lift it empty!

Worldly Distractions

Weather

18°C
Date: 8:00 AM EDT Saturday 23 August 2014
Condition: Cloudy
Pressure: 101.9 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 17.6°C
Dewpoint: 17.0°C
Humidity: 96%
Wind: ENE 5 km/h

Quote

“I am not in need of teaching, or instruction. I am in need of sharing, respect and compassion. If a person really thinks they need to “educate” the world or me for that matter, it might be of benefit to them, to stand in front of mirror, look deeply into their own eyes, and practise exercising sharing, respect and compassion. Once they have mastered those skills within themselves, they are welcome to practise them in my universe.” Maggie Turner, 2014

I wrote this as an internal reaction to political views that assume superiority. I have been exposed to a great many flavours of rigorous “correctness”, left and right, the powerful and the obscure, up and down, over there and over here, and although some are interesting, none of them have taken a “greater than the sum of our parts” approach to communication and problem solving.

As one left wing political representative in Canada recently said to me, “I am not looking for viable and profound solutions to the world’s problems.” And I believe him.