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

What I did on my summer vacation.

Our first summer vacation in over two decades came in the summer of 2016. We were very excited! My brother had a heart attack and died that week. In 2017 our second opportunity for a summer vacation came up, and we spent it at our Rideau Camp. That week a neighbour destroyed a corner of our property with his tractor, and a property dispute ensued, in which I ended up having to involve the police to prevent the individual from continuing to damage the property, it was not fun, and certainly not relaxing. In addition to that miserable process, it was cold and rained the whole time we were there,

So, this year, when an opportunity for a summer vacation came along, I decided to pass. God only knows what misery would befall me on a third attempt at leisure and pleasure.

Attila had last week off. The first Saturday began as hot and humid as it had been all summer, being outdoors was not bearable. It was the Labour Day long weekend in Ontario. I thought perhaps it might be fun to drive out to a few local farms, who advertised on the internet. I was looking for tomatoes, and although several farms indicated they sold tomatoes, none of them offered any information on availability. I called their telephone numbers, only one farm line answered. He was quite unpleasant, told me he wanted $75 a bushel for his tomatoes, that there were none left, and I could put in my order for next year with a deposit. I politely declined. So we chose the nearest farm in the listings (not the unpleasant fellow) and set out.

There was a bad accident on a nearby highway, and all of the long weekend traffic was rerouted through our small area. It took over an hour to get out of town and to the first farm. They had clearly gone out of the business of selling to the public, the stand partly demolished, nor was there any sign of farming activity. I wish they had taken their listings off the internet, but I know how time-consuming that can be, so I don’t really blame them for not seeing to it.

Conclusion: the internet is not a good way to find local goods and services.

It took another hour to get back through town, which took us by a grocery store, so we popped in for a few things. And there they were, Roma tomatoes by the 25 pound box, and Red Shepherd peppers by the 20 pound box! The tomatoes were $8 a box, and the peppers were $10 a box. They were grown in Ontario, but not anywhere near where we live. We bought two boxes of tomatoes and one box of peppers. The outing to visit local farms and purchase local produce was abandoned.

So, I began to can tomatoes. I pressure canned batches of Tomato Red Pepper Sauce and pureed tomatoes right through until Monday, and spent at least 12 hours each day on my feet, getting it done. Attila helped a bit, sitting and turning the food mill, which helped a lot.

On Tuesday the heat wave was still going strong, and being outdoors was still going to be unbearable. So I thought it would be interesting to try again to buy local produce. This time I decided that an apple farm where we had purchased apples in the past, would be the place to visit. Attila liked the idea, so off we went for a drive in the country. It was hot and humid out there, but we were comfortable in the air-conditioned vehicle, and the long drive in the country was fun and relaxing.

We bought a 1/2 bushel of Paulared Apples. I also treated myself to a new paring knife, a Victorinox serrated knife, that was for sale for $9 at the apple farm store. A little vacation indulgence. Attila chose a plastic jar opener, for opening hard-to-open jars, as his little indulgence. We took our apples and indulgences and set out on the back roads towards home.

It was on one of those back roads that we bumped into a farmer selling produce out of her barn. She didn’t have a lot, but we did get six quarts of lovely new potatoes, and a large ripe melon.

We had a good time.

On Wednesday the day was spent turning the apples into applesauce.

On Thursday the applesauce was preserved by pressure canning.

Thursday was the last day of miserable hot and humid weather.

Friday dawned sunny and cool. At last! I decided to go “hiking” at a local park trail. Attila though that was a grand idea, so that is what we did. We weren’t sure just how it would work out, me with my arthritic knee, and Attila with his bad back and painful ankle. We chose the easy trail, not too long, and spent a lot of time sitting at the water’s edge just enjoying the sound of the waves lapping, and the birds calling.

Saturday dawned sunny and cool. Yay! I decided to go “hiking” again. Based on our success on the last “hike”, we chose a slightly more challenging trail, a moderate rated trail, two kilometres long. What a glorious time we had, again, sitting for a long time at the water’s edge. This time, as we were sitting watching the water lap against the rocks and submerged trees trunks, a beautiful mink ran across the shore in front of us. We were downwind from the water, so that it probably did not realize we were there until it was well on its journey. When it became aware of us, it scooted across in front of us and off into the brush. At another point in our walk, we stopped to watch a group of women in a small motorboat, who were out fishing. They caught our attention with their cries of excitement and amazement as one of them caught a fish. They were enjoying themselves so much, it was contagious. My knee, and Attila’s back and ankle, survived the experience without distress, we were pain-free and tired when we arrived back at the car. Out came the lawn chairs from the trunk of the car, cool beverages were fetched from the cooler in the back seat, and we set ourselves up in the shade to enjoy the breeze and the trees, while we rested from our adventure.

Once rested we headed for the Rideau Camp. Once there I heated up a pot of chilli for our supper, while Attila started a camp fire, over which he cooked grilled cheese sandwiches. We enjoyed a quiet meal, then sat around the camp fire for a few hours until the light began to fail. The fire was doused and then we were on our way home. It was a another lovely day.

Mouse Tales

Mice invaded Grace the trailer over last winter and have been a nightmare this summer. Three weeks ago, while applying Mouse Free to the undercarriage of the trailer, with a paint brush, Attila discovered a gap tucked behind the siding at the front jack. That opening, and another we found in the rear, were then filled with steel wool, then painted with Mouse Free. This was all done in hope of preventing more mice from entering.

BUT there was a high possibility that there were remaining mice in the trailer. Snap traps were being turned over and raided without catching the mice. When a mouse was caught in a snap trap, it was a pretty gory affair to clean up. So I got a 5 gallon pail, filled it with about 10 inches of water, smeared a bit of peanut butter horizontally for a few inches, just above the water line, and placed a 1×2 board up to the lip of the rim as an entry ramp for the mice. We caught six mice. Yesterday, after leaving the trailer for a week, there were no mice in the trap. There were no new droppings anywhere in the trailer.

That brings us to today, the last day of the “vacation”. Today nothing is planned. Attila is doing a lot of little things he wants to get done before he goes back to work. I am puttering, my usual kind of puttering about, going from one little task to another, like a bee wandering from bloom to bloom.

This may or may not have solved our mouse issues. I live i hope.

Worldly

Weather

14°C
Date: 12:00 PM EDT Sunday 9 September 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.7 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 13.8°C
Dew point: 4.0°C
Humidity: 51%
Wind: NE 19 gust 33 km/h
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“The more we do, the more we can do; the more busy we are the more leisure we have.”
William Hazlitt
1778 – 1830

Canning Odyssey

Well, I didn’t stop pressure canning with two batches of canned tomatoes, and two batches of Tomato Red Pepper Sauce. A trip to an apple farm, an outing, tempted a purchase of a half bushel of Paulared apples. I don’t like them for eating, they are too tart for me, so applesauce was their destiny. They are an early variety, the varieties I prefer for eating will ripen later in September.

A shout out to Wendy and Bex here! Wendy, when I last made applesauce you suggested using a food mill! Bex, you also recommended a food mill! Great suggestion. My new food mill is definitely the way to go with tomato sauce and applesauce, it is a game changer, with a little help from my friends.

Yesterday I made 9 1/2 litres of applesauce, and pressure canned 9 litres of it. Another 12 hour marathon. The down side of doing this on a weekday is that the low-peak hydro prices aren’t in effect until 7:00 p.m., so that I can’t start the pressure canning until then. That means I have to stay up late at night to complete two canning sessions, as the canner only holds 7 one litre jars at a time. It was a late night last night. The result was 9 litres of tart, delicious applesauce.

The advantage to canning is that it stores without electricity. I love freezing, but our second-hand, beat-up, smallish freezer doesn’t allow for much in the way of bulk storage. Canned goods can sit on the shelves for a few years, needing no equipment or electricity to keep them viable.

If we ever had a prolonged power outage, you would find me in the back yard with my propane camp stove, pressure canning the contents of our freezer. Mostly fruits and vegetables, and a bit of meat. Hopefully that never happens.

So, the only canning left on my itinerary is pressure canning our garden tomatoes, all organic, all non-gmo. As they ripen they are washed and frozen whole. When the growing season is over, and all of the tomatoes have ripened and have been frozen, it will be time to can them.

I can’t think of a better way to wait out a heat wave, which broke this morning. I’ve been canning since last weekend, and it has been hot as hades here. But I’ve indulged myself by working hard in an air-conditioned house, which is even kept cool in the evenings when the pressure canner is sputtering away on the stove!

Worldly

Weather

22°C
Date: 9:00 AM EDT Thursday 6 September 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.1 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 21.5°C
Dew point: 17.9°C
Humidity: 80%
Wind: NNE 19 km/h
Humidex: 27
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“The first time I see a jogger smiling, I’ll consider it.”
Joan Rivers
1935 –

This reminds me of a trip to Costco… I’ve not once seen a smiling face on a customer in there! The staff however, are extremely pleasant and smile a lot, for which I give them credit, considering the dour lot that shop there.

Tomato Red Pepper Sauce

It is a long weekend, here in Ontario, Canada.

And what am I doing on this long weekend?

Well, Saturday morning I wanted to visit farms. Attila was game. I found information about local farms on the internet, what little there was, made a list, and off we went. Well, that didn’t go well. There was a bad accident on a nearby highway, it was closed, and the traffic was routed through our little urban area. What would have been a 15 minute drive into the country took two hours to get a mile or so to the grocery store, and we dealt with a lot of rude, frustrated, aggressive drivers who kept trying to take short cuts on dead-end streets.

Since we were stuck in traffic so close to the grocery store, and so cut off from getting to any farms, we decided to shop. All I wanted was a bottle of lemon juice. What we walked out of the store with was two 25 pound boxes of Roma tomatoes, a 20 pound box of Red Shepherd peppers, and six pounds of onions.

And that sealed my fate!

By noon Saturday Attila and I were chopping and dicing vegetables; cleaning and sterilizing canning jars and rings and lids; setting up the food mill; setting up the pressure canner; and the canning began. This is only practical on weekends, when the hydro is affordable.

Attila helped by chopping onions, celery, and garlic. I cleaned and sectioned the 50 pounds of Roma tomatoes, then cooked them down so that Attila could put them through the food mill. Wow, all that work described in one sentence! I also cleaned and diced 20 pounds of peppers. Then I cooked the first batch of Tomato Red Pepper Sauce, and pressure canned it in 500 ml jars. The yield was 23 jars. Then I made a second batch of Red Pepper Tomato Sauce. It was after 1:30 a.m. by this time, and I was wearing out. So I left the second batch on the stove for the night, and hit the hay. I had been on my feet since noon, and was feeling a bit tired.

At 6:30 a.m. this morning I was wide awake and thinking about that second batch of Tomato Red Pepper Sauce sitting on the stove. Up and at em’! Still in my pajamas, I turned on the stove and got the sauce cooking again. Well, here I am, writing this, it is 8:14 p.m., and I am still in my pajamas, apron over all, finally sitting down for a break!

By 11:00 a.m. this morning I had canned an additional 21 500 ml jars of Tomato Red Pepper Sauce, and by 7:00 p.m. I had canned 12 one litre jars of tomato sauce.

That makes a total of 44 500 ml jars of Red Pepper Tomato Sauce and 24 1 litre jars of tomato sauce. Two days of very hard work for me. I love my pressure canner!! I am pretty fond of the food mill too.

Two very busy days. It has been a long time since I sat down and felt relief in every cell of my body. Working that hard isn’t a bad thing, when you don’t have to do it, when you want to do it, when you are so engaged with what you are doing that the time disappears, and discomfort means nothing at all. I enjoyed myself immensely today!

Some people run marathons, run rivers, dirt bike… me, I pressure can.

Worldly

Weather

25°C
Date: 8:00 PM EDT Sunday 2 September 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.9 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 24.9°C
Dew point: 21.8°C
Humidity: 83%
Wind: SW 16 km/h
Humidex: 34
Visibility: 24 km

Quote

“To the soul, there is hardly anything more healing than friendship.”
Thomas Moore
1779 – 1852

Projects

Projects!

They can be horrendous.

The garage roof was one of those horrendous projects. It began in late June, and the exterior portion of the project was completed on Sunday, August 26th. And it was a two-day push, those last two days, all day Saturday and all day Sunday, to complete it. Of course, there are a few little things that aren’t done, but that is the way of it with Attila’s projects. He is a person that always leaves a little bit… in the pot when serving food, in a project that he is working on. I think it is one of the reasons he likes to work alone, someone else might want to finish a job completely. Like me, I like to finish jobs completely and forget about them. Blasphemy!

The garage roof project was undertaken by Attila, and it overtook him. In his absence from daily life, I took over and fulfilled all the day-to-day tasks that he usually takes care of, in addition to my own day-to-day tasks. Because they aren’t my tasks, they aren’t setup the way I would do them, so they were challenging. I kept Attila’s routines going, because I knew that he would experience additional stress if I changed things on him. So project support was a long and tedious process for the garage roof project.

The exterior of the garage roof project, although it probably needs wee bits of tweaking to completely finish it off (like painting the caulking), is done to my satisfaction, as well as Attila’s. The new roof, wall, and window, keep the weather out, and it all looks lovely.

The interior, well it is only my concern in that when Attila moves all his materials and tools out of the basement, I will reorganize the basement to make everything stored there accessible to me. No more asking Attila to move heavy objects so that I can fill the flour canister, or fetch a few mason jars and lids. No sir, I’m going to go and get what I need, when I need it!

Not all projects are horrendous.

This past weekend I tackled a project that was not horrendous, was rather enjoyable, but exhausting.

I canned a half bushel of Roma tomatoes. They were available in half bushel boxes at the local grocery store, were grown in Ontario, and were $7.97. The produce from that particular grocery store, the one we usually visit, does not last long. It is cheaper for a reason, and that reason is that it isn’t the freshest produce available on the market. I needed to start canning as soon as possible.

Saturday morning Attila took the time to carry my All American Pressure Canner up from the basement. I spent an hour or so reading the manual again, since I haven’t pressure canned for quite some time. I also researched canning tomatoes, and finally found a good guideline offered by the Ohio State University Extension, called Canning Tomato Products.

I started just after 9:00 a.m. Saturday morning, and was taking the last of the dozen one-litre jars out of the canner just before 10:00 p.m. Saturday evening. I was on my feet the whole day, washing, trimming, dicing, boiling, straining, cooking, sterilizing, bottling, and finally, canning. It was a lot of work, and those jars, filled with lovely tomato puree, lined up on the counter, looked wonderful to me!

Pressure canning commands a lot of respect, mistakes can be dangerous. I took a certificate course in pressure canning before I did it for the first time, so that after months of preparation I felt I was able to proceed safely. It was nerve-wracking, the first few times. This time I found it a lot less intimidating, after preparing by re-reading the manual and reviewing my notes. It went smoothly.

Freezing tomato puree is a lot easier, but that requires a lot of freezer space, which we don’t have. Canned goods can be stored on shelves in the basement.

Another project, a much smaller project, I set for myself, was to begin a binder of Instant Pot recipes that are low-sodium, low-cholesterol, tasty, and easy to prepare from ingredients we keep in the house. It is easy to reduce the sodium and cholesterol in a recipe, but that usually results in a far inferior taste.  My small collection are those recipes that still taste good after reducing the sodium and cholesterol, at least to our low-sodium adjusted palates. I have about six recipes now, taken from online publishers, then altered to make them fit within the sodium and cholesterol limits of my diet. I had to order some page protectors from Amazon, to keep my printed pages in. Uncovered pages have a way of getting splattered.

One recipe I am currently working on is Tuna Noodle Casserole. I have tried several recipes, and none of them offer desirable results. The latest recipe calls for adding milk to the Instant Pot before pressure cooking. Well, it burned, I knew it would. BUT what I didn’t know was how much flavour was added to the dish when the milk caramelized.

I wasn’t in the room watching the Instant Pot when the burn warning first came on. I discovered it later. When I did discover it, I did a Quick Release of the pressure, then lightly scraped out the mixture into an oven proof dish, and transferred it to the oven to finish cooking, which didn’t take long. The taste of the casserole was amazing! I am thinking of trying it again, while watching the Instant Pot constantly for that burn warning, then immediately doing a Quick Release. Then, if the there isn’t too much burning on the bottom, Saute to deglaze the pot, and stir while cooking for several minutes to completely cook the noodles. That is my plan at the moment anyway, working towards getting that flavour!

So those are my little projects.

Attila’s first non-reno project was to pickle some hot red peppers from the garden. He wanted to experiment with making pickled peppers with substantially less salt. The taste test results will be in by next week!

Life is about to evolve here, there are no more high pressure projects on the immediate horizon, and perhaps not on the horizon at all, if we decide the house is fine as it is. It is unlikely the renovation projects will cease altogether, and that after a long break after the garage roof project, we will begin to think about other projects, all of the low-key, at least low-key for us. Things such as building stud walls in the basement, insulating and drywalling; extending the back porch; rewiring most of the upper floor of the house; new siding on the house; a new metal roof on all buildings; none of these things, or others on the long list, is crucial. If they don’t get done, well they don’t, we will survive.

Worldly

Weather

29°C
Date: 4:00 PM EDT Tuesday 28 August 2018
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.2 kPa
Tendency: Rising
Temperature: 28.8°C
Dew point: 23.2°C
Humidity: 71%
Wind: WSW 31 gust 45 km/h
Humidex: 39
Visibility: 19 km

Quote

“Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.”
Will Durant
1885 – 1981

This one didn’t just speak to me today, it shouted!