Saturday, August 11, 2012

Arid Onions

For the last 14 or 15 years, in addition to canning I have dehydrated foods.  No particular reason other than I could and I had a dehydrator or 2.  The first was given to me, a Ronco.  Then several years later I found it's twin in a thrift store, complete with everything that came with it accept the box.  As far as I could tell it had never been used and for $5 I figured it'd be good for the extra trays and parts if I ever needed them.

That was the plan at the time.  Then I started using BOTH of them because one just wasn't enough, I had found even more things to dry out.  And over the last 2 years or so it became apparent I needed yet another one to handle my load.  So for Christmas I was given an Excalibur 9 tray electric fan monster of a dehydrating machine.  It was in service the very next day working on a bunch of cabbage I found on sale.  It's been in steady use since.  Though at the rate I'm going I may end up pulling the Roncos back out once this garden comes in just to keep up!

So what do you do when you find onions on sale or happen to have a lot come out of your garden and no root cellar or other adequate storage for them?  Pass them up?  Give them away?  Noooooo!!!  You pull that dehydrator out!  You can use that dehydrated onion later on in soups, stews, casseroles, etc.  You won't have to chop one up if you are in a hurry to get everything in the pot.

So how is the next big question.  It's easy really.  Take that outer skin off your onions, trim the top and bottom and chop it up.  How big or small depends on your dehydrator.  In the Excalibur I have screens that can manage 1/2" pieces without letting too many tall through once they've dried to rice grain size.  In those Roncos though, I didn't chop, I sliced and separated into rings.  Then everything gets dunked in water for a quick soak to help pull out some of the vapors.  Usually just over night.  No more than 10 hours.

Then we drain and let sit in colanders until they stop dripping.  This is the 6 pounds I started with the other night:

Next we load the dehydrator trays in as single of a layer as you can manage:
Then you load the dehydrator, I needed 7 of the 9 screens/trays for this batch.  Quick note, if you can't handle the smell of onions, put the dehydrator out in the garage or shed.  Seriously.  You'll regret leaving it running in your house.

 For the Excalibur I just turn the dial to vegetables/125* after putting the lid in place and walk away for 18 to 24 hours depending on how much water the onions had in them.  For the Ronco, I would rotate the trays every 4 hours or so until the onions were completely dry, usually about 24 hours for the rings.  This is what the above loaded tray looks like when done:

Let the onions cool for about a half hour or so after they are dried out.  6 pounds of dried onions takes up a lot less space for sure, a quart jar is more than enough to hold everything without them being packed in there!  I also have a vacuum sealer that has a wide mouth jar attachment so I vacuum out all the air in these jars for longer shelf life.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Hanging Around

Over the last few days I decided to finish up a little project I had planned a few months before we moved here, new hanging hand towels for the kitchen.  Ones that didn't tie on to the oven handle but buttoned or snapped on since one or more of my cats likes to eat anything resembling cording and another likes to pull the ones I did have loose and take them off to hide.  And ones that were a little newer and cleaner than the ones I bought back in '95.  Yeah, I've had my kitchen and bath towels since '95 and they are most definitely showing their age.
Here's a sneak preview of what we are making today, my prototype.  It's already in use if you can't tell!

First thing to do is locate towels you want to hang in your kitchen, pic something you like because each towel is going to make 2 of them, and pick something with a design that runs both ways from the center so that there's nothing upside down on one of the towels.  I bought 6 hand towels at a discount store on clearance that I liked, one of which was supposed to have been a gift but well, I packed, moved and forgot where I put them all until I found them stashed in stuff I don't normally use the other day.

Find some fabric that matches the towels, you really should only need a fat quarter or less for each one.  Find buttons and/or snaps to match, whatever you like.  Wash your towels and the fabric, helps during the handling and gets the initial shrinking and dye loss out of the way.

Now you need to mark the middle of the towel on the back with a pen or pencil or fabric marker of some sort.  Beware, the next couple of pics are of my ancient, well used, towels (and yes that's as clean as it gets any more) because I forgot to take pics of my progress for the first few steps!

Next we are going to fold over the sides, to the middle and back out, matching that center line, so that it looks like this:

Then we are going to sew 2 lines of stitching using your presser foot as a guide on either side of that center line.

Then you cut along that line and create 2 towels that look like this:
Now we need to make the fabric hanger.  You can use whatever fabric you want, scraps, extras, anything.  If you are like me, you don't often turn down orphaned fabric and have a bunch of out of fashion stuff in small pieces that you can piece together into the hanger.  The size will depend on your towel.  Mine, folded and sewn this way is 5.5" across the cut end and I'm using small bits of fabric and a 1/4" piecing foot so I would cut 2 pieces 6" wide and around 10" long, which also depends on your oven handle size and button size.  I have a large oven handle and am using 1" buttons so I figure that's a good place to start!

With those 2 pieces of fabric, make a tube.
Then you need to fish your towel into that tube and align one end, make it nice and flat on that end.
Then stitch down that straight end using your regular presser foot as a guide, then again using a zig zag stich of some sort just to make sure it's not going anywhere.

Flip the tube right side out, straighten it up and iron it.
Then you'll need to tuck that free end back into the tub far enough to account for your button hole stitch or snaps, making sure to leave enough room for it to fit over your oven handle loosely.  I folded these in about 1.5".  Then top stitch around the edges with one of those fancy stitches you've been wanting to use.
Add the button hole and button.

Or the snaps.
And you are finished!
Yes I know, I'm missing 2 more of the towels, namely the one with the veggies on it.  I'm looking for just the right buttons for those!

Pressured Potatoes

So this will be my first blog entry concerning pressure canned foods.  Let's get the rules and regs out and dealt with first, then I'll tell you what I did.

First off, if it's a low acid food, it has to be pressure canned.  No ifs ands or buts, I really don't want to hear otherwise honestly.  My decisions are based on real science, not the canning snobs and canning cops.  Simply put if a food doesn't have an acid level of 4.6 or lower or a sugar content of 60%, it's just NOT safe to can it in a water bath due to all kinds of bacteria and molds, namely botulism.  Botulism kills.  Botulism takes a temperature of 240 degrees Fahrenheit or higher to kill it off (or high acid or high sugar content).  Boiling water will NEVER reach more than 212 degrees unless it's under some sort of pressure, and unless you live in the lowest part of the ocean or a few miles under ground you need a pressure canner.   I kinda like living so I'll er on the side of caution and stick with canning low acid foods (foods with an acidity level above 4.6, and yes I'm just geeky/nerdy enough to have a PH meter) in a pressure canner.

If there are rules/steps set out by the canning authorities I will try to explain them to you, but honesty, you can research them yourself if you still have questions and I don't explain the issue well enough.  A lot of it was common sense to those who canned years ago and this info was just not passed down for some reason or other.

Now..... on to those potatoes......  Not sweet potatoes, regular old russets and reds were what I had.

With our first paycheck in 6 months I paid everything I could and saved out enough to buy a very few groceries.  Namely everything I could find on sale that we were out of.  Potatoes were on that list so I managed to lay my hands on 25 pounds for a decent price.  I saved out 5 pounds for fresh and started working on the rest of them.  I've been researching the canning of potatoes for a few weeks, I have my Ball Complete book instructions, I have the National Center of Home Food Preservation instructions, I also have large amounts of blog and other anecdotal 'evidence', enough to make me feel comfortable with my canning of the little beasties.

First off, wash off your potatoes really, really good.  I usually take one of those green scrubby pads to mine anyway since I really don't like the taste of dirt.  Then you have a decision to make, to peel or not to peel.  There's a lot of misinformation out there on the subject.  Here's my take on it... since botulism lives in dirt and your potatoes grow in dirt, they are potentially infected and since they are not hermetically sealed while growing, the insides have a chance of having it as well as the skins, plus the act of cutting through the peel to remove it will introduce the nasties to the flesh as well.  Simply put the skins do not 'cause' botulism and since everything in those jars will be pressure canned to the point where botulism is supposed to die, I'm leaving my skins on!  It's just not aesthetically pleasing to some people to see them on.  I like whole foods.  If you are still leery, peel yours, no problem.  Won't offend me in the slightest!

Now we cut them up and dump into acidulated water, yes I think that's misspelled!  Cut them into chunks, dice, whatever.  If they are smaller than say 2" in diameter you can leave them whole if you want.  The water you are putting them in should be cool and have plenty of lemon juice in it.  I typically use 1 cup lemon juice to 1 gallon of water, this helps prevent browning and it will start to pull the excess starch out of the potatoes.  I then let them sit there a while while I prepare for canning.

Read your canner's instructions, memorize them if you need to.  And yes you really need to use a canner for this, not just a pressure cooker.  Sometimes pressure cookers just don't hold pressure as well as a canner will and can give a false sense of having killed off the stuff that causes spoilage.  Canners were made to do this!  And if you really want to be sure your canner is operating properly, contact your extension office and they can test it for you.  If you have a dial gauge you need to see them every year anyway to be on the safe side to make sure your dial is still working properly.

I'll assume you know the procedure for preparing your jars and lids.  What we do next is fish the potatoes out of the soaking water and blanch them for 2 minutes in boiling water, then drain and hot pack them in jars.  There's a reason why the instructions say to blanch.  If you don't, if you decide to raw pack, you will end up with a bit of excess starch in your jar that will congeal as your potatoes wait on you to pull them out and use them.  This can be rinsed right off, it's not going to hurt you or anything, it's just icky looking and scares the crap out of people.  Either way you decide you now need to fill the jars with boiling water. Use fresh water for this or you get the congealed mass later. 1" head space please!

Clean off the rims, lid up and load up your canner, which has been patiently waiting on you to hurry up with the whole process and heating up your kitchen.  Vent the canner 10 minutes (yes, do this, don't skip, helps equalize the pressure within the jars and food more evenly as the canner is heating up so that you don't have spoilage).  Process quarts for 40 minutes, pints for 35.  Once time has been reached let the canner come back to no pressure naturally, yes another step to not miss because releasing the pressure too fast can cause jars to explode, lids to leak internal liquids, and other mayhem that can lead to spoilage.  Once back to no pressure, let it sit there for a couple minutes so that they can drop temp a little.  Then unload onto towels for cooling.  Use cotton towels here if you can and double them up.  These jars are hot enough to melt plastic and harm counter tops!  Yeah, I had a poly blend dish towel that was stuck to the bottom of a jar the first time I used the pressure canner last year.  Learned that lesson the hard way!

Now for the questions I know are going to come..... why are they bubbling?  Well the contents are out gassing, during the pressure treating of the food air finds its way into things it normally can't and once the pressure is released it has to come out  plus the food already has some air in it and the vacuum of the jar just sucks it right out.  Think of it like the bends for divers, they have to go through depressurization after a deep dive to keep the dissolved air from bubbling back out into their blood.  Those jars basically have the bends ;)  They'll bubble for about an hour or so while their temps come down.
Why is there less water in there that before?  Couple reasons actually.  First is the potatoes absorbed some of it to replace all the air that was hidden in them.  Then there's the possibility that you filled the jar with too much liquid, happens to the best of us and as long as the jar seals it's fine.
Once the lids seal and the jars are completely cooled move them to the pantry or other storage.  If a lid doesn't seal, toss the jar in the fridge and use as soon as possible.

Now as for my potatoes... 20 pounds or so landed me 19 quarts. 

I even cut 2 quarts of those into 'fries' (the 2 in front) based on a little tip I found in the comments section of another canning blog.  See here: Canning Granny    She has really nice step by step directions with pictures for hers if you need some hand holding to do this!

Now if these start looking off to you, toss them.  If you crack open a jar and it smells off, toss them.  If the lid pops up or off, toss them.  Not worth your life or someone else!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Lots of Maters!

When life presents you with free ('please make them go away') tomatoes, you just don't say no.  No, you grin, toss them on the back of the truck and sing all the way home because you know your garden hasn't done squat this year and your panty is bare!  I was handed about 55 lbs the other day....
They ain't all pretty, several of them were split due to this drought we've been having, heck a good 2/3 of them weren't even ripe enough to do anything with, but that's ok.  I still made plans.

First up was the ripe few of them.  I jammed them.  Yes you read that correctly.  I.  Jammed.  Them.
Here's the recipe I found in my back up archives, I apologize, I'm not sure where I got it and can't give credit to who it's due.  I just know it was put in the "Try ASAP" file.

Tomato Jam 

5 pounds tomatoes, finely chopped
3 1/2 cups sugar
8 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon red chili flakes

Combine all ingredients in a large, non-reactive pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce temperature to a simmer. Stirring regularly, simmer the jam until it reduces to a sticky, jammy mess. This will take between 1 and 1 1/2 hours.
When the jam has cooked down sufficiently, remove from heat and fill jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head space. Wipe rims, apply lids and twist on rings. Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes.

Now I followed this recipe to the letter but after 3 hours my mass of tomato syrup never tried to jam so I tossed in a box of the no sugar needed pectin and that did it.  Well until after I processed them and they still haven't reset!  Oh well, better luck next time I guess!  Landed me 6 pints:

Then of course there was a need for tomato sauce.  Hubby's first thought when he saw the bags to tomatoes was "Are you making sauce tonight?"  He's been out of his red stuff for 3 months!  See I told you the pantry was low!
So my method for sauce madness was a bit different this year.  I was lucky enough to find an old Foley food mill at a flea market for 25 cents so I snagged it hoping it would save me some time.  With the tomatoes, once they were all mostly ripe, I cored and quartered them, took off any offending bits and tossed into my largest stock pot already on medium low heat.  I filled that sucker up to heaping, had to wait an hour and added even more before I got only half of them in there, it's 16 quarts!  So I had to do 2 batches!  These buggers were really juicy too so there was a lot of water to cook off.  Once it cooked down to mush, I took my handy stick blender to it to break up the larger chunks then started ladling the mush through the food mill.
Honestly, it took longer than I expected but it got done and I may do it this way again.  I let the strained mush cook with a few sprigs of rosemary, a few sprigs of oregano, a few bunches of basil, a little garlic, a whole onion, chopped, 3 bell peppers, chopped and a tiny bit of salt.  I let this cook down by at least half then took the stick blender to it again, added a half cup of balsamic vinegar and a half cup cooking sherry.  Let it cook down a little more and let hubby taste test since I can't (that dang allergy).

Then the canning started.  Added another tsp of the balsamic vinegar to each pint jar for the acidity and flavor, filled to 1/2" head space and water bath processed for 35 minutes.  Landed 20 pints, 3 of which have already disappeared!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Kosher Dill Pickle Spears

So, are you drooling yet?  Got any extra cucumbers laying around?

So far this year I have decided I LOVED the Mrs. Wages pickle mix I made a while back.  Seriously, these things were awesome.  I nearly ate all of them all by myself once we cracked open the first jar back in January.  I liked them so much I bought several packets of the mix this year a ton of cucumber seed and plants.  So far, none of those have produced this year.  So I did the next best thing, I bought a bag of cucumbers at a swap so I could get my fix while waiting on the second planting to decide to do its thing.

Normally I use National Pickling or Burpee Pickle Bush as my cucumber of choice and pick them very early so the seeds are at a minimum but beggars can't be choosers and these were made with Straight Eights.  To avoid the seed issue, since I'm just weird that way and don't like picking seeds out of my dental work, I scooped the seeds out of these, sliced into slivers and packed them.  Just like last time I added a little extra, this time it was a clove of minced fresh garlic, 1/2 tsp dill and 1/2 tsp dried onion to each pint to help the flavor along.
I also have decided to keep this ready mixed so that any time I can get a jar full I can pour the mix over and can immediately instead of waiting.  I'm storing the mix in a vinegar bottle that was emptied a few weeks ago, in the fridge as well to make sure no nasties move in and ruin my mix!  I'm doing the same with a hamburger dill mix and a green tomato pickle mix.  Makes life easier and quicker this time of year.

This batch was 7 pints, no I counted right, there's a 7th pint in my fridge because I just couldn't wait any longer.  I needed a pickle fix.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Long time, no see, eh?
Yeah, it's been a bad year here but canning season is coming in again and I've finally been able to sign back into my blog account.  Really, it is quite annoying when you can't link your gmail address to your account even if it's your ONLY email address.  Gah.... the wonders of technology will never cease to befuddle me.  

So far I've only been able to can 5 pints of turnips from my wonderful failure of a garden this year but I have been able to lay my hands on a bunch of cucumbers that I'm planning on attacking tomorrow, hopefully.

I also plan on adding my quilting back on the blog again since I've been doing a lot of it lately.  Heck I might even get the other blog I had been planning up and running once I can figure out the whole gmail address issue.  Never know.

So a bit about the year since I've gotten on here and drove you nuts....
Hubby was laid off.  We hadn't even been here a year.  And he still hasn't found a job.  Lots of prospects but nothing in stone... yet.  Crossing fingers that changes next week.

My computer crashed and burned last fall and I had to do without until we could scrape together enough cash to replace the hard drive.  Hence why I lost all my log in info for here and couldn't figure out why it wouldn't let me log in under my gmail account!

We lost one of our dogs to cancer in the spring. Have another that's 15 and we know his time can be measured in weeks to months due to the chronic illness he has.  It's going to be one of those years for us pet wise I'm afraid

One of the trucks has decided to die and without a pay check it's siting there until we can pay for someone to look at it and tell me what the heck is wrong with it, and enough cash to fix it.  We can live on one truck for now, it's no big deal.

With hubby out of work that pantry I had came in REALLY handy.  I even got over the fear and broke in my pressure canner that was bought before we moved.  Maiden voyage was 83 quarts of boiled peanuts last fall.  Found out I have muscadine and blueberries on the property and they were made into jelly last fall as well.  Will be adding those to the canning recipes this year.

Our garden so far this year has completely sucked.  We lost a small section devoted to corn to the crows and had to replant.  The rest of the garden is anemic at best.  Nothing we've done has helped at all.  So we figure it's the spot we have it in.  Should have a second garden in a totally different spot put in tomorrow so I can at least try to get a few things grown and out up this year.

And I'll leave you on that for tonight, think pickles, I know I will be tomorrow!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Barking Mad!

Now that we are in an area that rains we have tree frogs.  They are everywhere and I'm in heaven.  I love frogs!  Just about every night this week we've had a visitor to our pool, which is still not up and running yet.  It's a barking tree frog.  A liitle different looking from the ones I grew up with in the deep south but a barker none the less.  And of course those of you who know me personally, know I'm going to go pick it up and take pictures right? < insert maniacal giggling here>
Now here's the point of this post, and a funny story.  Well other than I finally live in a place where I can catch frogs again.  This little frog started barking the other night.  The dogs went nuts trying to find the perpetrator of the noise since they had never encountered a barking frog before there's no telling what was going through their minds.  Barking frantically back at it.  Running all over the yard, up and down the fences until one of them found it.  He just stood there and barked right back at it for a good 5 minutes.  Frog, Gus, Frog, Gus, Frog Gus....  We finally had to make him leave the poor thing alone but not before laughing our butts off.  Every night since has started with the frog climbing up on the pool ledge and barking at dusk followed by the dogs, all of them, egging it on for as long as we let them.

Cherries anyone?

I found a really good deal on cherries the other day in the store.  $1.99 a pound, out here that's cheep since they are normally $4 a pound and up.  So I bought 3 of those useless zippered produce bags full.  Landed 6.5 pounds.  What to do, what to do, what to do?  Had no idea, but hubby offered to eat all of them right then and there.  Pulled out the canning books and nothing appealed to me so I just decided to put them in syrup and be done with it.  Yes I saved out a handful for hubby but the rest went into the jars!

Canned cherries
6 pounds cherries (or a little more)
6 cups water
3 cups sugar

First you might want to pit the cherries.  Or not, decision is totally up to you, just be sure to label them as unpitted if you don't.  Wouldn't want any dental injuries in the middle of a midnight snack would we?  For me, well I have this mid-evil looking contraption that was given to me a few years ago and it was claimed to be a pitter but, well, I have no idea how rolling cherries down across a ribbed wheel would work without loosing a lot of juice so I opted to poke them out with a heavy duty chopstick.  Just hold the cherry and push it through the stem end.  Takes a few tries to get it perfect and you'll get lovely stained hand for your effort.
Heat up water and sugar to boiling.  Pack jars to half inch head space.  Ladle syrup over them to half inch head space, make sure there are no bubbles and lid up.  Boiling water bath 20 minutes for pints.
Landed myself 11 pints:

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pickled Cantaloupe, The Rematch

So, remember that pickled cantaloupe recipe I shared last year? This one?  Yeah, well it didn't get rave reviews, was actually called disgusting by one person (though hubby likes them, go figure) and the original link to the recipe is no longer working.  But I shall persevere!  I will try it again!  I will make it edible!
And I did.  We found a little farmer's market and landed ourselves 2 very large muskmelons.  Hubby started eating on one but ran out of steam before he could finish it so I figured they'd be worth the experiment.  I pulled out my Ball Complete book, love this thing, you need one, really, and found a recipe.  It's on page 299.  But I didn't have the whole spices it required so I tweaked it a bit:

Pickled Cantaloupe
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground allspice
3 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
13 cups cubed cantaloupe (peel and seed it first!)
41/2 cups sugar

Combine spices, water and vinegar, bring to a boil for 5 minutes, remove from heat.  Stir in melon and let sit for about half an hour, covered please.
Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally and keep at a light boil for 45 minutes or until the cantaloupe starts looking 'translucent'.  Ladle/pack melon and syrup into jars with 1/2" headspace, work out bubbles and water bath 20 minutes.

I ended up with 8 pints, but I used a little more melon than the recipe called for.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Leaving Texas

Well.  It finally happened.  That move I mentioned a while back.  It took 7 months, a lot of angst, rebuilding a credit score and in general a lot of aggravation.  But it's done.  I've now moved across country to the eastern seaboard where it rains.  I've been here 3 weeks now.  I finally got internet connection as well.  So I must let you know what I had to leave behind in Texas.
First and foremost I had to leave friends.  More friends than I've ever had in my life.  I couldn't bring them with me.  Some of them close enough to be surrogate parents, one of those women I would have forcefully packed in the car with me the day I left had I had room to stick her in there with all the critters.  Friends that mostly accepted me for me.  Which is a huge deal in Texas, I'm not 'normal' out there, though I'd probably fit in really well with those folks in Austin.
I had to leave one of the oldest quilting clubs in Texas.  We were 12 members ranging from 35 to 90+.  We only met once a week but we did beautiful hand quilting.  I don't get to take quilt show trips with them anymore and have one member exclaim in the middle of a parking lot that the pie she just had was better that sex.  Or spend and entire day quilt shop hoping.  Or a day thrift store hoping with a few of the ladies.
I lost a very dear pet right before the move.  My 100 pound puppy, Tesla.  She was my first dog once we moved there and had a yard.  4 years was not long enough and I still tear up when I see a black great dane on TV or any huge black dog.  Though I didn't completely leave her behind, I brought her urn with me.
I had to leave the food.  Which in all honesty was perfectly fine with me since I couldn't eat out due to being allergic to peppers and tomatoes.
I had to leave the heat.  Well no, I didn't get to leave it there, it followed me here.  It was 103* the afternoon we left and 4 days later it was 104* here.
I had to leave the lack of rain, gladly I tell you, gladly.  It's rained more here in 3 weeks than it did in the last 10 months there.
I had to leave my first house there.  It was small.  The carpet was old.  The kitchen was minuscule but it was MINE.  I had so many plans for it.  Now though I have a bigger house, with acreage, 2 sheds and a massive shop.  Time to start over.
I had to leave my peach trees.  Hoping to start planting fruit trees here very soon (well as soon as I can find any for sale!).
I would like to say I left the drive to town but well I'm further out in the sticks now than I was there.

All in all I left a piece of myself there.  That's never happened before.  Texas somehow has a way of getting under your skin and taking root.

So I'm mostly settled in.  Once the produce starts coming my way again I'll go right back to canning and post my progress.  Along with a few projects I need to get done for the place, maybe some ideas on what to do with all the stuff already in the pantry, who knows what else.

Friday, January 7, 2011

So what have you done productive so far this year?

Well, I have been cleaning house, making repairs, AND I canned a few things. 
On New Years Day I botched a recipe for cranberries.  I started out on one page of my Ball Compete Book and my helper (his name is Jefferson, he did a drive by tailing of the book while it was on the counter behind me) decided I needed to change to the page before to finish the recipe... I didn't notice this until AFTER I put the jars in the water bath.  So instead of 'whole cranberry sauce' I made whole cranberry jelly.  Either way it's still good, 6 pints and 3 half pints:

And today I attacked cauliflower.  2 heads, on sale this time of year out here, just couldn't pass them up so I set off to do something interesting with them and landed back at the recipe for the pickled brussel sprouts which is basically garlic dill pickles.  This time though I didn't add the pepper at all since I'll probably be eating them at some point.  Then, right as I was finishing the last jar of cauliflower and realizing I had a lot of pickle left, I decided to make a jar or two of carrots/zucchini/onions.  Just for something different.  Ended up with 5 quarts of dilled cauliflower and 2 quarts of dilled veggies:

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Chicken Story

So how was your Sunday?  Mine was a little hairy to be honest.  Want to hear a story?

I stepped out yesterday morning to go check my chickens and give them their morning treat.  I get to the pen and everyone comes running for the cup of milo I have in my hand.  Everyone but Neo that is, at first anyway.  Once I get a handful on the ground she comes flying out of the coop to hide behind me with my randy little silkie rooster right behind her.  Junior met the bottom of my shoe.  He's 7 months old, just really feeling those hormones kick in and she's been sole the object of his desire.
I look down and see red, literally, her back was nothing but blood.  Junior must have really been feeling those hormones to mate her to that extent of damage.  I toss the milo, scoop up Neo and refrain from starting chicken soup a la Junior.  Once I get her in I find the damage is more extensive than I first thought.  My first instinct was to cull her right then and there.  But..............
Neo is one of our favorites.  She was the lone chick to hatch out of a horrible incubator accident.  She hatched with her umbilical area not quite closed and got to wear a bandaid for 2 days.  She quickly became a people chicken.  She never screamed inconsolably because she didn't have hatch mates.  If it were up to her she'd be a house chicken happily.
So I decide to at least try.  If I couldn't help her I'd put her down.  She got a shower to clean away the blood and dirt and nastiness. She was not patient with this whole process either.  I got her coated with antibiotics and set her up in an infirmary crate in the living room.  Complete with fresh water, scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, feed and a few other treats.
She stood there for at least 2 hours before diving into the eggs, once they were gone she perked up and decided to make a mess.  She dumped the water out.  This earned her loose chicken time in the kitchen while I cleaned out her crate where she generally had the run of everything and tried to sit with the cats.  I didn't have the camera handy either!
This morning I get up to find she has dumped her water again.  It's a ploy I tell you, she wants out of the crate.  She then proceeds to throw a fit when she sees me getting a scoop of milo ready for the birds outside and tosses her feed all over the crate as well.  If she's feeling well enough to do that she can wait for a bit while I feed everything else.
Once I get ready to address her needs for the day she is beyond mad.  This from a bird I was ready to cull less than 24 hours ago.  I let her out in the kitchen with a little pile of milo and cat kibble.  She was just so happy to have the milo all to herself that she stayed put while I clean up, get more antibiotics on her and get the crate ready to go again.  I get that done and she proceeds to go straight in, ignore the little nest box I picked out just for her and starts scratching around in the back corner:
Nest ready and set up she decides to come back out and play with the natives, meets Sumi on the way out:
Being the diva that she is she ignores the nice clean fresh water (which now has bailing wire holding it in place) and goes straight for the cat dish, which looks like it needs to be scoured yet again:

She decides the carpet is better for scratching and takes off for places unknown:
After a bit of chase the chicken, Neo is once again secured in the kitchen and of course this is unacceptable so she throws yet another fit and corners Timothy just for the shear meanness of it, all Jefferson can do is try to figure out how to remove the bedding chips from the water dish:
"A baby gate?  Seriously?  Just what do you think I am anyway?"
Jefferson on the other hand has located her nice comfy crate and decided to make himself home in her very well constructed nest.  Neo was NOT having any of that:
After a good scolding she chases him right out of the kitchen:
And then decides it's time to go try and lay an egg:
She's been in there now for a few hours, scratching the heck out of that one corner, trying to make it just right for laying an egg.  She turns into a squawking semi-broody hen every time any of the cats walk by.

I think she'll be just fine.  She's acting like nothing has happened.  Her wounds look good, already closed in the worst places, no sign of infection.  So for the duration of her healing, I have a chicken in my kitchen.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

2 years ago today Kelvin came home

2 years ago today I brought home a skinny old man. He stank of too many things to count and had poo crusted over his backside. He weighed 34 pounds. He had been dumped at a kill shelter and no one else offered to pull an old geezer. Even the staff didn't think he'd make it through the neuter.
We couldn't bring ourselves to adopt him back out, even with all the rescues we had at the time. Something about him made us keep him.
He's gained his weight back. He now weighs close to 60 pounds. He was diagnosed with CRF and given 6 to 8 months in February of 2009. I think we kicked that time line out the window for a while. He still hasn't fit in completely with the herd here, mostly prefering to keep to himself though occasionally playing with our dane mix Tesla. He would rather spend his time on his bed or on the couch with the cats. He's a crotchety old man. Doesn't like change. Doesn't like me to leave for too long. Panics if I don't get him his hush puppies on fish Fridays from the gas station, he can smell them even 8 blocks over and gets all excited as soon as a whiff of catfish reaches us. I have to take him up there for them, he sits in the truck and drools down the side of the door until I bring 3 of them out. That's all he gets, 3, and he's ready to go home.
But now, he doesn't feel so good. We've been adjusting his protein intake and meds, trying to make it better but he's slowly starting to go down hill. We'll have another blood test in the next few weeks to know if anything has helped. Until then we are taking it one day at a time not acknowledging the affects CRF has had on him here recently. Not the strange change in tone of his bark from a wonderful basset bark to a screech. Or the ammonia breath that keeps getting worse. Or the fur loss. Or the days he has trouble eating. Or the overall lack of energy.

We gave him at least 2 years he wouldn't have had. 2 years of cats and couches and treats and beds and baths. We are hoping for good news with the next batch of tests. Or at least better news than what we've been prepared for.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fixing Loose Ends

Nothing is quite like having to sort through your junk to make you want to tie up loose ends and finish all those unfinished projects.  I found one the other day that has been 4 years in the making. 
You see, in June of 2006 I got a chance to go to the big bead show in Milwaukee.  I spent way too much and found a ton of cool things but one, or 2 actually, stood out in my mind.  The first was a really neat clasp made by Qui, a company apparently no longer in business as I can't find them on the net anywhere now.  It wasn't a cheap clasp either and it's silver.  Then there were these black agate dragon beads in a stretchy bracelet I found in a bin at the Rings and Things booth.  I put them away for a move and forgot about them until a year or so ago.  I had taken them out, an idea hit me, I pulled all the components out and placed them together in a tray and promptly forgot about them again.
While I was cleaning up for this next move I found them again and tonight, well, I decided to finish the project.
Behold....... the bracelet it took over 4 years to make:
And I made it just the right size for my wrist, my skinny, abnormally thin sized wrist, so it's not going to be put up for sale ;)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Yep, I pulled the canner back out.

So this move is deciding to take its time, keeping me in limbo and afraid to do anything.  Yesterday I decided to go ahead and can something anyway.  Namely because I was given some pears and really couldn't see letting them go to waste (yes, it's still warm enough here for pears!).  I also had gotten a good deal on a large thing of pomegranate juice.  Then there was all the last peppers from the garden that needed to be put up.....  Well you get the idea.

First up is the pepper relish, there is no set recipe for this but I did write down what I did last year:
Pepper relish
2 medium onions, copped fine in the processor and dumped in the big bowl
4 medium carrots, done the same way
I think I had 30 jalepenos and 50 habaneros, not sure but chopped up the same and tossed in the bowl
2 tbsp dried basil
2 tbsp dried oregano
3 tbsp fresh garlic
4 dried tsen-tein chillies
4 dried cayenne peppers
Buzz the last 5 things in the processor with about a cup of apple cider vinegar until the dried chillies look like red pepper flakes and dump in the bowl, add 2 tsp salt and stir together.  Add more apple cider vinegar if needed and let marinate over night in the fridge. Next morning heat the mix, boil for 5 minutes and pack into jars adding apple cider vinegar if needed.  Process in hot water bath for 10 minutes.

This year I only had jalapenos and dried new mexico chilies and I decided to let it marinate for a few days.  I landed 9 pints:
Then there was the pears....  about half were a bit more soft than I like for canning in chunks so I made juice.  Then I combined with the pomegranate juice, it was almost 50/50.  Then I made jelly.
4.5 cups juice (pomegranate and pear)
3 cups sugar
1 pkg no sugar needed pectin

Bring juice to a boil, add pectin, boil 1 minute, add sugar, boil 3 minutes, ladle into jars and process in water bath for 10 minutes.

I ended up with 10-12 ounce jars, 4-6 ounce jars and 7 half pint jars:

Today I've processed 6 pints of pears that were given to me last night.  They were just peeled/cored and chunked up with a light syrup, no picture as they are still in the water bath.  And I found a bunch of tomatoes in the scratch and dent cart for dirt cheap.  Made 9 quarts of chopped tomatoes.

Now back to the sewing portion of this long wait to get moved.............