Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sauerkraut Taste Test

About three weeks ago I did a sauerkraut canning experiment.  I needed an alternative to the old-time tried and true method of fermenting sauerkraut in a crock and then canning it.  The recipe I used called for packing shredded cabbage in quart jars and adding a teaspoon each of canning salt and sugar to each jar and topping them off with boiling water.  Then the lids and rings are put on the jars loosely and they are left undisturbed for three days.  After that time any film that has developed on the sauerkraut is skimmed off, lids and rings are applied more tightly and the jars are run through a water bath canner for 20 minutes.  The directions say to let the jars sit for three weeks before using.

The three weeks is up.  I opened a jar yesterday.  I found that it tasted good, but much more mild than store bought sauerkraut.  It doesn't have that pucker up quality of commercially canned sauerkraut.

I buttered a casserole dish, drained the sauerkraut and dumped it in.  Then I topped it off with a pint of pork roast I had canned earlier and put it in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or so.  I have to say that it was pretty good.  It tastes more like a cross between regular cooked cabbage and sauerkraut.  I like cooked cabbage as a side vegetable dish, so I liked it.  I only made three quarts of the stuff, so I am going to leave the other two on the shelf for another month or so to see if there is any difference in the taste.

I will probably experiment with other similar recipes to see if I can find one that is a bit more sour.  I know that I could just go to the store and buy a can or two, but I really like the idea of making my own.  I'm funny that way.  The more I can do for myself without running to the grocery, the better I like it.  This experiment hasn't turned out exactly as I would have liked, but it isn't a dismal failure, either.  Live and learn.  And keep on trying.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Day of Rest

While I was growing up, I remember that my mother was quite insistent that Sunday be a day of rest.  So today I honored her beliefs.

I rested.  I read.  I played with the pooches and shared a bit of my popcorn with them this evening.  I napped in my recliner with Kizzie the cat.  I stayed away from the news, both mainstream and alternative.  I didn't read any blogs or watch any videos that had anything to do with the insanity in our world.

Sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed.  It seems that every day brings a new scandal or crisis, either real or manufactured, in our government.  The Democrats are busy blaming the Republicans for whatever their agenda of the day is, and in turn, the Republicans and busy blaming the Democrats.  Sometimes I just get tired of the whole mess.

So today I just unplugged from it all.  It was wonderful.  I think Mom had the right idea.  After all, God rested on the seventh day, and so should I.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Great Cranberry Marathon...

has come to an end.  Started out with 50 lbs. of cranberries and ended up with 84 quarts of juice.  Number one son will pick up his share the next time he is in town.  I'm still trying to find space to store mine.  I have tried other recipes before with less than spectacular results, but this one makes a delicious drink.  I don't know where I found the recipe, so if it is yours, let me know and I will give credit where credit is due.

Cranberry Juice

4 quarts (4 pounds) cranberries
3 to 3-1/2 cups granulated sugar  (I used 2-1/2 cups sugar)

Bring cranberries and 4 quarts water to a simmer in a large pot. DO NOT BOIL. Simmer 5 minutes, or until most berries burst.
Pour berries and juice into damp jelly bag or a colander lined with four layers of clean cheesecloth. Let juice drip into a large bowl. DO NOT squeeze the bag.
When you have extracted as much juice as possible from the pulp, return pulp to pot with 2 quarts water. Simmer 2 minutes.
Pour this pulp and juice through jelly bag again to extract remaining juice.
Place the 2 batches of juice in a large pot.
Add sugar to suit your taste and 1 more quart water. Heat to dissolve sugar completely, but do not boil.
Quickly pour into clean, hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace; seal.
Process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
Yields 6 to 7 quarts.
Note:  I did not use cheesecloth as that is really time consuming and I had so many berries to process.  I used a strainer, which leaves a bit of pulp, but that doesn't bother me in the least.  The juice is for family consumption, not for entering at the fair.  It doesn't have to be perfectly clear to taste wonderful.

I hate to see anything go to waste, so I am dehydrating the leftover cranberry pulp.  When dried, it can be ground into small bits and added as flavoring for muffins, quick breads or cookies.  I dehydrate the peels when I am canning apples, and when mixed with the cranberry bits and a little sweetener, they make a really lovely tea.

I think I have just enough jars left to can up the butternut squash that Son brought me from the Farmer's Market.  And then I will give it a rest for a while.  Unless, of course, I find another really good sale...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

You Know You're Getting Tired...

when you can't figure out why the pot of cranberries on the stove hasn't come to a boil after 20 minutes, and then you discover that it really helps if you have remembered to turn the burner to the ON position.

I think it may be time for a short nap.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Past the Elbows and Up to the Neck

I wasn't planning to do much more canning this season.  But, the best laid plans, etc.  Number One Son went back to the Farmers Market yesterday.  Last year I had bought a 15 lb. box of cranberries and made them into juice.  Between Son and me, it didn't last long.  With that in mind, he brought me two 25 lb. boxes of cranberries.  I was glad that he found the same vendor, for the berries are beautiful.  Not a bad one in the entire box.  Makes the cranberries in the store look like they belong in a dumpster.  As I take a break here, I am about finished with the first box.  There are jars of cranberry juice covering the table, my wee bit of counter space, the top of my freezer...

And he brought me half a dozen butternut squash.  I had tried canning some last year and liked it, so those will go in the pressure canner after I finish the cranberries.

After Son hauled the cranberries and five more cases of quart jars up the stairs, we sat and talked for a bit.  I mentioned to him that my local grocery has pork loin on sale again, along with boneless beef roast.  He said that he needed to do a bit of grocery shopping and would take a look at them.  He did more than look.  He brought me 30 lbs. of pork, at least 50 lbs. of beef and 10 lbs. of bacon ends and pieces, just for fun, he said!  I dice the bacon, brown it and can it in half pint jars for adding to scrambled eggs or egg and potato casseroles or beans or any number of dishes.  The meat is in the freezer until I finish with the great cranberry marathon.

Even though I hadn't planned to do any more canning other than the juice, I was really glad to get the squash and meat.  Son said that it was easier for him to bring it to me rather than my trying to haul it all home via the bus.  As he only has two days off from work every two weeks, and as he lives at least 45 minutes away from me, I really appreciate his time and effort.  And a good share of the time, he won't
let me pay for what he brings me.  He says it is worth it because he doesn't have the time to do the canning and he gets to go shopping from my pantry shelves!

I love it when family works together, sort of like my parents and grandparents did things.  That's the way it should be.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Say It Isn't So

Our weather forecast for the coming week.

I was really hoping not to see the word "Snow" in our forecast for a while yet.  Yes, I know that it is too warm for snow to stay and it will melt right away.  But there is something about seeing white flakes falling from the sky this early that is just depressing.

I know that I have nothing to complain about.  Those poor folks in the Dakotas who lost so many of their livestock in the recent blizzard are the ones that have something to complain about.  They are the ones who are tough.  They bury their losses and keep on going.  I admire their pioneer spirit that is still alive and well.  We need more like them.

So if I see a few flakes in the air in the next few days, I will keep my whining to a minimum.  I just would like to see the leaves finish turning from green to red and gold before I see the ground covered with white.

Mother Nature seems to have a mean streak.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wake Up Call

As much as I joke about Kizzie the cat's supposed reaction to running out of food, that incident served as a bit of a wake up call.  I have been faithfully shopping sales and canning and dehydrating everything I can lay my hands on.  But after taking an inventory of my food storage, I find that there are gaping holes that need to be filled - mostly items that I can't make at home but have to purchase.

I have no idea what our government is going to do.  They may come up with an eleventh hour temporary solution - or not.  What I do know is that those in power have done their level best to inflict as much pain as possible on our citizens.  It is a level of meanness that I didn't think possible in my homeland.  And along with those acts of cruelty come the threats to the most vulnerable of citizens.  I don't care what your opinion is of those relying on the EBT program to feed their families or of those who rely on Social Security or of those receiving veterans benefits.  These people should not, under any circumstances, be used as pawns by those who are supposed to have the best interests of all Americans at heart.

So I have some decisions to make in the next few days.  Do I hold on to the wee bit of cash I have been able to put aside so that I will be able to pay my rent for a while should my Social Security check not arrive, or do I fill the holes in my food storage.  Can't do both.

I think what irritates me the most is that I have worked hard my whole life without making use of government welfare programs.  Even when times were tough, I refused to give in, but worked harder and made do with what I had.  And now my very survival is being threatened so that some politician can blame some other politician for the fix we are in.

God help us.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Things We Do For Our Pets

So this morning I'm standing at the bus stop.  It is cloudy.  The wind picks up a bit.  It starts to rain.  My umbrella is back in my apartment.  And why am I going out in the wind and the rain?

The miserable cat is out of food.  I told her that fasting for a day or so wouldn't hurt her any.  She didn't see it that way.  She gets cranky if her food dish is only half full.

It's my own fault.  I wasn't paying attention.  I have been busy stocking up on people food and didn't notice that I was low on cat food.  When I got to the store, I filled my handy dandy little old lady shopping cart full to overflowing with cat food and kitty litter.  Don't want to run out of litter, either.

I am a coward.  I'm not gonna tell her that her food is gone.

Kizzie scares me sometimes.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Gold-Plated Apples

Yesterday was cloudy and cool and windy.  But we went apple pickin' anyway.

Number one son met us for lunch at the restaurant connected with the orchard.  We don't often get to spend time with my brother and his lovely wife.  Brother's job keeps him away from home much of the time, and his home is over two hundred miles north of mine, so time spent together is precious.  We were able to share a meal and talk and laugh and get caught up on what the assorted kids and grandkids were doing.  Son had to head for his home after the meal, for he needed to sleep a bit before going to his job that evening.

If we do this again next year, I will do some research before.  I didn't this time.  I just picked the orchard that is most well known in our area.  I had never been there before.  Turns out that the place has its own restaurant, motel and gift shops.  There are activities for the kids including pony rides and camel rides.  Yep, you heard me right.  Camel rides.  We had to hold my brother back!

And people.  Crowds of people.  And kids.  Lots of them, too.  And apples.  Highly over-priced apples.  We stood in line to pay for our apples, headed out into the orchard and filled our bags.  And even with the crowds, which I usually would rather avoid, and the blustery weather, we still had a wonderful time.

We came back to my place where we sat around the kitchen table, ate donuts and drank coffee, and talked and laughed.  I put together a pot of beef stew and made biscuits, and we shared another meal, and talked and laughed some more.

Even though the original idea was that my sister-in-law, who is more sister to me than in-law, wanted to go pick apples, it wasn't really about the apples.  It was family and love and laughter, which is what it always is about when we get together.

And now I think I will go peel a few of those gold-plated apples and make a pie.  And think about the man who was father to me and my brother and who made the best apple pie in the entire universe.  And who raised us to love and appreciate one another.  For that is truly what it is all about.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Truck and the Step Stool

So this evening Number One Son calls me.  We are talking about where to meet to go apple picking tomorrow with my brother and his lovely wife.  During the course of conversation, I mention that it would be nice if he could pick up a box of apples from a different orchard than we are visiting tomorrow.  The different orchards sells large boxes of what they call "seconds."  He brought me a box full last fall.  These apples may have a blemish or be a bit odd shaped - in other words, they are not perfect.  I don't care.  They are just as good as the ones we pick from the trees, and they are cheaper.  I might have to cut out a slight bad spot here and there, but that doesn't matter for applesauce or canned apples.

Anyway, my son said that he could take me to the other orchard tomorrow, if I wanted.  Son has a truck.  The truck is high off the ground.  My legs don't work well enough any more to be able to climb up into the truck.  I reminded him of this fact.

"But I got you a step stool," was his reply.

You just gotta love a son who will buy a step stool so his mom can get into his truck so he can take her to buy more apples that he will wind up hauling upstairs!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Let Them Be Kids

I read with interest an article about a school banning the use of footballs, soccer balls, baseballs, etc. on the playground at recess.  This same school is also banning games of tag and cartwheels.  Really?  Cartwheels?  I have an idea.  Let's just wrap these kids in bubble wrap until they turn 21.  What ever happened to "go outside and play?"  The most exercise some kids get is downloading an app.  I see kids outside who are wearing more protective gear than a NFL linebacker, for goodness sake.  How on earth are they ever going to toughen up and learn if adults are afraid that their kid might break a nail.

I don't like to see a child get hurt any more than the next person.  My own brood had their share of bumps, cuts and bruises while they were growing up.  But they learned.  And they toughened up.  And they grew into adults that I am proud of.   Adults who can handle most anything that life throws at them.  And they didn't learn this by being over-protected.

And then there is the elementary school that is not allowing their students to participate in any Halloween activities because someone might be offended.  The school principal sent out a letter to parents that reads in part:

"Some holidays, like Halloween, that some see as secular, are viewed by others as having religious overtones. The district must always be mindful of the sensitivity of all the members of the community with regard to holidays and celebrations of a religious, cultural or secular nature. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that school districts may not endorse, prefer, favor, promote or advance any religious beliefs...."

If you are so flipping sensitive that a bunch of elementary school children dressed up as ghosts, fairy princesses and comic super heroes offends you, then you need to do something about that thin skin of yours.  And I can't think of one good reason to change a long standing American tradition of celebrating Halloween.  These are just kids.  And the adults in charge seem to be bound and determined to suck the fun out of their lives.

Kids are kids for a very short time.  How about just letting them be kids.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fall is in the Air

It is such a glorious season here in Minnesota.  Summers can be hot and humid - winters cold, snowy and blustery.  Spring is nice, for the ice and snow disappear.  But nothing can beat Fall.  The air is crisp and clean.  In another week or two the leaves will be in full color.  I really need to get out my camera and take some pictures.

Fall is the time of year for Farmer's Markets.  I have already canned up produce that my son brought when he made a Market run, and there is another planned to get cranberries.  I have lots of cranberry sauce on my shelves, so this years bounty will be made into cranberry juice that both of us enjoy.

And it is Apple Pickin' Time.  There are several pick-your-own orchards near my home, and this year my brother and his lovely wife plan to join however many family members can go with us this coming weekend.  It is one of my favorite outings of the year.

Whenever I think about apple pickin' time, I think of the last apple excursion that my husband went on.  We were with my youngest son and his family.  Our granddaughter, Maddie, stuck pretty close to Poppa.  She was small and he was tall and Poppa could reach the best apples that were high in the tree.  Mike left us the following summer.  It warms my heart to remember how he remarked after we came home, that the day had been one of the best he could remember.

I love the fall days that turn into such good memories.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Nearly Finished for Now

The sausage is all canned and on my shelves.  I ran the sauerkraut experiment through the pressure canner yesterday morning.  The directions say to let it sit for three weeks before using, so I will see how well this method works then.  Both dehydrators are humming away filled with sliced and diced potatoes.

Two of the half pint jars of sausage didn't seal.  That happens sometimes, though not very often, thankfully.  I don't mind this time, as I have a hankering for biscuits and sausage gravy.  I may live in the city, but I can still enjoy a good, old-fashioned country breakfast.

Sometimes in the midst of the trouble and turmoil around us, it is good to be able to enjoy some of the more simple things in life.  Biscuits, gravy and a steaming cup of coffee won't take away those ugly things that threaten our way of life.  But they will make them a bit easier to bear.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Dear Mr. President:

Let me say right off the bat that I love my country.  I would choose to live in no other country in the world.  America is my home and America is where I will stay.

That being said, I am not so enamoured with the leaders of my country.  I expect adult behavior from them and I have seen very little of that for quite some time.

Mr. President, how dare you bully 80 and 90 year old WWII veterans who want nothing more than to visit the memorial in Washington that is theirs.  It is not yours.  You did not fight and bleed for the right to visit a memorial dedicated to the heroism and patriotism of those who did.  They were there.  They fought.  They suffered things that you can't even imagine.  Many of them died.  And if they want to pay their respects to their comrades who didn't get to come home, who are you to say they can't.  Shame on you.

And then, Mr. President, I hear you giving a speech in which you tell me that if you don't get your way with the debt ceiling, I can forget about receiving my Social Security check.  Do I need to remind you that I paid into Social Security all of my life?  I get no welfare benefits.  Nobody gave me a phone before the last election.  I get no government subsidised anything. That check is all I have, because I was promised that it would be there for my old age as long as I worked hard and kept paying into the fund.  I did.  And you want to take that away from me and so many others like me so you can score political points.

If I were your mama, I would be thoroughly ashamed of you and of your colleagues.  God help us as a nation when we find ourselves governed by schoolyard bullies.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Still At It

So this morning I added 32 pints of chicken breast and 10 half pints of sausage crumbles to my shelves.  20 lbs. of potatoes have made their way through the dehydrators.  I still have 12 lbs. of sausage waiting for me, and another 30 lbs. of potatoes.  Should be able to finish up by Saturday evening.

But today I took a bit of a break.  I live in a very old building that was, like many similar old buildings, divided into apartments.  Whoever designed this apartment must have thought that the resident would never cook or bake or anything else in the line of processing food, for they put only about 18 inches of counter space on either side of the kitchen sink.  There are no other counters.  Because of the lack of counter space, my kitchen table gets a workout, and anyone who has done food preservation will attest to the fact that it is a messy process.  So I spent the day getting my kitchen back in order, finding the top of the table again and putting away the jars and bags of food already processed.

And then I took a nap.  Just because I could.