Inventory

Wow.

Wow.

Top shelf, left to right: salsa; jams and jellies galore.

Lower shelf, left to right: applesauces (in at least three variations); juice concentrates; pickles, dill and sweet.

Expanding to a second set of shelves

Expanding to a second set of shelves

Bottom shelf: canning pots and a pretty blue aluminum stock pot.

Middle shelf: tomatoes; more tomatoes; enchilada sauce; tiny jars of jellies and jams, perfect for gift giving.

Top shelf: apple preserves (a.k.a. pie filling), more applesauce, and pear sauce.

Highest shelf: old laptop computers. This will eventually (hopefully) get cleared off and ready for more canned goods. Next year. Maybe.

This used to house small containers.

This used to house small containers.

Now it’s tomato sauce, tomato sauce, and more tomato sauce.

But where did I put the awkward and odd shaped small containers?

In my older, worn canner and a spare I picked up thrifting.

In my older, worn canner and a spare I picked up at a thrift store.

There you have it, folks. Storage, Daisy style. One problem: I don’t have room for the empty jars. Not that many jars are empty at the moment.

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The Search for the Perfect Pot

Stock pot, that is. For cooking. And canning. You didn’t think I was aiming my gardening talents in a new direction, did you?

I have an ordinary kitchen stock pot. It’s a good size, heats up evenly, and cleans fairly well, too. BUT – the nonstick coating is wearing through. I don’t really know what the coating is or was, whether it’s toxic or fine, just fine. I’ve made many, many jams and jellies in it. Now that the underlying material is showing, I don’t know if it’s safe for canning anymore. So let’s look at the rest of my stock (pun intended) in the basement.

To the right of my hot water bath canners...

To the right of my hot water bath canners are two other pots.

The one in front, next to the bright blue, heats quickly: too quickly. It allows applesauce or pear sauce to burn to the bottom of it before the mix boils down, and that’s not a good trait. It may be aluminum, too, which would take it out of the “non-reactive” category most canning requires. Lovely though it is, this pot might go to the thrift store with the next donation batch.

I found the bright blue in a second hand store. It heats quickly and evenly. It has thick sides that keep the heat in, and I haven’t burned anything in it – yet. BUT – this lovely stock pot has a few weaknesses, too. The handles heat up, which means hot pads on both hands whether I’m stirring or lifting or dumping. It’s nonmagnetic (except for the handles), meaning it’s most likely aluminum, too. #*@&!

I won’t even analyze the cast iron Dutch oven. We love it, but it’s heavy and it can be difficult to clean. I season it every time I use it, hoping the cast iron will eventually have just the right coating. Cast iron, like aluminum, is also reactive.

So, my friends, there you have it. The search, so far unsuccessful, for the perfect stock pot. When I find the perfect match, I’ll use it for jams, jellies, butters (not you, Buttercup, so be quiet), pickles, salsas, and more.

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Foraging again

I’ve been driving past this small, overgrown garden for weeks. This patch caught my eye each and every time.

Onions! Walking onions!

Onions! Walking onions!

These onions, the Egyptian walking onion variety, were HUGE. They had sprouted bulbs on top, as these onions do, and a few had fallen over to plant the next generation.

The appearance of the garden led me to think that someone wasn’t taking the time to care for it. The owners probably wouldn’t miss a few clumps of bulbs. But I wanted to be ethical and above board with my foraging. So when I saw a man in the driveway loading a car seat into his vehicle, I pulled over and asked him. He was more than willing to let me come over and harvest bulbs for my own patch, and he even warned me that they’ll spread.

I knew that.

It was a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon when I tucked my phone in my pocket and grabbed a shears, gardening gloves, and an empty banana bag. I encountered a few Pokemon critters on the way, and walked my way toward hatching an egg or two. Trust me. Poke-fans will understand. The banana bag was about half full when I packed up to walk home again.

bunches and bunches of onion bulbs

bunches and bunches of onion bulbs

bulbs separated and ready to plant

bulbs separated and ready to plant

Forager Daisy strikes again! Next spring I’ll have more green onions than I need, and they’ll plant the next generation with or without my help.

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Family Foraging

I may have mentioned that the school in which I teach is moving to a new location. I visited the new building last Saturday, said hello to my principal as she was unloading boxes in the basement (we have a storage room!), and took a closer look at the location. A few observations:

The landscaping is overgrown. We noticed milkweed and black eyed Susans in the midst of lots (TONS) of day lilies, lilies of the valley, hostas, and more. Chuck, my chauffeur, overheard the principal saying that maintenance would be tearing out everything behind the building, including aging playground equipment. He asked if we could dig out the milkweed and black-eyed Susans before the big digging machines came in. She said yes.

On the way back to the Momvan, I noticed one of the trees alongside our new office building was an apple tree! I haven’t identified the variety yet, but we looked and tasted and decided to come back for a harvest. I’m now working on version 1.0 of apple jelly. It might end up being sauce, and that’s okay. I have plenty of apples in the garage waiting for me.

As we dug up the milkweed and the flowers, we discovered a like-new, unused compost bin. Principal will ask maintenance what’s happening to it. I have tentative permission to bring it to Habitat ReStore rather than let it go to the landfill.

The results of our foraging around the new-to-me building —

  • 2 large buckets of ripe apples
  • several Black-eyed Susan plants
  • a large bucket full of uprooted milkweed
  • a few seed pods from the aforementioned milkweed
  • the bucket I filled with milkweed (found buried in the hostas)

All things considered, I think I’m going to like the new location.

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A Little Paranoia is the Prepper’s Friend

Actual conversation on social media (name of network not used for confidentiality)

Friend of Daisy: Green beans, tomatoes (yes, more) and cucumbers are on the canning list today. Whew.

Friend of Friend: Busy, busy. It’ll be lovely to have them all come winter.

Friend of Daisy: Yes it will. It was great last night when we were without power. Just needed to open some jars of yumminess to make a satisfying dinner. But we need a better camp stove.

Daisy joins in: Ah, the camp stove. Our next door neighbors have one. It’s good to be prepared!

Daisy adds: I filled my minivan with gas today. I don’t like going below 1/4 tank. I don’t know if it’s a touch of paranoia since 9/11 or something else, but I don’t want to have to refill in an emergency.

Friend: That’s brilliant! I do the same thing.

Daisy: It feels more paranoid than brilliant, but it helps me keep calm and carry on.

Friend: Well, paranoia is the friend of “preppers”.

Daisy: Exactly!

On that note, I think I’ll put down the laptop and bring up a jar of tomato sauce to use with supper. Enchiladas!

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Prepping for – What?

I have joked in the past that I prep for the Walker Apocalypse. Many teachers I know are in a Cautiously Paranoid condition; we know the future of public education in our state is shaky, at best. We’re looking to provide for our families one way or another. My method consists (in part) of filling the freezer and the pantry with decent food, mostly organic, much locally grown.

I’m still cautiously paranoid about what happens in my state capitol. Education budgets keep going down, down, down. My pantry stock keeps going up, up, up. This year’s new project is jelly. I’ve always made jam, with pieces and chunks of fruit. Jelly is clear, and it takes an extra step: draining the juices through a piece of cheesecloth or through a jelly bag. Jelly also can take a little longer to set.

strawberry-rhubarb jelly in the making

strawberry-rhubarb jelly in the making

So far, the jellies are looking good. I remade one batch that didn’t set right away; it’s on my counter now, looking much better.

cranberry - cherry jelly

cranberry – cherry jelly

Even as I work toward electing Hillary Clinton, I’m prepping in case of a Trump apocalypse. Expect the shelves in the basement to fill up and the freezer to be stuffed.

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A Way With Words – not.

It’s all in the presentation, I guess. I emailed Chuck to tell him we were having chicken soup for supper, and I included a few details. I felt rather proud that this soup came from ingredients we had in the house: a pretty darn good pantry raid, that is. However, my email ended up sounding…well, er…not so appetizing.

Tonight’s chicken soup includes a broth from the basement, last night’s waste water from the steamer, and some small turnips and parsnips from out back. It smells good.

I meant well. I really did. The broth was a homemade broth from the freezer downstairs. I keep a pretty good stock of various broths (haha, pun intended) to make cooking quicker and easier when school starts for me and Chuck is tied up in NFL football season shows. So for the broth, it came from the freezer. It was thick and delicious.

I also added the leftover water from the previous night’s vegetables. When I cook vegetables in the steamer, I like to include that water in a broth. It just adds another element of flavor and conserves water, too. Leftover water – that’s a better term than “waste.” Okay, two revisions made.

Turnips and parsnips came from the garden. The bunnies have been nibbling on the carrot greens as soon as they emerge above ground. I suppose the parsnips and turnips must have not-so-tasty greens from the wild rabbit perspective. I’m planning to add replant that section of the garden soon, so I pulled what was there: 2 turnips and 2 parsnips, all rather small. I cleaned them up, diced them, and added the vegetables to the soup.

Also from my backyard, I added two green onions. I planted these in a container on the deck last spring, and they just keep coming up. Yum. If I can provide enough light, I’ll bring the pot of onions inside for the winter.

As for chicken, there were two chicken breasts left in a bag in the freezer. Thighs are my favorite for soup, but breasts will work. I browned them in a skillet and then dropped both chicken breasts whole into the soup to simmer all day.

A couple hours before serving time, I added some little star noodles (memories of chicken and stars soups in a can, anyone?) and shredded both chicken breasts with two forks.

The end verdict: not Dickensian, as Chuck suggested, but delicious. Please, sir, may I have some more?

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Hot, Hot, Hot

It’s unseasonably warm here in the “Frozen Tundra.” The Green Bay Packers held their annual shareholders’ meeting yesterday with a major storm in the morning and extreme temperatures in the afternoon. Why would that matter, you might ask, for a shareholders’ meeting? This meeting takes place outdoors in the bowl of Lambeau Field. The shareholders dress in green and gold, and so on, and so on. If you’re wondering, no, I didn’t go. It’s enough to know I could. There are 360,760 people holding approximately 5 million shares of Green Bay Packers stock.

So anyway, it’s more than warm. In my Prep for Winter mentality, I made a new batch of jelly yesterday. It didn’t gel. I’m blaming the humidity and heat, and I’m monitoring the jars to see if they’re just gelling slowly.

It's pretty, though.

It’s pretty, though.

Also in my Prep for the School Year mode, I picked up a couple of new wardrobe elements on clearance at Kohl’s. I saved far more than I paid; that’s Kohl’s and my shopping savvy.

Bored yet? I don’t want to work outside because of the heat, but I set up a batch of sun tea to brew. My formula (recipe, if you insist) is this. 2 quart mason jars with lids; 3 tea bags per jar; fill each jar with filtered water; let sit in the sun until tea reaches desired strength.

It'll need sugar, but not much.

It’ll need sugar, but not much.

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And More Rhubarb – this time, Juice!

I have a bumper crop of rhubarb again this year. I may have mentioned it. I might have also mentioned that I still have rhubarb in the freezer from last year, as well. When the basic conclusion is Too Much Rhubarb at the O.K. Chorale, there is only one solution: can.

Here’s something I found. It looks very pretty, too. You might know how rhubarb can oxidize after it’s picked and end up looking, well, kind of poopy brown? This mush released the prettiest reddish pink juice! Without further ado, adapted from at least two Internet recipes, rhubarb juice concentrate.

Ingredients

  • 12 cups diced rhubarb, fresh or frozen
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • zest and juice of one orange

Directions: In large pot, combine rhubarb, water, lemon & orange zests and bring to a boil. Stir constantly over medium high heat. Reduce heat, cover and boil gently until rhubarb is soft (10-20 minutes). Remove from heat.

Pour into dampened jelly bag or strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth set over a deep bowl. Let drip for at least 2 hours, undisturbed.

In clean, large pot combine rhubarb juice and sugar. Stir in lemon juice and orange juice. Stir to dissolve sugar and bring to a brief boil. Remove from heat.

Ladle into hot jars. Leave ¼-inch headspace.
Place jars in prepared hot water bath canner with jars completely under water. Process for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and remove canner lid. Allow jars to sit in canner for 5 minutes before removing. Set jars on rack or towel and allow to cool.

Serving suggestions: Mix about 1 Tablespoon rhubarb juice concentrate with 8 ounces of another beverage. Serve over ice. (The recipe suggested equal parts concentrate and mixer; the concentrate is much too strong that way!)

Beverage mixes can include water, iced tea, lemonade, ginger ale, or anything you can think of.

Enjoy!

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Pea Pod Soup – a classic pantry raid

It was a day full of food prep. I’d picked a large amount of rhubarb and slashed the leaves off the stems. While the rhubarb was soaking in the sink to get the dirt off, I’d been shelling peas. I looked at this huge pile of pea pods and thought about the big pile of pods I’d dumped in the compost last week. You can see where I’m heading, can’t you? There had to be another way to use the pea pods after the peas were out.

Soup broth was an option. Pea pods, green onion, garlic scapes – a decent broth, probably. It had potential. But where there was broth, could I also find soup? I did what resourceful cooks do all over the world; I searched the Interwebs. Here’s the result.

Ingredients:

2 lb. fresh, whole pea pods

6 cups water

4 Tablespoons soup base (chicken, beef, or other)

1 small onion, diced (I had a yellow onion on hand)

Garlic Scapes (I used 5)

2 Tablespoons margarine or butter

1 1/2 teaspoons flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Wash pea pods. Pull off strings.

In medium saucepan, bring water and soup base to a boil. Add pea pods, onion, and garlic scapes. Return to boil; lower heat, simmer for 20 minutes. When pea pods are tender, remove from pan. Push this mix through a food mill or use immersion blender until smooth. True confession: I did both. Mix flour, salt, pepper, and sugar. Melt butter (or margarine) in saucepan. Gradually add flour mixture until thickened. Add soup mix little by little, allowing soup to thicken. Heat through.

Serving options: Add diced ham or chopped bacon; top with sour cream and chives; add saltine crackers; add peas, corn, & carrots during the last ten minutes of cooking.

Amigo ate all of his. Chuck did, too, and proclaimed it “Not bad.” I was rather pleased at how well I raided our pantry and freezer all week long without hitting a grocery store for anything other than milk or bunny food. On the other hand, our next shopping trip is going to carry sticker shock. The kitchen looks like Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard.

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