Monday, September 30, 2013

A Favorite Place: Brighton Beach

Brighton Beach, just northeast of  Duluth on Lake Superior, is one of my favorite places. These pictures were taken in June, 2013... even in the summer it can be a cold and moody place.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Growing Potatoes in the Leaf Pile

I didn't do this on purpose the first time. This year, well, yes, I did purposefully put a few chunks of potatoes that were growing eyes like crazy in the pile of mowed leaves reserved for the compost pile.  I did it because it's rather fun to "dig" potatoes in a pile of leaves, and never mind they don't get very big. (Most are not any bigger than the end of your thumb.)

OK. I could have waited a couple, maybe even a few more weeks, but I couldn't resist pulling them out today. They'll steam up nicely and it looks like there's enough for more than one meal.

I'm not advocating growing potatoes this way, but I think it's fun to do with a couple each year just to see if they will grow.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Abundance of Tomatoes Makes Tomato Sauce

One way to use extra and not-so-beautiful tomatoes:

Chop your tomatoes into 1-inch or so pieces, discarding any severely blemished or tough areas, no need to remove the skin or the seeds. Puree this in a food processor until almost liquid.

Cooking experiment:  I filled my 3 1/2 quart slow cooker to within an inch of the top and started it on low without the lid so the moisture could escape. It didn't seem to be reducing at all after a couple of hours, so I switched it to high, then it started to reduce, but after 6 or so hours, I shut it down to cool. After cooling it in canning jars, I stored it in the refrigerator overnight. Next time, I will just cook it on the stove. The slow cooker worked, but if I were to try that again, I'd start it on high with the lid until it was simmering, then remove the lid.

This morning I put it in my dutch oven on the stove, starting with the cover on to heat it up on medium heat. Once it was simmering, I removed the lid and reduced the heat to medium-low. The goal was to reduce by approximately half what I start with, and it was done to my liking within a couple of hours. From start to finish on the stove would have taken roughly 6 to 8 hours. Be sure to scrape down the sides once in a while, whichever method of cooking you choose.

I let it cool, then ran it through the food mill to remove the seeds.

I ended up with two containers with a bit more than 3 cups in each (it's a little thicker than commercial canned sauce). In the middle of the winter, I'll take one out and use it in place of two cans of tomato sauce when making chili, or maybe I'll make pasta sauce.  Because I've removed the seeds prior to freezing, I can start cooking without thawing the sauce first. The seeds aren't that bad in the sauce, but I'm usually cooking for others and they aren't always fans of the seeds. :)
I was originally inspired to freeze tomato sauce after reading this blog post: Kalyn's Kitchen how-to-make-and-freeze-tomato-sauce.  It's less work than canning tomatoes and you get the benefit of the extra fiber from the skins.

Monday, September 2, 2013


Slicing pickling cukes. The slicer was a lucky garage sale bargain last year.  It made quick work of slicing all the cucumbers, but I did slice the ends by hand with knife. The very ends went into the compost.

Pickling spices and syrup cooled and ready to pour over the salted and drained cucumber slices.

All ready for the refrigerator - no hot water canning! :)
I looked at recipes in two old cookbooks and while basically following one, I changed it just a bit to suit.  It's equal parts apple cider vinegar and sugar brought to a boil, then celery seed and mustard seed added. When it is cool, pour over salted and drained cucumber slices alternated with thinly sliced onion in canning jars.  Alternatively, you can add some salt to the liquid and skip the step of salting the cucumbers. 

I think this is what I did last year, skipping the salting step, but I forgot to make notes in the cookbook.  After making these, I slipped a note in the cookbook and if these turn out to my liking, I'll move the note permanently to the cookbook page.  

These won't be tried until the supply of fresh cucumbers runs out and there are no more fresh pickles in the fridge (fresh meaning cucumber slices in apple cider vinegar).