Thursday, September 8, 2011

Apple in my eye

 Having sort of caught up with our "to do" list, and by sort of I mean ignoring much of it, we took a day off.. kinda. About when we settled our plans to hunt for mushrooms and enjoy a picnic, DV (our survivalist neighbor) popped over for a visit. He was tinkering in his stable of machinery (and it is a stable with every tool made to do anything and darn near everything) when he decided to mess around with one of his back-up to the back-up to the back-up cars.  He was bored and wanted to know when I wanted to do some canning.

 Plans.. totally changed. Next thing I know I am rounding up jars, lids, a pitcher of tomato sauce and big pot of chicken stock.. then racing to the garden to grab up beans. Yahoo! My husband was coming with which was an even bigger bonus. 

 Getting to DV's is not easy. To walk there we can take the shortcut.. but that is passable only with a truck or ATV. The containers were very full.. and ignoring the plastic wrap as they sloshed about. I had to hold both at the same time to minimize spillage. The car entry is less challenging, much further away, and about as smooth as the sea in a perfect storm.

 Only a half mile left of his drive to go and I had to request my husband to stop the car. He was laughing. I was apparently giving myself a pep talk.. aka muttering in discomfort. DV commented how he heard me "making a god-awful noise" down by the "crik".  He was standing at the front door with a beer for my husband. They get along too well. 

 His old trusty "National" pressure cooker on the stove, jars, a pot of water simmering, a crock of salt, and the funnel all at the ready. Everything loaded into the jars and popped into the pressure canner, the man is fast. He showed my husband the model, the weight on top that jiggled when it was at the right pressure, things to look for, the seal, the various styles...

 "And don't forget.. you need a splash of vinegar in the water so you don't have that limestone build up."

 My husband.. was getting into canning!

 My husband.... was getting into CANNING! Questions abounded, and yet another beer as we waited. DV was pulling his various canners off his wall and going through the features. Then he went on about canning on a woodstove.. the one he has indoors and the outdoor cooker... my husband listening intently. 

 The time was up, the stove shut off and DV asked if we wanted some apples. 3 ancient trees had a decent load this year, but they are wild types. The apples are small, slightly larger than a golf ball to twice that size at most. Tart, sweet and juicy, they will be great to work with in various ways. So we picked apples and of course DV found the reason to use large equipment. He pulled out the tractor, we hopped into the bucket and picked like crazy. It was so much fun!

 Conservatively.. I have 50 pounds of apples. We have yet to hike the back field to see if that lone stand of trees has any to offer. The other neighbor across the way offered to us their apples too. Good thing DV has a lot of canners. I'll be visiting him again soon to tackle the applesauce... once I find a good food mill. I have no desire or drive to peel itty bitty apples! I already have the start to apple cider vinegar, which will take a month to make.

 Hen-of-the-woods mushrooms are out right now. Still no puffballs. Hen-of-the-woods can VERY well. They hold their texture, and are very mild flavored. Tossing them in with other dishes and they seem to absorb the flavor of sauces wonderfully. You find them out here under old old oak trees. DV found 2 massive clusters 3 years ago.. and he's still got a lot of jars of them left even though he shares them a lot too. 

 I have to get the applesauce done before the hen-of-the-woods are in full swing! My husband.. now a canning enthusiast.. realized my pressure cookers were left behind. He took off right after breakfast yesterday to get a food mill. (I'm looking to get the Oxo Good Grips food mill.. anyone have any input on a good mill? I need it for not only tomato sauces, but processing black caps, wild grapes, mulberries and applesauce. Tiny seeds in those berries.) A train was derailed blocking the way to the bridge over the Mississippi. It took the poor guy a whole day to track a mill down.. and it is the wrong one. (Holes too big, no varying screen sizes, etc.) He also got sucked into hunting pressure cookers.

 Small town thrift stores suck. In CO.. the Denver and Aurora thrift stores were great. If you need a pressure cooker or a food mill.. and actually a ton of other things.. they are a good place to check out. We got 2 new pressure cookers.. still in their boxes.. intact and unused for less than $5 total. Big Lots was also a place where I got many Mason quart and pint jars for cheap.

 Apple pie filling is something else I want to jar up. Not sliced apples, but rather apple chunks. 

 Anyways.. right now I am researching food mills, grabbing up my apple recipes, loading up the flour and sugar to do some massive baking at the small farm kitchen.  

 I'm also checking out the Resident landowner's hunting licenses. Picking beans last night I looked up and 2 huge liquidy eyes and big ears were peeking through the fence at me. A fawn, still dappled and curious watched me from not 15 feet away. I don't think I could "off" something that damned cute. It's twin ran up and jumped on it.. and they raced around the field sparring. The mom was near the chicken coop grazing.. with a bunch of chickens attempting to figure the situation out.

 I'd better get a move on. I hope you all are doing well. I'll try to get pics soon of what's going on.. and if you like garlic and shallots.. tis the season to be getting a bed ready for them! 


  1. I need to do some canning too. Been lazy about it. Nice post, thanks.

  2. It is really fast and fun canning with good company.

    I think next year I want to see how much food I can forage. As in weight it out, track seasonality, etc. Just to see how big of an impact living off the land makes on the pantry. Still always a garden.. but curious how much of an impact foraging can make.

  3. That would be a good study Anne. I didn't can much of anything this year except some watermelon jelly. Just no time.