Posts Tagged With: canning

Jam, Bread, and RPGs

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I realized I’ve been binge-reading romance novels as comfort books because the news from the Republican Convention has been so depressing.  You know, among other things.

In times of trouble I have to turn to something.  Romance novels and kitchen exploits are my favorite thing to turn to.  The Roger’s Red grape vine has gone crazy on me, and I have a TON of grapes that are dark purple and that right kind of sour.  I’m planning on making grape jam this weekend before the birds can eat all of them, and possibly I’ll try my hand at a loaf or two of wheat bread.  I may even have enough grapes for a REAL, full batch of jam.

I made the tastiest Irish Blaas from scratch last weekend, and my bread-making confidence is all up in the lofty heights of amazingness right now.  It was easy, I just had to wait for rising.  Wheat bread now seems surmountable, even without a stand mixer with a dough attachment.  Kneading for 8-10 minutes?  Good exercise.  We’ll see if I continue to say that after my arms fall off this weekend.  Wheat bread is supposed to be the hard one.  It’s reputably dense if not done right, though I wouldn’t know.

It is 10 days from the end of the month, and I have already spent all of my allotted book budget.  Which means I will have to subsist on rereading like I used to do in the dark ages before there were e-readers.  Can I do it?  I can totally do it.  If nothing else, I have plenty of Kipling on the shelves.  The last time we moved, I was happy for almost a month on a book of his stories.

In other news, we’re starting a new Rippers game on Friday… which means new characters.  Which means new character backgrounds.  I didn’t have the gumption or the time to make it as much of a short story as the last character, but I felt like the one I came up with was fairly clever.  I’m working on all the short stories, but I don’t think anything is good enough to share currently.  So in its stead, you can read a few paragraphs about Meg Hews.

She’s got a signature weapon that I’ve named “Carrie” after Carrie Nation – the gal that used to go into saloons with an axe and break stuff (including people).  She was very anti-liquor and a little bit insane.  Badass women for the win.

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Photo by Caelkriss on Deviant Art – click picture to link.

Meg Hews:

There is an old assumption that men whose wives die in childbed visit their grief on their children, but Margaret Hews never found that to be the case.  Her father was a jolly man with a quick smile, a firm sense of duty, and a black-and-white view of the word.  He was never sad.  When her mother died he just raised her at the Pinkerton office, and when Uncle Charlie complained, Dad said it was Meg or him. Charlie knew Dad was too good an agent to lose.

Dad let her scramble around his desk and crumple up old newspapers, teaching her to shoot a BB gun at the tender age of 5, and leaving her with Uncle Charlie whenever he had to go out on a job.  Uncle Charlie voiced his dismay, but eventually he shrugged it off and taught Meg to play poker with licorice pipes for winnings.

Dad was against her taking the badge, of course.  But she wasn’t fit for anything else when she grew up. She wasn’t demure enough for the boys who wanted a gentlewoman and her housekeeping skills were atrocious.  She refused to learn to type.  The only thing she could do was shoot straight and spy a lie from a mile off.  Pinkerton Agent it was.

It would be easiest to make her way in an office where everyone didn’t call her Meggie or remember that one year where she executed all her dolls for murder and subsequently burned them at the stake in the metal office trash cans.  Embarrassing.

So when a spot opened up at the St. Louis office, Meg made Uncle Charlie pull strings to get her in.

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Adventures in Canning

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I did a bunch of canning yesterday, and I am feeling right now like it was mostly a bust.  I had intended to make Harlequin Conserve, Tomato Sauce, and Tomato soup.  I was hoping to get, oh… 3 quart-sized jars of spaghetti sauce, 6 pints of tomato soup, and a bunch of conserve.  What I ended up with was NOT worth the time it all took.

Because that was the thing… I bought 10 lbs of tomatoes and ended up with 2 pints of tomato soup and 2 ½ pints  of tomato sauce.  It also took all day.  I started at 11:00 am and didn’t finish until about 9:00 pm.  After all of that, I still have to water bath the tomato sauce tonight.  I’m a very tired kid this morning.  The entire kitchen would have been sticky if Brian hadn’t been the best husband ever and cleaned up for me.

I got a ton of Harlequin Conserve though… (which is oranges, orange peel, plenty of pineapple, some slivered almonds and plenty of sugar all boiled until it jelled just a bit.  It’s like a pulpy thick syrup.  Best thing ever).  And that tomato soup is damn good.  Sweet like the Campbell’s version but so much more robust in flavor.

So, the ultimate results are this: I don’t think I would make the tomato sauce again.  It’s time (and tomato) consuming, it wasn’t much better than the stuff you buy at the store, and it was more expensive.  We just don’t use enough tomato sauce in this house for it to be worth all that effort.  I would definitely consider doing the tomato soup again, but only in a gigantic batch to balance the time/enjoyment of soup ratio a little more.  The harlequin conserve is my new obsession.  It wasn’t any harder than jam is, and it’s SO GOOD.

Brian looked at me at the end of the night and said “I now get why people don’t do this anymore.”

I mean, I do too.  But I also had a good time.  There will be further canning in my future.  Tonight, as a matter of fact (smh).

PS – One of the things that fascinates me as a Historian is the sounds and smells that we, as modern people, just don’t experience anymore.  The stuff that was familiar that is no longer familiar.  I felt a little gleeful every time a jar sealed properly with a metallic pop.

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Just Birthday Things

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I feel like I have not had a break in ages, although all the things I’m not getting a break from are fun and/or relaxing.  My birthday adventure turned out to be a trip to Big Bear (!!!).  It was hot up there, but not nearly as hot as it was in Redlands (which reached 103, I believe).  SUCH a good idea.  Brian and I wore ourselves out hiking in the morning, and then decided that we did not want to venture out for dinner.  Instead, I cooked ribs and artichokes on the grill in our little condo, and they turned out AMAZING.  Brian made me a Funfetti cake, which is my favorite, and we rented a movie.  On day 2, we visited the Big Bear Museum – best thing EVER! – and then loafed around until it was probably time to come home and get ready for the week.

I am now frantically trying to get all the laundry done before I have to pack for Massachusetts.  I ran all the errands for Dramamine and gum last night, the turmeric cooking stain has come out of my white pants, and I have an official packing list.  So I’m feeling pretty accomplished.  I mostly just have to put things in suitcases at this point.  We’re going to take the train into LAX on Friday morning, which will make our trip out an epic journey.  But by some miracle, our flight is direct.  Crazy, right?

I am so thrilled to be going.  I don’t get to see that side of the family nearly enough.  Plus Plimoth Plantation.  My love for that place is embarrassing in its effulgence, so I try to keep it cool.  Which, of course, never works.

I am excited for a fairly free weekend upon returning, too.  At Brian’s grandfather’s 90th birthday, a cousin of his brought a large manila envelope filled with canning books.

“Does anyone can?” she asked.

“Casey does!” said Brian.

I tried to protest that, because I wasn’t officially a blood member of the family, if anyone else wanted them they had first dibs.  But it seemed no one else did.  When I opened the envelope later, it was this treasure trove of amazingness.  There are instructions from the 1970s on how to make a home fruit dryer.  There is a cookbook from the 1950s that is full of how to can meats and vegetables, complete with revolting recipes in the back telling you what to do with all that canned meat.  There are clippings from the newspaper with recipes for lye soaps.  But my favorite is the cookbook from the 1940s.  It extolls the virtues of canning for Victory (yes, with a capital V), and informs you that the wide-mouth jars best for fruit preparations are unavailable in wartime, but that you should look out for them afterward.

Minted pears, fruit leather, chutneys made from oranges and pineapple, tomato sauce, chicken soup, olives… it’s all in there.  Anything you can think of wanting, and several things you never would have thought of but must have immediately.  I got SO excited.

The only problem? I didn’t really have the equipment.  The pot I have is smallish, fine for ½ pint jars, but no good for the big ones.  The water wouldn’t cover them all the way.  I also didn’t own a jar lifter to grab them out of the boiling water.  I sighed, and figured I would buy a jar lifter and some small jars and see what I could do with what I had.

Brian fixed all of that with my birthday gift.  I now have ALL THE THINGS, a nice big pot with a rack that fits perfectly in the bottom, a small spatula with a ruler on the end so I can measure headspace easily, a magnetic lid placer, a lid tightener, a jar lifter, a super wide mouthed funnel… even extra jars.  There is nothing I’m wanting.  There will be no “making due,” because I have it all.

The only problem I see now is what to do with all the copious quarts of yummy things I’m going to have in jars around the house.  That is, however, a problem I’m willing to tackle.  With a spoon.

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