Category Archives: Uncategorized

Why don’t you just relax?

I went to the hospital yesterday. No, no, don’t be alarmed. I go at least twice a month.

My doctor prescribed me 8 Femara pills to take on the 3rd day of my cycle, and once you get into the 8, 9, 10 range, I have to go get a vaginal ultrasound to make sure that the ovaries are not being overstimulated or releasing more than one egg at a time. (Ha! More than one egg. Pfft, evidence so far indicates that is not a problem.) The ultrasound has to be done as soon as you have identified the sign of ovulation has happened. The sign of ovulation is when your mucous dries up; most people have about a week of mucous, getting more and more of it until it is egg white consistency, stretchy, and abundant. The next day, you are totally dry. That means that the day before the dry day, you probably, maybe, ovulated.

In me, I have a problem with producing mucous. I make myself drink at least 3 quarts of water every day. I fill up my large insulated thermos and 2 quart mason jars with water every morning at work, and by the end of the day, they have to be gone. Yes, I know water in quart mason jars looks like moonshine. No, I don’t have moonshine on my desk at work. Yes, I’ve tasted moonshine. No, I didn’t like it. (p.s., could you please come up with something original? I’ve only heard “moonshine?” probably 25 times since starting this. kthnx)

I have started taking Vitex and Evening Primrose Oil, which are supposed to help with that problem. The EPO can only be taken in the first part of my cycle, before ovulation, but the Vitex can be taken throughout.

So, back to the day that is dry. That means, yesterday was probably your Peak day. But, for me, I don’t know that yet. Because of my patchy and slight mucous, maybe I’ll get some later that day? Maybe not. Can’t tell yet. So, wait another day, and if dry two days in a row, then 2 days ago was the Peak day.

Ok, so patchy mucous and shifting days of ovulation. I’m not using the calendar method here, I’m measuring and observing. My peak day could be anywhere from day 14 to 17 after ovulation. It used to be day 25-30 after ovulation. Dieting and everything else I do has shrunk that down to about normal. But it is ever shifting. That means, of course, scheduled intercourse. It sucks. Hate to break it to you. Here, let me give you some homework. You have to have sex next Thursday, Saturday, and then the Monday and Wednesday after that. Nope, don’t care if you are tired after work. Nope, don’t care if you got home late. Nope, don’t care if your kid is crying. Nope, don’t care if you and your husband had an argument. Nope, don’t care if one of you tripped in a hole (hey, that happens a lot around here) and hurt yourself. Sorry. Get it done. Then, add in that maybe when you thought that the mucous was as good as it was going to get, and then you have a dry day, but then you have another day of mucous. So, tack on next Thursday and next Friday as well. You have a chance to get pregnant on days P+1, +2 and +3 (slight on days 2 and 3), so, maybe for good measure, Saturday would be necessary. There, you’ve just scheduled 7 nights of sex in 10 days.

I know, I know. That sounds awesome. My husband must be ecstatic. Let me tell you bob, maybe the first couple months is that way. Now, do that every month for 3 years in a row. I’ve also heard that an egg only survives for about 24 hours before it can’t be fertilized anymore, and that sperm relies on mucous to survive in the womb. That way, if the sperm is there and the egg is released, the egg can be fertilized if the sperm is still viable. But…lack of mucous is a problem. Maybe we should just try to do it for 7 days in a row.

Well, anyway, you think you’ve ovulated. So, you have to schedule the ultrasound, but I’m only by a hospital 3 days a week. Luckily they radiology department has been great at taking a phone call in the morning and scheduling me for sometime during the lunch hour. The radiologist is not in to read it in the afternoon. I watch the screen and the tech tells me what is there, but I have misinterpreted what she says badly before, and completely lost it, emotionally, until the phone call comes in the next day and I feel like a dumb ass for reacting that way.

Apparently, it is ok for one ovary to produce an egg every month, and the other to sit there like a a lazy bum. My left ovary has done the job for 4 months in a row now. I always thought it rotated duty every month, but my doctor says that is ok.

Then, on day P + 3, or what you think is P + 3, I start injections. HCG shots under the skin, which I do, and Progesterone in the upper hip area (top of the ass cheek, to be precise) in the muscle, which DH does for me. We do these on days P + 3, P + 5, P + 7 and P + 9. On day P + 7, I have to get a blood test to see what my progesterone and estrodial levels are. I haven’t seen a pattern yet. My highest progesterone has been up to 42, my lowest 10 or 11. This month was 22.

Yesterday, when getting my blood tested, the oh so helpful lady at the hospital told me “why don’t you just relax? I’ve heard so many people say they stopped stressing about having a baby and it happened for them.” SMH. Do people really think that is helpful? Really? Does this same tech say to cancer patients to just relax? Does this same person say to someone with a swollen and bursting appendix to just relax?

This is a real physical problem, lady. This isn’t in my head. If all I do is pinpoint the exact day of peak fertility and just have sex on that one night, I still have 9 actions I have to take during the month at specific times in order to have a chance of getting pregnant. Nine! Femara, identify peak and have sex, stop taking EPO, 4 days of shots, blood test, ultrasound. Let alone the handful of pills I take every night. And drinking enough water. And watching my diet. And charting, forgot about that. Those things are daily, so I can’t count those in the “specific actions” count.

Sigh. Relax and maybe I’ll be surprised. Ha! Here’s the thing about that. If I DO get pregnant and am not keeping track of things, maybe I won’t know early enough. I have to take progesterone to help support my pregnancies or I might lose them. Even waiting a week or so before starting the injections could cause me to miscarry. So, even if I could relax and forget everything and not chart when I ovulated and not figure out when my period should start, if I forget for a week or more after that, well, I could end up losing another baby.

I don’t think intentionally losing track of things is in my cards.

Am I a creative?

Once again, Erica at NWEdible.com has prodded me to think. Usually that is thinking about a cooking technique or garden facts or something, but this time, it is the art of a creative person working in the 9-5 world. By the way, who works 9-5? Every job I’ve ever had was 8-5. Or, I guess, 8-6 at Hawker. I only read the article because she is my favorite blogger, so everything she writes is worth a courtesy glance, even if it doesn’t apply to me. But guess what: I am a creative. I never knew that before.

First, read her article: 4 work problems of creative people and how to solve them

Oh my. I have never known that I am a creative. I am a math geek. A computer programmer. All left sided brain. Logic and reason control my work days.

Yet. Higher math is actually creative. Theoretical algebra, which I got a Master’s in because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life yet, is creative. It isn’t rote memorization, and it isn’t step by step. It is beautiful and mind expanding and it is creative in its own way. Theorems and axioms are the lincoln logs that allow you to build something entirely new, or at least follow in the footsteps of the great thinkers of the past.

Programming also is creative. Sometimes you have to just sit there and think. Let it paint a canvass in your head before you can type it out. I admit, as the only programmer in my company, and self taught, I don’t do waterfalls, I don’t check code in and out, and I could probably do a better job of planning out all the steps instead of just diving in. I can sometimes type and make really good progress for a couple hours in a row. Then, I have to take a break – usually by looking at the internet. I can’t start another project. What I have been working on has to percolate for a while. It has to bounce against all the fragments and half finished ideas and find a way to work together, and then, suddenly, I must flip back to my work screen and out the code comes pouring out again.

If I am doing something the easy way and not the right way, I start taking more and more breaks. Like a lot. I can’t get myself to type anymore. Eventually, I have to say to myself, usually in my head, but sometimes out loud “Fine.” It might mean ripping out a lot of code I have already done, but it will be right and it is the right thing to do.

I work full time coding for my employer, but only 3 days a week at the office and then 2 days a week at home. I get so much done at home. No commute, complete quite, no office jibber jabber and sometimes I’ll be coding and look up and it is 5:30 and I have worked 30 minutes past quitting time.

I am the only one in the company that they allow to do this. No other person gets to work at home consistently 2 days a week. I don’t think anyone else has even asked to do this. It “helps” that I live an hour away. That was a good introduction and sell to let me, but honestly, my work ethic and lack of wanting to do housework (ha! People ask me, don’t you get tempted to do laundry or dishes or something instead of working? Not even a little.) has made it a perfect fit. If they take it away from me, the day they tell me I have to go in all 5 days is the day I look for something else.

I have a flipbook of projects that need to be done. I have to write it down or get an email about it or something, or else I will concentrate on remembering it and won’t get anything else done.

You are right about the bank not caring that you are a creative. We farm and my husband and I are trying to buy (too much) farm ground that has been in the family for 7 generations (my son is the 7th). It is not possible for me to quit and pay the bills and make the land payment. It is barely possible with my job. Luckily I love my job and fit in well. My previous job, at a union-dominated aircraft company was hell for me. No quarter was given. I lived 3 hours away, drove down Monday morning, stayed overnight in a rented room until Thursday night and then came home. Did that for the first year of our marriage (the CIO had told me to talk to him after I got married he would work with me to set a schedule. After I got back from my honeymoon, I brought it up and he had an incredulous look on his face and said “I never said that!”). Worked 10 hour days. Everything was so scripted and regimented and people who were great coders/workers were lumped in with the dead weight and everyone was treated exactly the same. I hated it. The best thing that ever happened to me was being laid off from that awful company.

I think this might explain why either my house looks awesome (because I do my exact specified chores every night) or attains shithole status (I skipped a few days, so I might as well take 2 weeks off). I diet like a banshee, do really well for months at a time, then eat a cookie, which turns into 5, so I might as well have a couple dark beers and some popcorn, hey, how about some thick pieces of raisin bread? Ice cream? Sure. I look up a month later and I have taken great big giant steps backwards. The garden looks great but the backyard is awful. I take on projects and follow through with them, but the other things I don’t even see. I am focused on the things that are important, and if they are not important to me, I literally don’t think to do them unless they are on a list somewhere.

This article opened my eyes to something I have never seen before. I knit, I can, I garden, I sew, I read (a lot), I do a lot of things that would be considered creative, but I am a math geek. Therefore I can’t be creative, can I? I guess I can be.

Seed orders in!

This year, I have decided to cut down on varieties and some of the vegetables that “have” to go into modern gardens and fall back to what we will really eat. When I think of last year’s garden and what things we definitely need more of, green beans top the list. I canned 25 pints of green beans last year, and each load out of the canner only lasted about 2 weeks. Then strawberries (only one bowl made it to the house…Boobock ate the rest out in the garden), sweet potatoes, potatoes, and large tomatoes (for salsa, crushed tomatoes, etc). Definitely need less zucchini/yellow squash, winter squash and cherry tomatoes (omg, what was I thinking planting 6 of these?) No kohlrabi, radishes, or dill. Fewer eggplant, though still need some. Same amounts of okra, beets, cilantro, onions, though all yellow onions instead of yellow, white and red onions. 2 jalapeños and the rest the giant sweet peppers I found through Gurney’s, instead of three or four different varieties of sweet peppers.

Last year I ordered everything from Gurney’s, except I ordered one winter squash from Jackie Clay, and traded some seeds with a blogger in Florida. I was counting on using those seeds again…but I can’t find them anywhere! dun-dun-dun. I swore I put them in the refrigerator, but nope, can’t find them.

I waited for Gurney’s to put out a good deal. Usually they put out “buy $50 save $25″ or “buy $100 save $50″, etc, but I missed that sale. I waited for another sale, and today, I got an email about a one day, 50% off sale.

I was able to capitalize on that sale by having my list ready. I listed everything I want to plant this year and categorized it by who I wanted to buy it from, either Gurney’s, Jackie Clay, the local greenhouse, or from neighbors (yay neighbors!)

I also talked to my mom and asked her what seeds she needed. We can share the seeds and split the costs.

I decided to get the following from Jackie Clay, at seedtreasures.com:

  1. Provider Bush Green Beans (x2)
  2. Detroit Dark Red Beets
  3. Goliath Broccoli
  4. Late Flat Dutch Cabbage
  5. Homemade Pickles Cucumbers
  6. Bill Bean Tomatoes
  7. Alpine Tomatoes
  8. Box Car Willie Tomatoes
  9. Hopi Pale Gray Squash

She sells seeds for $2.50 a pack and then $3.00 shipping, no matter how many you order. There is no order form…so I wrote it out longhand and sent a check.

From Gurney’s, I got this:

  1. Purple Pod Pole Beans (x2)
  2. Improved Golden Wax Beans (x2)
  3. Black Magic Kale
  4. Buttercrunch Lettuce
  5. Waltham Butternut Squash
  6. Stonehead Hybrid Cabbage
  7. Cilantro
  8. Early Sprint Burpless Hybrid Slicing Cucumber
  9. Eclipse Hybrid Eggplant
  10. Gurney’s Gumbo Hybrid Okra
  11. Yellow Ebenezer Onion Sets (x6)
  12. Double Delight Hybrid Sweet Peppers
  13. Oregon Sugar Pod II Snow Pea
  14. Vegetable Spaghetti Winter Squash
  15. Winter Squash Primevera Hybrid (spaghetti squash)
  16. Golden Rave Tomatoes
  17. Multipik Hybrid Summer Squash
  18. Black Magic Zucchini Summer Squash
  19. Gurney’s Primo Jalapeño Hybrid Hot Pepper

The cantaloupe was $6.99 a pack (!) so we decided to get that locally, and then also, I am going to get sweet corn, strawberries and sweet potatoes at the local greenhouse.

And finally, I asked on the local buy/sell/trade facebook page if anyone had horseradish they would be willing to dig up, and had someone say they could share with me. (An aside: I told my dad that I was going to put horseradish in, and he said “If your Grandpa Ernie was here today, he would kiss you!” Grandpa loved hot, spicy things, and I am so glad my dad told me that…) I will try to get the roots in the next couple of weeks so I can plant them soon.

I was also offered some seed potatoes from my dad’s cousin, and I will certainly take those as well.

All told, I have spent about $100 on seeds. Which may sound like a lot, but, let’s consider it first of all a 6 month hobby, and second, let’s consider the food output from all these seeds, and third, let’s consider that some of these seed prices will be cut in half when I share with my mom, so yeah, out of pocket it is kind of steep, but long term worth it.

Now to find a place to start the seeds, since my previous years’ spot is now taken over by two toy boxes…

Update: Of course that can’t be the entire list. Before I got the envelope sent off to Jackie Clay, DH requested I grow carrots. So…add Kuroda carrots to the above list from seedtreasures.com

I’m sure I’ll order more from Gurney’s as well. Just waiting for another sale…

Fighting the winter doldrums

Leave the house before the sun peaks up to the horizon, work inside all day, come out after work to twilight. Ugh. Winter doldrums are here. I just feel…blah. I decided to go off my diet for Nov/Dec for some reason, because I was stuck and not losing any weight and discouraged, and so, I have gained. Blah. The house is a disaster and I only seem to be able to fight up the urge clean (slightly, ever so slightly…like laundry and dishes; forget washing the floor, let alone dusting) on the weekends. Blah. I just feel blah during the week and I drive home, come inside, eat supper and watch tv or play around on the internet.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, it was nice outside and sunny. I was able to work in the garden, raking up old straw and putting some in the chicken run, and burning the rest (2 sections down, 4 to go). Ah, to be outside, without a coat even, was glorious. I also helped DH put some electric fence out, but instead of a full day of that, he had a cow calving that didn’t get done until after dinner, so we just built fence for a few hours. And then the next weekend, we were able to go deer hunting Saturday, and just being out there with DH was so nice. I mean, I’m glad I got a deer, but that was just a bonus. Being together doing something fun like that outside and not just sitting around watching TV was great.

But seriously, since the time change, that is about all the time I have had outside. I am going stir crazy. Instead of internet/TV, I have started to learn how to knit. It is going…ok. Kind of sloppy on my first project, but I have successfully made a not-quite-square washcloth :) I’m now trying to knit a hat for Boobock, and it is a simple pattern of K1-P1, but somehow I keep adding a stitch. I have to keep counting, then if it is off, the next row I knit two together to get me back to the correct number of stitches. It is making the pattern wonky, but hey, its my first real project and he is 3, so I doubt his peer group will make fun of him for a knitting stitch out of place.

My grandma taught me how to knit when I was in grade school, but she always cast on for me, didn’t teach me to purl, and didn’t teach me to tink (knit backwards) or how to fix mistakes, so I’ve really been trying to learn all that. I can knit like a whirling dervish, but purling is much slower, and that extra stitch is just annoying, and annoyingly consistent. Like, one extra stitch every row.

It is time to do something about this blah winter doldrums thing. I get these urges to just DO SOMETHING sometimes. I know if I wait just a bit and the feeling grows, I’ll stick to it longer term. If I get a wild hair and start immediately, I’ll do it for a day or two only, but if I wait, and the feeling grows stronger, I will last months. So…waiting for Jan 1. I’m a big one for New Year’s Resolutions, starting diets on Mondays or the 1st of the month, etc. So, I know that Jan 1 is like my big chance.

Of course, diet and exercise are first on the list. Like half the rest of the civilized world, I know it isn’t inspired, but it is needed. I’m going to restart the HIIT workout I did last year, and try to get so that I can do all 5 workouts (each workout twice) at one time. Last year, I started with the warmup and workout 1 (x2) and then an ab workout, and did that 3 times a week for 4 weeks, then did warmup, wo1, wo2, wo1, wo2, ab workout 3 times a week for 4 weeks, etc. I got up to doing wo1, wo2 and wo3 x2 and was ready to go up to the next step, but then Christmas came and I stopped. I decided to take January off…and then our lives went to hell and I never got back into it. I hurt myself in July by finding a hole with my bad ankle, trying to catch myself and hurting my bad knee and it has never felt right since then. It still hurts every day, all day. If I am sitting it doesn’t hurt, but if I stand, even, it hurts, let alone walk or run. I am hoping that the squats and lunges will be tolerated, because if I can’t do those, I am at a serious loss at what to do.

The best part about that workout is that I only need like 5′x5′ to do it in, so I can do it in the kitchen, or in the living room, and I don’t need any equipment…except for the resistance bands, which my God-child got for me last year for Christmas I don’t have to go to a gym, Boobock can do it with me if he wants, and I can even do it over lunch on my T-Th days at home if I want. And, as I start very slow and add on after 3-4 weeks, it is constantly challenging.

Third goal is doing my chores every day with no exceptions. I have a good schedule, I just need to do it every day. If I do every chore every day without fail, the house looks aaaaawwwwweeeeesome. And it isn’t hard, just a commitment. But really, once I get the house clean and do every chore every day, sometimes it only takes like 10 minutes to do that day’s chores.

Only a few more weeks until Winter Solstice, which I definitely don’t celebrate or anything, but that day means the days will start getting longer again at least. A few more weeks until I can glimpse a light at the end of the tunnel.

Jackie Clay’s Amish coleslaw

I discovered Backwoods Home Magazine about a year or so ago, and especially love reading Jackie Clay’s blog and q and a sessions. She is a wonder woman in my book. Work work work work work, she does it. Mostly, I read her garden information, and DH got me her canning book Growing and Canning Your Own Food last year for Christmas and her Pantry Cookbook for my birthday. (I approved the double gift for both…Christmas babies have a strange relationship with Christmas…) She cans everything! It is amazing. I can’t imagine how much time she is spending just putting up food. I like how in her book she says things like “you can can cabbage, but lots of people don’t like it. I rinse it and it tastes just fine.” Not many people put recipes in their cookbooks that will possibly taste bad to the reader.

I especially like that in the second book, the Pantry Cookbook, she says how to use some of the things you put up in the first book to actually make food. So many people make 35 jars of jelly and nothing else. I don’t know about you, but we go through 1, maybe 2, jars of jelly a year. If I am going to spend my afternoons and weekends sweating over a steaming pot of water, it better make my life easier in the long run. The Pantry Cookbook gives you some great ideas.

One thing she says you can can, but that it isn’t deemed “safe” by the Arbitrators of Canning Truth is something she calls Amish Cole Slaw.

I love the Amish canned coleslaw, BUT it is NOT an approved recipe. (It is basically pickled sweet cabbage, so I’m not too worried. I can’t tell you to try it, only that generations of Amish have used it and so have I for a few years now.) Here’s the recipe:

1½ cups vinegar
2 cups sugar
½ tsp. celery seed
½ tsp. mustard seed
2 tsp. salt
1 large head cabbage
1 cup diced celery
½ cup diced onions
2 cups shredded carrots

Mix vinegar, sugar, and seasonings. Mix with vegetables. Stir very well. Pack into sterile jars and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. (If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your processing time to suit your altitude.) — Jackie

I leave the sugar out, so it is really just pickled cabbage/celery/onions/carrots. Full strength vinegar with vegetables? Yeah, I’m ok with canning that in a WBC. Last time, I just did cabbage and carrots with the spices. That worked too.

Without the sugar, it is really too tart to just eat by itself. When I want to eat it, I have been dumping in a colander, and rinsing. That leaves some of the pickled flavor, but it doesn’t turn your mouth inside out with the strength of the acid.

I’ve used the rinsed version as a base for spaghetti sauce with meat to help keep me on the diet du jour, or Manwich meat as topping too. I’ve also used it in any version of vegetable mess, putting it in last as it has already been cooked for 10 minutes when being canned. And, sometimes, I’ll sprinkle a little Splenda in it, stir, and just eat it like cole slaw. We just used the last can from last summer up about a week ago, so when I get 8 pint jars empty, I’ll need to chop some veggies up and make some more. Very versatile thing to have on hand.

Apple cider or Apple juice, whichever

I’ve made enough apple sauce to last all year…in fact, if we eat a pint every two weeks, we would still have enough until next year. I was ready to pull all the apples off the tree and give them to the chickens, but thought I would try to make juice out of them first.

Before, I just had a crockpot and large roasting pan that I had made the apple sauce with. When making the apple sauce, I saw that there was a lot of juice left over when pushing it through the meat grinder after cooking, so I just thought I would let it cook all day while I was away at work and then try to squeeze it when I got home. What I got was a start to dehydrated apples in the oven and a gooey sticky mess in the crockpots. The chickens got a feast that night. I have since learned that you are supposed to cover them with water. boil or simmer, strain, put in a sack and squeeze…

Gee, you know that information… really would’ve been more useful to me *yesterday.*

You tell em, Adam Sandler.

I then started looking into steam juicers. The Finnish one is apparently the gold standard, but very expensive. After poking around in the intertubes, it didn’t look like the knock off versions were functionally different, so I ended up getting Cook N Home NC-00256 11-Quart Stainless-Steel Juicer Steamer

I started with sand hill plum juice, which was TART aka bitter. Still trying to find a good combination to use that with, without drowning in sugar – or any sweetener. I mixed like a tablespoon with about a cup of apple juice, and it gave it a nice little kick, and I have heard that ginger might take some of the bitterness out of it as well. I then tried it with some regular plums, off a neighbor’s bush, and that juice is very nice with no sugar added.

But, I wanted to try to make apple juice. I’m still a bit unclear about the difference between apple cider and juice, as the traditional method of grinding, pressing and then either filtering or not decides if it is apple cider or juice:
Apple juice and Apple cider: What’s the difference?

Apple juice and apple cider are both fruit beverages made from apples, but there is a difference between the two. Fresh cider is raw apple juice that has not undergone a filtration process to remove coarse particles of pulp or sediment. It takes about one third of a bushel to make a gallon of cider.

To make fresh cider, apples are washed, cut and ground into a mash that is the consistency of applesauce. Layers of mash are wrapped in cloth, and put into wooded racks. A hydraulic press squeezes the layers, and the juice flows into refrigerated tanks. This juice is
bottled as apple cider.

Apple juice is juice that has been filtered to remove solids and pasteurized so that it will stay fresh longer. Vacuum sealing and additional filtering extend the shelf life of the juice.

Well, that doesn’t tell me how my processing fits in. It is steamed juiced, so it comes out perfectly clear juice with no pulp, but I don’t filter it. I”m going to call it cider. Sounds more fancy than juice.

I use an apple corer to cut the apples and core them. Maybe not necessary if using store bought apples, but mine could/did have bugs/worms, so I needed to cut them open so I could get rid of the icky parts. A helpful hint: put the top of a beer bottle down on the cutting board, pointy side down. Use your corer to core the apple on the cutting board, but there is always that little bit of skin still holding everything together. Move the circle of the corer onto the beer bottle top and press down again. That puts your metal corer on top of the metal beer bottle, and you can push down that much more. It won’t slice cleanly through, but you can then turn it over and push the core out over your compost bucket, and then turn it over again to flop the apples into your waiting bowl. That little addition of the beer bottle cap made going through an entire juicer load of apples much faster…20 minutes or so? And I got to drink a beer while doing it, so win!

After the round of apple sauce I made earlier, that cleared a bunch of apples from the neglected, never pruned, fallen over tree in the front yard, and the extra energy after harvesting a few went into making much larger apples. Some turned out almost as big as store bought! The smaller ones I just quartered and cut out the cores with a knife. IMG_3390[1]

The juicer has a bottom pan for water, a middle pan that stores the juice and an upper pan with holes in it to let the juice drop into the middle pan. The water boils, comes up through the cone part of the middle pan, heats the apples, which make them release the juice. I put a jar in the cabinet below the juicer and let it drain out as it is heating. I bring it up to a very high boil, and then back off again so it is still boiling but not furiously. I let it go 1 1/2 hours or until all the juice is done coming out. That is longer than most instructions say, but I am only doing one load a day, so quiting 30 minutes earlier isn’t much of a time saver.
IMG_3392[1]

The first time I did it, I just used the apples from the aforementioned neglected tree. It was pretty good, but a little tart, as the green apples that it grows are definitely less sweet than others around. A friend down the street has just moved into a house and said she had some peaches I was welcome to. I went over to grab some peaches one day, and they were all gone! Too late. Bummer. But I saw the apple tree with beaucoup red apples littering the ground, so I grabbed a bucketful and came home with them…later telling her I stole some :) She responded with “come take all you want!”

Combining the green apples with her more red, sweeter apples yielded a great apple cider/juice. The steam juicer makes very heavy/syrupy juice that could be diluted and it would still taste awesome, but storing it, I don’t do that, as why store water like that?

So far, I’ve done 3 juicers full and came up with 8 quarts of juice…kind of. Another neighbor indicated she would like to buy some. I had done a juicer full of green apples, and then did another juicer full of red apples the next day. I told her that I would come by when it was ready, but she stopped by instead. I was still boiling the two types together and putting it into 1/2 gallon jars, so I rushed and put it into the jar, added a two piece lid, wrapped it up in a towel, and handed it to her to go. And…

Thermal Shock!!! dun dun duuuuuunnnnnnnn

All over the floor. Damn it. 1/2 gallon just made apple cider mixed with dog food/hair and dirty shoes. (That sounds like my kitchen is uninhabitable. No, that was the back room she was leaving by.) I was so embarrassed and mad at myself. I should have told her it wasn’t ready yet and I would bring it by later. I knew better than that. So, she left, and I did the other half gallon, and then the rest into 2 quart jars.

Apple juice is acidic enough that you don’t have to worry about botulism, but other germies could be present. I boiled the juice, washed the jars with soap and water, boiled the lids, and then filled and put the lids on. Then, moved them to a towel covered counter-top to cool naturally and not break all over my clean kitchen floor.

The first time, I pressure canned the quarts, as I don’t have a water bath canner big enough for quarts. I did 11 lbs of pressure for 10 minutes, and it turned it very dark. I did the apple juice, plum juice and sand hill plum juice all in one canner load, and the colors were very different going in (sand hill plum was dark pink, plum was light pink, and apple was beige) but they came out all looking about the same. I had to guess which was which, based on color, the smaller canning jars I had used to finish out the batch, and by…licking my finger, swiping the outside of the jar on the threads, and tasting it. To detect the overflow, you see. It worked :)

I have since found a great resource for pressure canning things traditionally canned:
http://www.gopresto.com/recipes/canning/recipeindex.php

The science behind canning lends itself to letting traditionally water batch canned items be safely pressure canned. The pressure canner brings the water to a higher temperature than the BWB canner, so my original thinking was to blow off the steam for 10 minutes, pressure it up to what you use for other traditionally pressure canned foods (11 lbs at my elevation of 1500 feet) and keep it there as long as the original recipe said to do the BWB canning, and it had to be safe. Turns out, yes, but it was too much pressure and for too long. Apples and apple sauce was 6 lbs pressure for 8 minutes, according to the above link. I had gone 11 lbs for 10 minutes.

Now, for the math of buying the juicer. It was about $100 for the juicer when I bought it. I looked in the store today for apple juice, and it was about $2.50 per half gallon. I sold the one 1/2 gallon for $5, so it’s down to $95 :) $95 / 2.5 = 38 one half gallons to break even. I’ve got 2 more 1/2 gallons (actually, 4 quarts) on the shelf (I’m not counting the one that broke), so 36 left. I’ve got one apple tree in the front yard, another 2 year old tree in the front yard that isn’t yielding yet, another 1 year old tree in the front yard that is probably dead and I need to get my money back from the seller, trees in 3 different neighbor’s yards that I have permission to pick, etc. If I didn’t have the tools to process these, these apples and other fruits (plums, sand hill plums, pears, etc) would be going to waste. I have no doubt that in a few years I will make the juicer pay for itself.

The juicer looks like it could be transformed into a still with a little work, as a facebook friend helpfully pointed out. I don’t think I will be attempting that, but here are some hard apple cider references I might try in the future:
How To Make Hard Cider
How To Make Applejack

Red chili (powder) sauce

While looking for an online recipe to make chili sauce, I stumbled upon one that was made with powdered New Mexico chili powder. All other results I saw said definitively, “no, you can’t make chili sauce from chili powder.” Diaz Farms says otherwise.

Looks good…except I didn’t have powdered New Mexico chili powder. I had chili seasoning. Well, nothing to lose except 1/2 cup of seasoning. Let’s try it. (I buy in bulk from an online herb company, so I had 1 lb of chili seasoning sitting around from my recent order.)

Red chili (powder) sauce (adapted from Diaz Farms)
1/2 c chili seasoning
2 tsp vegetable oil
4 tsp onion, finely chopped
1 tsp dry minced garlic
1/4 tsp oregano
1 stp cumin
2 tsp flour
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt

Saute oil, onion and garlic for 5 minutes. Add oregano, cumin and flour. I cooked until all the oil was absorbed and the mixture was quite dry.

In separate bowl, mix chili seasoning and water. Whisk.

Add water/chili mix to pot and bring to boil. Simmer until the sauce thickens. I think I sauted it 15 minutes or so, stirring constantly. Add salt to taste after cooling.

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My first taste of this was like sticking my finger in the chili seasoning and licking it off – not pleasant. Cooling and letting it set in the fridge for a couple of hours, though, made the other flavors come out and it turned out pretty darn good. It isn’t very hot, but it has a nice smoky flavor that has a small bite of heat.

This yielded about 2 cups of sauce. I saved half of it as is in a 1/2 pint jar, and then took the rest and added 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar. I think the vinegar will be a nice touch next time, but 1/2 cup was too much. I was trying to find a way to make it last longer, as the original version has nothing acidic to help preserve it, but the ACV version has too much bite to it.

This needs to be kept in the fridge, and if you want to try to can it, it definitely can’t be water bath canned. The only way I would consider it would be in a pressure canner, but I can’t recommend an adequate time for it.