Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Smokin'!

Had built me a meat smoker a couple weeks ago out of an old 24" Kenmore smoker he got from a brother. He cut a whole in the bottom for a burner from another stove and wired it to the back panel. He drilled a hole in the side to stick a temperature probe through. It's been tricky to keep the temps in the right range, there seems to be at least a 20 degree swing no matter how we set the burner and oven element, but we've made some pretty tasty things so far using chicken parts and store bought brats. Here is a photo of our first brats from Johnsonville and apple wood chips put in a tinfoil covered pan set on the burner.

 Since then Hal has connected another old oven to this one with a vent pipe for a try at cold smoking fish in the future. This little oven just gets too hot to smoke fish.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Daffodils

They started blooming about 3 days ago, A sure sign of spring, though the temps hitting 78 today for a few minutes is a sure sign of summer. I wonder if it will be a warmer one this year?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Cleaning the Dishwasher.

Bought this washer shortly after moving in 15 years ago, back when the well was only 22 feet deep and the water got more and more orange from rust till we put in a proper deep one (until then, we had no idea it was so shallow.) Though I have cleaned the dishwasher a couple of times, attempting to get the rust stains out, and cleaned the food trap, I never really researched how to do it properly.

Today so far, I have taken a pointy object to unplug the holes in the washer arm. The ones on the ends were scaled over, and also got lots of hair and gunk out of the interior ends. Not easy as I couldn't actually remove the arm to do it, but after a couple of rinse cycles it seems much better.

I scrubbed a little of the rust stains I could reach with a plastic sponge and vinegar but now have 2 cups of vinegar on the bottom and another glass cup full of vinegar in the top rack to which I added a bunch of baking soda. The foaming action was impressive. Now it's running on the regular cycle for a bit till I'm supposed to shut it off for 20 minutes and then let it finish. I've done that, first I just slightly opened the door, then I thought, what if it allows leakage? So I close it and put it on one hour delay. Now I can go walk the dogs and turn it back on when I get back.

Hope this makes a difference in cleaning the dishes. Sometimes the glasses get bits of sandy crap stuck inside. We shall see.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Official Outdoor Veggie Garden Has Been Started

For the past 2 days I dug up and smoothed out a couple sections in my original vegetable garden. I also pulled up all the fencing around the one just north of it that I had been calling the hutch run garden. It never amounted to much so no great loss. Hal is planning on putting his sugar shack there sometime this year. However he scooped up what little topsoil there was as well as the spot in between the 2 gardens where the actual hutch used to stand (lots of composted chicken poop there) and dumped it behind the original garden which gets more sun. He also chopped up the weeds there using the bucket of his tractor. I did start digging out the roots but that is going to take days of work.

Yesterday I planted 2 varieties of snow peas: Oregon Giant (the whole packet of 54 seeds) and Dwarf White Sugar, half the 2 ounce packet. Today I planted the entire packet of Carouby de Maussane, 63 seeds total. There were 64 but one escaped. I've planted the French one every year for a number of years now and I'm pretty sure I've had Oregon Giant before. usually I have dwarf gray, not sure about this dwarf white. I think it's the first time for that one, I bought it from Park Seed. The others from Pinetree in Maine.

There is a good rain out there right now which is great for the peas. Yesterday's high was 73 and the low was probably in the 40s. The temps are finally evening out into a nice spring like weather pattern.

In the basement my tomatoes sprouted and already are getting their first real leaves. Only one seed failed to sprout. My hollyhocks are only germinating at around 25% so I planted more queeny purple and halo mix today. Be moving these to 3" peat pots in a couple of weeks.

In two more weeks I think I will plant the rest of the snow peas.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Maple Nuts

Hal has been quite busy these last few weeks (when the weather cooperated anyway), collecting sap, boiling it down and making several batches of maple syrup. He tested different materials for filtering and we determined that an old t-shirt bleached and boiled was not the way to go. He's really got it down to a science now, uses a piece of boiled muslin in a 2 qt steamer basket for the filter, the 4" deep stainless steel buffet pan on the old grill and a new inexpensive, thin walled stainless steel stock pot for the camp stove for boiling the sap. So I got my nicer quality 16 qt pot back as well as my 12 qt unless we get so much sap that he needs it on the smoker/boiler unit he devised.

He's given away a few 12 oz and pint bottles to family and I have a couple more pints put away for mine when I see them.

Then yesterday while I was out buying dog food, I came home to a delightful surprise, maple nuts. Essentially almonds he toasted in the oven then coated in maple syrup boiled down into these:
maple sugar covered almonds

Here is Hal's recipe:
Maple Nuts
Ingredients:
12 Oz. Pure Maple Syrup
3 - 4 cups Almonds, Pecans, Peanuts, Cashews, Walnuts, or Filberts (or any mixture of those), shelled.
1+ tablespoon Kosher Salt
Equipment:
Candy or meat thermometer that can read 200 - 250°F
2 qt. saucepan
3 qt. or larger mixing bowl that won't melt
Large metal spoon or metal spatula
Large (ungreased) cookie sheet (or wax paper on a countertop).
Put the nuts in a mixing bowl that can take a high heat (I used a 3 qt. stainless steel mixing bowl). In a 2 qt. sauce pan, carefully heat the syrup to 240°F. It will want to bubble over. Don't let it. It makes a big sticky mess if it does. Pull it off the fire if you have to, and then put it back on as you get it up to sugar temperature. Pour half of the hot syrup into the nuts. Add the salt and stir. Add the rest of the syrup and continue stirring, folding the mixture over and over as the syrup crystallizes. Let one nut cool and taste it as you stir. Add more kosher salt as desired. When the mixture has no more liquid at the bottom of the bowl and the nuts are trying to stick together as the sugar sets, spread it all out on the cookie sheet. Spread it to one layer thick and break up any clumps. Taste one and add more salt if you want. Move the nuts around as they cool until they stop trying to stick together, or to the cookie sheet. It doesn't have to be perfect, just not like peanut brittle. When it's done it will look like this. Enjoy.

Enjoy them I have. I had to put them in a container to stop eating them.