July 29, 2020

Cucumber Relish Making

 It's not really the time of year to make relish.   Relish uses up lots of veggies that are in surplus at the end of the summer.  You can use those big field cucumbers because they are peeled and seeded.  You add onions, peppers, celery and even carrots, all which are in abundance in later on as well.    This one is spiced with celery seed, mustard seed, a bit of pickling spice and white vinegar.  It's really good with cider vinegar, but I was almost out.  Being a relish, it also uses sugar. However, we'd been out of relish for weeks, and sometimes you have got to do what is necessary.

We've had hot weather, too hot to do any canning if you don't have air conditioning (we don't).   Finally we had a coolish day.  Not only that, but it was grocery shopping day and there were baskets of cucumbers in the grocery store.  Plus there was local celery and onions.  I added all these items to my cart of groceries and when I got home, I started chopping.

I've chopped up a batch of relish by hand before.  It makes  a lovely chunky relish, which is pretty to see as the colours stay distinct and it is very tasty.   It also takes for freaking ever!   Since then I've generally just put the veggies in the food processor and pulsed it a few times to chop them up.   They don't retain  quite as much colour or texture but the savings of hours of standing there chopping is worth it.   I will need to make 2 more batches, so the next batch I'll run through the food grinder to see if there is a noticeable difference.

The nice thing about relish is that it doesn't take hours of cooking and stirring, if you salt the veggies first.  You layer picking salt with the ground veggies and let them sit in a colander for 2-4 hours.   All the excess liquid drains off.  You then rinse the veggies, to remove as much of the salt as possible and then squeeze them well to get the remaining liquid out.   I like using my jelly bag for this as it works the best.  Several layers of cheese cloth would work, pressing them against a sieve or even just squeezing handfuls until the liquid is out.  Beware, it looks really awful at this time and a bit grey, and mushy.

After boiling up the vinegar, spice and sugar to make a syrup, you add the ground, drained veggies and cook for about 10 - 15 minutes until it is heated through and boiling.   Add to hot canning jars, wipe the rims and add the lids.  Process in a hot water bath canner for 10 minutes, once it gets to a boil.   I have to admit that homemade cucumber relish is so totally off the scale in the delicious factor than store bought relish.  It was worth making it in a hot kitchen, just to make sure we had some for the rest of the summer.   

When canning, check out the local regulations for times and specifications.   Elevation, and local rules can cause processing time and procedure differences.

Cucumber Relish

7 cups chopped, peeled and seeded cucumbers
2 cups diced celery
1 1/2 cups diced onion
3 cups diced mixed green and red peppers
1/2 cup picking salt
3 cups vinegar -
2 1/4 cups sugar
3 tbsn mustard seed
3 tbsn celery seed
 1 tbsn picking spice

Sometimes I also add a cup of diced carrot because it adds a lot of colour.  I don't really like cooked green pepper much, so sometimes I substitute red for the green.

July 25, 2020

Blossom End Rot

We've had a huge issue with Blossom End Rot on the tomatoes in the garden.  The tomato will just keep rotting from the bottom end (where the blossom is), so I've had to pick them all off.    I did hours of research and checking out other people's solutions.   There are a ton of them, and as always when searching the 'net for info, you have to take some of the answers with a grain of salt.

This condition is caused by a lack of calcium. I read about all sorts of solutions to this issue, which included watering the plants with powdered milk, adding calcium antacids, ground egg shells,  calcium chloride waterings, purchasing a box of some sort of remedy, and watering with epsom salts in water.   There were more and some were pretty bizarre.   Here's the thing though, all these solutions were on pages which said, I had this issue and this is what I did, and hopefully it will work.  None of them talked about why the condition happens or said if they were successful in treating it.    I almost tried the epsom salts as I had some in the cupboard.  I didn't though because there is no calcium in epsom salts.  Instead, I kept reading.

Finally I came to an easy to read article from some Ag. department at a U.S. university.  It stated that the issue is not generally a lack of calcium in the soil, but stressing of the plants, which causes the available calcium to be used elsewhere in the plant.    They also explained that it tends to appear in years with a cool, wet spring, followed by some very hot, dry weather.   They also said that it generally fixes itself.   However, an easy fix was to simply water the plants regularly to make sure they aren't being stressed.

It went on to explain that most calcium additions to the soil take weeks or months to break down and become usable, so they aren't generally the immediate solution to Blossom End Rot.   It also said that while many gardeners swear by the efficacy of epsom salts, there wasn't really hard, scientific evidence for this and a soil test would show whether more magnesium was required, which is what epsom salts adds to the soil.  I guess that magnesium might help with the calcium uptake.

After this, I put away the epsom salts (not really, it's still sitting here beside me), and took out my hose.  I've been watering the tomato plants, and cukes and pepper plant, because they are all susceptible to Blossom End Rot.   I've been giving them a lot of water and lo and behold, after only a couple of days, my tomatoes were growing rot free.   It really did happen that quickly.  

We've had only a couple of light rains, and since I've heavily mulched that part of the garden with a lot of straw.  The straw helps keep soil borne diseases from the plants, keeps the weeds down and mulches the soil to hold in moisture.  The problem is of course that the straw compacts and then that rain doesn't making it down to the soil, unless it's a heavy rain.  I've pushed away a bit of straw near the stems and am watering directly to the soil.     I'm thrilled with the simple solution.  Now, if only they will ripen about 3 or 4 canning jars full at a time!

July 20, 2020

 The Tour de Fleece on line spinning challenge is finished.   The natural brown cotton was spun and plied.  I had 63 g of fibre and ended up with 391 yards of 2 ply cotton yarn.   I spun up 50 g of blue Tussah silk into 160 yards of 2 ply yarn.   The last of the brown cotton is still on the bobbin.   I found another bit of brown cotton tucked away, so will use it up at a later date.   Then I started spinning some white Egyptian cotton.   This stuff is processed differently than the brown and is super slick and slippery.   It takes a bit more concentration.  To be honest, if it was going to be a sample for marking, I'd card the sliver into punis as they spin more easily and consistently.  However, this is for woven yardage, so I'm just spinning straight from the sliver.

  I really wasn't going to spin up more cotton right now, but every skein I've spun over the last 4 or 5 years has gone into a container, so that eventually I'd have enough to weave fabric for a shirt.   I checked it, and there is enough, or almost enough cotton yarn for this project.  However, in my mind, there was at least equal parts of white and the naturally coloured brown and green cottons, with an occasional pick of some dyed yarns.   It turns out, I have almost no white cotton yarn spun!  Egads!   Even though the white is less fun to spin, and since it's my demo fibre, I don't tend to spin it at home, I'm spinning up white cotton so that maybe I can get this project to move forward!

 I didn't get enough white currants to do more than say, hey, "white currants".   There isn't enough for jelly, or pie or anything.  I could juice them and add them to another fruit to use as a source of pectin, but I can't think of anything else and it's not like these are something you find at our local farm markets or fruit stands.

After 2 pickings, I ended up with 500g of gooseberries.  That is just over a pound, after topping and tailing them.   They were smaller than normal this year.  I think this is due to several factors.  First, I did a huge pruning in the spring time, but neglected to prune back some of the new growth.  This means the plants energy went into those new shoots, instead of the berries.  Also, we've had near drought conditions.  That lack of water and the extreme heat which we've had, may also have affected the berry size.  Still, there is enough for a very small batch of jam.  This is another fruit which I haven't seen at any local markets or farm stalls.   I still have a modern, large berried gooseberry plant on my garden wish list though.

July 08, 2020

A few things.

 Here is the cotton I've been spinning for Tour de Fleece.  I divided the cotton simply by folding the sliver in half and breaking it at the mid-way point.   It would have been more accurate if I'd done it by weight, but I went with close enough as I wanted to get started.  The first bobbin has the first half of the sliver and I've started on the second bobbin.  This has been fun, but it's a lot of cotton and a lot of days in a row to be spinning cotton.   I might have to dig up the coloured Corriedale and make some funky rolags for a change once this is done.   I don't have a lot of dyed fibre or commercial colourways and once in a while I think that might be fun to do.

For the Tour de Fleece challenge day I spun some Tussah silk.  I have to admit that spinning silk isn't really a challenge, but I couldn't find the energy to blend some angora, or yak, maybe alpaca with some merino when it was 33°C, feeling like 40°C.  The silk was fun.  It's a bit slippery and does take a bit of concentration.  It's a lovely colour.  I had been mulling around the idea of blending it with some soft grey wool, however I didn't have anything that worked, so it's just plain blue.  I'm not complaining.

The birds have eaten almost all the strawberries.  I noticed that what I thought were the black currants were actually the white ones.   They were already half eaten when I had checked them.  They had just started to ripen.  I tasted a few and a they were so sweet and just barely ripe.  I figured if I didn't get the rest of the berries off the bush right then, they'd be eaten the next day.   I only have 259g of them.   Maybe if I get any of the black currants before the birds get them, I'll have enough to do a blended jelly.     The red currants are being eaten before they ripen, so I've decided not to fight the birds for them.  I didn't put the netting over them this year and obviously it made more of a difference than I realized.