Sunday, May 31, 2009

Shipwreck BBQ Sauce

What do cranberry mustard, apple-rhubarb chutney, spicy tomato sauce, roasted red pepper spread, runny orange marmalade all have in common besides their original recipes being in the Bernardin home preserving book? They're ideal components for a shipwreck BBQ sauce for ribs, chicken, pork, and tofu!

"Shipwreck" originally was a way of using up odds and ends in the fridge. The first iteration of the sauce was just that. I also had some chipolote ketchup and mesquite smoke on hand that I could throw in. I made up about half a cup of sauce which was great for ribs for two in the crock pot.

Then I thought about the odds and ends I had in my canning pantry that would be entering their second or third year on the shelf -- and I still had some remains of odds and ends in the fridge. And my husband said he wanted that sauce again on the next batch of ribs and he thought it would go great on chicken. So I put together 6 cups of sauce and canned it in 3 half-pints and 6 quarter-pints. The half-pints are ideal for the occasional 2-person crock pot meal in the winter. The half-pints are for company meals.

1 pint of spicy tomato sauce
1 pint of apple-rhubarb chutney (or another chutney)
1/2 pint of roasted red pepper spread
2 tablespoons cranberry mustard (or other mustard)
1/3 c orange marmalade

Combine the above in a deep bowl and blend with an immersion blender. You can also just do the chutney, marmalade, and mustard in a regular blender and combine with the two sauces in a bowl. Now taste. Need more spice? Add something like chipolote ketchup (which will add a small touch of sour). Need more sour? Add malt or apple cider vinegar. Like it smoky? Add any smoke flavoring you have on hand (one drop at a time! -- then retaste).

When you're satisfied with your blend, you'll probably have about 6 cups of sauce. Prepare your jars while slowly bringing the sauce to simmering boil. Fill jars, seal, and process for 10 minutes.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Last May Friday Forage

We've had more than two inches of rain over the last two days, with about an inch of it last night, so there were a lot of soggy newspapers set out for recycling.

With the uncertainty of the weather, I went out Thursday evening during a lull in the rain. I came back with a stack of plastic pots. I'll have enough now to give away rhubarb divisions in the fall or next spring (my original plant needs dividing again). I also found a closet pole and some galvanized round duct down the street.

Just drizzle is forecast for today and it was mild at seven this morning. I set out our recycling (a lot of soil and compost bags -- I think I'll be eliminating that over the next year; the stuff isn't the same quality as what I can get at the Ecology Garden bringing my own containers), then I set off with my grocery trolley.

I ended up doing a figure-eight route, dropping off one load at the house in the middle of it. I got: 2 10-liter water containers (excellent for emergency storage), 5 one-gallon or more kitty litter containers which will make excellent drip waterers for single plants or small areas around the garden, a rectangular planter with enclosing fiber box, a salad container which will make an excellent seedling greenhouse and a Mexican glass pitcher. The last item I was guided to by another forager out looking for wine bottles to turn in for deposit money. It had a crack across the bottom of it but it doesn't leak. It will make a fantastic planter for flowers (forget-me-nots will go well with its blue) on one of the decks, though I may use it for beverages first.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cleanliness is Next to...

Now that I've got my garden hose permanently on to a shut-off sprayer, I can clean my hands whenever I want. But it does use a lot of water and will often wet my jeans and feet as well as my hands. And the sprayer is close to the garden, but outside its fence and it's not close to the greenhouse at all.

So last week when I spotted a discarded laundry tub on the boulevard down the street, I had an "Aha!" moment and brought it home. I already had a spare pail with no lid kicking around as well as one of those large detergent containers with a push-button spout.

I shifted the potting table over to the edge of the cold frame behind it and had enough space to fit the laundry tub between it and the sage. The bucket has a good hand and fit nicely under the tub's outlet. I had previously rinsed out the spouted container so I filled it with water and put it on the potting table's edge so it hung over the sink. You just need a little water to rinse off the compost before grabbing the hoe again or whatever. I had a sprayer bottle as well that I could put in there for getting garden gunk off of tools or rough-clean vegetables. The used water can be cycled through the garden. The finishing touch was a sturdy stainless steel soap holder that I picked up at a yard sale the following Saturday for biodegradable soap when I've not resisted the urge to mess about the soil with my bare hands.

Now I did have a old bathroom sink hanging out by the sprayer hose. It'd come from the far back of the yard when I put in the shade garden. I decided to see if I could set it up by the greenhouse. The trick was elevating to the old machine part that was holding. I had a quartet of of 4x4 chunks and a couple of bricks that provided a stable base for it on either side of a square bucket. I nailed a horizontal support for the sink edge to the kayak shed which is opposite the greenhouse. The second detergent container still wasn't very stable, so I ran some covered wire through a piece of discarded hose to make a tether that held the back end of the container to the shed wall. The covered wire is easy to detach when I need to refill the container.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Thoughts on "In Defense of Food"

This book by Michael Pollan follows up on his previous "The Omnivore's Dilemma". Basically he says that any of the world's myriad diets suffices for human health -- except the Western diet, with its emphasis on refined foods and not much diversity from wheat, corn and soy.

I like his rules for being sure you're getting real food in a store:
  • never buy anything with more than 5 ingredients in it (more than that and likely the manufacturer (not the farmer!) is replacing some of what they've refined out of it)
  • shop the outside perimeter of the store -- most of the manufactured stuff is in the center aisles of the store
  • never buy anything that makes a health claim (does the humble carrot make a health claim? -- not!)
  • get out of the supermarket whenever possible -- shop the farmers' market or your garden
  • don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food
  • avoid foods whose ingredients are unfamiliar or unpronouncable
  • avoid foods that include high-glucose corn syrup
I've been doing more and more of the above over the past ten years. I might have ten items on my pantry shelves that violate the ingredient rules.

I found out long ago that rearranging the food pyramid -- aim for ten servings of veggie/fruits a day, keep grains to five servings or less -- was the only way I could manage my weight and gain a feeling of well-being.

Variety is not only the spice of life, but it's the very stuff!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

To Screw or Not To Screw

They cost over $5 a pound and you need either a good arm and lots of patience or a strong powered screwdriver to put them in, but my hubby and I use wood screws in most of our wood construction, especially any framing.

When we close in pipes behind the shower, we make sure we can access them again. That means planning a structural piece that looks good in the finished room and securing it with screws. Because after you do the fix, you can screw it back in again, and don't have to worry about wrecking the look (or structural integrity) by yanking out nails to get in there again.

I've yanked out my share of nails when repurposing wood. It can be hard -- and dangerous -- work. That you can knock lots of nailed together things apart with a few strong whacks of a heavy hammer doesn't reassure you about the structural strength of things put together with nails.

Well, yesterday we decided to dismantle one of the two horsehoe pits we don't use. Out came the 18V cordless screwdriver and out came the screws. Only two were bent; the rest went into the screw box for that size. An hour later we had 4 6 foot 2x 6s, 4 corner posts, a 2 foot length of rebar, half a cubic yard of sand on and under the tarp cover by the garden fence and the area reseeded to clover.

Yeah, we'll just keep screwing around.

Market Day and the Great Gilmore Garage Sale

Every Saturday (all year long!) is farmers' market day here. From mid-October to May they hold it inside a big building. During the nice months it takes up most of the parking lot just outside the building.

Some of the lovely things you can buy there:
  • veggies, veggies, and more veggies (a lot of them organic)
  • brown eggs, white eggs
  • emu meat and oil
  • buffalo meat
  • organic beef
  • pork
  • cheese (cow and goat)
  • locally roasted and ground coffee
  • locally made goats' milk soap
  • baked goods and ethnic foods
  • crafts: pottery, wood, jewelry, knitting
  • sprouts
  • lamb
  • fruits
  • mushrooms (sometimes up to 5 different kinds)
  • sweet potato fries (from local sweet potatoes -- yes, you can grow them in southern Ontario)
  • apples, apples. and more apples (and cider from them in the fall and winter)
  • and right now plants of all sorts are everywhere
They also have a much smaller scale market in the downtown on Wednesday mornings during the outdoor months.

A more recent tradition is the Great Gilmour St. Yard Sale on the fourth Saturday of May (so it usually falls on the weekend after the long weekend). Gilmour Street is in one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. For two city blocks and little bit, the majority of yards are selling their own things or things for some non-profit group. Parking or driving on the street is impossible while the sale is going on. You simply park one or two blocks away. I did so and went out on the street with my grocery trolley.

An hour and half and $3.75 (CDN) later I had:
  • a leather satchel big enough for legal size papers with lock and key
  • a good wire strainer
  • a meat thermometer (for the future solar cooker!)
  • 2 stainless steel magnetic clips to hold memos or drying plastic bags on the fridge
  • a long magnetic knife holder, which may be strong enough to hold tools in the shop
  • a good-sized piano hinge
  • a sturdy stainless steel soap holder, ideal for my garden hand-washing station
  • 3 pint canning jars (with rings and lids)
  • 15 half-pint canning jars (with rings and lids)
  • 4 quarter-pint canning jars (with rings and lids)
  • an aluminum pot big enough to hold most of the jars with lid. It's a good size for blanching and scalding things. It has a bail handle and grab handle on the back edge -- great for pouring out water.
I don't think I'll have to buy any more canning jars this year. Usually I get a few to take care of those that leave the house as gifts.

I was parked near the bulk food store I usually patronize, so I decided to take one of my jars in and get baking yeast. I could only get it in the usual plastic container or take the whole pound in the original packaging. I'm baking bread often enough now that I decided to stock up and got the full package.

I decided I might as well get the supplies I need for cherry melomel which I'll be making in the next month, so I went into the wine shop next to my parking spot to get wine yeast, pectic enzyme, and another fermentation lock.

Then it was off to a book discussion group with a brown bag lunch.

I stopped at another yard sale on my way home. I got two sturdy cart wheels for $2 and a couple of ornately cut hardboard screens for another $2 which I could put together with my piano hinge for a nice room divider. Serendipidy!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Forage

Friday is garbage/recyclables/green waste collection day in my neighborhood. This past weekend was the May holiday weekend in Canada and the traditional start of gardening, though there are a lot of folks like me who start earlier. Plastic plant pots are accepted as a recyclable here and I was hoping to intercept some for reuse, so I went for a walk around my block with my grocery tote cart. Jackpot! I came back with 24 small pots and 5 trays for holding them and the water that spills out the bottom when you water them. They went into the greenhouse. I also got a couple of 2 liter pop bottles to use as waterers or upside down planters. I also got some lengths of one foot wide 1/8" green plastic mesh. This is sturdy stuff that will be effective barriers to keep cats out of planters and squirrels off of beds.

The successful foraging revved me up to actually reuse some of the things I've accumulated for reuse. I set up a 2 gallon container with a push-button nozzle that formerly held detergent to hang over a reused laundry sink with a reused bucket under its outlet as a quick, easy, water-economical hand-washing station in the garden. Using the spray nozzle on the hose is wasteful overkill for hand-washing, though that nozzle will be great for rough cleaning root vegetable before taking them into the house. The bucket underneath means that the soil-laden (as in organic gardening residue) water can be reused to water the garden or shrubs.

The bucket under the laundry sink had been used for wood scraps in the shop, so I needed a replacement for that. Some 5 gallon containers that I filled with water after painting them black to use as a heat sink in the greenhouse had gone bust, so I cut the top off one to use it as a waste bin. I even reused the handle from the container's top by wiring it to the bin's side with a scrap wire tire lying on the shop floor.

I have a small tray of pegboard hooks of various types and sizes in the shop. Currently what pegboard I have is populated with these to my liking. I was looking, however, for a better way to hang some of our outdoor/garden decor. I have a clay angel face I would love to have on my garden shed door. The shed is made of double layerRubbermaid plastic. How to hang it? I got out my cordless drill and put a single hole in the outside plastic layer. In went a pegboard hook and now I have a wind-resistent way to hang my angel face. I found the hooks also fit into the holes in my T-bar pots that I use for fencing and trellis. A colorful Mexican sun now graces the corner of the fence. A hole big enough to hold a hook doesn't effect the soundness of aluminum siding, so the large enameled metal sun we got on our last trip to the Southwest is now hanging on the wall facing the deck.