22 March 2020

Strange times

Well, I haven't been doing a very good job of keeping this blog up to date, have I? My impression is that the coronavirus crisis is creating a new generation of bloggers as people are more and more confined to their own homes and finding that blogging is a good way of connecting with friends and family. I should probably do the same.

Closure noticeThings are moving fast: right now we have 1,329 reported cases of COVID-19 in Canada, with 377 in Ontario and 19 deaths. The public library I work inside was still open on 16 March, but closed to the public that evening. I closed the archives on the morning of the 16th, but have been continuing to go to work, as I can still be doing things like answering enquiries and digitizing archival materials while the building is closed.

 Not that people are really asking questions about archives at the moment, but that might change as this situation becomes the new normal. I'm fortunate in that I don't use public transit to get to work and I don't really interact with anyone while I'm there. I will probably start talking to myself, soon, though...
Book being digitized

Restaurants and bars were shut down last week, and my impression is that people here are being fairly diligent about maintaining distances from each other and not doing too much in the way of panic-buying.

The nursing homes started restricting visiting hours and screening visitors on 2 March: they were taking people's temperatures and I could only go and see my mother-in-law on my way home from work instead of my usual routine of popping in twice a day. On 8 March that changed and all visitors were banned in order to protect the residents. My mother-in-law is not well enough to be aware of this change (šŸ˜¢), which is some comfort, I suppose, but it must be very hard for many families.

Meanwhile, I'm focusing on getting the garden going and appreciating the change of season. Yesterday I potted on all my eggplants and peppers. I have 58 plants in total, so we should be fairly self-sufficient in those this year, all going well!

Young epplant

Next weekend I will sow the tomatoes and in April I am expecting a delivery of fruit and nut trees and shrubs to regenerate the orchard. It's good to have something else to think about...

16 November 2019

Wild November

 November has been a fairly memorable month so far, in terms of weather. On the first of the month, gale force winds brought down several trees and left us without power for two days.

This red cedar (Eastern juniper) in our back yard was the most significant casualty. It also took down the power line from the house to the barn and greenhouse.

Mike has been busy with clippers, chipper, and chainsaw since. I still can't get over the amazing colour of the cedar wood, once it is cut up.

A closer look at the root ball of the tree shows just how shallow the soil is here: the roots have wrapped themselves around the limestone rocks below.

A killing frost in the first week put paid to all the tender crops in the greenhouse, so I spent last Sunday clearing them all out and putting the greenhouse to bed for the winter. I'm glad I did, because  this week we had significant snowfall on Monday, followed by record-breaking cold.

It might be an interesting winter!

25 October 2019

Tomato Last Hurrah

Tomatoes, bread, olives and peppers.

I'm still picking tomatoes from the greenhouse, but they are ripening very slowly now and I know it won't be long before a killing frost gets to them.

This week I have been making the most of them by making panzanella for my work lunches. I often make a Dutch oven loaf at the weekend (I follow Tara O'Brady's recipe for Seeded Boule from her book Seven Spoons but don't always bother with the seeds. So these days it's just Boule, really...). If I'm lucky, there will be some of the loaf left over for Monday. This week I was extra fortunate, with enough bread left for Tuesday, too.

Seeded boule.

Both days I made panzanella with a torn-up slice of the bread, a few tomatoes, and a few olives. Then I drizzled over some red wine vinegar and olive oil, mixed it all together and let it sit until lunchtime. It's such a simple dish, but tastes lovely and is a great way of appreciating these late-season harvests. On Tuesday I made the same thing, but this time added a few of the pickled peppers I made last week, just to give the meal a bit of a kick.

20 October 2019

Resurrection with Pickled Peppers

It's been a while since I've been here (over two years, wow), but I want to get back in the habit of writing regularly, and this seems like a sensible place to start. I thought I'd write up my recipe for pickled jalapeƱo peppers. It's an adaptation of a few different recipes I found online. And, unlike one of those, it does not begin with "Clean your kitchen" as the first instruction. šŸ˜’

I grow two kinds of hot peppers: a cayenne type and tam jalapeƱos. The cayennes are easy to deal with: I just put those straight into the freezer and take them out when I need them. They are thin-skinned and defrost quickly. I probably have enough for the next ten years...

The jalapeƱos are a bit more work: they can be frozen for a short period of time, but their thicker skins mean that they suffer from freezer burn if you keep them like that for too long. I like to slice and pickle them, but as I only grow four to six plants, it takes a while to harvest enough to make it worth pickling a batch.

My solution is to freeze the jalapeƱos as they ripen to red, and leave them frozen for a month or two until I have a sufficient quantity to pickle.

Today I harvested the remaining (mostly green) jalapeƱos from the greenhouse and let the frozen ones defrost before slicing them all up and discarding the stems.

I use my pressure canner to process the pepper slices. The recipe is pretty simple: for each pound of sliced peppers, you need 330ml of water and 110ml of white vinegar (roughly 1 cup and ⅓ cup) and half a teaspoon of salt. Bring the water, vinegar and salt to a boil to make a brine, then blanch the sliced peppers in the brine for two minutes. Pack the peppers into a two pint jar, then pour the brine over, seal with a lid, and pressure can the jar for ten minutes.

These are nice as a pizza topping, or to add a bit of heat to quesadillas or salads. Once opened, they will keep for several months in the fridge. In theory, anyway...

19 August 2017

Tomato processing

The tomatoes are starting to come in fast and I realise that I have never written up my current method for turning them into sauce for the winter. So this post is to remedy that situation. I've simplified the process as much as I can, but it does rely on a couple of pieces of equipment: a food mill and a pressure cooker.

First of all, the tomatoes are cut in half, placed on a baking sheet with a lip and roasted at 180°C/350°F for an hour to an hour and a half (less if they are small, but most of mine are big). You can add seasoning, garlic and herbs to the cut tomatoes, but I tend to leave them basically quite plain and add flavourings to the sauce when I use it later. This burns off a lot of the water in the tomatoes and you can do a lot at one time. At the height of the season I cook three baking sheets at once.

After they have been roasting for the hour, remove them from the oven. There will be a lot of water in the sheet.

 Use a slotted spoon to lift the tomatoes out of the sheet and into a food mill sitting over a large jug. Use the mill to process the tomatoes. The skin and seeds will be left in the mill, with all the pulp being pushed through into the jug.

If you're happy with the consistency of the sauce, you can proceed to the canning stage. If not, you can boil the  sauce down a bit in a saucepan until it's thick enough.

I've never found it necessary to add lemon juice to the sauce, but if you prefer to do so, add it now. Pour the sauce into sterilised glass jars and cover with lids and rings. Put jars into a pressure canner and process for 30 minutes.

04 September 2016

A severe summer

This was a screenshot from the Weather Network site last month:

It caught my attention, as 'severe' is not usually a word I'd associate with summer weather. But it has turned out to be an apt one for this season.

We are used to dealing with very dry summers, but this has been the worst one since we've been in Canada. At the height of the drought, on August 13th, I forced myself to take photographs of the vegetable garden. With barely enough water for the household, I had not been able to water the garden at all, and the plants were really suffering. In the whole of July we had 23mm of rain and the previous three months were also very dry (April 23mm, May 19mm, June 48mm).

The cabbage patch:

The squash plants:

The row of sunflowers next to the squash:

We got an inch of rain that day, followed by half an inch three days later and that was enough to start the plants growing again. It's still very dry, but the 48mm we received in August has made a huge difference to the garden.

This how the cabbage patch looks now:

And the sunflowers, with the squash behind them, are looking a bit healthier. Two of the squash plants died in the drought, but the others have recovered and I'm now picking patty pan squash. This week I will pick the first of the zucchini/courgettes. The only problem now is that the weeds are also enjoying the rain!

In less happy news, I have to report that my entire flock of chickens (33 birds) were killed by a mink during July and August. I don't know if the dry weather was a contributory factor, but I suspect it might have been. Over the course of three weeks I fought a losing battle with this night-time killer. Every time I thought I'd managed to mink-proof the coop, it found a way through (they only need an inch) and killed one or more chickens. One night it killed eight. On the morning of August 8th I found the last seven chickens dead on the floor.

After eight years of keeping chickens I think I'm going to stop, for a while at least. I am really going to miss them, and their eggs (my birds had produced 15,000 eggs in the time I had them), but right now one less responsibility is probably a good thing. But yes, this summer has been severe indeed.

03 July 2016

Last post [?]

Ten years ago today I published First Post, the very first entry on Cooking in Someone Else's Kitchen. As I explained in my most recent post, life has rather got in the way of my blogging of late, but this anniversary seems a good time to sit down and reflect about the way this emigration journey has gone.

Ten years ago our small family was about to make a leap into the unknown. We had no jobs to come to in Canada and we knew very little about the country. A lot has changed in those years, both here and in the United Kingdom. Mike and I both have permanent full-time jobs in our respective careers, and our kids have grown up into thoughtful young Canadians.

These last weeks I have been watching the news coming out of the UK with rapt interest, as the country dealt with the EU referendum vote and then its aftermath. One of the best things I've seen about the impact of the Brexit vote was by Michael Dougan, an EU law professor from the University of Liverpool, who presented an analysis of the Leave arguments before the vote and then again after the vote's results were known.

I did have a vote in the referendum, and I voted Remain. My motivation was primarily one  of keeping options open for my kids: having an EU passport gave them the opportunity of living and working anywhere in Europe if they wanted to. If the withdrawal from the EU goes ahead, they will only have the option of living and working in Canada and the countries of the UK (and that's assuming that the UK holds together as one nation). Which is still better than only being able to live and work in the UK, of course, but I feel bad for the British youngsters whose futures have been trammelled by those who believed the empty promises of the Leave campaign.

One of the consequences of the result of the vote has been an increase in British people investigating how to move to Canada. It will be interesting to see if this will cause a spike in applications. This is a country that welcomes immigrants, but doesn't actually make it all that easy to become one, so good luck if you are in the UK and thinking of applying!

And speaking of new immigrants, my mother-in-law (and her dog) will soon be joining us from the UK. She arrives at the end of the month and we are busy making space for her and her things (it's amazing how much junk we have accumulated after being in the same house for nine years!). We sponsored her back in 2010, so this moment has been a long time coming. I'm hoping she'll arrive before civil war breaks out in Britain. Just joking! (I think...)