The Old Bear's Den

my hiding place from the world...

Archive for the ‘ Cooking ’ Category

The best of intentions

no comment

I know only a few people will probably ever read these, but it was always my intention to use this like a diary and remember the things in my life that were important to me that I did not mind sharing with anyone in the world who stumbled upon them.

Once again life has gotten in the way of my best intentions.  Day to day I seem to forget to take the few moments that it would take to add something here.  I blame Facebook, I seem to wonder into FB then lose track of time and find I’ve spent 20 minutes just scrolling down through a myriad of friends and random weirdness, usually funny, but still it seems like lost time sometimes.  Of course work, life, family and whatever the crisis of the moment happens to be have all contributed to my lack of attention.

The last few months have been as hectic as is normal is around here.  The last month has been especially trying because first Mama Bear got sick, then about two weeks into it, as she was recovering I managed to catch whatever this bug is.  It seems to be almost opportunistic, capable of determining what part of your immune system is weakest and attacking there.  I ended up with a sinus infection following what appeared to be a cold and cough, then throw in what might have been conjunctivitis on top of the sinus’ infection.

In the middle of all that I also changed employers again, same job, same environment and servers and software that I have been working on for over 11 years now, but this is the 5th employer.

I did try to shoot the Perseid meteor shower and managed to capture a couple.

Persied Meteor Aug. 13, 2018

Perseid Meteor Aug. 13, 2018

And I have managed a couple canning sessions; a few pickles but more salsa.  The neighbors have contributed to that end.  This summer a branch from one of the trees in our back yard came down and took down one of the next door neighbor’s fence panels.  My buddy from across the street (the source of peppers and other yummy garden delights) and I rebuilt the fence panel.  Then the next door neighbor brought over a bag of tomatoes.  The friend from across the street had given me a bunch of sweet-heat peppers and requested a batch of salsa using them instead of my normal Hatch recipe.  So I decided to use both neighbors fresh veggies, and got some more tomatoes from the corner farm stand and made a batch of sweet-heat salsa.  That was an excellent decision, this salsa has enough warmth to let you know it’s salsa, but has a great sweet-heat pepper taste.  The only downside was the batch only made 5 jars, with 2 going across the street and 1 going next door, that only left 2 for us.  I am committed to making at least one more batch of that this year.

Salsa Prep

Salsa Prep

We also took our grandson to see Thomas the Train at one of the local historic railroads.  We were able to ride the train watch it come in and out of the station several times.

Thomas the Train

Thomas the Train

I am ashamed to say I have not worked on the truck in months.  Hurting my shoulder/arm, then life being non-stop, then getting sick, well there just hasn’t been time to get out to the garage for much of anything.

The piano desk on the other hand is almost done, I’ll be putting up a post about that soon.

The salsa that wasn’t…

no comment

So the great salsa experiment turned out to be a successful failure…

In my desire for a slightly different texture than Mama Bear’s traditional salsa, I ended up with a very nice Mexican spiced tomato sauce.  And after some tweaking of the flavor, it turned out to be a great sauce for cooking in and who knows what else.

We used it last night for carnitas, and it was fantastic, so I know it will be great for things like that.  I also think it will be a good compliment to Mama Bear’s Chorizo spaghetti… šŸ™‚

We ended up with about 5 and a half quarts.

Salsa... Not!

Salsa… Not!

Learning curves, and salsa…

no comment

We had a camera shuffle here in the last week.  Mama Bear got a new camera, in line with what she really wanted, a Canon 5D Mark III.  It is very nice, and she is already spending time deep in study to understand it and what she can do with it.

But, that also meant that both Baby Bear and I could “upgrade” by passing things around.  Baby Bear got my camera, which was the newest camera, a Canon T6i, for her birthday.  And I got Mama Bears old daily shooter, a Canon 6D.  Both of us are just as happy as Mama Bear is with her new camera I think, and in addition I get to use Baby Bears old camera, a Canon T3i for my budding astrophotography habit.

Yesterday the daytime weather forecasts had been calling for the clouds in our area to blow off by mid-evening, so I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to pull out the telescope, tripods and both cameras and get some nighttime photography in as a learning experience with the new camera.  Unfortunately the cloud cover wasn’t cooperating, so we decided to call it a night, thinking tomorrow night might give us a better chance.

As I was shutting up the house for the night, I stopped in the kitchen to look out the window and saw that the moon was playing peek-a-boo with some passing breaks in the clouds.  I went back out and grabbed the 6D and a couple lenses, a 70-200mm with a 2X extender and the 100mm prime and ran back to the kitchen.

So began the learning curve…

In playing around with the camera earlier this week, I figured out that Mama Bear had been using Auto ISO, which adjusts the ISO automatically when you are making other adjustments while shooting.  This is a great for shooting events, where the light conditions can change frequently with the background or location.  But when you are shooting something like the moon you need to have more control because the light sensing is attuned to overall exposure, and in this case the moon is the brightest (and normally the only) object in the frame and tends to throw things off.  In short, the moon gets “blown out” (over exposed) because the camera is trying to let you see everything in the frame.  And I forgot it was set to auto… DUH

The first shot

The first shot

Unfortunately, I didn’t even notice it the whole time I was shooting.  I was in a slightly uncomfortable position, because I decided not to go get changed out of the stretchy gym shorts into real clothing, so I was crouching in the kitchen, shooting upwards at an angle from counter height to get beneath the roof overhang… LOL  Another lesson learned there, take the 3 minutes to go put on clothes and it would have been much more comfortable shooting from a tripod out front…

I took several shots at a wider angle with the 100mm getting a lot of lighting in the cloud, which was nice, even though I knew the moon was getting over exposed.  Mama Bear made the observation this morning while I was doing some review and post processing, that this could be the cover of a science fiction story, something with a black hole or white dwarf in a nebula on the cover.

Clouds

Clouds

Then I switched to the long lens and tried to get some more detailed shots.  Even though I was still struggling with the auto ISO and didn’t realize it, I did manage to get a couple shots that were not just totally white blobs, and still showed off some passing clouds.

The moon

The moon

So, the learning curve has begun, for all of us.  That is a good thing around here, we are all always learning new things, techniques, thinking of things to try, trying to understand why things behave the way they do, photography is just one example of that.

The other goal for the weekend is going to be more canning.

Mama Bear is on her way to the local fruit and veggie stand right now to bring home a bounty of salsa fixings.  Tomatoes and onions are in full swing, and we opened one of the jars I did a couple weeks ago last night to determine the tweaks that need to be done to make it better.  I thoroughly enjoyed the testing, but we did come up with a couple things to change, just to make exactly what we are looking for.

I’ll try to convince Mama Bear to play with her new camera today and grab some shots for me of the making and canning.  I’d like to do a full case today, well I’d love to do a couple cases, but I will settle for a dozen jars put up today.

I opened one of the jars of my 50-50 Bread and Butter sandwich slice pickles other day… they were good, really good.  But I’m thinking that pint jars of those are not nearly big enough.  I’m going to finish off a pint jar every 3-4 days, and I don’t have that many jars of them.  So I think I may make up some quart jars.

After doing a bunch of reading on home canning tomato sauce, and how to do it right, how we want to do it, you have to pressure can it.  And we aren’t set up for that this year, we are just learning water bath canning.  So that will be a project for next year maybe.

Which means I have a case of quart jars that just is begging to be filled with something else, and I’m thinking Bread and Butter sandwich slices is sounding awfully good…

But for today, SALSA

Salsa!

Salsa!

Canning, canning, and more canning…

no comment

We started off the weekend with a bag of tomatoes, a bag of corn still in the husk and a pile of cucumbers, and some ideas of things to try.

I decided to start off making a spicy corn salsa, then canning the result.  It wasn’t bad, a little on the sweeter side.

Spicy Sweet Corn Salsa

Spicy Sweet Corn Salsa

Then I made a corn and pickle relish.

Corn and pickle relish

Corn and pickle relish

It was an interesting result, but I definitely think that in the future this needs to be a mustard relish.  Guess what I have coming in the mail… a pound of ground mustard for the next round because I love mustard and relish on hot dogs…

Lunch... Corn and pickle relish on hot dogs

Lunch… Corn and pickle relish with mustard on hot dogs and some home made coleslaw

Saturday evening Mama Bear made it known that she thought I was making some of “her” salsa recipe, which I had not because I got so carried away with the corn salsa and relish.  So I sent Baby Bear by the farm stand down the road for more tomatoes and a couple nice big Vidalia onions, then set about Sunday morning turning her normal recipe into one that was large enough to be able to can some as a test…

Making Mama Bear's Salsa

Making Mama Bear’s Salsa

 

Annemarie's Salsa!!!

Mama Bear’s Salsa!!!

And I still had some cucumbers left still, so I decided to do some jars of Bread and Butter sandwich style pickles.  You know, the long cut pickles that fit so nicely on a sandwich or bun?

Bread and Butter slices

Bread and Butter slices

I decided to make these 50-50, sugar and stevia to try to cut down on sugar content, but keep that sweet pickle taste and feel.

Bread and Butter sandwich slices

Bread and Butter sandwich slices

 

By the end of Sunday, I was a little tired, but we had almost 2 cases of relish’s and salsa’s, and I was out of pint jars so I decided I needed to put in an order to Wally World for a couple more cases.

We did talk about how we want to can tomato/spaghetti sauce also, assuming I find a recipe that is safe and I like.  That is what the quart jars I bought are planned for.  So in the not too distant future we are going to have a spaghetti sauce weekend… šŸ™‚

And I have a case of small jars because our normal yearly order of Hatch Chilies should be getting close to getting picked and delivered, and I plan on canning some of them.  I have some cool ideas on making my own adobo sauce to can and preserve a good bunch of our chilies.

Last year I had ordered a 25 pound box and we still have a few packages left in the freezer.  This year I pre-ordered ten pounds, but I’m still thinking another ten pound order might be called for.  Last year we roasted, well I roasted the first couple pounds but then had to leave, so I taught Baby Bear the night before my trip how to roast them on the grill.  Mama Bear and Baby Bear finished off the roasting and freezing of probably twenty pounds that was left after I had to leave town.  I promised not to leave town again this year when it comes time to process the chilies.

Canning food

no comment

I’m learning a new trick, canning, not to be confused with pressure canning.

Pickles

Pickles

Canning allows you to store shelf stable foods with fairly high acidic content for long term, up to a year.  Pressure canning requires much higher temperature and pressures to allow you to store less acidic foods in shelf stable form.  I would like to get into pressure canning some day I think, but for now I’m good with this.

Every summer we get tons of fresh garden output from our friends.  We don’t grow things well, Mama Bear has some sort of high acidity in her skin, so somehow she kills everything green she touches…  And me, well I can raise weeds in the yard, but I can barely keep the grass green sometimes it seems.  LOL

We freeze most of what we can’t eat, although sometimes we seem to end up running out of things to do with them, or hoping nothing gets freezer burned before it can get used.  In spite of vacuum packing, you can still end up with freezer burn and throwing away something like that just hurts the soul.

But we try to do other things for the neighbors since we can’t grow things, such as helping with computer problems and giving them some of the sausage or bacon, or when Mama Bear makes Salsa (out of the fresh garden veggies).  It is what neighbors have done for hundreds if not thousands of years and we believe in being good neighbors.

This last weekend I took my first shot at canning.  My buddy across the street brought us a couple pounds of cucumbers last week.  Now Mama Bear loves cucumbers, on sandwiches, in salads, but I can’t stand them.  However, I absolutely love pickles, Dill pickles, Bread and Butter pickles, sweet Gherkins, you name a pickle and I probably like them.

I’ve been making refrigerator pickles for a year or two now.  Refrigerator pickles are safe to keep in the fridge for a month or two, but they cannot be stored long term safely, and anyone who knows me, knows I am a stickler when it comes to food safety.  So we, well I, decided that this year when the onslaught of veggies coming out of the garden and the local farmers market, we needed another way to store all the goodness that would be coming.  Then we wouldn’t be buying cucumbers in December for me to make refrigerator pickles out of, we will still have them fresh in the jar from this summer, so to speak.

So we bought some jars and I did a LOT of reading and research.  Sunday I made 3 jars of Dill pickles and 3 jars of Bread and Butter pickles.  I had one jar break, which sucked, but in the end all the jars sealed, and they look like pickles…  the downside is we need to wait like 6 weeks for the Dill’s to be ready to eat… šŸ™

Cucumber transformation

Cucumber transformation

Becomes…

Dill pickles

Dill pickles

I did my first canning in one of our largest stock/soup pot, but I had to make a rack in the bottom to keep the jars off the bottom and it wasn’t pretty.  I lost one of the jars due to breaking in the pot and I’m not sure if it maybe slid in the pot and cracked when it got hot, or I just did something wrong.  So further research lead to me becoming a “prepper”, just like you see on TV… LOL

Laying in the supplies

Laying in the supplies

But, the best part of all of this is the fun I am having, well and the pickles and other things we will enjoy this fall and winter…  And there are so many things we can can, not just pickles, but salsas, our own tomato sauce, there are so many things we can do we are only just scratching the surface.

 

Missing Fourth pictures…

no comment

We had a good fourth weekend.  We had most of the family over and I smoked some pork and chicken.  Unfortunately, the photographer (Mama Bear) let us down, she was too busy conversing and eating to remember to take pictures…

But on the fourth I did take my new telescope out to play for a little bit.  Bear with me, I’m still learning and I think this is going to have a bit of a curve translating what you see to what you photograph.

Backlit Leaves

Backlit Leaves

I did capture a couple shots of the moon, but the focus is much different between using a normal camera lense and the telescope, so the result isn’t quite as sharp as I had hoped.  It will take some time to get things figured out, but I am happy so far.

The moon on the fourth of July

The moon on the fourth of July

But, I did make a bunch of sausage the next day, and I did remember to get some pictures of that.  Mama Bear walked by at one point and grabbed my camera and snapped a shot of me while I was grinding.

Working hard

Working hard

I tend to be a little bit of a purist (sometimes referred to as anal)…  I believe toasting my own spices and grinding whole spices gives you the best flavor.  Here is my Fennel and Anise seeds during the toasting process for the Italian sausage.

Toasting spice

Toasting spice

I was the mad scientist mixing my recipes…

The mad scientist at work

The mad scientist at work

Which resulted in over 30 pounds of Italian, Breakfast and Chorizo…

Sausage, Sausage, Sausage everywhere

Sausage, Sausage, Sausage everywhere

The rest of that weekend and this past weekend was spent moving my woodworking shop/tools to the front of the garage to make room to pull the engine block from my Dad’s truck.  We are making progress on it also, I have the engine block almost disconnected and the drums off the the front brakes, so still going.  You can see more about the truck and it’s progress here:
https://www.halfpap.us/butchs_truck/

 

When Mama goes out of town, the [Food] porn comes out…

no comment

When Mama Bear goes out of town, I sometimes come up with things to keep myself occupied, sometimes I end up in trouble, but not always…

The day before she left, she brought home about 30 pounds of pork butt, I have been out of bacon for a while and I guess she was tired of hearing me whine about it… LOL  So tomorrow after I get off work I am making bacon and sausage. šŸ™‚

But when she left I had ordered a new toy…

My new toy

My new toy

So tonight Baby Bear and I had pancakes and blueberry sausages.  The sausages were from Mama Bears stash, the pancakes were homemade from scratch buttermilk pancakes… mmm  mmm

Pancakes and sausages

Pancakes and sausages

I’ve been busy

no comment

With Mama Bear out of town I had some hope of finding some time to just do some fun relaxing things, unfortunately that has not been the case.

I had planned on doing a system upgrade at work this weekend, turns out I am doing two upgrades.  Which means working both Saturday and Sunday, and some long days prepping for the upgrades.  The good news is I feel fairly well prepared, so with a little luck, knock on wood, things will go smoothly.  It will be a good thing, we have been falling behind the upgrade stream because of time and hardware limitations, this doesn’t catch us up, but it gets us back in the mainstream.

But, besides the extra time at work, I’ve been trying to catch up around the house.  So many things to do, so little time, not to mention trying to catch up on sleep.  If anyone ever tries to tell you that by taking someone to the airport at 5 something in the morning, when the airport is almost an hour and a half away, is worth it to save a few dollars, don’t believe them…  We left at around 3:45 and even with good traffic I wasn’t home until around 7AM, it wasn’t worth going back to bed… LOL it was a very long day, but we did save some money on tickets.  The downside was losing the rest of the day to work and sleeping.

The sky is still grey, no moon in sight, of course it is a new moon right now so it might not have been much to see anyway, but no more pictures for the moment.

And I know it isn’t Thursday (I have been educated on Throwback Thursday, I just don’t believe in limiting myself), I felt like digging something out of the way back machine…  So here is some smoked macaroni and cheese with smoked chopped pork mixed in, drizzled with a little homemade Maple Bourbon BBQ sauce, from a couple summers ago, it was a beautiful thing…

Smoked Pork Mac-n-Cheese

Smoked Pork Mac-n-Cheese

Several days ramblings

no comment

The sun and the moon have been hiding for days now, mostly behind a solid grey sky.  Yesterday and this morning we had some patches of blue and I had some hope maybe things were breaking, but no, the clouds rose back up and the night was just another wall of grey.

On another note, I took a break the last couple afternoons and instead of lunch I spent it in the garage cutting what I think were 4×6 Oak beams into pieces that would fit into the oven and I’ve had the oven going all day for several days, acting as a sort of kiln.

Home made kiln

Home made kiln

So, I did a bunch of reading to figure out how long and what temperature I would need to heat the wood to, and now I have stacks of what looks like some really nice wood ready to be put to good use, here is one day’s load…

Finished wood

Finished wood

Tonight, I made pickles, lots of pickles…

Pickle prep

Pickle prep

Mama Bear picked me up a couple of quart and a half jars at Ikea for my pickles.  I was discussing ( OK, complaining, or even whining might be closer to the truth) about having to use lots of different size jars.  We had one quart canning jar that I was reusing, with a couple pint size jars and a couple jelly jars, one of which I gave away full of pickles from the last batch… LOL

Pickles

Pickles

Happy Thanksgiving

no comment

Because nothing says Happy Thanksgiving like getting up at zero dark thirty to throw something in the smoker, I do this and more, for Mama Bear’s happiness… šŸ˜€

Thanksgiving is Mama Bear’s favorite holiday, ironically.  I say ironically because Mama Bear is not an American…  Down the British, up the rebels and all that…  LOL

But for her her it is the holiday where she can gather her family all around her, at least those who can be here.  The kids and their significant others have always been told they can spend Christmas with whoevers families they want, but they have to be home for Thanksgiving.

And so on this brisk and chilly morning I toil and sweat to get the monstrosity my brother by another mother acquired (almost 24 pounds if you can believe it) into the smoker and prep the little (21 pounder) one for baking and stuffing. Pictures will follow, but I only have so many hands and wasn’t taking pictures as I stumbled through the house to the deck trying to get it onto the smoker on time… LOL