Sunday, October 5, 2014

Hibernation projects

What's a person do when they're hibernating due to cold weather? Well, the camper was looking pretty messy after several weeks of working in the house and shop so it got a good cleaning. Then I proceeded to mess it up again. I'd been fermenting a small batch of sauerkraut for several weeks, and with the colder weather decided it was time to get it in jars.
 This was my first time using the German style pickling crock. In the past with three kids (6 when the ex's three came from CA for the summer) I always used either an eight or ten gallon Red Wing crock to make kraut, but with just me I could never use that much so I broke down and bought this small crock. I'm pretty happy with the way the kraut turned out. I'm NOT so happy about the tiny bit of counter space in this camper, but getting the kraut into jars worked just fine so I got brave and decided to tackle a more ambitious project.

The fellow who rents my pasture every year came by to check the cows several days ago and asked if I wanted any apples. I said "Sure!", and the next day he showed up with two 5-gallon pails full! I don't have a canner up here, but there are 483 canning jars in the shop, (I know this because I dragged them all out of the basement, washed and boxed them all and stashed them in the shop a few weeks ago) so I grabbed a couple boxes of them and found that pints would fit in my Fissler pressure cooker. I also have a crock pot with me, so between the crock pot and my large Magma pan I cooked apples all day and well into the night. The pressure cooker will only hold 4 or 5 jars, but the crock pot took quite a while to cook down the apples so it all worked out alright if slow. 

Since I don't have a sieve here either I peeled and cored the apples before cooking them down, and the first gallon of "scraps" went into a gallon jar with water to make apple cider vinegar. It will sit for a couple weeks, then be strained and the liquid will be left to do it's thing for a few more weeks until it is vinegar. Did I mention that I have no counter space?

I added a touch of honey and a bunch of cinnamon to most of the batches as the apples were quite tart, you can see the different colors of different batches in the finished product. I got 28 pints, plus 2 jars that didn't seal. The two that didn't seal were Weck canning jars, and I think I overfilled them as they belched a lot of applesauce out from under the lid and couldn't make a good seal. After the first load (which contained the ones that didn't seal) I switched to the jars with metal lids and they all turned out fine. I also put the pressure cooker lid on loosely and let the jars exhaust for 10 minutes before locking the lid down and letting it build up to pressure. Perhaps the Weck's would have been ok if I had done that with the first load. Have I mentioned that there's no counter space for doing all this?

A nice benefit of all this canning and cooking was the furnace didn't run all day and well into the evening hours. A downfall of all this canning and cooking is the humidity level in the camper went through the roof! There is NO range hood or exhaust fan above the stove, and there is also NO fan in the ceiling vents, either in the main area of the camper or the bathroom. So there is NO way to get rid of excess humidity without running the a/c.  Water was running down the windows and dripping off the door and window frames. I kept wiping it down every so often, but eventually had to admit defeat and turn on the a/c. Part of the water was from the cooking, and part from the condensation with 30 degree outside temps and toasty inside temps, and a cheap camper with hardly any insulation.

Other cold weather projects included making a new batch of cold-brewed coffee and a bottle of homemade coconut milk. Actually these are every-third-day projects, I like my iced coffee. Luckily these jars live in the refrigerator and not on the non-existent counter.

I also started a batch of kombucha, a fermented sweet tea. This is my first attempt at brewing it myself, but I'm tired of spending almost $4 a bottle for it, when I can find it. I'm not sure how well it will work when I'm more mobile because you're supposed to leave it undisturbed on the counter (what counter??  LOL) for a week but I guess I'll find out.

I was at a local store and they were closing out their remaining garden stuff, so I picked up 3 pots of rainbow chard. It was marked down to $1.50 a pot, way less than what you pay at the grocery store for a bunch of chard. There were 4 plants in each pot, and because I'm anti-plastic I spread them out and potted them all in a used stainless steel steam table pan. They're starting to put out new leaves now that they're getting over the shock of being transplanted. I've been picking and using the older leaves in different dishes, salads or smoothies, and I'm hoping they keep producing for quite a while. I want to pick up another pan or two and maybe plant one with spinach and one with a lettuce mix. The pans are easy to move outside or bring indoors, and I used a lot of organic vermiculite with some good compost so they're not too heavy. And the bright colors make me smile. They didn't seem to mind the high humidity, and they don't take up any counter space, just a hunk of the table. LOL


  1. If this is what you do when you hibernate, I hate to see all that you undertake when you don't!

    Congratulations on all that you accomplished.

  2. For not having any counter space you sure have done a lot with what you have. Where do you get all the energy??? I noticed the chard right away - beautiful! I've never thought to try to grow it myself because I can get it in the local grocery's organic section, but usually buy it at the year-around farmers' mkt in my area.

  3. I don't know about having lots of energy, but when it's cold and very windy outside what can you do when you're stuck in a 20' camper? I have no TV, no radio, and have limited bandwidth here so no streaming anything on the computer. I've got a ton of books on my Kindle, but knowing I had all those apples I couldn't just sit and read for 2 days with fruit flies swarming around my head. LOL

  4. Then if you find time you need to........LOL.