Promise

I promised myself that I would add one of these stories here every time I told one. I tell them at one point or another throughout the summer. There will be no chronology - not yet anyway - nor will there be much of a schedule. You never know; I might add a story every day and I might not. This is my life. Every day is an adventure.

Anna

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Hanky-Panky in the Potato Patch

It turns out my potatoes may not be racist or separatists after all, but don't tell anyone. I wouldn't want someone to come out here and impound my potatoes for questioning, or DNA testing. Let me explain:

The last of the potatoes are washed and accounted for. The ratio in the gunny sack given to me by awesome neighbors seems to be about 2 parts red potatoes, 1 part purple potatoes (yes I said purple), with a fraction reserved for white potatoes. I have enough reds left over for another load tomorrow, and then I'll be mostly out of pint jars too. I'll still have some, but not even enough for a single layer in my canner (8), so I'll be bringing in the quart jars next. That's okay; between the purple and the white potatoes, I still have around 50 pounds of potatoes and there's no way they will keep long enough to use fresh. I'll have to whittle them down some more.

The reason I say hanky-panky is because of the appearance of the purple potatoes. They are very dark purple on the outside and in poor light may even look nearly black. Inside, unlike their red and white cousins, they are not white - they are in fact a very striking purple color. Rather pretty if you ask me. I saw my first purple potato some years ago, but there was only one and I don't rightly remember what I did with it. I'm sure we ate it, but I think I'd remember eating a purple potato. They served them once at the lodge a couple years ago and I was really startled, but then I tried some and they are really good - better if you ask me, than any other potato, being sweeter.

Back to hanky-panky: Yesterday, I was cutting up red potatoes, just chopping along, when I cut into one that was blood red inside. I do mean that; it was just as red inside as it was outside - rather startling. Now all along I've seen some with some degree of redness inside - a few lines, some darker than others. But what the heck, I had never grown red potatoes. In fact, I had never even tried red potatoes until rather recently, and since my husband likes them, that's the kind I buy, if I'm buying them. I didn't know but what some home-grown red potatoes had some red in them and it was something they culled out before they hit the market. I mean really, I wasn't thinking a thing of it until I saw that first really really really red potato, and then I thought, aside from the color, 'that's just like the purple potatoes'. I cut up two like that yesterday, and when I pulled the jars out of the canner, the water had turned all red too, like someone had added a couple drops of food color in there.

I cut up another load of potatoes today without seeing another one like that so I didn't think any more about it until I was washing up more potatoes to get ready for tomorrow's batch. I pulled this REALLY dark red potato out the muddy water. Sitting next to the red potatoes, it looked quite purple, and sitting next to the purple potatoes it looked very red (though dark), so which is it? Those I cut up yesterday didn't look any different on the outside than the other red ones. Was there some hanky-panky going on in the potato patch this summer? I would think so, but I suppose we can blame it on the bumble bees, hahaha.

I have no idea how the patch was planted, if the different potatoes were in separate plots at all or if they were just planted as they came to hand. I don't even know if the ratio I mention applied to the whole garden, or if that's just how it worked out in my bag. I'm most assuredly not complaining. A gift is to be enjoyed and relished, and if at all possible passed along.

Anyway, I won't be cutting up those potatoes until tomorrow, but I'm curious what I'll find.

Anyway - us country taters don't know nothin' 'bout political correctedness. We's just simple folk lookin' to git along.

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Update 9/26/13
Those really dark red potatoes - they are pretty much what I expected, but substantially darker than the blood red one I cut up the other day. More purple but not as dark as the purple ones. Definitely half-breeds. hahaha 

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Update 9/28/13
Yesterday was my first batch with quart jars. Because of the size of the jars, I decided to try whole potatoes, since I wasn't all that interested in packing the jars with as much as they would hold. Remember, there's only the two of us. One quart jar holds 3 potatoes. I picked those that would fit as well as possible; the top one had to be just a mite smaller than the other two. Also, boiled some up for supper so the amount was about right. After supper though, my husband requested that I peel the potatoes in the future. He can't see the peels and being toothless, he can't chew them either.

That first batch of whole potatoes: The skin was all cracked and curled so what the heck, today I peeled and cut my potatoes in half. This allowed for more versatility in the size of potatoes I chose while only making room for roughly another whole potato at the most. Not bad. I also discovered more hanky-panky. Some of those purple potatoes were pretty darn light colored underneath their dark purple skins. hahaha

I also discovered that despite their dark color, they didn't dye the water like the bright red ones did. We'll see when I get to the white potatoes, but I'm pretty sure the water is darker than that will be, but nowhere near as dark as I expected. Same with the potatoes themselves. They don't look white, but they don't look purple either. I wonder if they will be when I open them. We'll see.



Monday, September 23, 2013

Canning

I've had my pressure canner so long, I don't rightly remember where I got it. I think one of my neighbors may have given it to me when we first came out here. I do know, I certainly knew nothing about canning until then. She came over and taught me how. Since then I've canned up meats more than anything else - fish mostly, bear and moose too, some. When we moved here and my garden was in full swing, I'd can up things like carrots, turnips, and maybe beets. Yeah, I had potatoes too, but with two growing boys to feed, just storing them in a corner worked well enough, plus, those left over come spring went back into the garden as the next crop.

Since then, I've canned up salmon far more often than anything else. It's simple and I've taken to cutting the filets in chunks large enough to roll up and slide down into the jar rather than cutting them into one-inch cubes. It saves time and the end result is exactly the same. (and I'm lazy)

This year, what with us facing my having no job and no income to buy supplies with, we decided we'd be canning up as much fish as possible and then maybe shooting a moose and canning that up too.

Once was the time when I had this nice big freezer and such would just go there, but, a couple years ago my nice big freezer went belly up, and since it's just us two old fogies, getting another big freezer was beyond us. There wasn't any young guy muscle around to help get it out of the plane, into the boat, out of the boat, onto the 4-wheeler trailer, and finally up the half dozen steps and into the house. Course if we'd gotten a big one, it wouldn't have come into the house, but that's a small detail. Anyway, I had to rethink winter supplies. No more frozen vegetables. Not nearly as much frozen fish. And moose? probably not at all. One moose is too much meat for just us two anyway.

Come the end of July, I got a job at another lodge, and within a couple weeks they were talking about what to do with the leftover supplies. The biggest idea they were putting forward was give it to me, much to my delight. When it got down to the nitty-gritty, my boss, who sees everything in $$$ offered that the supplies would be instead of a bonus. Since I hadn't expected any kind of bonus, that was certainly fine with me.

Among other things, I ended up with lots of eggs, lots of bread, and lots of potatoes. The bread is outside in a cooler and we're going through it as fast as possible. We're hoping it freezes before they go bad. The eggs are in my little frig and I change out the ice frequently. We're trying to go through them ASAP too. Lots of fried egg sandwiches and such haha.

Before all was said and done, another lodge out there also gave us some leftovers, and then I had even more potatoes. Well, with a freezer that was now full, and knowing that there was no way we would go through all those potatoes. I decided to see about canning them up.

My recipe was to peal them, dice them up into 1/2 inch cubes and keep in salted water until there's enough cut up for a batch. There was also a cooking step involved before jarring and then pressure cooking for 35 minutes. Being admittedly lazy, I wanted to bypass most of that so I read further. My book also said that hot packing and cold packing was a matter of choice - what a relief. My next decision was whether to peal or not and if I really wanted to cut them into such small pieces. The answer was no, I didn't.

I told my husband that if he wanted them pealed, he'd need to help. He's not helping so they're not getting pealed. To satisfy the salt requirement in the recipe, which was only to keep them from turning brown, I decided 1/4 tsp of kosher salt per jar wouldn't be too much, besides, most of the time, the water would be discarded for final cooking, and if not, it would be diluted. A friend of mine said she used 1 tsp salt per jar, so I guess I haven't overdone it.

The day I planned to finally start, a neighbor stopped by while I was down at the river looking at the water level. Guess what he brought me. A BIG burlap sack FULL of potatoes. Ha!! Do I have enough jars? We'll see.

At this point, I'm about half way through that bag and I have 3 1/2 cases of pint jars left. So what will I run out of first, jars or potatoes? I figure if I run out of pint jars first, I can still use quart jars, I got lots of those too. I'm also thinking I might add spam to them and make them a ready-made meal. I'm not sure how the spam will hold up to more canning, but I'll make that decision when I get that far.

If you're curious about my recipe for bear and moose (it's the same for either one).

Caution: That's sweet black bear meat, NOT grizzly. Grizzly is a carrion eater and the saying goes, 'you are what you eat'. The grizzly is a prime example of that. Therefore, it is fit for little more than hide, claws and possibly teeth.

>>---> 1tsp each paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, & salt per quart jar of meat.

I put these in the bottom of the jar so the simmering can carry the flavor up through the meat. I have also packed my jars (to measure) then dumped each one into a bowl, added spices and given it a good tumble to coat, and then back into the jar. Either way works just fine.

Keep in mind that both moose and bear are very rich meats, and once canned, the best use in my opinion, is some sort of stew. Also, you don't need to use as much moose or bear in your recipe as you might use beef or pork. It can easily overpower your meal.

The favorite way I use my canned fish is to make fish burgers. To do that, I add 1 egg (to pint jar of fish) and a fistful of flour, then I shape them into patties. You can make two fat patties, or 3 not so fat patties, or 4 rather small patties. Up to you.



Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Strange Doings on my Trail Today

Ever since getting off work, I've kept up my walks to where we park the boats. When it started raining nonstop, it was twice a day to keep the boats bailed out and floating. When the water got high enough, we were able to float them out over where they'd be parked, but they still needed to be bailed until the water went down enough so I could pull the plugs and let nature take it's course. Course, by the time I could pull the plugs it had stopped raining, but it still might.

Regardless of needing to bail the boats, I kept up my walks mostly because I like to walk and it's a destination, about a quarter mile, I'm told, so that's a half mile walk a day - not bad. Besides, it gives me a chance to spy on the doings of some of the creatures who decide to cross my path. Since I've been done with work, I've been hollered at three different times by those little black and gray tweety birds. None of them were there the next trip and it was silent again. I miss their constant chatter. I hope they move back in greater numbers.

I also know there is a young bull moose hanging around. I've seen and heard him two different times. Poor little guy; he's going to have a hard time finding a girlfriend. The big boys don't play nice and they don't like to share, not that there are many around, none that are available anyway. I did see a cow and a baby calf, or rather my husband saw them. By the time I was looking in the right place, she was gone. I did get to follow her tracks down the trail once; that's why I know her calf was little. I must have only been minutes behind her, because I got the chance to see her try to swim the river, but she headed back; I'm thinking her calf wasn't willing to brave all that water. It was still high, plus she may have spotted me talking to a guy in a boat who was lost by about 15 miles - the high water had him confused.

Well that pretty much catches you up to today. This time of year, bull moose are going into run. They have this plaintive little bleat that sounds so sad. And that is not age dependent; they all do it this time of year - about the only sound they ever make. The cows' call is longer, more of a call, though they still sound like a baby calf (of the beef variety). Another thing bulls will do is shed the velvet on their antlers. This has got to itch every bit as much as a child teething. They will dive into some available brush and just thrash it. I've seen some of this along my trail this year too.

Today I found another bush thrashed and the tracks of a moose in something of a hurry. His tracks were pretty far apart and they displayed full dewclaws with each step. He wasn't running, but he was sure moving out.

My first clue that something might be kinda out of the ordinary was just down the trail and around the corner where it's still running some water across the trail from all the rain we had, I saw what could only be a wolf track. If it wasn't a wolf, it was a pretty big dog. I put my hand in more than one print (I found more down by the boats), and if you pretend I don't have any fingers after the mid-knuckle, that's how big his feet were. (To clarify: two finger sections off for each finger and one section off for the thumb) Anyway, Bigfoot to say the least. The first such I've seen for years, and by far the closest.

So, was moose chasing wolf? Maybe. Was wolf chasing moose? Also maybe. Did moose catch wolf scent and beat feet? Also a possibility. What actually happened? It is impossible to tell.

The oddest thing I saw today along my trail was a rub or drag spot. Only moose tracks were readily visible in this area, but it looked like something had hit the ground pretty hard and then was drug or pushed for maybe a couple feet. It also smelled pretty strongly of pee. Now if we were talking about dogs (labs I hear are the worst) I'd say they rolled in the pee, but we're talking about moose, and to the best of my knowledge, bulls don't roll in the cow's pee. They get kinda nutty, but not that. By the tracks in the vicinity, there was no battle that might result in one being knocked off his feet and shoved for a little bit before being able to get up again. Nor was there any sign that he'd tripped. There just wasn't anything to give me a clue what that mark was. Something big had hit the ground there and then was drug for a space. There were clear hair marks in the hard mud. So yep, strange doings on my trail in the wee hours of the morning. I pretty much know the time because the mud hadn't completely settled down in the tracks across the water that's running across our trail at the one spot.

Down at the landing, I found more wolf tracks; these heading downriver. I hope he doesn't get that calf, but such is the law of nature. Maybe that's why momma was so anxious to be elsewhere. Maybe that's why I haven't seen nor heard that young bull in a while. I thought it was the little black bear that was hanging around eating all the berries. I'm not kidding; he got 99% of them. Every time I saw him, he was munching away. He'd have been good eating, but I wasn't equipped to deal with him and being maybe three, he was really too small to bother with.

Such are the happenings in my neck of the woods.