Category Archives: Preserving

Independence Days Challenge 7/11

Independence Days Challenge

I honestly didn’t think anything would make me feel like blogging again but Sharon Astyk has accomplished that unlikely task by reviving the Independence Day Challenge.   I am probably almost fan-girl excited about this because this challenge really helped me pull my act together the first time around. So all you people who ask me how I manage to get so much done, you are about to learn.   First of all I am going to send you to her public Facebook post to read the format.

Then I want to talk to you a little bit about me.  My house is the hub house for distributing food for the Iowa City Mutual Aid Collective and I am  the coordinator of our local Herbalists Without Borders chapter.  I am  also a strong  supporter of the Black Lives Matters movement.  I run with the protests as a medic and coordinate a local medic group. I was there when the protestors were tear-gassed and I was pretty consistenly harassed by cops when they were marching regularly, so I am a pretty vocally and unapologetically leftist.

Plant or Harvest something:  Right now we are doing more harvesting than we are planting. We are mostly harvesting greens (lettuce, chard, beet greens, and colllard greens) although we’ve had a few zuchinni and cucumbers, now too. This week I transplanted some basil,  feverfew,  oregano, and thyme to a new sunny garden spot in our yard left there because we had an ash tree removed, but it was done more out of necessity than really thinking it was a good time for it.  It was beastly hot, so I left most of my herbs alone but the poppies are just at that point where I can harvest tops with some flowers and some seeds.

Preserve something:  We have a fairly good size garden ourselves and we also get garden donations for the mutual aid group. Some we use and distribute during the week and some we put away for winter because our goal is to build sustainable local systems.  This week we froze collards and kale and pickled radishes.  I started a couple of hydroethanolic extracts (tinctures) including wild lettuce and california poppy.

Waste not:  I spent some time this week re-organizing the freezers, but more of the week was spent planning what we could do to make some space out in the garage and making lists because my partner is taking the next two weeks off and we plan on getting some stuff done.

Want Not: Tonight was the night we picked up our monthly bulk food order.  I’ve been buying in bulk for decades now so I have a pretty good rotation going so that I am always about four months ahead of the game.  I got a really good deal on 25 lbs of organic #2 carrots.  It was also the month to stock up on cultures from the cheesemaking website– about every four months I order just enough to get the free shipping.

We have been super fortunate thus far that my partner has been able to work from home through all of this… so far.  I have held on to a couple of my paying writing gigs, but we definitely have less coming in than we did before because I can’t teach in-person classes right now.  Since that’s beginning to feel like I pretty long term reality, I finally broke down and bought a renewed computer and a webcam.  I have tried the online class thing before but my ten year-old computer was really holding me back.

Eating the food:  We eat really well because cooking dinner is the way my partner unwinds from work and people who are friends with me on Facebook probably see enough of those pictures.  I will share some of those recipes, but instead of taking the easy way out and talking about that a lot, I am going to talk about my struggles with executive function and feeding myself. 

I am an Autist and one my particular challenges is that I struggle with body awareness both in recognizing where my body is in space and with what is called interoception. You can read more about it here if you like, but the bottom line is that  I don’t really pick up on all the cues my body sends me to help me self-regulate. It is not unusual for me to have gone all day long getting food to other people without feeding myself.  So I am going to work on that.

Caregiving and enhancing community support systems and mutual aid:   I have kind of a easy out in that department.  I sent 120 sack lunches to our unhoused neighbors, 10 bags of prepared meals to households in need, (some due to illnesss and some due to financial need)  and this week we sent a meal to one of our amazing Community Helpers as a show of support for all their work.

Skill Up: I  have to take CEUs, so on the 2nd I finished a standard precautions training on safe injections/managing needle injuries. Between that, re-upping my Red Cross Severe Bleed cert and the WHO module I took on IPC for covid, I have pretty much all I need for the year which is pretty good because I usually put it off until October. I am working through a conflict management specialization from Coursera because communication is not my strongsuit and I hope it gives me some insight. I am also learning Adobe Captivate so I can put the medic trainings online.

Winter is Coming:  It was a rough week.  Yesterday was the first day that a lot of people around here were officially late with their rent after the legal protections ran out and you could hear it in the voices.   So I feel pretty petty saying that my major concern right now is trying to figure out a way to make it cooler in this house, but losing the tree has made our house like an oven. It really would make all the baking I need to do tolerable.  It’s the middle of the night and it still 88 degrees in my house.  I am also thinking ahead to when canning begins in earnest.

Grandma Guillan’s Chili Sauce Recipe

Steve’s grandmother’s maiden name is Ghilain,  a spelling that was probably mangled by US census takers because it changes as you go back generations.  Her grandfather was a John Guillan who lived near Dundee around 1827. We don’t know much more about the family except that John was a farmer/butcher known for his skill in curing pork.

Anyway,  I love the woman dearly, but since she’s not much of a cook.  (Seriously, she’s famous for spaghetti ala Grandma which entails adding hamburger and onions to FrancoAmerican spaghetti.) So I assume that this recipe is probably  great-grandmother’s.

I doubt it goes further back than that, because I don’t think it’s a particularly UK-ish type sauce.  Although  chili sauce and A1 sauce are similar to the brown sauce  they use in the UK as a condiment.  In Edinburgh, they thin it down with malt vinegar and serve it on fish and chips. Basically you use any of them way you would ketchup.

I don’t like ketchup, but I do like this because its tangier.  Steve really likes it on the black-eyed peas we make for New Year’s Eve.

I have tweaked it ever so slightly (I can’t help myself) because I use fresh ginger and cayenne, but other than that I’ve left it alone.

1 peck of tomatoes (around 13 lbs of tomatoes)
2 cups ground onions
1 cup bell peppers
2 cups brown sugar
3 cups apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup salt
2 teaspoons chopped ginger
1 teaspoon cayenne flakes (I use a bit of freshly chopped)
1 tsp allspice
3 teaspoons cinnamon chips
1 teaspoon  cloves

I begin this recipe by processing the peck of tomatoes the same way I would for plain tomato sauce, I cut off the stems and any bad spots.  I weigh mine after I do this, so I only used 12 pounds.

Then I put them in a stainless-steel pot with 2 cups of water and I heat them over medium heat until they are quite liquid.   Then I put them through our food mill.

I still don’t know about this contraption, I think I like my food mill better. I only get it out for large batches. If you use one of these things, run the pulp it spits out as waste through a few times to make sure you are getting everything.

Once I have the proto-sauce made,  I put it in my stainless-steel brew pot with a thick bottom.  Grandma’s recipe called for tying the herbs up in a bundle, so I grind them up just a bit and put them in a muslin hops bag and tie it to the handle like this.

One benefit of being married to a homebrewer is that I have dozens of these bags.

Thenm chop of the other vegetables and add them. You just simmer this until it has reduced to about half. I am not going to mislead you, this takes a long time.  Think of it as a tomato decoction, and while simmering them for this long does vitamin C content, it raises the amount of bio-available lycopene and other antioxidants, substantially.

Ladle the sauce into sterilized pint jars.  Process with hot water bath method for 10 minutes. This should boil down to about 7 pints of sauce.