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Subtraction, Sauce, Strawberries and Spiciness

 Busy day yesterday. The Lone Remaining Homeschooler (all remaining children having gone or been sent to school or college) spent a lot of quality time with Khan Academy, wrestling with multiple-digit borrowing. She giggles iher way through the explanatory videos, and then works out the problems, squealing when she gets them right. It's a very cheery way to do math, and I do a lot of over-shoulder looking and helping, too. A nice balance.

While she was busy, I gathered everything I needed to do some canning. A recipe for fermented hot sauce sounded appealing, or at least appealing to make, if not to consume. I had a fancy pickling jar cookie jar from Target ready and available, plus lots of too-hot-for-me peppers. And, weeks late, I managed to harvest from the abundant apple tree down the street. Two shopping bags were all I could reach standing on the ground, and I fear I missed the peak of the harvest, judging by the amount of apples on the ground. Alas. Anyhow, I was set up for a fun morning of putting things in jars.

To make the sauce, first the immersion blender to chop things up. The thought of my plastic food processor being coated with high-octane pepper juice sort of distressed me, but this was a difficult substitution. It got easier when I pre-chopped the peppers. (Duh.)

A towel was supposed to prevent flying bits and clouds of gas. It worked, sort of. I still ended up coughing a lot.

Pretty soon it became obvious that there was not enough of the good red peppers to make a generous sauce. Sacrificing aesthetics, I grabbed every hot or semi-hot pepper I could find, and chopped them into the slurry.

Less attractive, huh? My trusty silicone spatula scraped everything down into a flattish disc.

Because there is no plate in the house which fits snugly in the crock/jar, I used a bag of brine to weigh down the mush.

That done and set aside, I turned my attention to the apples. I think these are some sort of Golden Delicious, and they are, in fact, delicious. I managed to get nearly all perfect ones and washed off the dust. Since this tree is completely neglected, I feel confident that they harbor no pesticides, and only a few pesty things besides dirt.

I didn't peel or cor them, just cut out bad spots like this and quartered them until my pot was full.

It took them over an hour to cook down at low heat -- and I did keep adding some water as scorching kept threatening. Stir, stir, cook, cook, over and over.

That was fun, and at the end I used the Foley Food Mill Denise had gifted me with to make the peels and seeds and any non-nice bits go away and leave me with lovely apple sauce. I asked the kids to taste it and they said it was fine, just the right amount of sugar. Funny, that, it was just apples! Win for me! I did add a touch of lemon juice and then canned it up. The one potful gave me four pints and a quart. Which I did not photograph. You've all seen canned goods.

By that time, Denise and Oona were here! Hooray! However, my house is no longer toddler-proof, and after 30 minutes of her opening the freezer and saying, "Ice? Ice?" I decided that the adorable 20 month old's talents could be better focused outside. Things to pick! Tomatoes, which will lead to another round of Things In Jars tonight.

Helpful toddlers are the very best kind.

One run through the pepper patch and the tomatoes were disappearing under Pizza my Heart in front, and Padron in back.

I complained about the hot bird-type pepper and Denise sagely said, "Tear it out, if you don't like it." Well. Hadn't thought too much of that one, so out it went. It was a big plant, shading the peppers around it and falling on one other plant. That poor wire cage was no match for it.

Between all three of us, though, we picked the plant clean. I'm going to try to give some away to the homeschoolers today, and drop the rest off at the food bank. Surely someone likes really hot peppers?

As a reward for all her hard work, Oona got a basket of just-picked strawberries.

Probably the best way to hook future labor inculcate a love of gardening, right?

Probably the best end to a productive afternoon I could have thought of.


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