Prickly Pears

This is the time of year that the Prickly Pear Cactus’ fruit is ripe and it’s time to make jelly.

I have other posts on this, but few pictures, so I’ll add some pictures here and link to the older posts,  Prickly Pear Jelly  and  Prickly Pear Cactus Jelly

prickly-pear-cactusIf you have never seen the cactus before, it looks like this.  The sharp spines on the green pads are quite obvious, which is why in the other posts, I mentioned “don’t fall”.

What isn’t so noticeable is the presence of the glochids on the red fruit.  These are the white spots on the fruit and are like a sharp (and very irritating) stubble.  prickley-pear

The white dots are easier to see, but the stubble of the glochids is still not obvious.

Even though I work for the government, you can trust me…those tiny spines are EXTREMELY ANNOYING…even worse than chiggers.

 

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Vegetable Broth Under Pressure

We use a lot of vegetable broth in our cooking and our supplies were low, so I needed to make some more.  In the past I’ve used the normal process for making broth that consists of cutting up the vegetables, covering them with water in a stock pot and simmering it for several hours.

This time I decided to try out the process listed in a note that I had found in my mom’s recipe notebook.   The note said to cut up the vegetables, cover them with water and pressure cook them at 12psi for at least 5 but no more than 10 minutes.  THIS COOKING TIME IS NOT THE CANNING TIME!!!

My vegetable broth recipe is an informal one and uses whatever vegetables I have available–either at home or at the store.  This time it was three large onions that had been quartered, a chopped turnip, half a dozen large chopped carrots, several crushed garlic cloves, a chopped bunch of celery,  several chopped Serrano peppers, a chopped parsnip, a chopped fennel bulb, a bunch of parsley and the thyme that was left over from another recipe.

This all went into my Mirro 22 quart pressure canner.  For what it’s worth, a pressure canner can be used as a pressure cooker, but often, the reverse is not the case.

It took 20 minutes for the kerosene stove to heat the canner enough for it to reach 12psi.  I adjusted the flame to keep the pressure at 12psi and cooked it for 10 minutes.  After I extinguished the flame, it took about 25 minutes for the canner to cool down and reach zero pressure.  This is much faster than the “simmer for several hours” process.

It worked.  The broth is clear and has a strong, but clean, taste.  This is not a weak, watered down broth!  In the future, if possible, I’ll choose the pressure cooker method of preparing the broth.

From there, I canned the broth.  For vegetable broth, the Ball Blue Book specifies processing times of  30 minutes for pints and 35 minutes for quarts, and for my altitude, a pressure of 15 psi.  I used 12 ounce jars, but since there was no processing times for 12 ounce jars, I used the times listed for the pint (16 ounce) jars.

I chose canning because the broth can be stored on the pantry shelf at room temperature.  Freezing is an alternative method of preserving  the broth, but a power or freezer failure could result in “disaster”.

Jessiecat 1999 – 2019

I did the very hard, but very kind thing tonight.  My wife, our daughter and our yellow lab said goodbye to our more than 20 year old cat.

He and our yellow lab were best buddies; playing with each other, grooming each other and sleeping with each other.

After the vet had finished, we put Jessiecat on the floor.  Yellow lab sniffed him, nudged him a couple of times and then sat down to wait for us to finish our final goodbyes

Cats

The cat that owns us has an appointment with the veterinarian tomorrow.  It may be his last trip to the vet…I don’t know.  He’s around 20 years old.  He’s not eating. He’s not moving around well.  He’s  more quiet than usual. He’s no longer wanting to be a lap cat.  He just stands and stares out the window.

He came into our lives when we visited the animal shelter.  He stuck out his paw from his cage and tapped my hand to get my attention.  We arranged a meeting in the “meet and greet” room.  Once in there, he promptly climbed up into our then 7 year old daughter’s lap and purred his way into our hearts.

That was it.  We were cat parents.

When we said we wanted to adopt him, the shelter workers told us that because of his age (5 or 6 years old), the length of stay (4 months) and because he had only a few days left before he would be euthanized to make room for more cats, the adoption fee would be waived.

Our now almost 22 year old daughter is coming home from university for one last visit.

Vacation-5

Yesterday we left West Glacier, Montana and drove through Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho, stopping in Sandpoint, Idaho at a roadside fruit and vegetables stand.

From there we continued south to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, finally “landing” for a couple of days in Potlatch, Idaho.

We are unable to stay longer in Potlatch, despite our desire to do so, because all of the campsites have been reserved for the weekend’s Potlatch Days celebration.

So tonight we will walk to the park and enjoy the live music.  Tomorrow we will continue south.

I have been getting lots of pictures, but the internet speeds have been slow, and I don’t want to try to post huge image files.  I don’t have any way of shrinking them to a reasonable size (my posts are being made with a smart phone), so…no pictures for now.

Vacation-4

For the past few days we have been in and out of Glacier National Park and greatly enjoying ourselves.

I noticed they have Pacific Yew trees in the park.  This tree was the first source of Taxol (paclitaxel), a chemotherapy drug given to my wife for her breast cancer.  It was neat hiking, with my wife, by the tree that had a part in treating her breast cancer.

Vacation-3

We are in central Idaho right now.

 My wife, a nuclear engineer by training, had a great time touring the Experimental Breeder Reactor 1 facility on the grounds of the Idaho National Labs.  It was the first nuclear reactor to produce electricity and it was also designed to produce more fissionable material than it consumes, hence the term “breeder reactor”.  This extra fissionable material could then be used for fuel in other nuclear reactors , or (hopefully not), with more work, in nuclear bombs.

Even though I’m an electrical engineer, I enjoyed the self guided tour too.  While I don’t have the deep understanding of the nuclear side of things, I’m OK with the steam, mechanical and (especially) the electrical side of things.

If anyone is interested in the very early days of peaceful nuclear power, you should visit the facility.  It’s open to the public…oh, and it’s quite safe.  All the nuclear material has been removed and I noticed the many modern radiation monitors placed there all showing levels around .001 to .002 mrem/hr.  To put it into perspective, the natural radiation a person is exposed to just by being on Earth is about 30 times higher than this figure.  It’s less inside this place due to the large amount of shielding provided by the structure surrounding the facility.