Thursday, September 29, 2016

Pressure Canning Soapnuts

A fair while ago Donna had purchased a large bag of soapnuts.  They are advertised as being a natural alternative to many soaps in the household.  So far we have been using them mostly for laundry, but I did fill a small bottle for Kenny to try using in the sauna (I wondered if maybe they would be "no more tears" sort of gentle, as well as something more natural than most commercially prepared soaps).

Unfortunately, after a bit Kenny decided that he didn't like the smell (seems mild enough to me) or the texture.  Admittedly, they don't quite get as lathery as commercial soaps, but a bit of research seems to indicate that the lather is purely psychological anyway.

So back to laundry for the soap nuts.  I started cooking up a litre of the mixture at a time, using the rice cooker during off-times of appliance use.  Donna noticed occasional black deposits inside the container I was storing it in, and pointed out that she had read that you really shouldn't keep the prepared mixture of soap nuts around for more than two or three weeks, as it had the potential to go off, or grow mold, or explode, or something that I wasn't paying much attention to.

Last week, when I helped her set up to can some ground beef that had been on sale at a decent price, she suggested that she had also heard that you can pressure can the soapnuts (or was it the mixture only?) and then they will keep for much longer (of course!)

When Kenny and I arrived home from our rather extensive back-to-back dental appointments, the sun was shining reasonably well, and we had a couple hours left before sundown, so I thought I would take a crack at it.  Especially since the processing time at pressure was a laughable fifteen minutes.

In the kitchen processing system, soapnuts processing is considered an especially simple operation.  In the Aikihomestead kitchen, a dedicated husband and father is an asset known as "Daddy".  This is one of his stories...

Start out with my head assistant at Burger Barn.

Return home and begin assembling jars and setting up canning station.

Place four or five pieces of soapnut in each jar.

Half fill with room temperature water.

Add a splash of vinegar to the canning vessel to prevent any possible scale buildup.

Top up jars with boiling water to facilitate reaching proper temperature in the canning vessel.

Add Tattler lids, rings, and place in canning vessel, along with another half litre of boiling water.

Note the staggered position of the jars to help ensure more uniform steam exposure.

Crank up to 1000 watts to try to encourage boiling.

Add a jar of crystalized honey to take advantage of the warmth.

Grow impatient as the button doesn't pop up quickly enough.  But still make sure you get 10 minutes of steam escaping.

Crank up to 1800 watts until the button pops up.  Then dial back to 700 watts sheepishly.

Set timer for 15 minutes once steam starts.

Wait for button to drop again after power shuts off.  N.B. liquid honey again!

Enjoy the cans of soap!

Looks good.  I'll have to run it through a sieve before I can use it though.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wood Piling Disaster!

Well, I spent my bread labour yesterday cutting, splitting, and piling the pile of logs I had accumulated by the woodshed over the past week.  Grandpa had earlier made a beautiful pile that I continued.
My sloppy piling on the left side, not a good use of space.  Grandpa's neat and stable piling on the right (Actually the top half is mine, trying to bring it back in line with the shed.)

A view from the corner, showing the wood creeping up the outsides.
But alas, later in the afternoon, Donna went out to capture this disappointing picture.  Note the collapse on the right and pile on the lower right side of the picture.

I suspect my work undermined Grandpa's superior piling skills.  :(
Live and learn.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Bit More Winter Wood

A few days ago, Grandpa declared that he was going to put in a new, short side trail to some jack pines that had been killed by a porcupine.

Yesterday he finished the trail and cut up some smaller deadwood that he deemed suitable for firewood.  As such, today I took the ATV and trailer up his new trail and loaded up.

On the way back, I took a corner too sharply on a slope, and dumped the trailer :(.  But it wasn't a big deal to set it right and reload it.

I got the wood back to the shed without incident, and Grandpa began splitting it.
Grandpa gets right to it!
I had a number of other miscellaneous logs in the area that I had skidded last week, so I took advantage of the nice weather to cut them up into stove length and create another pile of wood "to be split".
Note the safety chaps!
Putting my best face forward.
Longer ones I'd buck up well off the ground, as long as I could still lift them.
At lunch, Grandpa ended his workday here, and I went inside to start writing some blog posts, as well as check up on Kenny's self-directed studies.  You can find his blog here:

Hopefully he'll find something worth posting again soon.  He's been so busy!

At least the woodshed is even more full than before!  Capacity - here we come!

The outer pile grows nicely!

Halfway up the door frame!