Monday, March 26, 2007

On Strawberries and Onions

The other day, Saturday the 24th to be exact, I had my yearly pilgrimage to the strawberry fields East of Tampa. Specifically, this field, just off I4 near Forbes Road.
It took me about 20 minutes to pick about 8 quarts for $2.00!

Each year I make a big batch of Strawberry Preserves to give to family and friends. This years harvest yielded about 20 jars. That is a little small to me, so I am going to get some more, this weekend.

I have to admit, I cheated a little bit this year with the preserves. I resorted to using packets of the powdered pectin as I did not have enough time to make them without adding the stuff. It really does not change the taste, just the texture. If you add pectin, you get a firm set. If you do not, you get a softer set, or as my mom said, and old fashioned type of preserve.

Normally, I will cook the strawberries whole, then cover them and let them rest overnight to extract the natural pectin. You also need to have some of the berries be less ripe. They tend to have more pectin in them.

Since I needed them pretty much right away, I did not do that. Just added the pectin and was done with it.

So, here we go.

First step wash the berries.

Then, you need to measure the berries for each batch.
This will make about six cups of mashed berries.

Then, you take the mashed berries, add some sugar, add the pectin and bring to a rolling boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

The next step is to fill the sterilized jars. I use the dishwasher to sterilize mine. Much hotter temperatures in there, than my hands can deal with in the sink.

A funnel really helps with the jars.

After filling, wiping the rims, and sealing the jars, I place them in a water bath for 20-25 minutes, just to make sure that there is no Salmonella swimming around in there.
And, finally, the finished product, after cooling and labeling.
Now, about those onions. I can't verify that this is effective, but some Florida farmers have told me that onions are planted at the end of the rows to protect the strawberry plants from rodents. Not sure how true that is. However, they are some of the best onions you can eat. Nice, big, and white. below are a few pics of the 2 that I pulled from the ground.

If you have not been able to tell, I really like el gallo español pequeño that Mark and I found in a market.

Well, that is about it for this post! Hopefully I will remember to keep my camera charged and available so I can take some pictures to write about. If you want some preserves, drop me a line. Yes, Hester, some are already on the way to getting to you.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Windsor and Kylie

After seeing the post about the new puppy at Living the Life, I wanted to get some pictures of our puppies up. Windsor, the Corgi, is is our "oldest" at 7 years. We have had him since he was 8 weeks old. Kylie, the Bearded Collie mix, is a rescue from North Carolina, that we got 4 years ago. She is 5.

Windsor is quite spoiled. He is a great dog, just rotten. Obviously, he thinks Kylie's bed is better than his. I don't know why he does not respect the label. Oh well....

Kylie does not care, though, as long as we promise to keep the window down when driving.

They both enjoy going to the beach. Windsor, much more so. Kylie, while enjoying herself, really would rather be back at the house, napping with Mark.

Mark is going to KILL me for that last picture.

Just a few more shots. Windsor's birthday. This was Pre Kylie days. Please excuse various things. The "unfinished" house. We were still working on the rehab.
The dogs above are from left to right - Angel, Quinella, and Bucko.

Windsor, not liking all of the dogs in his yard, stared at the back door, until we finally let him in.

That is, until the Swedish Valhound, Abba, from across the street came over. Then he could not get out fast enough.

This is Abba. Abba actually came from the same breeder that we got Windsor from. Cor-val Kennel in Chiefton, FL. She is a great dog. With her is her owner, Bruce.

This was Windsors one, and only birthday party. It was fun, but I don't think that he had such a great time. He did, however, enjoy the liver birthday cake.
Yuck! Until next time!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Boundary Waters Ice Fishing and Winter Camping Expedition

Camping on Long Island!?
Lake Saganaga, that is.

(Click on the pictures to make them bigger!)
On Friday, March 9th, we set out to enjoy a great weekend of ice fishing, on one of the best looking spots on earth, with the best weather you could hope for.

Our group included:

Peter, Bill's son
my brother, Mark
and myself, Michael.

We travelled from Saint Paul, MN to Grand Marais. Spent the night in Grand Marais and headed up the Gunflint Trail to Lake Saganaga. We started out at the Snow Mobile landing (In summer it is conveniently used as a boat ramp!)

We headed out north into the Lake. We used a well packed snowmobile route to get into the main body of the lake. Apparently, dogs like to ride as well as run on the ice.

(We are still trying to figure out what this guy was pulling.)

It took a couple of hours to get to our campsite.

Finally, the lake is opening up, and we can get away from the snowmobilers.
This is one of the most subtly beautiful places you can imagine. In every direction, there is just ice and small islands. I can just imagine what it is like to kayak here in the Summer, when all of the ice is gone.

Now it is time to get down to the business of fishing. Ice fishing is an interesting sport. It requires a lot of work, to be able to sit around and wait. It is nothing like going fishing in the creeks, and ocean like my childhood, in South Georgia.
First, you have to drill a hole. It is easier with 2-3 people on an auger. (Mark and Pete take the first shot.)
Then, you clear out the slush. (and I thought slotted spoons were just for green beans.)
There are two types of fishing you do in ice fishing. Jigging, and using a tip up. Lets look at a tip up first.
Here is Bill rigging one up. (I think he does this to get out of dealing with the auger!)

Basically, it is a line, with a hook and some bait. You drop it into the hole and it is suspended from an apparatus on the top of the hole that has a flag on it.

Then, while you are jigging, you keep an eye out for the flag to pop up, meaning that something, hopefully a fish, has the bait and is running with it. When that happens, you run to the line and start pulling, with your hands, the line.

That is how Mark caught this beauty.

Now, for jigging. No apparatus. Just a fishing pole (looks like something from Toys-R-Us, but it works just great!), a hole, and a whole lot of patience.

Jigging is the way I caught this lovely thing. (Not to brag, but at 32", it was the largest of the trip!)

Mel, caught this one jigging also.

Here is Mel catching th
e one above.
It looks a lot like road construction looks, a few guys watching the one guy do all of the work. However, unlike road work, there really is nothing that the other guys could be doing.

Following are just some other shots from the trip.

Some tracks that we came across on the lake. The Romantic in me thinks they are wolf. Maybe someone could ID them. I could kick myself for not getting a reference shot with someones hand there. However, they were about the size of a big dogs paw. Say a Lab or something comparable.

This was the first fish that was caught, Saturday noonish. Larry caught by tipup.

Well, for Mel's sake, let me clarify that. Larry stepped away from his tipup, Mel saw the flag, and pulled the fish out of the water. You go figure out who gets the credit.

Lots and lots of waiting.

Bill (On right) and his son, Peter

The closest I have come to Canada.

There are a few more pictures. I will be uploading them to Snapfish soon. I will let you know when they are there.