Life’s Guilty Pleasures

Today I had to drive to the big city to drop Tammy off, and it was around lunchtime, so I stopped at a place I go to about twice a year, a little hole in the wall that sells nothing but dirty water hot dogs:

That little blue thing- that’s basically it. I have no idea what is in the rest of the house it is attached to, but that blue front is the whole place. You open the door, run right into a counter with about 4 stools and they make your dogs right there. And they are amazing.

Now when I say dirty water dogs, I mean just plain old dogs simmering in a tepid pool of gray water. And these are not artisanal dogs or any shit like that. We’re not talking all beef franks with a natural casing. We’re talking real American hot dogs made out of all the shit they can’t put into a chicken nugget or that is too low quality to make scrapple or sausage, mash it all together into a pink slime with an assload of chemicals, and throw it into something resembling a casing. If you read the label it will tell you made from chicken, turkey, pork and a list of other stuff, but they could really just write “lol animals and shit” because YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GETTING AND YOU DON’T GIVE A FUCK.

They then take the dog, put it in a sad, damp bun- you know the kind, like wonder bread but with less lust for life, the kind you see on the bottom shelf of your grocery store bread aisle that come in an eight pack and half of them have inevitably been crushed or stepped on while stocking them and the sign says “59 cents but will negotiate” in magic marker on one of those pink stars.

Once in the bun-like object, it is covered with an all “meat” chili that comes in mild, medium, or hot. I don’t know if it’s actually meat- it could be soy or something else, all I know is there is nothing as natural as a bean anywhere in it. We’ll just call it meatlike chili sauce. On top of that, if you like, and I do, they will top it with an overly creamy cole slaw. The end product looks like this:

And they are fucking fantastic. I could probably shove an entire one in my fat face and eat the whole thing in one bite, but I don’t because you gotta savor this shit. And I love them. But I only get them about every six months, because while they are amazing, in about 45 minutes, I will have the world’s worst heartburn and sometimes awful things happen later on.

But it’s totally fucking worth it.








In the Kitchen With John- Tomato Sauce

As I mentioned last night, today was sauce day. As always, this is more for me than you all, as I will look this up next year to refresh my memory before doing it again- you all are just along for the ride. Started last night with a ton of tomatoes I had frozen over the last couple OF months (love you eemom):

They mostly thawed over night and I threw them into big pots to start the cookdown:

Now everybody will tell you different amounts of time to cook them down, I just did it for about 2 hours, constantly stirring because you simply can not let it scorch or you have ruined the entire batch. STIR, STIR, STIR. Once the pulp and everything has cooked down into a bubbly brew, run it through your food mill:

If you are like me, you probably don’t have a dozen 24 qt stock pots, I have just the one and the pot for canning, so I strained them into several smaller pots, washed the big 24 qt stock pot I originally used, then transferred everything back into that. Then I did the canning pot full of tomatoes, and after cooking down and removing all the seeds and peels, everything transferred to the 24 qt stock pot and filled it all the way to the top.

At this point, Tammy and I just took 30 minute shifts stirring as we cooked it down. I cooked it down a solid6-8 inches to let it thicken, because I didn’t want to can tomato juice. This took the bulk of the afternoon, and both of us got our workout in.

QUICK SIDEBAR- Are there any carpenters who want to make me a 24″ wooden spoon. I hate the flimsy ass wooden spoons on amazon, I need something longer than the traditional ones, and I need something small than a 4 foot cajun paddle.

While cooking down the sauce, we prepped the mason jars:

I cut some basil from the garden, washed it, and placed it in each jar. Also, in three of them, Tammy wanted to try a clove of garlic, so three of them got that and the basil.

When the sauce is finally cooked down to where you want it, grab your funnel and ladle it into each jar stopping below the neck:

Wipe off the tops of the jars with a damp cloth, and place a lid and a ring on each one (you should have the lids heated in a hot water bath so you get a good seal), and hand tighten the ring. Then place them in the canner and wait for it to get to a rolling boil, and then process it for 40 minutes. Here is your finished product:

In total, we got 17 quarts of sauce. I thought about running the sauce through the chinois after it went through the food mill, but decided I didn’t care if there were a few seeds- YMMV. I’m not trying to win the damned state fair. And remember, NONE of this is seasoned (other than the basil). That way you can just pull it out and use it and tailor the sauce to your tastes.

As always, the dogs were a giant help:

And because Tammy is a Rosie Whisperer, here is a closeup of Rosie ACTUALLY LOOKING AT THE DAMNED CAMERA:








Busy Day Today

Spent the day running around- picked up Tammy, dropped off medicine for his dogs and visited his cats, hit Lowe’s for some paint for the front porch, came home, then headed to the Bridgeville Farmer’s market to get some things, then to Chico Fiesta for dinner, and now back home to prep for tomorrow. First up, Samantha and Charlie helped us pick out paint:

Tomorrow we deal with this:

That’s 16 gallon bags of tomatoes that will turn into sauce tomorrow. Curious to see how it turns out.

I’ll post some kitten pics tomorrow, but for now I am pooped.








My Brother’s Kittens Update and Bruised Peaches

So Seth was able to contact the rescue people, and they gave him a trap, which she ignored last night because he had fed the hell out of her, but this morning he put some chicken in it, came back a bit later, and had captured her. She and her kittens are now crated upstairs in his house:

There are also FIVE kittens and not three. Seth reports that the mother is not, in fact, feral, and has had human contact because now that she and the kittens are safe, she has been coming up to Seth and letting him pet her. Seth is already in love and it would not surprise me if he keeps the momma and several of the kittens. His working philosophy is you don’t go out and get cats, you just keep the ones that show up to you. He’s been dying to have a cat around since Speak and Whisper both died, so we are hoping things work out with his dog Boghan.

He also has given them amazing names already- he has named them “white feet” and “grey feet” and “white stripe” as featured here:

OMG WOULD YOU LOOK AT THOSE PINK TOES!

At any rate, I was giving him shit about the names and he just said they were temporary, and we both agreed that my stupid ass would have named them Gary and Fred and Agnes and never been able to tell them apart, so maybe short term descriptive names are for the best.

In other news, I went to the strip district in Pittsburgh to get some things for my dad and to pick up some olive oil (It’s cheaper for me to drive 30 miles to pick up a gallon of imported olive oil at 25 bucks than it is for me to drive 5 miles and get half that in whatever shit Bertolli is passing off as olive oil), and on the way home I stopped by a farm and orchard I had never been to called Simmons Farm. I had no intention of buying anything but then discovered that they were basically GIVING away bruised peaches for 35 bucks a bushel. That’s an absurd price. So, of course I bought them.

When I got home I discovered that much to my surprise, what they were passing off as bruised peaches are really just mostly oddly shapen or ugly peaches. Some were misshapen, some had some bruises, many were smaller than average (so I assume those fell prematurely when they were picking other ones and they just threw them in the shitty peach bin), etc. All told, there were only about 20 peaches that had portions of them that were unusable. I carved those up and threw the bad parts over the fence for the deer that come by every night and put the good parts in an 8 qt cambro and refrigerated them until tomorrow, and I will make jam with them. When the others ripen, I will can them. I might try to dehydrate some, too, for snacking.

Send money to my paypal account and buy stock in mason jars, I have a problem. In all seriousness, though, 35 dollars for a bushel is just ridiculous. Prepared, that’s like 300 bucks worth of product, and my parents want some more, my sister will want some, etc. And I like the activity and the thought of saving all that money and using something that might have been thrown away.

*** Update ***

Speaking of bruised peaches, my friend had his dog Zero fixed, and the vet told him to ice his sack five times a day for 20 minutes. I’ve never had to do this so I have no idea if the vet was just messing with him, but it’s happening and this picture is equal parts sweet and hysterical:








In the Kitchen With John- Pickles and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Again, I am writing this basically for me so I have a refresher what I did for next year. If you see something I am doing wrong, correct me!

Easy day today- pickles and sun dried tomatoes. Sun dried tomatoes first. I actually started drying yesterday, and that was a mistake. I thought six hours would be enough, and it was not, so next year I am going to start first thing in the morning. I have a Nesco dehydrator I bought a few years back to make jerky and I never used it and it just languished in the basement, so I brought it up and used it. First step was to select big round beefsteak tomatoes so I could have thick, wide slices. I washed the tomatoes, and cut them in about 3/4 inch strips (and next time I may even do wider!) and placed them on the dehydrator- I set it at 135 degrees, let it go six hours, and it was not done, but I was ready for bed, so I put them in the fridge. Took them out first thing this morning, and let them go. I checked every hour or so near the end, and felt for any moisture, and on slices that had none, I took them out. Continue this until finished.

The next step is a quick vinegar bath.

Throw one in the red wine vinegar, flip it so both sides get wet, shake it off, and throw it into a container with olive oil on the bottom. As you add tomatoes, add oil to keep them covered until you are done. I threw in a little basil from the garden:

I’ll transfer these to glass containers when I am done making them this year. I should note that a lot of people get rid of the seeds and I do not know why. I don’t have diverticulitis so YOLO.

Pickles were easy, too.

Sterilize your jars in the canner with a splash of vinegar to keep from getting hard water spots. Dump all your cukes into the sink, and wash them thoroughly. While they are soaking, start making your pickling juice. I used a couple cups of distilled white vinegar, water, some pickling spices, some black peppercorns, some dried chilis, salt, and brought it to a boil on the stove.

While that was coming to a boil, I cut a tiny sliver off the ends of the pickles after washing them. I stuffed them into all the jars, poured the hot brine in, threw in a sprig of dill in each, put my lids and rings on, and gave them a 20 minute process. I did that for six of them. For two of them, I let the pickling brine cool to room temp, and then poured the juice in, put lids on them, and just put them in the fridge. I’ll eat those and they will stay crisper without cooking them. Pickles keep forever uncooked, but I just don’t have room in my fridge for eight quarts of pickles. The finished product:

I hadn’t planned to do more than 2 quarts, but I was at the farmers market at closing time and the lady just wanted to get rid of them so she gave me a peck for five bucks. Also, this is the first year I have had any success growing dill- it always flowers on me- the trick is to just keep it in the shade, so mine is growing in a planter on the front porch on a portion that gets only a couple hours of morning sun every day.

Easy day today- only about 90 minutes in the kitchen total.