Sionainn Cailís

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since Apr 03, 2020
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Recent posts by Sionainn Cailís

Regarding dusty millers. I have been growing the same ones for 5 years now in my 5b Ontario, Canada garden.

I pile up the mulch around them. They are in very heavy amd slightly acidic clay with high iron content, only slightly improved soil conditions from the inidial pickaxe and till when I ripped out all the creeping junipers and dead boxwoods to redesign and replace the front garden in this house.

In the course of 5 years, 3 bushes of 16 havent made it, they were in the same place that caught the wind, on a winter that didnt have enough snow and a lot of ice and ice rain.

I pile cedar mulch up close around the base, and they sit in the beds covered by cedar mulch. I also mulch all the leaves off the trees and will pile clumps of them around a bit.  They die back to the roots but every year they come up nice, plus they also flower every year now, with lovely little yellow flowers in autumn.

If you're feeling lucky you can try to cover them from the ice instead of overwintering. Thought I would add this since I am also 5b.  

Skandi Rogers wrote:

Do not buy a kettle like this, with a lid that operates on a button we had one, and after about 18 months the hinge on the lid went. so we took it back and it was replaced without a murmur. a year later the new one broke in exactly the same place, so we took it back and they would have replaced it again but we asked if we could spend a bit more and get a different model. They agreed so we bought one with a pull off lid. no hinge to break.

Ahh yes, Skandi. My mother in law uses her tea kettle very little, but we had to buy her a new one few years ago because hers had an attached lid like that one, and the hinge went!
3 years ago
I have heard some good things about the russell hobbs that was also mentioned.

I have two electric kettles, because we drink an enormous amount of tea and coffee. One was purchased,  the other a gift to us. I use both always, because one is in the basement where my studio is. lol.

I have a cuisinart (the gift) that is cordless, has adjustable heat settings between 60-100 degrees, and a glass body. The on/off and other buttons are on the base, not on the kettle. It is about 10 years old now. Truthfully I dont use the other temp settings much, but it was very thoughtful so now I have the option if I want them.

The second is a kenmore, which I purchased for myself when I was 18. I think sears went out of business, or at least here in Canada, some years back, so that doesnt help anyone. That is also cordless, with a simple solid stainless steel body and steel lid. That one is over 16 years old now :D Kenmore made nice kettles, I bought that one because I bought my nana one years before that. I am quite certain they are Bought for Life.

I like cordless because they always have an automatic shutoff, and I feel more comfortable filling or cleaning them when the pot is not attached to a cord.

Most important considerations for me are materials (I admit, though my nice gifted glass kettle has lasted at least a decade now, I would not buy myself a glass kettle, or plastic, as I like just plain metal)

I have heard from numerous tea-quaffing asian friends many VERY good things of zojirushi water boilers, and I have zojirushi rice cooker and thermos containers that I consider Bought for Life, but I think the water boilers have plastic bodies.

Second most important consideration is where the switch is. I wouldnt risk buying anything that had an electric switch up near the openings or on the handle. Wet hands or a splash from the sink can wear that down and risks breaking the little motherboard inside.   I am sure they  are always made with some waterproof membrane over it, but I feel that will break down fastest and just gives an unnecessary risk to the kettle breaking.

Also, if your water is hard a covered heating element is better. Also much easier to clean then. I boil vinegar or a spoon of citric acid in water once a month to descale mine, as oir water is very hard.
3 years ago
Lots of interesting stuff listed here! Undoubtedly most of these I have never heard of, let alone eaten.  :)

I reliably grow winter pumpkin Rouge vif d'Etampes in my 5b Canadian urban garden.

I grow them up trellises, as I don't have any space to let anyone crawl along the ground.

"Red from Etampes" is what it translates to in english. These are very fiery roasted orange red colour, and shape is kind of  flat on the top, like a big fat cheese wheel. Medium sized eating pumpkin.

They store almost a full year on shelves in a finished basement that sits around 15 degrees (tested! ) and are very fragrant, creamy, and tasty for soup, pasta, or to make bread or dessert. Traditional french soup pumpkin. These are the best to leave a couple months before eating. They will dry out more inside and insensify the flavour and scent.

I don't know where you are. Seems a lot of people here like to live in tropical climates or deserts, which might be no good for them.

This variety likes warm heat but nothing stifling. Afternoon temp of 25 is great, but 30 is not so good. This year was insane Martian heat climbing to 40 for weeks on end. Egads, NOTHING in my garden enjoyed that weather except the weird asian red noodle beans I have.:) Everything else shrivelled and burnt to crisps, including myself..

They also love a good drink! A daily shower is even fine for them, and they will climb to the sky if they get lots of water. I dont think it is possible to drown them.

They need a big trellis though. Nothing rinky dinky or it will be crushed. My pergola trellis is solid wood- 3m high, 5m long, and 1m wide, and one vine will go all the way up, across, and expand at least halfway over the top of it. I use sisal or jute twine or those velcro garden ropes to anchor the vines as they go up. Once they find each beam to twirl around, they grip.

I have a second crop here growing for a late harvest. Pumpkins are still small on them yet, maybe canteloupe/ grapefruits sized. We dropped to a very fresh 1-2 degrees overnight for a few nights in a row. They didnt LIKE it, but they took it, and they didnt drop their fruits. Now it is back to 10-ish at night and they perked up.

Cucurbita Maxima.

Waltham butternuts reliably climb for me as well. Cucurbita Moschata. They have no problems setting fruits up a trellis.

I think I am just more accepting of many others here. lol.

Probably comes with living in the middle of real urban sprawl with high density. Seven million people around me. That number only ever moves in one direction. I am living in quite the luxuriously sized urban lot here (over 500m², where standard urban lot here is just over 300m²) but I can't escape 7 million people. It isn't possible to escape this civilization driving 100 km in any direction.

I look at it this way- regular conventional food, including all the common grains, fruits, and vegetables, plus a lot of animal feeds and everything else people eat, is SOAKED in pesticide, fungicide, and herbicide. Organic is definitely a lot better, but still might be using stuff that isn't great. Plus all that food is picked up by smelly tractors, and forklifts, and put in smelly warehouses, and transported on smelly trucks into a smelly parking lot, where it is offloaded into your local store where you go buy it and probably put it into your smelly car to get it home, before you prepare it and eat it.

If I grow stuff, and use NOTHING dangerous on it- regardless of the local car exhaust, or construction dirt, or my neighbour's chlorine pool-  it cant possibly be worse than what I can buy to eat. Plus my city water is treated and often smells like chlorine, because it has to be treated. I bathe and drink in this. Plus I breathe these chemicals when I walk outside, or open my house windows.

Maybe someone wants to say my little urban garden veggies are no good because they can't be completely "natural." Good for them! I will eat my damn veggies, and they are definitely fresher than what I can buy.

I say grow your veg, wash it nicely (which you should always do regardless) and accept that if you live in an urban environment, there is a tradeoff to the freshness and cleanness of the air you breathe and water you drink, and that relates to the food you eat. :) Such is our lives, friend.
3 years ago

Catie George wrote:Sionainn -  And how do you make the pepper spread? I love a commercially made eastern european pepper condiment that is used to add flavour to soups and stews and would love go make something similar at home.

Sorry for pause, it IS pepper picking time lol. We just finished picking the peppers yesterday!

We make ajvar, I have never seen it used to flavour soup or stews, but it is very useful condiment to flavour eggs, meats, smear on bread, serve with cheese or sour cream, etc.

Ajvar needs red peppers, garlic, pepper, salt, and oil. We always use a mix of of spicy and sweet peppers for the best taste. Years ago I also convinced my mother in law to switch from cheap oil to very good quality olive oil, it is healthier and olive oil is also tasty.

We use 10 bushels (Canadian bushel is I think about 36.5 litres) red peppers-  for that quantity we need 2 bushels eggplants, a few litres of olive oil, maybe 1 kg salt (14 handfuls of salt), 2 handfuls freshly ground black pepper, and about 2 kg fresh crushed garlic cloves.

Wash all the peppers and eggplants, roast all over open flames until the outsides are blackening. Peel them all, deseed them all, and put them all through a grinder. Grind up your garlic. About half the olive oil is added, and it gets slowly cooked down over low flame until it is all a beautiful dark red colour and thick spread. Usually takes about 4-6 hours of stirring a cauldron like a witch. Add in the salt and pepper. Put it to jars and we use the rest of the olive oil to top each full jar to make like a secondary air seal before we cap and put in the oven to seal.

We make approx 50 Litres of finished product from this amount. It keeps over a year easily, not that we ever have jars last so long. 500ml jars are, imo, the best size, as once opened a jar lasts about a week in the fridge since theres not much preservatives.

3 years ago

Catie George wrote:Sionainn - what is the brine solution recipe? And how do you make the pepper spread? I love a commercially made eastern european pepper condiment that is used to add flavour to soups and stews and would love go make something similar at home.

Oof!! My inlaws have no recipes. Oral tradition and shown example is so important for that reason. Hundreds of years of little regional traditions, and there is never a recipe to be located. :) It's okay, my family never wrote down anything either. Also in the habits of oral traditions and showing by examples. This is probably the case for 95% of all European peasant families lol.  

I would have to give it a best guess.

I would estimate each cabbage head is close to around 2kg mark. The family only picks the biggest, and most dense winter green cabbages for this job, and they are BIG.

So maybe one barrel is approximately 50-55 kg cabbages. I think approximately two boxes regular sea salt (1 kg each) is about what is used to pack cores and the rest mixed to make salt water. Mom cuts a bigger and more squared hole when she cores, so whatever is the size of the hole needs to be packed with salt. I have no idea for drum size, except that I could probably take a swim in it, lol, because the drums used for cabbage are impressive. The drum fits approx that much cabbage, with enough space for the big stone to be lifted on top of it.

Also, my mother in law used to add whole peppercorns before, stuffing them into the cores along with the salt. She only stopped last few years because she seems to have developed an allergy to black pepper. She also likes some whole bay leaves, and told me they used to sometimes also add a piece of horseradish root to the brine in her village. Father in law mentioned before that it was common in his village to add some dried whole paprika peppers into the pack.

My mother in law is an ethnic Serb from part of the region that is now in central- eastern Croatia. Her methods are different from her husband's family, which is a region that is part of very southeast Serbia, and also HER brother in law (the uncle who picks the cabbages) as his family is from mid-southwest Serbia. Each little hamlet and village will produce the same item with a slightly different special taste. :)
3 years ago
Bonnie, sorry for my ramblings, hah. I guess I inherited the Irish curse of wordiness..

Here are many more words :)
Balkan cabbage preparation is a lactoferment. Compared to German krauts I would say it is usually less salty and sour and it is preferred for the favoured cooking methods to pack the heads whole or at least with big leaves, instead of shredding and packing like for german style.

Whole cabbage preservation to make kisela kupus (sour cabbage) :

All my inlaws have huge barrels that they pack cabbages into for fermenting. Cabbages are picked in autumn, washed, any loose outer leaves removed, and cored. Outer leaves are used to make a layer on the bottom and then again on the top. They use handfuls of plain salt (not iodized) to pack the cores, and really stuff all the cabbages into the barrel.

Some portion are halved or quartered and used to pack in the holes between each whole head. All the while someone gets the cauldron going with salted water. Once all the barrel is packed, outer leaves are layered on top, then some specially made hardwood sticks are shoved in to hold the cabbage tight, and a big stone is placed on top to anchor them down. Water is cooled with plain water (but needs a certain portion boiled to dissolve the salt into it hence big cauldron) and then this salted water is added to fill in the barrel.

Now it is time to hermetically seal the barrel and be patient. :)

Cabbage packed in September harvest will likely be ready sometime in end November. My husband's family saint is michael, so their orthodox slava date falls November 21. Quarter heads are ready by this time, but sometimes inside of the whole heads still has a bit longer to be ready. We will always start to eat it by Christmas celebrations (orthodox christmas is January 7th.) We usually will finish the barrel right around his uncle's slava, which is May 6th.


My mother in law makes it the best of anyone (not just my compliment, she is known by all the others to have the best) and her tips are:

1.) Take time to fully remove the entire core and pack well with salt. If not, the outer leaves will ferment too much and get too soft before the heart is fermented. This can also cause rot and for the brine to turn very clouded. It won't last the whole winter. Even in southern Canada we have decent winters. ;)

2.) Pack as tightly as possible, which is why her barrel holds usually 24-28  big winter cabbages, and usually about 7-8 of them are chopped to half or quarter to tightly pack all her layers. Also make sure you have winter cabbages with very tight leaves. I am told loose heads make for bad kiseli kupus.

3.) Cold is best. It takes longer for ferment to finish, but the colder the storage means you use less salt and the cabbage brine is better. You get a better flavour/colour/scent and the cabbage also usually doesn't need rinsing. Cold rooms in basements are very popular here (except for brand new housing since not many cook anymore) so the cold room is best. The warmer it is, the more salt is needed, and more frequent topups with salt water.

As a side note, the drum weighs at least a couple hundred kilos if not more. Choose locations and positioning carefully because once full and sealed, no one is moving it. lol.

Also, periodically through winter the brine needs to be drained from the bottom and poured back into the top. All of their enormous drums have a tap installed at the bottom used for this purpose in addition to draining the finished drum. After it's opened and is being used through winter, it needs to periodically top up with more salt water and mix the brine from bottom to top.


Whole cabbage leaves are very often used for sarma - the Balkan version of cabbage rolls, made either vegetarian or with pork meat mixed into the rice filling, and boiled in tomato juice. Sometimes also some smoked bacon is added to filling to cooked in the pot in the liquid.

It is also used to make sour cabbage soup. (I can't remember the name for this at the moment ) This is winter soup with cured sausage, sometimes with beans or just with potato.

The quarter heads are usually shredded very thin to make podvarak - baked sour cabbage. (Forgive my crude translations) Podvarak can be made vegetarian or with either smoked pork neck, smoked turkey, or smoked sausages. the cabbage is sauteed with lots of sliced onions and garlic, and the meat, and baked in oven. I like to use julienned carrots to add a bit more veg.

Vegetarian versions of all dishes are usually made for the fasting purposes, otherwise Balkan people are really meat lovers.

Last but definitely not least is as side salad, not cooked but just shredded and dressed with a bit of vinegar and pepper and thin sliced salted onions. adding grayed carrots is also nice, but then it needs more vinegar.

All these dish suggestions also go well served with ajvar (or "Serbian ketchup"  as I sometimes refer to it) which we also make yearly, and is a spicy roasted pepper spread. In fact, I am prepping my jars now for next week to do the ajvar making.

It you made it through all this congrats. lol. Hopefully someone can reference it when looking for ideas on how to save and eat their cabbage harvest. ;)  
3 years ago
My grandparent's knew how to do everything from butcher livestock to farm to fly small planes and repair engines :) They passed all the knowledge they could onto their 4 kids, who prompty tossed all the useless old ways out and never looked back.
My nana would pass on information to us grandchildren whenever oppourtunity presented itself, but such oppourtunities dimished as she aged. I learned from her to make cheese,  jam, and to salt and smoke fish.

My inlaws are Yugoslavian, and  have also been quite helpful to share the preservation techniques they know, although I am the only one of this generation that's really interested. I find it interesting that they preserve all their cabbages whole.

Besides oral traditions, I have actually enjoyed sniffing out old books. I have a few Victorian references that can offer some insights to 19th century and sometimes older methods of preservation and brewing. There's even a bit to be gleaned from Book of the Farm by Henry Stephens, even though it's mostly focused on large things like grain and hay storage. Beeton's Book of Household Management has some good info on jams and pickles, but also some strange recipes. Considering Mrs. Beeton was such a well to do lady, I expect that none of the recipes are hers, but rather that she collected from her servants. Some other very old versions of Good Housekeeping Illustrated cookbook and a few Foods of the World Series cooking books from Time-Life Books from the 1960s add a bit more insight, as well as recipes and meal customs to use such varied preserves.

Food preservation is also quite different in different parts of the world. I learned how to make preserved lemons in salt from a Moroccan coworker. I lesrned to make richly sticky, opaque pork stock from a lovely ramen chef in Tokyo- if I get to visit Japan again maybe I will learn to they make pickled ginger.  Lots of places to learn from, when we look beyond our doorsteps.
3 years ago
Hugo, is that purslane in the last photo? I have some that planted itself, but not sure how one would eat it. Do you use it for salad?
3 years ago