Thursday, February 16, 2023

Well, fuck.


"I want to tell you I love you. I want to love you. I always will love you... You, dead, are so much better that anyone else alive.” – Richard Feynman in a letter to his wife Arline, Oct. 17, 1946

The love of my life and partner in literally everything, died on July 28, 2022. On his birthday. Jim's last prank. He was admitted to the hospital due to low oxygen levels on Dec. 14, 2021 and stayed there until March 2022, where he was then transferred to a nursing home. Finally in June 2022 he was released to come home for what we hoped was more rehab (in spite of his Stage IV lung cancer). Just a week later his oncologist called it: Jim had 2 weeks to 3 months left. I wasn't with Jim at that earth-shattering followup where he got the news, because he'd given me COVID from the nursing home and I couldn't enter the building. At-home hospice was a fiasco and I will never forget it. The coup d'grace was our oldest cat, Frida (the first pet we adopted together), died two weeks after Jim. She'd had a stroke in May but recovered and was home when Jim was here, and also when he died. Jim was always Frida's person, the only one she'd make biscuits on. I think she was devastated and lost the will to live.

Jim was the solution to my midlife crisis when I turned 40. We set out to build a new life together nearly 28 years ago. While that sounds like a good long time, believe me when I say it feels like a time warp. I'm utterly in shock how fast those years went by, and still feel robbed.

Seven months later, I continue to see a therapist in person and attend grief group therapy via Zoom. Took on a couple more fosters. I've been cooking and canning a little more than usual because I'm trying to do the things that used to make me happy. Just went to the first in-person annual Soup Swap since the pandemic, which was fun yet bittersweet to go it alone. If anyone's interested, I'll post the recipe for the soup I made shortly, along with a spaghetti sauce recipe I recently canned. Both are vegan and use Impossible or Beyond plant-based meats. 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Chili con carne for canning

Chili con Carne

2 lbs. dry pinto beans
5 lbs. boneless chuck, cut into large stew-size pieces
Vegetable oil for sauteing
3 onions, chopped
1/4 c. garlic, minced
1-2 jalapeños, minced
1 lb. Gardein beefless ground or 1 lb. ground beef, optional
3 28-oz cans S&W crushed tomatoes w/purée
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1/4 c. Better than Boullion beef 
3 T chile pasilla, ground
2 T chipotle, ground
2 T salt
2 T adobo
2 T Italian herbs or oregano
1/2 c. masa mixed into 1 c. water
Citric acid

Soak the dry beans in cold water overnight, picking out floaters. In the morning, drain and rinse the beans. Preheat oven to 200°F. Heat oil in a pot or pan. In batches, brown the chuck on all sides, adding a little more oil if necessary and put aside. Brown the ground beef, if using; in the same pan, sauté onions until translucent, then add garlic and jalapeño, sautéing for another minute. In a large pot, combine all the ingredients except beans. Bring to a simwmer on the stovetop, then cover and cook in the oven until the chuck is nearly fork tender (4-6 hours). While you're checking the meat, if you want thicker chili, add  more masa mixture. About 30 minutes before the chili is finished cooking, add beans and adjust seasoning. (At this point you can also put your clean canning jars in the oven to sterillize.) Cover the pot and continue to cook in the oven for 30 minutes. You may remove the pot from the oven when done but keep the mixture hot if you're canning.

Ready the pressure canner by putting the rack in the base, filling with about 3" of water and putting on stovetop to heat the water.

Get enough hot jars out of the oven for your first batch. For each jar, put 1/2 tsp. citric acid in the bottom, then fill with chili to within 1" of the rim. Wipe rim clean if needed, place flat lid on rim, then hand-tighten the ring onto the jar. 

Place jars in the pressure canner, ideally with some space in between. Secure the canner's cover and follow your canner's directions to process for 90 minutes @ 10 lbs pressure. I have an All-American pressure canner; for me the directions are to vent steam for 7 minutes, put the 10 lb. pressure regulator valve on the valve stem; once the valve starts jiggling, start the timer and adjust the heat so the valve jiggles 1-4 times per minute. 

After 90 minutes, turn off the heat, move the canner off the stove if you can and allow the canner pressure to reach 0 (zero) or, if you don't have a gauge, a minimum of 15-20 minutes before attempting to remove the valve and the cover. Have a towel laid out or rack on the counter. Remove the jars using canning tongs or silicone gloves and place on the towel or rack to cool. You may hear the lids popping as they cool - this is normal. Wipe off any grease that may bave leaked out of the jars. Clean out the canner, fill with 3" of fresh water and repeat the process for subsequent batches.

Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream and chopped green onions!