Fridays Weekend Column
Making it Through the Winter
by James Glaser
I was just looking at the calendar and did you know that this month and March have the same dates on the same days. The only difference is March has three more days. Yes, when you start noticing things like that, you know winter is getting to you.
I was heading off to town today and the sun was out and it looked warm. It wasn't warm, but it looked warm and up here we even appreciate the appearance of warmth.
I unplugged the block heater on the truck, started it up, and when the oil pressure got up there I started out. Even plugged in the truck was cold and it takes a while before the heater will put out any heat. If you turn on the defroster right away, it will fog up the window and it does the same if you breathe too hard, so you kind of breathe down away from the windshield.
You get into this kind of hunched over position and your back muscles are tense, your hands are gripping the steering wheel lightly because that is so cold and you watch the road through the frost on the window, because you were too lazy to scrape it off and you are on a back road anyway.
I know when I get to the top of the hill after I reach the blacktop I will have a little heat, so I turn it on so that the dash vents are hitting my hands. By the time I get to the main highway, the heat feels good and I can turn the heater to defrost and by the time I get to town the windshield is pretty clear and my back is relaxed. If I drive farther than town, like to Bemidji or Blackduck, I will have to turn down the heat and unzip my coat.
When you get home, it is automatic, you plug in the truck. If it is dark out, you do this with the headlights on so you can see what you are doing. Some people wait until evening to plug in their trucks and some even wait until about an hour before they leave so as to save on electricity. Of course these people have to not only remember to do this, they have to get all dressed again to go out and plug it in. I would rather pay the few cents this heater costs and not have to worry about it.
Last night I went to a Potluck dinner and it was great. I didn't have to bring anything and unlike last time, there were not seven kinds of au gratin potatoes. Here in northern Minnesota most potlucks are made up of hotdishes and the very best ones are filled with so many things, that the dish has no name.
They might call one Betty's hot-dish or Carol's potatoes. Some ladies can't make enough, and theirs is gone in no time at all. As you are standing in line, you are hoping some of Betty's is left, but to be polite you have to take a dab of everyone's.
Usually I bring chocolate sandwiches. I make two pans of brownies from scratch and then put them together with a layer of chocolate frosting between. They are messy and gooey, but they do taste great. Also I cut them so that each one is huge. Some of my fudge tasters said enough was enough and they were willing to help me out with the tasting of the fudge, but they were not about to have my brownie sandwiches on the same week as my fudge. I told them to just pass the brownies up and they said, "Yeah right." I must admit that they are very addicting and I never make them unless I can take them out of the house right away or it would be death by chocolate.
The winter is getting long for the animals too. The deer are eating cedar now and they know nobody is about to shoot them, because that diet of cedar makes their meat taste horrible. I will see them right below my deck eating the snow where the seeds from the bird feeder fell. I will yell at them and they just look up at me and go back to eating. The warm days we had last week helped them out as the snow isn't as deep now, but there is still a hard crust of ice if they get off their paths.
When we had those warm days my deck was filled with birds and squirrels, but now that it is cold again they come in ones and twos. Now zero seems very cold and a few weeks ago zero felt pretty good,
I had high hopes for my indoor salad greens but they went bust. The two tomatoes I planted in the middle of the greens are doing just fine and I might leave them in the big pots I planted them in. I will probably take them out and repot them deeper so they can have a bigger root system. I could really go for a good BLT with a home grown tomato about now.
The mystery lady who stopped in a few weeks ago when I had made biscuits stopped back one morning this week and brought cinnamon rolls she had baked and they were really excellent. This time she called first. So I had to get the house all spiffy, but I left the pile of wood on the kitchen floor that I am using in the down stairs. It is down to about 20 boards and I should have them used up this weekend and then I will do a real cleaning before I start again. I have this big pile of cut off ends of boards and if I don't get them all out of there I will start tripping on them.
I bought some louvered doors to separate the laundry room from the rest of the area down stairs and then I will need to get a door for the Utility room. I decided I will be moving my freezer one more time and that will go in the utility room. I have way too much stuff and will have to be moving lots out before everything is done down there.
The "tasters' in town really liked this week's fudge. It has the best name so far. It is called, "Lucky '33' The Diet Breakers Fudge." It is kind of like Fantasy Fudge, but tastes creamer.
I used Ghirardelli sweet dark chocolate and Jet-Puffed marshmallows
I first put the milk, sugar, and butter in a heavy pan and heated it until the butter melted. I then put in a candy thermometer and turned up the heat to high medium. I stirred it until it was up to 238 F and kept it there for 5 minutes stirring it all the time. I turned down the heat some so it wouldn't get any hotter than that and did have to stir pretty fast. I then took it off the heat and stirred in the chocolate that I had broken up into smaller pieces, then added the 33 marshmallows and stirred them in and added the vanilla. I stood there and stirred everything another little while, about 4 minutes to really blend everything and then added the nuts. After giving them a little stir in, I poured it into a glass pan that I had covered with a film of butter.
I then got out a big glass of milk and took the cooking pan and the milk to the computer and sat and read articles while I ate all the warm fudge left in the pan. You have total control on how much of fudge is left in the pan, remembering that this fudge is by far the best fudge you will ever have.
This is a good point to remember when you are trying out different fudge recipes. Even when you have a mediocre recipe, that left-over fudge in the cooking pan that is still warm, tastes great, but maybe the fudge in the glass pan won't be as good when it cools. So,... it is always a good idea to have quite a bit of that warm fudge in the cooking pan so that you will have at least had a good taste of it when it tasted the best it could have.
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