Tomolive canning – an experiment

Every year, I try to do something with the excess tomatoes before they rot or need to be plowed under. In years past it might have been tomato pesto with the big round tomatoes or chunky marinara sauce with the firm meaty Roma tomatoes. This year I got thrown a curve ball – grape tomatoes.

While I’ve enjoyed my daily breakfast snack while walking Nick, I had no idea what to do to preserve these little bites.

I don’t know who gave me the suggestion but I started reading about Tomolives. That is a brand name for pickled grape tomatoes. The goal is to end up with a salty pickle that can be used like an olive in hors d’oeuvres or even a cocktail.

canned Tomolives

It turns out getting green tomatoes is a lot faster and easier than ripe red ones so I picked up about 15 lbs.

The recipes are quite varied so I will share what I did. My recipe is 1 part planning and 3 parts scrambling do work with what I had on hand.

I ended up canning 12 quarts and 12 pints

lots of washed and de-stemmed grape tomatoes

1 gallon white vinegar

22 oz pickling salt (sea salt or any other salt without additives)

1 big handful of fresh dill (I only had a small bunch so I used a bunch of dry as you’ll read in a moment)

2-3 oz mustard seeds

2oz pepper corns (you choose)

3 large garlic cloves

spices (little dried red chilis, Pequin chilis, fresh chilis, coriander seeds, you get the idea)

First step is tedious as you need to wash all the tomatoes and remote any stems. The tomatoes I had were still mostly holding onto their stems so I spent an hour in the sink.

I used this time to run all of the jars through the dishwasher to clean and sterilize them along with the rings. DON’T run the tops through the dishwasher!

The liquid mixture you want is 3:2:0.5 for vinegar, water, salt. You’ll scale is up as needed to fill the jars. Start making the first batch now and it may as well be a double.

I peeled all of the garlic and divided it across all 18 jars with the quart jars getting more than the pints (but not even attempting to do the whole 2:1 thing).

I filled all of the jars with the washed green tomatoes and added the garlic to each jar somewhere in the middle (unless I forgot, in which case the garlic ended up near the top).

I had a big green chili of some sort on hand so I removed the seeds and sliced it into strips. I wanted to experiment so 9 jars received this chili. All the jars received mustard seeds and all but three received coriander. 9 jars also received 5-7 little dried Pequin chilis. I didn’t have any little dried red chilis and the local store was out as well.

Since I had woefully too little fresh dill, I decided against trying to put a sprig of dill in each jar. Instead, I diced it all up and tossed it in the first batch of the liquid as I was bringing it to a boil. Then I divided that batch of liquid across all of the jars. I followed that with some dry loose dill on top of each jar, knowing it would get washed down with the next round of liquid.

I finished by making enough batches of the liquid to fill each jar to witching 1/2″-1/4″ of the top.

I read that water bath canning the Tomolives required 10 minutes. I dutifully did the entire 10 minutes on the first batch of jars. It COOKED the Tomolives and some looked like they split. So, I experimented with some at 10 minutes, some at 7′ and some at 5. I marked the tops of e jars since it will be months before I know if any of this actually works.


What does a sous vide steak look like ?

When some people hear “sous vide” the first question is “what is that?” and when they hear it is cooking in a water bath they say “you’re boiling your steak?!” This is eventually followed by “so it’s gray like a microwaved steak?”

The short answer is “no”. The longer answer is best started with a picture.

What ever you cook in an immersion water bath (the technical process of sous vide), you first seal it in an air and water tight bag.

The whole purpose of water immersion cooking is that the water bath is set to the final temperature of what you want to cook. This means the food can never get hotter that that temperature, regardless of how long it sits in that water. This means you can cook a set of steaks to medium in as little as an hour and as long as you want (but I typically start my steaks 3-5 hours before I need them.)

When it’s time for the meal, plate all of the other foods and then remove the steak from its bag, pat dry on a paper towel and sear in a 400-500F pan for not more than 30 seconds each side.

You will notice one distinct visual feature of sous vide steaks – the done-ness is completely uniform. The very outer layer has been seated but the center is consistent from edge to edge.

If you are wondering what the sauce is, it’s a cream sauce with fresh horseradish!

Espresso Haiku

light in my kitchen;
the beacon calling me in;
make my eyes open


The Devastator gets new wing-walk

Shortly after the Douglas TBD Devastator paint design was complete, it was prudent to apply wing-walk material on either side of the cockpit.

skate board deck cover
skate board deck cover

The original material was an aircraft product. It lasted only three years before the leading edge started to lift and peel in the airstream. I used gaffer’s tape for most of a season trying to make it last. It was looking pretty shabby.

I did some research and several pilots were reporting good luck using the scuff material sold for skate boards. I made the decision it would be worth a try given the “right stuff” cost me about $30 and lasted just three years and the skate board deck material is $8.75.

I removed the old wing walk with some gentle pulling assisted with a hair dryer to warm the adhesive. I then laid paper towel over the residual adhesive and soles it with mineral spirits. Wishing 15 seconds, the adhesive wiped away.

To work with the wing color, the black wing-walk is painted silver with a subtle curve to align with the wing’s paint scheme. I used the old wing walk as a pattern. The black is nearly invisible in the picture and the silver is a bit bright but it will scuff with use.

The $200 Distillery Run

It’s a Saturday. What to do … What to do …

I know! Let’s fly to a DISTILLERY!!!

A pilot budy of mine is one of the founders of Manatawny Stillworks and big surprise – it’s located walking distance from the Pottstown Airport. What are the odds of that ?

The first order of business was to get the dog tired out and settled. Then fuel the Devastator and do the pre-flight.

The flight up was uneventful if not a bit slow with 19kts on the nose. The view was nice looking down (not so nice looking up). The Eastern Shore is beautiful year round.

On arrival at Pottstown, things were busy. I was #3 for landing. Clearly they had not been informed I was on a mission and a schedule.

Something just didn’t seem right. I taxied by a couple aircraft from the history books. Then I spotted Doc Brown’s car and it all made sense.

You walk out the gate, down the side of the airport fence, take a left and another left to come up the other side of the airport and the signs tell that you have arrived.

Manatawny Still Works has whiskey a cits core but I have it on good authority one of the founders is fond of the juniper.

That’s good for me because it brought rise to this special event to honor a special new spirit – a Gin aged in a whiskey barrel ! … yes, just stop and ponder that for a good long minute.

It all starts with grain and water but here are the Italian contraptions which turn those simple ingredients into silver and gold.


After the tour (and agyonizily no tasting for the pilot), there are shirts and glasses and purchasing to be done.

With the precious cargo secure, it’s time to see if the morning headwind is an afternoon tailwind.

The winds indeed were indeed favorable but a storm was brewing faster the the wort for a whiskey. Base to final had the Devastator dropping down to the field with 19g23kts and wanting all over the place. The landing was safe but not pretty. More important, the cargo was intact.

Here is the day’s bounty! Two Gins, a whiskey, two aged Gins from batch #1, and a complimentary glass.

Who needs “hundred dollar hamburger runs” when you can GET THEE TO A DISTILLERY!

Stratux – the ADS-B weather (and traffic) open source project

There is a reddit subgroup discussing the open source project called Stratux.

The project combines open source software with commercially off the shelf (COTS) hardware to deliver in-flight weather (and traffic) to tablets and smart phones being used as Aviation navigation sources. The most popular of the apps is called ForeFlight.

I’ll be writing more about the software side in a separate post highlighting the agile methodology and user centered design strategy.

For now, I just wanted to show off my own Stratux box and the web status page telling me it’s working. It’s powered by a 6Ah battery pack and contained in an inexpensive HDD storage case.

Since I’m sitting in my home office, it won’t pick up any FAA towers but I’ve flown with it and it comes alive at 500′ and is receiving data smartly by 1500′ !

basic Stratux receiver and its web UI