Making Beer at Home — Photos

I learned how to make home-made wine during a university microbiology course in 1990, and I quickly picked up the hobby. After many years, I picked up making beer, to the pleasure of many friends over the years at local Canada Day celebrations.

Incidentally, while this page follows the preparation of beer from beer concentrate kits, the process is almost identical for making wine from wine concentrate kits.

The photos shown below cover a period of nine weeks, starting in early March, 2023, through to bottling the beer three weeks later at the very end of March, and taste testing the beer about six weeks after that — nine weeks total — in mid May, 2023. Normally, my “official” answer to “How long does it take to make beer?” is “A minimum of six weeks. Don’t believe the instructions when they say two, or three, or four weeks. Just don’t.” (Wine from kits takes about eight to nine weeks minimum.)

Making the beer:

The following is showing a very detailed progression of making beer using two kinds of beer concentrates, a blonde beer, and a brown ale. The narrative of this page will be primarily following the preparation of the blonde beer.

Day one:

First, a couple of kinds of beer concentrate kits were purchased, for a brown ale, and for a blonde beer.

Two beer concentrate kits purchased

Since beer concentrate kits often do not contain fermentable sugars, 1kg bags of dextrose were also purchased at the same time; in this case, about a bag per batch will be used, to produce a bit less than 5% alc/vol given the amount of beer I will be making (although I am not particular at all on this point beyond not wanting the alcohol content to be significantly different either way.)

Bags of dextrose purchased

Having brought the beer concentrates and dextrose home, the first thing I did was take out a beer from a previously brewed batch of beer:

Beer and glass taken out

The beer was poured into the glass:

Beer poured into glass

… and the beer was enjoyed:

Beer enjoyed

On to making new beer:

The aerator on the tap in the laundry tub was removed:

Aerator removed from tap

A five (imperial) gallon water jug was placed under the tap:

Water jug placed under tap

The water was turned on, and the jug filled with water …

Filling jug with water

While the jug was filling with water, a plastic cloth was laid out on the floor:

Plastic cloth laid out

A fermentation bin was taken out (incidentally, the original bin I bought back in late 1990 when I started making wine):

Fermentation bin taken out

A large stirring spoon, pliers, a large spoon, and a can opener, were taken out:

Tools taken out

The now-filled water container was brought out to the plastic cloth:

Filled water jug brought out

A kettle was filled with water …

Kettle filled with water

… the kettle was plugged in …

Kettle plugged in

… and finally the kettle was turned on:

Kettle turned on
Kettle turned on

A jet washer was taken out …

Jet washer taken out

… and the jet washer was attached to the tap in the laundry tub:

Jet washer attached to tap

The tap was turned on again:

Tap turned on

The aforementioned fermentation bin was brought to the laundry tub …

Fermentation bin brought to laundry tub

… then the fermentation bin was placed over the jet washer …

Fermentation bin placed over jet washer

… and I used a finger to activate the jet washer to rinse out the (previously cleaned) fermentation bin:

Fermentation bin rinsed with jet washer
Rinse water draining from fermentation bin

At this point, I took advantage of the moment to jetwash the emptied beer bottle from earlier:

Beer bottle jetwashed

… which was then placed in the dishwasher along with my other dishes, to clean for future bottling purposes (see later on).

Scissors were taken out:

Scissors taken out

The scissors were used to open a bag of dextrose:

Bag of dextrose cut open

The full contents of a bag of dextrose were poured into the fermentation bin, which was brought back to the plastic cloth:

Dextrose poured into fermentation bin
Dextrose poured into fermentation bin
Dextrose poured in fermentation bin

A can of beer concentrate, for the blonde beer, and the can opener, were taken out.

Beer concentrate and can opener taken out

The plastic top was removed from the can, revealing a yeast packet and the kit’s instructions.

Yeast packet and instructions revealed

The yeast packet was taken out …

Yeast packet taken out

… as were the instructions:

Instructions taken out
Instructions opened up

Note that while I generally follow the instructions, I apply my own fine tuned procedures. 🙂

The can opener was used to open the can of beer concentrate:

Beer concentrate can opened with a can opener
Beer concentrate can opened with a can opener

A spoon was used to remove the top of the can:

Spoon used to open can
Can opened up

… and the top of the can was finally properly removed:

Can top removed from can

The viscous beer concentrate was poured into the fermentation bin:

Beer concentrate poured into fermentation bin

The spoon was used to scrape out the rest of the concentrate from the can:

Beer concentrate scraped out of can
Beer concentrate scraped out of can

The kettle of water, while still hot, was reboiled, and boiling water was poured into the can:

Boiling water poured into beer concentrate can

The hot can was picked up with the pliers …

Can picked up with pliers

The hot water was swirled around in the can to dissolved the last of the concentrate from the can walls, and the water was poured out and into the fermentation bin:

Hot water poured out of can into fermentation bin

The rest of the boiling water was poured into the fermentation bin:

Hot water poured into fermentation bin

The large plastic stirring spoon was quickly rinsed under the tap at the laundry tub:

Plastic spoon rinsed with water

The spoon was brought to the fermentation bin:

Spoon brought to fermentation bin

… and the hot water, beer concentrate, and dextrose were thoroughly mixed:

Hot water, beer concentrate, and dextrose thoroughly mixed

The plastic tap placed on the water jug was removed:

Tap seal removed from water jug

The water in the jug was poured into the fermentation bin with the other ingredients:

Water poured into fermentation bin

At this point, all the ingredients are called wort (pronounced “wurt”), and the wort was mixed with the big plastic spoon:

Wort mixed
Wort mixed

The temperature on the thermometer stuck onto the side of the fermentation bin was checked, and the wort temperature had not yet risen come up to fermentation range (one of the temperature ranges would be highlighted were it the case):

Temperature not yet in range

Despite this, and knowing that the water temperature was below optimum range, as opposed to too warm and dangerous to yeast, the yeast packet was taken out:

Yeast packet taken out

The yeast packet was cut open with scissors:

Yeast packet opened with scissors
Yeast packet opened with scissors

The yeast was pitched into the wort (ie. sprinkled onto the surface of the unfermented beer):

Pitching yeast
Pitching yeast

The wort with the yeast was lightly stirred, in order to moisten the yeast and reactivate it:

Wort and yeast lightly stirred

A plastic shopping bag — in fact, one of the bags I’d received when the beer kits had been purchased earlier in the afternoon — was taken out:

Plastic bag taken out

The bag was partially cut so as to allow it to be used as a cover for the fermentation bin:

Bag cut to make plastic cover

Elastics and paper clips were taken out:

Elastics and paper clips taken out

Elastics were looped together:

Elastics looped together

The ends of the looped elastics were joined together with a paper clip to make a “belt”:

Ends of looped elastics joined together

The plastic bag was placed on top of the fermentation bin, covering the wort:

Wort covered with plastic sheet

The elastic loop was wrapped around the plastic sheet to keep it in place on the top of fermentation bin:

Elastic loop wrapped around plastic sheet

At this point, I had to clear the bar so that I could place the fermentation bin, full of wort, on it:

Bar cleared

A chair was placed beside the bar, so as to help in raising the heavy fermentation bin full of wort:

Chair placed to help lifting the bin full of wort

The heavy fermentation bin full of wort was lifted off the floor and onto the chair, in order to allow me to get a better hold on the bin while lifting it up to the level of the bar:

Fermentation bin full of wort lifted onto chair

The fermentation bin full of wort was then lifted up to the level of the bar:

Fermentation bin full of wort lifted up to bar level

… and finally, the fermentation bin full of wort was moved to the end of the bar, against the wall:

Fermentation bin moved to end of bar

The instructions, principally used as piece of paper on which to identify the type of beer in the fermentation bin, were placed within the elastic loop:

Instructions identifying beer placed in elastic loop

The whole process was repeated for the brown ale beer kit, and producing a second identified fermentation bin filled with wort, placed beside the first bin:

Second fermentation bin filled with wort placed on bar

Day two:

Fourteen hours later (the following morning), I peeked into the fermentation bins, and could see signs of the beginnings of fermentation:

Yeast growth after 14 hours

That evening, after about 27 hours had passed, the wort temperature was checked again, and it was barely up to 68F:

Wort temperature up to 68F

… and, at the same time, I peeked again at the wort, noticing more yeast growth:

Yeast growth after 27 hours

Day three:

After about 39 hours, I peeked once again at the wort, and the yeast was bubbling away:

Yeast growth after 39 hours

Day six:

After six days, secondary fermentors were taken out; in this case, a large five gallon plastic bottle, a one gallon jar, and, just in case, a soda bottle for last little bits:

Secondary fermentors taken out

The jet washer was again installed on the tap in the laundry tub:

Jet washer installed again

The secondary fermentors were rinsed out with the jet washer:

Secondary fermentor rinsed
Secondary fermentor rinsed

Racking equipment — items used to transfer the now-fermenting liquid easily — were taken out: Plastic tubing, a stiff plastic racking cane, a cone shaped holder to hold the racking cane (including this item was an oops, since I wouldn’t be needing it on this day), and a clip to hold the plastic tubing in place on the edge of the secondary fermentor:

Racking equipment taken out

The racking tubes were rinsed with water:

Racking tube rinsed

The secondary fermentors were placed on the floor of the bar next to where the fermenting beer was located:

Secondary fermentors placed on bar floor

The racking tube was placed in the fermentation bin with the fermenting beer, and leading all the way down to the floor where the secondary fermentors were placed:

Racking tube placed in fermentation bin and leading down to secondary fermentors

The flow of liquid beer was started by sucking on the end of the flexible section of the racking tubing (avoiding to leave any spit!), which was then secured in the neck of the secondary fermentor using the black clip, allowing for the flow of beer from above down below:

Beer flow begun and tubing secured to secondary fermentor neck

Here is the neck of the racking tube in the fermentation bin, with beer flowing through down to the secondary fermentor:

Beer flowing out of the fermentation bin

And here’s a photo of the secondary fermentor as it was filling with fermenting beer:

Secondary fermentor filling up

At a certain point when the secondary fermentor was almost full, foam formed up to the top of the secondary fermentor …

Secondary fermentor foaming up
Secondary fermentor foaming up

… and the racking tubing was transferred to the gallon jug:

Racking beer into gallon jug secondary fermentor

At this point, I should explain that during the primary fermentation, the fermentation was sufficiently vigorous to avoid air getting back in, while during secondary fermentation and the following period during which solids drop to the bottom of the secondary fermentor, the rate of gas production is insufficient to protect the beer from oxidation and contamination from the air outside the fermentor.

Therefore, airlocks, plugs for the secondary fermentors which allow gas — in this case, carbon dioxide produced by the yeast fermenting the dextrose into alcohol — to escape the secondary fermentors while keeping air from getting back in, were taken out:

Airlocks taken out

Airlocks were filled with water:

Airlock filled with water
Airlocks filled with water

Water-filled airlocks were fitted onto the now-filled secondary fermentors, which were raised up to the level of the bar:

Airlocks fitted to secondary fermentor
Airlocks fitted to secondary fermentors, and secondary fermentors raised to bar level

At the bottom of the fermentation bin, there was a sediment of dead and dying yeast:

Sediment at bottom of fermentation bin

The fermentation bin was brought to the laundry tub, and the sediment was drained out:

Sediment drained from fermentation bin

The fermentation bin was washed and rinsed with the jetwasher and a rag (not shown):

Fermentation rinsed with jetwasher
Washed and rinsed fermentation bin

The airlock was already bubbling at this point:

Airlock bubbling

The whole process was repeated for the other beer, the brown ale, and at this point, a second set of identified secondary fermentors filled with beer was placed beside the first set of secondary fermentors:

Two sets of secondary fermentors with two kinds of beer

Day nine:

At this point, sediments had formed in the secondary fermentors:

Sediment in secondary fermentor

You should start this now if you haven’t already:

Normally, I have a collection of cleaned and de-labeled beer bottles in storage. Should you not have an adequate number of bottles for bottling your beer — 23 litres requires about 66 or thereabouts 341mL bottles, or equivalent — by now you should begin collecting them.

Normally, I get beer bottles from city streets; as I am walking about in the streets, I am continuously on the lookout for empty beer bottles to reuse for my beer; fortunately for brewers like myself, but in more general terms unfortunately, in the general area where I live, they are far more common and abundant than I might want to admit, and, surprisingly, most are in excellent condition! In the following few pictures, I show the cleaning of larger 1.18 litre bottles, since I use them as well as regular 341 mL bottles for beers I produce sometimes.

Other places to get beer bottles are to buy beer at stores, consume the beer, and then clean the bottles; or, ask friends and family to save beer bottles for you; and, be really nice with the bottle return clerk at the store and politely ask them if you may pay the bottle deposits on empty returned beer bottles.

Hence, an empty bottle was taken out:

Empty beer bottle to be cleaned and delabled

The cap was unscrewed from the bottle, and kept:

Cap removed from bottle

The bottle was inspected for chips, cracks, and any other defects:

Bottle inspected for defects

A plastic bucket was partly filled with water for soaking off the labels:

Bucket filled with water for soaking labels

The bottle was placed in the bucket and filled with water …

Bottle filled with water

Once filled, the bottle was turned over (in order to properly soak the label on the neck), and the bucket was almost fully filled with water:

Bottle turned over and bucket filled with water
Bottle turned over and bucket filled with water

After a while, the label was carefully removed from the bottle:

Label removed from bottle
Label removed from bottle
Label removed from bottle
Label removed from bottle

An old vegetable scraping brush was taken out:

Brush taken out

The brush and partially delabeled bottle were brought together …

Brush used to scrape off vestiges of label from bottle

… and the vestiges of the label were removed …

Vestiges of label partly removed from bottle
Vestiges of label mostly removed from bottle

… including the glue:

Vestiges of label glue scraped off

Yet again, the jet washer was installed onto the tap in the laundry tub:

Jet washer installed

… and the bottle’s interior was rinsed with the jet washer:

Bottle interior jet washed

The bottle’s cap, which for these bottles and cap model can be reused if in good condition, was removed from the soaking water:

Cap removed from soaking water

The cap was jet washed:

Jet washing cap

The bottle and cap were placed in the dishwasher with other dishes, to be washed and sanitized before storing for bottling day:

Bottle and cap placed in dishwasher

After the dishwasher had been run, the clean bottle was taken out, ready to be stored in anticipation of bottling day:

Clean bottle ready for storage

After three weeks:

On bottling day, clean bottles were taken out to bottle the beer:

Clean bottles taken out

The dishwasher had been previously run to clean dishes, and then the clean dishes were all taken out, leaving an empty and clean dishwasher:

Clean and empty dishwasher

Large, 1.18 litre beer bottles were placed in the dishwasher:

Large bottles placed in dishwasher

Small, 341 mL beer bottles were placed in the lower rack of the dishwasher alongside the larger beer bottles …

Small beer bottles placed in dishwasher

… as well in the dishwasher’s upper rack:

Small beer bottles placed in the dishwasher’s upper rack

The dishwasher racks were rolled into the dishwashwer …

Dishwasher racks rolled into dishwasher

The dishswasher door was closed, and the dial set to start running the dishwashwer (without any soaps):

Dishwasher set to operate

At this point, with the dishwasher running, I took out another beer and glass:

Beer and glass taken out

The beer was poured into the glass:

Beer poured into glass

And the beer was enjoyed:

Beer enjoyed

Various supplies and equipment were taken out for bottling, such as more dextrose to mix into the beer (to carbonate the beer once bottled), a racking tube, a large plastic mixing spoon, a measuring cup, a cone used to hold the racking cane in place in the secondary fermentors, a measuring cup to measure out the dextrose, some bottle caps for the smaller bottles, and the bottle capper for securing the caps on the smaller bottles. Missing: Caps used for larger bottles.

Supplies for bottling the beer

The racking tube and cane were rinsed with water:

Racking tube and cane rinsed

The long plastic spoon was rinsed:

Mixing spoon rinsed

The jet washer was installed again:

Jest washer installed

The original fermentation bin was taken out:

Fermentation bin taken out

The fermentation bin was rinsed with the jet washer:

Fermentation bin rinsed with jet washer

The rinsed fermentation bin was brought over to the bar:

Rinsed fermentation bin brought to bar area

Dextrose was measured out:

Dextrose measured out

The dextrose was brought to the fermentation bin:

Dextrose brought to the fermentation bin

The dextrose was poured into the fermentation bin:

Dextrose poured into fermentation bin

The conical cane holder was placed on the racking cane:

Conical cane holder installed on racking cane

The airlock was removed from the secondary fermentor whose beer was going to be racked:

Airlock removed from secondary fermentor

The racking cane was carefully placed in the secondary fermentor whose beer was about to be racked:

Racking cane placed in secondary fermentor

I sucked a bit on the end of the tubing to start the transfer of the beer from the secondary fermentor …

Beer transferring from secondary fermentor

… which allowed for the beer to be siphoned off and transferred to the primary fermentor with the dextrose, which was on the floor of the bar:

Beer transferring to fermentation bin
Beer level in secondary fermentor becoming lower

As the beer was transferring to the fermentation bin at floor level, I stirred the beer a bit to dissolve the dextrose:

Beer stirred to dissolve dextrose

As the beer was being transferred, the level in the secondary fermentor kept on dropping:

Beer level in secondary fermentor becoming lower

Once the liquid had been fully transferred from the secondary fermentor, I transferred the racking tube to the gallon jug:

Racking tube transferred to gallon jug

… until it too was empty:

Both secondary fermentors emptied

The large secondary fermentor was jetwashed …

Secondary fermentor jetwashed

… as was the gallon jug:

Secondary fermentor jetwashed

At this point, the original fermentation bin was filled with the beer, and was thoroughly mixed again:

Fermentation bin filled with beer, and beer mixed

While the beer was still being racked, a section of the bar was cleared again …

Section of bar cleared

… the plastic cloth was placed on the floor beside the cleared section of the bar …

Plastic cloth placed on floor

… and the fermentation bin with the beer was raised up to the bar again, with the racking cane and tubing having been placed in the bucket and draping down to floor level:

Beer raised to level of bar

At this point, the dishwasher had finished operating, so the bottom rack with the large 1.18 litre and some 341 mL bottles were brought downstairs to the bottling area:

Rack of sanitized bottles brought to bottling area

Large 1.18 litre bottles were taken out of the rack and stood upright for filling:

Large bottles stood upright for filling

The racking tube was primed (flow started) and used to fill bottles one by one:

Filling beer bottles
Filling beer bottles
Filling beer bottles
Filled beer bottles

The clean caps were taken out:

Clean caps taken out
Clean caps taken out

… and the bottles were capped, and moved out of the bottling area. And here is my cat helping out with the beer bottling!

Bottles capped and cat helping
All 1.18 bottles capped

Smaller 341 mL and a single 750 mL bottles were taken out of the dishwasher rack and stood upright for bottling:

Regular beer bottles stood upright for bottling

The regular-sized beer bottles were filled with the racking tube:

Regular-sized bottles filled with beer

The filled beer bottles were moved out of the filling area as they were filled:

Regular-sized bottles filled with beer

At this point, the level of beer in the fermentation bin had gotten low, however it still contained several bottles of beer:

Beer still left in fermentation bin

Also at this point, all the bottles from the lower rack of the dishwasher had been filled with beer:

Dishwasher rack empty

The upper rack from the dishwasher was brought down to the bottling area:

Upper rack brought to bottling area

The rest of the beer was bottled, and the uncapped bottles were placed in beer cases in order to facilitate moving them over to where I capped the bottles:

Filled beer bottles placed in beer cases

At this point, I had set up my capping station, and had moved the cases of filled beer bottles there:

Bottle capping station

My beer bottle capper was taken out, along with a wooden booster to accomodate “modern” beer bottles, which are shorter than the tall bottles for which the capper seems to have been designed:

Beer bottle capper with wooden booster

Uncrimped beer bottle caps were placed on bottles one at a time …

Uncrimped beer bottle cap placed on bottle

Bottles with caps were placed in the bottle capper, starting with a tall bottle not needing the wooden booster …

Bottle placed in capper

… and the plunger was pushed down over the cap, in order to crimp it onto the bottle:

Bottle cap crimped

… producing a capped and sealed bottle of beer:

Capped and sealed bottle of beer, showing crimping around edges
Capped and sealed bottle of beer, showing the depressed top of the cap

The wooden booster was placed back on the base of the capper:

Wooden booster placed in capper

The bottles of beer were all capped:

Beer bottles capped

A permanent marker was taken out:

Permanent marker taken out

The tops of the bottles were identified, in this case with “BL” for the blonde beer, and 2023 … for the year 2023. 🙂

Bottle caps identified
Bottle caps identified

The bottles were placed back in beer cases:

Beers placed back in cases

Here are all the bottles of beer of the blonde beer:

All bottles of blonde beer

The bottling process was repeated for the brown ale:

Bottles of blonde beer and brown ale

After nine weeks:

Of course, the beer had to be taste tested, so a bottle of the blonde beer, as well as a glass, were taken out:

Blonde beer and glass taken out

The bottle was held up to the light of a window to check that it had cleared on its own:

Beer checked for clarity

The blonde beer was poured into the glass …

Beer poured into glass

… and the beer was enjoyed:

Beer enjoyed

The beer is now ready to be consumed on … well, poor weather postponed the Canada Day festivities where I live, so it will be ready when Canada Day is rescheduled!

New internet connection is hosted by myself on an old desktop computer in my bedroom, using my home internet connection. The general specs are:

  • Dell Vostro 420 Series (64bits) — BIOS date of October 24, 2008
  • Intel(R) Core(TM) 2 Quad CPU @ 2.66GHz (with hyperthreading), with a clock speed of 333MHz; L1d cache 128KiB (4 instances); L1i cache 128KiB (4 instances); L2 cache 6MiB
  • 8GB (4 x 2GB) memory, clock speed 800MHz
  • HD: 240GB SSD (OS and blog)
  • External USB hard drive: 1TB (static website data and other stuff)

Currently, it is running Fedora Linux version 37 Workstation Edition. Using the Server Edition for such a small, home-grown vanity project seemed unnecessary given a comfort level with the Workstation Edition and, since at its core, the two editions are subsets of the same OS. Ultimately, missing packages from one edition compared to the other are a “dnf install” command away. (As for a longer-term distro, I have always been a Red Hat user, so Debian or an Ubuntu LTS release aren’t interesting to me, while the new community respins of RHEL have neither captured my imagination, nor do they hold sufficient appeal anymore on a technical level.) Hence, I started from the Edition with which I and my brother (the technical heavy-lifter) are familiar, which allows for the (admittedly rare) use of a GUI as needed.

The filesystems are with ext4 on the boot partition of the SSD, as well as on the external USB hard drive; I use ext4 because I’m used to it, but can’t truly say I know, or can recommend, one filesystem from or over the next. UPDATE: I checked the filesystems and … the boot partition is ext4, and the SSD’s data portion seems to have defaulted to BTRFS; there you go, proof I don’t know much about the differences between various filesystems and their comparative advantages and disadvantages. 🙂

I have been hosting my personal website at home since at least December 2017 on a few used computers (I think the current computer is at least the fourth since transferring my website from a friend-of-my-brother’s web hosting service):

  • December 2017: IBM ThinkCentre, circa 2003 era and running CentOS 7.X (retired due to a suspected thermal event)
  • Sometime after 2017 and until April 2020: A Core 2-duo circa possibly 2010 era, running various current Fedora versions up to version 31 (repurposed due to power issues)
  • April 2020: IBM ThinkCentre, circa possibly 2006 or 2007 era, running Fedora 31 to Fedora 37 (retired due to unknown problems causing constant reboot cycles, which were not fully investigated)
  • The current 2008 era computer installed in February 2023: Dell Core 2 Duo, 2008, (described above) using the same SSD and therefore instance of Fedora 37 from the previous IBM ThinkCentre

But to wit, since hosting myself, it has always been on my home internet service, a DSL line with a (now-)paltry 6.05MBit-ish down and, what, 0.67MBit-ish up capacity, which for reasons beyond the scope of this post had not been upgraded for (best I can remember) over 20 years.

Time marching on and the increase of devices in the household meant that while still minimally usable and just functional, the internet connection regularly became inadequate for daily use, and barely usable for things like weekly simultaneous videoconferences (and with slightly-more-than-tacit rules of “no other internet usage during said weekly dual videoconferences” and the like.) The slow internet access, especially the slow uplink, affected a blogging project started in late 2020 showing pictures of the preparation of my recipes from my collection by limiting photo sizes not only as a good idea for reasons of netiquette, page layout and formatting, but as an outright necessity given the limited upload capacity (thank you WordPress for lazy-loading!)

Well, last week we finally upgraded the internet package to cable with 120MBit down and 20MBit up. Interestingly, we had had a cable modem for a few years in the late 1990’s until it became quite unusable and made a switch to DSL; as a side note, a box, some equipment inside it, and some cable wiring from that period were still attached to the outside of the house, not having been removed at the time, and were still compatible and usable when we got the install last week.

As such, now has decent upload speeds!

Making Mashed Sweet Potato and Ground Roast Pork Casseroles — Photos

This is a relatively new addition to my collection of recipes, after having looked through an old community cookbook given to me by a neighbour. It is based on a near-identical recipe obviously (and expressly) intended to use up leftovers from a roast pork Sunday dinner; however, after trying the original recipe, which called for the use of brown sugar and apple slices, I decided to omit the sugar, which made the dish too sweet, and the apples, which didn’t suit us, and replaced them with cooked carrots.

This cooking session occurred in early April, 2023; for a variety of reasons, including the sheer number of photos to organize and prepare for this post — I went into overdrive! — it has taken a bit more than three weeks for me to build this blog post. Also, for the sake of the narrative, the photo progression presented here occasionally differs from the precise progression of when the photos were taken, either because of some mise-en-place activities, actual progression of the food preparation, photo shooting (and occasionally its impact on progression), several operations occurring concurrently, and the like.

Preparing the dish:

Firstly, a countertop convection oven was turned on:

Countertop convection oven turned on
Countertop oven turned on
Oven turned on and set to 350F
Countertop oven turned on

A roasting tray was taken out:

Roasting tray taken out

A package of (frozen) pork loin, defrosted prior to the cooking session, was taken out:

Defrosted pork loin taken out

Scissors were taken out to open the vacuum pack sealing the pork:

Scissors taken out

The pork loin’s vacuum pack was cut open:

Packaging cut open

The pork loin, removed from the vacuum pack, was placed in the roasting tray:

Pork placed in roasting tray

Garlic salt was taken out:

Garlic salt taken out

Garlic salt was liberally shaken on top of the pork loin:

Garlic salt shaken onto pork
Garlic salt shaken onto pork

The pork loin was placed in the countertop convection oven:

Pork placed in countertop convection oven

A timer was set for an hour as a reminder for how long to cook the pork loin:

One hour set on timer

A pot was taken out for boiling carrots:

Pot taken out for boiling carrots

A scale was taken out to know roughly measure out the right amount of carrot:

Scale taken out to measure carrots

Carrots were taken out:

Carrots taken out

About a quarter pound of carrot — in this case, a single carrot — was taken out of the bag:

Quarter pound of carrot measured out

The carrot was cleaned and rinsed:

Carrot rinsed

The cleaned carrot was placed on a cutting board:

Cleaned carrot placed on cutting board

The carrot was trimmed:

Carrot trimmed

The carrot was sliced lengthwise:

Carrot sliced lengthwise

… and again sliced a few more times to make carrot spears:

Carrot sliced lengthwise to create spears

The carrot spears were chopped:

Carrots chopped
Carrots chopped

The chopped carrots were transferred to the pot:

Chopped carrots transferred to pot
Chopped carrots transferred to pot

Water was added to the pot of chopped carrots until the carrots were covered:

Water added to pot of carrots
Water added to pot of carrots

Salt was added to the carrots and water:

Salt added to water and carrots

A stove burner was turned on:

Stove burner turned on

The carrots were brought to a boil …

Carrots brought to a boil

Once the carrots were boiled for about ten minutes, the boiling water was drained off:

Boiling water drained from pot

A mixing bowl was taken out in which to transfer the carrots:

Mixing bowl taken out

The boiled carrots were transferred to the mixing bowl:

Boiled carrots transferred to mixing bowl
Boiled carrots transferred to mixing bowl

The carrots were put aside for a bit.

A microwave-safe cooking vessel was taken out, ready for a few moments later when the sweet potatoes would be peeled:

Microwave-safe cooking vessel taken out
Microwave-safe cooking vessel taken out

A bowl was placed on the scale, and the scale set to zero:

Bowl placed on scale, scale set to zero

A bit more than four pounds of sweet potatoes were measured out:

Sweet potatoes taken out

A potato peeler was taken out:

Potato peeler taken out

The sweet potatoes were peeled, with the peels placed in a bucket to keep for later disposal in a municipal composting programme:

Sweet potatoes peeled

Peeled sweet potatoes were placed in the microwave-safe cooking vessel:

Peeled sweet potato placed in cooking vessel
Peeled sweet potato placed in cooking vessel

A kitchen knife was taken out:

Kitchen knife taken out

The sweet potatoes were sliced and quartered:

Sweet potatoes sliced and quartered
Sweet potatoes sliced and quartered

… and placed back in the microwave-safe cooking vessel:

Sweet potato quarters placed in cooking vessel

Water was added to the cooking vessel …

Water added to cooking vessel

… to about a bit below the surface of the sweet potatoes:

Water added to cooking vessel

The vessel was covered …

Sweet potatoes covered

… and placed in the microwave oven:

Sweet potatoes placed in microwave oven

The microwave oven (1200 watts) was set to 18 minutes:

Microwave oven set to eighteen minutes

… and the microwave oven was turned on:

Microwave oven turned on

While the sweet potatoes were cooking, a package of dried gravy mix — turkey gravy, which is what I had on hand, and in a package that makes a cup’s worth of gravy, as called for in the recipe, was taken out:

Gravy mix taken out

The gravy packet was opened and its contents transferred to another pot that was taken out:

Gravy mix added to pot

A measuring cup was taken out:

Measuring cup taken out

A cup of water was measured out:

Water measured out

The water was added to the pot:

Water added to gravy mix

The gravy mix and water were mixed with a spoon:

Gravy mix and water mix

The gravy was put aside, since the time on the roast pork ran out:

Pork taken out of oven

A meat thermometer was taken out …

Meat thermometer taken out

… and stuck into the pork, giving a temperature reading just right for fully cooked pork:

Meat thermometer reading of cooked pork

The pork was removed from the roasting pan:

Pork removed from roasting pan

… and the juices in the roasting pan were drained into the bowl with the cooked carrots

Pork juices drained into bowl with cooked carrots

The roast pork was sliced thickly:

Pork sliced thickly
Pork sliced thickly

The roast pork was cut into cubes:

Pork cut into cubes

A small blender with chopping blades was taken out …

Blender with chopping blades taken out

… and the blender was plugged in:

Blender plugged in

Cubes of roast pork were placed in the blender …

Cubes of pork placed in blender

… and the lid placed on top of the blender:

Blender lid installed

The pork was ground finely without creating a mush:

Pork ground

The chopped pork was transferred to the bowl with the cooked carrots and pork juices:

Ground pork transferred to bowl with carrots
Ground pork transferred to bowl with carrots

Larger bits of pork which did not get ground finely enough were removed from the bowl, to be ground again with more pork cubes:

Larger bits of pork removed from bowl to be reground with the rest of the pork

The rest of the pork was ground and transferred to the mixing bowl.

Returning to the gravy, a burner on the stove was turned on, in this case, the smaller inner part of a larger burner which has two settings:

Stove burner turned on
Gravy being heated

The gravy was constantly mixed while being heated, to avoid burning:

Gravy constantly mixed

Once the gravy came to a boil, the timer was set to a minute …

One minute set on timer once gravy boiling

… while the burner setting was reduced to just about minimum to only allow for simmering:

Stove burner setting reduced

Once the minute ran out, the gravy was poured over the ground pork and carrots:

Gravy poured into bowl with pork and carrots
Gravy poured into bowl with pork and carrots

The gravy, ground pork, and carrots were mixed with the spoon:

Pork, carrots, and gravy mixed

At this point, oven-proof dishes were taken out, for filling:

Oven-proof dishes taken out

The meat mix was spooned into containers to about half full, and spread out evenly:

Meat mix transferred to oven-proof dish
Meat mix transferred to oven-proof dish
Oven-proof dishes filled with meat mix

At this point, I came back to the sweet potatoes, which had long since finished cooking in the microwave oven:

Cooked sweet potatoes taken out of microwave oven

The sweet potatoes were checked with a fork to see if they were properly cooked through, which they were:

Cooked sweet potatoes checked for degree of cooking

The water was drained off of the sweet potatoes:

Cooking water drained

A container of margarine was taken out and opened:

Margarine container taken out
Margarine container opened

A dollop of margarine was taken from the margarine container with a spoon:

Dollop of margarine taken from container

The margarine was added to the sweet potatoes:

Margarine added to sweet potatoes
Margarine added to sweet potatoes

A measuring cup and milk were taken out:

Milk and measuring cup taken out

Milk was measured out:

Milk measured out

The milk was added to the sweet potatoes and margarine:

Milk added to sweet potatoes
Milk added to sweet potatoes

Measuring spoons were taken out:

Salt was taken out:

Salt taken out

Salt was measured out:

Salt measured out

The salt was added to the sweet potatoes:

Salt added to sweet potatoes
Salt added to sweet potatoes

An electric mixer was taken out, to mash the sweet potatoes:

Electric mixer taken out

The electric mixer was plugged in:

Electric mixer plugged in

The sweet potatoes were mashed with the electric mixer:

Mashing sweet potatoes with electric mixer
Mashing sweet potatoes with electric mixer
Sweet potatoes mashed

A plastic icing spreader was taken out:

Plastic icing spreader taken out

Mashed sweet potatoes were picked up with the icing spreader …

Mashed sweet potato picked up with icing spreader

… and, back to the containers with the pork, gravy, and carrots mix, the mashed sweet potatoes were spread on top of the meat mix :

Mashed sweet potatoes spread on top of meat mix
Mashed sweet potatoes spread on top of meat mix
Mashed sweet potatoes spread on top of meat mix
Mashed sweet potatoes spread on top of meat mix

Plastic bags were taken out and identified and dated:

Bags taken out and identified

The dishes were placed in the individual bags:

Dishes placed in bags

And finally, the bagged dishes were placed in the freezer:

Bagged dishes placed in freezer

This tasty dish is now a favourite!

Drying Pineapples — Photos

I bought a food dehydrator in early 1997 while I was still involved as an adult member in Scouting, and began by drying (mostly) various fruits for Scout Troop camping trips; Troop members were eager to test out the results of my efforts. While I am no longer involved in Scouting, I have continued drying fruits; I quickly decided that my favourite by far was dried pineapple, which comes out like candy to me.

A short overview of my very early experiences with drying food, from a Scouting perspective, is at what would have been a blog back in the late 1990’s before blogs were a thing at

Drying the pineapples:

I keep an eye out for sales on pineapples, and brought home six pineapples last week:

Six pineapples (one is on its side)

I brought my cutting board, knife, and corer down to the bar area downstairs, where I normally do my fruit drying:

Cutting board, knife, and corer taken out

A bucket for the compostable trimmings was also set out:

Bucket for compostable trimmings taken out

My food dehydrator was of course taken out, with all its extra trays …

Food dehydrator and trays taken out

… and the unit was plugged into an extension cord caddy that was plugged into an outlet in an adjoining room, since the bar has an old outlet that doesn’t accept polarized plugs:

Food dehydrator plugged in

The food dehydrator was set to 135F for drying fruits and vegetables:

Food dehydrator temperature set

Now to the pineapples: The labels and their plastic tags were removed from the pineapples:

Labels removed from pineapples

A pineapple was placed on its side in order to trim off the top:

Pineapple placed on its side

The top of the pineapple was sliced off:

Top of pineapple sliced off
Top of pineapple sliced off

The top of the pineapple was placed in the scraps bucket:

Top of pineapple placed in scraps bucket
Pineapple tops in scraps bucket

The pineapple was rotated so as to slice off the bottom:

Bottom sliced off pineapple
Bottom sliced off pineapple

The bottom of the pineapple was placed in the scraps bucket:

Pineapple bottom placed in scraps bucket
Pineapple bottom placed in scraps bucket

The pineapple is now ready for the rest of the trimming:

Pineapple ready for trimming

I started trimming the skin off the pineapple:

Trimming the skin off the pineapple
Trimming the skin off the pineapple

As part of trimming the skin off the pineapple, sometimes the bottoms have to be trimmed too because of the somewhat rounded shape of pineapples, making it tricky sometimes to trim off the skin in full slices:

Bottoms to be trimmed as well

The trimmed pineapple skins …

Trimmed pineapple skins

… were placed in the scraps bucket:

Pineapple skins placed in scraps bucket
Pineapple skins placed in scraps bucket

The trimmed pineapple was again placed on its side …

Pineapple placed on its side

… and sliced into two halves roughly at its centre, essentially to accommodate the length of my corer, although the resulting slices tend to be of a convenient size as well:

Pineapple cut in half
Two pineapple halves

An apple corer was used to remove the pineapple cores:

Coring half of a pineapple
Coring half of a pineapple
Cored pineapple half

I began slicing pieces off the cored pineapple half, roughly two milimetres thick:

Slicing piece off pineapple
Slicing piece off pineapple

The slices were placed on a drying tray:

Sliced pineapple placed on drying tray

More slices were sliced off the pineapple, to about half of the pineapple half:

Almost half of the half pineapple sliced off

… until the tray was filled:

Tray filled with pineapple slices

The filled tray was placed on the food dehydrator base:

Filled tray placed on dehydrator base

The top of the dehydrator was placed on the tray:

Top placed on the dehydrator

Oh and here’s my cat to help me out:

My cat helping me out

I continued trimming and slicing the pineapples, filling twelve trays; as can be surmised from the following picture, in 2012, I added an additional eight trays to the original four I’d bought in 1997!)

Twelve trays filled with pineapple slices

The twelve trays were filled with a bit more than four and a half of the pineapples I’d purchased, leaving at this point a little less than one and a half pineapples to slice up later as the slices in the dehydrator dried and made space:

One and a half pineapples left after filling twelve trays

At this point, the breaker on the extension cord carrying case decided to trip (in my experience, unusual for a single device with a peak draw of only about 550 watts, although I do suspect that the caddy does have a lower trip level than a normal household circuit breaker):

Tripped breaker

Quickly, a new extension cord was taken out:

New extension cord taken out

… which was plugged into an outlet, and the dehydrator plugged into the new extension cord:

Dehydrator plugged in to new extension cord

Back to the pineapples, the scraps were placed in the scrap bucket, which was ultimately emptied into my municipal compostable waste bin:

Scrap bucket filled with pineapple trimmings

At this point, Mom asked for some mashed pineapple, and got a total of six containers, which were placed in the freezer:

Three of the six containers of mashed pineapple Mom got

After about six hours, here’s what a tray of partly dried pineapple slices looked like, including the size shrinkage:

Tray of partly dried pineapples

The partly dried pineapple slices were shifted around to make space:

Space made on tray

After space was made on all the trays, four trays were emptied:

Four trays of space freed up

… and the first few pineapple slices dried to my liking were removed from the trays. Allowed to completely dry, pineapple will become crispy like potato chips; I like dried pineapple that is still a bit chewy and flexible, while there is still a very small amount of humidity left in the slices. As such, I remove slices when they have a leathery feel, and after the surface of the slices are no longer sticky.

Almost completely dried slices of pineapple

A zipper style sandwich bag was taken out to store the dried pineapple:

Zipper style sandwich bags taken out

… and the dried pineapple slices were stacked and placed in the bag:

Dried pineapple placed in bag

At this point — seven hours in — I finished slicing the rest of the pineapples, spread them on a couple of the emptied trays, and inserted the filled trays back in the dehydrator stack, for a total of ten trays:

Ten trays after seven hours

After nine hours, here’s what the pineapple looked like:

Tray after nine hours

… and a few more slices of dried pineapple were taken out for bagging:

More dried pineapple after nine hours
Collection of dried pineapple after nine hours

… and my dehydrator was down to seven trays after nine hours:

Seven trays after nine hours

After twelve hours, the dehydrator was checked again:

Tray of dried pineapple after twelve hours

… and more dried pineapple was taken out after twelve hours:

Dried pineapple taken out after twelve hours

… and stacked for bagging:

Dried pineapple stacked for bagging after twelve hours

… and bagged:

Dried pineapple after twelve hours

… and after all the shifting around and bagging, I was down to five trays in the dehydrator:

Five trays after twelve hours

At this point, I had gone to bed, but I woke up after a couple of hours at midnight, and checked on the dehydrator, shifting pineapple slices around and removing dried sliced pineapple. Here’s the bagged cumulative production after fourteen hours:

Total production after fourteen hours

… and I was down to four trays after fourteen hours:

Four trays after fourteen hours

Finally, after seventeen hours — in this case, three in the morning! (yes, I had set my alarm) — I emptied the dehydrator and bagged the last of the dried pineapple slices, for a total of five bags of dried pineapple slices, from a bit over five pineapples:

Five sandwich bags of dried pineapple

After a couple of days, I started eating the dried pineapple — yes, like a kid in a candy shop! 🙂

Making a two egg, ham and cheese omelette — Photos

I picked up making omelettes for Mom a few months ago out of the blue, because they’re easy to make, and Mom seemed to appreciate them right off the bat. As of this post’s writing, I don’t have a formal recipe written up, but I imagine I could soon; hence for the moment, this post *is* The recipe can now be found here! 🙂 (20240128)

Making the omelette:

I normally keep ground ham in the freezer, divided into serving sizes in small containers, so I took some out, about 15g to 20g (about half to three quarters of an ounce):

Ground ham taken out from freezer

Should you not have ground ham on hand, here’s how I make the ground ham:

Deli-style sliced “old-fashioned smoked ham”, in this case purchased at the grocery store in the pre-packaged deli meats counter, was taken out:

Deli-style sliced “old fashioned smoked ham”

… and a coffee grinder was taken out:

Coffee grinder taken out

The package was opened up, and a couple of slices of ham were placed in the coffee grinder …

Ham placed in coffee grinder

… the coffee grinder was closed …

Lid placed on coffee grinder

… and the ham was coarsely ground (though not turned to mush!) a few pulses at a time:

Ham being ground
Coarsely ground ham

(… and, the rest of the ham in the package was similarly ground and placed in a couple of containers, divided up into individual serving sizes, and frozen.)

The frozen ham taken out earlier was placed in the microwave oven to defrost it:

Frozen ground ham placed in microwave oven

… and the microwave oven (1100 watts) was set to about 30 seconds, just enough to mostly defrost the ham:

Microwave oven set to 30 seconds (1100 watts)

The microwave oven was turned on:

Chopped ham defrosting in microwave oven

Finally, the defrosted chopped ham was broken up with a fork:

Defrosted chopped ham broken up with fork

The chopped ham was put aside for a few moments.

Again, normally, I keep cheddar cheese sliced off the block in the fridge, so I took some out:

Container of cheddar cheese sliced off block

Should you not have sliced cheese on hand, here’s how I slice the cheese: A block of cheddar cheese and a cheese slicer in the form of a slotted lifter, where were the slot has an edge intended for slicing the likes of cheese off of a block, were taken out; normally we like mild cheddar, but you can choose any kind of cheese you like that will slice, shred, or crumble nicely:

Block of cheddar cheese with cheese slicer

The block of cheese was unwrapped:

Unwrapped block of cheddar cheese with cheese slicer

Cheese was sliced off the block:

Cheese sliced off block

… and as the cheese was sliced, it was placed in a container:

Cheese slices placed in container

The cheese slices which were produced for this demonstration were put away in the fridge, while the cheese slices taken out earlier were put aside on the counter for a few moments.

Back to the omelette, a mixing bowl was taken out:

Mixing bowl taken out

Two eggs were taken out:

Eggs taken out
Eggs taken out
Two eggs taken out

Two eggs were cracked in the mixing bowl:

Eggs cracked in mixing bowl
Eggs cracked in mixing bowl

Milk was taken out, and about an ounce of milk was measured out:

Milk taken out and measured

The milk was added to the eggs:

Milk added to eggs
Milk added to eggs

A bit of salt was added to the eggs and milk:

Salt added to eggs and milk

The mixture was beaten with a fork:

Beating eggs and milk and salt with fork
Ingredients beaten with fork

For this amount of egg mixture, I use a 6 inch / 15 centimetre non-stick frypan:

6 inch / 15 centimetre non-stick frypan

Also, an aluminum pie plate was taken out:

Aluminum pie plate take out

The stove was turned on to a low setting, but, crucially, given that I was using a larger burner and that this burner can be set to only use a smaller, inner circle, I should have only set it to that smaller, inner circle.

Stove set to low setting

Cooking oil, in this case olive oil, was taken out and added to the frypan:

Olive oil added to frypan
Olive oil added to frypan

The olive oil was spread over the cooking surface of the frypan:

Olive oil spread over cooking surface
Olive oil spread over cooking surface

The beaten egg mixture was poured into the frypan:

Egg mixture poured into frypan
Egg mixture poured into frypan
Egg mixture poured into frypan

The aluminum pie plate was placed over the frypan as a means to cook the top of the egg mixture somewhat more quickly:

Pie plate placed on top of frypan

A few slices of the cheese was taken out of the container, about enough just to cover half the surface of the omelette, twice, with a not too thick layer of cheese, especially since there will be two layers (see below):

Cheese taken out of container

The aluminum pie plate was taken off the frypan, revealing that the egg mixture was cooking through:

Aluminum pie plate removed from frypan

About half the cheese slices were placed on half of the omelette (in this case, on the left hand half of the omelette!):

Cheese placed over half omelette

The ground ham was spread over the cheese on the omelette:

Ground ham spread over cheese

The rest of the cheese slices were placed on top of the ground ham:

Cheese placed on top of ham

The aluminum pie plate was again placed on top of the frypan, in order to help melt the cheese and warm the ham:

Aluminum pie plate placed over frypan

A few moments later, the pie plate was removed, and half the omelette was flipped over onto the other half:

Omelette flipped over on itself

A bit of water was drawn from a tap and into a glass …

Water drawn from tap

Some water was poured into the frypan, in order to create some steam:

Water poured into the frypan to create steam

The aluminum pie plate was again placed on top of the frypan to capture the steam to continue cooking the omelette:

Aluminum pie plate placed on top of frypan

The aluminum pie plate was again removed from the frypan, and the omelette cut in two:

Cutting the omelette in two

At this point, the two halves were quickly turned over (oops, I forgot to take a picture) and cooked for another very small moment.

Half the omelette was served on a plate for Mom to have right away, and the other half was placed in a container to place in the fridge, for Mom to have at a later time:

Omelette split in two

Ketchup was added, and the omelette was served to Mom:

Omelette served with ketchup

To my pleasure, Mom yet again found it to be tasty! hardware upgrade

This is a quick note (mostly to myself) to say that the computer hosting — the website hosting this blog — has been switched out and replaced.

Last night, I was able to access the site normally and remotely while out to dinner at the home of some friends. This morning, in trying to ssh into the machine to do a routine manual software update, the connection kept timing out and disconnecting. Some quick diagnostics along the lines of “is the machine plugged in?” and a few reboots to watch was what happening — about as much as it would allow me to do, in fact — revealed that for reasons unknown, it was rebooting, going through a grub page, booting up, showing the Fedora logo, and, after the logo disappeared but before the login prompt appeared, a bios message came on the screen indicating a signal loss, and a reboot would begin again.

I tried a few past kernels in the grub menu, including the rescue kernel, and checking the bios, to no avail. Bringing up the text display of what was going on during the bootup was hard to access since I was scratching my head wondering “What’s the keystroke to do that again?”; same for getting the console. No matter, other things needed attending to in the moment, and I moved on.

Fortunately, my brother-in-the-know was coming within the hour, and I sent him some messages about it. He offered to bring an old junk-computer-which-wasn’t-quite-junk-yet I had given to him a while back and which he wasn’t using, at least not yet. After describing the problem to him and offering my rough diagnosis — either there was a corruption somewhere in the software, causing the reboots, or, during the reboots software commands invoke a (presumably faulty due to old age) physical hardware system or circuit, which caused a problem leading to the reboots — both of which, particularly the latter, he thought may have had merit.

My brother brought the old machine. Before installing anything, he first checked the OS SSD from the server (which also contains this blog’s database) in a USB caddy, then he checked the external data drive holding the rest of the static website and my backups, again by USB. Data on both units were in good condition. We finally went straight to replacing the machine by transferring the SSD and external drive to the new old machine, and here I am typing up this memo to myself.

The machine’s specs?

Dell Vostro 420 series; 8.0 GiB; Intel Core2 Quad Q9400 x 4; Mesa Intel G45/G43 (ELK) video card, with lots of USB ports, a networking card, and other things many people including myself take for granted.

And since the 240.1 GB SSD is the drive from the previous machine, it is still running the same instance of Fedora and the LAMP stack with WordPress, suffice it to say that I’m up to Fedora Linux 37 (Workstation Edition) 64-bit on it, and running up to date LAMP and WordPress software.

In fact, as I am finishing up this post, the machine is being updated!

Freezer Cooking and Lunches

In mid-2006, my employer at the time was acquired by another company, and my new employers required me – rightfully so – to take some basic training that I should have taken several years earlier. The training was after work hours, two evenings a week, for a few weeks.

Normally, my eating habits were (and still are) such that a given day’s lunch was composed of leftovers from the previous evening’s supper; in fact, normally supper meal plans at the time and still to this day usually intentionally include cooking for one more serving than the meal would call for, so that I would have a lunch the following day.

The training course, however, had the effect of not only requiring me to improvise for my supper plans, such as eating fast food, but also required me to improvise for the following day’s lunch too. My memory of this period is that there was a snowball effect on much of the week’s meals, although it probably was not quite as dramatic as what my mind has woven into my memory.

One of the solutions I came up with — but never quite fully implemented at the time — was the idea of a cooking weekend, targeted at being done at the cottage. My ambition at that point was to stock the freezer with a variety, as well as a large stock, of dishes and prepared meals, including lunches, so that the above situation wouldn’t be a problem moving forward. I had notions that were fairly ambitious, both in terms of the variety of meals to be made during the weekend, as well as the sheer amount of food that I suppose I expected to make over such a hypothetical weekend.

I developed the following planning table:

The table I created with basic plans for such a cooking weekend

As can be seen, one of the goals was to make a number of dishes based on a common ingredient, my spaghetti sauce, which I had begun making in the early 1990’s.

As also can be seen, although there were a few numbers of dishes to produce, overall the list is rather vague in what I would end up with in terms of numbers. Among other things, while I did have rough ideas of how much of most of the items I would make (or at least envisioned making), for instance, I didn’t start planning out the required amounts of each of the ingredients and sub-ingredients needed to make the dishes and components.

Overall, it seemed — and still seems to this day — rather vague and all over the place, and overly ambitious to the point of being daunting. Critically, although I knew that I would be making about seven to eight quarts of my spaghetti sauce, I didn’t plan out its ingredients, determine just how many of each of the other dishes for which it would be used would be produced from the seven to eight quarts, or whether some of the “larger” dishes were to be prepared for their own sake and the freezer, or to be ultimately cooked and divided up into lunch containers. Except as an afterthought, I just about didn’t even insert the making of the spaghetti sauce into the weekend’s already ambitious cooking plans!

Before coming to this last realization, I realized that my plan would only produce two or three servings’ or meals’ worth of each, which might all be eaten in short order.

Unsurprisingly, the planned weekend was never executed, and after a few weeks, my evenings freed up, and my regular lunches returned.

Years later, I realized despite the usefulness of the intentions behind my plans for the cooking weekend, at least for me, it suffered from not only being too ambitious in its own right, but from being even more ambitious than I thought. At the same time, the overall plan suffered from being a bit too wide in its intended scope given what would be a limited amount of base (the spaghetti sauce). As such, the plan was likely to produce — should I accomplish it all in such a weekend — merely an amount of food, especially the lunches, that would be consumed far more quickly than I had hoped.

My spaghetti sauce — and what I do now for tomato sauce based dishes

My spaghetti sauce was a bit of a marathon sauce to make. Based on canned tomatoes, it also included an inordinate variety and amount of chopped vegetables for a spaghetti sauce, and — especially the end product — was not unlike my current vegetable soup recipe, which I have been making since about 2013. I had a prideful joy in making it, partly as a result of it being so chock-full of vegetables, but, to a degree than I didn’t care to admit at the time, also borne of a stubborn pride resulting from it being a showcase of all the vegetables it contained and a desire to show off a certain (naïve) cooking acumen.

My chili recipe recipe from the early 1990’s, which is essentially my spaghetti sauce with the addition of the red kidney beans and the chili powder (image scanned from my church’s cookbook, published in 1996)

However, one of the things I realized in looking at my big cooking weekend, both early on without realizing it, as well as more formally just recently, was that I just wanted to make, say, lasagna, chilli, beef rolls, pasta dishes, or my eggplant dish (as well as a few lunches not involving my sauce). The “without realizing it” part (early on) was overshadowed by the prideful notion that it made sense at the time to want to use my spaghetti sauce to then make all these other dishes.

Except … I have come to realize that the effort to make the sauce to begin with, as well as my pride in wanting to use it, was perhaps core to the difficulty in implementing the cooking weekend. While the dishes were meant to be a showcase to myself for my spaghetti sauce and as well as my cooking in general, I realized that all these dishes were about showcasing the whole dishes, and not so much meant to showcase my spaghetti sauce.

As such, for a long time now, many of the tomato sauce dishes I make call for commercially prepared tomato / spaghetti sauces, as opposed to, specifically, my home-made sauce.

(As a side thought, were to I make spaghetti sauce again, I have a few vague notions about simplifying it somewhat, as well as chopping the vegetables much more finely, to the point of grinding them, instead of the coarse chopping I favoured for the “sauce” in the 1990’s.)

How things have evolved to today:

Despite the fact that the above weekend plan never materialized, I soon took to often planning cooking weekends when I went to the cottage, especially during the off-season (it’s a family cottage, so there always have been occasional scheduling issues which haven’t always allowed me to do what I would like, when I would like. 🙂 )

However, the first thing that should be mentioned, since this post is at least partly predicated on a period of time in which having ready-made lunches handily available in the freezer was essential, but was not the case, is that … I haven’t since planned out cooking weekends dedicated to cooking ready-made lunches for the freezer, or form a cooking club with a few friends in which we fastidiously make a week’s worth (or more) of lunches and other meals every Saturday, or otherwise come up with a systematic method of stocking the freezer with ready-made lunches.

In the intervening years, the principal approach I have taken to rectify unforeseen needs for prepared lunches is to hoard lunches and leftovers in the freezer; in addition to routinely making extra food for the following day’s lunch, I would occasionally also, at random opportunities, zealously make an extra lunch to place in the freezer. As such, my supply of extra lunches at any given time ebbs and swells according to how many lunches I have managed to hoard at that point in time, versus how many I have needed to eat recently. Fortunately, some of my recipes somewhat ease mounting full lunches in the freezer by being pair-able with odds-and-ends leftovers, such as bacon wrapped chicken, meatballs, and stuffed potato skins.

What I do do is plan “big” cooking weekends many times while I am up at the cottage, including quite often during the off season in winter, incidentally without running water. This is done in conjunction with weekend afternoons in the city with similar objectives (including a cook-through-my-collection-of-recipes project I did mostly in 2021, accessible off my home page at ). Depending on my desires and ambitions, I usually concentrate on single projects, per day anyway; during a week over Christmas to New Year’s, for instance, I usually plan for almost as many large cooking projects as there are days – to cook various large cooking projects to fill the freezer.

I had begun large, more focused, cooking weekends not too long after my above planned weekend should have taken place, continuing a certain tradition I had started years earlier of occasionally making large quantities of my recipes, from a then-limited recipe répertoire, typically focusing on large freezer quantities of one, or perhaps two, recipes from my collection.

Therefore, early on — at this point, exactly “when” being lost to the sands of time and the multiple computer upgrades over the years, during which dates of creation, or at least the last edit, have been lost several times over — I had put the following list together. I tried to write down what my aims and guidelines had become. Note that the text of the list has been slightly edited to fit the current narrative:

  • A dish needs to be just as easy to make several units of the recipe as one unit – if not easier, and as such not more difficult to make because it’s in quantity (barring the extra time and labour merely due to extra quantity – taking advantage of economies of scale);
  • A dish needs to be easy to make in large quantities, using a repetitive production line process;
  • A dish must be appropriate for freezing – for instance, my zucchini dish is not appropriate for freezing, although its sauce is appropriate for freezing!
  • A dish should be something that just needs to be defrosted and reheated / cooked in toaster oven or regular oven;
  • A dish should be “convenience food” — the operative notion being “convenient because it’s made in advance and ready to eat” (or brown and serve), not as in “junk food” or like industrially produced, store bought frozen lunches;
  • A dish should not be something at its core easy enough to make any day of the week fresh (looking back, I suppose that this is barring a notion to make multiple units of otherwise easy to make lunches to stock the freezer, were that have been a priority at the time);
  • A cooking project should not just be components for other dishes – ie. projects should be to make full meals, not just cooked hamburgers or burger meat, nor just cooked chicken pieces, etc.

Given that over the years, my objectives have evolved, changed, and widened, I have long since abandoned at least a part of the guideline regarding making meal components or single items, because I now regularly cook large quantities of breakfast sausages for freezing, have in the past cooked whole packages or more of bacon for my mom, and I regularly make bacon wrapped chicken, meatloaf, meatballs, stuffed potato skins, as well as cooked ground beef frozen in ice cube trays to keep in the freezer for other times calling for small amounts of cooked ground beef.

Of course, it would only be appropriate to show a recent planning table for a week’s stay at the cottage over Christmas , 2021 (regular meal planning blocked out):

Yes, there are still a lot of details missing here from this list, such as specific numbers, arguably allowing for somebody besides myself to look at both lists and wonder, beyond the more relaxed pace and the specific list of foods and ingredients to bring, what the difference between this 2021 table and the 2006 table are. However, each entry is based on, normally, the standard amounts in my various recipes, plus often slight excesses. And, according to my notes, I also made stuffed potato skins, bran muffins for my mom twice instead of once, and the chocolate buttercrunch twice, as well as, as intimated in the “bring” list, a container of cheese sliced off of the block for my mom to consume the following week.

These days, my freezers are usually full of many tasty dishes from my collection of recipes, individual servings of many foods both from and beyond my collection of recipes, and various lunches made up of leftovers, some consisting of components from multiple meals and cooking sessions. This is actually served by a certain hoarding instinct; I often fill containers with bits of leftovers from a given meal to freeze, and as possible I add to them with other little bits already in the freezer as they are produced.

And … do I run out of lunches? Usually not! However … managing the freezer is a work in progress and a continuous project, sometimes a daily project beyond simply preparing tomorrows lunch; I sometimes grab opportunities to make a second lunch or portion thereof!

Making My Mom’s Rhubarb Chutney — Photos

My mom has been making a rhubarb chutney (of the British variety, not the Indian variety) since I was young, and she has loved it as long as I remember. Every year, she would harvest the rhubarb growing in her garden and make at least one batch per season, or two, or even three, depending on the yield.

I have been saying for years that I should learn how to make the chutney for her, although it has taken until this year before I finally consulted her recipe card and notes. The recipe I present here is adapted from (and very closely tracks) the recipe on my mom’s recipe card with several years’ worth of notes. The recipe on the card, if my recollection of her stories is accurate, is apparently derived from a recipe developed by her church ladies’ group in the early 1980’s, and which was possibly assigned to her after one of their canning sessions with a request to make some at home for an upcoming fall bazaar’s preserves’ table. It also incidentally is identical in ingredients and comparable in amounts to a recipe found on the internet for a barbecue sauce … so go figure.

Mom eats it as a condiment to various dishes, such as roast pork, chicken pot pies, shepherd’s pies, and many other dishes … basically, despite its sweet nature, it is also savoury, and pairs well with a number of savoury dishes.

Making the rhubarb chutney:

First, I took out two groupings of commercially grown rhubarb, in this case, about nine stalks each:

Two groupings of nine stalks each of rhubarb

The individual stalks of rhubarb were washed:

Rhubarb stalks washed
Washed rhubarb stalks

The rhubarb stalks were trimmed of their ends, leaves, and as the case may be, torn or damaged parts:

Rhubarb stalks trimmed

A non-reactive stainless steel pot (yes, there are some cheap stainless steel pots which will react with acid contents!) was taken out, and put to the ready beside the cutting board:

Stainless steel pot taken out

The rhubarb was sliced into 1/4″ to 1/2″ slices:

Rhubarb sliced

The chopped rhubarb was transferred to the stainless steel pot as sufficient amounts accumulated on the chopping board:

Transferring chopped rhubarb to pot
Transferring chopped rhubarb to pot

Once all the rhubarb was chopped and transferred to the pot, to be sure of the amount of rhubarb I had chopped was enough for the recipe, I measured it out …

Rhubarb measured out

… and placed it in a bowl:

Measured out rhubarb placed in a bowl

Once measured out, the rhubarb was placed back in the stainless steel pot.

Next, packed brown sugar was measured out:

Brown sugar measured out

The brown sugar was added to the chopped rhubarb:

Brown sugar added to chopped rhubarb
All brown sugar added to chopped rhubarb

The chopped rhubarb and brown sugar were mixed with a wooden spoon:

Wooden spoon used to mix chopped rhubarb and brown sugar
Brown sugar and chopped rhubarb mixed with wooden spoon

The chopped rhubarb and brown sugar mix was covered with the stainless steel pot lid:

Stainless steel pot covered

The stainless steel pot with the rhubarb and brown sugar mix was placed in the refrigerator overnight:

Pot of rhubarb and brown sugar in fridge

Onions were taken out:

Onions taken out

The onions were trimmed:

Onions trimmed

The onions were sliced into half-coins:

Onions sliced into half coins

The onions were coarsely chopped:

Onions coarsely chopped

The onions were transferred to a measuring cup to keep track of how much onions I had:

Onions measured out

The chopped onions were transferred to a sealable container:

Chopped onions transferred to sealable container
Chopped onions transferred to sealable container
Chopped onions transferred to sealable container

The container of onions was covered and placed in the fridge until the next day.

The next day, the first thing done was to fill a pot with water, for use later as a boiling water bath for the mason jars used to bottle the chutney:

Pot filled with water
Pot filled with water

A burner on the stove was turned on:

Stove turned on

The pot of water was placed on the stove to bring it to a boil:

Pot of water placed on stove

The pot of rhubarb and brown sugar was taken out of the fridge:

Pot of rhubarb and brown sugar taken out of fridge

Another burner on the stove was turned on:

Second burner turned on

The pot of rhubarb and brown sugar was placed on the stove:

Pot of rhubarb and brown sugar placed on stove

As the mix began heating up, it was mixed to loosen some brown sugar at the bottom of the pot:

Rhubarb and brown sugar mixed

Throughout the following process, the mix was constantly stirred in order to avoid burning at the bottom of the pot.

The chopped onions were added to the pot:

Chopped onions added to pot
Chopped onions added to pot
Chopped onions added to pot

The ingredients were mixed together:

Ingredients mixed together

Vinegar was measured out:

Vinegar measured out

The vinegar was added to the pot:

Vinegar added to pot
Vinegar added to pot

The ingredients were yet again mixed together:

Ingredients mixed

Raisins were measured out:

Raisins measured out

The raisins were placed in a small blender, to coarsely chop them:

Raisins placed in small blender for chopping

The raisins were chopped:

Raisins chopped
Chopped raisins

The chopped raisins were added to the pot:

Chopped raisins added to pot
Chopped raisins added to pot

The raisins were mixed in with the rest of the ingredients.

Ground cloves were measured out:

Ground cloves measured out

The ground cloves were added to the pot:

Ground cloves added to pot

Ground cinnamon was measured out:

Ground cinnamon measured out

The ground cinnamon was added to the pot; as evidenced by the rising steam, the ingredients were heating up nicely:

Ground cinnamon added to pot
Ground cinnamon added to pot

Ground allspice was measured out:

Ground allspice measured out

The ground allspice was added to the pot:

Ground allspice added to pot
Ground allspice added to pot

At this point, the chutney was starting to boil, and, for reference, two hours was set on the stove timer (because the original recipe called for two hours of simmering):

Timer set

The stove burner was turned down to a low setting:

Stove set to low setting

The ingredients were constantly stirred in order to avoid burning and sticking on the bottom of the pot:

Ingredients constantly stirred

After about half an hour of simmering …

Half an hour elapsed on timer

… this is what the chutney looked like:

Chutney after half hour of simmering

At this point, the pot of water for sanitizing the jars came to a boil and its burner turned off:

Water bath coming to a boil

After about an hour of simmering …

Hour elapsed on timer

… this is what the chutney looked like, and was at the point of being syrupy:

Chutney after hour of simmering

As such, I knew I wasn’t going to need to continue simmering the chutney for another hour.

Canning tools were taken out: a ladle, a jar funnel, tongs, a large spoon, and a jar wrench:

Canning tools taken out

Mason jars, rings, and lids were taken out — and yes, I used good condition used lids for this batch, since I had no intention of giving away any of the jars:

Mason jars and lids

The water for the water bath was brought back to a boil, and mason jars were placed in the boiling water:

Water brought back to a boil and mason jars placed in boiling water

The canning funnel was quickly dipped in the boiling water to sanitize it:

Canning funnel dipped in boiling water

Unfortunately, at this point, I could not take as many photos, in order to quickly fill the jars while the chutney and jars were still hot, and create a proper seal with the lids.

The chutney was taken off the stove; a mason jar was taken out of the boiling water, and the jar was filled with chutney:

Mason jar filled with chutney

A mason jar lid and ring were dipped in the boiling water:

Lid and ring dipped in boiling water

The lid and ring were placed on the mason jar and the ring tightened.

The process was repeated until all the chutney was bottled, in this case, filling seven jars:

Filled chutney jars

The jars were placed in the fridge to cool down a little more quickly:

Jars of chutney placed in fridge to cool them down

Afterwards, labels were placed on the jars, and the jars were placed in the cupboard.

And … Mom loves it, and has even whispered “it’s better than when I make it!” … no doubt (at least) a mild exaggeration. 🙂

Using a Backwoods Washing Machine — Photos

For several years, I have used a backwoods washing machine — basically, and literally, a slightly modified 20 litre bucket using a modified toilet plunger as an agitator — up at the cottage to wash clothes, towels, and even bed sheets, for its inherent value of washing clothes of course, but also to reduce the workload upon my return from holidays, as well as to implement a certain DIY ethic, and pass the time (in my eyes, in an amusing way). This is of course in the context of not having an automatic, electric washing machine at the cottage for a variety of reasons, including a lack of space, and the fact that the cottage is not winterized, hence there would issues related to freezing.

Note that while the use of modern conveniences of concentrated laundry detergent, as well as plentiful, clean water (from a pressurized water system) and a garden hose are shown in this post, depending on your circumstances and should you wish to make a backwoods washing machine for yourself, you may wish or need to adjust steps, practices, and so on.

Washing the laundry:

First, since my bed sheets at the cottage needed washing, I stripped my bed and took them outside to the back deck:

Laundry taken out

I also took out some other laundry to add to the wash:

Other laundry added to the lot

Laundry detergent was taken out (on the right), and previously, one of the laundry packs was diluted in water for easier use and dividing up in smaller laundry loads (on the left).

Dissolved laundry pack, and concentrated laundry detergent packs

My backwoods washing machine was taken out — a modified 20 litre plastic bucket and a modified toilet plunger:

Backwoods washing machine taken out
Backwoods washing machine taken out

A garden hose was taken out:

Garden hose taken out
Garden hose taken out

The clothes line was also up and in place for use:

Clothes line set up

Finally, sufficient clothespins were in place:

Clothespins needed for later

The lid to the backwoods washing machine was taken off the bucket:

Backwoods washing machine opened up

Clothes were added to the backwoods washing machine’s bucket:

Clothes added to backwoods washing machine

The diluted laundry detergent was taken out and added to the backwoods washing machine:

Diluted laundry detergent taken out
Laundry detergent added to backwoods washing machine

The plunger-agitator was added on top of the clothes in the backwoods washing machine:

Plunger-agitator placed in backwoods washing machine

More laundry was placed in the backwoods washing machine:

More laundry placed in backwoods washing machine

The backwoods washing machine was moved to a more convenient location on the steps of the deck at the cottage:

Backwoods washing machine moved to a convenient location on steps

The garden hose was used to fill the backwoods washing machine with water:

Garden hose used to fill backwoods washing machine
Garden hose used to fill backwoods washing machine

The lid to was picked up and placed on the backwoods washing machine’s bucket:

Lid picked up to place on backwoods washing machine
Lid placed on backwoods washing machine

The plunger-agitator was moved up and down like a butter churner:

Plunger-agitator was moved up and down

As part of moving the plunger-agitator up and down, the laundry will sometimes get caught a bit:

Laundry caught in plunger-agitator

After about five minutes of manual agitation, the lid was taken off the backwoods washing machine:

Lid removed from backwoods washing machine

Sometimes, the laundry may become caught up in the holes in the plunger-agitator:

Laundry caught in plunger-agitator

Given the rough-edged hole in the lid of the backwoods washing machine, the wooden handle can become worn and the wood fibres dislodged …

Fibres dislodged from wooden handle of plunger-agitator

… and which may transfer to some of the laundry:

Dislodged fibres transfer to laundry (already on clothesline)

After the washing had been completed for the first load, the individual items were taken out of the backwoods washing machine and hand-wrung, and were put aside for a few moments:

Washed clothing taken out of backwoods washing machine and hand-wrung

The rest of the dirty bed sheets were placed in the backwoods washing machine, and the agitation action mentioned above was repeated:

More bed sheets added to backwoods washing machine and the agitation process repeated

As the water on the steps of the deck and the garden tiles at the foot of the steps shows, the process can be a bit wet:

Wet steps and garden tiles at the foot of steps

At the end of the manual agitation, the bed sheets were removed from the backwoods washing machine and hand-wrung, and were put aside for a few moments.

At this point, the backwoods washing machine’s bucket of dirty wash water …

Bucket of dirty wash water

… was brought inside and emptied in the toilet, and the toilet flushed:

Dirty wash water flushed down toilet

Back outside, the backwoods washing machine’s bucket was rinsed with the garden hose:

Bucket rinsed with garden hose

The backwoods washing machine’s lid was rinsed with the garden hose:

Lid rinsed with garden hose

The backwoods washing machine’s plunger-agitator was rinsed with the garden hose:

Plunger-agitator rinsed with garden hose

At this point, the backwoods washing machine components were allowed to dry, and the backwoods washing machine was put away until the next use.

The laundry was hung on the clothesline:

Laundry hung on clothesline

In order to rinse the laundry, the garden hose was used to spray clean water on the laundry hanging on the clothesline:

Laundry being sprayed with clean water from garden hose
Laundry being sprayed with clean water from garden hose

At this point, the laundry on the clothesline is dripping water:

Water dripping from laundry on clothesline
Water dripping from laundry on clothesline

The bottoms of the various pieces of laundry were hand-wrung at their bottoms in order to remove the rinse water:

Laundry on clothesline hand-wrung to remove rinse water

As the laundry dries and become less heavy, they begin to get caught in the breeze:

Drying laundry beginning to catch the breeze

And depending on the amount and strength of the breezes and the winds, the laundry can really get caught in the wind:

Laundry really getting caught in the wind

As the laundry dried, it was taken off the clothesline …

Dried laundry taken off the clothesline

… while the rest of the laundry remained on the clothesline to continue drying out:

Rest of laundry continuing to dry on clothesline

Ah, the wind picked up quite a bit again, making the remaining laundry on the clothesline really get caught up in the wind:

Laundry really caught up in the wind

As the dried laundry was taken off the clothesline, it was folded up, ready for their next use:

Folded laundry

Although the backwoods washing machine has its limits regarding just how much laundry it can wash at once or just how well it deals with ground-in dirt, it is quite effective at washing regular albeit small loads, and is quite useful in situations in which more modern and convenient, automatic washing machines are not conveniently available!

Overview of Open Source / Free Software for PDF files

This post is a translation of and (somewhat of an) adaptation, as well as slight update, of a presentation I gave in November, 2021, at a meeting of my local Linux Meetup. This adaptation includes some extra limited mockups of demonstrations performed live during the presentation.

The presentation was put together using Fedora Workstation (a general purpose version of Linux, in this case specializing in being a desktop workstation), highlighting some software either installed by default, or available in the Fedora Linux and rpmfusion software repositories (“App Stores”). It is therefore not intended to be a complete exposé on all available open source / free software options for PDF, even under Fedora Linux, let alone GNU / Linux in general, or other systems.

It should be noted that the presentation’s original target audience was a French-speaking group of Linux enthusiasts, Linux professionals, and other IT enthusiasts and professionals familiar with Linux. Most of the listed software would typically be available in standard or easily accessible Linux software repositories (“App Stores”). Beyond the world of GNU / Linux, free software is generally available for use on other systems, and, barring instances of a specific given package offered with paid warranty support, are usually also free of charge to download, install, and use.

In the case of the software highlighted in this post, all are either free-of-charge, or represent the free-of-charge version.

The Value of a PDF File

Context / Situation:

Take the case of the exchange of a document between two computers — such as between one running Linux, and another running Windows (or vice-versa) — and each computer is endowed with a different office suite, such as LibreOffice (cross-platform) on one, and Microsoft Office (Windows / Mac) on the other. (Of course, other possibilities exist, such as Calligra Suite (cross-platform), Pages / Numbers / Keynote / etc. (Mac), Corel Wordperfect, Google Docs, etc.)

LibreOffice, and in days gone by,, have long been touted as being “compatible” with MS Office; this purported compatibility, however, is disappointingly nowhere near as good as I and many others would like to believe.

As such, each user will open the shared document, which will be displayed according to each suite’s interpretation of the file, and may find that the actual displayed content on their screen could be different — sometimes substantially so — from the intended original display of the document. Text lines may be cut off; fonts may not be available on one or more of the systems, causing font substitution; font sizes may be changed, or text size may be different while substituting a different font due to the lack of the specified font; certain symbols may not be available on some systems; table effects may not work, or objects inserted into tables may not function or be displayed as expected, such as the insertion of a spreadsheet.

Unfortunately, I would estimate that said disappointing lack of “complete and perfect” “drop-in replacement” compatibility is a very common experience in comparing many well-known pieces of proprietary software and their open-source counterparts — not just LibreOffice and MS Office. Personally, as a Linux user, I have experienced this lack of complete compatibility a number of times since beginning to use in 2005 and Linux in 2006. Since then, I have also seen the incompatibility in action on a number of occasions during varying presentations under completely unrelated circumstances in which the presentation files were produced in one suite, and attempts made to show them in another were met with varying degrees of disappointment, sometimes leading to complete failure.

Example PDF

The PDF at this link is a somewhat varied although basic document created for this presentation (you will need a PDF viewer); images of the PDF are shown below. It was developed in order to use throughout the presentation as an example PDF to demonstrate the various given points at hand. It should be noted that the PDF was written in French because the presentation’s original target audience was French-speaking.

The following four images are jpeg images of the pages of the PDF document linked to above, and which I created in LibreOffice Presentation. It should be noted that, for the sake of argument, the pages could have been created in another format, such as a word processor, a spreadsheet program, or a drawing program, for instance.

Page 1 — Song lyrics to be displayed for a Karaoke Night

Page 1, the lyrics to a French song, such as one might want to display during a karaoke event among friends

Page 2 — Expenses list for a Luncheon

Page 2, a fictitious list of expenses for a luncheon

Page 3 — TV Listings

Page 3, a fictitious TV listing for an evening, with some Linux in-jokes and some in-jokes specific to the original audience

Page 4 — Flea Market Poster

Page 4, a fictitious flyer for a local flea market

The above document — represented here in jpeg format directly produced from a PDF of the document — was originally prepared in LibreOffice Presentation, and therefore correctly represented the original document.

However, the following four images are jpeg images of the pages of the PDF document I created in Microsoft PowerPoint (you will need a PDF viewer) into which I imported the original LibreOffice Presentation, in order to demonstrate the relative lack of compatibility between, at least in this case, LibreOffice Presentation and Microsoft Powerpoint.

Page 1 — Song lyrics to be displayed for a Karaoke Night

Changes: Text fonts and font sizes, causing text to be cut off the page

Page 1, note the changes in fonts and font sizes

Page 2 — Expenses list for a Luncheon

Changes: Text fonts, and improper translation of symbols

Page 2, note the changes in fonts, font sizes, and improper translation of symbols

Page 3 — TV Listings

Changes: text fonts, font sizes, and lack of background colours in the various cells

Page 3, note the changes in fonts, font sizes, and lack of background colours in the various cells

Page 4 — Flea Market Poster

Changes: Text fonts, font sizes, corrupted translation of spreadsheet table in the centre of the flyer

Page 4, note the changes in fonts, font sizes, and the completely corrupted translation of the spreadsheet table in the centre of the flyer

The value of a PDF:

PDF files are generally well supported across multiple platforms and software, generally regardless of platform, and will usually be displayed in a virtually identical fashion on all systems; in the case of discrepancies, they are usually inconsequential.


There exists a certain perception that, short of having Adobe Acrobat Pro (a commercial, closed source piece software), PDF files are difficult to edit and modify, allowing for a certain view that PDF files are more secure. This is a case of “security by obscurity”, since editing and modification may be performed by many pieces of software, besides but of course including Adobe Acrobat Pro.

PDF files may also benefit from a perception of being less susceptible to viruses and malware, such as through macros. Suspicious files, regardless of format, should always be checked when there is reasonable doubt, particularly under certain environments.


Be careful when using some PDF software downloaded from random websites on the internet, or websites which advertise PDF modification: The may add watermarks to the resulting file — this may be undesirable, and embarrassing, particularly if the software, website, or their output aren’t vetted prior to distributing the resulting file.

PDF Software which adds a watermark to edited watermarks when using an unregistered version

Further, websites providing PDF editing services may have very reasonable terms of service for editing your document, limiting their responsibilities toward you. By submitting a document to an external website, it may may not be able to protect personal privacy, nor be able to guarantee to not divulge commercial or industrial secrets or confidential personal information contained in the submitted document: They may become the victim of a hacking, or become the target of legal proceedings, not to mention potential dubious or unscrupulous intentions operators might have to begin with. Or, they may simply be unwilling to formally engage in such responsibilities in the absence of a paid service contract.

Sample from a website listing their conditions of use

This article’s objectives therefore are:

  • Firstly, presenting the utility of PDF as a useful format for distributing documents to a wide audience, without having to concern oneself with what software individual audience members may or may not have access to, if at all, and regardless of reason(s);
  • Secondly, presenting safe, free software and open-source software options for using and editing of PDF files;
  • Thirdly, beyond the general promotion of free and open-source software and PDF editing, this article is not about promoting nor deriding particular OSes or software packages, or strictly speaking their strengths or weaknesses.

As such, if a particular system or software package suits your needs and / or purposes, you should use it.

However, if a given preferred solution is costly software, perhaps your organization (or your family) may find it to be financially worthwhile to only purchase a minimum number of licences and only install it on a minimum number of designated computers, instead of needlessly on every computer in your organization (or family).

A simple cost / benefit analysis would be worthwhile: You should consider whether you wish to pay $5, $10, $15, or more, on a recurring basis (perhaps monthly), per computer on which such software would be installed. The costs, be they one-time costs or recurring, should be considered against how often the software may be used, perhaps in some cases only once or twice monthly — perhaps overall, let alone for each individual instance, depending on your organization’s size, needs, and other considerations. Further, it should be considered what operations are typically executed, especially if they simple operations such as joining multiple PDFs, or extracting a page or two, which can be easily performed by many, using any of a multitude of software packages you can get without cost, as opposed to perhaps more technical tasks which may justify costly specialized software.

Creating PDFs from an established document

To begin with, most software which create documents will have an option in the File menu or elsewhere to Print, or Print to Document, or an Export function, which will offer PDF as a format:

PDF (creation) Options in the “Export as PDF” option in LibreOffice

At the risk of skipping ahead to the PDF splitting section below, note that it is a common option to be able to selectively output some, instead of all, pages to the resulting PDF, thereby avoiding the question of having to later split the PDF to get only the desired page(s).

Overview of PDF Software

Perhaps (or perhaps not) to the surprise of many, there are many software packages and suites which will:

  • Display PDF files
  • Combine, divide, and export PDF files, as well as reorder pages within a PDF;
  • Edit PDF files, such as the overall files and the file metadata, as well as the PDF file content
  • Import and display PDF files according to particular strengths (The Gimp, Inkscape, e-readers)

Displaying PDF files:

Here are some examples of software which will display PDF files directly:

  • Evince Document Viewer (Gnome Project)
  • Okular (KDE Project)
  • Firefox and Chromium (Web Browsers)
  • PDFSam (limited free version; there is also a commercial version with more capabilities); a version for Debian derived Linux systems is available on their website

Here is a very short list of software which will open and display PDF files and allow editing, each according to their strengths, but whose primary function is not PDF display:

  • LibreOffice (Office Suite)
  • Calligra (Office Suite)
  • The Gimp (Image Manipulation)
  • Inkscape (Vector Graphics Editor)

Evince Document Viewer

PDF displayed in Evince Document Viewer

Chromium (web browser)

PDF Displayed in Chromium


PDF displayed in LibreOffice

Software to Combine PDF files

A relatively common activity is to combine multiple PDF files into one file — such as, separately scanned pieces of paper, or PDF files produced separately, perhaps by different people.

Here are some examples of software which will combine PDF files:

  • PDF Mix Tool
  • PDF Arranger
  • PDF Mod
  • PDF Jumbler
  • PDFedit
  • PDFTricks
  • PDFSam
  • LibreOffice
  • Calligra Suite
  • The Gimp

Combining PDF files in PDFArranger

Combining PDF files with PDFArranger

Software to Divide PDF Files / Extract Pages

Another relatively common activity is to divide a PDF File, or extract one or more pages from a PDF file.

Note that if you are the creator of the document, as shown earlier, the software you used to create the document likely allows for you to selectively export individual or multiple pages to PDF in addition to exporting the entire document.

Here are some examples of software which will divide PDF files / extract pages:

  • PDF Mix Tool
  • PDF Mod
  • PDF Jumbler
  • PDFedit
  • PDFTricks
  • PDFSam
  • LibreOffice — allows to print and / or export one or more pages
  • Calligra Suite — allows to print and / or export one or more pages
  • The Gimp — allows to print and / or export one or more pages

Splitting a PDF File with PDFMod

Removing pages from a PDF file using PDFMod

PDF Editing

Here are some examples of software which will edit PDF files to varying degrees:

  • LibreOffice permits the possibility of creating a hybrid PDF and .odt / .ods file (word processor or spreadsheet files), which will allow for the PDF to be more easily edited by any suite that is able to edit .odt and .ods files; create a document with LibreOffice, and in creating a PDF, choose Export — General — PDF Hybrid (incorporating .odt / .ods file)

Other software to edit existing PDF files:

  • LibreOffice Draw
  • The Gimp
  • Scribus
  • PDFedit (old, but good)
  • jPDF Tweak (old, but good)
  • PDF Mix Tool (Basic functions)
  • PDFFill ( (Windows)

In my personal experience, PDF editing — and ease of doing so — can vary wildly according to what one wishes to do, as well as wildly according to the nature of the source PDF. I have had excellent experiences editing a PDF created from a CAD software drawing (presumably created using commercial CAD software such as AutoCAD), and whose individual elements could be manipulated in LibreOffice Draw. I have also used LibreOffice Draw to insert text zones, arrows, and scanned signatures into PDFs. Conversely, documents composed primarily of scanned images — including text and forms — may require more image manipulation skills to edit, modify, and manipulate individual and specific elements of the document, depending on your objectives.

What you can do will also be dictated by which software package you choose and its strengths and weaknesses.

For instance, it should be noted that the phrase “Editing a PDF” can be a nebulous thing which can mean many and different things to many and different people. For instance, actually editing document text directly in the PDF may be what one understands and expects, while the strengths of a given piece of software may lay elsewhere.

LibreOffice has some PDF import functions, as well as imperfect document layout functions. Depending on the source PDF document, it can be quite effective at editing text directly.

Note from the closed-source world: I once had an excellent experience with a moderately-difficult-to-edit PDF using Microsoft Word, which included being able to edit the text — and presumably save in MS Word’s native file format.

Importing and editing a PDF in LibreOffice Draw (note the imperfect import):

Editing a PDF in LibreOffice Draw

In the case of my example PDF, LibreOffice Draw allows for some direct editing of the text (Notice the word “MODIFIÉ” with a brick-red text colour replacing some of the text):

Importing and editing a PDF in Scribus, a desktop publishing programme:

Editing a PDF in Scribus

The Gimp can insert text zones into a PDF, and which text zones themselves may be edited within The Gimp; however, its strengths lie in dealing with a PDF as an image, and editing image characteristics, while editing the text as one might in a word processor might be more challenging.

Importing a PDF file into The Gimp, image manipulation software:

Editing a PDF in The Gimp

Adding a text zone to a PDF in The Gimp:

Note the insertion of a text zone under the first line, saying “TEST document”

Exporting Text, Cut & Paste, and .odt File Creating

Depending on the source PDF and its nature, “cut & paste” may work (as opposed to not working at all), and may even “work well”, although this may be wildly variable according to the source PDF document. However, even in the best case, this method will normally only copy the actual text, and some of the images, from your PDF document; it may not usually be particularly useful in actually replicating the PDF document formatting.

As for other document and content formats, such as drawings, pictures, and text rendered into images, other sections of this post should be consulted (ie. using LibreOffice Draw or The Gimp for drawings; optical character reading (OCR), including OCRFeeder, etc.)

In addition to the mention of LibreOffice above, OCRFeeder is software that acts as a front end to optical character recognition software, and is able to import PDF files, and then export in HTML, plain text, OpenDocument (.odt) format, and of course PDF. Again depending on the source file, results may be variable, although the results are usable.

OCRFeeder in action and ready to export a page of the example PDF to ODT format

… and here is an image of the exported .odt file (word processor file) of the page viewed and created in OCRFeeder, then opened in my word processor (LibreOffice):

Exported word processor file

Ironically, as this case shows, the changes (or lack of adequate recognition and / or translation of the original layout) can be as great or even more as can occur by simply sharing documents between not-fully-compatible-though-similar software suites. However, though far from perfect, it is arguably usable, depending, of course, on how much effort you are willing to devote to replicating the original document layout — and then making your desired changes, and finally creating a new PDF document.

Exporting to other file formats:

As has been (indirectly) demonstrated several times throughout this post, PDF files can be imported into software that isn’t specifically dedicated to PDFs, and then allow for the resulting imported file to be exported into other formats. For example, The Gimp was used to create most of the working images for this post: In the case where PDF files were to be displayed, the PDF files were imported into The Gimp, and then exported in jpeg or png formats. This type of conversion — from PDF to another given format — can often be done by other pieces of software (to varying degrees) according to their strengths or weaknesses.

Photo Editing with PDFs

The Gimp is fully functional image processing software, very similar to — but, unfortunately, not fully compatible with nor a perfect drop-in replacement of — Photoshop. Using The Gimp, you can import a PDF and edit the image(s) directly, or extract photos and other images through a variety of means, such as selecting the area of the photo, copying the selected area, and creating a new document from the clipboard.

Here is a The Gimp having imported a PDF of a photo of myself on a cruise:

PDF of a photo of the author imported into The Gimp

During the live presentation, I gave the hypothetical example — for the sake of levity — of a barber who particularly likes sideburns, and seeing mine in a PDF, decided to clip out one of my sideburns from the photo …

Selecting a region of the photo and creating a new document therefrom

… and then notice on how I was starting to go grey at the time :

The beginnings of some greying in my sideburns

It is taken as an understood that use of The Gimp to manipulate the photo can be continued at this point — such as how my sideburns might look after a colouring, or to compare side-by-side against other people’s sideburns — and then the result exported as a PDF.

PDFTricks allows for resizing of images in PDFs, principally compressing and reducing the file size to the order of “large”, “medium”, “small”, and “extra-small”, as well as image exporting to .jpg / .png / .txt formats, and file merging and splitting.

PDF Tricks menu of options

During the presentation, the PDF document above composed of the photo of myself on a trip was run through the software’s “extreme compression” option. The following is a clip from a screenshot from a file manager, showing the size difference between the the original file, and the newly created compressed file:

File size difference before and after processing file with PDFTricks

LibreOffice Draw allows for some image manipulation.

LibreOffice Draw being used to manipulate an embedded image

In this particular situation, the night sky drawing in the karaoke page of the example PDF I created was selected, and the various options directly available were shown. However, as mentioned earlier, I have imported PDF documents of building plans and modified them to include notes showing were works were performed, or to add signatures to documents.

PDF Forms

PDF Form Creation

LibreOffice Writer and Calligra Suite are fully-featured for the creation of forms. Unfortunately, I am not particularly adept at creating forms.

Filling PDF Forms

  • Evince — if the PDF form was designed to be interactively filled
  • Okular — if the PDF form was designed to be interactively filled
  • The Gimp — allows for text areas to be inserted, as well as photos, drawings, and the like
  • LibreOffice Draw — allows for text areas to be inserted, as well as photos, drawings, and the like

Here is an example form found at — a sample tax form which I began filling out for Mickey and Minnie Mouse, using Evince:

Fillable form being filled with the names of Mickey and Minnie Mouse

Final Choices:

  • Viewing / displaying PDF files : User’s choice (usually a system’s default PDF viewer is adequate, or a web browser)
  • Combining and splitting PDF files : PDFMixTool
  • Editing PDF files : User’s choice (depends on objectives and source file; The Gimp and LibreOffice Draw are good contenders)
  • Adjusting PDF file size : PDFTricks
  • Form creation : User’s choice
  • Form filling : User’s choice (usually a system’s default PDF viewer is adequate, or a web browser)
  • Exporting PDF to other formats : OCRFeeder (for .odt); LibreOffice Draw (Photos and images); The Gimp (photos and images)

Note on Linux availability of the above software:

Here are some screen shots from my system’s installed repositories (Fedora Stable; Fedora Updates; — free and non-free)

PDF software easily accessible from my computer’s software repositories (“App Stores”):

Gnome Software list of available PDF software from various software repositories on Fedora Linux
Gnome Software list of available PDF software from various software repositories on Fedora Linux
Gnome Software list of available PDF software from various software repositories on Fedora Linux

As this list suggests, there is lot of software available which have varying PDF abilities, ranging from being dedicated PDF software of various kinds, to other pieces of software with other principal functions but with PDF functions ranging to simple importing from and exporting to the format, to being useful within the limits of the software’s main functions to manipulate PDF files in some way(s).


This presentation’s goals are to highlight:

  • how PDF files are well supported most of the time on most systems, while the various pieces of software, between two versions, typically a well-known closed source project and an open-source counterpart, for document production, are not as compatible with each other as we may want;
  • free software while avoiding the security risks inherent to using unknown and potentially dangerous websites, as well as software which is easily available for routine tasks as well as to reduce costs;
  • the possibility of editing PDF files with various pieces of free software which are easily available in most Linux distributions’ repositories — as well as often easily available for other platforms — albeit occasionally with variable success.

Questions taken during the presentation:

A question asked midway through the presentation expressed a certain surprise that The Gimp can be used to edit PDFs. As mentioned earlier, The Gimp is able to import PDF files, and perform various functions on the file according to its strengths (image manipulation).

A participant asked at the end during a question period about a recommendation for software to affix signatures to documents. I replied that I was not aware of any open source official signing software with digital traceability, simply because that I had not done any research on that subject; however, an image of a scanned signature can usually be inserted in a document using The Gimp or LibreOffice Draw, or as a document is being created in a word processor.

A final comment recommended the use of LibreOffice Draw, based on the commentor’s frequent use of it to perform a number of the functions listed here, to which I’d commented that I had asked my employer’s IT department to install LibreOffice on my work-issued Windows-based laptop computer in order to be able to perform some drawing-modification functions as part of my employment.

Enjoy sharing and editing PDF files!

UPDATE 20220407:

Signing PDFs can be performed with jPDF Tweak.

JPDF Tweak can also encrypt and add passwords to a PDF.