HomeEcNight #27: Jam Session

Here we go again – it’s time to announce another HomeEcNight!

The theme this month is:

HomeEcNight #27: Jam Session

After 3 packed HomeEcNights (Hot Sauce Tasting, Craft Beer Salon and our Pickle Party), we’re pumped to announce our next pop-up: Jam Session!

Come to Hi-Lo Bar (Queen East, Toronto) on the evening of Wednesday, April 30th for a night of jam tasting, chatting, jam cocktails and $5 food.

We dig jam. And we’re excited that summer is so close – yet it’s so far when it comes to local fruit.  Come and meet some of our professional jam-making friends:

Each of them will have samples of their small-batch jam for you to sample.  There will also be:

  • jam cocktails made by Emily and Hi-Lo
  • $5 food from the team at Table 17 (who are partners with HiLo)
  • We’ll be there to chat about making your own as well.
  • A friendly crowd and lots of jam lovers

This is an informal night, there’s no talk or lecture or anything like that. We’re bringing together some great people we thought you’d be interested in meeting, so come out and have a pint, sample some jam and celebrate the early days of spring with us!.

Although you don’t have to RSVP it really helps us plan for the evening, helps reduce waste and allows us to know when to stop promoting to try and stop the bar from overcrowding and helps us keep this event free.  You can RSVP on Uniiverse here.

PS. Are you a blogger looking for content? If you’d like to request an interview with any of our guests, let us know (hello@wellpreserved.ca) and we’ll do our best to arrange a meeting prior to the event so you can get your story and then enjoy the event with every one else! HomeEcNight #27: Jam Session

HomeEc 26 (Get Pickled) Recap

Thank you to all who came out to HomeEcNight last night!  We had an amazing time and hope that each of you did as well!

What is HomeEcNight?  It’s our monthly (and sometimes more frequent) pop-up.  Each event has a theme; last night we had a pickle theme.  Participants packed into Toronto’s HiLo bar and celebrated everything pickled!

HomeEc 26 (Get Pickled) Recap homeecnight [Read more...]

Eating Locally in March…in a Polar Vortex

Dana and I aren’t exclusively local though more than 90% of the food we bring into our house is locally grown.  We don’t prescribe to any one label on how we eat but we’re pretty close to locavores when it comes to our home diet (this is challenged when eating out or spending time with some friend and family).

And every winter I seem to end up reflecting on that decision; especially in March.  March and April are the leanest months of the year for fresh, local food in Toronto.  That’s especially true this year when we’ve been buried in more snow that we’ve had in years and faced the coldest weather (over the longest periods) than we’ve faced in many years.  The farmers markets have less selection and many farmers begin to close their tables as they run out of stored foods and less people attend to purchase them.

Toronto is an amazing place when it comes to local food.  We’re surrounded by farmland in all directions (even south as Lake Ontario turns east around Hamilton).  Relatively long summer months (for Canada) mean ample supplies of fruit, vegetables, meat, game fish and more.  The cold winters allow for cold storage and recent years have seen many farmers start to grow crops to sell over winter as they know there’s an appetite (pun intended!) to support the supply.

We’ve been eating this way for about 6 years.  Each year we learn new things; we didn’t get here overnight and continue to learn day-by-day.  And, when March comes, I tend to reflect on why we do this and how it’s working out.  And, as in years past, I am often surprised to find that each year gets easier (even when the previous didn’t feel like a struggle) and that we’re as committed as ever to support the farms and markets that we do.

5 reasons why eating local has become easier in recent years:

  1. Availability.  Farmers are planning for winter markets.  In addition to planning, they are investing in storage facilities to extend the harvest and are interested in attending winter markets.
  2. Low-technology.  Many of our farming friends have invested in low-cost technology that allow them to grow organic food in the winter.  Hoop houses, greenhouses and more have been bootstrapped to create affordable solutions to extend the growing season.
  3. Innovation.  Instead of looking at traditional crops, farmers have figured out alternatives (such as sprouts and shoots) that can grow in the winter without elaborate infrastructure.
  4. Our cooking ability.  As we learn more ways to use squash, sunchokes, sweet potatoes and other winter food we gain diversity on our table.  If the ingredients are limited (compared to summer), our imagination and ability in the kitchen can bring variety to our plates.
  5. Our evolving pantry.  As we preserve more food and learn other ways and recipes to do so, our pantry becomes more interesting.  This evolution allows limited options to be transformed into endless combinations.

If you eat locally, what are your options/ what do you do to get through the winter months?

Overhauling our Newsletter – and Free Jar Labels!

It had been a long night.  I had been out of the house for almost 18 hours and Dana and I were returning from one of our events.  We had a good time at the event and visited with a few friends, traded laughs and memories.  And, while we thoroughly enjoyed the evening, we had put almost 10 hours into organizing an event where four friends showed up.

Overhauling our Newsletter   and Free Jar Labels!

Then Dana asked me one of the toughest questions she’s ever asked;

If this wasn’t our event, would you go?

My heart sunk a little.  I’m never disappointed to hang out with friends; but there’s easier way to hang out with them than to arrange an event.  I didn’t have to answer the question, I knew the answer was no. [Read more...]

Recap: HomeEc 25 and Craft Beer Salon

HomeEc 25: Craft Beer Salon has now wrapped up and we’re pleased to share what a great time we all had!  More than 100 people braved the sub-zero temperatures to come out ‘on a school night’ and participate in a great night celebrating craft beer and some awesome beer projects from our community.

We have to start with a giant thanks to our sponsor, Kensington Brewing Company who helped make the night possible.  Brock and Dave (the owner and head brewer of Kensington) were amazing partners who brought a one-off cask (it was emptied in less than 40 minutes!) and a great demo; they brought 5 different types of hops for people to check out (Fuggle, Sorachi Ace, Amarillo, Citra, Centennial).

Recap: HomeEc 25 and Craft Beer Salon [Read more...]

Quebec to Allow the Sale of Wild Game Meat in Restaurants

The Province of Quebec has announced a pilot program to selectively sell wild game in restaurants.  The pilot is small in scope and will be controlled in order to prevent over-hunting and the sales will be limited to a few restaurants.  You can read more about it in the Montreal Gazette and on the CBC.

The article quotes Chef David McMillan (of Joe Beef) as saying,

“It’s our native meat. We work hard to use local cheese, we work hard to use local products, local vegetables, local fish, and … when it came down to meat products, generally everything [was] farm-raised.”

If you’ve read our posts for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m a hunter (and was nearly vegetarian for more than 5 years).  Game is an integral part of our diet and our kitchen changes drastically depending on the success (or lack thereof) of our fall hunt.

The claim in the Gazette article that claims “only as little as 40 per cent of all meat from the 26,000 to 28,000 wild deer killed during the annual hunt is butchered and cooked. The rest is left in the woods or by the roadside and goes to waste” is a far different version of any reality that I know, have seen or can imagine.  Perhaps it’s accurate in Quebec but in 35 years of hunting I’ve never seen ANYONE willing to let an animal rot in the woods.  I’m willing to be proven wrong but my immediate reaction is not pleasant.

I appreciate the spirit of this program and the intent to introduce people to more natural meat.  I don’t doubt the intent of those involved but I am skeptical, and concerned about the program.

Wild meat has not been legal to sell in Ontario (or Quebec) until now.  Not only can it not be sold, Government legislation treats game as a near-lethal substance; it’s not allowed in commercial kitchens and Butcher shops must rid their shop of their entire domestic crops before processing game.  Many butcher shops in Norther Ontario will actually close their retail operations for 4-6 weeks during the hunting season in order to butcher game.  The sudden decision to allow it to be cooked next to domestic livestock is significant.

Cooking game is different than cooking other meat.  I don’t know the Chefs involved in the pilot (although I certainly know the amazing reputation of several of them and am sure they will handle this just fine) but I have spoken to other Chef’s who do not understand the precautions of cooking game and how it’s different than other meat.  There are stories from across our country of Hunters contracting Trichinosis through eating undercooked game (most commonly, black bear).

Health concerns aside, what really worries me about this idea is the central idea of commoditizing game.  The moment we put a value on something, especially when it is marked as ‘rare’ or ‘special’, we are often asking for trouble.  Our Oceans are evidence of this as are Wild Leeks in the Province of Quebec.  Leeks were once abundant but once they became a viable commercial product they were quickly over harvested and are now endangered.

Hunting is a way of sustenance for many (and possibly most) hunters.  When we place commercial operations/ hunters in the woods to compete for the same limited resource, we are bound to have an effect on the overall population.  Controlled hunting has traditionally benefitted the overall population of the herd (the controlled hunt culls animals which allows for a steady increase of the population and allows for more food/ habitat by population).  While this concept may seem counter-intuitive, there are a number of studies (such as this 17 year study from the University of Ottawa) which show the care taken to control the harvest.

My ultimate concern is purely anecdotal.  My family has hunted the same land for 42 years.  The land looks after us – if we look after it.  Our hunters routinely pass up harvesting animals because they are too young, too small, they don’t have a clear shot or because we’ve had success earlier in the week.  By choosing to pass on the harvesting of animals in one year, we promote the chance of success in future years.

Some commercial hunters share the same vision of stewardship; many do not.  They will hunt anything they can (within legal limit).  If you’re intent is to make money from the hunt, a small animal is better than none at all.  If one area becomes thin with animals, they will simply move to another area in following years.  This isn’t true of all commercial hunters of course, but the temptation and motivation to kill is different than sustenance.

I’ll keep an open mind and hope that the program does find responsible operators who are interested in more than simply selling the meat (I’m sure they exist).  In the meantime, I’m pretty excited about the discussions around eating meat that is often looked bast (like muskrat, beaver and squirrel) that have been harvested for other reasons.

If you’re looking for more information on hunting, you can find my 2013 Moose Hunting Diary (with links to the 5 previous years) here.

Joel Speaking At Imaginate (Tomorrow Evening in Port Hope, Ontario)

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be speaking at an amazing event tomorrow evening.  It’s a benefit for the Green Wood Coalition; the evening will be combination of speeches, music and art.

Joel Speaking At Imaginate (Tomorrow Evening in Port Hope, Ontario) speeches [Read more...]

Printable Foodie Valentine Cards: Will you Beer my Valentine?

Looking for something fun to share with others on Valentines?  Dana and I tend to be very anti-Valentine (the most romantic we’ve been on Valentines was a date where she took me to “Batboy the Musical” one year) but she decided to turn our tongue-in-cheek hate for the day and made these:

Printable Foodie Valentine Cards: Will you Beer my Valentine? valentines printables

Do you want copies for yourself?  There’s 2 ways to get them:

  1. Sign up to our newsletter (you can do so on the right-hand side of our website) – we’ll send a code out so you can download them for free on Wednesday night.
  2. If you don’t want to wait until Wednesday (or don’t want our newsletter), you can buy a the printable file (we send you an electronic copy and you can print as many as you’d like) for $4 from our online store.

We wish you a Happy (or in our case, a slightly silly) Valentines!

I Beer San Diego

There are all sorts of wonderful things about San Diego.  I’ve had the pleasure of visiting it 4 times in the last 5 years and 5 times in my life.  It’s warm, friendly, safe and there’s lots and lots of local food and beverages.

And then there’s their beer scene.

I Beer San Diego San Diego Craft Beer California Beer

The photo below shows the tap list at The Hopping Pig from a few days ago.  32 taps (and that doesn’t include their bottles or oak-aged cocktails).  32 taps in a place with about 60 seats.

I found myself in Hopping Pig 3 times in 6 days.  I sampled much of the menu but kept heading back to Habanero Sculpin IPA.  Sculpin is a proud local favorite and to find a spicy variant of the brew was an awesome experience.  It was an easy drinking beer with a legitimate kick from the hot peppers.

I also found myself back at Neighborhood Bar which is a little off the main strip.  Neighborhood may be a smaller bar than the Hopping Pig but it’s beer list is just as mighty – and that’s just in the front room!  Neighborhood also had a 32-person SpeakEasy hidden behind a fake wall (that looks like a bunch of kegs stacked to the ceiling) called The Noble Experiment.  I didn’t call ahead for reservations so my visit was brief but it’s on my list for my next visit and it should be on yours as well.

I watched the Superbowl in Downtown Johnny Brown’s (DTJB’s).  It’s a craft beer bar that’s way off the beaten track (a local San Dieogan met me there and had a tough time finding it) and is notorious for it’s close proximity to the Opera.  This was the second time I’ve watched the NFL Championship game with a bar full of opera singers and musicians.

The owners at DTJB’s showed me a behind-the-scenes peak at a service they use called Tap Hunter.  This system is going to change the way craft beer drinkers drink.  As a beer drinker you can find beer around you, share your updates and see what friends are drinking.  There are several apps that do that.  What makes it remarkable is that the bar can use the app to list their beer and the moment they update the listing it notifies their fans on Facebook, followers in TapHunter and it changes the digital ‘chalk board’ that serves as a menu in the bar!  I can’t wait for this system to come to Toronto.

There were a tonne of other fantastic places and wonderful beers to try.  San Diego has a remarkable love affair with beer.  And I love it for that.

HomeEc #25: Craft Beer Salon

A Night for the Beer-Curious

After our hot sauce tasting drew more than 90 people

Do you like beer?  Want to learn more about it while sharing pints with friends?  This is going to be a fun night celebrating beer and offering you a chance to try something unique and meet a bunch of passionate beer lovers who want to share what they love about beer!

This is also our first sponsored HomeEc.  We asked our friends at Kensington Brewing Company if they’d consider sponsoring the event and they jumped at the opportunity.  They’ve been long-time supporters of WellPreserved and their sponsorship is making this night possible for us to put on.

HomeEc #25: Craft Beer Salon kensington brewing company HomeEc Craft Beer [Read more...]