Joel in the Toronto Star – Supporting Big Ideas

I had a chance to appear in the Toronto Star last week (that’s me in the bottom right):

Joel in the Toronto Star   Supporting Big Ideas

The Star has been running a piece on ‘Big Ideas.’  Past speakers from TEDxToronto were invited to choose one of the ‘top’ ideas and support the idea that they thought could have a significant impact on our city.  I choose to support Adopt a bold food strategy.  My justification for such was:

Transforming our food policy has the potential to reduce congestion on roads with less need to transport (food), lower cost of healthy food by building infrastructure, reduce waste, decrease health costs, lower hunger, increase food security, lower cost of living, lower the environmental impact of our food system, increase employment and enhance community. Every one of us needs to eat. By improving food policy we are improving the quality of life for every individual, and this is why it has my vote.

It was a lot of fun to be part of – especially since many of the people that I share the page with have become friends and people who inspire me greatly since speaking at TEDxToronto.

What would be your big idea to change your world?

A giant thanks to the TEDxToronto team for inviting me to be part of this!

We’re Back….!

Heya!

I know that I suddenly disappeared about two weeks ago – all is well and I’m glad to be back.  Where have I/ we been?

We’ve been here:

Were Back....!

I know that’s a little obscure on the surface, so let me dive a little deeper: that’s a photo of a spreadsheet with 56,000+ cells of data (i.e. I’m not counting the blanks).  It took about 6 weeks to create and I had to give in to allow it to take over every free minute (quite literally) so that I could get a handle on organizing recipe testing for our upcoming book.

I’m really excited about the book and believe it will be incredibly easy to follow – but it’s a nightmare to coordinate testing!  The book takes a look at large spectrum of preserving and cooking (from making booze to air drying vegetables) that create a challenge when assigning recipes for testing!

We’re in the final process of sending recipes (the remaining are all late-harvest ingredients which I expect to finish in the next few days though I keep thinking I’m going to finish ‘tomorrow’ and, even with 10 hours of work, it doesn’t happen) to the initial group of testers.  If you applied to test and haven’t heard anything yet know that I’ll be in touch with some fall recipes in the next few weeks once I see which recipes have been tested and which ones still lack volunteers.

I can’t say this enough: we’re incredibly fortunate to have the support of the people we do.  Emails have been coming in from around the world as people ask questions and share their ideas.  It’s slightly overwhelming but only because we both feel so unbelievably supported by so many.  I’ve run out of words to say thanks but there are moments that I can barely sleep as I reflect on the good fortune that so many are bringing through their help.  You will make this book better than I/we ever could alone.

I believe I’ll be back to regular posting as of this week as well.  I may miss a day or two in the coming month but things are already feeling much more manageable (though we do have 150 recipes to make as we prepare for photoshoots for the book!)

We’ll also have some really exciting news to share later this week about the Big Outdoor Kitchen Party.

Maple Ginger Plum Sauce Recipe (Fridge Preserve)

I really love fridge/ freezer jams.  They’re easy to make and can easily preserve fruit that you’re on the verge of losing.

I found a pint of early (young) plums at the back of the fridge today.  They weren’t quite on their last legs but it was clear they only had a day or two left before they’d be compost.  This sauce only took a few minutes of active time (and about 40 minutes of cooking) to make and will last for weeks, or longer, in the fridge.

This quick plum sauce is tart and mildly spiced.  Although it includes cayenne, it’s not specifically hot.  It is tart and sweet and would be an ideal glaze for ham, spread on cured meat or BBQ chicken.  It could also be a step-up from the dipping sauce the comes with egg rolls and serve as a good sauce for that or cold rolls.  I’d also try it on top of chèvre, ricotta or brie.

Maple Ginger Plum Sauce Recipe (Fridge Preserve) Plum [Read more...]

HomeEc Fundraiser Results: Our Donation to the Red Door

I am thrilled to report that our recent fundraiser at HiLo Bar in Toronto Resulted in this:

HomeEc Fundraiser Results: Our Donation to the Red Door We were able to make the donation while on vacation so I don’t have a complete list of participants and rather than risking leaving someone out I’ll follow up with a post of thanks and links to the amazing businesses that participated to make this happen.

I do want to extend a few special thank yous to:

  • everyone who attended; you guys are the stars that dug deep into your pockets to buy raffle tickets and choose to support local businesses in your community.  This donation is yours and you made the evening an absolute blast!
  • Morgan of JamFactoryCo who spontaneously offered a sound system and saved the night from disaster by doing so.
  • The owners of HiLo, Table 17 and Ascari Enoteca who donated $350 as well as a significant amount of prizes and their space to make this event happen.

We’ll do a proper round-up of thanks once we are back from vacation but I wanted to share this news as soon as possible; I’m very proud of this community, the small business within it and thrilled to be able to help The Red Door Family Shelter with our combined efforts!

Pizza Dough for the Cottage

Dana and I are on vacation with friends this week.  We’re at a cottage the 4 of us shared a few years back and enjoying slower days and a break from the chaos that life has been lately.

The days are long and slow.  Multiple naps, more cheese than you can imagine and plenty of beverages to wash it down.  There will also be plenty of cooking!

I had almost forgotten about a ‘trick’ we did last time we came here: on day 1 we made a large pizza dough (about 1.5 times this recipe).  We covered it and placed it in the fridge and for four days we cut chunks of dough and made pizza in minutes as an afternoon ‘snack.’

Now that we have a stand mixer, this recipe is even easier.  I made it early yesterday morning before leaving and we had our first pizza today.

I’m hoping for a repeat of our last experience – the dough actually got better as the week went on.  It became slightly sour, easy to stretch and a little more ‘yeasty.’  The fridge is full of possible toppings and making a pizza takes about 5 minutes plus 10-12 minutes of cooking time.

What are your ‘tricks’ to make vacation cooking a little easier?

Update on the WellPreserved Big Outdoor Kitchen Party

This post is going to be mostly a complete tease.

But I promise that, very soon, the teasing will be worth it.

Update on the WellPreserved Big Outdoor Kitchen Party

We’re hosting the “Big Outdoor Kitchen Party” on September 14th at The Commons (part of Toronto’s Harbourfront).  We’re going to have speakers, musicians, small food producers and more.  And we’ve got a few special guests that can’t wait to meet you too!

There will be pickles, hot sauce, authors and more.

We’re still looking for speakers, sponsors and participants (we’re trying to finalize the roster by early August).  Here’s the types

  • Potential participants.  Artisan food producers, community organizations with a focus on food, cookbook authors, speakers and more.  The ideal participant will have a demo, tasting, display or something interactive to share with our guests.  We’ve had beer brewers offer hops for people to smell, hot sauce makers offering a taste of hot sauce and fermenters offer a sample of their pickles in the past.  You can find out the benefits of being a vendor here and apply over here.
  • Potential Sponsors.  Are you a larger organization who would like to participate with community and be involved with innovative, agile and amazing smaller brands?  We have a full sponsor package to share; send me an email (joel (a) wellpreserved.ca) and I’ll share it with you.

Want to be part of the fun?  Let us know!

The Fundamentals of Fermenting Alcohol

I had no idea how easy it was to make booze.

Truth be told I now know that I’d made it many times as a lazy adolescent who had a habit of leaving the jug of cider on the counter after pouring a glass.   I can remember more than one occasion that I returned to find it ‘spoiled’ as it bubbled and frothed on the counter.  I would wash it down the sink (even if I knew it was booze I probably would have any way – I was ‘straight edged’ and dead sober through my teenage years).

When I started to learn about making mead or wine or beer I had a really difficult time figuring out where to start.  Everything I read suggested big giant books and lots of reading and research and these things are good ideas if you want to learn how to make REALLY GOOD booze but I’ve always been the type that simply wants to learn the basics from top-to-bottom and then learn how to improve my creations.

GREAT BOOZE includes something that’s dependably safe to drink, tasty, often has a controlled and measured alcohol content, is repeatable and often made to some form of scale.  But that’s a long way from the fundamentals; which are, to me, essentially something that has alcohol and is safe to drink.

I’m not suggesting that this is how you should make your alcohol nor am I recommending the technique (though I’ve done it and do it with mixed results).  But I think it’s helpful to understand the very basic process of creating alcohol via fermentation.  By understanding the basics you can grow your technique and it’s easier to understand the fine print when you know where each step is headed.

There are a few basic principals when it comes to fermenting things to create booze:

  • Yeast helps convert sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol.  Too little sugar will starve the yeast; too much will also prevent fermenting.
  • Not all yeast is equal.  You can use ‘wild yeast’ (that’s the stuff floating around your kitchen at all times) but you won’t know what type of yeast you’ll get and you could end up with mixed results (for example, some yeast is prone to creating vinegar which, while tasty, is a different end-goal).
  • Many use a campden tablet to kill wild yeast before adding brewers yeast to sugar and water to make booze.  This is often an overnight process.  Yeast and campden tablets are available at most homebrew stores or online.
  • Fermenting happens when sugar and yeast are introduced to each other at the right temperature (avoid extremes on either side).  Sugar can be in many forms including raw, honey, molasses or even from fruit.  Most yeast will not tolerate alcohol greater than 20% (40 proof) which is often created with a still.
  • Sometimes people add a yeast nutrient which will help ensure the yeast grow strong and bold.
  • Sanitizing everything is important as you go.  Again, a homebrew store is your friend to get you started here.
  • Yeast will have a certain alcohol tolerance.  Once it raises a certain percentage, the yeast will die.  This often creates sentiment at the bottom of that fermenting vessel which you remove by siphoning the liquid above it (this is often called ‘racking.’)
  • Most fermenting is done in an anaerobic environment (i.e. without oxygen).  An airlock is a device which uses a small amount of water to form a barrier between the inside of the fermenting vessel and the outside world – as CO2 is created it forces the oxygen out of the environment.  This is important because a sealed jar (i.e. with a lid) could easily shatter with the pressure created by the ferment.
  • Fermenting is sometimes done in stages (often referred as ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’).  This is sometimes done to remove the sediment but often used to add other flavors (such as fruit) at different stages of the process.

Booze made is this way is often referred to as country wine, fruit wine or (in the case of honey), mead.

When sugar, yeast and liquid are combined with the lack of oxygen, they will create booze.  This is often aged then bottles where it’s sometimes aged again.  Sometimes people add a small bit of yeast just as they bottle their final product.  You must take care not to add too much yeast or the bottle can explode (you can get guidance from a brew-shop once again).

When I was young I was making booze by accident; the cider fermented with wild yeast in the air (or yeast that was already in the unpasteurized cider we got from a farmer) and booze was being created when I tossed it.

If you’re more experienced, would you add anything to the list above?

Looking for more information?  Here’s a recipe for T’ej which is an Ethiopian Honey Wine that’s made with water and honey and the wild yeast around you!

Is Maldon Salt Worth the Price?

My Father and I have taken a few cooking course together at a local college and we’ve often heard the Chefs praise “Maldon Salt.” I’d heard the same from Chef friends and really hadn’t experienced it until about a year ago.

If you haven’t heard of Maldon Salt before, it’s a type of Sea Salt that is produced in the U.K. The manufacturers claim that it doesn’t leave a “bitter after taste that some salts leave; instead a freshness that enhances the flavour of all natural and fine foods.” I can vouch that it tastes like salt but I haven’t experienced a bitter after taste in any salt that I can recall.

If the virtues of Maldon Salt were limited to taste then the benefits would be tough to justify when compared to the cost (it can cost 2-3 times the amount of other sea salt).

The real magic of Maldon Salt is it’s texture.  The salt comes in flaky pieces.  Each piece is a different size and shape and adds legitimate texture when used to finish (i.e. used when serving) a dish.  Salad, fish and meat are enhanced with a subtle crunch that’s added with the salt.

Although I’m sure some people cook with it, I keep other salt on hand for that.  When used to finish dishes, maldon salt can last a long time and add a noticeable different that, in my mind, is worth the increased price.

Are you willing to pay extra for maldon salt?

Tomorrow Night – $700+ in Prizes, Community Support and Fundraising

I don’t normally push our own events this hard.  But desperate times call for desperate measures.

I visited 3 restaurants in Leslieville tonight and, with construction, there were a total of 8 people dining at them.

In order to promote local food businesses we are having a fundraiser at Hi-Lo tomorrow night (100% of proceeds are being donated to local charity; we’ll share the amount publicly of course) and are giving away more than 40 prizes from local restaurants. The prizes are meant to encourage the winners to get out on the town in the middle of construction season.

Tomorrow Night   $700+ in Prizes, Community Support and Fundraising

Prizes have been donated from:

  • The Riverside BIA
  • Leslieville Farmers Market
  • Left Field Brewery
  • F’Coffee
  • Dangerous Dan’s
  • Butchers of Distinction
  • Appetite
  • Hi-Lo
  • Table 17
  • Enoteca Ascari
  • Tabule
  • Aft
  • Prohibition
  • Glas Winebar
  • Skin and Bones
  • The Vine Agency
  • Rock Lobster
  • Boots and Bourbon
  • Comrade
  • Mary McLeods
  • Random House
  • Hooked
  • and more are still coming in…

We’ll be selling raffle tickets and encouraging all to mingle. There are more than 40 prizes and the bar fits about 60 people – your chances of winning are great!

(We start selling tickets at 7 and will start drawing at 8 and hope to wrap up draws by 10:30 if not earlier)

Please consider coming out and liking/ sharing this post to encourage others to do that same..

If you’re not in Toronto, you can still support your local businesses.  Summer is a deceptively difficult time for many restaurants and small businesses and your support makes a big difference to them – and your community.

Homemade Cherry Juice from the Steam Juicer

I continue to be blown away by the results of our steam juicer.

Homemade Cherry Juice from the Steam Juicer steam juicer Cherry cherries [Read more...]