To cap off a great weekend…

Dana went out for a few errands – newspaper, milk and that type of thing.  It was all a short walk from home.

She came back about 15 minutes later and proudly proclaimed `I got you a gift!`  It was too cold for ice cream today so I wasn`t sure what was left (the 24-karat tennis bracelet I`ve been dreaming about is at least a 20 minute walk away…laugh).

She proudly held a piece of red metal above her head – after briefly fearing for her fingers, I got most excited:

To cap off a great weekend...

An interesting  new store has opened in our neighborhood (where you can find the odd treasure – the owner claims to be a “Captain” with “the best booty around”) that’s basically a mix between trashy flea market and pretentious upscale furniture gallery.  Leave it to Dana to find (and recognize) a beer capping machine.  It really is a lot of fun.

I love to think about it’s history.  Who used it?  What did they make?  Who did they share it with?

At any rate, for $15 we now have the first piece of our mini-micro-brewery!

To cap off a great weekend...

It’s a very exciting day for me so you’ll have to pardon the pun in the title of the post.

Homemade Ribs – Preserved dry rub included…

We decided it was time for ribs.  They aren`t something I eat regularly though I do enjoy them when we do.

The biggest tip I have for ribs is fairly common knowledge now – take the time to remove the membrane from the bottom part of the ribs.  I do this by cheating – I use needle-nosed pliers and things go smooth and quick.  There`s no skill involved in this one.

I wanted to cook ribs because of our recent adventures dehydrating onions and celery root and our homemade celery salt.  It`s funny how a pantry of ingredients made with care really starts to guide your food choices.  We have eaten more and more vegetarian dishes and smaller meat portions these days – in this case it was a natural call (in my mind at least), to create a dry rub.

Homemade Ribs   Preserved dry rub included... Ribs Pork Cooking Recipes [Read more...]

I’ve sprung a leek… a pickled leek

The can jam continues…

The great wall of preserves now contained 3 different types of alliums from this year and last year – we have malted onion rings, small pickled onions and pickled garlic.  It was time to try something different.

Ive sprung a leek... a pickled leek Preserving Recipes Leek [Read more...]

Pickled Onions – coming to a sandwich near you

It’s that time of month again – time for Tigress’ Can Jam (12 months, 12 ingredients and more than 100 canners).  This month’s ingredient was alliums – one of my faves.  We still have some of last year pickled garlic as well as small pickled pearl onions (from my smallest batch of the year last year) so it was time to put the thinking hat on and go a different direction.

Today’s post is on the first of 3 different pickles we made – the other two will come tomorrow.

Pickled Onions   coming to a sandwich near you Preserving Recipes Onion [Read more...]

I coulda been a contenda….broken mason jars…

It`s the saddest sight (tongue slightly in cheek):

I coulda been a contenda....broken mason jars...

It was my first time breaking a jar in 19 months and it was all my fault.

The majority of broken jars stem from very few causes:

  • A cracked jar
  • An overstuffed jar (rare but possible)
  • A cold jar hitting hot water
  • Over-tightened bands
  • Accidental pre-sealing (putting your seals on and leaving your product on the counter for too long before hitting the water bath can actually create an initial seal as the air cools in the jar and this preseal can prevent the escape of air later).
  • Although rare, jars can break mid-cooling.  This typically happens when they are set on a cold surface or a flat surface (extra water cools quicker than the jars, small pools form and cool a jar too fast).

These onions were part of a two-day process.  On day one they were cut and blanched for 20 seconds.  They were then salted and placed in the fridge to remove their moisture content and create a crisper pickle the next day.

On day 2 I followed typical procedure – rinse the onions, dry them, heat jars and so forth.  I added the onions to the jar cold.  This cooled my jar considerably and created one of two effects:

  • Thermal Shock.  Cracking and then breaking of glass due to rapid temperature change.  If you ever need to break jars simply fill them with boiling water, put a lid on and submerge in very cold water.  This is NOT recommended and dangerous but an illustration of how breakage happens.
  • Cold air from the onions heated and expanded at a rate that the jar couldn`t release and shattered.

I am guessing that it was Thermal Shock that got them.

It would have been easy to avoid – I rinsed my onions in cold water, maintaining their cool temperature.  Had I left them on the counter to temper or rinsed them with hot water, I would have raised their temperature and they would not have cooled the glass so considerably.  A brief introduction to my brine in the pan could have also helped.

If you do get a break, here`s a few tips:

  • Count to 3, try not to cry.
  • Carefully remove the other jars and set aside (they are too hot to clean and a quick rinse in cold water will yield more breakage)
  • Know that an exploding jar can create enough force to break others – use caution and, when cool, examine other jars closely.
  • Once everything has cooled down, clean your jars extra good – their outsides are now covered in brine and a great attractor of pests (or puppies)
  • I strain the entire contents into a colander.  It makes things easier to dispose of.  Check colander, sink and pot for any small shards that remain.
  • Try to figure out what happened – use this as a learning opportunity.  Once you have figured out the cause, laugh at yourself and move on for making a mistake.

At least we had more jars of yummy onions – but that`s another story down the riverbank…

Cheap Tuesday Gourmet – A second look at sprouting

We originally wrote about sprouting here.  Back then (in January), we were young and innocent.

Since that time we`ve continued to research.  I have 3 books on sprouting and 8 packages of seeds.  All of them (including the seeds) suggest that sprouting in a jar is a fine alternative.  Nonetheless, I read something recently that suggested there could be a possibility of E Coli when sprouting using jars.  It`s a single mention but one that I took to heart and attempted a different approach, sprouts in dirt:

Cheap Tuesday Gourmet   A second look at sprouting Sprouts Cooking Recipes Cheap Tuesday Gourmet

Cheap Tuesday Gourmet   A second look at sprouting Sprouts Cooking Recipes Cheap Tuesday Gourmet

The first lesson we`ve learned is fairly evident – don`t pack the jars with too much dirt.  In retrospect, it`s mind numbing obvious – as sprouts grow, they take more room and this will move dirt if necessary.

The process is easy – soak the seeds for 4-6 hours and place a single layer on top of soil.  Place a small amount of soil on top, moisten.

There are considerable advantages to sprouting in dirt compared to the jar method which go beyond avoiding potential disease:

  • You can grow as much (or little) as you wish
  • Dirt will allow for a second or third crop if you cut them as opposed to eating the root
  • You only have to water once per day – the soil maintains the moisture
  • Watering is quicker and cleaner
  • It doesn`t take fridge space
  • Since they are living in dirt, they will stay in prime health longer
  • Although not exclusive to soil, we are growing 4 pots to rotate our `crops` so we will have a constant stream of greens (they grow in 2-4 days).

The cost is low.  We bought the pots (they include a drainage hole and tray) for $2 – a cheaper alternative could include reused yogurt jars.  Seeds are typically around $2 and many packages will yield up to 10 cups of sprouts.  The pictures above are early in the growing process – the pots are easily 3 times more full now.

Bread doesn`t tolerate silly mistakes…

I used to ride motorcycles.  A lot.

My Mother was a Nurse, my Father a Fire Fighter.  Our Neighbor had been a Policeman.  All of them cautioned me against being on two-wheels.  All of them had seen enough of the bad consequences.

I remember a specific piece of advice from the Policeman who had also been a motorcycle officer at one point.  `The moment you feel cool while driving, pull over and get off – you are in trouble.`  In 5 years and tens of thousands of kilometers of travel (including a trip to Nova Scotia), I managed to stay upright and, more or less, without incident.  The 3 or 4 times that I had my gravest problems all stemmed from feeling cool.

The moment you think you have it nailed, it has a way of reminding you that you don`t.  Motorcycling can be humbling.  Making bread can be the same:

Bread doesn`t tolerate silly mistakes...

What happened?  That`s easy to figure out; the short answer is I felt cool.

This was to be my best bread yet.  For starters, it was part whole wheat.  I knew the farmer that grew the wheat and milled it into flour.  I had taken onions from a neighboring farm, dehydrated them myself and added it to the dough to create an onion-bread like dough.

I mixed the ingredients, using a scale.  I long ago learned that bakers find weight a far more reliable indicator of quantities when baking.  Everything was painstakingly obvious when I, without explanation, through a bunch of water in without being careful to measure.  I added way too much.  I was able to remove some (along with some floating yeast and other ingredients).  Now the entire concoction was a guess.

I then let it rise too long (twice) and I was left with a dough-like resemblance to add to the oven that wasn`t nearly hot enough.

I suddenly felt not-so-cool.  I was, however, able to laugh at myself instantly (I knew long before it entered the stove that I would need a yeasty miracle to pull this one off).

The good news is that we were able to eat the outside crust to get an idea of flavor (the further you cut into this loaf, the more it resembles solid stone).  It was remarkably good and the onions really came together in the taste.

It`s amazing to me how personal the sense of loss over this one was.  I`m not in an overly dramatic morose state of sadness and I am totally fine that I simply made a mistake but I do feel that I let my farmer down, the wheat down and even my poor shrivelled onion.  I know the people that worked far harder than I did to make this bread and I flopped it with an avoidable flick of my wrist.

A good lesson learned – time to try again!

What to do with dehydrated beets and celery root

Yesterday showed part one of this exercise – we dehydrated 5 pounds of beets into chips and did the same with an entire celery root.  A lot of people asked us what we were going to do with them.

Let`s begin at the end.  Our 5 pounds of beets now look like this:

What to do with dehydrated beets and celery root Preserving Recipes Celeriac Beet [Read more...]

Dehydrating beets, onions and celery root

There`s not much I can add to the title other than the photos so let`s start there:

Dehydrating beets, onions and celery root Preserving Recipes Celeriac Beet [Read more...]

They Tapped That (and you can too on Sunday)

We have written about our friends at Not Far from the Tree several times (some of those are here and here).  We simply adore them and have met many great people and friends through them.  Their website is here.

The group was formed by Toronto resident (and New Brunswick native), Laura Reinsborough is a passionate advocate of our city, the environment, local eating and the intersection of all 3.  Laura, along with a small army of volunteers, are changing our city.

The non-profit program started by offering a service to home owners with fruit trees.  Fruit trees are lovely but can be a source of pain through their abundance – once you’ve eaten, shared  and preserved all you can, the remaining fruit often drops to the ground, makes a mess, smells, attract flies, gets in the way of the lawnmower, etc.  Not Far From the Tree will come to your house and clear your tree of all it’s fruit.  1/3 of the fruit goes to the tree owner, 1/3 to the volunteers and 1/3 to charity.

They harvested 8,135 pounds of fruit downtown Toronto last year.

Now they’ve expanded their focus:

They Tapped That (and you can too on Sunday)

The program is largely one to make us think different about the urban forest, our city and food sources.  The program is supported by the city (there had been initial reports of concerns that were completely overcome) and the group has tapped 12 urban Norway Maple trees to gather the syrup.  There is a sugaring off party this Sunday, March 14.  The event runs from 1-4pm (you can find the details here).

T-shirts are also available on their website.

I love the imagination of Laura and her team.  I adore that there will be people gathered around a late winter harvest from within our city walls.

If you’re in the area and want to meet some great people, be sure to pop by.  We haven’t planned our weekend yet but if we can make it, we’ll be there…