Freezing Roasted Red Peppers: Preserving the main harvest finally slows down

Local preserving season is slowing down with the quieting of the harvest.  One can still pickle onions, beets, garlic and other cellared delights but the variety is not as boundless as early autumn.

Preserving roasted peppers typically mark the closing of the harvest for our family.  They are the easiest batch of preserving we do in a year and one of my favourites through the winter.  We usually use Sheppard peppers (which are long and red) and/ or hot peppers (often processed separately) but anything fresh and local will do.

Freezing Roasted Red Peppers: Preserving the main harvest finally slows down Preserving Recipes Peppers (Bell) October Bell Pepper [Read more...]

Signs of life near algonquin park…

Look at the image below closely – what do you see?  There are no animals visible – but there are clear signs that one had been in the area…

Signs of life near algonquin park... October

Here’s a closeup of the tree on the right of the photo above – any idea yet?:

Signs of life near algonquin park... October

If you watch nature closely enough, she will teach you how to eat in the wild.  This animal is showing you a tricky path to one of my favourite forest snacks.  Here’s another try:

The final peak:

Congratulations to those of you who got it – for those who are still guessing, these are claw marks of a black bear on a beach tree near Algonquin Park.  Bears climb the trees to get to the elusive nuts that hang high above (they are edible by us humans as they drop to the ground as well).

A black bear can practically run up a tree as fast as you can run across the flat ground.  I was with friends a few years ago when we watched a small cub dart up a tree so fast that the majority of those peering through a cottage window at it gasped in shock.

Bears live in peace with us at the cabin – they are typically as scared of us humans as we are of them.  We see plenty of sign but have only seen 2 of them in 40+ years of our cabin.  We do not actively hunt them although some of our hunters carry a license during moose season.  Those who would consume the animal carry the license – the others simply choose not to hunt the animal whatsoever.  It’s a cardinal sin at our cabin to hunt anything you do not consume and something we simply do not tolerate.

We have never partaken in the traditional spring bear hunt that was terminated a few years ago.  The effects of the stoppage are still paying out in nature – we see more bear sign than ever before and there does seem to be a change in the living patterns of the moose in our area.  An example of the change is the lack of moose sign in a small swamp near our cabin that was frequented by moose for 20+ years.  The change begain about 4 years ago when a nearby hill became the new residence of a black bear (likely the one that left the marks on the tree in this post).

Whether you support the spring bear hunt or not, there is no denying that when we change how we interact with nature, she makes adjustments of our own.  The end of the spring bear hunt means there are more adult bears in the woods – they compete for the same food that other animals do and this can potentially add a strain to the overall habitat.  The population patterns in our are seem to be affected as 20-40 years of behavior has suddenly changed – but I am hardly a scientist who can prove the correlation.  We have also heard stories of adult moose living in harmony and close proximity to bear.  I saw a cow (female adult moose) within 100 yards of the one black bear I actually saw in the forest.

I just wish I could get at the beach nuts myself – they are delightful snacks and a rare treat when a branch (or tree) falls to the forest floor after heavy winds!

Something to be thankful for: WellPreserved

It’s Canadian Thanksgiving – a day of reflection, harvest and quiet thanks for all that we have.  It’s an exciting day for me and one that I get great enjoyment of.

The last year has been wonderful to us.  Beyond the most important delights (good health, great family, lovely friends and more), we have been surrounded by so many people and things to be thankful for.  Dana started her own company, I received International recognition (thanks to and along with my team at work), we have learned much and met so many great people. [Read more...]

Split Banana Brule (with preserves)

I have always loved puns.  I have a special fondness for bad ones that make people groan.  It is because of this that you will have to tolerate my definition of a Split Banana desert that is perfect to show off your sweet preserves.

Cut a banana in half (at the middle) then cut each half in two lengthwise – you should have 4 long banana halves at this point.

Split Banana Brule (with preserves) October Cooking Recipes Banana

[Read more...]

What to do with all that jam…host a tasting party!

We have hosted several tasting sessions for friends and other select guests in the last few weeks which have been a lot of fun.  The basic premise is creating taste pairings of preserves and something else which compliments the flavors and takes each component to a new level.  We have enjoyed 8 and 9 course tastings that have been a lot of fun

I have made more than 15 different types of jam this year and rarely eat breakfast – when I do; it is even rarer that I eat toast and jam.  Much of my jam will be used for pairings such as these, often as an appetizer or with dinner.

The most recent tasting was with Not Far From the Tree (the same evening we made preserves together.  I asked them to bring some cheeses and we progressed through a series of preserves that was a play on an average day of eating – breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I know I’m missing some of the courses we served below but this list will give you an idea of how one can progress through a tasting.

Breakfast started with a piece of toast and preserved strawberries.  The whole strawberries are very different from jam and I thought I was being a little cheeky NOT serving jam with toast.  The berries are flavored bright with the summers sun and finish with a twist of lemon which makes your tongue slightly twinge.

Blueberry jam was a natural progression.  We paired this years amazing version (wild blueberries, sugar, lemon and maple syrup) with a soft chevre and served on a butter cracker.  I suppose this was brunch – a subtle transition from more to noon.  It is an intoxicating combination.

What to do with all that jam...host a tasting party! October

What to do with all that jam...host a tasting party! October

The same blueberry jam took a decided turn towards lunch as we served a second version with Beemster cheese.  Beemster is fantastic with aged balsamic and the loose syrup of this years blueberry served the same function.  It’s a messy bite that is simply delightful.

Lunch was next – an old cheddar matched to a hearty cracker and paired with the one pickled item very few seem to recognize – pickled garlic scape (that’s the green “shoot” that grows from garlic during mid summer and before the bulb is harvested).  These were pickled with lots of mustard and a high-acid vinegar which resulted in a meaty sweet taste of the harvest.

Dinner came with a kick.  This is one of my all-time favorite pairings – soft brie (warmed to room temperature) with a cracked and raspberry-jalapeno jam.  The buttery cheese fills our stomach while the bite of the hot pepper brings a robust dinner-feel to it.  This years raspberry-jalapeno jam featured two types of berries (red and golden raspberries) and combined honey and sugar to finish.

Not too many pickled things at this tasting – most of our pickles need a few more weeks to be worthy of their full splendor so this was mostly a sweet and savory pairing.

The final course was desert – but that’s a bigger description than is fit for this little post – so turn in tomorrow to see what was next!

A wonderful night with Not Far From the Tree

A wonderful night with Not Far From the Tree October

It has been an exceptionally busy fall so far – at work, at home and in the pursuit of our passions which compliment all of it.

A few weeks ago we had the privilege of guests in our home – the kind folks from Not Far From The Tree (Laura, Laurel and Marc) came by and joined Margaret (our friendly neighborhood photographer), Dana and I for a night of making preserves.  It was to be a night of learning, sharing and tasting together.  We’ll post more on tasting in a day or two – for now I want to focus on who these people are and the wonderful work they do!

A wonderful night with Not Far From the Tree October

Not Far from the tree is a wonderful food-based charity that focuses on harvesting from our urban orchard.  The concept is simple – find volunteers who are willing to help pick fruit from a residential property and split the bounty 3 ways – one part to the volunteers, one to the owner of the tree and a final share to local charity.  It’s a brilliantly simple concept that is executed with a tonne of hard work, passion and care.

The team picked over 3,000 pounds of fruit in the Toronto area in 2008.  In the summer of 2009 they eclipsed more than 7,000 pounds!  The team recounted a recent harvest of more than 500 pounds of pears from only two trees in a residential backyard.

The fruit is typically distributed via bicycles and carts (they have a trailer that can carry about 250 pounds of fruit on two wheels).

The team works with some talented preservers already – we saw a great opportunity to get together, share laughter, experience and knowledge.  They also brought fruit!  Apples from the Spadina Museum, Pears from the giant harvest and concord grapes from a friend who had offered them to the team.  Laurel recounted a fascinating history of the Spadina Museum and their mission to create historically accurate gardens which replicate the way the gardens looked and functioned at the time of building the museum.

We made applesauce, grape jelly and canned pears.  Margaret documented the evening (all of these photos are hers) and we shared stories of mutual passions that made the evening simply delightful!  Laurels post on the same evening is here.

If you are looking to preserve next year and want fresh, local and inexpensive fruit and a great cause to contribute to, check out Not Far From the Tree and considering lending a hand next year!

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It has been an exceptionally busy fall so far – at work, at home and in the pursuit of our passions which compliment all of it.

A few weeks ago we had the privilege of guests in our home – the kind folks from Not Far From The Tree (Laura, Laurel and Marc) came by and joined Margaret (our friendly neighborhood photographer), Dana and I for a night of making preserves.  It was to be a night of learning, sharing and tasting together.  We’ll post more on tasting in a day or two – for now I want to focus on who these people are and the wonderful work they do!

Not Far from the tree is a wonderful food-based charity that focuses on harvesting from our urban orchard.  The concept is simple – find volunteers who are willing to help pick fruit from a residential property and split the bounty 3 ways – one part to the volunteers, one to the owner of the tree and a final share to local charity.  It’s a brilliantly simple concept.

He team picked over 3,000 pounds of fruit in the Toronto area in 2008.  In the summer of 2009 they eclipsed more than 7,000 pounds!  The team recounted a recent harvest of more than 500 pounds of pears from only two trees in a residential backyard.

The fruit is typically distributed via bicycles and carts (they have a trailer that can carry about 250 pounds of fruit on two wheels).

The team works with some talented preservers already – we saw a great opportunity to get together, share laughter, experience and knowledge.  They also brought fruit!  Apples from the Spadina Museum, Pears from the giant harvest and concord grapes from a friend who had offered them to the team.  Laurel recounted a fascinating history of the Spadina Museum and their mission to create historically accurate gardens which replicate the way the gardens looked and functioned at the time of building the museum.

We made applesauce, grape jelly and canned pears.  Margaret documented the evening (all of these photos are hers) and we shared stories of mutual passions that made the evening simply delightful!

If you are looking to preserve next year and want fresh, local and inexpensive fruit and a great cause to contribute to, check out Not Far From the Tree and considering lending a hand next year!

Thanksgiving is almost here (in Canada) – so is Bird Hunting

This weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving – it`s always in October here and, while an important time for many, it does not seem to take on the National Importance that it`s namesake does in the US.  It is a holiday that is important – but I don`t know many who would fly across the country for the 3-day weekend to get back to family (thought they`d want to :)).

My family is rooted in North America – we can trace both sides of my ancestry as residents of this land before confederation occurred.  This was best displayed about 4 years ago when Dana had her first chance to visit my Mothers home town (Petit-De-Grat on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia).  Dana was drinking coffee with my Grandmother on her stoop:

Dana:  Where is your family from?
Jeanne DArc (Joanne of Arc): What do you mean?
Dana:  Where are your grandparents from?
Jeanne DArc: Well my Grandmother was born in that house (points).  Pepe was born there (points)…

Dana`s jaw dropped as she was pointed to the birth houses of three generations of Acadians (including most of my Grandfathers side) without leaving her chair.

Along with a tie to the land comes a tie to it`s food.  My family is rich in the traditions of local eating – fishing, some farming and growing and hunting are traditions that run strong in the family.  Many of us are passionate about food – throw a pile of newspaper on a table with 40 pounds of crab and you`ll quickly see what I mean!

What does Thanksgiving mean to me these days?  For the last 10 or 15 years it means a trip North.  My Parents left yesterday, we`ll be heading after work on Friday night.  We will be hiking, ATVing, tracking moose (the 6-day season starts the Monday following Thanksgiving) and hunting bird for our Thanksgiving dinner.  Dana and my Mother do not have their licenses so they come along for the walk or ride.  A successful weekend of partridge hunting (for us) would harvest 2-6 chicken-sized birds that are consumed in full.

Eating Partridge was a pivotal experience in my journey around food.  I had grown up eating moose and deer – eating wild bird was something that happened later in life.

In some ways, it is difficult to comprehend that a steak actually came from the large moose that you saw on the ground.  A Partridge is different – you can easily warp your head around what is on the plate and how it got there.  Thinking about these things drove me away from all red meat and pork for more than 5 years (try as I might I could not go the full monty to being a proper vegetarian).  When I ate my first Partridge I spent 45 minutes picking every last piece of meat off my plate – when you see a life taken (or take one) to provided sustenance for you, waste seems intolerable.  I remember thinking about the amount of chicken I must have thrown out as leftovers over the years.

I also recall a Thanksgiving 3 or 4 years ago when we did not have enough birds to feed the family.   We were one short on Sunday morning and had a dilemma on our hands:   not enough food for the family and (at the time) there was no hunting on Sundays.

Dana was sipping coffee at the breakfast table in our cabin and talking to Dad.  She was trying to understand the logic of no hunting on Sundays before a large crash stopped the conversation.  A Partridge had flown into the bay window she sat in front of.  The window wasn`t broken – the partridge was.  He had flown into the window with such force that he broke his neck and died instantly.  He solved our dilemma and I took an odd pride that evening that his natural death continued our circle of life.

These are tough topics for some to read about – I appreciate you for hanging in this far and, hopefully, keeping an open mind!

Grassfed Bison Raised in Ontario

It`s a rather unusual approach to a post today – Essentially we are turning a users comments into a post.  Al (one of his food blogs is Torontovore) produced a small video on the essentials of raising grassfed Bison in Ontario (they are not finished with grain) along with Arlene and Aaron at the Mountain Lake Bison Range north of Toronto.

Al mentioned that he was not entirely happy with the results – I found them fascinating and thought this was something that was well worthy of sharing.

Bison look so proud and unified to me.  This sounds like a great project – I`d love to see them in the fields!

Under the Harvest Moon

The photos in this post were taken by madbadger2742 (Brock is on Twitter here) from Detroit-  and used with his gracious permission since we couldn`t get out for a pic of our current moon.  A giant thanks to him for his fantastic photos and another example of a virtual community helping each other out around food.

A giant moon has been hanging over Toronto (and most of North America) in the last few evenings.  It appears the harvest moon is back.

Under the Harvest Moon October

I had heard the term many times though wasn’t sure exactly what it meant (I had my guesses).  It is essentially a giant looking moon that hangs low on the horizon after the autumnal equinox.  It generally appears in late September or early October.

The name is based on the brightness of the moon – it’s bright light was supposedly enough to keep the harvest working through the night as the fields were lit like day time.

A harvest moon does not have to be different colors – and, unlike other things in the sky, colors can be enhanced in the presence of a city.

A neat thing to consider is something called the moon illusion.  The moon is a constant distance from us – therefore a harvest moon is no bigger in the sky than a “normal” moon.  I found this logical but surprising – I would have bet that I’ve seen moons that I would have bet are much bigger than others (and would have been wrong).  The moon illusion is caused be the relative appearance of the moon to the horizon.  A low hanging moon looks large compared to the horizon while a typical moon (in the middle of the sky) has nothing to compare to and looks smaller.

Under the Harvest Moon October

Picnic at the Brickworks 2009

Sunday was the now-annual fundraiser for Slow Food Toronto and Evergreen.  For those who haven’t been, it’s essentially an all-you-can-eat buffet of awesomeness!

Picnic at the Brickworks 2009 October

Some of the cities top chefs were paired with local farmers and given a region of the world to be inspired by.  There was ample beer and wine as accompaniment as well.  More than 60 restaurants were represented in total – including Amuse-Bouche , Langdon Hall, Pangaea, Canoe, Vertical, C5, Cowbell, Globe and more.  A full list and what they prepared appears here.

The event was extremely well organized, staffed with great volunteers (thank you to them!) and, though very busy, not overwhelming with people.

The talk of the town appeared to be locally frown kiwis!  It appears that grape-sized kiwis can grow near Barrie.  They were served in a wine jelly on top of a fresh basil leaf and were fantastic.

Picnic at the Brickworks 2009 October

The event is a fundraiser for two great causes in this city – Evergreen and Slow Food Toronto.  It’s price tag of $110 is well worth saving for.  We’ll let the food speak for itself now:

Do not miss this even next year – if you attended this year and have pics online, feel free to post links in our comments!