A perfect autumn saturday…

A perfect autumn saturday... October

It started bright and early (Shaeffer’s decision of course), we grabbed a coffee and started up the Don River Trail from Queen Street to the Evergreen Brickworks Farmer’s Market…about 4.5km (according to google maps) one way. The rain held off and you could almost forget you’re in the middle of the city. We did the rounds at the market, visiting friends and introducing them to Shaeffer, it was his first time there and definitely wont be his last. It took us a while to go around because everyone wants to stop and give him attention…which he LOVES. We met a few dogs, chatted with people and loaded up the backpack with 15-20lbs of  fantastic autumn produce (leeks, squash, potatoes, onions, carrots…..). Simron at the Everdale Farm stand (one of our usual stops) offered us a taste of his corn, raw…which was AMAZING and we ended up coming home with 4 cobs. The remainder of the sample occupied Shaeffer’s attention for quite a while, good thing this dog likes vegetables! He ate his fill of local organic greens and Jamie Kennedy’s famous french fries that had made their way onto the pavement at the market – I think he’s fitting into our family just fine. We walked home on the west side of the Don and stopped off at Riverdale farm to look at the horses. We were all dragging our feet a bit by the time we made it home just before lunch. One dirty dog bathed and fed and snoring in a corner, and we had some quiet time for lunch. The freshest of fresh buckwheat pasta from Everdale (buckwheat milled friday, pasta made saturday morning). A jar of last year’s tomato sauce, some onions and celery from Sosnicki’s Organic produce topped with cheese we brought back from Black River Cheese in Prince Edward County last weekend. After a well deserved nap, we caught up with friends over a pint at F’Coffee.

Today the Slow Food Picnic, we should have just brought a tent up to the Brickworks!

Next weekend Thanksgiving at the Cabin, another first for Shaeffer.

Have I mentioned, fall is my favourite time of year?

The Farmer’s Song (Murray McLauchlan)

Canadian singer Murray McLauchlan wrote this as a tribute for our farmers – I found this video on youtube which I found powerful – and appropriate since today we’re going for a massive walk and ending up at a local market.

Happy Saturday!

I have found a time machine…and its name is grape jelly

Rather odd name for a post I suppose.

I have tried to imagine time traveling since I was a small child.  It is a fascinating concept to me.  I rarely think about traveling very far – the concept of knowing the future would take a lot of fun out of the present and while distant history would be fascinating it would take a lifetime to figure out the relevance of what I have learned (this is somewhat tongue in cheek :))

My preferred time to travel would be focused on the timeframe of my life.  I would love to visit the past and taste things I once adored in the context they were presented with my current views on food and taste and see what I would think.  Perhaps I would hate some of my former favorite tastes or vice versa.  I would find out if ketchup is the same today as it once was.  I would want to go back to the day NEW Coke launched in Canada and see what the heck they were thinking.

I also remember going to Nove Scotia many times as a child and adoring something called Homestead Jam.  I loved it so much that my aunt surprised me with a gift of 7 or 8 cans to take home with me.  I delighted in the wonderful strawberry flavor.  I think if I got to sample this gooey sugar paste today my impressions would be less than that of my 8-year old palate.

That is the dilemma of time travel – going to your past could ruin your memories of it.  And I have a lot of food memories that would stand to be permanently altered, possibly in a negative way.

When Not Far From the Tree visited earlier this week, they brought a small load of fruit.  One of the things they brought was concord grapes.  It was my first time working with grapes in preserves and I was pretty excited to get these going.  We made a grape jelly (crush grapes, cook to a boil for 10 minutes, strain through cheesecloth overnight, pour carefully into a bowl to remove any sediment, mix every cup of juice with three quarters cup of sugar and cook like a jam).

I have found a time machine...and its name is grape jelly October Grape Concord Grape

We had half a jar left over and had a taste.  It bursts with flavor – the immediate taste was the sugary grape juices of my childhood before turning distinctly sharper.  Every bite is a delightful burst of flavor from my youth that turns a corner into the tastes of my present pallet.  I am sure I would not have liked this jelly nearly as much as a child – yet it serves as a delightful reminder of my childhood.  And that, to me, is cheating time!

2009 World Food Week – Hart House Toronto Oct 16-23

Imagine a week of food events sponsored by people like Slow Food Toronto, The Stop, Sustain Ontario, Food Share, Local Food Plus, and more.  Imagine great lectures from amazing local food visionaries, workshops and a bit of actual food thrown in!  Imagine that there are many free events.  And to imagine that this is all real!

2009 World Food Week is being hosted by Hart House (at Univeristy of Toronto).  The schedule and more details are here – the following description is from their site:

Join us at Hart House for World Food Week to heighten your awareness and taste buds as we explore our relationship with food and what that means for our health and communities. Prepare to be provoked by a series of tastings, workshops, panel discussions and lectures addressing the issues related to food and how we can all take action in a local and effective way.

Food is an integral part of our society.  It not only provides nourishment, but gives us an opportunity to share with our community; it allows us to preserve tradition and culture; it connects us to the land.  Food should be about simple principles, yet in our society we’ve allowed it to become a commodity. We demand year-round access to the cheapest food possible, gorging ourselves to malnourishment, while millions go hungry and suffer famine on a daily basis. In order to ensure access to safe and healthy food, and for the future of our society, we need to understand our food systems and reconnect and support the individuals that create them.

The harvest may be coming to a slow stop – the local food movement is not.

Urgent Update – Norm Hardie Grape picking moved

In August we wrote a post called What a difference 30 hours can make which showed photos of how much Norman Hardies vineyard changed in 2 days.  It has happened again – after releasing a request for harvest help with definitive dates yesterday, the orchard changed overnight.  We have received an urgent plea this evening from Norman Hardie (go to out home page for an article and links on him within our site) – harvest has moved up a full week and starts this weekend.  It`s very short notice – we`re not sure we can make it.

The  message is below.   We`d love people to consider circulating the message to others.  If you do make it out to any of it, please let us know – if we`re there we`ll say hi and we are trying to track numbers to see if we could fill a bus and make a WellPreserved day of it next year!

It is starting to feel like harvest in Burgundy – pick before the rain. The weather looks as though it will rain later next week and we have some sunshine ahead of us on through till Tuesday. This means that we will have to move up our harvesting.

The great news is that I did a full cluster sampling this morning and we are north of 21.5 brix (better than 07) with fantastic phenolic ripeness, and the vineyard is botritis and disease free. We will begin harvesting on our own this Thursday, October 1st, and possibly Friday and Saturday (if the rain holds off). Sunday, October 4th is promising to be sunny along with Monday and Tuesday. If you can come and help any of these days we promise to feed you like kings and queens. This will be the first time we have ever harvested Pinot in Prince Edward Country before Niagara.

I am also looking for some hands to help on the sorting table in Niagara on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Any help down there would be grateful. Trying to coordinate two picks at the same time is also a first.

For those who committed to the 17th and 18th, all the Pinot would have been picked, however I think we will be picking my neighbours Cabernet Franc which we will be making this year for the first time since 2005.

Please email me at norm@normanhardie.com to let me know what days you can come. Bring warm clothes and lots of energy, kids are welcome. If you bring a dog please keep on a leash as the grapes make them very ill.


He is a heck of a guy and has inspiring talent and vision.  Thanks all for considering – happy harvest!

Take part in the harvest – an invite courtesy of Norman Hardie

We originally introduced Norm Hardie in this article.  He is gracious, fun, passionate and committed to making fabulous wine.

Take part in the harvest   an invite courtesy of Norman Hardie

Norm is getting close to harvest time and has an offer of a traditional Thanksgiving to those who wish to learn and participate in a traditional harvest.  In exchange for an honest day labour, Norm offers local food prepared by some of the top chefs (including yummy-not-so-local Oysters) and plenty of his beautiful wine.  This is a family friendly event and is less than 2.5 hours away from Toronto in Hillier, Ontario.

Here`s the details from Norm – if you decide to go, let us know that you`re going.  We would love to track how many are going as there`s talk of trying to get a busload together for next year (this year is tough with our own harvest falling across the harvest weekends; Dana is planning to make it on the second weekend which is the start of hunting for me).

Here`s the invite in Norms words:

We have had an unbelievably busy summer in the vineyard. Fortunately Prince Edward County did not get the rains that the rest of the province experienced. In August, we followed the conservative approach we initiated in 2008 and green harvested down to less than 750 grams of fruit per plant to ensure as close to perfect ripeness even if the skies opened up on us. This strategy paid huge dividends for us in 2008. September blessed us with 21 straight days of sunshine and perfect heat. The long term forecast looks very positive, so potentially, we are in for an incredible year!

We are anticipating harvesting over the Thanksgiving weekend (October 10, 11 and 12) and possibly the weekend of the 17th and 18th – all weather dependant. Raymond from Balluchon will be there to start your picking morning with freshly roasted coffee. Johannes and Manly will be manning the suckling pig on the spit, a number of top chefs will be doing their magic on the vegetables from both Vicki’s Vegetables and Cherryvale organic farm, and both Rodney’s Oyster Bar and Oyster Boy will be shucking. Goes without saying there will be Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in abundance to enjoy with the harvest lunch. Come and enjoy a true Thanksgiving harvest with us. If not, join us the weekend after. Harvest is a family affair, so your kids are welcome. And for those whose knees are tender, we always need hands on the sorting table. Please email norm@normanhardie.com and let us know which date’s you can join us for the harvest. Picking starts from 9am on, lunch served promptly at 2pm.

Look forward to sharing this magical time with you here.


A Magical Evening… with Not Far From the Tree

A very short post this evening – it is 1.30am as I write this.

We had a fantastic night tonight – the fine folks from Not Far From the Tree popped bye with bags of fruit and we preserved and tasted together for almost 6 hours.  These guys are really amazing.  We introduced them in a post here – but check out their website here.  We will provide more info soon – the super Readers Digest version is this – they organize volunteers to harvest urban fruit from backyards around Toronto.  A third of the fruit goes to the property owner, a third goes to the volunteers and the rest to charity.

They picked 3003 pounds last year – they are at 6,812 pounds so far this year!  It is easy to get inspired by them.

Our friend Margaret Mulligan ( you met her here and can see her pro pics here and her blog here) was by to take some pics.  There will be more posts this week – in the mean time we will start with some of the great shots:

A Magical Evening...  with Not Far From the Tree

A Magical Evening...  with Not Far From the Tree

Bottling wine with Norman Hardie

8 friends and family members left the city around 7am on Saturday morning.  We were bleary eyed and laughing at what seemed like a logical plan before the alarm clock went off.  A quick wipe of the eyes and brush of the teeth paved the way for our escape to Prince Edward County.

We made our way to Norman Hardies vineyard and winery and started the morning with a small walk around the property.  The grapes are a beautiful dark purple or red (they are wrapped in mesh to protect them from birds so we didn’t take photos.

We were delighted when Norm announced to the group that he was going to put us to work.  We had to help bottle, label, cap and package 16 cases of wine.

Bottling wine with Norman Hardie

Bottling wine with Norman Hardie

Dana and I in action:

Taking part in the process made me appreciate how intimate these bottles truly are.  It is a process that is closely related to our jarring and canning and has really left an impression on me.  This is not wine made in a massive factory with cold machines whirring at 1,000 miles an hour – instead it moves slow, deliberately and each bottle is hand-filled with wine – and passion.

What does your coffee cup say about you?

We were at the cabin in the spring and Dana took a bunch of photos of coffee cups that have accumulated over the years.  Most came from unknown sources and have been left behind from different guests.

What does your coffee cup say about you?

What does your coffee cup say about you?

What is the story of your favorite coffee cup?  What saying would you put on a cup of you could?

That’s the Spirit – Pears in Kahlua Syrup

1 cup of sugar, 2 cups of water and 8.5 cups of pears which are quartered, peeled and treated for browning (we use lemon juice).

The recipe was easy.  Bring everything but the pears to a boil over medium-high heat and add the pears after everything is disolved.  leave the pears at a gentle boil for 5 minutes before loading into heated 8-ounce (1 cup) jars.  It all made sense.  Boil in a hot water bath for 20 minutes.

Thats the Spirit   Pears in Kahlua Syrup Preserving Recipes Pear Kahlua [Read more...]