Making and canning your own tomato sauce – overview

My parents started making tomato sauce about 15 or 20 years ago.  They had learned the process from Italian friends who made sauce and salsa every year.

The original production was very slow and small-scale.  They had a hand grinder and had to blanch and peel every tomato before cooking them down in the kitchen, adding them to hot jars and sealing 6 or 7 at a time.

Making and canning your own tomato sauce   overview Tomato Preserving Recipes [Read more...]

Ooops we did it again – tomatoes that is!!!

126 liters of tomato sauce is done for the year.  Today is a day to reflect on another year that’s passed and a wonderful one ahead.

Ooops we did it again   tomatoes that is!!!

We started with 6 bushels of half-long tomatoes (approximately 300 pounds), 50 heads of garlic, a garden full of fresh herbs and two massive pots.  We finished with the sound of popping jars filling the night sky.  We’ll post our process this week and share photos and more details.

It took 4 of us a very casual 10 hours to complete the entire process.  A large feast (virtually tomato free) followed and we had a long soak in my parents hot tub.

After 15 or 20 years of my parents creating sauce (we have been helping for 3), we are now spoiled with wonderful technology and a great setup that Heinz may be slightly envious of.

This is what preserving is all about to me – family, tradition, good and honest food, teamwork and honouring the harvest.

The prime canning season is on us now – a great time to start and continue traditions is on hand!  After all, not everythign we preserves is food :).

5:00AM The biggest day of the Preserving year is here

I’ve been awake 10 minutes and am groggy.  I will be in the truck and off to the market in less than 5 minutes.

More than 100 1-litre jars have been cleaned in Markham.  The basil will be harvested in the next 90 minutes by my parents – I will be there by 8:00am.

There are more than 300 pounds of tomatoes waiting (we are using half-longs this year – I will take photos of them to show what we are using this weekend – the photo is a garden tomato a friend gave us this week).

5:00AM  The biggest day of the Preserving year is here

I am predicting 98 jars this year (we still have 30 from last).  It’s a wild guess as we’ve switched to a new type of tomato and every year is different.

This is an extremely exciting day for me – we’ll update the twitter feed through the day (here for those of you on Twitter) and will be blogging in coming days.

Life’s a peach – 2 things I didn’t know about peaches and preserving

OK, this is an embarrassing post – but it’s an important community service that is contained within.  I will swallow my pride (:)) for the greater good…

I used 15 liters (16 quarts of peaches) for jam and other preserves last year.  This year I used 24 liters (25 quarts).  Peaches are very affordable in bulk – I tried to buy 15 liters this year, was encouraged to buy 21 liters as that was $4 more and the kind farmer threw 6 liters more in – total price was $23.

My previous experience with peaches was made up of eating them fresh or from a tin can.  I made two painful mistakes that you can learn from (or, perhaps, already know):

  1. Buy freestone peaches.  I didn’t do this last year.  They can be smaller than their counterpart but they have a wonderful feature – their pits remove relatively easily.
  2. Peeling peaches.  Peels get tough in preserving – thus this is an important part.  Potato peelers get clogged.  My pairing knife wasn’t great – I was taking as much peach as I was taking peel – however practice paid off.  I was fairly proud of my much improved knife skills this year until I recently learned that there was no reason to use a knife.  You can peel peaches by blanching them for less than a minute in boiling water and then cooling them in cold water (the same way I’ve done tomatoes).  It’s a quick instant peel.  D’oh.

Live and learn – hopefully this will help some of you or give others a laugh at my expense.  Lifes a peach   2 things I didnt know about peaches and preserving

18 Inches of Zuchini…what’s a boy to do…

We were given a massive zuchini from friends of the family recently – it was enough to feed a family of 10 (each one of the slats of wood below is 2.5-3 inches wide):

18 Inches of Zuchini...whats a boy to do... Zuchini Preserving Recipes [Read more...]

You say “tom-ay-to”, I say “tom-ah-to”, in Spain they say “DUCK!”

I’m looking forward to spending spending part of the Labour Day weekend labouring over tomato sauce….two days (at least), up to our elbows in Tomatoes…but one day, we’ll have to go to the Tomatina festival in Buñol Spain to truly revel from head to toe in Tomato love…..

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Learning how to drink Scotch (or Brandy)

I fell in love with the romantic notion of drinking Scotch long before I fell in love with drinking it.  I struggled through many glasses hoping that I would eventually “gain a taste for it.”  I was frustrated that I didn’t like it more and continued to push through.

My mentor (who helped me learn how to teach people, how to speak and also gave advice on other worldly things) taught me that just because I knew how to drink did not know I knew how to drink Scotch or Brandy.  Imagine that you have never eaten a scotch bonnet pepper, wasabi or a very spicy horseradish.  If you did not know their reputation for being hot would the knowledge of chewing and swallowing be enough experience to guide you safely through the consumption of these things?

Learning how to drink Scotch (or Brandy)

Many people who are new to these bevvies will fire some in a glass and drink it like they are drinking a rum and coke – a big swig that fills the mouth before firing it down the hatch.  Imagine if you tried the same with hot sauce!

I learned an expression this week called “a spiders ass.”  It’s a little crude, but effective.  It describes the amount of scotch you want to enter your mouth when consuming Scotch.  Note that I did not say “sip” – a sip is too large a quantity.  I was shown that I should take such a small amount that I should never have to swallow and just enough that would mix with my saliva and still allow me to speak (imagine doing that with a mouth full of rum and coke!)

Small tastings are still intense – a small bit of hot sauce is still hot after all.  The smaller tastes will actually allow you to taste the contents of your glass in more detail.  Slow and steady wins the race!

A small glass of scotch can take hours to go through.  It’s a process where I slowly marinate my mouth and develop the flavor layer by layer.  It is not entirely uncommon to drink several beer at the same time as I slowly work my way through a glass.  For absolute decadence, I will pour 3-4 very tiny glasses of different Scotches and do a tasting.  I will rarely drink more than an ounce of the finer Scotches in an evening.

In the UK a glass of Scotch is 7/8 of an ounce (compared to North America where 1.25 to 1.5 ounces are common) – the smaller size makes a lot of sense when consuming it in this matter.

Adding ice is generally regarded as disrespect to the glass as it will dilute the taste as  you savor it.  Some argue that it should be neat, others think that a small amount of water is required to open the tastes (more on why in the future).  When I do add water, I do so by putting a single finger under running water and then letting a few drops fall into my glass.

Do some people drink Scotch or Brandy by the bottle and a mouthful at a time?  Of course they do – just as I pile wasabi on my sushi.  But I love the heat of wasabi and am willing to sacrifice the flavor of sushi for it’s heat.  If you haven’t tried these drinks in this manner (remember, you have to be able to talk after inserting the liquid in your mouth), try it and let me know how it goes!

We have reviewed 2 bottles of Scotch at well preserved – both are at the extreme end of flavor (though very different from each other):

Laphroig Quarter Cask (which is very peaty/ earthy and includes free swampland in Scotland) – here.
1991 Lagavulin Distillers Edition (we delved into how to drink Scotch there as well) – verk smoky

A few things I never knew about grapes…

I am finding that I am getting more and more interested in wine.

It’s something that I have found intimidating in my past and something that brings back odd memories of school work (having studied Hospitality and Tourism in the early 90s we had the occaisional wine tasting at 6.30am to reduce liability of the college for people drinking and driving – those tastings were often accompanies with a coffee and a doughnut…igh).  I am recovering from the scars of my youth and still find it an incredibly daunting pursuit – so much to know and so little time…

We did however learn a few things about grapes a few weeks back that I found interesting and thought they may be worth sharing:

A few things I never knew about grapes...

  1. The space between the aisles of grapes is as wide as the grapes are tall.  This is needed in order to prevent a row of grapes covering its neighbor with perpetual shade.
  2. Sugars are developed in the grapes by sun interacting with the leaves – photosynthesis is the key to developing the sugars.
  3. Sun on the flesh of the grape (especially in the second half of the season) develops flavors in the fruit.
  4. Grapes are often culled part way through a growing season – farmers have to decide how many grapes to remove in order for the plan to properly develop the remaining grapes.  Exceptional years will have no culling – poor years can result in more than 30% being culled.

I am sure this knowledge is common to many – I found it fascinating.  Do any of you have grape secrets you’d like to share?

Mixed Messages…Local Schmocal

A local grocery giant is running compelling commercials demonstrating their commitment to eating local and persuading people to support local farmers by going to their store and voting with your wallet.

Their definition of local appears to be Canadian.  This is not unique but important to mention for clarity on their delivery.  We live in the second largest country in the world and veggies can travel more than 4,000 kilometers within our borders and still be considered local according to the Nationalist definition.  We published the story of Whitey the long haul trucker (The Real Cost of Food) which is a good compliment to this post.

I went to one of their stores yesterday.  The entrance was filled with Canadian produce.  It was an impressive start.  I started to count the amount of imported produce versus that which was Canadian.  We are in the middle of harvest season and I expected more.

I stopped counting when I got to a count of 117-15.  Imports were almost 10-1 over the local food.

There were more than a dozen types of apples – 2 were from Canada.  Chille, Argentina, France, New Zealand were all there.  There were pears from China, Argentina and South Africa – it took me two passes of the produce section to find Canadian pears but you had to buy them by the 3 liter basket

We are very big proponents of buying consciously – understanding what we buy and choosing who we support.  Sometimes that includes buying food from far away – it’s difficult to make marmalade without citrus after all.  We are not close to 100% organic or local – we are trying to do our part wherever possible.

I am not condemning the store – I don’t know the issues of getting more local food.  Maybe it wasn’t available…  Maybe local farmers are refusing to sell them…  Maybe they are supporting local more than any other big chain and will sell more and more local if people are willing to buy it.  I don’t know the details – I just find myself confused when comparing the reality to the images of the advertisements.

What would you name your fishing boat?

On our recent trip to the maratimes I gathered photos of some of the local fishing boats (boats which are often used for lobster and crab and sometimes for pleasure).

I thought it would be a fun Sunday post to challenge you to come up with a name for your imaginary (or perhaps real) fishing boat.  Many of the ones below are named after family members (my favourite is the first picture which belongs to a family friend named Guy – he is married and has daughters)…

What would you name your fishing boat?

What would you name your fishing boat?

Tonight, I`d have to go with `Joan of Arc.`  For starters, she`s a noble woman.  I know Dana would make a great icon for the boat to match it.  And, after all, it is my Grandmother`s awesome name (technically Jeanne DÀrc – just as was the real Joan).