A special kind of something…

I adore all things limited, special and scarce.  There’s something magical about sharing, seeing or experiencing something that seems an “extra special” kind of something.

A special kind of something...

Each one of our preserves is made with care, love and passion – each is unique.  A fairly recent digital friend (aptly named Tigress in a Jam) has proposed that each of us who creates preserves should produce a riserva; a special batch of preserves that are more limited than the rest.

I adored the idea and am working on a couple of ideas for my 2009 riserva – however her post made me think of several other things we make and how we can approach our batches.  I realized that while I can be free to experiment (and should), there are a couple of standbys that should make an annual appearance.  Some things are simply so good that they should be repeated year after year – further I can use these as a barometer to measure my own progress and the uniqueness of our crops year after year.

A special kind of something...

All of this is a long way of saying that he post (and Dana’s request) were enough for me to make a batch of Raspberry-Jalapeno Jam.  I had come to peace that I wouldn’t make a repeat this year and I recanted.

For those who think this combination sounds ghastly I should explain that this is absolutely fantastic with cheese (brie) and site that we have never put a bottle in our fridge – each time the jar opens, it is eaten in a single seating.

This years version is untested (thus no recipe).  It includes red and golden raspberries and honey in place of some of the sugar.  It’s too large for a reserve – 9.5 cups of jam in total.

For more inspiration you can also check out her other blog, TigressInAPickle.

Not past, not future – it’s all about the Currants

They look like a combination of beautiful jewelry and rain drops made of sugary sweetness.

Not past, not future   its all about the Currants Preserving Recipes Currant [Read more...]

The jams of our fathers…

I remember my parents talking about gooseberries as a child with great fondness.  I don`t remember ever tasting them but I do remember hearing stories of them eating them as children.

Gooseberries showed up at farmers markets in abundance this year.  Green ones are un-ripened while the red ones are more mature.

The jams of our fathers...

They look similar to grapes though they are almost perfectly circular and have light vertical lines dissecting the berry from top to bottom.  The insides are the color of green grapes.

The jams of our fathers...

They are often quite tart – preserving whole or as jam is a wonderful option for this lovely fruit.  We made a Gooseberry jam with brown sugar and some orange juice (a tested recipe from a borrowed cookbook).

We`ve had small tastes during the cooking and canning process – this jam has a shot at being the best of our summer.  It will continue to set over the coming weeks and flavors will develop mildly during this time so patience is our best friend.  I am hoping that we`ll be able to share these with those who remember them from their youth and be able to share a part of their personal history with them.

I remember my parents talking about gooseberries as a child with great fondness. I don`t remember ever tasting them but I do remember hearing stories of them eating them as children.

Gooseberries showed up at farmers markets in abundance this year. Green ones are un-ripened while the red ones are more mature.

They look similar to grapes though they are almost perfectly circular and have light vertical lines dissecting the berry from top to bottom. The insides are the color of green grapes.

They are often quite tart – preserving whole or as jam is a wonderful option for this lovely fruit. We made a Gooseberry jam with brown sugar and some orange juice (a tested recipe from a borrowed cookbook).

We`ve had small tastes during the cooking and canning process – this jam has a shot at being the best of our summer. It will continue to set over the coming weeks and flavors will develop mildly during this time so patience is our best friend. I am hoping that we`ll be able to share these with those who remember them from their youth and be able to share a part of their personal history with them.

Life’s the pits…

We`ve done gallons of cherries this year.  The amount of work is almost enough to lose your mind – and part of the reason why they taste so great come fall.

Our friend Margaret freezes cherries and makes wonderful pies with them.  She uses a paring knife to pit them – I give her mad respect for that.  I`m not so sure I`d have the patience (or skill).

We use a $4 cherry pitter and while some may consider it a cheat, I couldn`t live without it.  It`s still a pile of work but far easier.

Line the cherry up in the scoop (you don`t have to put the stem at the top or bottom but it does make for a prettier cherry) and depress the pin.  While it can be a bit messy, the seed comes out the bottom (often needed a hand to remove itself from the flesh of the fruit).

It`s all fairly straightforward – take a look at the photos below:

Lifes the pits...

Lifes the pits...

Angel on one shoulder, devil on t’other

Angel on one shoulder, devil on tother Sour Cherry Preserving Recipes Cherry [Read more...]

Well Deserved….

We’re going on vacation!

Don’t worry, lots of posts queued up to tide you over while we’re gone (we just wont be as quick to respond to email and comments). We’re on our way to Cape Breton Nova Scotia (Canada) for another (BIG) family wedding and a week of exploring, relaxing, drinking beer (some rum too I imagine…) and lots of seafood. It’s a fantastic place. Joel’s family is from Cape Breton so he’s been visiting there all his life. My first trip was 3 years ago, and I’m hooked (on both the big boisterous family AND Cape Breton). Look forward to some interesting posts when we get back, and some new ideas for the blog too…for now, some pics from some of our last visits:

Well Deserved....

Play safe – a reminder and some resources for safe canning

Short post today.

The weekend is approaching and there will be another bounty of fresh fruit available to be transformed into jams, jellies and preserves.

Like most passions, there is a lot of contradictory writing when it comes to preserving.  One guide tells you that it`s safe to do several things and another tells you that those exact things are the most dangerous activities you can possibly partake in.  It`s difficult to get straight answers and find scientifically tested (and safe) recipes.

Play safe   a reminder and some resources for safe canning

Each of us has to do our research, make educated and informed decisions and ensure that we are protecting ourselves and those we care about.

Regardless of where you turn to for advice, find a source that you trust and do your reading.  Many great cookbooks which specialize in preserving a re great sources, as is the Joy of Cooking which has some great writing on the topic.

The US National Standard which is produced by the National Center for Home Food Preservation.  Follow the links for guides to the process and for recipes they have tested and stand behind (including many which do not have added pectin).  Pickling, Fermenting, Freezing, Drying, Jams, Jellies and more are all covered in great detail.

Play safe   a reminder and some resources for safe canning

Regardless of whom you decide to trust, do your research and make the safest choices.  Preserving is extremely dependable and safe if it is done with the right precaution.  Be safe, share your learning and always be willing to learn more.

The Midas Touch…Raspberry Jam (Two Ways)

It was twelve minutes after nine in the morning when the young man at the other side of the counter smiled broadly and exclaimed, “I told her that those were 9:00AM berries.”  I grinned sheepishly – I had found what I was looking for.

Golden raspberries are a rare find these days.  They are slightly less tart than their red counterparts and tend to be scarcer.  I’ve rarely seen them in retail stores (though they do make an occasional appearance) and they are often more expensive.  I had found my rare treasure – and they were the same price as their traditional counterparts.

The Midas Touch...Raspberry Jam (Two Ways) Raspberry Preserving Recipes Golden Raspberry [Read more...]

Everdale Farms – feast of the week…

I have a lot of time for Everdale Organic Farm – even though I’ve never been there.

I first heard of this Organic Farm and Learning Centre through my local bartender.  Simeron is Canada’s silver-medal award winning Oyster Shucker and poured me several late night beers.  Our typical conversation was animated and ranged from silly to serious and were often fun-spirited verbal battles with no intent to find a winner.  Our first debate was a battle over who sung “My Name Is Luca” (two marathon sessions of brainstorming ended up with his bet of Suzanne Vega clearly the wiser of my ballots for Tracy Chapman).

Simeron is a kind soul and friendly as the day is long.  He is super intelligent, passionate about life and wanted to learn how to farm.  He announced that he was moving to Everdale where they would house him with small quarters (insulated by hay if I remember correctly) and a single power outlet.  He would make a minimal stipend and work at the farm for the summer and fall and learn how to become a farmer.  I knew I’d miss the late night banter but admired his sense of adventure and commitment to learning.

He reappeared early one Saturday morning at the Brickworks Farmers Market.  Simeron introduced me to garlic scapes and seemed even more alive than ever.  The work is hard and his passion grows each time I see him (he’s on his second year at the farm now).

Everdale is a working farm that runs education programs to help the rest of us to learn about farming, sustainable living and energy efficient buildings.  They run workshops (including a canning workshop we are going to at the end of August), sell their organic goods at several markets (and a small Community Shared Agriculture program) and have a model green home on their property to show to visitors who come to learn.  Everdale is very active in their program named “Farmers Growing Farmers” program and are making modern life a little more sustainable with equal dashes of modern, future and historic approaches.

The farm is about 90 minutes from downtown Toronto.  They are one of the larger vendors at the Brickworks market and there every week without fail.  Here’s a sample of their table from last weekend:

Everdale Farms   feast of the week...

Everdale Farms   feast of the week...

The fruits of our labour

5 batches of preserves – just over 10 liters of goodies for the winter are ready and waiting for the winter ahead – what a weekend!

The fruits of our labour

There are 58 bottles in all – sweet cherries, golden raspberry jam, multi-currant jelly, red raspberry jam and gooseberry jam.  None have added pectin and all are from Ontario.  We’ll be profiling each recipe over the next few weeks as we’re preparing for a trip to Nova Scotia to visit friends, family and celebrate a wedding that I am most excited to be going to.

The cherries were the most work by a mile, followed by the gooseberries.  The currants had to strain overnight but took very little work and raspberries are extremely simple.  We spent about $100 on fruit and active prep time was about 6 or 7 hours (most of which work can be divided by two or more people to cut about 50% of the overall time).

The sound of tins popping sealed has been like a small orchestra!  Each pop brings a smile to my face – it’s the sound of thing working.  It’s also the echoes of generations before me who preserved and canned fruits, vegetables and meat like this for most of modern history (and some which are even older).  This sense of tradition is a significant part of the process and why we preserve.  It does require us to slow down a bit and I feel a connection to the past as we go through the physical labour that remains virtually unchanged from that of my grandparents.

Dana commented on how proud I seemed to be as she caught me gazing over the “flock” of jars cooling on the table.  I am thrilled with the knowledge that we will be able to feast on the flavors of summer through the winter.  It’s a great knowing that we have enough fruit put away (including our other recent adventures) to last the winter.

As I removed the last cans from the sealing process, it occured to me that I was done preserving fruit for the year.  There will be pickles, beats, corn, beans, garlic and all sorts of other preserves but I felt a tinge of saddness as I reflected that this was the end of the jarring of fruit.  My saddness was short-lived as I remembered blueberries, peaches, grapes, apples and other treats that will soon come our way!

If you haven’t tried to preserve before – there is still plenty of time.  If you have, we’d love to hear your favourite things to preserve in the comments.