In Toronto or Campbellford, Ontario? See WellPreserved in Person…

When it rains it pours.

We haven’t had an event in almost 2 months and now we have 3 in the next 8 days!

In Toronto or Campbellford, Ontario?  See WellPreserved in Person...

There’s some amazing events happening in the next week and I’m thrilled to be part of them.  Here’s what’s going on in the next week:

  • The Raconteurs Story Telling (Toronto).  Wednesday, July 9th.  ($10 tickets) Doors 6:30, sow at 7:30.  I am so excited to be going to this event.  This awesome group of people curate 10 speakers to share short stories around a single topic.  Each person has 7-10 minutes to share their story to a live audience (the stories are also recorded and broadcast online).    I’ve been watching their stories on their YouTube Chanel over the last little while and I’m inspired by the ability of great story tellers to share so much in so little time.  I’ll be sharing a story about my earliest food memories and the persistent connection of emotion and the decisions I make on what I eat (and how we ended up largely opting out of the grocery store).  I have no problem admitting I’m a little nervous for this – the idea of transitioning from ‘public speaking’ to ‘story telling’ is partly symatec but I’ve had a mental wall to climb to get there.  I can’t wait!
  • Incredible Edibles Festival (Campbelford, Ontario).  Saturday, July 12.  All day.  This is a massive event!  Food, entertainment, speakers, vendors and a town festival to celebrate food, farming and community.  There will also be a goat fashion show and goat races!  The Campbellford Farmers market will swell to more than 50 vendors and a celebration of local food.  We’re friends with some of the organizers, have worked with others and are meeting more on the way.  This has been an inspired group of people and we’re excited to share the stage with a stellar lineup of passionate speakers.  And goats!
  • HomeEc Construction Season (Riverside, Toronto) 7:00-11:00PM. We’re hosting a party to raise funds for a local charity and raise business for local businesses during the worst construction we’ve ever faced (one of Toronto’s busiest intersections which brings people from more than 3 major street car lines is closed for a month)!  We’ll be raffling more than 20 prizes away over a few hours – each of the prizes will help bring people to local businesses who are struggling with the reduced traffic due to construction.

It’s going to be a busy week – hope to see you out!

HomeEc – Construction Season – July 16th

OK team, we need your help!

We live in Riverside (near Leslieville) in Toronto.  Construction has closed the intersection of Queen and Broadview which is dramatically decreasing business for the local business in our community.

You can help support local business in the middle of the worst (but needed) construction project we’ve ever faced – and you can win a whack load of prizes!

HomeEc   Construction Season   July 16th HomeEc

Here’s the deal:

  • Come to HiLo on July 16th.
  • We’ll be selling raffle tickets and have some form of silent auction.  100% of raffle proceeds are being donated to local charity (we’ll announce the amount here; we’re planning to donate to The Red Door which is a shelter in our neighborhood).
  • We’ll be selling tickets from 7:00PM onwards and we’ll start drawing winners at 8:00PM.
  • Raffle prizes will consist of small-large prizes (supporting local food businesses in the area; each prize will be redeemable from July 17th – August 4th.  Prizes will range from a free pint of beer, a $30 bar tab to HiLo, apps and mains from Table 17 and Enoteca Escari and more!  The prizes are all incentives to come out and support our neighborhood in the toughest construction season we’ve faced in recent memory.
  • So far we’ve received prizes from:
    • Butchers of Distinction
    • The Comrade
    • Dangerous Dan’s
    • Enotecta Ascari
    • Glas Winebar
    • Hi-Lo
    • Left Field Brewery
    • and more!

Left Field Brewery will also be attending and bringing a keg with them – it’s the first time you’ll be able to have Left Field on tap at HiLo!

We hope you’ll come out and help spread the word – and we hope you’ll join us in supporting local business in the midst of a challenging time!

list of businesses offering prizes will be updated on our NEW I Love Home Ec website (the place to keep up with all our events!).

Automating Your Garden? A Handy Tool

I’m a pretty serious geek.  Always have been and always will.  I enjoy small obsessions over tiny things and one of those pursuits has long been about household and lifestyle automation.  Making the machines work for us; not us for them.

I’ve been using a tool call IFTTT for a few years.  It stands for:

IF This Then That

You can use it to do cool thins like:

If I arrive at my House, Then turn my cellphone to silent

Or:

If I change my picture on Facebook , Then update my Twitter picture.

It’s not rocket science but it’s awfully neat.

I’ve noticed that they’ve added a bunch of automation task for gardeners.  Things like:

  • Send me a text message when it’s going to freeze overnight
  • Alert my phone when my plants need watering
  • Send me an email to remind me to water the plants.

Anyway, I thought it was pretty cool.  And thought you might want to check it out too.

Homemade Cherry Juice from the Steam Juicer

I continue to be blown away by the results of our steam juicer.

Homemade Cherry Juice from the Steam Juicer steam juicer Cherry cherries [Read more...]

Sausage, Peas, Onions and Ale

I love peas.  I often forget how much I love them until early summer hits and suddenly I’m flooded with peas.  Peas, peas, peas.

Sausage, Peas, Onions and Ale sausage Peas pea onions Onion [Read more...]

Strawberry Balsamic and Basil Salad Dressing Recipe

Dana took one look at the bright red bowl of salad dressing before looking up at me and asking, “What’s in it?”  She, like me, is an adventurous eater so I knew she wasn’t questioning whether she’d eat it – she just wanted to know what ‘it’ was.  I told her the ingredients.

Seems like there’s a whole lot going on.

It wasn’t exactly a rave review.  But I held out hope – and it was worth it.  Despite having a lot of ingredients, this really was a fantastic dressing and she agreed.

Strawberry Balsamic and Basil Salad Dressing Recipe Strawberry Basil Balsamic [Read more...]

How to Cook Sausage on the Stove

On a blog where many of the readers make their own sausage from scratch it might seem odd to write a post about something as basic as cooking said sausage.  Sometimes, when I write posts like this, I am informed that ‘everyone knows how to do that’ and I sometime hesitate at sharing the fundamentals.

There’s 3 reasons why I share these things:

  1. They’re fundamental.  Important.  If you don’t do them right you’ll be paying the price many times in your life.  They’re more important than the next food trend or obscure ingredient because you’re likely to use them often.
  2. Not everyone knows how to do them.  Really, it’s true.  Even experienced cooks can improve their cooking by examining the flaws in their fundamental techniques that were often learned long before many learned to ‘properly’ cook.
  3. I messed them up.  I like to share my mistakes and my mistakes give me an opportunity to learn and share.  I’ve burned more sausage while also serving plenty of the same sausage undercooked than I care to admit.  In order to overcome this I ruined plenty of sausage by cutting into them to test if they were done and drained most of the moisture, fat and flavor from them.

How to Cook Sausage on the Stove [Read more...]

Thank You

Last Wednesday we announced that we were hosting a festival in September.  And that we’d launched a new website for our events.  We even announced a few events there without teasing them here.

On Thursday we announced the book that we’ve been working on for a year (it will hit shelves in 2016).  We asked for volunteers to test recipes.

By the time Saturday rolled around, things were very…real.  Incredibly exciting, relieving (we’d been keeping these ‘secrets’ from our online presence for a long time) and comforting.  The preserving community from around the world sent us congratulations, kind words and offers of help.  We are so incredibly thankful to this community and each of you who shared your excitement, kind words and offers to help.

Saturday threw us a bit of a curveball – I was at least a week away from testing and figured I had everything under control when I found out that rhubarb was finishing 10-14 days earlier than previous years.  It was time to scramble!  It took almost a day to get 15 pounds of volunteers and another day to share it with friends and family who were willing to test on short notice!

Testing meant building our testing forms, figuring out how to send recipes and get feedback – it was a hurricane of activity.  Here we were with a lineup of testers, little rhubarb and I had no efficient way of distributing recipes!  It was a little comical but, with the help of a bunch of people across our city (and across the border), we were able to get the recipes tested!

In some ways we’re now ahead of the schedule – but I haven’t hit my goal of completing all preserving recipes by July 1st.  Thankfully I’m taking a 4-day weekend and have a goal of finishing the final 50 recipes (the key ingredients, techniques and ideas are documents) will be complete by Tuesday.  I’m really excited about having 4 whole days to bear down and knock them out and hope to share that we’ve caught up by then.

I’m then hoping to start to contact each of you who offered to help (you can still get in the action if you’d like).  I’m going to start with the early summer fruit that’s appearing and will be in contact with everyone before long – thank you for your patience, it’s a bit of a zoo around here.

My real inspiration for writing this note was to say thank you.  And though I’ve said it above, I need to say it again.  I just don’t think I have the right words to express how deeply touched – and thankful – we are to all of you for helping inspire this project.  I’m beyond excited (and a little intimidated) to be entering testing where, in a way, we’ll be cooking together!

So, once again, thank you.  This book is going to take a village to raise and we’re thankful to be part of one!

Hugs,

Joel

How to Cut Hard Butter (2 ways)

It always happens to me.  I almost always have butter softening in the cupboard and I almost never need it but the moment I need soft butter I have none.

It’s such a bummer.

Here’s 3 ways to make hard butter spreadable in a panic (without using a microwave):

  1. Place it next to the stove and turn the stove on.  This is the most effective but also the trickiest – it’s often messy and inconsistent (the butter closest to the element gets too soft and the rest is still solid).  Not my preferred method.
  2. Grate frozen butter.  I started grating butter when making pie crust; it’s amazing.  The small pieces don’t exactly spread on toast (though they will if you leave them on the counter for a few minutes) but the pieces can easily be scattered and, as they melt, spread.
  3. Shave cold butter with a vegetable peeler.  This works best with butter that’s been hardened in the fridge (frozen butter can be a little too hard for it).  Long pieces can be shaved off and, after a few minutes of resting (I place it on top of the bread I want to spread it on), the temperature of the room will soften it and make it easy to spread.  In the case of a grilled cheese you don’t have to wait – you can place it right in the pan.

What do you do when you’re in a butter panic?

A trick for Straining Food (and clear jelly/ stock)

A few years ago (in 2009) I had the amazing opportunity to listen to Chef Thomas Keller speak to a live audience which was mostly comprised of Chefs.  His talk changed the way I cook in many tangible ways and those few hours of my life have left a profound effect on me.

Keller claimed that many young Chefs were too restless; that they were constantly trying new things but not using focus or discipline to perfect small skills that could lead to significant skill improvement.  To this day I reflect on two of his points several times a week:

  1. Creativity comes from repetition.
  2. If you want to become a truly fantastic cook, you should cook the same thing every day for 2 years.  He was specific about this: the ‘same thing’ didn’t just mean the same ‘type of dish’ – it meant the same ingredients, same recipe and same technique.

Keller’s ‘prescription’ for becoming a better Chef was cooking stock.  As a home Chef I couldn’t take his recommendation to cook it daily but I’ve been working on my stock ever since and it has taught me to be a better cook.

But that’s not why I’m writing today’s article.

When Keller talked about stock he mentioned several common mistakes people make.  According to him, one of the most common mistakes was how we strain our stock.  His theory was simple:

  • When you try to strain a significant volume of liquid through a sieve, most people pour it in.  This is a problem; the sheer force and weight of the liquid is often greater than the strength of the strainer and small particles will be forced through the strainer.

I realized I had experienced this – and worse.  The force of the liquid often embedded the solids in the sieve which slowed straining (and sometimes stopped it) unless I used a spoon to clear the strainer of sediment and that often forced small particles through the strainer.  I couldn’t win.

Keller recommended that you use a spoon to gently pour small quantities of stock into a strainer.  This is probably still the best method but, as a home cook, I often lack the time and patience to do so.

I was on a mission to find a way that, as a home cook, I could have clearer stock (and, in turn, jelly, fruit wine and more).  I tried cheesecloth, microfiber, dishcloths and coffee filters.  The best results came from using a combination of 3 different strainers at the same time (I still use this technique and it’s very effective).

A few weeks back, after 4 years of casual experimentation, it occurred to me that I was approaching the problem wrong.  I was looking for a finer filter but I wasn’t really having a filter problem – I was fighting with gravity and the force the solids and liquid placed on the strainer.

That was when everything changed.

My new technique is incredibly simple: place a small bowl or saucer (I prefer the bowl) inside the sieve.  Pour your liquid into the bowl – it captures the impact and many solids will stay in the bowl as liquid pours over the top, into the sieve and is strained with little to no direct pressure on the sieve itself.

I’ve used this technique with stunning results to filter chicken stock, raspberry cider, strawberry wine and raspberry brandy.  All 3 items had been infusing/ resting for more than a year and were filled with sediment.  The raspberry worked the best but the strawberry is the clearest I’ve seen (other than from the steam juicer).

I’m not sure Chef Keller would approve – but I also know I’ll never cook at his level.  What I do know is this: I now have virtually crystal clear liquids and I have them because of the creativity that came from repeating the same problem over-and-over.

How do you strain your liquids?