We’re Back….!

Heya!

I know that I suddenly disappeared about two weeks ago – all is well and I’m glad to be back.  Where have I/ we been?

We’ve been here:

Were Back....!

I know that’s a little obscure on the surface, so let me dive a little deeper: that’s a photo of a spreadsheet with 56,000+ cells of data (i.e. I’m not counting the blanks).  It took about 6 weeks to create and I had to give in to allow it to take over every free minute (quite literally) so that I could get a handle on organizing recipe testing for our upcoming book.

I’m really excited about the book and believe it will be incredibly easy to follow – but it’s a nightmare to coordinate testing!  The book takes a look at large spectrum of preserving and cooking (from making booze to air drying vegetables) that create a challenge when assigning recipes for testing!

We’re in the final process of sending recipes (the remaining are all late-harvest ingredients which I expect to finish in the next few days though I keep thinking I’m going to finish ‘tomorrow’ and, even with 10 hours of work, it doesn’t happen) to the initial group of testers.  If you applied to test and haven’t heard anything yet know that I’ll be in touch with some fall recipes in the next few weeks once I see which recipes have been tested and which ones still lack volunteers.

I can’t say this enough: we’re incredibly fortunate to have the support of the people we do.  Emails have been coming in from around the world as people ask questions and share their ideas.  It’s slightly overwhelming but only because we both feel so unbelievably supported by so many.  I’ve run out of words to say thanks but there are moments that I can barely sleep as I reflect on the good fortune that so many are bringing through their help.  You will make this book better than I/we ever could alone.

I believe I’ll be back to regular posting as of this week as well.  I may miss a day or two in the coming month but things are already feeling much more manageable (though we do have 150 recipes to make as we prepare for photoshoots for the book!)

We’ll also have some really exciting news to share later this week about the Big Outdoor Kitchen Party.

When Did Whipping Cream Gain Ingredients?

When I was a child the ingredient list of whipping cream looked like this:

  • cream

Now some look like this:

  • Cream
  • milk
  • carrageenan
  • mono and dyglycerides
  • carboxymethyl cellulose
  • polysorbate

To decode a few of those:

  • carrageenan = a thickening agent made from seaweed.  Some say that it interferes with your guthealth.  It’s used to improve the consistency/ texture of things (and was most recently part of the mass exodus that had people steering away from commercially manufactured almond milk).  You can read about it here as well as a balanced article on the two types of carrageenan that exist (and how different they are).
  • mono and dyglycerides = similar to Transfats these are “commonly used to combine ingredients containing fats with those containing water, two types of ingredients that don’t ordinarily combine well” (source).  It’s made from seaweed and some claim it’s carcinogenic.
  • carboxymethyl cellulose = A synthetic thickener and taste enhancer (it’s creamy) which is soluable in liquid.
  • polysorbate = another emulsifier used to mix fat and water.

The “new and improved” list of ingredients claim to make the cream easier to whip.

I hadn’t noticed this until the weekend when a friend pointed it out.  You can still buy cream like the first option (such as this which is NOT a sponsored link in any form).

I don’t know which you’d prefer; for me I’ll be sticking with Door #1 for as long as I can…

Cherry Ricotta Maple Rum Galette

Booya!

Cherry Ricotta Maple Rum Galette Cherry [Read more...]

Maple Ginger Plum Sauce Recipe (Fridge Preserve)

I really love fridge/ freezer jams.  They’re easy to make and can easily preserve fruit that you’re on the verge of losing.

I found a pint of early (young) plums at the back of the fridge today.  They weren’t quite on their last legs but it was clear they only had a day or two left before they’d be compost.  This sauce only took a few minutes of active time (and about 40 minutes of cooking) to make and will last for weeks, or longer, in the fridge.

This quick plum sauce is tart and mildly spiced.  Although it includes cayenne, it’s not specifically hot.  It is tart and sweet and would be an ideal glaze for ham, spread on cured meat or BBQ chicken.  It could also be a step-up from the dipping sauce the comes with egg rolls and serve as a good sauce for that or cold rolls.  I’d also try it on top of chèvre, ricotta or brie.

Maple Ginger Plum Sauce Recipe (Fridge Preserve) Plum [Read more...]

How to Preserve Plums: A Round-Up

We send a weekly newsletter focused on a single-topic related to preserving, cooking, local food, foraging, gardening or something else.  Our goal with the newsletter is “to be the most useful resource in your inbox.”  The newsletter includes links to many other websites with ideas sharing knowledge about the topic as well as original content, announcements and occasional contests from us as well.  As an added bonus we send all subscribers the link to a file for labels that Dana hand-designed so you can print your own designer labels to decorate your jars.  You can sign up here.

This weeks theme was: Plums!  New preservers will find everything they need to learn to preserve plums and veterans will (hopefully) find new ideas and great preserving ideas for one for the many different ways you can put plums up.

How to Preserve Plums: A Round Up round  Plum

The Basics

Waterbath Canning

  • Apple-Plum Sauce (Tiny Prairie Farm).  If you can make applesauce and you can make plumsauce, why not combine the two?
  • Plum Sauce with Wild Plums (Homest-Food.net)  I ador Hank Shaw, his books and website.  And now I want to find me some wild plums too!
  • Plums and Honey (Food in Jars) Marisa is on our newsletter almost every week – she has so many recipes and I love this one for it’s use of honey; I bet the plums taste like candy when done!
  • Jalapeno-Honey Plum Jam (The Lazy Homesteader) I’m a fan of the hot stuff and this sounds like fun.  The name of the website also made me chuckle.
  • Raspberry Plum Jam (Completely Delicious) A no-pectin jam that combines raspberries and plums; raspberries would add plenty of pectin while plums would add a soften the texture to balance the seeds.  It’s a neat idea.

Fermenting

  • Plum Wine (GrapeStomper) This no-nonsense link has 2 recipes with no photos and walks you through the fundamentals of making plum wine.
  • How to Make Plum Wine (Wine Making Guides) If you like to get right to the point, this is a link for you.  The process of making plum wine explained in less than 300 words.  Booya!
  • Fermented Fruit Kvass (Green Kitchen Stories) Honey, ginger and fruit are fermented into a low-alcohol (similar to kombucha) beverage that’s perfect for summer!
  • Fermented Plum Brandy (Fresh Bites Daily)  Just a fantastic idea.  Really.
  • Plum (and other fruit) Vinegar (Organic Authority)  Not all fermenting is booze – here’s a quick guide to turning any fruit into vinegar!
  • Lacto-Fermented Plums (Rene Redzepi/ Noma) He is one of the best Chefs in the world.  And he shows you how to ferment plums in a video in less than 1.5 minutes!
  • Fermented Dark Plum Jam (Rejoice In Life) Jam made with honey that’s fermented for a few days on your counter before being stored in the fridge.  If you haven’t tried fermented jam yet, you’re missing out!

Dehydrating

  • How to Dry Plums (An Oregon Cottage)  These look simply beautiful and will be part of my kitchen in the near future!
  • Dried Plums or Prunes (Not Quite Nigella)  How to dehydrate plums in your oven (though my oven doesn’t go quite low enough).  The same recipe could be done in a dehydrator (though I’d dehydrate them around 135 degrees).
  • How to Make Fruit Plum Leather (Natasha’s Kitchen)  I didn’t eat fruit roll-ups very often as a child but they have a special place in my heart; especially when they are homemade.
  • Plum-Berry-Balsamic Fruit Leather (Hitchhiking to Heaven) Shae has been an on-line friend for many years and I love her recipes and am especially fond of the idea of adding acid to a fruit leather.
  • Homemade Umeboshi (Just Hungry).  Umeboshi is one of my all-time favorite ingredients.  We don’t have the ‘right’ plums to make these in most (if not all) of North America but there are some clever attempts like these – and I’m betting it would be touch to tell the difference based on some of the experiments we’ve done around the house.

Fridge or Freezer

  • How to Freeze a Plum (National Center for Home Food Preservation).  The no-nonsense guide to freezing plums.
  • How to Freeze Plums (I Hear Them All) I’ve never used a cherry pitter to pit a plum but this recipe makes it look easy.
  • Plum and Apple Freezer Compote (Mostly Eating) An easy way to preserve plums.
  • Plum Chutney/ Relish for the Fridge (Monsoon Spice) The idea of making ‘plum relish’ is new to me but I’d really like to use this on tacos or salads.
  • Spicy Sour Plum Chutney (tarladalal) I’m a big fan of sour food (I’m drinking a sour beer as I write this) and I think it’s a flavor that’s often overlooked in a lot of cooking, including mine.
  • Plum Chutney (Vah Rev Vah)  This is aggressively spiced (though not necessarily spicy) and I can’t imagine what it tastes like – which is why I’ve included it and will be making it in the next two weeks.

Infusions

  • Pear Infused Brandy (Island Vittles)  A classic combination and something I wish I knew about when my first mentor was alive.  We would often sip brandy together after long days of work and this would have made those evenings even sweeter!
  • Drunken Plums in Vodka (City Boy Hens) I thought the name was funny; vodka is a good ingredient to learn to infuse with as it has little flavour so it’s difficult to mess up).
  • Infuse Your Booze (Northwest Edible Life)  A fantastic primer on all sorts of infusing (they reccomend putting plums and cinamon in brandy!)

Other

  • Silovitz (Silovice.org) This is the absolutely zaniest recipe for preserving I’ve ever shared.  I can’t even try to describe what is done here – but if you want to make a whole lotta something that can eventually be distilled to make a whole lotta brandy this is the place to go.

From our Archives

HomeEc Fundraiser Results: Our Donation to the Red Door

I am thrilled to report that our recent fundraiser at HiLo Bar in Toronto Resulted in this:

HomeEc Fundraiser Results: Our Donation to the Red Door We were able to make the donation while on vacation so I don’t have a complete list of participants and rather than risking leaving someone out I’ll follow up with a post of thanks and links to the amazing businesses that participated to make this happen.

I do want to extend a few special thank yous to:

  • everyone who attended; you guys are the stars that dug deep into your pockets to buy raffle tickets and choose to support local businesses in your community.  This donation is yours and you made the evening an absolute blast!
  • Morgan of JamFactoryCo who spontaneously offered a sound system and saved the night from disaster by doing so.
  • The owners of HiLo, Table 17 and Ascari Enoteca who donated $350 as well as a significant amount of prizes and their space to make this event happen.

We’ll do a proper round-up of thanks once we are back from vacation but I wanted to share this news as soon as possible; I’m very proud of this community, the small business within it and thrilled to be able to help The Red Door Family Shelter with our combined efforts!

Pizza Dough for the Cottage

Dana and I are on vacation with friends this week.  We’re at a cottage the 4 of us shared a few years back and enjoying slower days and a break from the chaos that life has been lately.

The days are long and slow.  Multiple naps, more cheese than you can imagine and plenty of beverages to wash it down.  There will also be plenty of cooking!

I had almost forgotten about a ‘trick’ we did last time we came here: on day 1 we made a large pizza dough (about 1.5 times this recipe).  We covered it and placed it in the fridge and for four days we cut chunks of dough and made pizza in minutes as an afternoon ‘snack.’

Now that we have a stand mixer, this recipe is even easier.  I made it early yesterday morning before leaving and we had our first pizza today.

I’m hoping for a repeat of our last experience – the dough actually got better as the week went on.  It became slightly sour, easy to stretch and a little more ‘yeasty.’  The fridge is full of possible toppings and making a pizza takes about 5 minutes plus 10-12 minutes of cooking time.

What are your ‘tricks’ to make vacation cooking a little easier?

Update on the WellPreserved Big Outdoor Kitchen Party

This post is going to be mostly a complete tease.

But I promise that, very soon, the teasing will be worth it.

Update on the WellPreserved Big Outdoor Kitchen Party

We’re hosting the “Big Outdoor Kitchen Party” on September 14th at The Commons (part of Toronto’s Harbourfront).  We’re going to have speakers, musicians, small food producers and more.  And we’ve got a few special guests that can’t wait to meet you too!

There will be pickles, hot sauce, authors and more.

We’re still looking for speakers, sponsors and participants (we’re trying to finalize the roster by early August).  Here’s the types

  • Potential participants.  Artisan food producers, community organizations with a focus on food, cookbook authors, speakers and more.  The ideal participant will have a demo, tasting, display or something interactive to share with our guests.  We’ve had beer brewers offer hops for people to smell, hot sauce makers offering a taste of hot sauce and fermenters offer a sample of their pickles in the past.  You can find out the benefits of being a vendor here and apply over here.
  • Potential Sponsors.  Are you a larger organization who would like to participate with community and be involved with innovative, agile and amazing smaller brands?  We have a full sponsor package to share; send me an email (joel (a) wellpreserved.ca) and I’ll share it with you.

Want to be part of the fun?  Let us know!

More Bad News for Bees

CAPA (the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists) released it’s annual report on Colony losses across Canada for the 2013-14 winter.

3 Numbers are glaring:

  • A typical winter results in 15% colony loss is considered ‘acceptable’
  • The National Average loss last year was 25%
  • Ontario lost 58% of it’s colonies

Beyond the survival of the bees, continuous losses of 50%+ will create an environment where very few people will invest in or nurture bees.  The commercial collapse of beekeeping is a potential threat as considerable as the many other factors included in the CAPA report.

There are 3 things you can do to help, regardless of where you live.  I list them in order from easiest to lengthiest (step 3, the longest, will take about 10 minutes):

  1. Read this article in the Toronto Star that summarizes the report and some of the reasons why this is happening.  While Ontario had a bad winter, Ontario didn’t have the worst winter in Canada last year.
  2. Email The Honorable Jeff Leal (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs) to let him know that you are concerned and ask him to share that concern and treat this issue as important.
  3. Read the actual report (it’s 4 pages in very plain English)

Please also share your concerns with those around you; without bumblebees we will lose up t0 30% of our food choices.

The Fundamentals of Fermenting Alcohol

I had no idea how easy it was to make booze.

Truth be told I now know that I’d made it many times as a lazy adolescent who had a habit of leaving the jug of cider on the counter after pouring a glass.   I can remember more than one occasion that I returned to find it ‘spoiled’ as it bubbled and frothed on the counter.  I would wash it down the sink (even if I knew it was booze I probably would have any way – I was ‘straight edged’ and dead sober through my teenage years).

When I started to learn about making mead or wine or beer I had a really difficult time figuring out where to start.  Everything I read suggested big giant books and lots of reading and research and these things are good ideas if you want to learn how to make REALLY GOOD booze but I’ve always been the type that simply wants to learn the basics from top-to-bottom and then learn how to improve my creations.

GREAT BOOZE includes something that’s dependably safe to drink, tasty, often has a controlled and measured alcohol content, is repeatable and often made to some form of scale.  But that’s a long way from the fundamentals; which are, to me, essentially something that has alcohol and is safe to drink.

I’m not suggesting that this is how you should make your alcohol nor am I recommending the technique (though I’ve done it and do it with mixed results).  But I think it’s helpful to understand the very basic process of creating alcohol via fermentation.  By understanding the basics you can grow your technique and it’s easier to understand the fine print when you know where each step is headed.

There are a few basic principals when it comes to fermenting things to create booze:

  • Yeast helps convert sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol.  Too little sugar will starve the yeast; too much will also prevent fermenting.
  • Not all yeast is equal.  You can use ‘wild yeast’ (that’s the stuff floating around your kitchen at all times) but you won’t know what type of yeast you’ll get and you could end up with mixed results (for example, some yeast is prone to creating vinegar which, while tasty, is a different end-goal).
  • Many use a campden tablet to kill wild yeast before adding brewers yeast to sugar and water to make booze.  This is often an overnight process.  Yeast and campden tablets are available at most homebrew stores or online.
  • Fermenting happens when sugar and yeast are introduced to each other at the right temperature (avoid extremes on either side).  Sugar can be in many forms including raw, honey, molasses or even from fruit.  Most yeast will not tolerate alcohol greater than 20% (40 proof) which is often created with a still.
  • Sometimes people add a yeast nutrient which will help ensure the yeast grow strong and bold.
  • Sanitizing everything is important as you go.  Again, a homebrew store is your friend to get you started here.
  • Yeast will have a certain alcohol tolerance.  Once it raises a certain percentage, the yeast will die.  This often creates sentiment at the bottom of that fermenting vessel which you remove by siphoning the liquid above it (this is often called ‘racking.’)
  • Most fermenting is done in an anaerobic environment (i.e. without oxygen).  An airlock is a device which uses a small amount of water to form a barrier between the inside of the fermenting vessel and the outside world – as CO2 is created it forces the oxygen out of the environment.  This is important because a sealed jar (i.e. with a lid) could easily shatter with the pressure created by the ferment.
  • Fermenting is sometimes done in stages (often referred as ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’).  This is sometimes done to remove the sediment but often used to add other flavors (such as fruit) at different stages of the process.

Booze made is this way is often referred to as country wine, fruit wine or (in the case of honey), mead.

When sugar, yeast and liquid are combined with the lack of oxygen, they will create booze.  This is often aged then bottles where it’s sometimes aged again.  Sometimes people add a small bit of yeast just as they bottle their final product.  You must take care not to add too much yeast or the bottle can explode (you can get guidance from a brew-shop once again).

When I was young I was making booze by accident; the cider fermented with wild yeast in the air (or yeast that was already in the unpasteurized cider we got from a farmer) and booze was being created when I tossed it.

If you’re more experienced, would you add anything to the list above?

Looking for more information?  Here’s a recipe for T’ej which is an Ethiopian Honey Wine that’s made with water and honey and the wild yeast around you!