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Archive for March, 2009

I bought a fancy electronic peeler today – I thought it would be a good test with almost 75 pounds of apples that I planned to turn into sauce.  The apples were fresh out of a cellar and from our tour of Eastern Ontario.  It’s almost 11pm as I write this and I am awaiting the pressure to release from our pressure cooker to unveil the final batch of jars.

I was so excited to try our fancy new electronic gizmo.  A friend had bought one recently and told me only wonderful things.  I unwrapped the gift of the gods and set it on the counter.  A quick peak of the instructions and I was off to the races.  Peels were flying in a a single strand and the bare flesh of sweet apple was unwrapped for all (that would be me) to see.  It was like tequila at a frat house – a quick way to get everyone undressed!

After a few apples I realized I had to pull out the peeler to finish off the top and bottom of the fruit.  It wasn’t a big deal but it did take some excitement out of the deal.  I polished our favorite Zenga Star Peeler (we need to sign an endorsement deal or start selling these darn things) and I was somewhere excited to get out the old fashioned tool.  I always feel a little more connected to the past – and the present – when I slow down to use a peeler.

By the 8th or 9th apple, the electric version clogged and the blade snapped.  I was able to fix it and use it on 2 or 3 more apples before putting it in the box.  There was more than 70 pounds left – they looked daunting.  They were no match for the Zena.  I peeled all 708 pounds in a few hours by myself.

It’s almost 6 hours since starting.  There are 36 jars of sauce cooling (or soon to be) and I am thrilled with the results so far.  We’ll have a step-by-step posting soon with pics to go along with the deal.

The moral of the story is simple – Grandma did know best.  Unlike Ganny, I did need to use a single glove – the acid and sugars involved in the fruit are really, really hard on the hands.  A single glove on the fruit holding hand will save a lot of pain and also allow you to be more liberal with the peeler as the odd blow glances off the glove and saves a small cut.  I didn’t put my gloves on until after the first 10 pounds or so and it is painful to type.  The pain will be worth it’s while in flavour – but was unnecessary.

I am totally excited to be preserving again – this is something that I thought would be a few months away and I’m glad to be back in the saddle again!

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Here is an add-on to the previous Street Food post. I was happy to find something in Ontario to share. We visited Prince Edward County for Maplefest yesterday. One of the stops was the Black River Cheese Company and parked outside was the Buddha Dog Airstream Trailer. This pretty much sums up what streetfood should be all about . Yes they have great  looking logo and a really cool trailer and Tshirts, but they also bring together the community and source their products from the best local suppliers. Here’s the chalkboard out front to give you an idea:

Of course we had to have one: half the little dog had chunks of Black River’s Maple Cheddar on it and the other half had this really delightful maple squash sauce. We came to the cart at the very end of the day so sadly missed the specially made Maple Dogs (sold out) but the ‘regular’ dog on the homemade bun was really fantastic. Smaller than your average Toronto street meat by a lot, but all natural ingredients didn’t leave me with a stomach ache (like hotdogs usually do) and if you you’re hungry, buy a few, then you get to taste more types of sauce and toppings!.

If you’re in Prince Edward County make sure you find the airstream with the happy orange buddha on top.

They also have a location on Roncesvalles Avenue in Toronto and will soon be opening another in Collingwood…apré ski dog?? sounds good to me.

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It’s Sunday night as I write this – still reeling from a 12 hour food odyssey that took Dana and I through some of the most beautiful country we have visited in a long time which was paired with meeting some of the nicest and most passionate foodies we have met a long time.  We must have spoken with a two dozen people in love with food today – eating it, growing it, sharing it and sharing what others are doing with no hint of envy.

Ida Apples - a complete bushel fresh from the cellar for $12 - making apple sauce on Monday!

Ida Apples - a complete bushel fresh from the cellar for $12 - making apple sauce on Monday!

We visited the amazing Prince Edward County today.  It will take more than a week to post what we found, who we met, what we tried and what we bought.  We’ll be making apple sauce on Monday, trying beer through the week and letting you know about some real cook cats that we were fortunate to meet today.

The area (near Trenton and Picton) is the home to 33 small vineyards – there are 9 more about to open.  There are artisanal cheese makers, breweries, restaurants, jams and even an artisanal hot dog wagon which sells homemade product from a 1960’s airstream trailer.  It was food heaven and an absolute must visit this summer.

Stay tuned this week for a whole lot more – in the mean time take a peak at the apple we bought today.  It tasted fresh from the tree and we are making a bushel of sauce tomorrow.  The vendor has been selling apples for more than 100 years and it is run by the third generation of the same family since that time.  Stay tuned!

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We went to the market on Friday.  My normal meat man was not in so we ventured a little further south and had a fantastic experience.  A friendly butcher recommended about 1 pound of prime rib for person and when he served it up that somehow added to 6.5 pounds for 4 people.  I figure the more the merrier…

As he wrapped it, he asked me what I was up to this weekend.  I told him I was going to Lindsay – his immediate response was, `fu*$ – sh*&ty town.` He then recommended if I wanted to have a fantastic weekend that I should pair the roast with the new Tragically Hip album.  I was expecting a wine or cooking method – apparently the Hip is where it`s at.  I laughed and thought it was a great tip to share on Juno night!

I love the personalities at the market – and in food lovers in general.

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Chef Heston Blumenthal has had a major impact on food – along with Fernan Adria, Herve This and others, he has changed the way that people think of food and widened the possibilities of the gastroimagination by combining science and cooking.

Heston’s restaurant in Bray, England has had a tough few weeks – it seems like a staff member fell ill and this resulted in guests falling sick as well.  Rumors of food poisoning closed the restaurant for a few days and I’m sure it’s been a trying time.  I hope that this blip is not something that becomes a permanent mark against his restaurant – a place I aspire to one day go.

Ice cream made at ones table is now available in Toronto.  Heston was one of the first with Bacon and Egg Ice Cream made with Nitro at your table:

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Yet another Earth Hour – a day to sit in the dark – we typically play trivial pursuit by candlelight.  It’s a fun evening – I imagine that the candle wax farmers are happy!

Just some random brainstorming on 10 foods that could be served tonight without cooking (with no regard to the 100 mile train of thought).  I highly expect that this will horrify most – it’s a loose collection of comfort food and junk food that brings me back to my youth.  Earth Hour reminds me of times when I was younger and decided to make a fort in the back yard and sleep in it with a friend – only it’s for adults too!  My food choices are thus heavily shaped by this association!

Here are some of my favorite no-cook snacks (enough to make a buffet):

1)  Gualcamole with nacho chips.
2)  Shrimp ring.  Gotta have a shrimp ring (it’s all about dipping!).
3)  Cheese – I like hard cheese better than soft in the dark (there’s no rhyme or reason why).
4)  Pickles.  Pickled garlic would be great – but I have none :(.
5)  Hummus, pita and hot sauce.
6)  Meat sticks – even Hot Rods will do!  Nothing too fancy for a dark night.
7)  Chips.  Gotta have chips.  Not Pringles, not Doritos.  Chips.  Several flavours would be even better.
8)  If there’s a campfire handy, I’d throw some marshmallows on.  That may be cheating though.
9)  Pate and crackers.  Mmm mmm meat spread.
10)  Wine in the fanciest glass possible – just feels ironic to have no lights and a luxury glass.

Enjoy your darkness – see you on the other side!

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I have a penchant for discovering myself in new situations and environments and learning all that I can about things which are unknown to me.  I love exploring the unknown – it represents growth, learning, passion and so much more to me.  My ultimate favorite thing to explore is people – learning from and about them.  People are intrinsically cool and have taught me so much about myself and the world around me – and have taught me how much more I have yet to learn.

A number of years ago I found myself in Nova Scotia, visiting family (2002).  My mother is from Cape Breton and this was a fairly regular visit – something I still adore when I have the opportunity.  It was a wonderful trip but I decided I had to come home a little earlier than planned – I started asking around if anyone was coming up to Toronto.  Within 24 hours I was told that a local trucker was taking the drive to Toronto on a long haul and he would take me.  His name was Whitey.

I remember being in a pickup with my uncle and father as we roared out to the highway – Whitey would pull over on the TransCanada to let me hop in (he had left from Sydney).  Within moments of seeing the truck lumber to the side of the road I was in the truck of this strange man who loved to garden and confessed early on that his wife would not allow him to drive around town when he was off.  Whitey was a veteran of the road – had been driving for more than 30 years.  We were in a truck filled with yogurt and we were heading to TO.

The trip was a long one.  Whitey was small, respectful and liked to talk.  He was friendly, charming and an old road veteran.  He was also a creature of habit – he stopped in the same restaurants, the same truck stops and the same gas stations each time he made the trip – which was two or three times (both ways) every two weeks.  More than 2,000 kilometers each way would have him drop off a trailer of active bacteria product and he would return.

Whitey stopped in a small place in Northern Quebec.  He refused to try to speak French, the waitress refused to try to speak English.  I got the idea that both could speak a bit of each but were too stubborn to try.  They were not playing – the stress was palpable.  He explained that he was the customer and he should be respected.  He had a club sandwich – apparently what he ate every time even after examining the menu for 10 minutes.  He asked to “Weave the wettuce on the wide” which reveals his visible speech impediment.  I can relate after years of speech therapy and most certainly am not mocking him.  The waitress could not understand and he would become more frustrated and they would battle until he got what he wanted – or whatever they served.

There are strict rules and governors involved – meaning that your truck cannot pass certain speeds.  Every kilometer is logged and your driving time is extremely limited.  A professional driver takes 2 night of sleeping on the road to get to Toronto when most tourists do the drive in one overnight.  It seemed like a harsher treatment for a pro – however it is a fact of life for the modern road warrior.  Whitey would take 5-6 days to get to Toronto and back when most of us could do the same in 4.  He explained that this was tough on him and his family – compared to a tourist he was spending 50-75 days a year on the road that he could spend with his family and friends otherwise.  He was forced to sleep on the road, sometimes in less than desirable places – but he loved it.

Whitey went to bed on night one – he had a place in the truck to sleep.  He ushered me in to the truckers lounge (a room that felt like a frat-house – old couches stained with coffee and panelled with wood siding).  There was a TV with rabbit ears and I watched the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Ottawa Senators in triple-overtime in the playoffs.  I was thankful for that – a short game would have meant a long night.

Part way through our second day together he got excited.  We pulled alongside another truck and he honked, waved and smiled.  He was on the radio right away.  He explained that the other truck was a friend.  I was surprised at first realizing that the other driver was not much older than me at the time (in my mid-late twenties).  Whitey explained that he had driven for years to Toronto with his friends Father and the legacy now continued.  He was excited to have a partner and they bantered back and forth on the radio for hours before trouble struck.

We were following the truck and everything seemed normal until, in a moment, it blew a tire.  It didn’t look like a big deal to me – I thought it had splashed through a puddle as rubber sprayed the road.  The truck instantly signaled and started to slpow, eventually lumbering off the road.  Whitey’s demeanor instantly changed.  I found it difficult to understand what was happening as he signaled to the left – he headed for the passing lane and wished his friend luck.  No stopping.  No offer of help.  No asking if he was ok.

Whitey explained this was just part of the deal.  There was nothing we could do and stopping would mean that he wouldn’t make it as far as he needed that night due to regulations of maximum amount of hours you were allowed to be on the road (driving or not).  He could have stopped and had company for the next 4 days or keep going solo and get home 3 days from now.  His friend had just lost a day with his family, Whitey did not want to do the same.  I felt like a goose had just fallen from the flock.  Whitey choose 3 days of solitude for 1 day of family.  He explained that this was not uncommon and that being left behind was even tougher.

All this for yogurt?

I asked Whitey about his toughest day on the job.  His answer came quick and, paraphrased: “I drove for 3 days to Toronto.  I left Sydney with an empty trailer to drive 20 minutes and have it filled with watermelons.  3 mornings later I arrived at a warehouse in Toronto and emptied my load.  I drove another 15 minutes to pick up a load of something to get back to Nova Scotia – I was to bring it back to the warehouse I started from.  As they were loading I found out that my return trip was a load of watermelons.  If I had stayed home and had 6 days with my family, someone could have got the exact same thing done in 20 minutes in Toronto.”

For a moment, let’s put aside the environmental impact of all of this, the impact on pricing, waste and mass production and just be thankful to people who are willing to put their families on hold to make a living bringing us food – at the sacrifice of their families.

Thank you Whitey and thank you to all of those who help sustain us.

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