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Archive for March, 2010

Dana and I have kept the following a secret from all but a few close friends and colleagues – we`ve published our first article in a magazine and have been signed on for a series of articles featuring ideas for local preserving that match with the seasons (we are expecting spring, summer and fall).

We quietly asked several people for their ideas as well – Tigress reminded me of leeks which I make every year and had originally forgotten so a giant thanks to her as well!

The idea behind the articles is to share with people some options for preserving and broaden understanding that preserving can be done throughout the year (many focus on the fall for it) and share some ideas on what people could do with locally sourced food — from the farmer`s market, forest or their own gardens.

The article combines the best of both of us and a real collaboration of our efforts.  I`m very excited and can`t wait to see it in my hands (the magazine is on the streets of Toronto now).  The magazine is Edible Toronto, a quarterly feature on the local food community here.  Gail, it`s publisher, has been fantastic, supportive and helpful through the process; she  seemed as excited as we were with the article which was (and is) very motivating.

In the coming days we are going to detail recipes on each of the items below.  Some of them will be recipes we`ve used and loved and others will be from sources we trust and will be trying this year.  Each article will be tagged with wellpreservedediblespring and clicking that will bring you to all of the published articles in the series.

We tried to pick a very wide range of items to share ideas and would love to hear your favourite spring preserving ideas.

To see more of Dana`s design work, visit her portfolio here.  You may even see a few food products you recognize :).

Lastly, if there are any bloggers (or others) that wish to print, share or post the article, please feel welcome to – I just ask that you let us know and clearly indicate that it is by WellPreserved.ca as originally printed in Edible Toronto (this is a requirement of printing it).  A link aback to us would be swell.

Click on the picture for a large version (if it looks small, zoom on in since that copy is massive :))

Feedback is welcomed too – we`re already starting to grind on the summer article!  Any fave ideas for that?

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To eat economically, I let the market choose my meal.  This week started as a struggle – I was at a very expensive (though fabulous) grocery store in suburbia and needed to find the ingredients for Cheap Tuesday.  To give you an idea of how expensive they can be; an organic chicken is over $30.  I thought my chances of finding anything were slim.

The moment I saw these, I knew I was set:

Almost 5 pounds of turkey necks – just over $5.  If you think the idea of Turkey necks is inferior Turkey, then you`ve never had awesome gravy (unless, of course, you are Vegetarian).

We start by making a basic stock.  Throw some veggies (we stayed local and seasonal – carrots, onions and celery root – we used all of the carrot tops from our week of carrots), the turkey and cover in water and simmer lightly for a few hours.  We added pepper, don`t add stock at this point.  We then let it rest overnight (I soaked some black eyed peas at this point to add a lot of body to our stew and take it away from being soup-like).

The next day we strained our stock and picked the turkey apart with our hands.  This is easy work, even for the uninitiated.  Bones and undesirables in one pot, yummy dark meat in another.  We cooked the black-eyed peas separately (otherwise we would be risking our stew drinking all of the broth) and added them to the soup before seasoning with salt, pepper and hot pepper flakes.

I also grated two sweet-potatoes into the mix to thicken things and add even more flavour.

On the downside, I had too much carrot and it sweetened things up a lot.

I also made some quick scones which included our dehydrated onions and cranberries.  These were a last-minute idea and a great addition.

The total cost was under $10 and is easily 6-8 hearty servings.

I know there`s not an exact recipe here.  Follow what you have on hand.  Don`t be afraid to experiment – any root vegetables will do here.  I want to emphasize that lesser known or `desirable`cuts of meat are fantastic ingredients which often have more flavour than alternatives that others chase.

It did occur to me that I had better ingredients for pot pie than for a stew.  I went for stew to lower the amount of calories we would consume in a single sitting but this would have made a divine pie if thickened a little more and had less peas added.

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Breakfast is not my specialty.  I don`t love eating it and that personal ambiguity converts into my cooking ability for all things morning.  I`m on a personal mission to alter that and become competent for morning food.

Poached eggs have eluded me.  I have tried large pots, small pots, vinegar, egg rings, fast boils, a low simmer and hardly a boil at all.  I have drained the runny white, prayed to the egg gods and more.  I usually end up with a small bit of poached egg and a large amount of egg white soup.

That changed yesterday:

Greenhouse tomatoes from Ontario, pickled peameal and eggs.  Yum.

We started off by boiling water in the kettle and lightly oiling the muffin tins.  We then placed them in the oven.  I played with the temperature by baking between 450 and 500 and kept my eye on them – the water did return to a boil within the muffin cups.

They came out of the tray with a slotted spoon very easily.

The obvious disadvantage is the amount of energy used by the oven.  I am curious as to placing a smaller amount of eggs like this directly on a burner or placing the tin in a frying pan similar to a double boiler.

Cooking for larger groups would be a cinch.

I`m not sure that this would be a technique I`d use every weekend but I`m encouraged to finally have something that looks like a poached egg (and not mostly poached egg yolk).

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Planting Day

I fear that we may be a bit far behind but better late than never.  Armed with the confidence of farming sprouts for several weeks, it is time to start to plant our seeds for the coming summer.

We are going to be creating 3 mini-gardens as we don’t have a proper backyard (it’s a cement covered patio for a coffee shop) so it’s time to be a little creative.

Our fire escape will become our herb garden.  We live several stories above ground and having herbs closer to the kitchen would be an advantage compared to running up and down stairs.  I’d rather keep herbs growing until the moment of consumption rather than keeping them in the fridge.  I have some concerns that it may be a little hot for them and am going to have to find some hanging trays in order to ensure that “escaping” is still an option.

We have an outdoor parking spot.  I am picturing at least 2 garbage bins of potatoes growing.  We considered using old tires (I have an ample source of free ones) but disposing of them is awkward, eating something grown in them is somehow eerie to me and the garbage bins will store potatoes or gardening equipment through the winter.

The majority of our garden will be in pots which we can move around the patio of the coffee shop.  We haven’t picked up our pots yet but see that there are plenty of affordable options to get us started.  We won’t need those for several weeks as we’re starting from scratch.  There are plans for many different types of veggies – some for eating and some for preserving (there’s going to be a lot of hot peppers if all works out).

I m also considering an experimental batch of Hops – at our cabin.  Hops are hardy and I could start them in the city before moving them north in mid spring.  An advantage of growing hops is that they are annuals  – they return year after year.  I’ve been warned that they can take over a garden but wouldn’t have that concern if they were grown in the middle of our forest.  I also understand that deer can eat them which would be disappointing as I would lose a key beer ingredient but may gain a different source of food in the fall.

Any which way you look at it, there is time to get growing for the summer.  We are learning as we go and we’ll share our progress as our first full season of experimenting begins.  Right now I am filled with hope and reminding myself to be patient with our first attempt.

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I’ve got your goat…

It’s been an interesting week of eating.  There’s been a few highlights and a few that fell short.

In the category of pure delight, there were two standouts (this won’t be for the squeamish).

I had a fabulous dinner at Cowbell and had a Testina Appetizer (the term was new to me).  The crew at Cowbell de-bones a pig’s head, rolls it up like a blanket and cooks it slow – for 2 days.  It is then sliced and pan seared and served.  It’s similar to a thick, round piece of baconsalumi.  Yes I’ve made up baconsalumi but imagine the combination of the two.  Crisp outside, full of flavour and fatty goodness.  Cowbell changes it’s menu depending on what they have butchered as part of their nose-to-tail approach.  We posted a story on them recently – you can find all the articles here.  Our entire dinner was phenomenal.

Image courtesy of Margaret Mulligan

Speaking of Cowbell, they have a phenomenal Sunday night roast.  Depending on which farm they are working with in a given week they prepare a 3-course menu (there are no other options on Sunday nights) and you can procure a 3-course dinner of organic meat that was raised with a focus on animal husbandry for $25.  It is an amazing introduction into the restaurant and their vision.

We also have been cutting across the city to go to the Wychwood Barns farmers market.  There are many talented farmers and artisanal bakers, cooks and food ninjas and we’ve been having a lot of fun finding season ingredients there (you may remember seeing about his Halloween Party at the farm or our more detailed introduction to Mark and Kawartha Ecological Growers).   Mark is truly an amazing food ninja.

We recently tried a few of his goat chops.  I had never tried them before but Mark’s recommendation was all the reference I needed.

I had no idea what to do with them – Mark walked me through his favourite way to prepare the chops.  Salt, pepper and pan sear for mo more than 2 minutes per side.  Getting recipe ideas and techniques from the farmer that raised the animal is one of the best sources in the world for cooking success.  Mark works with some of the best chefs in the city, worked in some of the finest kitchens in the west coast, speaks to other people including other farmers, food-lovers and the like.

These are his goat chops, served with polenta, purchased canned tomatoes (I have never canned small tomatoes and am considering in the fall), our own multi-currant jelly (made in a crazy weekend when we did 5 batches and 60 jars of preserves last year – here and here) and our windowsill sprouts.

It really has been a good week of eating.

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I have learned a lot this winter on ways to eat seasonally and closer to home.  I’m not entirely sure why I am such a proponent of this; it’s not as simple as saying that I’m into local, or because of the environment, economy, health, terroir, etc.  Those things play varying factors but I’m not exclusively tied to any one of them as the driving force on how my diet is changing.

Changing is a key word.  We still fall back to old habits although it’s happening less and less.  Our consumption of fast food has plummeted and the amount of meals made at home has risen.  Our portions and frequency of eating meat has decreased and the amount of veggies have gone up.  Over the winter we’ve eaten more soup and grocery shopping has become more difficult at times.  It doesn’t always feel like a fair trade – I get home from work around 7 most nights, we walk the dog and dinner can become rather late.

I will say that there is something that I adore about knowing, supporting and learning from the people that grow my food.

I had recently heard the St Lawrence Market had Ontario Asparagus.  It seemed awful early.  I reached out to two Asparagus farmers (one in Southern Ontario where the seasons are weeks ahead) and confirmed that it is too early for Asparagus, even though people are claiming to have it.  I haven’t spoken to anyone who claims to have it yet so I’ll reserve my judgement and be open to being wrong – but from the people I know and trust, Ontario Asparagus will be May.  That trust is a comforting condiment when it comes to our eating.

I haven’t had a tomato in a very long time.  Strawberries are out as well.  No blueberries either.  Of course the exception is our preserves.

We have at least 1 meal a week that is almost 100% local.  Most meals are about 50% local these days and this percentage will dramatically climb in the spring, summer and fall.

Before we talk about this weeks meal it’s time to share a tip.  We bought a selection of mini-beets from the Wychwood barns farmer’s market.  There were 3 types in all and I’ve run in to the problem of cooking them all together and turning all of them purple as they mix and mingle.  I also wanted to flavour each type differently and not mix flavours.  A small solution for cooking:

Each type of beet was treated differently and roasted in a muffin tin at 400 degrees; the small ones take about 45 minutes to cook soft.  This dish had the most non-local cheats: balsamic vinegar, truffle oil in one, olive oil in another and one of our home-dehydrated orange slices in another (along with lemon juice).

Other than those cheats, everything was local and we personally know or spoke with the creators of the rest of our bounty:

  • Pickled Ontario Asparagus (from last year, these are our pickles from last year)
  • Mark Trealout’s smoked pork, glazed with honey from Brandon Hester (a friend and beekeeper)
  • Salad of microgreens/ sprouts grown here complimented with with pickled beans, garlic and hot pepper (some tricks on them here and here) and 5-year Black River (Prince Edward County) Cheddar
  • Farmer’s market mustard

A quick tip on our salad (it was AWESOME): many people through out the “flavours” they add to their pickles.  We had a hot pepper, some dill and garlic in the jar with our beans.  All of these become delightfully pickled in their own right and added a splash of colour and flavour to our salad as well as rounding the flavours with 3 items which had sat in the same brine for 8 months.

The meal was fantastic and there’s still enough for luinch in the fridge.

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I was awful at French.  I grew up struggling with reading in English and being forced to study a second language seemed like a challenge that was beyond my grasp.  This was tough for my parents to accept – especially given that my Mother was raised French-Canadian (Acadian to be exact).

My argument was that she spoke half-French and half-English.  If you haven`t heard Acadian Patois, it is difficult to imagine.  I once heard my Uncle say something very close to:

Jài allais a la beer store avec mon car et fait un crash
(jhay alay a la beer store avec mon car a fay un crash)

To fully simulate the statement, say it as fast as you possibly can and then imagine saying it 4 times faster than you are capable.

I have teased my mother and Family for a long time about their bastardization of French.  The teasing dropped after two college summers in Quebec where I finally learned to speak my own version of French – it`s not the strongest but I lived for 12 weeks in the language and survived with no English (even dreaming in French).

But the teasing continued.  It even continued this summer when my dear Grandmother mentioned something about `des sneakers.`  I had to tease her about this and I did.

Her reaction was kind and measured.  It started with a look that said I was about to learn something (I imagine her as starting by saying `Dear boy…` but know that she didn`t).  `Joel, I grew up French.  When sneakers first arrived in our town they were brought from the English.  There was no word for sneakers – we had not seen them before and had to use the  word since we didn`t have one of our own.`

My heart sunk with comprehension.  Think of my Uncle`s statement: beer store, car, crash.  All things that came to their culture faster than words could take root.

So many conversations flooded my mind and I learned so much about my past.  I don`t tease about the language any more and pay greater attention to the English words that creep in – and note that many of them are products or things that are less than 60 years old.  The language is being swallowed by more and more English (most of my cousins who grew up in the same village as my Mother don`t speak French at all).

What happens to our food, traditions and recipes as we begin to swallow and be swallowed by other languages?

There are two French food words which I adore and wish we could replace our names with theirs:

Seafood is Fruits de Mer (Fruit of the Ocean).
Potato is Pomme de terre (Apple of the Earth).

There are, of course, many benefits to merging cultures and wonderful new discoveries and combinations borne of integrating our approaches and knowledge around food.  Let us ensure we are both preserving our past as well as sharing forward.  After all, the Internet is much faster than the coal burning train which brought sneakers, beer stores and cars to Cape Breton.

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