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Archive for September, 2010

10.50PM.  Near delirious.  Smiling.

I have really neglected to say how thankful we are for all of the encouragement and support we`ve had from people in the last few weeks. Friends, strangers, new friends, old strangers and those near and far have offered hands, cheers, comments, emails and tweets.  I hope it sounds genuinely humble to express that we real feel we`re representing a far bigger community than just ourselves this Sunday. I`m not quite done loading the dehydrator for yet another night and I`m still smiling.

Speaking of dehydrating, it`s time to humiliate myself again.  I get an odd kind of joy doing so…

We loaded 5.5 pounds (2.5 kilograms) of sweet onions into the dehyrator last night.  10 ounces (a pound has 16; it`s also 283 grams).  Almost 90% of the weight of the onions has evaporated into the air and has left us with sweet onion chips that are going to be in our veggie crackers.

If you read that last sentence carefully, you`ll notice I mentioned `evaoprated into the air.`  That’s a key part to the rest of this story…

I arrived at work this morning.  It was a busier day than normal (this says a lot) and we had a meeting with 2 other organizations that is kicking off a rather large undertaking that will affect 100’s of our employees.  My role, in today’s meeting, was a pivotal one.

I arrived in the office and noticed a faint smell of soup.  Kind of like Mr Noodles.  I entered my office and the longer I sat, the stronger the smell got.  I figured someone was eating a really early bowl of soup.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that it was me who was actually the main course.

The temperature has dropped considerably in the last 24 hours in our fine city (Toronto for those keeping score).  When I dropped to the floor at the end of a long day yesterday (to cuddle with the dog), I noticed how cold it was on the floor.  I shut the windows and fell asleep hiding under a blanket-fort that I shared with our pup.

I stumbled to bed about an hour later with the windows still snug.  And it happened overnight – 5 pounds of  onion water evaporated and consumed the air of our apartment.  It filled the air, the carpet, couches and my closet.  Including my suit.

I was lucky I didn’t get stuck in the rain – I may have been attacked by a wild herd of noodles and served as some form of exotic lunch to onion loving purists (it’s not that far-fetched since people serve sushi on top of nude models for some unknown reason).  I was fortunate to avoid such a cruel fate and was instead lavished with attention from my team who were rather delighted at my amusing fragrance.

It wasn’t really all that bad.  See if you can find me in the secret security footage from work below:

A very funny moment happened when the CEO asked me if I could smell soup (he also saved a bit of ego when he stated the smell arrived more than an hour before I got to work – my team informed me this was likely the cloud in front of my vehicle as I drove 100 kilometers per hour on the way to work.

The onions are worth every bit of it – they can be eaten like the sweetest of candy

There’s another 3.5 pounds in the dehydrator tonight – along with 1.5 pounds of hot peppers and roasted garlic will follow as soon as this post is complete.  At that point we’ll be done all of our cracker ingredients and move to the last of the tomatoes which should finish almost 8 hours to the minute after we started dehydrating (Friday to Friday).  In that time our unit will have been turned off less than 12 hours in total.

Tomorrow night has to create the final project plan, recipe for Sunday, ensure we have everything we need or a plan to get it and put some checklists together for Sunday.  In the meantime, it’s time to squeeze some garlic, grab a beer and stretch on the floor or couch.

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We’re in the homestretch.

We’ve been preserving for 5 days now and there’s 5 days to go before the picnic.  Of course work and life are also keeping us busy (a disappointing soccer game for our TFC tonight) but we’re living an extreme balance and making it all work for a week.  I’m writing this at 11.50 after loading the dehydrator with almost 6 pounds of onions (the dried onions will be part of our vegetable crackers).

Dana pulled the dehydrated roasted garlic (which will be turned into garlic powder) and whole hot peppers out of the dryer this afternoon.  I pulled out the slices of green and hot peppers from the dehydrator in the morning.  Things are really starting to hum.

It’s odd that we’ve been cooking for 5 days and are still making the ingredients we will cook with.  Our house is quickly being overtaken with jars (incoming and outgoing), veggies and other supplies.  It’s going to get even more full as some swag starts to roll in through the week and I still haven’t figured out how we will store (and transport) the 1,200-1,500 crackers I hope we get made on Friday night.

I have figured out that we must be mad.

Last night I described the aromoas of our house as being reminiscent of a bath house filled with tomatoes.  A new friend smiled and then pointed out that my description didn’t sound entirely appealing – much like the smell of our house.  We’ve evaporated a lot of tomato water through the air we live in – I’m sure it’s permeated my skin by now.

I also had an absent-minded moment in the morning when I sampled the wrong dehydrated pepper.  The tiniest flake of dried pepper lit my mouth for 2-3 hours (to be clear, I adore hot stuff – this is simply crazy hot).  I’ll add a bit more care the next time I blindly grasp for a taste of something in my own kitchen at 5AM.  This is proof-positive that I’ve learned something today.

I’m absolutely smitten with the garlic.  We’ll partially freeze it right before making our crackers and then pulverize it with a blender.  The slow dehydration really brings out a sweetness in it that can’t be matched – something that has also happened with our carrots and will transform our onions as well.  Tempted to find a bunch of celeriac to make a mirefois cracker.

That’s the recap for today.  I should mention that if the writing sounds choppy, it likely is.  We’re largely going on adrenalin these days and haven’t had much of a sit down and chill for about 2 weeks.  If all goes well we should have a really chill day on Saturday before the big day that will require rested minds and bodies.

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We had planned to get back to our Autumn preserving posts but based on comments, emails and conversation with others, it appears that there is still interest in updates on our preserving for 1,000.

It’s getting trickier.  I am out of the house for almost 12 hours for work.  If food gets too dry in the dehydrator, things become a crispy mess.  I’m trying to time things to finish when I’m here – and at a time that I will have time to fill the beast back up.  We also have a busy social calendar this week – tonight was an awesome preserve swap with 40+ local preservers.  Was a great night; super people, lots of new friends and great tastes.

I needed something that would dry through the day and complete when I was home for less than 90 minutes.  It’s like throwing a dart at a target a mile away.

I loaded it with carrot slices (4 liters) around 6AM – they were complete when I got home at 6 this evening.  That was a strong success!

I opened the last 2 liters of carrot slices which were sitting in water – as I opened the jar I was crushed (but only a little) to see bubbles coming over the rim.  This means fermentation and that means bacteria and there’s not enough time to salt and ferment them for the weekend (would need about 6 weeks).  It’s not the end of the world but I do hate the waste (since they had no salt I am also hesitant to ferment them into pickles).

We did have some roasted peppers from last night (peeled, thankfully) and they’re in the dehydrator with some other sweet and hot peppers we had in the house.  So far the air is very breathable – I often worry about some hot peppers making the air acrid and my eyes teary.  It can be overwhelming and since it’s 11.30 when I write this I really hope to be done messing about the kitchen.

Garlic is roasting  as I write this – also plan to add it the the dehydrator. The garlic and pepper should take 5-6 hours and be ready to be pulled out by 6AM.  The dull sound of the dehydrators fan will mercifully rest for 12 or 15 hours tomorrow.  Our house smells like pizza and the incessant buzz of the fan is delivering some sort of Hitchcookian horror treatment to our collective subconscious.

It is intended to become garlic powder which will be incorporated with our carrot and pepper powders into our crackers.  I’m hoping to pick up a few more ingredients (including onions) at our CSA tomorrow.

My last concern (other than the 1,600 crackers we’re making on Friday night with friends and a LOT of wine) is the sauce.  It’s the only thing I wasn’t worried about and it turned to a challenge last night.  The entire process went to plan but the tomatoes are extremely acidic.  We’ve used carrots to lower acid in the past and heard that adding honey and baking powder may help.  We’re going to experiment some more through the week but open to ideas.

The biggest challenge ahead will be finding time to get the last 400-600 piece of tomatoes put in the unit.  Another social event tomorrow evening will make finding the 2-3 hours of prep time more difficult than manageable.  I am hoping I can load them tomorrow night as they’ll take the best part of 18 hours and would work out for my return from work on Wednesday.  This would allow for 3 more well-timed batches of ingredients for the crackers and put is in great shape for the weekend.

I get the feeling a lot will ride on the hours of about 10-12 tomorrow night.

Also, if it’s not obvious, we’re still having a lot of fun.

We’ll make sure to get some pics of whatever this final product ends up being – I’ll be proud regardless; but hope the flavours give us real reason to be.

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We’re continuingto get ready for the Brickworks Picnic next weekend.  A huge pile of the work is done though there will be some early mornings to fill the dehydrator for the day ahead – and of course there is the matter of this Friday night when 4 of us take on 1,600 crackers but we’ll worry about that later.

It’s just before midnight.  The low hum of the dehydrator is the only sign of work being done after a 16+ hour day of preserving.

The weekend produced 20 more jars of sauce, 1,000 more tomato slices, 6 liters of diced carrots (waiting for the dehydrator in the morning) and some smoked/roaster peppers which will join the orange dudes.

Dana (and friend Peter) helped with the sauce today – so much fun to be able to ssit with those you love and working your way through baskets of tomatoes.  Dana’s also been busy with all sorts of WellPreserved Design stuff – we’re really using this event as a kick starter to take the site to another level.  It’s been super fun.

The next step is an early rise of 5:00AM. I’ve sliced carrots with a mandolin and have 6 liters of carrot slices keeping them fresh until they can jumpinto the heat.  We’ll pull those out tommorow night and see how we’re coming along.  I’ll likely add somemore dehydrating after our CSA (Communite Shared Agriculture) so we can crank the flavour into our crackers Friday.  Saturday should be fairly restful before the controlled chaos of Sunday.

I have to admit that this has been both fun and odd.  I generally stay motivated through the work by remding myself that what I’m creating will feed many through an entire winter.  To think that all of this is meant for 3-4 hours is a very bizzare feeling.  The challenge has been a lot of fun and it’s really great to get to push ourselves this hard and see what will happen.

After 2 days of sprinting, we’re that much closer to being ready.

We’ll return to our Preserving Autumn series in short order – time to get some needed rest.

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It`s almost 1 AM.  I wrote out last post 24 hours ago – at that time we had a dehydrator full of 18 pounds of tomatoes and a lot of hope.

24 hours later we have 262 dehydrated tomato halves. a dehydrator with some of the thicker product from yesterday and  7 trays of fresh tomatoes that were placed under the gentle heat just over  hours ago.  We`re a long way away from 800 tasting portions.  We still have no sauce, crackers or veggie powders.

The next 24 hours will be essential.  We`ll need to have our sauce done and know that we have enough tomatoes for the sauce that`s required.  I alternate between thinking that we have too many op vflb                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 13to marvel

Thee above turned to gibberish as I fell asleep on the couch.  It`s now 10.45AM Sunday morning.  Things have been progressing nicely.  I pulled an additional 700 tomato pieces out of the dehydrator this morning – my target of 1,600-1,800 pieces seems feasible.  I have to get the next load on before noon if I`m goint to get 2 rounds in today.  It`s going to be a race.

I`ve also been up to the suburbs and back.  All of the tomato sauce equipment is now here – two burners, 2 60 liter pots, propane, the grinder and a spoon that could double as a snow shovel.  It looks like we`ll be aiming for about a bushel of sauce though I`ll know a lot more once the dehydrator has been refilled.

So far we`ve dehydrated 32 pounds of tomatoes.  Each piece has a quick bath in cider vinegar before a touch of maple syrup is added.  The net effect raises both the core acidity and sweetness of the tomato and these are bursting with flavour.

There`s still a lot of work to do – roasting and dehydrating peppers, carrots and other veggies for the 1,200-1,500 crackers we`re making on Friday night will have to be fit in some time soon.  For now, I better get cutting some more tomatoes…

Still excited, still having fun.

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Today was supposed to be a continuation of our Preserving Autumn series.  It`s just the way it works – we post an article and then demonstrate recipes from it for the next 8 or 9 days.

Except this time I`m changing the rules.  We`ll be back to regular scheduled programming in by Tuesday at the latest.

I thought it may be a bit of fun to have some insight into preserving for 800-1,000 people (one taste each).  The picnic (we`re participating in a SlowFood Event in Toronto and preparing 800 single tastes as part of the Brickworks Picnic) is next weekend and we`ve been extremely busy in the WellPreserved House.  Dana`s done some amazing work for us – I can`t wait to show some of the goodies coming our way.  Stay tuned for several announcements in the net week or so as different packages show up at our house.

We`ve finalized our menu as well – more or less.  A lot of the final adjustments will happen in the next few days as I get a really good look at our ingredients.  We`re dehydrating tomatoes (they`ve had a splash of cider vinegar and maple syrup).  We`re also making more tomato sauce to rehydrate the tomatoes in and serving on a homemade vegetable cracker (using more dehydrated veggies).  There are a few other possible twists and turns coming but this is the general idea.

I left Newmarket around 5.30 tonight and headed northeast to Durham county.  It is ironic that my pairing with Wheelbarrow Farm is very close to where I spent 4 of 5 formative years of my youth.  It felt good to be driving through many of the country roads that I still consider to be a key part of where I`m from.  I`ll freely admit that the challenge of cooking quality food for this many people is both exciting and scary to me.  Driving in Durham was very comforting and oddly inspiring.

I pulled into the farm around 6.30.  Tony greeted me with a warm smile and a significant limp – a sprain that will soon heal.  We had never met before but I was thrilled to meet a young first-generation farmer who was passionate over what he was doing.  I am certain we`ll cross paths again in the future.

We loaded almost 200 pounds of tomatoes and a bunch of other veggies into the truck and I drove back in the middle of a beautiful sunset (this brings our total tomato yield to more than 600 pounds this year).  I got home at 9 and ate some dinner, spent some time with Dana and the little red dog.

The tomato washing started around 9.30; the dehydrator was full and humming by midnight; at which point I decided to get my saurkraut fermenting (this is for personal use; it wont be ready for weeks).  It was 1:00PM before I sat down for the first time today – it`s now almost 2:00 as I write this.

I did spend a brief moment contemplating if this challenge is going to be the one that`s just too much.  We both work 50-60 hours a week , we have a busy calendar this week and there are some clear obstacles ahead.  And of course there is the golden rule of preserving – a whole lot makes a whole little.  Preserving for 1,000 is going to require an extreme amount to make a whole lot.  The majority of Dana`s prep is done – the next 36 hours is key to getting the bulk of our preserving done.

And I`m having so much fun!  I have no doubt we will do this.

If you`re coming next Sunday, be sure to say hi.  If you can`t make it out (and are local), we`re also planning on being at the preserve swap hosted by Ivy Knight Monday evening.  We`ll have some buttons on I`m sure and would love to say hey.

What`s the point of this post?  I`m not sure there is one – other than sharing our excitement and sharing some insight into the 30-40 hours of work that will be consumed in less than 10% of that time next Sunday afternoon.  We’ll see if it amounts to a warning to never try this type of thing or if it’s a call to say you must!

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sauerkraut, fermenting sauerkraut, how to make sauerkraut, sauerkraut recipe

Many of us start preserving with commercial pectin, following recipes that we think are easy and, for the most part, are.  I remember thinking that fermentation, pressure cooking and dehydrating were far too complex and I would eventually learn how to do them.

The truth is the `more advanced` preserving techniques are often the easiest.

Here`s the complete list of ingredients to make sauerkraut:

  • cabbage
  • salt

For every 5 pounds of cabbage, you use as little as 3 tablespoons of salt.  A large head of cabbage is about 5 pounds and the freshest cabbage you can find, the better.

There are many recipes on the web – unfortunately not a lot of variance between them and I`ve found many that seem to have copied and pasted the recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.  Rather than just copying and pasting we`ll send you there for the fine details if you are interested once you read a high-level walk-through below.

The process is simple:

  1. Clean everything well
  2. Grate your cabbage – most recipes work about 5 pounds at a time
  3. Toss with salt (most add it as they grate)
  4. Pack into a large crock or similar vessel.
  5. Push down hard; this begins to draw the liquids out.
  6. Cover the entire mess with a plate, weight it down (a clean jar filled with brine often helps).  Ensuring all of the product is covered with brine is critical.
  7. Within 24 hours you should have the complete cabbage covered with natural brine (if not, you`ll add more brine – more info will follow)
  8. Cover tight
  9. Skim any `scum`off that appears every few days.
  10. Depending on the temperature you are storing it in, fermentation will be done in 3-6 weeks (warmer temperatures finish earlier though may be softer).  You`ll know it`s complete when the bubbling is finishes.

You can add other vegetables – hot peppers slices, shredded carrots, red cabbage and more.  You can keep the kraut in it`s crock, fridge, freeze or waterbath – the former techniques will tend to have a better texture while the later ones will last longer.

There`s something magic about seeing fermentation in action – it`s like a delicious, controlled rot that seems so counter-intuitive to consume that it`s delightful.

It`s ironic that the `advanced techniques` I avoided for so long are actually so much easier than many that I started with.

For the full details on how to do this, check the link above – would love to hear any of your experiences.

This is part of our series of posts linked to our Preserving Autumn article in Edible Toronto.  The posts will update daily from September 18th and you’ll be able to see all of the posts in the series by clicking here.

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