Archive for August, 2011

Preserving slices of pears are an easy way to learn the basics of preserving larger pieces of fruit.  They don’t require peeling (although many will argue that this will make them more tender), are easy to core and the process is simple.

Like most fruit, pears can be preserved in water or other fruit juice.  I prefer to preserve them in a light syrup which slightly extends their shelf life, keeps them sweet and meets my personal preference.  The addition of whisky (and how lucky were we to find one from Toronto?) is purely optional although the pears really do like to indulge in a little tipple.


  • Pears – cleaned and quartered, core removed.  If you’re worried about them browning, toss the cut pieces in a bit of lemon juice (I tend to work fast and skip the lemon).  6 pounds will make about 5 pints.
  • Light Syrup (dissolve 3/4 cups of sugar in 6.5 cups of water – or 10% by weight).  This will make enough for approximately 9 pints of pears; I tend to make a bit extra in case I’ve measured my pears wrong.
  • 1 tablespoon of whisky per jar (this will be added at the end so none will be wasted)


  1. Bring simple syrup to a boil.
  2. Carefully place pear slices in the boiling solution.  Wait 5 minutes.
  3. While still hot, add pears to clean, sterile pint jars.  Top with syrup and gently move jar to release any air bubbles (I use oven mitts).
  4. Add 1 tablespoon of Whisky per jar.
  5. Add liquid to leave a 1/2 inch headspace.
  6. Process pints for 20 minutes in a hot-water bath.

Next year I’m going to try this same recipe with a few cloves tossed in and see how that goes.


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When I do large amounts of preserving, it`s nice to do a few simple infusions.  They`re super easy, don`t take a lot of time and can yield amazing results.  They also provide an ingredient that can then be used for other preserving, such as the sam in this post.

Step 1- The Infusion

  1. Take 1 cup of blueberries, gently crush (beyond a bruise but not to make soup).
  2. Pour into a 2-cup (500 ml or pint) jar
  3. Fill jar with Grand Marnier.
  4. Cover and leave for 24 hours.
  5. Strain the booze through a colander – store liquid in a place out of the sun.  Enjoy any time you want – if it`s too harsh, add a bit of simple syrup (sugar and water) when serving.

This was an absolutely fabulous infusion and I`m thrilled with it.

Step 2 – The Jam

  1. Place infusion leftovers in a non-reactive bowl.
  2. Add 2-cups blackberries.
  3. Add 2 cups sugar.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
  5. Crush and stir and leave bowl rest for an hour.
  6. Cook until jam is set – process hot sterilized 1-cup jars for 10 minutes in a hot water bath.

This jam will indeed be boozy – an awesome addition to baking, cheese trays or salad dressings (as well as toast…).  Of course the jam could also be paired with the infusion for an all-around party!

Happy Tuesday!

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I love the philosophies of jam.  By ‘philosophies’ I refer to the hard-line rules (perhaps they are as rigid as ethics) that each of us have around what makes a great jam.  Many prioritize the consistency or set of a jam while others may emphasize taste or texture.

I am less conventional.  I am perfectly willing to deal with runny jam that borders on syrup in favour of flavour.  For those interested in why, there’s 3 previous pieces that summarize my stance pretty well here:

  • Guided by a Sense of Terroir (and not terror)
    The concept of Terroir within cooking really hit home with me in 2010.  Although I had been using the concept of cooking from my local pallete and what is available around me, my efforts in changing my style of cooking to reflect the area I live have dramatically increased since then.  I feel like I am chasing Terroir and joining the conversation that is happening around our area to define “What is local cuisine?”  This is especially fascinating to me in a city as multicultural as Toronto.
  • What Have I got Against Pectin?
    My initial thoughts on why I avoid commercial pectin and an easy experiment for those of you who use it.
  • More Thoughts on Avoiding Pectin
    I’m not an avid anti-pectin person but I did want to share more of my thoughts about it.  :).

All of that is a very long way to say that this jam can be runny.  It’s relatively low sugar, doesn’t have added pectin and adds maple syrup.  All of that generally leads to a very, very loose set – but something that really tastes of its ingredients, of the area and isn’t overtly sweet.  This tastes like it’s core ingredients – wild blueberries and maple syrup.

This is a great ingredient for baking, pancakes, ice cream, smoothies or, my favourite use, as a cheese topping for goat cheese (chevre).  It’s mad-good with cheese.


  • 6 Cups Blueberries
  • 3 Cups Brown Sugar
  • 1 Cup Maple Syrup
  • 1/3 Cup Bottled Lemon Juice (use the bottled stuff to be sure of the acidity).

Note: you could get a tighter set by not using maple syrup and using 2 cups of brown sugar and 2 cups of maple sugar.


Yield: 4-5 1-cup jars.

  1. Place berries in a wide pan.
  2. Crush berries with a potato masher.
  3. Add lemon, sugar and syrup, stir well.
  4. Let rest for an hour.
  5. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Stir frequently until jam is set – about 20 minutes after it starts boiling.
  6. Skim foam, pour into sterilized 1-cup (half-pint or 250 ml) jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

 This is a magical taste of late summer and something I just simply adore.

EDIT (Feb 27, 2012): Have you made this and are looking for an amazing way to eat it?  Try incorporating it into our fluffly lemon curd; it’s stunning.

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My cousin from New Brunswick came to visit us from her new home (Shanghai) and brought along her fabulous Mexican boyfriend and he taught me how to make the most fantastic hot sauce.  I`ve made a few modifications since then and I`ll identify them in the recipe.  We brought this to a party last night and those who like heat demanded instructions so we`ll be back to preserving recipes tomorrow.

My instructor roasted jalapenos in the oven – being summer I took the opportunity to do them on the grill.  I cooked them at a low heat for a long time removing them as they collapsed.  The long, slow heat will bring out the sweetness of the pepper.  Start with as many jalapenos as you`d like.


  • Roasted Jalapenos (lots)
  • Olive Oil (plenty)
  • Salt (more than you`d think)
  • Half a roasted onion (this is a Joel addition and not true to the source)
  • Clove of raw garlic (this is also a Joel addition and not true to the source)


  1. Toss the onion in a food processor.  Give it a good whirl until it sticks to the sides of the bowl.  Push the onion back off the sides and repeat.  You want to obliterate it – this is not the time for chunks (the following steps will reduce it further so don`t be too picky).
  2. Pull the tops off the peppers and put them in the processor (seeds and all).  I just leave the processor running as I drop each pepper in.
  3. With the blade running, add olive oil.  It will almost emulsify in this process.  For my half-pound of peppers I used about three-quarters of a cup of oil; taste as you go if you like that type of thing.  I love to use an early season bold-tasting olive oil (generally very green).  When you taste the sauce you won`t notice the oil at first but if you place close attention you`ll find you can taste it equally with the peppers.
  4. Add salt.  More than your comfortable with but not enough to make this taste salty.  I probably added a half-teaspoon.
  5. Add the garlic and spin until decimated

The final sauce is thick but full of flavour and packs decent heat without being overbearing.  It`s just simple spicy love.

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Rmember this?

If not, there`more images here.

We`re in the process of getting the posters up for sale. It`s taken a while to get our act together; figuring out how to sell online, implications of tax and figuring out how to calculate shipping worldwide…  You get the idea. 🙂

They will be economical and should be around these parts in the next few weeks.  If you want to be notified, leave a comment on this post and we`ll send you an email whenwe`ve got everything figured out. 🙂

Happy Saturday!

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Allow me to start by giving credit to Canning for a New Generation (Liana Krissoff) for inspiring this recipe.  It’s a wonderful read and does deliver on its promise – it’s a lovely guide and great accompaniment to the modern pantry.  I have taken her initial recipe and turned it my own direction and changed the cooking technique considerably.

I should also discuss the source of my figs.  Figs are a relatively new crop to Ontario (check out this amazing article on growing figs in Ontario in Edible Toronto from 2009) and can be difficult to come by.  More than 90% of our preserving is done from Ontario crops; this one was an exception.  Because of the use of lemons as a key component, there was an obvious departure from local so I opted for a foreign fruit.

Lastly, let me warn you about cooking times.  There’s a lot going on in the slow-roasting process – lemon, sugar, fruit, natural sugars in the fruit and heat can build up.  The first attempt I had at this recipe ended up in a lump of burnt fig-like caramel that I stubbornly jammed in a jar and let cool.  It took the entire weekend to remove the block of coal-like fig remnants.  I figure I missed the turning point by 10-15 minutes so keep an eye on these as they cook.

The main use for these lovelies is for cheese plates.  I can’t wait to nosh them back with some cheese-to-be-named-later.  I may just pair them with some honey and some of these (one of my favorite discoveries last winter).  The figs are cut in large halves and gently slow-roasted to bring out their sweetness.  A small bit of sugar is added to cinnamon and lemons before a last-minute addition of Grand Marnier to bring it all together.


  • 2 lemons, sliced thinly and seeds removed
  • 3 pounds of figs (we used green ones).  Gently clean them and remove any stem with a pairing knife.
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 1 cup of water
  • 4 sticks of cinnamon (more or less as you like)
  • 0.5 cup Grand Marnier (Orange liqueur – oranges and Figs are a natural combination).


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Slice figs in half.
  3. Place a layer of lemons at the bottom of a dutch oven (recommended but not critical).
  4. Place a half-fig on top of each slice of lemon (cut side down).  Don’t worry about being too perfect.
  5. Place cinnamon sticks in first layer – closer to the lemons, the better.
  6. Put multiple layers of lemon and figs as needed and until complete.
  7. Pout 1 cup of water gently into the pan (this will help prevent sticking and get the natural juices flowing.
  8. Disperse sugar through pot.
  9. Place uncovered pot in oven, making sure to place the lid on another rack or beside the pot. 
  10. After 30 minutes, add the lid on top of pot (use care, it will be hot) or cover with tin foil.
  11. Cook until everything has come together – there will be a lot more syrup formed and the lemons will become almost see-through.  This takes about 3 hours.  Prepare your canning supplies (jars, lids, waterbath) to coincide with completion.  If you don’t time it perfectly, things will stay very hot in your covered pot (but try to time it as close as possible).
  12. Add the Grand Marnier to the hot pot as stir.
  13. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars.  Watch for the cinnamon sticks and try to divide them equally between jars.
  14. Process 10 minutes in a hot-water bath.

This recipe should yield 4-5 half pint jars:

 Now that’s some urban jam!

What else do you make with figs – and what do you eat with it?

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I’m a sucker for the hot stuff.  Serve it to me pickled and I’m likely to turn to mush.

There isn’t a lot of mystery to my pickled hot peppers.  I don’t add garlic, mustard seed, dill, pepper or fancy stuff.  Hot peppers (in the photos below, jalapenos), salt and water.

But there are a few tricks.  Here’s a list:

  • The brine I use is (approximately) 4.5% salt brine.  That’s 3 tablespoons per 4 cups water (45 ml per liter).  I make extra brine as my process intentionally spills some of the brine into the sink (explained below).  Make enough bring to fill 60-85% of your final vessel (the more you practice my trick, the less you’ll need).
  • Disolve the salt fully into the water – I do this by heating it and letting it cool before adding it to my peppers.
  • I use a big, giant, wide-mouth mason jar.  The almost 2-liter (half-gallon) version.
  • The enemy of this process is air.  You must weight the peppers under the surface of the water through the ferment.  To do so I:
    • Use large slices of chiles (they are halves – you could do whole but the pickling takes longer).  Large pieces have a tougher time finding their way to the top of the brine.
    • I pack my giant jar tight.  Really tight.  I leave barely enough room for a small half-cup jar to fit on the top (I start with not enough room and remove peppers as necessary). 
    • Fill the large jar with brine (in the sink).  Gently shake it to remove air bubbles.  Repeat until air is removed and brine is filled near the top of the neck.
    • I ‘seatbelt‘ (this is my term for stopping all fruits and veg from floating while preserving) the top layer with a few ‘butterflied’ peppers (they are sliced on one side and flattened).  This is an optional step.
    • Replace lost brine.
    • Place a clean and sterile half-cup small jar inside the bigger one.  The small jar should be sticking out at this point.
    • Fill the small jar with brine – overfill to ensure the big jar is topped up.
    • Take a clean lid and ring, push down on the jar (you shouldn’t have to be Hercules here – I sometimes remove a few peppers if it’s too hard).  Brine will spill in to the sink as the small jar displaces liquid from the large jar.  The key is the small jar remaining ‘in the neck’ of the larger jar.  Your large chiles won’t float up there and displaced water in the neck will ensure they are covered.
    • This is it – for day 1.  More instructions below. 🙂

Here’s my peppers before wiping the jar (you can see the salt water trickle on the outside) – there’s a small jar at the very top which is preventing these peppers from finding air:

You’re not done though.  These babies need a sitter:

  • Check your peppers every day.  I do this in the sink in case of any spillage.  This is very important.
  • If foam or mould appears, remove with a clean spoon.  Aged cheese was covered in mould before you got it too.
  • After about 2 weeks (I judge my timing based on looking at them and comparing to other pickled peppers I’ve seen in the past), taste your peppers.  When they taste just as you want them (often this is 2-3 weeks), place container in the fridge.  This will slow down the fermentation process and your peppers will be pickled.
  • Boil the brine (not the Pickled Peppers that Peter Picked Please), chill to room temperature, add back to the peppers and store in fridge.  They will last a long time like this.

Yum yum in my tum tum.

You should also check out my partner in brine, Tigress and her chiles and her pickled chile peppers in oil.

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