Posts Tagged ‘preserving’

I couldn’t wait for summer to use our new Harsch Gartopf Crock pot and naturally ferment something.  So we turned to what we could get locally and ended up with a 6-pound bowl of carrots:

If you think they look a little suspect – I did cheat with the slicing blade of the food processor.  Much like dehydrating, I generally use a slicer (generally a mandoline) so that my slices are the same thickness (you can also ferment the entire carrot).  I prefer uniform slices – especially for test batches – because the taste is consistent through the entire batch.  Different thicknesses lead to different curing and flavour change and, while interesting, are difficult to get uniform results.

Natural fermentation is the process of pickling in a salt brine.  It is sometimes called wild fermentation, fermentation and lacto-fermentation.  It takes 1-4 weeks to properly ferment most vegetables and the process is simple – veggies are covered in salt (which draws moisture out of your produce and helps preserve your ingredients) and a brine (if needed – often items like cabbage have enough moisture drawn out by the salt that none is needed).

Fermentation has some advantages over `quick`pickles (made with vinegar) – the obvious trade-off is the length of time it takes before they are ready to consume.  Advantages include:

  • You don`t need to seal if you have a cellar or keep it in the fridge where it will last a very long time.  This also means the result can be different texture from sealed pickles (which require a water bath).  You can also freeze or water bath these when complete.
  • The process is less expensive (after buying equipment) – you don`t need vinegar.
  • The natural enzymes of the pickle are arguable more healthy than vinegar (which is not to say vinegar is unhealthy as it`s not…)
  • Many argue the flavour is better and the product is less consumed by the vinegar.
  • You can actually eat most of these with wine – something vinegar makes very difficult.
  • There`s just something magical about the slow and natural process (this one of the oldest preservation styles in the world) and it`s actually less work than a quick pickle (unless water bathing).

I don`t think they`re necesarilly better, just interesting and fun to make.

The process is fairly simple:

  • Clean and cut veg
  • Place in clean pot (generally a crock)
  • Mix salt (which is measured by weight as a ratio to the amount of produce you add) layer by layer of produce.
  • Weight down the vegetable.  Press under weight (it is important that the product does not float and make contact with the air or it will create mould).
  • If enough liquid is not created, add brine (it is generally salt and water, perhaps other flavour)
  • When the fermentation completes you boil the brine and let it cool before adding the product (this kills any additional nasties that may be present).
  • If your final product is too salty, you can quickly rinse it before consuming.

I added a few hot peppers, celery seed and dried dill to the carrots this time.  We`ll share exact recipes once we`ve done a few more batches and are really happy with the results (this one is a bit of an experiment – one I plan to share around with friends and family to get feedback from).

We have 3 crocks – only one is the `race car`of fermenting (more on the others soon).  It`s major feature is this lip:

When fermenting you place the lid on top (it sits in the rim) and you place water in the rim.  This allows gasses (and air with them) to escape without letting air in.  This airlock will help with fermentation as long as the temperature of the pot stays under 70 degrees (we keep it by the window) in the winter).  We won`t open the lid for the first two weeks – which I find incredibly tempting (I just want to see!)

What would you want to know – or pickle by fermentation?


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Edit: we now have two different versions of the poster available in our store – you can check them out here.

Today’s post was delayed for good reason – we were waiting to get the release to share the following two secrets we’ve been hoarding (one of them for months) and the approval came after I went to work.  I know I’m a geek but I can’t find the words to say how excited I am about sharing these things with you – and hope you enjoy!


I am really excited to have the chance to finally share our latest article in Edible Toronto’s Spring issue:

To fully explain the table, the focus is on water bath seasonal canning for ingredients that are available locally in the Province of Ontario.  There are lots of other places that could use the chart but if you’re wondering where the marmalade is or why our seasons are different, now you know.  🙂

The project was almost 100 hours of work.  From researching ingredients (we have the other preserving styles up our sleeve and are *considering* doing the rest of the 109 items but we’re still recovering from the first 58, coming up with a system to display them and dana having to create almost 60 hand sketches and retouch them (you’ll see some of the detail below).

We do have another 59 items figured out that comprises a tonne more of Ontario Ingredients and expands the periodic table to include curing, dehydrating, fermenting and infusing.  It’s a scary prospect to think of another large project – let us know if you think we should go for it..

I want to send a special shout out to Meg (Grow and Resist), Shae (Hitchhiking to Heaven), Julia (What Julia Ate), Kaela (Local Kitchen), Erica (F*#ked in Park Slope) , Audra (Doris and Jilly Cook), Marisa (Food in Jars) and Sean (Punk Domestics) who all provided some feedback on the concept (they had not seen the completed work).

Here’s a sample of the detail:

A giant thanks again to Gail who let us run with the concept sight-unseen and signs off on it with the same passion that we submit it.


To see other closeups of the work and a larger version of the entire Periodic Table – come over and visit our group on Facebook (you don’t need to have aFacebook  account to see it).  If you do have an account, we’d love you to join our group!  Click here for the photo album.


I am thrilled to announce that I have been selected as one of the final 12 Torontonians Ocean Wise SeaFoodie competitors for my video on Sustainable Fish.  This means I’ll be making another next week and we’ll share more info on how voting could help you win prizes, help us win prizes and, more importantly to me, help us all share the word on sustainable seafood.

Our original post is here (it explains what this is all about) but if you just want to check out the video, my 30 second audition video is below:

We’ll be sharing more details and our entry video over the next 10 days – and we welcome all feedback. Hope you enjoy – we welcome any questions and post ideas so if you see something on the table you’d like to know more about, let us know!

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It’s nice to have two consecutive posts inspired by discussions on the WellPreserved Facebook group.  There’s been a lot of great back and forth there lately – discussions on which preservers people made too much of, not enough of or plan to make this year.  There’s also been a lot of sharing about pressure canning, getting over the fear of it and the like.  It’s been a lot of fun.

Kelly shared the following idea/ question/ thought:

I wanna have a preserv-a-palooza where a bunch of educated preservers(?) get together and make a large batch of one kind of preserves, split the cost and walk away with some yummy preserves – any thoughts on how to organize something of that nature? More hands make less work….

She also noted that her and her Mother-In-Law yields a big batch of tomato sauce – 96 jars (this is quite the feat for two people – we get around 160-180 with 4 people and I do think 4 is more in this case – i.e. it’s less work to do twice as much with 2 times the people).  More than 4 people could start to get difficult.

Preserving ‘parties’ are common in many places in the world.  They range from seasonal parties where entire communities get together through communities simply working as a group to preserve an abundant harvest.  The far north preserves significant supplies of meat during the great migration (something that happens less and less) by smoking, drying or even canning meat for the winter.  It’s not so much a party as it is a way to ensure that precious food isn’t lost.

Wine and tomato sauce are common in many families to get together and share the burden.  These batches are easily multiplied without loss of quality.  With few exceptions, jams and jellies do not multiply well when cooking as Marissa at Food in Jars explains (I won’t steal her post – be sure to check it out as she’s simply brilliant).

Here’s a few ways I’d approach such a party:

  • If you want a single batch and insist on jam or jelly, you could form a line and make catch-after-batch of the same thing.  This is more practical unless you have a giant pot for the water-bath (such as one you’d use for tomato sauce)
  • If you want a single batch and want fruit, consider other sauces (such as applesauce) or approach sliced/ whole fruit for your jars.  These can be done in large batches and easily worked on together.
  • To avoid tripping over each other, consider multiple style of preserving in the same day.  i.e. while some work on a water-bath of applesauce, others could work on dehydrating.
  • My approach would be to alter the approach.  I’d get our set number of people (imagine 6) and have each show up with 6-24 jars and enough ingredients to fill them with their single favorite recipe.  If you double a recipe, cook it off in separate pots.  Each person gets to lead their project and everyone goes home with several jars of each recipe.  With each person leading I believe you would learn a lot from each other, and still go home with a mixed bounty.

The last approach is novel – the natural lulls of one recipe (cooking, waiting for the water-bath to end and the like) naturally lend themselves to starting the next recipe while the current one finishes.  It’s how I completed 5 different batches of preserves (including a jelly, seeding cherries and more) in 2 day in 2009.  This could have easily been done in 1 day with more people (you can read about the haul here and here).

A word of caution; take some time to plan the day in advance – either with the entire group or have the group decide who (or whom) will co-ordinate on the day.  It’s easy to lose time to chaos and trying to figure out what’s next.  We now make more tomato sauce in one day than we used to in 2 – and it’s largely to do with each of us knowing what everyone else is doing.  For instance, I know that I will be grinding tomatoes next year by 9:00AM.  We don’t keep a list, we’ve just fallen into this from trial and error (and can easily trade ‘jobs’ if others want to).

Lastly, be very cautions.  A hot pot of jam is dangerous.  A vat of molten sugar could be lethal.  Not the nicest of thoughts but something to be cautious of.

How would you approach such an event?  Comment here or pop over to Facebook and we’ll see you there!

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Maybe you shouldn’t.

Then again, maybe you should.

Yes, I am  a Gemini – a very tired, punchy one at that.  I’ll try to keep this post intelligible and somewhat comprehensible.

We’ve been having a lot more conversations on Twitter and through our Facebook group lately.  Part of that is due to a 2-week business trip and extended time in hotels and part is the growing community that is coming here is becoming far more vocal (perhaps we’re being more inviting or perhaps the crowd simply is deciding to have its turn).  Nothing could make me happier – the most confounding part of this project (for us) has been figuring how to turn this space into a multi-way conversation that we can all join in together.  If your on Twitter or Facebook, we’d love to have you come along and join in the conversation (or use the comments below).

Travelling makes daily writing difficult (I often to try to get a few posts ahead of the game) – coming up with ideas seem even more difficult.  I turned to Twitter and was gifted a bounty of ideas in reply to my plea – the idea for this post came from Aagaard Farms (farm, Community Shared Agriculture Program and Market) from Brandon Manitoba (a city I’ve been through 5 or 6 times).

The question(s) revolved around pressure canning – Is it worth buying one? Which one?  How will it change my canning life?

I’m going to combine #1 and #3 and cheat on #2.

Is it worth buying a pressure canner?

I say yes, yes a thousand times yes.  But it’s not for everyone.  From my perspective:

The Good:

  • I love to put things in cans.  I love the pop of the lid, the process and how they look on the shelf (I am that vain about my vegetables).
  • I like the ease of giving them as a gift.  No one expects canned peas or beans as a gift.  It’s also a nice reminder of how much we’ve forgotten about storing and eating food.
  • I believe that some ingredients benefit from this treatment over all others.  Peas change texture but their taste is absolutely stunning in February (and better, in my opinion, than freezing).
  • We have almost no freezer space.  We freeze pesto, pepper  purees and more but our fridge-top ice chest will only take so much.  We keep some more goods frozen in my parents deep freeze but it’s almost 30 kilometers away.
  • I don’t have to eat local food *only* as a pickle or sugar-added product.  Low acid foods that aren’t pickled have to be done this way.  This includes meats or stocks.
  • The leftover water in the jar is a great start for a stock.  It can also freeze so you can mix it with others later.
  • It is the closest ‘real’ taste of the produce when compared to pickles and jams.  Both are yummy and our water-bath canning tastes yummy – but pickled asparagus is a faint reminder of the real deal.  Pressure canned is much closer.  (Thanks to Sasha on the Facebook group for the reminder!)

The bad:

  • The texture changes – depending on what you are canning this can be good or bad.  I’m not thrilled with my beans yet.
  • Pressure cooking could result in lost nutrients due to high temperatures.  We will be doing a lot of fermentation this year which will provide super nutritious meals and yummy food too – just have to be careful I don’t turn in to a pickle.  So this may be a necessary tradeoff – use the broth to cook pasta or rice (especially if stir frying that rice with the veg from the jar).
  • Many products (i.e. vegetables) for this purpose are ready in the heat of summer.  Freezing avoids using hot water and may be prefered – pressure canning uses less water, takes shorter to come to a boil and can create less heat than water-bath canning. (So this is a good compared to water-bath canning – thanks to Janice for this reminder on Facebook as I was thinking it was only a disadvantage compared to freezing)
  • It’s a moderate-expensive investment depending on the canner you choose and your canning budget.  Do not use Grandma’s canner from 1971.

The Interesting

  • We are eating far more seasonally.  More than% of our home cooking this winter has all been using cellared vegetables from our network of farmers and Community Shared  Agriculture Program.  For those who continue to argue that local food is expensive, we spend less than $100 every two weeks (including the cost of preserves from summer that we eat) for 14-22 meals for one (this is lunches and dinners).  For those who say there’s not enough time – I am very empathetic but also am out of the house 12+ hours a day for work and Dana is just as busy (sorry, rant).
  • Sometimes a jar freaks me out.  There’s no good reason for this – a jar of jam can be just as dangerous but thinking that there’s beef stock in that jar, I can’t believe it keeps on the shelf (which is ridiculous because commercial stock does the same).
  • We jar a large amount of food a year for personal use.  Almost 700 cans.  About 150-250 will be pressure canned.  It becomes a bigger percentage of my canning each year as I begin to move away from mass canning with sugar (we dehydrate a lot of seasonal fruit).


I am sure there are other reasons (add them to any of our community areas mentioned above) – what do you think?

Which one?

At the risk of sounding cheeky and the need of being practical, check an article we wrote last year (improving the accessibility of the archive is a prime goal for me).  It has some similar themes to what you see above but direct advice on things to think about when buying one for yourself.  I hope this isn’t too bad a cheat. 🙂

If the idea of dehydrating was interesting, check out our advice for buying a dehydrator.

So, is it worth it?

Let us know why you do it, why you don’t, won’t or will..

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Okay, it’s turning into quite the throwdown for our Pimp that Preserve contest!

Uncanny’s #7 is in the lead but only by a slim margin over our latecomer Kelley from EatLocalLondon!
Pretty much neck and neck for 3rd place so far is #6 the Harvest Kitchen Sister’s and #10 Laura from Cubitts Organics. but nibbling at their heels is #3 Rachelle!

Go check them out and make sure you get aaaaallllllll the way to the bottom to cast your vote. We’ll close off voting by 10am tomorrow morning and get the winner announced by lunch time! This has been a lot of fun, you’ve already got us thinking of the next big throwdown (sorry bobby flay).

Here’s a digest of links if you want to check out the whole Pimp that Preserve contest and inspiration:


Post #1 has some nice shots of “Canning and Preserving with Ashley English” – our prize for the winner, and a beautiful book

I had fun with the inspiration posts leading up the the contest:

Inspiration 1 – apple sauce for a favorite teacher

Inspiration 2 – a good use for a sock missing it’s mate

Inspiration 3 – oh dear it snowed

Inspiration 4 – don’t mess with texas?

Inspiration 5 – true north strong and free

Inspiration 6 – my mom’s red carpet contribution


now don’t forget to check out everyone’s hard work and cast your vote before 10am tomorrow!

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***I’m working on a post to announce the winner…but if you want a preview…head on over to our Facebook page! (it’s in the photos)***

We received so many great ideas for Pimpin’ Preserves, I think a lot of people are going to be happy to get some stylish looking edible gifts this Holiday season…so without further ado…Here are the entries! Have a look through and make sure to cast your vote at the bottom…the winner will be announced Friday December 17th and contacted via email so we can get the details and send them their prize….“Canning and Preserving with Ashley English”.

**Late entry!! UPDATE**  My email seems to have a hate-on for gmail lately, and I didn’t notice that this lovely entry was sent in on time from Kelly at Eat Local London….. but landed in my junk mail (insert sad emoticon). So we have a number 11 (my personal and favourite lucky number)….so let’s help her catch up on the votes! Kelly Snagged this great ribbon at Michaels and the paper is Amy Butler (love!) Such a pretty idea, definitely approprate for a birthday gift as well or even wedding favours! So scoot down to the bottom to the voting panel and submit your vote now…send it along to friends who might like some ideas as well.


This one is from Andrea…excellent use of crochet in jar pimpin’, and the green apple jelly has such a beautiful colour (and sounds delicious).

Heather and Colette used dried roses to tart up their port pear compote…I feel like a cup of tea and some scones served on one of those fancy silver trays in the background.

Rachelle adds allspice to her pickled yellow beans (we’re going to have to try that), she pimped up this great gift with a real acorn and and some leaf charms from a broken piece of jewellry….she told me it reminds her of fall and the last harvest of the garden…I agree (nice touch with the old crate in the background).

Tamir titled his entry ‘Busker Applesauce’…this is so much fun, the apple sauce is cozy and warm…and is clearly very talented. (I’m a big fan of the Ork poster used in the background – have to get one for my studio)

Stephanie sent us her “Flamenco Salsa”  and her “tongue is burning fiercely”…love it!

The Boyd Sisters sent us some neato pimped out pickled eggs…this one cracks me up (yeah, couldn’t resist!) Ridiculously cute! Go check out their blog The Harvest Kitchen Sisters….we’re well aquainted with the ‘country sister’…we’ve been enjoying our vegetables from Kawartha Ecological Growers thanks to her and her local food guru husband!

Number 7 comes from Lindsay from Uncanny (it’s uncanny how many people we know from Sackville!..sorry, i’m on a roll). The picture makes me think of summer, love the pretty card attached with a simple ribbon…it feels so fresh. Lindsay has some brandied vegan mincemeat on her site…tis the season.

Kaela from Local Kitchen did so many I had trouble choosing just 3…you can see everything she did on her blog Including a recipe on designing your own label…..I chose the 9 chili salsa because I love the radio active label and the dried chilli from her own CSA

I loved this one because she sourced this prettiness from her own back yard (and i’m envious…if i did that i’d have to use an old coffee cup and a discarded chip bag…boo)

Kaela dressed up her spicy garlic cucumber pickles for Hanukkah with some spare buttons and some beautiful bits of ribbon…super clean looking.

Number 9 comes from our friend Diana at Flohaus, she made this ‘preserve cozy’ out of bits of old sweaters (probably left over from her AWESOME contribution to the Chair Affair). There’s a little window in the top so you don’t miss the label (one of our business cards!) and it unzips to reveal the preserve…zuccini relish that inspired the colours of the cozy. I wish I was better at sewing! Diana has put up a post with instructions….

and finally (a nice even number) 10 is from Laura at Cubitts Organics (where you can order rare and heirloom seeds for your garden!). She had a great idea to repurpose old holiday cards (you could get tonnes of vintage ones on ebay)…i love the snowflake punch idea…it would show the gold or silver jar lid underneath.

Well that was fun! Now it’s time to vote:

If you missed our ìnspiration`posts, click here to see a list of all the posts in this series (and even more ideas on wrapping your jars).  We`d also love to get lots of comments to share with the brave souls who joined in on the fun – love them all..

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Flickr is a site that many are familiar with.  For those who are not, it is a website that allows people to share their photos with others.  If you click on any of the images on the right-had side of this screen (in the section labelled OUR PHOTOS), you will be transported to the photos we share in flickr (most of them having appeared here as well).

Although paid memberships to Flickr exist, many share photos with no charge at all.  You can view public photos without having an account.

Flickr also allows for groups – collections of people who share photos under a common theme.  There is a group dedicted to Jelly, Jam and Gelatin – stunning photos and great inspiration!  Definitely worth the time to check out.

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