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Posts Tagged ‘Slow Food’

If you`ve swung by these parts to enter our contest and don`t have the patience to go through all the details below, here`s the nitty gritty: We`re giving away prizes to randomly to people helping us compete in a competition to get the word out on Sustainable Seafood.  Enter the contest by liking our video on Facebook, Tweeting links to the same video and asking people to like it or sharing it on Facebook (tag us in those posts so we know you`ve shared it).  One entry per action and multiple tweets or shares are allowed.

Happy Monday!

Remember this?

That was our video entry for the Ocean Wise Seafoodie contest.  We were selected as one of twelve finalists from Toronto to be possibly named the Ocean Wise Seafoodie.  We were awarded a dinner for two (Dana and I went last week) of sustainable Seafood at Starfish Restaurant in Toronto (a separate review of the restaurant and experience will follow this week).

Following dinner we were to embrace a final challenge – create a 60-second video which shared a message about sustainability that we thought was important, share something we learned from the chef, mention a bit about the meal we ate, introduce ourselves and… well, you get the idea – we had to pack one-minute with a lot of info.  We submitted our video last night (we’ll explain how to view it below).  Here’s a teaser from the video (yay to Dana who created some killer titles this time around):

The objective behind the contest is to raise awareness for Ocean Wise and sustainable seafood.  We are encouraged to use our social networks to share the video and to ask you to “LIKE” it on Facebook.  The video with the most likes at the end of the contest will be named the winner.  Since we’ll be on vacation for much of the voting round, we’re at a disadvantage to promote our video – so we’re hoping the combination of running our own contest and the awesomeness of you all who read this will help us get the message out.

Our main objective is to get the word out about something we feel passionate about (I am, after all, writing this message at 2:00am the first night of my vacation).  And because there`s some pretty cool prizes in for us if we win (a set of pots, a cooking lesson and another dinner) and because we were already treated to an amazing experience, we`re going to share the wealth and run a contest of our own – and help you get in on the action!

Well Preserved’s Sustainable Seafood Contest

The concept is simple – help us get the message out.  You will be entered in our contest as follows:

  1. Press Like our original video on Facebook (you can only do this once per person – Facebook won’t allow you to do otherwise).  The direct link to our video is here (there are others you can check out to – we were encouraged to link direct to our own video for self-interest :)).
  2. Every time you tweet or retweet the link to the video and ask people to like it (make sure to mention us by adding “@wellpreserved” so we know you’ve mentioned it out there.  Do this as many times as you’d like
  3. For every share on facebook (again add ‘@wellpreserved‘ or write on our wall that you’ve done so and we’ll see your link).

The contest runs between now and April 25th!

Here are the prizes we’re offering to our followers (with special thanks to our friends who have contributed):

  1. Bottomfeeder book by Tara Grescoe courtesy of Hooked (Hooked is Toronto’s only completely sustainable seafood store and there is very little, if anything, like it in the world – the link above goes to their thriving Facebook community – this one will take you to our review of what they do).  Dan (who owns Hooked with his wife, Chef Kristen), encouraged me to read this book to learn more about sustainable fish and the state of our oceans.  This book inspired me to shoot the first video for this contest in a hotel room in Glasgow.
  2. One of Shucker Paddy’s Pistol Grip Oyster Shuckers.  Shucker Paddy was one of our hosts and can be seen in the background of our movie.  He has created the most unique Oyster Knife in the world – after all, it is moulded in the likeness of his own hand.  This is a deluxe Oyster knife designed by a champion shucker (his world championship belts litter the restaurants basement like a prize fighter’s trophy room).  Here’s a review from The Globe and Mail and details from the man himself.
  3. Awesome seeds from Cubits.  Laura and her awesome organic seeds have come to the table – she’ll ship a care package of awesome seeds for herbs that go with fish: dill, cilantro, flat parsley, moss curled parsley and basil.  You’ll find Cubit’s all over the web – like on Facebook, Twitter, Etsy and their own blog. But you should check them out because they’re lovely people trying to make a difference and offering fabulous organic seeds for your garden (we’ve got some plans involving our packages and whole bunch of dirt coming up this year!0
  4. WellPreserved gift pack #1.  Consists of a TShirt, buttons and fridge magnets.  We`ll make sure you`re all decked out for summer!
  5. WellPreserved Gift Pack #2.  A signed, numbered Printers Proof of the Periodic Table of Waterbath Preserving.  This will be one of very few (and possibly THE only) printers proof that we will approve our mass run of posters for.  Given that the initial run is 500, this lucky winner will have something that`s a rare collectible.  The exact number of proofs will be determined by the process – you will essentially win the print that we use to approve the mass run of posters.  As the main run won`t be limited, this is truly something different.
  6. As a bonus: if we win the contest (the grand prize is a complete set of cookware, a cooking lesson and dinner at C5), we will donate $250 to Ocean Wise in the name of one of our entrants.

If that wasn`t enough – Ocean Wise is running it`s own draw for people who `like`a video so you`ll also have a chance to win a prize from them!

Help us get the word out – and good luck to all of us!

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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!

ITEM #1

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.

WANT MORE?

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.

ITEM #2

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).

Conclusion

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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Ocean Wise is a program that was founded and is supported by the Vancouver Aquarium.

Their goals center around educating and empowering consumers around the issues of sustainable seafood. They do this through several initiatives including:

Amongst other initiatives, Ocean Wise announced a contest open to Toronto Residents (plan to expand to other locations in the country are in the works, according to some of the tweets i had seen from them a few weeks back).  They have challenged Torontonians to make a 30-40 second video to introduce themselves, share their passion for sustainable seafood and make a case for being the “Ultimate Seafoodie.”

Round 2 will see 12 finalists independently going out for a sustainable meal in Toronto in early April and submitting a final video about the experience.

I’m not one for titles – but the chance to help spread the word on sustainable seafood was too good a chance to pass up.  I’ve had a bit of extra time on a recent business trip and thought it would be a great opportunity to learn about making a short video and adding our voice to the fire.

See what you think – and if you like it, I have a favour to ask of you below:

Part of the criteria is our ability to promote our video through social media.  If something in the video resonated with you, I would love your help by tweeting (hashtag is #owseafoodie) sharing, liking and commenting on it.  I’m not so much concerned with competing as much as I’d like to try to inspire people to think about the choices we make when it comes to our last major resource of wild food.

You can connect with Ocean Wise as follows:

We’ll be printing a regular column about the state of our ocean in the coming weeks – completing a bunch of research and checking facts and figures before proceeding.

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5 batches of preserves – just over 10 liters of goodies for the winter are ready and waiting for the winter ahead – what a weekend!

There are 58 bottles in all – sweet cherries, golden raspberry jam, multi-currant jelly, red raspberry jam and gooseberry jam.  None have added pectin and all are from Ontario.  We’ll be profiling each recipe over the next few weeks as we’re preparing for a trip to Nova Scotia to visit friends, family and celebrate a wedding that I am most excited to be going to.

The cherries were the most work by a mile, followed by the gooseberries.  The currants had to strain overnight but took very little work and raspberries are extremely simple.  We spent about $100 on fruit and active prep time was about 6 or 7 hours (most of which work can be divided by two or more people to cut about 50% of the overall time).

The sound of tins popping sealed has been like a small orchestra!  Each pop brings a smile to my face – it’s the sound of thing working.  It’s also the echoes of generations before me who preserved and canned fruits, vegetables and meat like this for most of modern history (and some which are even older).  This sense of tradition is a significant part of the process and why we preserve.  It does require us to slow down a bit and I feel a connection to the past as we go through the physical labour that remains virtually unchanged from that of my grandparents.

Dana commented on how proud I seemed to be as she caught me gazing over the “flock” of jars cooling on the table.  I am thrilled with the knowledge that we will be able to feast on the flavours of summer through the winter.  It’s a great knowing that we have enough fruit put away (including our other recent adventures) to last the winter.

As I removed the last cans from the sealing process, it occured to me that I was done preserving fruit for the year.  There will be pickles, beats, corn, beans, garlic and all sorts of other preserves but I felt a tinge of saddness as I reflected that this was the end of the jarring of fruit.  My saddness was short-lived as I remembered blueberries, peaches, grapes, apples and other treats that will soon come our way!

If you haven’t tried to preserve before – there is still plenty of time.  If you have, we’d love to hear your favourite things to preserve in the comments.

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