What is Umami?
There is a food stuff that has been the epitome of umami for 2500 years. That food stuff is called koji and if you enjoy some Chinese, Korean or Japanese cuisine you will be familiar with its allure by just a mention. Before embarking on this leg of the koji journey, I'll first explain what umami is.
Umami is the name of what is now recognized as the fifth taste after sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Umami is described as savoury or meaty and causes salivation and is thought to be caused by glutamate (or glutamic acid). Glutamate is found in many foods, including vegetables such as ripe tomatoes and mushrooms, but also in meats. Although fresh/raw foods do contain glutamate, the intensity of umami is more pronounced if two or more rich sources of umami foods are combined together or if the foods are processed/cooked. Boiling, roasting, steaming, salting, smoking, dehydrating, and aging will bring out the umami flavours in food - think sundried tomatoes, chicken broth, or smoked oysters. Fermenting or culturing is another method of emphasizing or drawing out the taste of umami - think Parmesan cheese, Balsamic vinegar, or Proscuitto. A few other notable fermented foods containing high amounts of glutamate are soy sauce, tamari, sake, amazake, and miso. What makes these traditional Asian foodstuffs so spectacular is that they all share a common foodstuff - they are all fermented with the culture of koji.
Over the summer I was fortunate to participate in the creation of a new public television show in the St. Thomas area called We Are St. Thomas - Elgin. The show focuses on how we can all best help integrate immigrants into our communities while celebrating the diversity. Each episode is broken into three parts, the first and second showcasing a service in the community that is available to newcomers and a local business run by a newcomer. The two segments are hosted by Paul Jenkins. The third part of the show is culinary focused (hosted by myself) where a local immigrant prepares a dish from his or her native country.
The new television show on the local Rogers network was launched and celebrated at GCW Kitchens and Cabinetry on November 17, 2015. This show is a partnership between Elgin Middlesex Oxford Workforce Planning and Development Board, Rogers, and St. Thomas Elgin Local Immigration Partnership, funded by Ontario Trillium Foundation.
The 3rd episode is airing currently on Rogers TV in St. Thomas. Plans are in the works to air the show in the Eastern part of the county through a partnership with Eastlink. A total of 6 episodes was filmed in 2015 with a second season planned for 2016.
In the early spring a work relationship drastically changed. A project I fully supported was not to be and I chose to deal with it and make the best of the situation.
There were a few challenges I wanted to accomplish this growing season, no matter what my work situation was, and most of them included sowing, growing, harvesting, preparing, and preserving plenty of plants and flowers. Being connected to the food I wanted to eat and prepare is integral to my career goals but also personal; I want to rely less and less on imported foods during the winter months.
I'm fortunate to have some very supportive people in my life. They understand the needs to experiment, want me to to be healthy, and want to see me be successful in business ventures. I researched, I sourced, I bought seeds. Lots of seeds. And I prepared garden beds. Then another. Then another.
With three gardens to take care of, it's easy to see where the past four months have gone. I just look at all the produce in my fridge and short tan lines for reminders.
Creative Aging Week is June 1-7. The Springfield Library is hosting a couple of special events in celebration of the 50+ crowd and I will happily be a part of it. Join me on Thursday, June 4 where we'll cook a healthy and delicious lunch loaded with local and seasonal fare. Pre-register at the library to save your seat. We'll have the best tasting lunch in the county!
Goat Cheese Dip
The latest issue of Relish Elgin has just been published after a winter hiatus. I've been contributing a recipe, article, and photographs regarding local food in the region for the past three years and it's always a confidence boost to see something with my name on it in print.
I try to keep the recipes simple enough for novice cooks to want to attempt, unique enough to be different from what everyone else is doing, and always features a seasonal or regional food item. Try it and let me know what you think.
Another Bake Day has been schedule for May 26. You can view the baking list here. Ordering is as simple as sending me an email with what you'd like to reserve then coming to the oven to pickup on the day of the bake.
One of the items that will be baked is a dense, seeded sourdough loaf prepared with sprouted wheat kernels, beer, and more organic seeds than organic rye & spelt flours called rugbrød. What can you do with rugbrød?
You can use this dense rye sourdough bread as the foundation for Smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches).
1. Hummus, cucumber
2. Butter, radish, dried kraut
3. Ricotta, asparagus, preserved lemon
4. Cream cheese, smoked salmon
5. Avocado, black bean, fermented corn relish
6. Mayo, eggs, bacon, mache
The above section was paraphrased from the Cultured Pickle Shop in Berkeley, CA.
I'm pretty excited about beginning a nukadoko again. An attempt was made a couple of years ago using wheat bran but I couldn't get into the daily habit of tending to the bed and had to give it up. Now that I have the space and have sourced organic rice bran, the plan is to keep the pot in chore rotation along with my other ferments (and kitties and plants). Imagine placing a couple of beans or asparagus spears in the nuka in the morning then pulling the earthy and meaty pickles out in time to enjoy with dinner that very same day. Looking forward to it!
Chef Cindy serves up science in St. Thomas
The May 14, 2015 edition of the St. Thomas/Elgin Weekly News featured an article on myself and Elgin Harvest. I love this oven!
While attempting to figure out 'what's next' (Build a kitchen instead of renting? Go work for someone else?), Spring came along and told me to hurry up.
The month of April and the first half of May saw me house & dogsitting which conveniently offered plenty of time to hike around local wooded areas giving myself and the dog some much needed exercise. While we walked (or in Folly's case, chased wild turkeys) we watched the ground for constant new growth and did a little soul searching.
Earth Day today. In between tending vegetable and flower seedlings that will eventually be planted in gardens and pots, I've been taking daily hikes while I'm dog-sitting to explore and scope out this years foraging possibilities. I've found more ramps than I'll ever be able to process or consume (send me an email if you want to purchase any) and am using the time watch Mother Nature unfold from winter into spring. It snowed today but I'm going by the calendar date, not the weather forecast. Morels are on my wish-list for 2015 and I think I may have found a few places to keep watch in the next coming weeks. I could be sitting in an office, or standing in a kitchen, but playing in the soil seems like the right place for me to be right now.
I had to Google-fu this plant. While looking at pictures for another mystery green this one popped up which I wanted to ID anyway. It's Bloodroot. Has some medicinal properties, probably poisonous. The red sap was used by Indigenous People's to dye fabrics. Really distinctive leaf shape and unusual flower in that it blooms often before the leaves unfurl.
This plant was a stumper for me. Really textured leaves. Almost like spinach but larger with deeper ridges. Another Google-fu for spring + weed + rosette turned up common teasel. Those thistles (I think I've been saying it wrong my entire life - should be teasel??) you see in late summer/early fall with the purple tinge? This is the plant they come from.
A new partnership is being celebrated in St. Thomas with a focus on food and community. I attended the launch of Food Works yesterday at the Destination Church where myself and several other local businesses donated their time and lunch to attendees. I'm really excited for this opportunity and what it can bring for people in the city. Here is a link the an article printed in the St. Thomas Times Journal.
Soup's On - St. Thomas, ON
Thursday, February 5, 12 local businesses from the St. Thomas area will be donating their time and soup to serve up samples at a fundraiser for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. I think it's going to be the greatest lunch going in the city as for only $5 you get to sample so many types of soups and then cast your ballot on what was your favourite. I will be attending on behalf of Our Little Farm CSA with Brigitte and we're looking forward to it! Mark will be emceeing the event so it's bound to be lively and a lot of fun. Soup's On (link to the Facebook page)
Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Convention
Some other big news - I will be a guest speaker at this year's Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Convention in Niagara Falls!
This past fall I was approached by Christine, the manager for the outdoor Covent Garden Market in London (where I was a vender), and she asked on behalf of Farmers' Markets Ontario if I would be interested in being a part of the convention. Well, there wasn't anyway I would want to pass up this opportunity so I will be giving a presentation on farmers' markets from my perspective as a chef. It's challenging to keep just one perspective though as I've been a vendor, on a market board of directors, and now work on a farm. It's going to be out of this world to be around so many market enthusiasts in once place! The convention is later this month (February 18, 19).
A write up on the event with bio's on the speakers (me included!) can be found on the Farmers' Markets Ontario website.
Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Convention
The Grower is a horticultural publication distributed to 17 000 farmers across Canada. In the February edition there is a couple of articles focusing on the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Convention. In one of those articles the editor contacted me for an interview about a few of the topics i will be covering during my presentation. A few of those topics: our CSA, my lack of experience as a gardener (haha!) and the wood-burning oven we have at the farm. Sweet! You can read the article by viewing the pdf onThe Grower website. I received one copy in the mail but if anyone knows where I can pick up a few more I would love to get my hands on them.
Wood-fired Oven Bake - Our Little Farm CSA
This coming Tuesday, February 10, we're firing up the wood-burning oven at the farm to bake naturally leavened sourdough bread prepared with locally milled whole grain flours, maple-bacon buttertarts, salted chocolate rye brownies and a few other treats. We are accepting pre-orders until Saturday, Feb. 7 and everyone is welcome to order. More details are found on the website. So exciting!
Our Little Farm CSA website
Eating. Drinking. Sharing.