Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to take a night and put up a few jars of jam. It was at the crossroads during summer where so many local fruits are ripe and just begging to be preserved. Some are enjoyed fresh, of course (usually with cream and in a variety of pastries), but the abundance all at once means some have to be put away to be enjoyed later. Strawberries, black currants, blueberries, raspberries, black caps, and sour cherries made an appearance and now that we're into August the peaches, apricots, and elderberries are ripening on the trees. It's sort of a blessing in disguise the tomatoes are slow to ripen this year (same with the corn) as the beans, beets, cucumbers, and everbearing fruits are keeping me busy enough.
When people see my selection of preserves they usually comment on the 'different' flavour combinations I have available. They way I see it, so many other people have 'regular' jam available for sale. Sometimes they make it themselves but more often than not they have someone else do it for them and slap their label on it. That being said, many of the businesses that do this give their own produce to the canner to use. With so much competition on the market for selling jams and preserves, I have to be different. Jars aren't cheap and neither are kitchen rental rates. Combine those expenses with the actual cost of the food such as premium produce (frequently hand-picked), exclusively locally sourced, often organically grown and you can see why it's much more economical for folks to make it themselves.
For those who are DIY'ers, here is the recipe for Raspberry Anise Jam. It's a combination of sweet and tart with a hint of liquorice flavour that comes from crushed anise seeds. For those who appreciate the craft and taste of small-batch preserves but don't have the time to put up their own, send me an email for prices and shipping rates.
I frequently wear an Ontario handmade and dyed headband when I'm cooking which has the phrase, "Stay mindful" imprinted on it. It's a reminder to stay in the moment and live life day-to-day, celebrating what is as it happens. I think about that phrase as the flour sticks to my forehead, dough pastes itself to my cuticles, two timers beep simultaneously, croissants all of a sudden speed up proofing, the dishwasher finishes a cycle, I remember that I forgot paper bags on the counter at home, I curse out loud because I ran out of baking powder, and a Dandy Warhol's song begins playing on the radio.
I can't help but live in the moment or else something will burn. And sometimes it does.
I was anticipating being able to return to the Horton Farmers' Market for this years opening weekend but unfortunately it's not going to work out. I will get there - it just won't be on Saturday.
In preparation for the new season, I had started several different ferments and cultures so that I would have some healthy and delicious probiotic products available for sale on Mother's Day. I've been sharing pictures and my progress on my Facebook page but I've neglected to post updates on the blog.
For my lack of sharing with non-Facebook users I apologize.
Along with water kefir tonic beverages, I've fermented sour pickles (using Ontario greenhouse cucumbers), another batch of kimchi, a ginger bug for preparing sodas, purple sauerkraut, and my proud achievement of the week: a successful batch of sauerkraut.
It's been a whirlwind of a week and a lot of changes are happening with Elgin Harvest. I've been feeling 'out of sorts' for the past few days but I'm looking forward to interacting with the crowds and friends for some much needed sharing and smiling.
For the past three years (almost four), I have been a vendor and very active volunteer with the St. Thomas Horton Farmers' Market. Through the market I've had the fortune to meet not only some incredibly unique artisans and passionate farmers, I've also had the fortune to meet and share my love of food with many of the customers that religiously attend the hustling and bustling farmers' market every Saturday morning from May through November.
St. Thomas Horton Farmers' Market is the little market that could. Run by a dedicated part-time market manager with help from generous volunteers and friends, the market is unique to this area in that it is a producer-only market. That means you either have to grow it or make it in order to be a vendor. The market is a small business incubator, has become a centralized community meeting place, and most importantly provides a lively, fun atmosphere with access to fresh and LOCAL foods and products. It's a welcomed contrast to the industrial manufacturing plants and fast food chains that can (and has) overshadowed the city in a monocultured cloud.
With Spring and the beginning of a new market season right around the corner, I know other vendors and market attendees are just itching to get back into the Saturday morning routine of picking up seasonal fruits & veggies, fresh baked goods, and artisanal crafts. While I wait for May to roll around, I'm going to make the best of my time by continuing to experiment with new recipes and culianary techniques and plan out my vegetable garden.
On Friday I shared a recipe on how to prepare and bake a simple no-knead bread. Since I have made the bread many times before, I decided to try another variation and that was to use the dough as the base for a pan pizza.
With a completely unplanned but fortunate bit of timing, the batch of preserved lemons I prepared in early February was due for a quality check and it was also the warmest day of the year (so far). The result: A fantastic, barbecued pan pizza with a moist & chewy thick crust (and crispy toasted bottom) topped with turkey, mushroom, bacon, basil, and preserved lemon.
Winter is back. Might as well celebrate it and take a gastronomical trip to Austria while the snow falls to the ground. Austria, also known as the "Eastern Kingdom", is a European mountainous country known for being located in the Alps. Being completely landlocked, Austria is surrounded by eight other countries including Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. The cultures and cuisines of Austria are inevitably influenced not only by its altitude and climate, but also by its neighbours.
You may be familiar with a few of Austria's beverages such as schnaaps, bocks or coffees, and you may be familiar with some of her savoury dishes such as wiener schnitzel, but Austria is also credited for several famous desserts, too. Flaky apple strudel and Viennese Chocolate Sachertorte (with the scripted 'Sacher' garnish) are probably the most recognized sweets. My personal favourite, the Linzertorte, is the inspiration for the recipe I'm sharing today - Linzer Cookies.
Put away the snow shovel and preheat the oven - it's time to do some baking.
Anyone who enjoys fine food and drink understands it takes time (and skill!) to develop flavour. The depth, complexity, and value of quality food and drink cannot be created in an instant. It's not found at the drive-thru and you won't find it in anything super-sized. I'm not just talking about aged wine, steak, or cheeses either. Even 'simplistic' food such as a ripe, juicy peach or a four-ingredient loaf of bread requires someone to tend the soil or knead the dough.
The ingredients in a great dish are important to the overall quality of a finished product, but equally important are the preparation methods. Farm fresh eggs will feel like rubber and smell like sulfur if you boil them for twenty minutes- no matter if you just made the most perfect Hollandaise sauce ever. Pie pastry needs to rest before rolling- even if you hand-milled the flour yourself from an heirloom variety of wheat grown using sustainable and organic practices.
Good food takes time!
With this knowledge, it was hard to contain my excitement and curiosity when I decided to attempt the preparation of kimchi, a Korean fermented vegetable sidedish/condiment. Two weeks minimum before it begins to taste "good"? No fancy equipment required? Full of bacteria, flavour and pro-biotics? More fermentation preservation? Sounds delicious to me. I'm sure it will be worth the wait, I told myself.
Now, is it ready yet?
Keeping along with the citrus and Moroccan theme from my last post (Moroccan Anise Bread and Blood Orange Marmalade), I thought I would introduce you to another delicious North African inspired food --preserved lemons. Used as a condiment in many Moroccan dishes, preserved lemons are easy to prepare, versatile for use in many dishes, and won't require you to bring out your gigantic canning pots. Instead of being processed in a hot-water bath or pressure canner, preserved lemons utilize other preservation techniques: salting and fermentation.
What are Preserved Lemons?
Preserved lemons are a North African (typically Moroccan) condiment made by cutting and salting lemons and letting them ferment a sealed container for several weeks. The growth of bacteria and yeasts softens the rind of the lemons and turns what was once bright and sharp tasting into a peel that is rich and rounded in flavour. Preserved lemons lend a unique and distinctive taste wherever used.
So Long, January. Hello, February.
The long, dark days of January have finally come to an end. With the arrival of February, the sun continues to rise just a little bit earlier, and set just a little bit later. Some folks may still be clinging to their New Year's resolutions and rituals after the first 31 days of the year, but February is a hard month to make it through if you chose to diet or restrict yourself from a certain type of food for the new year. If the wing-packed, nacho-loaded day of the Superbowl doesn't cause you to fall off the wagon, chocolate truffles and heart-shaped s'mores on Valentine's Day just might instead. I apologize in advance for the temptations I may invoke.
February brings more than just longer daylight hours and homemade marshmallows- February also brings the season for preserving marmalade. Although traditional marmalade is prepared using bitter Seville oranges from Spain, any citrus fruit can be simmered into a vibrant & refreshing preserve. Along with Seville Orange, Elgin Harvest offers Meyer Lemon Marmalade (with a sweeter lemon aroma) and Blood Orange Marmalade (with hints of raspberry). The two latter preserves aren't as bitter as the Seville variety, but they are all fruity, zesty, & delicious.
Thinking of these citrus fruits leads me to fantasize about warm sunny days, honey bees buzzing, and the sweet scents of blossoms floating through the air. My fantasy world wouldn't be complete without a few other 'requirements': all kitties & puppies would have a lap or hammock to sleep on, there would be no such thing as 'too much wine' or 'not enough time', and most importantly - my backyard would have a Noah's Ark-like orchard with avocado, fig, peach, pear, plum, grapefruit, cherry, lemon, lime, & orange trees. And since this is my fantasy, I would have a wood-burning oven in the backyard, too. My first breakfast in this new land? Moroccan Anise Bread with Blood Orange Marmalade.
A selection Elgin Harvest Preserves and Shortbread Cookies
How could you not want to eat this?
Day #15 is here and we have come to the end of our 15 Days of Elgin Christmas. As a chef who tries to make as much from scratch as possible, AND use as much locally sourced products as possible, I genuinely hope the past three weeks have inspired you to spend just 10% of your holiday budget on local, artisanal food products.
Eating. Drinking. Sharing.