You Can Too – Book Review

11 Jul

You Can Too

Last fall, I was introduced to cookbook author and fellow Maritimer, Elizabeth Peirce who was hard at work at finishing up a cookbook crafted to help Maritimers can, dehydrate, freeze, pickle, ferment or cellar their harvests. I was honoured and jumped at the chance to be a contributing author with two of my recipes that utilize great East Coast ingredients: rhubarb and strawberries.

Filled with practical and economical tips on how to extend the enjoyment of local produce, the book is laced with stories of local preservers and it’s as enjoyable as a cookbook as it is a narrative on the time-honoured tradition of preserving, an enthusiasm that has caught both old and young alike. In many instances, this passion for preserving extended beyond the personal/private use to benefit the community and provide lasting benefits for many. It was the reminder that preserving food is often more than just about storing food for the long haul; it’s about keeping or preserving memories and values that have lasting benefits to ourselves, our community and our environment.

I own a lot of canning cookbooks and I’m proud to have this one on my shelves.

It also makes fantastic addition to my hospital bag! We excitedly await the arrival of our Uncanny Twins and the ensuing adjustments of becoming a family of six. I stare longingly at my preserving pot and feel that anxious flutter when I watch more local produce arrive at the market. Instead of buying in bulk, I buy to enjoy for the moment. My few feeble attempts at preserving this summer was to make a batch of Rhubarb Rose Petal Jam that I made in honour of my two sweet twins and some rhubarb syrup to have on hand. Between the heat and standing on my feet, I realized quite quickly why I should definitely pass up preserving for a season.

Wishing you all the best of this busy season and happy preserving!

Gooseberry Coffee Cake

2 May
IMG_8637

Gooseberry Coffee Cake

It’s been a while.

This blog and uncanny itself are never far from my mind and I continue to be inspired by the beautiful, local and seasonal dishes that show up on various news feeds. I want to immediately react, I want to try them and I want them to inspire in me a new spinoff recipe. It has been a humbling experience to watch as elements of your life that you have passion for slowly recede and make way for more pressing concerns, like two small children and two more on the way. I lumber and huff and waddle my way through the day and I count my blessings when it reaches 7 p.m. and I can collapse on the couch and not move an inch.

Sometimes though, you can find a way to combine function with creativity. Over the summer, I diligently froze strawberries, black currants, raspberries, rhubarb and gooseberries with the helpful advice from Hitchhiking to Heaven served us well throughout the winter, but there is still more that needs used up. I work hard at preparing freezer meals for when the twins arrive and life gets chaotic, but when my freezer is already stuffed with fruit, it’s time to take action.

This recipe is simple and completely not my own. It’s a recipe that is handed down and floating around everywhere and I’m not sure who to credit. My recipe is from my mother in law and is called Lunar Rhubarb Cake. Actually out of rhubarb, gooseberries are a wonderful replacement since they maintain that tart/sweet balance and it’s easy to use frozen fruit and easy enough an almost 4-year old can help!

My Sous Chef

Gooseberry Coffee Cake

Unknown credit, but here’s a great recipe from Canadian Living .

1/2 cup softened butter

1 1/2  cups sugar (I used 1 cup)

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups flour (I used a GF blend)

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup butter milk

2 cups fresh or frozen gooseberries (tips and tails snipped)

Topping:

1 cup brown sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 cup softened butter

1. Grease a 9×13 pan and preheat oven to 350.

2. Cream butter and sugar together. Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth.

3. Combining your dry ingredients. Stir in your dry ingredients into your creamed sugar/butter mixture, alternating with the butter milk until combined.

4. Fold in your frozen gooseberries and pour into the pan and bake.

5. Combine brown sugar, cinnamon and butter until crumbly and dollop over the top of the cake. Bake for 45 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

Multiply Life by the Power of Two

18 Jan Tree Heart

“Adding up the total of a love that’s true, multiply life by the power of two.” ~ Indigo Girls

Tree Heart

Sometimes life is so mysterious and changes so quickly, you can’t make these things up if you tried. We found out, to our pleasant surprise that we were expecting baby #3. In early January, at our first ultrasound, the technician asked whether I could accurately read the screen and interpret what I was seeing. Since I was no expert (and since it kind of looked like feet), I answered no, I couldn’t figure it out. “Well, here’s Baby A and here’s Baby B”.

And just like that, life changed in a heartbeat. Heartbeats.

Our family of four will surge and swell to become a family of six. Toddler girl is excited to be a bigger, bigger sister. At only 14-months old, little toddler boy has no clue what’s coming. It will be a time of adjustment and growth, giving and taking, patience and understanding. There are increased medical risks for myself and the babies, but I hope and have faith in the close and attentive care of my new care providers. In amongst the swirl of emotions and feelings of dreadful inadequacy, I can’t help but marvel at life’s creative forces.

In honour of the New Year and in celebration of all good things, please celebrate with us. Until Valentine’s Day, please enjoy 10% preserves sold online at our Etsy Shop.

Happy New Year.

Thinking Outside the Jar: Strawberry Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream

21 Nov

Disclaimer: I feel like this recipe was obvious to everyone but me. If that’s the case, smile and shake your head at me. If not, read on!

This recipe was born out of necessity (yes!) for a piece of frozen crumbly gluten-free birthday chocolate cake that was screaming for a side kick. The obvious pairing of ice cream wasn’t available and I wasn’t about to make buttercream frosting for one, but this is where whipped cream came in handy.

It’s really, really simple:

1. Cool your whipping cream, your bowl and your beaters then whip it, whip it good.

2. Fold in your jam. Any kind of loose set jam, really. I’ve been eating my Strawberry Vanilla Bean with and on everything and it was perfect with chocolate cake. It has a really soft set and blended perfectly, but avoid the stiff jam/jelly and opt for something that will fold nicely into the cream and help it retain it’s airiness. Start with about 2:1 ratio of cream to jam and if you want more jam, add more, just remember that the more jam you add, the looser the cream will get.

I know it’s obvious, but think of the possibilities! Tomorrow, when our American friends are gobbling up their pumpkin pie, what about a big dollop of Spiced Apple Butter Whipped Cream? Heaven.

Let me know if you give this a try.

Until Then

14 Nov Baby Boy

After a very industrious and active summer of undertaking a large wholesale order for my fantastic new friends at River Orchard, taking up an intense running program and being present to my children, the summer moved at lightening speed. I looked forward to Autumn with great anticipation of preserving the harvest and taking a slower pace, since I had a freezer full of summer’s bounty that I could tackle at my leisure, using the helpful tips at Hitchhiking to Heaven.

I should have known that “the best laid schemes of mice and men/Go often awry” and that I should never become too comfortable with life. A life-changing illness in a dear friend has knocked me from my place of comfort and rendered me helpless. I walk around in a daze as my thoughts jump from my friend, to the meaning of life and suffering, to justice and fairness, randomness and design. I was lucky to fly out and visit her, stocking her freezer full of good food. Food made with love and prayers and good wishes that I trust will nourish and nurture her and her family. Each month, I send more jam, hoping that the sweetness of life will be hers.

Even in our sadness, life continues and we rejoice in what we have, here and now. My uncanny toddler girl turned 3 and my little uncanny boy turned one. They bring life and laughter and are always beacons of hope and know just how to sustain me. I’m sure before long, I’ll be back in the kitchen and back at the Sackville Farmers Market. Until then.

 

 

Peach Vanilla Prosecco Jelly (Canning as a Love Song)

16 Aug

Peach Prosecco Jelly

It’s peach season, one of my favourite seasons and while peaches aren’t local to our region, I can at least be kept in good supply of beautiful peaches from the Niagara region.  Mr. Uncanny and I would visit many of those orchards when we were young and early married, living as students in Toronto and vacationing in the wine region, drunk on love and a few too many wine samples.

Peaches bring back fond memories for us but even more so about our daughter. I don’t post a lot about our family. I respect their privacy and their inability to approve of the pictures or stories I’d post. It doesn’t make me any less proud of them though and I often wish I could crow their accomplishments all day long. Honey Bear and her brother are my heart’s delight and being able to stay home with them, while balancing my creative passion through uncanny is a gift that I know many parents would love to enjoy.

Honey Bear’s birthday falls in the height of peach season and in fact, I was in early labour with her when making a big batch of peach conserve. I was 5 days overdue and determined to have a real gritty early labour experience, complete with laundry and jam making. I’d stir through each 2 minute contraction, clutching my back and trying to concentrate getting the conserve to the perfect setting point. It did. I called it my Pre-Game Jam and gave it out to the nurses and doctor at the hospital, but one jar remains in my pantry and I can’t bring myself to open it.

To me, that is the essence of canning. You bottle a moment, a season, a feeling, a wish. Everything I dreamed about our first encounter, all my hopes about her childhood, all my best wishes for her as she grew into an adult. All of it, as I stirred and stirred in the morning before we’d meet.

So this jelly is a love song to our girl. She turns 3 and like this jelly, she continues to sparkle and shine with sweetness.

Peach Vanilla Prosecco Jelly

Yield: 3x250ml

3.5 lbs peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped (reserve the peach skins)

2 vanilla beans, split and caviar removed

2 cups sugar

1 cup prosecco

1 pouch of Certo liquid pectin

Directions:

1. Add vanilla beans and peach mixture to a slow simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, until softened, mashing with a potato masher.

2. Strain mixture in a jelly bag and measure out 1 cup of juice. (Save the pulp and the skin. I’ll tell you why in a minute.)

3. In a clean pot, add peach juice. prosecco and sugar. Stir and bring to a boil for a couple of minutes until all sugar has dissolved.

4. Add in liquid pectin and boil hard for one minute. Remove from heat and ladle into jars. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Voila!

** One of my favourite things to do with the peach pulp and skin is to turn it into a peach syrup, which I learned about from Homemade Trade. What a fantastic way to make those peaches stretch even further. There is still lots of flavour in the pulp and that vanilla bean still has ways to go. **

Cheers!

Peach Vanilla Prosecco Jelly on Punk   Domestics

Thinking Outside the Jar: Pepper Jelly Glazed Cheddar Scones

10 Jul

Pepper Jelly Glazed Cheddar Scones

I make a lot of preserves. I love selling at the Sackville Farmer’s Market and catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. There really is no better place to be on a Saturday morning. Each year, I make 20-30 different types of preserves and almost 400 jars of preserves. You’d think that I’d finally figure some things out, like, how to make a great jelly (strain, strain, strain!) or that if you don’t add enough underripe strawberries, you’ll never get a great set on a pectin-free strawberry jam. So, I continue to plod on, making rookie mistakes and plunking those jars of unsellable preserves in my pantry.

Well, I have almost 100 jars in my pantry. Too many. Way too many! Apparently, some lessons need to be learned over and over again.

Like jelly, especially pepper jelly. Maybe it’s just me, but when it’s hot and humid, I have the worst time getting a jelly to set properly. I’ve opened windows, I’ve closed windows and brought up a dehumidifier, I’ve tried canning first thing in the morning or really late at night and still, it can be endless jars of jelly that either set too quickly before I could gently tilt the jars and distribute the little bits or it’s a runny syrup. Often times, if it’s not a problem with the set, it’s a problem because I’m neither paying enough attention nor thinking through the steps and so another batch of preserves gets shipped off to the pantry.

This recipe utilizes one of those jars of unsellable jelly – a beautiful apple cider jelly and jalapeno jelly that is perfect and tasty but oh so cloudy. Natural apple cider has sediment and needs to be strained, preferably in a coffee filter, to make the jelly a beautiful amber hue. Since there is only so much pepper jelly one can eat on crackers, enter scones.

I’m a sucker for a sweet scone, but I had no idea a savoury scone could be so incredible. I made these for the end-of-the-year book club meeting with the additional jelly stirred into some cream cheese and ready to be slathered on the warm scones. They were flakey and rich and all the flavours worked well together. Even better that a lonely, neglected jar of jelly got a new life.

Pepper Jelly Glazed Cheddar Scones

Barely adapted from Canadian Living’s Green Onion and Cheddar Scones

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup cold butter, cubed

1 cup shredded extra old cheddar

1 egg

1 cup milk

2 tsp assorted fresh herbs - I used lemon thyme and chives

1/4 cup jalapeno apple cider pepper jelly, melted over low heat

Mix together dry ingredients and with a pastry knife, cut in the cold, cubed butter until it’s a coarse and crumbly mixture. Add in the cheese and herbs and stir.

In a separate bowl, whisk egg and milk together and pour over the dry mixture. Stir until barely combined and turn onto a lightly floured board and knead 10 times (Canadian Living is very specific on this and I’ve heard from other expert scone makers that ten is the magic number here). Roll or pat to about 3/4″ thick and cut out with a cookie cutter. I often use a 2″ round cutter as it seems the best size, or cut into fours for a traditional wedge shape. Place scones on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Glaze scones with melted jelly and bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Let cool before tucking in (that jelly is really hot and can scorch the roof of your mouth. Trust me on this.)

Enjoy!

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