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Strawberry Marsala and Vanilla Bean Jam

27 Jun

Strawberries have arrived! For me, it’s the fruit that really marks the beginning of the summer season and I’ll go just about anywhere to get my hands on plenty of them. While my garden patch is doing well, it provides just enough for the occasional treat so it’s off for my yearly pilgrimage to the u-pick farm where I usually pick my weight in berries, put up the majority of them and freeze the rest. It’s labour intensive, but it’s brief and you have a year’s worth of sunshine to see you through to the following June.

This year, I was excited a new strawberry patch opened up nearby, saving me almost 1.5 hours of driving. Hick’s Berry Patch has beautifully laid out rows, each identified by their variety. It’s easy picking and the berries were wonderful.

Just don’t get lost en route…

An hour and 17 lbs of strawberries later and I’m armed and ready to start this year’s Strawberry Preservefest. While almost all of them were earmarked for Cocagne River Orchard, I saved the last bit for a spur-of-the-moment and late night attempt at something unique and really special. Born out of a necessity to use up some sweet Marsala wine I inadvertently bought for a Chicken Marsala dish, it’s a gorgeous, deep red jam with a beautiful set and rich flavour.

Strawberry Marsala and Vanilla Bean Jam

Strawberry Marsala and Vanilla Bean Jam

Yields: 2x250ml, 1x125ml

4 cups crushed strawberries

1.5 cups sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

1 vanilla bean pod, halved and seeds removed

1/4 cup sweet Marsala wine

1. In a large pot, stir vanilla bean seeds and pod in crushed strawberries. If possible, let sit and marinade for a couple of hours. Remove pod before boiling. (I rinse the pod off and put it in granulated sugar.)

2. Add sugar and bring strawberry/vanilla mixture and bring to a soft boil over medium heat. In about 10 minutes, check the gel point. Mine took about 14 minutes for a soft set and I tested using the frozen saucer test.

3. Once set to your liking, stir in 1/4 cup of Marsala wine and ladle into hot jars. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Strawberry Marsala and Vanilla Bean Jam on Punk   Domestics

What Grows Together, Goes Together

23 Jun

*****

Uncanny has some exciting news: For the first time in our history, we’ll be available for retail outside of the Sackville Farmer’s Market! We’re very excited to be working with Cocagne River Orchard a family run apple orchard located in beautiful Cocagne, New Brunswick. Owners Denis and Nicole are long-time supporters of buying local and living gently on the land and uncanny is delighted to be working together, highlighting the best of South-East New Brunswick. The orchard is available as a u-pick, so when you’re done picking apples from their beautiful property, please visit their boutique where you’ll find a wide range of uncanny products and other interesting finds.

*****

On the theme of growing and going together is a really special preserve that has been crafted from the abundance of local and readily available ingredients. A helpful way to look at flavour combinations is to tour your garden and look at what’s in season and chances are, those flavours will compliment each other. Right now the rhubarb season is winding down, the strawberries are turning red on the vine and the roses are in full bloom. All the makings of a lovely, summery preserve!

If you’ve never preserved with rose petals before, as I hadn’t, give it a try! Here are just a few benefits:

1. They make your kitchen smell like a fairy tale.

2. They are easy to harvest. Nip them in the bud stage and  give them a 2 minute bath in cool, soapy water and a thorough rinse to ensure no bug friends join the party. They open during the day and the petals are ready to fall out by the evening. Super easy harvesting.

3. The flavour is really subtle. I was worried the preserve would taste like a funeral home, but it added just the right amount of floral note. Don’t worry, this is not a jam you’ll be dabbing behind your ears!

My strawberries weren’t perfectly ripe but I wanted them included in the preserve so I opted for my homemade Strawberry Liqueur. All together, you have three beautifully pink ingredients.

I went with a French style with this preserve, letting the rhubarb macerate for a couple of days before boiling the syrup and adding the remaining ingredients back in. I think it’s a darling of a preserve.

Rhubarb Rose Petal Preserve

2 3/4 pounds of chopped rhubarb

2 3/4 cups sugar

juice of 2 lemons

1/2 cup rose petals or petals from 2 small roses. Please make sure they’re unsprayed.

**Optional: 2 tbsp Strawberry Liqueur **

1. Slice the rhubarb and toss sugar and juice of one lemon together and pour into 9×13 pan. Cover with parchment paper and refrigerate overnight.

2. The next morning, strain rhubarb mixture and pour juices into a large pan. Add the juice of your second lemon with the strained rhubarb juices. Bring to a boil and reduce by about half. Stir in rhubarb and fresh rose petals and stir over low-medium heat until the preserve is cooked to your liking. I like a bit of texture, so I reduced my liquid to the setting point and added the fruit in. It didn’t take long to finish and the jam is chunky. If you want a smoother, more stewed-like jam, don’t boil the rhubarb juice as much and give your rhubarb extra time to cook and break down.

3. Remove from heat and stir in your strawberry liqueur. Pour into sterilized jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Enjoy!

Perfect for Tea Time.

Rhubarb Rose Petal Preserve on Punk   Domestics

Can You Can It? – Highbush Blueberry Lemon Verbena Jam

7 Aug

For those unfamiliar with uncanny‘s whereabouts, we’re nestled at the farthest south-east tip of New Brunswick, on the border with Nova Scotia. Oxford, Nova Scotia, a little town about half an hour away that has the honour of being the wild blueberry capital of Canada. With our acidic soil, we produce some really great blueberries, both wild and highbush.

Highbush Blueberry

 

Since wild blueberry season is still a few weeks off and anxious for blueberries, my family and I decided to head out to a highbush blueberry u-pick. The highbush blueberry is about triple the size and is incredibly easy to pick. While I normally hold off until wild blueberry season, Mr. Uncanny has recently become a real homebrew whiz and after a very successful batch of strawberry wine, he decided to try his hand at blueberry wine and it turns out highbush is the way to go.

 

With a scant 1 lb remaining from the 8 lbs we picked, I decided to make the highbush blueberry shine with the help of some citrus and some citrusy herbal goodness growing in my garden. This jam was a lot of fun to make for two reasons: 1. I’ve never made a micro-mini batch of jam 2. Small batches are perfect for the fridge and I didn’t have the heat and steam of a boiling water bath on a hot summer day and 3. I rarely make jam for home consumption. People love to joke about how much jam we consume and it’s true, we love our jam and find unique ways to eat it, but truthfully, it’s the dribs and drabs after I’ve finished bottling them. Most jams get purchased and it’s only in the case of very large yields or double batches that I keep a jar for our use.

 

I humbly present to you my ode to the highbush blueberry and my entry into the Can You Can It? contest:

Highbush Blueberry Lemon Verbena Jam

Yield: 2×250 mL jars

1 lb highbush blueberries, washed and stemmed

1 lemon, quartered, sliced thinly with middle membrane removed (see photo)

7 leaves of lemon verbena, rinsed and sliced

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup water

Blueberries and Lemon Verbena

Lemons

 

Directions:

1. Put saucer in the freezer.

2. Place quartered, sliced lemon with 1/4 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water and simmer over low heat until lemons have softened, about 10 minutes.

3. Add in blueberries and lemon verbena and increase heat to medium.

4. Stir until blueberries begin to break down and add remaining 3/4 cup sugar.

5. Continue boiling over medium heat until the gel point is reached on your frozen plate test. For me, it was about 5 minutes.

6. Pour into jars and refigerate, or, pour into sterilized jars and boil in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Highblush Blueberry Lemon Verbena Jam on a Croissant

 

I enjoyed it almost straight away and admittedly, the citrus is outnumbering the lemon verbena, but I know better than to judge a jam by it’s first bite. Time and mellowing can do wonderful things with a jam and I have no doubt the herbal citrus flavour will shine through. If not, it’s still tasty! Enjoy!

Garden Tour and Sneak Peek

28 May

We went from a long, snowy winter to a green oasis in a short period of time. Each day brings new delight in the garden and the promise of some truly remarkable treats ahead. Very soon, we’ll be a regular at the Sackville Farmer’s Market capturing the best of local (and ultra-local!) fruits, vegetables and herbs.

Here’s a sneak peek at some upcoming preserves and how the edible garden’s looking:

Sage: The Crucial Ingredient in uncanny's Wine and Sage Mustard

Tomatoes

Tomatoes: Perfect for All Manners of Salsa

Red Currants: There's Nothing Like a Red Currant Jelly. Newly planted Black Currants in front.

Everbearing Strawberries: A Spring and Late Summer Harvest Ensures Plenty O' Strawberries

Rhubarb: Perfect for Sweet and Savoury Preserves

We also look forward to the coming years and enjoying newly planted elderberries, black currants and these beauties:

Haskap Bush, Year One

Raspberry Cane: Year One

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