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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!

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.

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

Hobo Rhubarb

2 Jun

I believe that one of the most important reasons to buy and eat local is to learn the narrative behind your food. It’s the story of how that food came to be, who grew or tended it, how hard they had to work and why that food must be enjoyed in its proper time and season. While grocery store food also has a narrative, you can bet it won’t have as much flare. It may be a story of food grown thousands of kilometers away, loss of diversity due to monocrops, undervalued and underpaid labour and poor stewardship of the land.

When I’m not growing it myself, I try to buy as much local produce as I can. Not only does it feel good to buy from friends and neighbours, but I also like learning the story behind the produce. It helps me value the product and delight in the end product and it fuels my passion for sharing my preserves with others. I have been on the receiving end of very generous gifts of fruit or offers to come help myself to leftover fruit and most times, those offers come with a story.

Like hobo rhubarb.

I was admiring the rhubarb patch at my local nursery, when the nursery owner mentioned I could help myself, warning me that it was the green, thicker stalks, which I find perfect for chutney. She called it “hobo rhubarb” as that patch was a gift from her neighbour who received that crown of rhubarb back in the 1920s during the Depression. The railway that runs from Montreal to Halifax goes through Sackville and when work was scarce, men would ride the rails looking for work. In exchange for a bit of work or bite to eat, they would offer whatever they could. In this instance, it was a crown of rhubarb.

I’m not exactly sure what I’ll make as there are plenty of great suggestions at Punk Domestics, but whatever shape it takes, that rhubarb will continue to tell stories and food becomes alive with meaning and celebration. That’s my kind of food!

Seasons Greetings

23 Dec

It’s been such an exciting year for us at uncanny preserves! Another happy and successful summer at the Sackville Farmer’s Market and the sheer joy of  participating in a community pillar. The Farmer’s Market really is the heart of Sackville on a Saturday morning and you must budget at least an extra 30 minutes to catch up with all the friends you’ll meet there. I appreciate the kindness and generosity of the friends, customers and vendors at the Market.

I also give thanks for the wonderful online community that has shared their passion for preserving with me. The creativity continues to inspire and challenge me to keep trying new things. I can’t wait to see what 2012 brings!

It was also a banner year for our family as we welcomed our son last month. While life has yet to find a groove and rhythm, I wouldn’t change it for the world and am relieved that when life feels chaotic, our pantry is stocked with delicious, homemade and lovingly crafted preserves to keep our meals interesting.

From our family to yours, we wish you the best of the season and many blessings in the coming year.

Fall Back, Spring Forward

23 Sep

Early fall is bombarded with canning projects and a last minute flurry of activity to get prepared for the winter. If you’re like me, you’ve still got a long to-do list and it’s satisfying to cross another one off your list (until, you see one more recipe you must try before the season ends!).

Today’s post was completely inspired by Well Preserved’s celebration of its 1000 post. That is a level of committment I can’t begin to imagine. Dana and Joel have occupations and I’m sure a life that keeps them hopping. For many, blogging is an enjoyable past time and a way to connect with old and new friends. Their post today celebrated their past and laid a path to the future: projects and new web designs they have in store. It got me thinking of my own journey and were it’s going.

For those that don’t know, Mr. Uncanny and I moved to Sackville, New Brunswick for his first job out of school back in 2007. I was (and still am) a student, but deliberately completed my Masters level coursework and knew I could write my paper and complete the two internships needed to complete the degree via distance edcuation. That left us free to look across the country at jobs and we were delighted to be called to the Maritimes. We packed our Civic to the brim, leaving just enough room for our cat and headed out on the 15 hour journey across Ontario to our new home. This February marks five years of living on the East Coast, our cat is gone and in her place are three new kittens, we have a 2 year old daughter we nick-name Honey Bear and we’re expected our next child in the coming weeks. We left downtown Toronto for a small subdivision with almost 1/3rd of an acre, which has given us opportunity to try our hand at a very modest attempt at homesteading.

Within my first year being here, something about this slower pace to life got me thinking about preserves. Speaking with several senior members of my community, I realized there was a wealth of opportunity to learn the skills needed to can and after my first hands-on tutorial of Rhubarb Chutney, I was hooked and I haven’t looked back. This summer and last, I was delighted to sell my preserves at our Sackville Market and rejoiced in getting to meet so many members of the community, chat with vendors and share with others a passion for preserving the past with an eye to the future and sustaining ourselves with the goodness New Brunswick offers.

The past two years, I’ve made 100s of different types of preserves: chutneys, conserves, jams, jellies, preserves, mustards, pie fillings, mincemeats, butters and more. I’ve also learned how to pressure can and put up our garden harvest to enjoy in the winter. While preserving will always have a place in my heart, I’m excited to look ahead to the new skills I want to learn:

  • charcuterie, particularly sausage making
  • cheese making
  • drying
  • to become more comfortable pressure canning
  • to experiment more in preserve making – I want to push boundaries with flavour combinations (like my yet-to-be-determined-how-I-feel-about-it Caramel Rhubarb with Blood Orange)
  • continue to experiment with using sweet and savoury preserves in everyday cooking and baking
  • don’t let preserves dwindle in cold, dank spaces. If someone groans when you ask them to fetch you a jam, then they’re in the wrong spot!

To the last goal, I’ve already made the following changes: Moving my preserves from my groddy, dank cold storage to a cabinet in the basement so I have better access to my stock and don’t scare my friends when I invite them to help themselves. It’s not a perfect solution; as you can see, it’s clearly a laundry cabinet, but I can quickly survey my inventory and delight in the variety.

New Home of Our Preserves

Better Visibility

Our Fancy Labels

Scary Cold Storage

I’m also getting to work on conquering my pressure canning fears of deviating from my Presto manual’s recipes and today, I pressure canned this gorgeous soup. I was intending to pressure can it all along, but a quick Google search and I was confused – was the texture too dense to can properly? Canning guru’s Putting up with the Turnbulls pressure canned a soup very much like mine and after reading some advice on our Facebook page, I thinned it out and canned it. I feel safe that I took all the necessary precautions and processed it for a very long 85 minutes. We sampled some for lunch and it was incredible. Recipe found here, at our sister blog 100 Mile Locavores, a blog we started when our family did the 100 Mile Challenge last winter.

Autumn Harvest Soup

As we wrap-up the summer and reflect on our endeavours, what goals do you have in mind?

Preserving Tradition

21 Sep

As a perpetual graduate student, I’ve had plenty of years to reflect, study and ponder new ideas and one area I often return to is the role of narratives in our lives. Narratives help define who we are and how we translate that to others. In times of tragedy, in times of joy and in the mundane day-to-day activities, our stories help root us to a particular time and place. These narrative traditions often come up with family and friends, when we  gather to recount tales, share our hopes and envision our futures.

Family traditions around food is just one way that narrative gets told, even if no story accompanies the meal. A simple dish, rooted in tradition and history conveys a story and helps remind us of our origins. A dish of pasta, a bowl of chowder or  fresh-baked bread are just examples of food that are imbued with memory and are so powerful that the initial aromas are enough to transport you to a certain time and place and hold memories of people who share in those traditions.

One such tradition in my family, that I fear is at risk of getting lost, is my Aunt’s fruit cake. I have no idea how she makes it and I’ve yet to receive the recipe, but I’ve found something similar and I’m determined not to let this tradition fade away. Fruit cake is controversial in that you either love it, or you hate it. Frankly, what’s not to love? It has dried fruit, lots of booze, a thick layer of icing and is so rich you can only eat a small slice. It’s the epitome of the holidays – excess, indulgence and richness. Growing up, I remember receiving fruit cakes almost every year and while my brother and I would let out a collective groan, when I was preparing for my wedding, this cake was the first thing that came to mind.

While I was married only 8 years ago, handing out wrapped pieces of fruit cake was definitely a dying tradition and yet, sharing that family tradition with my guests felt important and I was thrilled my Aunt spent months preparing, baking and wrapping slivers for our guests. Suddenly, it felt important to share those family traditions with others. Since then, I don’t recall ever having her fruit cake and I missed the dark, dense cake. Each year, I vow to make it and stumble upon a recipe way too late, forgetting how long the cake needs to steep and develop flavours.

But not this year. This year, I’m on it. This year, I’m getting started on keeping up the tradition and learning more about how my aunt got this recipe. It’s not your typical fruit cake, in fact, it’s a Guyanese fruit cake. My grandmother, born in then British Guyana, brought several Caribbean inspired recipes with her when she moved to Canada and I grew up on the tradition of Pepperpots, Goat Curry and Oxtail Stew. Guyanese fruit cake was no exception, except that was one thing our family never made, leaving it to my Aunt to supply us with our Christmas treat. I’m excited to let the story develop and upholding the cake tradition, sharing it with my own children and telling them the story of their Great-Aunt’s enduring kindness, how their Great-Grandmother bravely followed her heart and voyaged to Canada and how their own Mama was taught as a child that food has the power to convey love, compassion and community.

Here’s part one of Guyanese Fruit Cake that begins its initial process of hanging out in a boozy bath for the next couple months. I’m following this recipe, exactly. It comes from Canadian Living, that had a special on fruit cakes in the December 2009 issue and is called Rheanna’s Gramma’s Guide Cake.

Dried Fruit Goodness

Dried Fruit Puree, Ready for a Booze Bath

Like preserves that need time for flavours to develop and mellow, this dried fruit and rum mixture will need until mid-November for the best possible flavour. I hope by that point, the next member of the family will be here to partake in the family tradition. I hope to teach him/her about their family and the roots that hold them in a community of love and adventure.

New York, New York

28 Aug

Rockefeller Plaza

**I’m finishing up this post, just as New York is cleaning up after Hurricane Irene and we await our own fallout as the storm heads north. I’m grateful our trip was last weekend, but mindful of all the people this has affected and remain on watch to ensure friends along the coast are safe.**

As many of the Facebook group members can attest, I’ve been looking forward to this trip for months. While many seem to enjoy the luxury of travel, the last big trip Mr. Uncanny and I enjoyed was our honeymoon many moons ago. This trip was created from a spur of the moment realization that we will very soon be the parents of 2 very small children and I will most likely need to be on-call for close to 2 years with our second child. Seeing that we were already planning a trip to Ontario to visit our new neice, I realized it might be possible to jet off for a couple days, sans toddler.

Admittedly, I’ve never been away from my daughter for longer than 8 hours and definitely not overnight, so I was equally anxious and excited at the possibility of sleeping on my own schedule and actually enjoying a flight without a wiggling, shrieking toddler in my lap. I also knew I was going to miss our bedtime routines, the hugs and kisses and the whispers of “I love you, Mama”.

We had a few goals in mind for our babymoon: eat, walk, sight-see and enjoy. We accomplished that and more. Almost 4 days on a limited budget wasn’t nearly enough time to get to all the restaurants we wanted, but we managed to eat some great food and eyeballed a thousand other restaurants we may get to one day. We also made sure to find markets to enjoy lots of fresh, local fruit that always tastes flat and flabby by the time we get it in Sackville.

So, here are some highlights from our trip!

Pastrami on Rye at Katz's Deli

Us and a thousand other tourists seem to have one thing in mind: Pastrami on Rye, yes to mustard. Crazy busy, crazy good.

Il Labratorio Del Gelato

At the advice of David Lebovitz and some great luck, this fantastic gelato joint is right across the street from Katz. Perfect lunch and dessert. Walk a little further down the street on East Houston and you’ll find Russ and Daughters, which has a fine assortment of lox and cream cheese in bulk, as well as some delicious Babkas and if you’re lucky, as we were, you’ll have a celebrity sighting. Turns out, Sacha Baron Cohen is also a fan of their lox.

Seriously Tasty Croissant

So while our fantastic hotel served breakfast, it was definitely your standard fare and usually by mid-morning, you were hankering for a nosh, especially with all the walking. Thankfully, Dean and Deluca was right at the corner of our block and it became a frequent stop for seriously tasty coffee (which I often got lectured to about the perils of drinking coffee while pregnant) and pastries. I can personally attest to the amazingness of their croissants, toasted coconut doughnut and carrot cake doughnut. Yes, I’m a pig.

Lombardi`s Pizza

While totally another tourist trap, I’m so glad we made the trip to Lombardi’s Pizza. Their pizza was unbelievably good; the crust is crispy and the perfect amount of chewy, thanks to its coal fired oven. Key basic ingredients, given the right amount of care amounted to a fabulous experience and I didn’t walk away feeling the need to down a litre of water to deal with the high sodium.

Dinner a la Eataly

The Penultimate Cupcake: Magnolia Bakery

Most evenings were spent grabbing food on the go and bringing it back to our suite to reheat and enjoy at our leisure and in my case, it meant sitting in my pyjamas, watching Star Trek and falling asleep around 8 p.m. So much walking! While the food was incredible, there is so much more to NYC.

Like this:

Brooklyn Bridge

Flatiron Building

I Couldn't Resist.

The Metropolitan Musuem of Art

Me and Mr. Uncanny at Times Square

There you have it! It was an incredible 4 days and it was just the rejuvenation we needed before we embark on parenting another child. I would go back in a heartbeat and hope to introduce our kids to the sights and sounds of New York City before long. Thanks again to everyone who contributed their recommendations on places to eat, stay and things to see!

Beaujolais Nouveau est Arrive!

19 Nov

It's Here!

The third Thursday of every year is celebrated by wine lovers across the globe and for good reason: It’s a grand tradition and a great excuse to drink some wine! On that third Thursday at midnight, bottles of Beaujolais nouveau is shipped all around the world so everyone has a chance to celebrate the arrival of the first fruits together. Fun!

Beaujolais is very young, very fresh and needs to be consumed quite quickly. You’re not looking for depth of character, but more for a hint or promise of what’s to come from  this year’s vintage. It’s also a chance to rejoice in the harvest, to sit back and relax and reflect on all that hard work you did over the summer and enjoy the fruits of your labour. So enjoy, toast your efforts and celebrate with Francophones and vinophiles around the world that Beaujolais nouveau est arrive!

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