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Preserving Journal 2011

Here in Southern Ontario the window of availability for most produce worth preserving is just a few weeks long. That makes it difficult to refine recipes unless you keep a good journal that gets updated every year. What’s a blog for if not that sort of thing? So, here is my 2011 preserving round up post. (My instalment from 2009 can be found here.)

Wild Grape-Wild Apple, Hawthorn, and Wild Grape jelly.

Wild Grape-Wild Apple, Hawthorn, and Wild Grape jelly.

The Jellies: I was sceptical about whether these were worth the input in time and ingredients but they really are cool to look at and taste delicious. Also, the apple jelly (which I neglected to photograph) took home a ribbon from the Beaverton Fall Fair. For texture and taste the wild apple-wild grape was best. Small jars are key. Next year: Concentrate on recipes containing apple. (more…)

Off to the Fair

Today, a break from all the wine content (but please don’t forget to vote for my LCBO blog challenge entry) for a brief guide to entering your preserves for competition.

To be honest I had never done this before this year. So, take this as a rough beginner’s guide and not as expert and sage advice from on high.

I started my quest for a ribbon by asking We Sure Can! author Sarah Hood for her advice. Sarah was good enough to point me in the direction of fellow WSC contributors Shae Irving and Yvonne Tremblay. Yvonne is a five-time grand champion at The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair (“the big show” for fairs here in Southern Ontario) and Shae has a bunch of posts on her site Hitchhiking to Heaven about entering the Marin County Fair. These include results from this year and results from 2010 with her guide. (more…)

Preserving Party

Canning food can be a lot of work that goes much more easily when divided between many hands. After our massive tomato sauce session (two bushels worth) at the cottage last year this isn’t a new idea to me. This year was the first time, though, I’d gotten together with friends for a preserving party.

These sinks are ideal for shocking the skins off peaches.

These sinks are ideal for shocking the skins off peaches.

We were lucky that one of the group teaches at a small private school north of the city, King’s College School, that generously donated the use of their kitchen for our purposes. Working in what amounted to a small commercial kitchen, with ten full-power gas burners and a huge amount of counter space really helped. (more…)

Peach-Nectarine Butter

By all accounts the sunny and hot summer of 2010 has been a banner year for Niagara peaches and their cousin the nectarine.  I can’t remember a disappointing peach from the ones I have  picked up from farmers’ markets.  Though the smaller, wan ones in the new see-through tubs from the grocery store are a much less exciting story.

A good peach is, to me, four things: colourful (that is aesthetically pleasing in ways that don’t necessarily pertain to how certain colours indicate ripeness), juicy, sweet, and fragrantly peachy.  Juicy is difficult to preserve and the aesthetics can be managed but really only with whole or halved fruit preserved in syrup or spirits and I’ve already tried those methods this year with strawberries and cherries.  I considered another run at chutney like the one from last year but while tasty the problem there is that the spices dominate instead of the peaches.  Also, chutney is best made with under-ripe fruit and that’s impossible to find at this point in the season.  Peach jam would be good but what I finally decided on was peach-nectarine butter. (more…)

More Marmalade

Backlit by the winter sun, Seville orange marmalade

“If an epicure could remove by a wish, in quest of sensual gratifications, wherever he had supped he would breakfast in Scotland.” -Dr. Samuel Johnson as quoted in John Thorne’s Mouth Wide Open

In the chapter “Maximum Marmalade” in his book Mouth Wide Open, John Thorne describes marmalade as being the most masculine of breakfast preserves and shares his theory of how it evolved in Scotland to replace the morning snort of whisky.  To agree with Thorne’s writing on food is like agreeing with Hemingway on fishing and so I’ll just fall back on quoting his description:

“It is, after all, the only fruit preserve with an attitude problem.  Where the others are all lambs, this one is a lion.  Ordinarily, sugar works as a calmative, soothing everything into unctuous fruitiness.  With marmalade, it plays the lion tamer, which with whip and chair just manages to keep its bitterness at bay.”

If we accept this description–and I do–and extend the analogy further it goes without saying that if it’s suitably masculine to attend this breakfast circus by eating marmalade it has to be even more manly to go behind the scenes as the ringleader and create our own recipe.  For both scotch and marmalade we appreciate that the careful craftsmanship involved is integral to their balanced natures.  I don’t think I’ll ever make my own fifteen year-old whisky but in today’s post I’ll take another shot at creating a perfect marmalade recipe.  I’m after a finished product which assertively presents thick-cut, fragnant, yet bitter Seville orange peel as the main act and not just a bitter garnish suspended in a sweet jelly. (more…)