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Seasonal Canning Co-op in the Works

March 20, 2012

Our snow is melting quickly and we can finally see several patches of the driveway!  Spring is on the horizon.  The switch from snowy blizzards to highs of plus 16C caught us off guard and while we should have expected it (because of our weird almost snowless northern winter) we didn’t. 

This rapid change in weather postponed our plans to tap our maples this past weekend.   We’re just not sure the sap will run well this week and we need about 100 gallons before we can start to boil.  Fingers crossed not all hope is lost, we could get another cold nip (but I doubt it).  And frankly, Matt and I are both okay to skip this Canadian tradition for a year and savour the few bottles of liquid gold we have stashed away.

Okay, on with what this post is really about a ” Seasonal Canning Co-op”  is in the works.  For those local souls (Muskoka, Ontario) who love to PRESERVE but would enjoy the company of fellow canners this might be the ticket for you.  Dave, the owner of Muskoka Meats on Hwy #11 North (just south of Gravenhurst) is passionate about everything local and he’s interested in providing canners (novice and beginners) with a  relaxed atmosphere where a bunch of like-minded people can take advantage of the summer glut.  With access and connections to all sorts of Ontario grown fruits and vegetables Dave’s facility may be the answer to providing canners with an excellent place to learn a few new techniques, pass on information, and enjoy time together “putting up”.  

Although, this “Canning Co-Operative” is still in the planning stage, Dave welcomes your thoughts, ideas, and interest to see if something can be created to take advantage of this summer’s produce!   The invitation is open to all preservationist (novice and beginners), times and dates will depend on the summer’s harvest, and the cost is yet to be determined. 

For those of you interested please contact Dave directly via email at dave@muskokameats.com.  He will be compiling a list of people who would like to take part in this canning group so drop him a line today! 

We would love to hear from our readers…. (1) Does anyone else participate in a canning co-operative or group?  (2)How does it work?  (3) Improvements?  Likes and dislikes?

Eat’n Up ~ Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

March 2, 2012

While some may feel the approach of spring, our grass and gardens are still below several feet of snow.  Yuck!  And, those constant grey skies looming over head are starting to wear on my nerves.  Even the coldest (-20C), windiest, sunny day is better than a blah and dreary warmer day (and by warmer I mean -3C).  Around these here parts we are in desperate need of a little pick me up.  Thankfully, we have just the jars of fruit to do the job; strawberries in light syrup and frozen rhubarb.  

I can almost imagine the warmth of the sunny spring day we picked and prepared the strawberries and rhubarb.  If there is anything to console someone with the winter blues it’s a fresh homemade pie.  The smell of the kitchen brightens even the dullest spirit.

RECIPE FOR STRAWBERRY RHUBARB PIE FILLING:

  • 4 cups fresh or frozen rhubarb; washed and cut into 1/2″-1″ pieces
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1L or quart jar of strawberries in light syrup
  1. In a large stainless steel or glass bowl combine frozen rhubarb with all of the dry ingredients.  Mix well making sure all fruit is well coated.  Let stand in a cool place for 15 minutes. 
  2. Add strawberries in light syrup to the rhubarb mixture and stir to combine.

RECIPE FOR 10 INCH DOUBLE PIE CRUST:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup lard
  • 6 tablespoons ice water
  1.  Sift together the flour and the salt.
  2. Add the vegetable shortening into the dry ingredients and blend well using a pastry blender. 
  3. Gradually add the ice water into the dough and combine until the consistency changes and the dough just holds together.
  4. Divide the dough in half and roll out into two equal circles.
  5. Line the 10″ pie plate with the pastry dough.
  6. Pour the fruit filling into the pie plate.
  7. Cut the second pastry circle into 3/4″ wide strips the length of  the 10″ pie plate.  Weave the lattice top over the pie filling, trim excess dough, and pinch the edges together.
  8. Bake in a pre-heated 400F oven for 35 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
  9. Let cool before slicing and serving.

This pie will brighten even the gloomiest winter day!

Preserving Projects for the Winter Months

February 5, 2012

When people think of  preserving food they often think of summer.  Seeds are planted, gardens are tended, and the abundance and variety of foods available during the summer months is incredible.  But, we’re here to remind you there are tons of canning projects to tackle during the winter months. 

Here in Northern Ontario our landscape is covered in snow for the better part of five months.  Our plants lay dormant and most of us shut ourselves in to hibernate.  Winter makes for the perfect time to commit to those preserving tasks which require more time, like soup.  Matt and I thoroughly relish spending Saturday and Sunday stirring over a huge pot of soup.  The process is time-consuming especially if your recipe calls for stock and pressure canning times are lengthy but the results are well worth the effort.  

Ontario grown root vegetables including rutabaga, carrots, turnips, and squash are hardy keepers and can be found in most grocery stores throughout the winter months.  So, think soup!  It’s a great winter project and there’s nothing like a steaming boil of soup to take away the chill on a cold winter’s day.  Here are two of our favorite soup recipes Tuscan Minestrone and Spicy Chick Pea and Butternut Squash.

 

Winter is also a great time to put up those foods you didn’t have time to deal with in the throes of canning season.  When the growing is good most of us can’t keep up with everything that’s harvested and some times the best way to manage your time during the summer is to freeze fruits and veggies you can tend later.  Now is later.  Dig deep into your freezer and  pull out your stock pile of elderberries, raspberries, strawberries or whatever didn’t make it into jars and take care of it while you have some extra time.   We froze over 9lbs of elderberries and can now spend the time making it into delicious jams and jellies.

Citrus is also everywhere so dive in head first and try your hand at making some bitter-sweet marmalade.  Whether you live in Canada or the United States (or further a field) now is the time to work with citrus.   The varieties are vast, providing you with a tremendous assortment of oranges (blood oranges, navel, valencia, cara cara) as well as different types of sweet grapefruits, lemons, and limes.  Skies the limit.  Over the past few years we’ve been fortunate to be visiting family in Florida during the hub of citrus harvest and we’ve made about ten different kinds.  A few of our favorites include Blood Orange Marmalade, or one with a little extra heat Bitter Heat 

While we are talking about Florida, let’s inspire those living in warmer climates to think about picking and preserving in-season fruits and vegetables.  In Florida strawberries, tomatoes, tomatillos, and peppers are ready to find their way into jars.  A few weeks ago, (while visiting family in Florida) we spent the day picking in the fields at Bedner’s Farm Fresh Market.  It’s awesome for a country Canadian girl to be hanging out in the dirt on a sunny afternoon (in the middle of winter) surrounded by so much preserving possibility and having the entire family embrace the adventure.  It was a great afternoon and everyone picked oodles of berries.  My sister-in-law was turning her gangs collection into jam and freezing the rest.  While my mom ended up doing the bulk of the work for the rest of us, washing and slicing over 12lbs of strawberries to dehydrate.  She’s become a master dehydrator.  

We would be remiss if we did not mention making tomatillo mexican salsa, tomato jam, tomato sauce, and pressure canning some stewed tomatoes.  We will have to wait until next August and September before our Ontario grown tomatoes and tomatillos are ready to preserve but for residents of Florida these darlings are calling out to be canned.  The above mentioned recipes are staples in our home and with each passing summer we put up more and more bushels as we find a greater number of recipes to include them in.  Next summer, we are going to tackle whole tomatoes which we’ll be able to use during the winter in some of our soups.

Hopefully, this has provided you with some food for thought and inspired you to think about canning all year-long.  In fact, we find the winter months the opportune time to preserve because there is less pressure to get the food out of the garden and into jars.  We have more time to focus on experimenting with recipes and our efforts are not as divided as they are in the summer when we are tending to the garden, property, and running our busy art business.

We’d love to hear about your winter preserving projects?  Where you live and what is available?

Single Malt Marmalade ~ A Toast to Robbie Burns

January 26, 2012

Scotland is one of our most favorite countries to visit.  The rugged lush green landscape is dotted with livestock, castles, and abbeys and in every town the people are welcoming and friendly.  It’s truly the place one can learn what the term “Highland Hospitality” means.  It’s been a few years since we were last there but at any time we are able to revisit it in our minds.  And we do!

Our next recipe is a sort of salute to Robert Burns, Scotland’s most famous poet, who resided in the town of Ayr in the 18th century (above a photo of his cottage).  Every year on or around the poet’s birthday (January 25, 1759) Scots (and those who wish they were) gather together to enjoy a feast of traditional Scottish dishes.  This feast typically includes haggis and a series of toasts where glasses are raised and whiskey is consumed.  While, a feast of haggis is not in the cards one of our favorite marmalade recipes is.

RECIPE FOR SINGLE MALT MARMALADE:

  • 6 valencia or cara cara oranges (these are both sweet oranges with thinner skin than the navel orange)
  • 1 Granny Smith apple; peeled, cored and grated
  • 4 cups carrots; peeled and finely grated; about 4 large carrots
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 large lemon;  juiced to equal approximately 1/3 of a cup
  • 1/4 cup single malt Scotch whiskey (only the good stuff for you Robbie)
  • 1/2 tsp whole allspice
  • 1 cinnamon stick; broken into pieces to fit spice ball
  1. Prepare for water bath canning.  The preparation time for this recipe is approximately 1 hour so start your water bath and sterilize your jars while cooking the marmalade.  Sterilizing jars in the over at 250F for 30 minutes is our preferred method.
  2. Place a plate and/or a few spoons in the freezer for set test.
  3. Place allspice and cinnamon pieces into a spiceball or double layered piece of cheesecloth.  Set aside.
  4. Wash oranges and lemon well.  Using a vegetable peeler remove the outer peel from both the oranges and the lemon.  Cut the citrus peel into thin strips using a pair of sharp scissors.  Note: the thickness of the peel is a personal choice and will affect the consistency of the marmalade.  We trim the citrus peel into very thin pieces and leave them long.  Set aside.
  5. Juice the peeled lemon and reserve the juice (should equal approximately 1/3 cup). 
  6. Working over a glass or stainless steel bowl, to collect any juice, remove the membrane of the orange from the pith.  Discard the white pith and seeds.
  7. Place orange segments into a large stainless steel saucepan.  Add grated apple, carrots, water, reserved orange and lemon peel and spiceball to the stainless steel saucepan.  Note: we use a very fine grater for the carrots ~ again it’s all about the texture you want to achieve with the finish product.
  8. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Reduce heat, cover and boil gently, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.  Add sugar and lemon juice and stir to combine well.  Boil rapidly, stirring often, until marmalade reaches the set point, approximately 20-25 minutes.  Do a set test using the plate and/or spoons from the freezer and dropping a dab of the marmalade on the plate.  Place back in the freezer for 1 minute, remove and run finger through the middle.  If it stays separated it is ready.  If not, continue boiling and check again in a few minutes. 
  9. Once marmalade has set stir in Scotch.
  10. Remove marmalade from the heat and discard spiceball.  Skim foam.
  11. Ladle hot marmalade into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Remove air bubbles and top up with marmalade, if necessary.  Wipe rims with a damp paper towel, center lids on jars and screw bands on adjusting so that they are just  finger-tip tight.  Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove lid and wait 5 minutes before removing jars to a folded towel on the counter.
  12. Check seals, label jars, and store.  Refrigerate any unsealed jars.

This marmalade is excellent and brings a smile to our faces every time we crack a jar (even if it does smell like Barbie dolls).   Just the name “single malt marmalade” reminds of us of our adventure in Scotland and how thoroughly we relished every experience.  We can’t wait to go back!

Put up Total:

  • 5 x 236mL regular mouth mason jars

Root Vegetable Soup

January 24, 2012

This is our 200th post.  Wow!  Really?  Yup.  Hard to believe!?!  Especially, since I’m not able to bring a meal together and Matt does all of our cooking.  However, when it comes to preserving the bounty I’m able to step up to the counter and get’er done. 

This journey really started as an effort to document our canning and preserving.  Along the way, it turned into something more, a kind of meeting place for like-minded people.  It’s been a stepping stone on a path of “PRESERVING passion” that’s led us to discover other fabulous blogs, fellow canners and foodies, and all of you, whose support and encouragement keeps us writing it all down.  A big thank you to all of you who choose to read, comment, and subscribe!!!

Over the last few months, I admit, I’ve lost my focus (just a little bit).  While we are still cooking, canning, and baking daily in our kitchen, it’s been a struggle to get on the computer to tell you about it.  Why?  Because, I’ve found my spare moments consumed by the birth of my fabulous growing nephew (and, I haven’t wanted to miss a moment).  Okay, there you have it.  I’ve turned to mush and become all loverish over my sister’s baby.  But, I’m back with this 200th post to say “we are still committed to sharing our recipes and canning practices and every attempt will be made to post at least once a week.”  So let’s get to it….

It’s common practice around these frigid parts to spend the winter months huddled inside by the fire making and consuming copious amounts of soup.  We did it last year and we vowed to do it again this year.  Some of the recipes we’ll share evolve out of an abundance of gifted ingredients.  Like this next recipe.  Our dear friend, arrived to our place for a dinner party carrying  multiple large boxes of varying home-grown squash.  Score! 

Squash is one of those vegetables with a tremendously long shelf life (if stored properly) but there comes a point when enough is enough and putting it into jars seems like the next natural step.  And, that’s what we did.

RECIPE FOR ROOT VEGETABLE SOUP:

  • 8 large carrots; coarsely sliced = 2lbs or 6 cups
  • 5 celery ribs; coarsely chopped = 12 oz or 3 cups
  • 3 large cooking onions; coarsely chopped = 20 oz or 5 cups
  • 1 large parsnip; chopped = 8 oz or 2 cups
  • 4 medium acorn squash; peeled and chopped = 2lb or 7 cups
  • 1 large pattison squash or summer squash; peeled and chopped = 2lb or 6 cups
  • 6 cloves garlic; peeled
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 10 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cans (340mL) V-8 juice
  • 1 L stewed tomatoes
  • 2 cups beer ~ we used Flying Monkeys Hoptical Illusion
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp Louisiana sauce
  1. Melt butter in a large stainless steel stockpot over medium heat.
  2. Add vegetables and saute for 15 minutes.
  3. Add remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.   Reduce heat and boil gently until vegetables are tender, about 40 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat.  In the pot, purée the soup using an immersion blender until smooth and creamy.  Or, working in batches using the food processor.  Don’t rush this step as the soup consistency is greatly improved by extending the pureeing time.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Ladle soup into hot sterilized jars leaving 1″ headspace.  Remove air bubbles and top up with soup if necessary.  Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars, then put a flat lid and ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so that it’s just finger-tight.
  6. Process in a pressure canner following directions carefully.  We pressure canned this soup at 10lbs of pressure for 75 minutes.  Please follow the instructions and guidelines outlined in your pressure canning manual.

There seems to be an endless array of squash out there so don’t be afraid to use what’s on hand.  There are no hard and fast rules and ingredients can be swapped or left out to suit your tastes. 

Put up Total (two batches):

  • 17 x 1Litre regular mouth mason jars

A New Year Wish

December 31, 2011

The merriment of the holidays will swell tonight as family and friends gather to celebrate the coming of a New Year.   So eat, drink, and be merry…tomorrow is the start of a New Year!

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