What’s in a conserve….

In my attempt to overcome my fear of Pomona pectin…ok fear might be too strong a word, but let’s just say, the last time I attempted using it for a habanero jelly it was not only stiff as a board, but granular as well, Ugg! So I decided to jump back in and try something that might be a little more forgiving with using pectin…so I found a recipe for conserve.

If you are like me, I tend to use some canning terms pretty loosely like jam vs. preserves and vinegar pickles vs. fermented pickles. But I hadn’t really looked into making a conserve before until I pulled out my Pomona preserving book. And I thought to myself, well, looking at the ingredients, it looks like a chutney. So what’s the difference?


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A Flurry of Florets

When I heard that conventional cauliflower is actually quite hard to grow for the small organic farmer (weed management is a big issue), I needn’t have worried I wouldn’t be seeing any of the Brassicaceae turning up at all at my local market. I spied some lovely and almost Sci-Fi looking Romanseco cauliflower, which I thought would be happy being pickled.



I used Marisa McLellan’s recipe of “Lemony Pickled Cauliflower” Continue reading

Jump Start to BBQ Season

Well anyone here in Ontario knows by now we’ve had rain, a LOT of rain. I mean deluge-overflowing-Lake Ontario rising-rain. Hardly inspiring for the local harvest (though the gardens do seem lush even if the fields are sodden). With everyone desperate to jump into outdoor living and bbq season, it seems cruel that the principal ingredient in BBQ sauce, namely tomatoes, are a long way off from hitting the farmers markets.

While tomatoes may be the star, rhubarb, abundant in spring, can play a surprising supporting role. The tartness of taste and silkiness in texture, are a delightful stand in for the Rhubarbbbqusual tomato based sauce. With a slight adjustment to a chutney recipe, this sauce will stand up to the coals and lend a fruity punch to grilled meats and vegetables.

Based on Andrea Chessman’s Sweet Tart Rhubarb Chutney recipe from her Pickled Pantry I’ve tweaked it a bit to seem more in keeping with the bbq sauce texture.* Here’s the recipe: Makes about 6 x 250 ml. (half pint) jars

2-1/2 lbs fresh rhubarb (about 8 cups)
1 medium onion chopped finely
1 cup of molasses
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 TBS peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves
1 smoked pepper (optional)
1 TBS tomato paste

1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cardamom seeds
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp pickling salt

Toast the spices in a Dutch oven or saucepan for a minute or so, then add all the ingredients, bring to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes until the rhubarb is broken down. Take an immersion blender and blend thoroughly. When blended, ladle into clean jars leaving about 1/2″ headspace. At this point you can cool and store in the refrigerator. If you do decide to water-bath (see disclaimer below) process jars for 10 minutes.

*This diversion from the original chutney recipe has not been tested for water-bath canning. I believe, as the adjustments are minor and the ratios are virtually the same, it is ok to water-bath can. However, I make no claim that it is safe to do so.


Hurry up pickles

With the March’s Jelly challenge over (while I did make some it wasn’t a resounding success and vow to revisit this in berry season…) April’s is almost done too. Quick pickles (or sometimes known as refrigerator pickles) is a great way to kick off the pickling season. If you are in the northern climes, there isn’t much growing yet. Luckily you can still use local produce.

Wintering root veggies like carrots, turnips and rutabagas fit the bill nicely. These chubby little carrots sliced into sticks, and into a hot brine solution with some pepper flakes, lemon zest and peppercorns make a crunchy treat. No need to haul out the water bath canner because quick pickles are just that-prepare the brine, fill the jars and store in the refrigerator. Although they should last for about 3 weeks or so, I bet they’ll be gobbled up before that!




A little bit of sunshine

On this grey day in February, a little jar of sunshine as my preserved Meyer lemons do their thing. Preserved in salt with bay leaves from Corfu, and pink peppercorns from Kampot, Cambodia, I can’t wait to add these flavourful citrus preserves to my favourite couscous dishes, salads and sauces. And after January’s labour intensive marmalade challenge, I’m glad this one was a doddle!



Marmalade with a kick

After being inspired to start winter canning, thanks to the Food In Jars Mastery Challenge #fijchallenge, I thought I’d try my hand at trying to write my own recipe. Using Marisa’s handy 1:1:1 ratio (1 Lb fruit, 1Lb sugar, 1Lb fruit water) I came up with this pretty tasty condiment that not only kickstarts your day on toast, but works well in a soy, fish sauce, Thai style dipping sauce for stir -frys, salad rolls etc. Love it when condiments are so versatile!






The Perfect Holiday Chutney

Well after a pretty low key canning season (not for want of produce-more like it was too hot this summer to be standing in a kitchen with boiling pots of water) I’ve finally made a last minute stab at my favourite holiday chutney.

I like to call it my “3 P Chutney” as it encorporates pears, pepita seeds (or pumpkin seeds-the green kind) and pomegranate seeds. It is a truly tasty condiment with a lovely jewelled appearance in the jar. The only trick is to hold on to a jar, because it’s so pretty you’ll want to give them away! Continue reading


Well that was easy…..

Waiting, waiting, patiently waiting…After 5 days, time to take the plunge….


Voila! 2 jars of new dills ready for the fridge. Had I put a little more salt, and been a little more patient, I would be looking at full on sour dills. But happy with the results of my first time crock fermentation. Look out sauerkraut here I come!!


What a crock…


For some reason, after an initial burst of enthusiasm in ramp season, I’ve been slow off the mark to get to my canning. I find it sort of creeps up on you, first you wait and wait til the ground thaws, then a few things start poking their heads up like ramps, asparagus and rhubarb. Then another wait while lettuces and radishes take the stage. Then before you know it, it’s full on frontal assault of summer squash, beans, peas, carrots and other colourful vegetables.

This year, I decided to tackle a small fear of mine, to try out fermented pickles as I love sour dills. I started out with a small batch (2 pounds worth of cucumbers) and did a bit of a “cheater” version of sour dills which adds in a bit of vinegar to help kick-start the fermentation. True sour or kosher dills only utilize water, salt and seasoning to achieve pickle glory. But as this is my first attempt at it, and using an olde time crock, I thought I would like a measure of success before I go whole hog and try it the classic method.

So, I’ve immersed these lovely cukes in my crock with water, salt, vinegar, dill and garlic, put the handy weights on top (as well as another mason jar to really submerge them) and I will keep an eye on it in the coming days. As it is a sizzling temperature both inside and outside, I suspect it won’t take long for the fermentation process to kick in. Fingers crossed!






Ramping up for the season

Spring. Renewal. When the ground starts to thaw but it’s still too cold to work the soil for planting. That’s when the hidden surprises of wild edibles poke their heads out. I must admit, when someone boasts they can deliver a bursting bag of ramps to you, I take it with a grain of salt. Really? ? Are you sure? You know Lily of the Valley looks JUST like ramps….

Well, true to his word, Al the forager came through in spades….A bag bursting with the first taste of Ontario Wild Leeks. Squeal!!


What a treat. I’ve never seen so many beauties…..I also had no idea how labour intensive they would be! Thankfully with a little help with washing, rinsing, trimming and cutting I could embark upon the main event…pickling Continue reading