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.

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!


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

It’s Taco time!

SalsaverdeIt’s taco time! The season’s here for tomatillos. Those funny little tomatoes hiding behind a husky exterior.  Salsa Verde is a perfect topper for tacos, burritos or the whole enchilada! This recipe is adapted from Liana Krissoff’s Canning for a New Generation.

Firstly you’ll need

3-1/2 pounds of tomatillos, husked and rinsed (don’t skip the rinsing part as they are sticky on the outside)

1 medium sized white onion chopped

2-3 jalapeños, seeded and chopped (adjust to heat preference)

3-4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup fresh cilantro

1 Tbs pickling salt

1 tsp cumin seed

1 tsp smoked paprika (optional)

2/3 cup bottled lime juice

Wash jars & place in hot water canning bath. Place lids in hot water on stove.Combine tomatillos, onion, garlic in saucepan over medium heat bring to a boil.

Once it boils, turn the heat down and stir occasionally until the tomatillos have started to break down and release liquid (about 20-25 minutes). Add fresh cilantro to blender and in small batches puree (hold a dish towel over lid of blender so hot salsa doesn’t erupt!) Skip the puree part if you like it chunkier…

Return salsa to saucepan and add lime juice and salt. Remember to use bottled lime juice for uniformity in acidity that you can’t get from fresh limes. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes.

Remove jars from water bath. Ladle in hot salsa leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Make sure to wipe rims clean for a good seal. Top with lids and “finger” tighten lids.

Place on rack and process in boiling water for 5 minutes once water has come to a boil,Remove and place on counter. Listen for the “ping”! Store jars in a cool, dark place. It’s ready to eat within 1 week, but can be kept up to one year

Choose your condiments

CondimentsBarbeque season is nearly here and while we are all pretty much familiar with ketchup, mustard and relish, I thought it might be fun to look at a international twist on these three condiments that might be less familiar with the North American crowd.

The word “Ketchup” is actually from a Hokkien Chinese word  “kê-tsiap” made not from tomatoes but from fermented fish. Hmmm. For some reason I always thought it originally came from Indonesia. Probably because there is a condiment called “kecap” which is more like a sweet soy sauce than a ketchup as we know it. In any event, after the Europeans brought the dish from the Far East, it took on a whole different flavour. By 1870 three popular “ketchup” recipes emerged in Europe-mushroom, walnut and tomato.

A slow cooked ketchup like condiment from Bangladesh called “Kasundi” is one I’m dying to try.  I found out about it on one of my favourite pickling blogs Punk Domestics. The recipe calls for a blend of spices, tomatoes, sugar, chili and a few other ingredients and then slow cooked for about an hour. Apparently “It starts as a bunch of different flavors, but after a long period of cooking together, they come together into something insanely addicting,”. Sounds like a winner to me. Continue reading

Natural Sweetness

I love beets from their dark green tops to their ruby red bottoms. But one thing that has always bothered meBeets2 about canning beets is the amount of sugar required in recipes. From a couple of tablespoons to as much as a cup. I did a little bit of research on this, and apparently the sugar has nothing to do with preservation, but everything to do with taste. Well! This was a game changer.

My favourite octogenarian Joyce suggested I roast them first to bring out the natural caramelized flavour of beets without the added sugar. Brilliant! Now when I can beets, I roast them first, slip the skins, add the brine without any extra sugar and throw in a few cloves for good measure. What a difference! The true flavour shines through without that sickly cloying sweetness that some beets (especially commercial ones) have.


Taco Toppers

Sweet cabbages

Sweet cabbages

Tired of the same ol’ grated yellow cheese topping for your tacos? Why not try curtido? What’s curtido you ask? Well, traditionally it’s a lightly fermented Latin American version not dissimilar to sauerkraut. It usually includes sliced cabbage, grated carrots and thinly sliced onions and is a favourite to add to pupusas-those diabolically tasty stuffy fried corn tortillas.

It’s deceptively simply yet packed full of flavour. Local cabbage is at it’s prime right now, super sweet and firm, like these beauties from North Gate Organics, a small farm just north of Cobourg.

If you want a lesson on making curtido for yourself, check out our upcoming workshop on August 13th.

West Indian Zing

While on the subject of the tropics, I thought I would whip up a jar of Mango Achar. Well, not exactly “whip up” as it is a bit of a labourious event.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of tasting Mango Achar, it is a fiery condiment which probably originated in the West Indies. I say “probably” as there are certainly versions of it that can be found in India. Nevertheless, this one hails from Trinidad  (there are also Guyanese versions too).

I had my first taste of it from a lovely woman Jan who was hawing her wares down at the Harbourfront Hot and Spicy Festival many summers ago. One taste and I was hooked! I made sure I would visit her booth every year and one purchase turned into buying cases of the stuff.

A couple years back she stopped doing the festival and I was horrified. How would I get my mango achar? Well, I guess I would just have to go online to find some recipes. This is where I ran into some trouble. All the recipes said “dry in the sun” for 5 days. Well, maybe in the dog days of summer might you get 5 days in a row hot enough for drying, but my first attempt turned them into a slimy mess due to the humidity here. In addition, many of the recipes didn’t have very precise measurements, more like “a handful of this”, or “just enough”. So when trying this, don’t fret, just experiment and do your best.

Well, I managed to get my hands on a dehydrator thanks to a friend (you could use
the oven on a very cool setting like 200 deg. or less) and I shredded up 3 green mangos.
After they dried I added some browned garlic, a couple of hot peppers and about 2
teaspoons of Amchar Masala (recipe below), put it in a clean canning jar and covered
it with mustard oil. Then, I put it in the fridge and waited, and waited, and waited! It took
a good 2 months before all the flavours started to meld together, but it was worth the
wait! Next time I’ll be sure and do a few more jars.



Now you might be wondering what do I use it with? Traditionally the condiment is added to any rice dish, beans etc. But what I love, when the tomatoes are in their full glory, to spread it on a piece of bread with tomato and mozarella (or any other mild cheese)..HEAVENLY!!

Amchar Masala mix

4 Tbs. coriander seed
1 Tbs cumin2 tps whole black pepper
1 tsp fennel seed
1tsp mustard seed
1 tsp fenugreek

(You may want to grind it up together with a spice grinder
or mortar & pestle for a finer texture)