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!
I love beets from their dark green tops to their ruby red bottoms. But one thing that has always bothered me 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.
Imagine having to walk more than a kilometre to your nearest grocery store just to buy an apple, or worse, having to resort to convenience stores to buy fresh food. This is what living in a “food desert” is like. And if you think that this only happens in inner city America, then think again. Food deserts exist all over Canadian cities too, such as London, Ottawa, Vancouver and even Toronto.
The implications of not having fresh, affordable and accessible food are widespread from developing chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity to learning difficulties in developing children.
But with land prices soaring and urban density rising, some areas still do not have suitable access of fresh food in the form of grocery stores and small produce vendors.
Some innovative solutions for this food security dilemma include a pilot project by FoodShare to bring Food Trucks supplied with fresh produce into food desert neighbourhoods. And of course during the summer months many neighbourhoods are lucky to have farmers markets.
An interesting study by Kristian Larsen and Jason Gilliland, researchers from U of T and Western respectively, looked at the opening of the London Farmers’ market (an all year round market) in an area where there was a significant population of lower income families. They concluded that the “introduction of a farmers’ market in a food desert increased the availability of healthy food and lowered the overall food costs for households in the neighbourhood”. Not only was the availability increased but the variety and range of fresh produce increased as well.
Farmers markets are good for the community and send a message to our politicians that buying local matters!