Tag Archives: fruit

Sometimes, in the depths of (a Canadian) winter

12 Feb

Sometimes, in the depths of winter, you get tired and feel lethargic. Food tastes a little off, like it has frostbite. Sometimes, food isn’t the only one with frostbite.

Sometimes, you can’t find fresh fruit anymore that doesn’t come from the Southern hemisphere (damn them!), and you miss the bustle of the local market.

Sometimes, you feel like hibernating, like a bear, in a cave somewhere. Before crawling in, you want to gain 5 pounds a week. You plan to gain that weight expressly through potatoes and bread.

Sometimes, you lose the will to jog, which means you lose the endorphin rush, which means you eat chocolate, and you don’t even like chocolate. What’s up with that?

Sometimes, you wonder why your father and grandfather emigrated from fairer isles to this godforsaken land. No, seriously.

Sometimes, you feel utterly uninspired: you can’t think of a single meal you want to cook, a single thing you want to do when you get home from work, or a single blog post topic. Yo can’t be roused to take photographs, even, unless they are on your phone.

In cases such as this, here is a prescription:

  1. In the morning, take two cups of fortifying coffee, not one.
  2. In the evening, rely on canned soups. In every meal. Even if it means making Easy chicken a la king, an entirely wonderful recipe (use peas instead of pepper, and multi-grain bread instead of rice or pastry) instead of the real thing.
  3. Drench things in warming red wine, even if said thing is out-of-season, overpriced asparagus. Because sometimes you just need exorbitantly-priced vegetables steeped in red wine, garlic, and butter in the depths of a Canadian winter.
  4. Rinse. Repeat. Things will get better.

Can you can?

3 Oct

By Tara Thompson

You know canning food is not popular when you are in Real Canadian Superstore in mid-September and learn that all the canning supplies have been cleared to make room for Halloween candy. But never fear, I found my needed 250mL jars and proceed to continue our family tradition.

Canned tomatoes in the canner
Canned tomatoes in the canner

I remember going to my Gran & Poppa’s house every fall to can peaches and pears. We would all, usually about 5-6 of us, sit around a card table set up in their kitchen and proceed to blanch, peel, cut, pack, and process about 30 jars. I even remember my Mom making pickles and relish when I was a kid. When I met my husband, we incorporated his family’s tradition of canning tomatoes, making tomato/vegetable sauce, and creating jams. Now each year is a little different depending on what is needed (tomatoes and peaches) and what recipes strike our fancy (pickles and pickled pears).

Canned pears and peaches
Canned pears and peaches

I think that besides the tradition of  “this is what is done in the fall”, I like that I know exactly what is in the jars. It’s similar to when we make stocks; I can’t figure out why there is so much sodium in store bought stock, as we never add salt to stock. This made me think of tomato juice. Whenever I’ve tried any of the store bought tomato juice, I’ve found it too salty; maybe next year I’ll try making my own.

Canning isn’t complicated, but there are a number of steps. To get started, some basic supplies are needed:

  1. Mason Jars (we like large mouth jars)
  2. Two-piece lids (sealing disc & rim)
  3. Large pot to prepare the recipe in
  4. Canner (to hold the jars… water must cover the jars)
  5. Accurate measuring spoons and cups

When you find a recipe, follow it precisely and make sure that it is a modern recipe, current with today’s health guidelines.

This year’s new discovery was Pickled Pears (with a few adjustments for our tastes):

1 large lemon
8-1/2 cups water, divided
12 medium ripened Autumn Star pears (with red skins)
1-1/4 cups white sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
4 to 6 bay leaves (1 for each jar)
12 to 24 pink peppercorns (4 for each jar)
12 to 24 green peppercorns (4 for each jar)

Prepare the canner, jars, and lids for canning.

  • Start the water boiling in your canner (it takes longer than you think).
  • Sterilize the jars by either submersing them in boiling water or the rinse cycle of the dishwasher.
    Also while you finish working keep the jars warm to keep them sterilized.
  • Sterilize the lids by keeping them in a small pot of hot water to soften the seals. To prevent them from sticking together, put them in the water opposite each other: bottoms together, tops together.

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the lemon peel from the lemon in one continuous spiral. Cut vertically into pieces (1 for each jar) and set aside.

Squeeze the lemon juice into a large bowl and add 4 cups of water.

Peel, quarter, and core the pears, placing them in the lemon juice solution to prevent discolouration.

Place the sugar, vinegar, and remaining 4 1/2 cups water along with the reserved lemon peel in a large pot and bring to a boil.

Drain the pears and add them to the boiling syrup. Return to a boil and remove from the heat. The syrup should be a pink colour (from the skins).

In each sterilized Mason jar, place 1 piece of lemon peel, 1 bay leaf, 4 pink peppercorns, and 4 green peppercorns. Pack the pears into the jars to within 3/4” of the top of the rim of the jar (headspace). Remove any air trapped in the jars by sliding a rubber spatula down the sides of the jar. Fill with syrup, to the 3/4″ headspace.

Wipe the jar rim with a clean damp cloth. Centre the canning lid on the jar. Apply the screw band (rim) and tighten until just finger tip tight.

Place the jars in the canner and when the water is boiling time the process for 10 minutes. The water should cover the jars by at least 1”.

When 10 minutes is up, remove the lid from the canner and wait 5 minutes before removing the jars. Place the jars on a tea towel or wooden board. Let cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours. Check that the jars have sealed properly: sealed lids curve downward. Remove screw bands and store them separately (we don’t do this, but it is to prevent moisture and rust). Wipe jars clean, label and store them in a cool dark place until ready to serve.

Makes 3X500mL jars or 6X250mL jars.

    Adapted from “Picture Perfect Pickles: Pickled Pears.” Harrowsmith Country Life. October 2009 (No. 208) pg 86 (also available online through EBSCO’s MasterFILE Premier – check your library’s e-resources!).

    Other canning recipes are available in many places.  Two good books that I found are:

    Put ‘em Up!: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling by Sherri Brooks Vinton.

    You Can Can: A Guide to Canning, Preserving, and Pickling ed. Jan Miller

    Check out Tara’s bio on the Contributors page.

    A is for autumn, A is for apple

    25 Sep
    (and X is for waXing philosophical)

    The hordes are back at school, the suits are out in full force downtown, and the air is crisp – summer, alas, is waning.

    Autumn is my favourite season. Can you smell it? It smells like a fresh start, a clear head, a sweater, a pile of leaves, a freshly-stoked fireplace. It tastes like turkey, fresh cranberries, gourds of various shapes and sizes, and apples.

    Always, apples.

    One of the (many) strange (and in this case, lovely) things about being the child of an Anglican minister (well, of two Anglican ministers, but let’s just let that go for now, ok? Ok…) is that you get to discover new communities every time your parental unit is moved to a new parish. Thus we moved from the wilds of Laval (it was the wilds back then, sort of) to walks along the riverfront in Verdun, to fireworks in St Lambert, to the rolling hills of the Montérégie.

    We lived in Otterburn Park, nestled at the foot of Mont St. Hilaire (a mountain I climbed several times during our three years there). Were you to jump in a car and drive along Chemin de la Montagne, hugging Mont St. Hilaire’s south peak (as we did every Sunday), you would reach Rougemont, one of three points in my mother’s parish, and the heart of Quebec’s apple industry.

    No place ever spoke to me like Rougemont did. Granted, the small town had all the right Alex ingredients: a deserted, romantic graveyard, a picturesque, tiny church, a host of eccentric characters, and (let’s be honest here) horses. It also, of course, had orchards: orchards as far as the eye could see, leading up in pin-straight rows or haphazard zigzags to the Rougemont mountain itself. I learned a great deal about farming in those years: I saw early mornings and late nights, biting frost and blighting sun. I, less so than my mother but still enough to make an impression, was invited into the old farmhouses of Anglophone rural Quebec: butter churners and rocking chairs, wooden stools and hiking boots. I ate fresh corn on the cob, I bore witness to the most magnificent Thanksgiving altar displays; singing the hymn “Come Ye Thankful People Come” never had such humble significance. I also got my first shock from an electric fence, but never mind that now.

    I picked apples: up ladders and down. I ate apples: fresh apples, cooked apples, apple crisp, apple pie. I grew to love and respect the trees and their fruit; I could identify dozens of types of apples by smell and taste.

    I am lucky enough to still have a Rougemont farmer in my life; one of the lesser blessings is the bags of apples he brings me every autumn. I’ve moved from Otterburn, to Bedford, then Pointe Claire, and Montreal (2 apartments; 1 condo), and now Ottawa; the bags follow. There are few more happy phrases uttered than, “Alexandra, I’ve got some Cortlands for you!” Cortlands remain my favourites: their tart, crisp, clear white insides, and the way their red skins bleed a little when you cut them, are a constant marvel (wait, that sounds weird, doesn’t it? Have I been watching too many criminal dramas?). My mother favours Paula Reds; my husband likes Spy apples (which I turn my nose up as an Ontario apple). I hate nothing more than the wax they put on apples to give them a shine in the grocery store: those things look to me like the fruit equivalent of someone with a fake tan: why take a good thing to extremes? I am also a local cider fiend: the best, in my book, is Covey Hill’s own Mystique. An excellent article about the cider route in Quebec is here, featuring Rougemont’s most well-known cider-making resident, Michel Jodoin.

    In a life somewhat geographically schizophrenic, nothing takes me back to lazy teenage days in the country quite like a fresh bag of apples, tied tight and stowed in the car, promises to future autumn afternoons.

    Some apple factoids to crunch on:

    • Apple saplings came over to the New World with Champlain
    • That cad, Sir George Simpson, turned up on the shores of the most westerly HBC fort with apple seeds tucked into his vest pocket
    • McIntosh apples are as Canadian as, well, I’ll let you fill that blank in…: Every McIntosh can trace itself back to one discovered in 1811 by John McIntosh in Dundas County, Ontario.
    • Did you know that Canadian researchers analysed eight popular types of apples and found Red Delicious, Northern Spy and Ida Red had the most antioxidants? Guess I should play nice, then.
    • Apples should be stored in a cool, dark, slightly moist place: I put mine in the crisper drawer of the fridge, with a dark, wet tea towel completely covering them (yes, I chortle when I tuck them back in).

    My favourite apple crisp recipe (adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be A Domestic Goddess  Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking and The Yoga Cookbook: Vegetarian Food for Body and Mind, by the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres):

    Filling ingredients:

    • 4 large apples, sliced into eighths, skin on
    • 25 g raisins
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
    • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

    Topping ingredients:

    • 60 g chopped walnuts
    • 2 1/2 cups granola (I swear by this stuff)
    • 1 1/4 cups flour
    • 1/2 cup butter
    • 1 2/3 cups honey and/or maple syrup (I like to mix both)

    Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Mix the filling ingredients together and transfer into an 8-inch square baking dish. Combine flour with butter, then honey and/or syrup and mix well. Stir the liquid mixture into the granola. Spoon the topping over the filling. Bake for 45 minutes.

    Really love your peaches, wanna shake your tree.

    1 Sep

    By Jessica Roy

    Peach season is here. It’s time to peach it up people! Of course, fresh local peaches are lovely all on their own but, like many things in life, they are even better when pizza is involved. Perhaps, like me, you are skeptical, having had a similarly bad fruit-pizza experience that you’d rather soon forget. Or, maybe you are concerned that I am unwittingly leading you into the wacky world of dessert pizza. Rest assured that peach pizza is nothing like these botched pizza experiments. I suggest that you brush your favorite thin crust homemade pizza dough with olive oil (if you like it crunchy like how I like it) and top it with thinly sliced peaches (marinated in a little lime juice and brown sugar), fresh basil leaves, arugula, bocconcini cheese and fresh ground pepper. I promise you won’t regret it and, afterwards, you can make peach and basil sangria with the leftover ingredients.

    This is what the end of summer tastes like. Pretty darn good.

    Peach pizza

    Peach pizza

    Check out Jessica’s bio on the Contributors page.

    Olive oil Analysis See also Fraud Case studies

    26 Jul

    (that title was a librarian in-joke, btw)

    What do you look for when choosing a wine? Normally, you look for a region or a country, a particular name, and/or a type of grape. You would also consider the context: is this going to be a cooking wine, an “evening in front of the TV” wine, or a bottle to bring to a dinner party?

    Now, what do you look for when choosing olive oil? That’s right, olive oil, the old staple for cooking, dipping bread, or drizzling on salads or pasta (or, if you are like my friend’s mum, rubbing on your hands before bedtime).

    …..?

    I thought so.

    I confess I too was woefully ignorant of the intricacies of olive oil production until recently. In fact, someone discouraged me from writing this post, exclaiming, “But they’ll think you’re stupid!” Be that as it may – as a Digestive Librarians’ Digest blogger, I have a responsibility, nay, a duty, to make sure you are all fully aware of the complexities of olive oil, and of the olive oil industry.

    You see, I missed the 2007 New Yorker article that “exposed the underbelly of the global olive oil industry” (thanks to Lora for sending it along after I brought this subject up with her for a blog piece). Apparently, there is widespread fraud involving misleadingly-labelled olive oil: the problem, which is ongoing, involves both misleading origin labels (olive oil labelled Italian when it is not) and misleading product labels (olive oil that is half hazelnut, sunflower, or other oils, or even pressed olive waste).

    Ew! If you, like me, are now wondering who is catching up with these olive oil scam fiends, you can check in with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, who, according to the Globe and Mail (more on that article later), have caught “several companies importing oil labelled as extra virgin olive oil that was, in fact, blended with 50 per cent sunflower oil.” Observes the New Yorker, the E. U.’s anti-fraud office has set up an olive-oil task force, no less (“Profits were comparable to cocaine trafficking, with none of the risks”).

    I was shaken out of my own ignorance on a recent visit to Grace in the kitchen, a lovely Ottawa store selling everything from dinnerware to espresso makers to soup mix and organic potato chips (you know I spent longest in that last area, don’t you?) They sometimes set up sampling stations for a new product, and a lineup of olive oils and tasty baguette was hard to resist. I casually sampled a bit, and promptly exclaimed, “Wow!” This was no ho-hum oil. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, heavenly. I quickly called over the husband to bear witness. The cashier mentioned that if I liked it, I should tell the guy who makes it, waving his arm at a young man lurking among the Art-is-in bread.

    Turns out he was a member of the Fazari family, makers of the olive oil, rated No. 1 for value in Eyewitness Companions Olive Oil. The Fazaris were recently written up in the Globe and Mail, and their representative in Grace in the kitchen (I am so very sorry I now forget his name) patiently and engagingly described the olive oil scams to us, and the process of making real olive oil, without once seeming to talk down to us.

    I learned that oil should say “made in Italy,” not “product of Italy;” the latter may mean that the oil comes from elsewhere and is only blended in the country. I learned that different olives taste differently, so you should be aware of what cultivar (variety) is being used (that seems so obvious when you say it, but I wasn’t checking it!)

    We were thoroughly scandalised to discover that the oil we regularly buy is a “product of Italy” blend of who knows what; my husband asked about a local well-known Italian grocery chain as a result, wondering if we just shopped there we could steer clear of trouble. Our olive oil guide actually told us that even they carry many blended oils not made in Italy, although he did qualify that by saying they do carry some excellent olive oils. Apparently, the old “shop the perimeter of the grocery store, not the centre aisles” applies here as well: what our Italian grocer puts up at the front in the “fancy pants” section is the good stuff; what he stocks en masse at lower prices in the aisles is crap.

    So as not to end on a yucky note,  and as a final treat, here is some eye candy:

    Olearia San Giorgio olive oil

    Olearia San Giorgio olive oil: lovely clear yellow colour

    And as a reminder, here is what the Globe article mentioned to pay attention to when choosing olive oil:

    • Family’s name
    • Country of origin (“made in!”)
    • Cultivars (varieties) used
    • The address of the estate and production (these should be close together; says the Globe, “the sooner a picked olive is milled the better”)
    • Importer’s information
    • Best-before date
    • Lot number; country-of-origin, region-of-origin classification
    • Amount of monounsaturated fat (should be about 75% of total fat content)

    Summer Smoothie

    25 Jul

    by Amanda Halfpenny

    smoothie

    summer smoothie

    I enjoy nothing more on a hot summer’s day than a cool fruit smoothie. My first experiences making smoothies were inspired by a Moroccan roommate for whom it was normal on a trip to the grocery store to buy at least 15 bananas at once. At first I thought he was absolutely crazy. How could someone possibly attempt to eat so much fruit without it going bad? Yet he would make delicious smoothies on a daily basis and showed me that they can be one of the most effective ways to get your recommended daily fruit servings in one tall glass of refreshing goodness.
    Winter smoothies are great because most fruit that is available in the winter like apples and bananas are extremely tasty in smoothie-form. Nothing though compares to the taste and sensation of drinking a fruit smoothie on a hot sunny day in the summer.
    This smoothie that I made today was an especially refreshing reward to down after a 45 minute jog in the humid heat of July. I made it with fresh strawberries and raspberries from Nova Scotia, an Ontarian peach, an organic banana from Ecuador and a combination of chocolate soy milk and regular milk. How refreshing!

    Check out Amanda’s bio on the Contributors page.

    The hidden side of your fruit

    18 Jul

    This is entirely random, but somehow utterly fascinating.

    I just can’t help imagining the conversation that resulted in this blog:

    “Hey, dude, let’s stick that watermelon in the MRI machine, eh? Heh heh.”

    That being said, the view of an artichoke is nothing less than miraculous.