Thursday, 29 July 2010

Away for the Weekend...

no posts. See you next week.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Mammoth Melting Snowpeas

Mammoth Melting snowpeas are very popular heirloom variety, and one that has done well for us this summer. Sometimes they are known as Mammoth Melting Sugar, or Mammoth Melting Sweet. I can't find much background on them, beyond the fact that they were introduced in 1896. Most seed catalogues describe them as being "4' tall" and "needing trellising". Um, no and yes. They are not 4' tall. Mr. Ferdzy is 6'2" and, as you can see, is picking a peapod well over his head so more like 8' - so far - and they most definitely do need trellising.

They are named not for the size of the vines however, but for the very large pods they produce. These are not the largest we've had from them, but with the advent of hot, hot, dry weather the pods got smaller and started to fill out very quickly. We've been needing to pick them very small in order to keep them from getting fat and tough, but with the advent of some cooler weather they've gone back to producing larger peas. The "Melting" part of the name comes from the fact that they are very tender, even at their very large size (as long as they are not bolting in the heat.) Flavour is very good; rich and pea-y.

In spite of the fact that pea production suffered during the heat wave of early July, the plants themselves have held up well (with regular watering) and show every sign of bouncing back. All of our peas and most of our beans suffered much more.

Unlike the Norli, which produced very large quantities of peas then dried up and died, the Mammoth Melting are still going. I'm told they may very well last until first frost; we'll see. They don't produce huge amounts at once, but a very steady supply; making them much more useful for the gardener who intends to eat them as they come rather than freeze them. They do take quite a lot of space for the quantity they produce, but on the other hand much of that space is vertical.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Pureed Peas

This is an easy thing to do with peas, especially ones that are fresh and tasty but perhaps a tad overmature. It's amazing; skip one day of picking and the peas go from miniscule to musclebound in just 48 hours. Also, even though they are available all summer, they really don't love hot, dry weather and the quality may suffer a bit as a result. You'll never notice if you use this recipe. And of course it also works just fine with tiny, perfect peas.

2 servings
10 minutes prep time - plus time to shell the peas

Pureed Peas
2 cups shelled peas
1 or 2 clove of garlic
a little mild vegetable oil
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon butter

Shell the peas, and put them in a pot with water to barely cover. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel the garlic. Slice the garlic and sauté it in a little oil until lightly browned and fragrant. Put the garlic, salt and butter into a blender or food processor.

When the peas are ready, lift them into the blender or food processor using a slotted spoon (i.e. drain them, but save the cooking water.) Purée until very smooth. Add a little of the cooking water if necessary to loosen the mixture. Scrape out and serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Pattypan Squash Stuffed with Corn & Cheese.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Zucchini Vinaigrette

Oh, now here's a shocker. More zucchini! Who could have ever seen that coming?

Actually this was a big hit. Will definitely do this again. And again...

I was talking to my Dad the other evening and he reminded me that he has a book on zucchini put out by friends of his back in the '70's. (Yeah; a self-published hippie classic full of zucchini recipes, lore and trivia! I really should borrow it. But apparently I don't need that recipe for zucchini ice-cream just yet.)

6 servings
1 1/2 hours - 30 minute prep; one hour to rest

Get Started:
1/3 cup apple cider, white wine or balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon rubbed basil
1 teaspoon rubbed oregano
1 teaspoon dried mint
1/4 teaspoon salt

Put these together in a broad, shallow bowl or pan that will hold the zucchini in a couple layers once sliced, and mix the herbs into the vinegar.

4 or 5 medium zucchini
2 cloves of garlic

Wash, trim and slice the zucchini into 4 to 6 long slices lengthwise. Keep them as even as you can. Peel and mince the garlic.

And Finish Up:
3 or 4 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Sauté the zucchini in batches, browning them evenly on both sides, and move them to the dish of vinegar and herbs as they are cooked. Be careful! Frying zucchini in this amount of hot oil is worse than cooking bacon for flying spatters. Wear long sleeves and turn the zucchini with caution.

Once all the zucchini slices are cooked and placed in the vinegar mixture, add the garlic to the pan and sauté it briefly. Stir constantly and the moment it begins to change colour scrape it into the pan of zucchini, along with all the oil in the pan. Do not delay as the garlic will scorch in seconds if left.

Gently turn the zucchini slices to be sure the garlic and herb bits are evenly distributed throughout the zucchini, and that they all have had a chance to have a bath in the vinegar. Set the dish aside to cool at least until all the vinegar has been absorbed, or about an hour ideally. It can be put in the fridge but it is best served slightly warm or at room temperature. It should be able to just sit on the back of the counter until wanted; there's nothing that will spoil quickly there.

Last year at this time I made Jam Tea Loaf.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Primary Colour Fruit Salad

Well okay, that's stretching a point. It was so pretty though. One large mango, a few peaches and a good handful of apricots, a pint of blueberries, and some cherries that I had cooked in honey syrup. Plus some of the syrup. So good. So very, very good. And too beautiful not to share.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Zucchini Stuffed to the Gunwales

A typical summer morning, chez Ferdzy: Mr. Ferdzy is on his knees, rifling through the cucumbers. I'm next to him, peering under zucchini leaves.

"Uh, oh." I say.

"Found a boat?" he asks.

"Noooo... at least... well, a canoe perhaps. Or maybe only just a one-person kayak." I say hopefully.

Then I haul them out, and they're huge. The yellow ones are even the right colour.

Zucchini are like that. I swear, they were cute little babies too tiny and helpless to pluck just yesterday. How did they get so enormous in just 24 hours? We do pick our zucchini every day. The only way get a reasonable sized zucchini crop is to pick them small and pick them often. However, there always seem to be a couple that get missed one day and are the size of small whales the next. As long as you don't leave them so long that they get too tough to be pierced with a fingernail, they can be stuffed. Once the rinds harden, so do the seeds and the flesh becomes watery and insipid. What you've got then is either compost or an entry for the fall fair. Or possibly a nice fishing boat or small yacht. I'm assuming though, that you've caught your zucchini at the canoe stage.

4 servings
2 hours - 1 hour prep time

Stuffed Zucchini
Prepare the Zucchini Shells:
2 large zucchini, about 500 grams (1 pound) each

Cut the zucchini in half evenly lengthwise. Using a sharpish spoon, hollow them out. It's best to start with a shallow trough down the middle then widen and enlarge it. Be sure not to get within less than a quarter inch of the skin.

Sprinkle the insides of the zucchini generously, even extravagantly, with salt and set them aside for about 20 minutes as you coninue to prepare the filling.

Chop the scraped out zucchini centres fairly finely and set them aside.

Make the Filling:
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
450 grams (1 pound) lean ground beef
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon rubbed basil
1 teaspoon rubbed oregano
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chile flakes or other hot dried pepper bits
1 cup fine fresh breadcrumbs
OR cooked rice

Peel and chop the onion fairly finely. Heat the oil in a large skillet, and add the onion. Once it has softened a bit, add the chopped zucchini centres. Cook, stirring frequently, until any liquid is mostly evaporated and the onions are lightly browned. Sprinkle the seasonings over the vegetables, and add the crumbled ground beef. Continue cooking and stirring, until the beef is browned all over and broken into quite small crumbles. You do not want big chunks of beef here.

At this point, add the crumbs or rice, and mix in well. Once the mixture is well amalgamated, you are ready to stuff the zucchini.

Finish the Zucchini:
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1/2 cup tomato sauce

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Rinse off the zucchini shells, and shake them dry. Oil a baking pan that will hold the zucchini nicely. Arrange the zucchini halves in the pan.

Divide the meat mixture evenly amongst the zucchini halves. Drizzle the tomato sauce over the tops.

Bake for 1 hour, until the zucchini are tender.

Last year at this time I made Green Beans in Tomato-Yogurt Dressing.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Apricot or Peach Jam, with Vanilla If You Like

I found some vanilla beans in the cupboard recently. No idea how long they've been around. Let's just say we didn't buy them while living in this house. I decided to throw a couple into one of my two batches of peach jam, and I'm really glad I did. They added a whole new dimension to the peach flavour. I haven't tried the vanilla with the apricots and probably won't, although I don't think it would be bad. I just don't think it would be as good as with the peaches. The apricots are a little too sharp and bold to interact as nicely with the vanilla. I could eat raw fresh peaches all day and all night when they are in season, but apricots have an assertive flavour that just seems to stand up to the cooking process better.

When I know I am going to make jam, I start collecting lemon seeds a few days to a week in advance. Every time I use a lemon, I put the seeds in a little jar with just enough water to cover them. Once I've accumulated a tablespoon or so, I'm ready to make the jam. Lemon seeds are great for providing pectin, and they work even when you are making a low-sugar jam. Of course, when you want seedless lemons you get scads of seeds, and when you actually want the seeds it seems like the growers have finally cracked the secret of growing seedless lemons. However, even a teaspoonful of seeds will help. Add the water they were kept in: it will be so full of pectin it will probably have gelled already.

5 to 6 250ml jars
2 1/2 hours of which 1 hour at least is waiting around

3 quarts apricots or peaches
3 1/2 cups sugar
the juice of 1 large lemon
as many lemon seeds as possible
2 or 3 vanilla beans, OPTIONAL

I blanch and peel the peaches. (Bring a large pot of water to boil. Drop in peaches for one minute. Fish out and place in cold water. Peel.) I don't bother with the apricots; their skins are more delicate and dissolve away in the jam. Just wash them.

Chop the peaches or apricots, discarding the pits. Put them in a large bowl with the sugar and lemon juice, stir well, and cover them. Place them in a warm spot for about an hour. About 15 minutes before you are ready to start the jam, place your jars in your canner and bring them to a boil.

Strain the juices from the fruit into a canning kettle. Put the lemon seeds into a tea-ball or tie them up in a piece of muslin, and add them too. Bring to a boil and boil for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until the juice darkens and thickens a little.

Add the fruit to the pot and continue to boil, stirring frequently, for another 15 to 25 minutes, until most of the juice had been absorbed into the mass, and it passes a gel test - either pours from a spoon in a sheet, or forms a skin when placed on an ice-cold saucer. You will particularly need to watch it towards the end of the cooking, to be sure it doesn't scorch.

Put the jam into the sterilized jars, and seal with prepared lids and rims. Pop the finished jams back into the canner for 5 minutes, then let cool. Test for seals and label.

Last year at this time I wrote about what to do with failed jam... oops. No failed jam this year (*knock wood*) so far, although my apricot jam is a tad soft.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Cauliflower Torta

I had a vision of a rich, cheesy cauliflower pudding - English cauliflower cheese meets something more elegantly Mediterranean - and here it is. It's not quite as dense or smooth as I was picturing it, but that's okay. It tasted mighty fine. Do be sure your cauliflower is very well drained (and the peas too for that matter) in order to keep the texture somewhat dense.

Since both of these vegetables need to be cool when introduced to the egg mixture, there is no reason not to make this with "leftover" vegetables. I say "leftover" because an entire cauliflower is a lot to have left over. It's the opposite of planned obsolescence: planned preparation. If you are cooking cauliflower to have hot one day, cook an extra one and you can make this a day or two later with less fuss. Ditto with the peas.

6 servings
2 hours - 1 hour prep time

Cauliflower Torta
1 medium cauliflower (6 cups florets)
2 to 3 shallots
1 to 1 1/2 cups peas
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried mint
1/2 teaspoon rubbed thyme
1/2 teaspoon rubbed oregano
1 cup light cream or rich milk
3 extra-large eggs
200 grams (1/2 pound) old Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 to 3 tablespoons bread crumbs
butter for baking dish

Trim, wash and break the cauliflower into florets. Steam it until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and let cool. Meanwhile, peel and mince the shallots. Shell the peas, and steam them very briefly - about 1 minute.

Heat the butter in a large saucepan, and sauté the shallots very gently until lightly coloured. Mix in the flour and the seasonings, and cook for a minute or two more, stirring constantly. Mix in the cream a little at a time, until all is smoothly blended. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens, then remove from the heat and let it cool for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, put half of the cooked, cooled cauliflower into a food processor, and process to a fine purée. Process in the eggs, one at a time, until the mixture is very smooth. Fold it into the cream sauce.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9" pie plate and coat it in bread crumbs. Cut the cheddar into small dice and grate the Parmesan. Put half of the remaining cauliflower, 1/3 of the peas, one half of the diced cheddar and one third of the Parmesan evenly over the bottom of the pie plate. Spread half of the puréed cauliflower mixture over this. Sprinkle the remaining cauliflower, half of the remaining peas, the remaining cheddar cubes, and half of the remaining Parmesan over the purée. Add the rest of the purée and spread it out smoothly in the pan. Finally, sprinkle the remaining peas and Parmesan over the top of the torta.

Into the oven it now goes, for 50 to 60 minutes, until firm and nicely browned.

You can serve this warm or cold. If cold, it will slice nicely and hold its shape. If warm, however, it will softer and more soufflé or pudding-like. If you want a nice presentation, you are perhaps best off baking it in 6 separate little baking dishes. I'm not sure how long that would take. Perhaps 40 minutes? But that is a just a guess. Otherwise, just spoon it out. It will still taste good.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Bread & Butter Pickles

Bread and butter pickles are a very easy, popular and traditional pickle. I remember making them once with my parents when I was a kid and they decided they wanted to make pickles. We got the recipe from one of my great-aunts. Unfortunately, none of us really liked them. It was a case of poor communication I suspect; we were in love with the garlicky, briney dills that lived in wooden barrels in the shops of Kensington market at the time, but no doubt all we said was "pickles". These are really very different from a kosher style dill. However, as the name suggests they are lovely as a sandwich filling, along with cheese, ham, egg salad, chicken salad, summer sausage... or probably even just by themselves, if your bread and butter was as good as the pickles.

I also suspect that first bread and butter recipe had too much sugar. So many older recipes do. This is a pretty standard version of bread and butter pickles, but I have taken the liberty of cutting the sugar called for in half, and I don't think it is too little. You can always put it back it you must. Note that if you use cucumbers, your 16 cups can be a little on the scant side, but that if you use zucchini you should be a tad generous with them. I used a dozen medium zucchini for my zucchini batch; cucumbers vary more in size but you should use small eating cucumbers rather than pickling cucumbers, and I would think 16 to 24 will be the correct number. Some people put a little green pepper in this. You could put in a cup of sliced peppers with the onions, if you like. I put a few hot pepper flakes and sliced jalapeños with my batch of zucchini pickles. Time will tell what I think of this addition.

6 500-ml jars
4 hours - 1 hour prep time

16 cups sliced cucumbers or zucchini
4 medium onions
1/3 cup pickling salt
2 to 3 trays of ice cubes

2 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons whole mustard seed
1 tablespoon whole celery seed
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
OPTIONAL 1 to 2 teaspoons hot chile flakes

Wash the cucumbers or zucchini well, and trim off the ends. Cut them into thin, even slices, and layer them in a large perforated pot or strainer with the ice cubes and the salt. Peel and slice the onions in equally thin slices, and cut them in quarters. Add them to the strainer. Have a couple of the ice cubes and a little of the salt left to sprinkle over them. Cover and put in a cool spot for 3 hours to drain.

Meanwhile, put the jars into a canner and cover with water to an inch above their rims. When the vegetables have about 30 minutes left to drain, turn the heat on and bring them to a boil. Boil them for 10 minutes.

Just before the jars start boiling, put the vinegar, sugar and spices into a canning kettle or other very large, heavy-bottomed pot. Bring the mixtue to a boil, and boil until the sugar is dissolved.

Meanwhile, strain the vegetables thoroughly, shaking gently to dislodge as much liquid as possible from them. Do not rinse them. Add them to the boiling brine, and bring them up to a scant boil. This should happen about the same time as the jars are ready, but if not, turn off the heat and keep them until the jars are ready.

Put the lids and rings on to boil according to the manufacturers directions; that is they should boil for 5 minutes.

Empty the sterilized jars - half into the sink and half back into the canner - and set them out on a heat-proof board. Fill the jars with the hot pickle mixture. Wipe the rims with a paper towel dipped in the boiling water to be sure they are clean and clear. Top with the boiled lids and rims, and seal them snuggly but not too tightly. Pop them back into the boiling water in the canner, and boil for 10 minutes. Remove and let the jars cool. Test for seals, and label the jars.

Last year at this time I made Summer Vegetable & Lentil Soup. Have to admit I've been taking my lentils in salad form, this year.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Baked Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

Zucchini plants - all squash, really - produce separate male and female blossoms. Both are edible, but the males in particular are useful for cooking since there is no sacrifice of fruit made in picking them, as long as you don't pick them all. You could use female flowers for this, with very small immature zucchini attached, but you do lose the opportunity for them to fully form. Which may be not such a bad thing; I don't know. All I can say is we're not yet ready to do that. (Production is down! We only picked 6 zucchini today. C'mon guys; you're supposed to be churning them out!) At any rate, there seem to be plenty of male blossoms, so I'll be looking for things to do with them.

They do produce more male flowers when stressed by crowding or heat, and our plants are both crowded and hot, so that may explain why we have such a good selection of male flowers. I picked them with a bit of stem attached for presentation, but I don't think the stems are particularly tasty. We left them alone.

These would make an excellent appetizer or light first course. They can be prepared somewhat in advance, but I wouldn't do it too soon for fear of the blossoms getting soggy. On the other hand I think it is best to pick them first thing in the morning in order to get the blossoms nicely open, so you will likely need to keep them for a few hours at least. Wrap them up in damp paper towel and keep them cool.

The blossoms ready to stuff, above.

2 to 4 servings
45 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Make the Filling:
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (about 1 slice bread)
1 green onion
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon dried mint
a good grind of black pepper
100 grams chevre goat cheese

The bread should be dry, but not totally stale. Crumble it into coarse crumbs. Wash, trim and chop the onion fairly finely.

Heat the butter in a small skillet and sauté the crumbs and green onion until the crumbs are nicely browned and the onion is soft. Sprinkle over the herbs, and once they are well mixed in remove the crumb mixture to a small mixing bowl. Let cool.

Add the crumbled chevre, and mix well. The mixture should form a ball, but try not to mash the crumbs too much. They should still be fairly light and chunky.

To Finish the Blossoms:
6 or 8 medium male zucchini blossoms
3 or 4 tablespoons sunflower seed or olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Using a grapefruit spoon or other sharp spoon remove the stamens from the flowers. Conveniently, these are not separate, but fused into one central cone. Discard the stamens. Be sure the flowers are free of any bugs; if not rinse them gently under cold running water until the insects are dislodged. Drain well. You can wrap the blossoms in a moist paper towel and keep them in a loose plastic bag for several hours before proceeding, if you like. Keep them cool, but not too cold.

Divide the filling into equal portions, one per blossom. Roll each portion into a cylinder to fit into the core of each blossom, and slide it in, closing the blossom gently around it. Have your baking pan ready, brushed with oil, and lay the blossoms in it as you work. Once they are all in, brush their tops with more oil.

Bake the stuffed blossoms for 15 minutes, until crisped and browned in spots. Serve hot.

Last year at this time I made Quick Pickled Radishes.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Lentil, Onion & Spinach Salad Redux

This is a salad I've made before; you can see it originally here. It's a salad I really like, and since I have a pile of chard in the garden - it has recovered from being eaten twice by the deer so far; very resilient stuff - I thought I would try it with chard. The chard was a little skimpy, so I stretched it out with beet greens, which are also recovering from The Week of the Deer. (Cue ominous organ music. I suppose if I say that nothing has been eaten since Mr. Ferdzy re-installed the electric fence around the garden I will jinx it and they will remember how to sliiiiide under it again, and everything will once more become expensive deer chow. So I won't mention it.)

I have to say I thought the beet greens were too strong here. That's why I threw in some feta cheese: to balance them out a bit. Still, I think it's better just to not use beet greens. Chard or kale should be fine as long as they are fairly young and tender. Still, I'm looking forward to our fall spinach crop so I can make it with spinach again, because I do think that's the best. However, I also decided that roasting the onions is too fiddly, and it's easier just to caramelize them on the stove. If anyone has any comments on which method they would prefer, I'd be happy to hear them.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time

Lentil Onion and Spinach Salad
1 cup green or brown lentils
1 bay leaf
pinch salt
2 cups water

Put all these items in your rice cooker. Turn on and let cook. Leave until cool, or if you want to assemble the salad right away, rinse them in cold water and drain well. Remove the bay leaf.

Sautéed Onions:
2 medium onions
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Peel and chop the onions. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and cook the onions, stirring frequently, until golden brown; probably 20 to 30 minutes. Remove them at once to a plate to cool. Be sure not to let them get too dark too fast. They should cook quite slowly.

Salad Dressing:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
the juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon sea salt, crushed
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seed, crushed

Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice and seasonings, crushed if necessary. If you are ambitious, you could toast the cumin seed in a dry skillet before crushing it and adding it to the dressing.

To Assemble the Salad:
450 grams (1 pound) baby spinach leaves
OR tender young chard or kale

Wash and pick over the spinach or other greens. Drain well, and chop coarsely. Cook it in just whatever water is still clinging to it until just wilted. Rinse under cold water at once to stop it cooking any further. Squeeze firmly to remove excess liquid, then chop it finely and toss it with the cooked lentils and onions.

This is an excellent salad to make ahead; but the salad should not sit in the dressing or the lemon juice will bleach the spinach. Toss the salad in the dressing just before serving.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Meek & Mild Devilled Eggs

Okay, I like a devilled egg that bites back as much as anyone. However, once in a while it's nice to have something a little different. If you have a good cucumber relish or chow-chow - and if you don't, it's time to make some (okay, too early to make chow-chow) - these will have plenty of flavour. They're just mellow. And that's okay.

Meek and Mild Devilled Eggs
6 extra-large eggs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (light is fine)
2 to 3 tablespoons cucumber relish or chow-chow
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard OR horseradish
sweet Hungarian paprika
parsley or chives

Put the eggs into a fairly snug pot with water to cover then well, and about a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil and boil one minute. Turn off the heat and leave them covered, in the water, for 10 minutes. Rinse them in cold water (or let them cool) then peel. The salted water is supposed to make them peel better, and I think it does help somewhat. Cut the eggs in half lengthwise.

Scoop out the yolks into a small bowl, and mix in the mayonnaise. If you use chow-chow and it's fairly coarse you may wish to mince it a bit first. Add the relish or chow-chow and the mustard or horseradish. When the mixture is smooth, divide it amongst the waiting half eggs, and sprinkle them with a little paprika, and garnish with a little minched parsley or chives.

Yeah, that was easy.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Bean, Bacon & Potato Salad

Fresh green beans! Fresh new potatoes! Fresh celery and herbs! What else could you possibly want? Yes, that's right; bacon. Well, all righty then. Here they are, all of them.

6 servings
45 minutes prep time - should be made in advance

Bean Bacon and Potato Salad
Prepare the Salad Ingredients:
4 medium-large potatoes
4 cups green or wax beans
3 or 4 stalks of celery
3 or 4 green onions
250 grams (1/2 pound) lean bacon

Scrub the potatoes and cut them into dice. Put them on a pot with plenty of water to cover, and bring to a boil. Boil until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water.

Wash and trim the beans, and cut them into pieces of about an inch long. Steam or boil them until just tender; about 4 or 5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water.

Wash, trim and chop the celery and green onions.

Cut the bacon into inch-wide pieces and fry it slowly until quite crisp and brown. Remove it to a piece of paper towel to drain, and let cool. Mix all the salad ingredients together, keeping - if you like - half the bacon aside to sprinkle over the top. It does give it a bit more colour than it would otherwise have.

Make the Dressing:
1/2 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
the juice of 1 small lemon
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon dillweed
1 teaspoon savory
salt & pepper to taste

Whisk the above together in a small bowl. Keep in mind the degree of saltiness of the bacon as you add salt - in other words, go pretty light with it. It can always be adjusted at the table.

I didnt' have it but I do think a tablespoon of finely minced fresh parsley would go in this very well.

Introduce the dressing to the salad in the usual way, and arrange the remaining bacon over the top, assuming you are doing that, and so serve it forth. Keep any leftovers well chilled.

Last year at this time I made Falafels, which are far easier than you would think.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Chocolate Cherry Crisp

This year I felt the call to do something a bit different from my usual one and only sweet cherry dessert for cherry season, and after a bit of head-scratching I came up with this. (Yes I washed my hands before I got to work.)

I feel a bit bad tempting you with it though, as it turns out cherries are just about over. Already! - this is part of everything being so absurdly early this year. However, either run out and see if you can't find a few of the last cherries, or make a note and do this next year, because it's awfully good, if not quite as glamourous as something this intense and special should be. It's also extremely easy, especially if you eschew pitting. It makes quite a big crisp, and could be easily cut in half if you liked.

8 to 12 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time, plus cooling time

Chocolate Cherry Crisp

Make the Topping:
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup soft whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Mix the oats, flour, cocoa, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into smallish pieces and rub it into the mixture until none of it looks dry and some of it forms coarse crumbs. Mix in the chocolate chips.

Make the Filling:
2 quarts ripe red cherries (Bing)
the finely grated zest of 1/2 orange
the juice of 1 large orange
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon minute tapioca
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Wash and de-stem the cherries. You may pit them if you like, but leaving them in speeds up the cooking process and slows down the eating process, which I regard as overall a good thing. If it is to be fed to small children though, it's probably wisest to pit them. At any rate, arrange them in the bottom of a large (9" x 13") lasagne pan.

Wash the orange and grate the rind of half of it over the cherries. Squeeze out the juice and pour it over the cherries. Sprinkle over the sugar, tapioca and almond extract. Give it all a gentle stir to be sure that everything is well blended.

Finish the Crisp:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Spread the crumb topping evenly over the cherries. Bake the crisp for 50 to 60 minutes, until bubbly around the edges. Let cool for about an hour ideally; it's delightful when it's still a bit warm. However there's nothing wrong with it once it's cold either.

Last year at this time - and at many other times - I made Peas & Cabbage.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Pea "Hummous"

This winter my mother found a recipe for zucchini "hummous". (And as someone with 16 zucchini plants in my backyard you can bet I'll be making it soon too.) It was surprisingly good, and so I've been looking for other hummous-type dip recipes made with vegetables. Versions of this one seem to be quite popular, and why not? It's got a rich, sweet pea flavour and a beautiful bright spring-green colour.

3 cups (6 to 12 servings)
15 minutes prep time plus 15 minutes to shell the peas

3 cups shelled peas (6 cups with shells)
1/4 cup parsley or cilantro
3/4 teaspoon cumin seed, ground
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup tahini
the juice of 1 to 2 lemons

Shell the peas. Put a large pot of water on to boil, and when it boils add the peas. Boil until tender, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the parsley or cilantro, cumin, salt, garlic and tahini into a food processor. Process until finely chopped.

Drain the cooked peas, and rinse them in cold water until cool. Drain well, and add them to the food processor. Blend until very smooth. Add the juice of one lemon, and blend it in well. Taste the hummous, and add more lemon juice if desired. I find this does take a lot of lemon juice; the peas are so delightfully fresh and sweet tasting, but that calls out for a lot of lemon to balance them.

Serve as you would regular hummous, with bread, crackers, chips etc.

Last year at this time I made Strawberry Shortcake. What a different year this is. Strawberries are ancient history and now the cherries are pretty much over. Peaches and apricots are hitting the market already... kind of unnerving, but don't wait around - everything is at least, AT LEAST 2 weeks early this year. Plan for it!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Zucchini & Fresh Pea Soup

We ate half of this soup hot and enjoyed it, but the leftovers were even better cold, I thought. Which is not a bad thing at this time of year; although of course being us we managed to eat the hot soup when it was 30° out and the cold soup when it was 20° out. One of these days I will get it right. I have to admit this is more pea-ish than zucchin-y but unless you are Mr. Ferdzy and think zucchini is the best vegetable ever, you will probably be happy with that.

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 or 3 bay leaves

2 cups shelled fresh peas
1 kilo (2 pounds) medium zucchini; about 6
3 to 4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon sunflower seed oil
1/4 medium nutmeg, finely grated
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon dried dillweed
1 teaspoon dried mint
salt & pepper to taste

Once the peas are shelled, put the stock and bay leaves into a soup pot and bring them to a simmer. Meanwhile wash, trim and slice the zucchini. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Sauté the zucchini on both sides until lightly browned. Add the peas and garlic, and sauté for a minute or two more, until the garlic is fragrant and the peas begin to change colour. Sprinkle the seasonings over the vegetables and mix in well.

Turn off the heat and remove the vegetables to a blender. Add a little of the hot stock, and purée the vegetables until very smooth. Add the purée to the stock and simmer for a few minutes to blend the flavours. Remove the bay leaves and serve hot if you like, but it is if anything better when served cold. A little dab of thick yogurt or sour cream will do it nothing but good.

Last year at this time I made Pan-Fried Trout.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Vegetable Fried Rice

Fried rice is a standard quick meal around here. What I do is cook twice as much rice as we will eat at one meal. We have the freshly cooked rice one day with a stir-fry, and the next day the leftover rice makes fried rice. Very quick and easy. I'm giving quite a list of vegetables that could go into your fried rice; don't use them all! Or you will have fried vegetables with a wee bit of rice, which just isn't the same thing. The rice I made here had peas, zucchini, onions and carrots, which was a good, well-balanced blend. In general I recommend using one of the alliums, a carrot, celery if you can get it, and 2 of the other vegetables for best balance.

It's important to use rice that was cooked properly with the correct amount of water, and which has aged overnight in the fridge to make fried rice. Otherwise your rice is likely to be too damp and soft, and you will have mushy fried rice no matter how long you cook it. Good fried rice has every grain of rice separate and just a tad chewy. It's amazing to me how many packages of rice call for too much water. You'd think people would know how to cook their own product, but no. Sushi style short grain rices may take as little as a cup and quarter of water to a cup of rice. Other white rices may use as much as a cup and two-thirds to a cup of rice. Most rices will be somewhere in the middle. Brown rice is almost always two to one. If your rice was too soft and you still want to use it for fried rice, spread it out on a plate to store it in the fridge overnight and let it dry out as much as you can before using it.

I have to say, it's hard to describe how to do this even though it is so simple. Don't get too hung up on getting it perfect; the veggies do have a little lee-way in their cooking times and as long as you don't cook them for a crazy amount of time they will be fine.

2 servings
20 minutes prep time, not including cooking or aging the rice

Vegetable Fried Rice
Prepare 3 to 5 of the Vegetables Listed:
1 medium onion
1 medium leek
2 to 4 green onions
1 medium zucchini
2 cups shelled peas
2 cups diced green or wax beans
2 cups finely chopped broccoli or cauliflower
1 medium carrot
2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 stalk celery
1 small sweet pepper
1 or 2 cups mushrooms

Don't use them all! Pick one allium, a carrot, and 2 or 3 other vegetables. They should be washed, peeled and cut in fairly small dice as appropriate. Peas and corn arrive in the right size; other vegetables should be chopped to be about the same size. Keep each vegetable separate until you are cooking; it will be important to add them to the pan in the right order to have them all properly cooked at once.

Optional Additions:
2 to 3 eggs
150 grams (1/4 pound) bacon or sausage

If you want to add eggs to your fried rice, have them lightly beaten in a small bowl ready to go. If you want bacon, sausage (or ham, etc) have it cut in fairly small pieces before you start.

Cook these first, and remove them from the pan. The eggs should be cooked in a little oil to prevent sticking, and they should still be quite wet when you remove them from the pan back to the bowl the eggs were beaten in. Bacon or sausage should be fairly well cooked and nicely browned, but it too should be remove from the pan and wait to be re-added at the end of the cooking. You can use the fat that cooks out of them to continue cooking the vegetables and rice if you like; remove a bit if there is too much.

Make the Fried Rice:
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil, or fat from the bacon or sausage if using
3 cups cooked rice, cold and dry (from about 1 cup raw rice)
2 to 3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
1 to 3 cloves of garlic (optional)
2 tablespoons oyster sauce

Heat the pan and sauté the onion or leek, if using, and carrot until soft and lightly browned. (Green onions are better added later.) Keep adding vegetables according to their cooking time. If they need a little water to help them cook (such as peas, corn, beans, broccoli or cauliflower) add a few tablespoons of water to the pan with them, and cook, stirring constantly, until the water evaporates and the vegetables are on the way to being cooked.

On the other hand, be careful with things like zucchini or mushrooms, which tend to give off a lot of liquid. Cook them fast and hot, so that their juices cook off as quickly as possible, and don't remove them from the pan until they are essentially dry. It may be best to cook them on their own, and remove them before cooking the other vegetables.

Once all the vegetables have been added to the pan and are cooked but still bright and crunchy, remove them from the pan.

You may need to add a little more oil to the pan if you think the rice will stick. Once that's done, add the rice. I find it easiest to wet my hand with cold water and crumble it in by hand. Wetting the hand helps keeps the amount of rice that sticks to it down to a dull roar. Once all the rice is in, use a spatula to turn it and break it up in the pan. Sprinkle it with the soy sauce, and once that is absorbed add the garlic. Mix it in well, cook for a minute or two, then add everything back in that's waiting - eggs, meat, veggies; whatever. Add the oyster sauce and mix it in well. By now everything should be hot through, well-blended and the rice should be showing the odd brown spot. You're ready! Dish it up.

Last year at this time I made Berry Fluff. This year at this time, strawberries are over. Still, this would be very good with raspberries or blueberries.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Hodge Podge

I made this from a description - but such a lovingly detailed description that it might as well have been a recipe - in "Across the Table" by Cynthia Wine; one of the first books to take a comprehensive look at Canadian cuisine (and beautifully illustrated by Mary Pratt). This was described as a Nova Scotian dish designed to make the most of early summer garden produce. I can't say I had ever heard of it prior to reading about it in the book; my Nova Scotian grandma ran more to cake mix plus Jell-O when it came to collecting recipes, even though rumour has it she made the best fish cakes ever. Anyway, I guess I can make this here in Ontario too; my garden is definitely starting to produce more than peas. Hurray! Everything came out of the garden but the potatoes and carrots which came from a local veggie stand.

I admit I didn't make it quite as described. I just can't bring myself to commit that kind of pea-abuse. (They went into the boiling pot first, before the potatoes, even - is sacrilige!) Also, the original didn't call for a zucchini. But guess what; I had one, so in it went. After all, it's that kind of recipe and very good too. Yeah, awfully rich but I tell myself it's balanced out by all those veggies.

4 to 6 servings
20 minutes prep time

Hodge Podge
8 to 12 new potatoes
2 or 3 small young carrots
2 fresh onions, including their green tops
2 cups green beans
1 medium zucchini
2 cups freshly shelled green peas or snow peas or both
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
salt & pepper

Scrub the potatoes and cut them in half if they are not quite bite-sized. Put them in a biggish pot with water to generously cover them and bring them to a rolling boil. Scrub and chop the carrots and throw them in there too.

While the potatoes and carrots cook, start preparing and adding the remaining vegetables to the boiling pot, in the order given: peel and coarsely chop the onions and their greens, top and tail the beans and cut them in half, wash and chop the zucchini into bite-sized pieces and shell the peas or top and tail the snow peas.

When the potatoes are tender, drain the vegetables well and return them to the pot. Add the butter, and stir until melted. Add the cream and season with salt & pepper to taste.

Last year at this time I made Broccoli, Feta & Pasta Salad, and Chimichurri with garlic scapes.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

What a Difference a Year Makes

Now, before you look at this post you should go back a year this date and look at this one, which was posted on July 8th, 2009. Okay, ready? Let's compare and contrast.

Our garlic scapes kind of looked better last year. This year, it's been so hot and so dry that the scapes have been picked for 2 weeks and some of the weaker bulbs are dying down already. But that's the beginning and the end of the list of things that were better last year. And we certainly expect to get a reasonable amount of garlic.

The short variety of peas in the lower left are the same as the ones being grown in the picture in last years post. (They're Norli, to be precise.) We've planted them a fair bit thicker I would say, but there's more to it than that. These were a completely different experience. And of course, we didn't have anything remotely like the peas next to them, which are Mammoth Melting snow peas. Named for the peas and not the plant, but they make me feel like a little kid again when I pick peas that are growing over my head.

Last year the zucchini, peppers and eggplant were all in the same bed, where they got along just fine, since all of them were scrawny little non-producers. If I went out and picked all the peppers forming on my plants right now I'd already have a better harvest this year than last year. Also, the zucchini were barely starting to grow at this time last year, and so far we've picked and eaten six already. They're still not producing enough to suit us yet (maybe Mr. Ferdzy was right to insist that we plant 16 zucchini plants (all that germinated). I thought it was too many, but maybe not. Not yet anyway! BWAHAHAHA!

And holy cow, the tomato seedlings were barely clinging to life this time last year. Must remember that, when I go out and poke all the little green spheres and whine that they aren't turning red yet. This year plants range from 2 to over 4 feet tall, and there's very few that don't have visible tomatoes on them yet.

Well these are pathetic looking carrots (they came up spottily and have been pruned, several times, by the deer, along with the beets) but they're waaay better than last years carrots, which essentially didn't germinate and so didn't exist.

The flowers were nice on the potatoes briefly, but the deer came and pruned them all off too. I always thought potato leaves were mildly toxic but the deer certainly don't seem to care. They think they are something of a treat. Fortunately though, they only graze them lightly and I don't think the plants are much damaged. Just no pretty potato flowers in the garden.

I didn't have a picture of brassicas last year at this time. We did plant some and they sort of produced, late in the season. This year they are looking pretty good, mostly. We did some direct seeding early in the spring that didn't do well, and so we augmented the survivors with purchased seedlings. Now I can't really tell which are which. However, I did just plant some tiny Brussels sprout seedlings in the spots that look bare. I didn't want to start them too early, since they get harvested late. We'll see if I got the timing right. I'm a bit nervous about it.

Our corn didn't look a lot worse than this last year, I don't think. It's obviously not something that we're growing well yet, but at least it is growing. We'll just have to wait and see how it does.

And finally, we could barely get a bean to germinate last year, and once they did germinate the deer ate them. This year, we've gotten at least partial germination out of every bean and some beans, like these Trionfo Violetto are going like gangbusters. A few have been pruned, but I think the deer mostly didn't find them until they were a little less tender than they liked. Good. I definitely expect to be eating beans within about 2 weeks.

So, what a difference, eh? That's warmer weather, more dedicated watering, a wee bit more experience, and 30 cubic yards of compost, mostly 2 year old elk manure. Let's not forget the elk manure; three cheers for it!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Dual Peas

Dual Peas
This was our first pea, other than snow peas, to produce this year. These took from germination to production almost exactly 2 months; let's say 70 days including germination. They were described as reaching 30" in height, but like the Norli, I'd say they surpassed that by a not insignificant amount. However, a generous provision of sticks were sufficient to hold them up.

I'll definitely save seed from them as they now seem impossible to find. We got them from Vesey's in 2009 but didn't get around to planting them until this year, and this year I note they don't seem to be in their catalogue. There doesn't seem to be a lot of information about them out there either. Too bad. We really liked these a lot.

Not only are they early-producing peas, they produced prolifically, even prodigiously, with pods in pairs, plentifully plump. (Sorry, I'll stop now.) I think that's what gives them their name; the pairs of pods I mean. One thing I really liked about this variety was that the pods were quite thin, and it was very easy to tell when the peas had filled out to fill the pods. I can already see that this is not going to be the case with other peas we are growing, and I know I was always getting grumpy about buying peas in the pod which turned out to be mostly pod and not so much pea, even though they looked big and fat.

I don't know if these are really super extra-tasty peas, or whether because of those co-operative pods we were just able to pick them all precisely at the peak of perfection. (Sorry; I will stop. Maybe.) Either way, it hardly matters. These were some great peas. We ate a bunch over the 2 weeks they have been producing, and whenever they produced more than we could eat in a day, we blanched and froze the excess. Yesterday was their best day so far; we picked 8 quarts (measured with the pods on) which almost doubled our harvest. The peas seem to be able to get fairly large before they start to get starchy - always a good quality in a pea. We expect to pick another 5 or 6 quarts or so before they finish. So say at least 20 quarts when all is said and done. That's from 240 original pea seeds planted, which seems pretty impressive to me.

I expect them to be done in another week or so. I guess that doesn't quite make them indeterminate, but not quite determinate either. Lets call them semi-determinate. However, I'm glad we have planted other varieties even though I like these so much, as otherwise our pea season would be pretty darn short. I don't know how much this fast finish is inherent in the variety, and how much was determined by the weather. I've noticed that the plants have really shrunk down and yellowed a bit since it has been so brutally hot and dry - like most peas they plainly don't like really hot weather. However, the other varieties of pea plants seem to be holding out better.

You'll note I haven't been posting any recipes with these peas. That's because they are so good just plunged into boiling water for about a minute or two, drained and served. They're even better raw in the garden, but you can only eat so many that way, I guess. At any rate, it seems a waste to gussy them up when they are so truly excellent plain.

Green Peas on Foodista

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Stirling Creamery, with a Free Bonus Photo of the Outside of the Empire Cheese Co-op

Our expected last stop on our trip home from Ottawa was at the Stirling Creamery which is in, yes, Stirling, an attractive village a bit north of Belleville. Alas, thanks to my having attempted to set up a visit at the last moment, I was not really able to speak to anyone about the butter making process there. However, that's their offices in the photo above. It's just around the corner from their factory. You can go there to buy butter, which is what the Stirling Creamery makes. You may remember that their butters scored very well when we did our butter tasting last year.

The factory is a small and fairly utilitarian building, next to a fast moving small river. One assumes that the town started in this location as the water provided power for mills and manufacturing.

Looking up the river the other direction. We wandered up the street to check out the old stone building, which we assumed had been a mill. (It was, although it was also the town fire-hall for many years.) We ended up chatting with some folks who now had shops in the building, and who were out enjoying the lovely weather (it was lunch time.) One couple was from Montreal originally, and they remembered that Stirling butter had been available there... it does get around.

Another view of the creamery. In addition to the usual salted and unsalted butters sold by the pound or half pound, Stirling make goat butter - we bought half a pound to try - and whey butter, which as mentioned already was the best butter in our butter tasting last year. They also sell molded and formed butters to the hospitality industry, so if you find yourself served butter in the form of a golf ball (!?) , a rose, a maple leaf or a fleur de lis, chances are good it's Stirling butter.

We really didn't luck out. The creamery is set up so that you can see the butter being made through large windows on the street, but alas - no butter was being made when we were there. It was a bit surprising, nevertheless, to see how much their giant butter churns look like... giant butter churns. Whodathunk?

As we drove from Stirling to Campbellford, we passed the Empire Cheese & Butter Co-op. Alas, it was really not our day - I did not get permission to take any pictures inside, so I will only say that their cheese is excellent, and if you find yourself in the area you should definitely stop in and stock up. The outlet is on County Road 8, about halfway between Stirling and Campbellford.

Last year at this time I made Stir-Fried Fish with Snow Peas, Mushrooms & Garlic Scapes. Bit late for that already this year; the garlic scapes seem to be about done.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Buddha Dog in Picton

I feel a bit funny writing about Buddha Dog, since I'm not a restaurant reviewer. Still, Buddha Dog is in some ways more of a producer/marketer. They make hot dogs, and serve hot dogs, and not much else. There are actually 2 Buddha Dogs; the one we visited in Picton, and one in Collingwood. Oddly, I've never been to the one in Collingwood, which is only half an hour down the road from us. Mind you, Collingwood is not our favourite place. In fact, in this household we refer to it as "The Blight" and avoid it if possible.

Anyway, the Buddha Dog in Picton is in an old red brick building on the main street of Picton. The signage is fairly discreet; we drove right past it the first time, even though we were looking for it.

Inside, they wear their dedication to local food on their sleeve, or at least on the wall. A large map-chalkboard lists the locations of all kinds of local food producers. We arrived at 11:30 am, and the place was empty but for the staff. No sooner had we ordered though, than people began to arrive. It looks like a very popular place.

So the deal is, they sell hot dogs. These are made for them by a local butcher and they are served with a choice of local cheeses and locally made sauces. The chevre from Fifth Town Cheese was a no-brainer for us, but the sauce took more consideration. I settled on Tomato Pear Chutney which was excellent. I believe their other cheeses are from Black River Cheese.

I've read a lot of complaints that their hot dogs are small, and they are, although at $2.50 each I thought they were not badly priced. One is a good size for a kid; an adult will probably want 2 unless they also order a seasonal salad ($5) and even then might still want to have 2.

So, how were they? Well, they were hot dogs. I'm afraid that while I liked them and enjoyed them and even plan on checking out the Collingwood Buddha Dog, my praise for them will be couched in somewhat negative terms.

First, and most important, they did not make us sick. I have not eaten a hot dog in 5 years, apart from these. The second last time we ate hot dogs, I broke out in hives that lasted, on and off, for 10 days. The last time we ate hot dogs, Mr Ferdzy got food poisoning. These were both supposedly decent quality but American-made hot dogs from Costco. At that point, we agreed: no more hot dogs for us, ever. Only a high-quality, locally produced product like Buddha Dog could have induced us to change our minds.

They did NOT taste like most hot dogs in the sense that they lacked that strange, greasy unknown organ meat flavour of most hot dogs. ("Bologna" has it too.) I can hardly describe it, but it's the reason I hated hot dogs as a kid. I eventually learned to eat them because sometimes they were the only available choice, but to me they have always had a nasty background flavour and greasy mouth-feel that was just not appealling. The Buddha dogs completely lacked that flavour and texture, and that was a very good thing as far as I am concerned. On the other hand, I've had more wildly exciting sausages. These were hot dogs. Good hot dogs, but not my favourite food. The salad on the other hand was lovely, and consisted of local and seasonal lettuce, asparagus, snow peas, strawberries and more of the superb chevre, and a Reisling-Tarragon-Blueberry dressing. Yum.

So, if you are in Picton (or Collingwood) check out Buddha Dog. It's possible though, that the dogs in Collingwood are a little different. They are not made in Prince Edward County like the ones from Picton, but by a butcher in Collingwood.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Strawberry - Currant Jam

This is getting posted rather late in the strawberry season, but that's when you need to make this jam. The period of time when both strawberries and currants/gooseberries are available is fairly short: a week; two at the most. I make other jams with berries plus currants, but the overlap in availability is much better with raspberries, cherries and blueberries.

I've never had any success using commercial pectins. It's my own fault; I simply won't put in the amount of sugar required. I figure the whole point of making home-made jam is to be able to make them with much less sugar. The currents (or gooseberries) contain enough pectin to allow the jam to set even though it calls for less sugar than most jam recipes. Also, if you have bunch of lemon seeds from the lemon juice, put them in a tea-ball and add them to the jam as it cooks, pulling them out when you are done. They will supply extra pectin. You can do that with any of jam recipes. This is the only strawberry jam recipe I make that actually sets properly, and the currents (or gooseberries) add a very nice flavour to them.

I've made these with both of the currents and the gooseberries at different times, and they all work out nicely. I wouldn't use black currents which I think would be too strongly flavoured for the strawberries (but I could be wrong; maybe I'll have to try that combo one of these years just to check it out.)

7 250-ml jars
40 minutes prep time

Strawberry Currant Jam
1 quart (4 cups) red or white currants, or gooseberries
1/4 cup water

2 quarts strawberries
4 cups sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Put the jars into the canner, and cover them with water by at least an inch. Bring them to a boil, and boil them for 10 minutes.

Wash and drain the currants and put them with the water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and boil, stirring gently, until they are all popped, about 5 minutes. Press them through a sieve, and reserve the puree. Discard the skins, stems and seeds.

Gently rinse the strawberries and drain them well. Mash them in a large canning kettle or pot; a potato masher does the trick nicely. Mix the currant puree, sugar and lemon juice into them.

Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Boil hard until the mixture reaches the gell stage, about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent it from scorching. Remove from the heat and skim off any stubborn foam. Fill the sterilized jars and seal with lids prepared according to the manufacturer's instructions; generally boiled for 5 minutes. Return the jars to the boiling water in the canner for 5 minutes.

Let cool, check that the jars have sealed, label, and keep in a cool, dark place until opened, when they go into the refrigerator.

Friday, 2 July 2010

A Visit to Watson's (Long Island) Mill in Manotick

While we were in Manotick we visited Watson's Mill; one hundred and fifty years old this year. Happy Birthday to Watson's Mill! A very handsome old stone building on Long Island in the Rideau river.

It's not too far off the main intersection of Manotick, and is directly across from a small public park (Dickinson Square) and the old miller's house. The house is open on weekends during the summer as a museum. Alas, we were not there on the weekend so had to content ourselves with just the mill.

The whole process of milling is described and illustrated very thoroughly inside, from the arrival of grain in bags when it was weighed on a scale built into the floor, on through to finished flour. Admission is free, although they would love to get a small donation.

Several of the old "elevators" for the grain can be seen in what look like oddly-placed support beams. They've been opened in spots and the wooden sides replaced with glass to show the little scoops that carry the cleaned grain up to the top of the mill to begin to be milled into flour.

Here's an obsolete piece of equipment, and aren't we glad? Smut, or fungus was once pretty much a given on the raw wheat, and had to be cleaned off before milling could continue.

A display of old spinning wheels in the open space of the mill's second floor.

Looking up from the turbines in the basement.

This piece of equipment in the attic raked and turned the wheat to cool it at a point in the proceedings when it would have gotten hot from handling, and needed to cool before being milled.

Outside, the mill-dam sends water through the turbines to power the mill.

And finally, the flour! Watson's Mill is still a working mill, one of only a handful in Ontario. They only mill every few weeks (their schedule is listed on their website) and on weekends you can buy bread made with the flour. I noticed they had a video on their site as well, about making bread using their flour. However, you can buy the flour any time they are open. I asked, and they do make a point of using locally grown wheat whenever they can get it, which is most of the time but not always. Naturally, we bought some. I'll post once I've used some of it.