May 2015 Canning Classes

class image revised .

May is coming, and with it, the official start to my 2015 teaching season. I’m not going to be teaching and demoing as much this year as I did last because I don’t have a new book out this year, and the amount I did in 2014 was more than a little insane. I am also going to be trying some new things, including a monthly live online class, so that those of you who aren’t geographically near can partake in my classes without either one of us hopping on an airplane.

  • Saturday, May 2 – I’ll be giving a talk and offering books for sale and signature at the Senior Adult Activities of Montgomery County’s annual brunch. Event is $40 per person. More information here. Tickets are available here.
  • Wednesday, May 6 – Spring Preserves with Weaver’s Way. We’ll make rhubarb jam and pickled asparagus in the kitchen at the Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting House. 7-9 pm. Click here to register.
  • Monday, May 11 – Quick Pickling at the Walnut Street West Free Library location. 5:30-7:30 pm. Contact the library at 215-685-7671 to sign up.
  • Saturday, May 16 – Preserving strawberries with honey and Pomona’s Pectin at the Morris Arboretum. 10 am – 12 noon. $40/45. Register here.
  • Tuesday, May 19 – Live online class through Concert Window! Class starts at 7 pm Eastern time and will finish up around 8:30 pm. Costs $20 and you can sign up here.
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The Optimist Cleaning Kit Winners

contents of The Optimist kit

Normally, I couple these winner announcements with a collection of links from around the internet. However, last week was an unusual one for me. Because I spent a large portion of it in a cabin without internet access, I didn’t manage to build up my regular list of links.

I also spent the bulk of Sunday at the Philly Farm and Food Fest, signing books, demoing, and making sure my fellow authors and presenters had all they needed. I was in bed by 8:30 last night, which was a decided departure from my regular night owl ways.

The winners in last week’s The Optimist Make Your Own Cleaning Products Kit giveaway are #179/Gene Black, #394/Anne E, and #431/GC. Big thanks to everyone who took the time to enter! And if you didn’t win but liked the looks of these kits, make sure to visit The Optimist Co.’s website and check out all the ways you can clean your house safely and effectively!

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Other People’s Preserves: Preservation Society

Preservation Society

Other People’s Preserve is my opportunity to shine a spotlight on some of the very delicious jams, pickles, and condiments being made by dedicated professionals. If you see one of these products out in the wild, consider picking up a jar, tub, or bottle!

I met Camilla Wynne, founder of Montreal’s Preservation Society when I was in Toronto last fall for Well Preserved‘s Big Outdoor Kitchen Party. I’d known her a little through various social media outlets before that, but seeing her and her gorgeous jams in person helped me understand just how much she cares about the art of preserving.

Rhume rx inside

We didn’t get much of a chance to talk that day, but before the event was over, she slipped a jar of her Rhume RX into my hand. This creative preserve is made from lemons, sugar, honey, ginger, bourbon, and cayenne and is the perfect thing for days when you’re feeling a little under the weather (of course, there’s no reason not to eat it when you’re feeling just fine, too).

I’ve taken to stirring a spoonful into a mug of just-boiled water for an instant tea. It also pairs up nicely with sturdy cheese.

made in montreal

All of the Preservation Society products are handmade and wonderfully unique. The product line includes  jams, marmalades, pickles, and chutneys and they also take on the occasional custom order.

Rhume RX

In addition to being a maker, Camilla is also a writer. Her preserving cookbook was first published in French, but an English language edition (with new recipes!) has just been released. I’ve not seen the English edition yet, but hope to get my hands on a copy soon.

 

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Cookbooks: Fika

fika cover

I have always been drawn to the coffee and tea rituals of other countries and cultures. When I was seven or eight years old, I tried to convince my mom that we should take up the practice of afternoon tea a la Great Britain (of course, I was mostly in it for the promise of cake).

fika spine

So, you can understand that when I heard that a book called Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break (by Anna Brones & Johanna Kindvall) was coming out, I was all in. I pre-ordered a copy for myself, but before it shipped, a review copy from Ten Speed landed in my mail box. Within 24 hours of its arrival, I’d read it cover to cover and was dreaming about instituting my own daily fika.

what is fika page

Fika is the Swedish tradition of taking a daily break in which one takes the time to have a coffee (or tea, if that’s your thing) and nibble a baked good (homemade if you can manage it). As a born and bred United States person, who has been conditioned to believe that coffee is best drunk in transit or while working (as I’m doing right now), the idea of a cultural imperative that requires you stop in order to enjoy a cup and a snack hugely appeals to me.

fika rye bread

If you also feel drawn to the idea of fika, this book will help get you oriented and ready. It begins with an introduction to fika and then proceeds to address the history of Swedish coffee. In that chapter, you’ll find also find recipes for the seven traditional fika cookies.

They’ve also included sections on modern fika treats, things to make during the summer months when time can be spent outside, fika for celebrations, and finally breads, sandwiches, and ways to turn fika into a full-fledged snack.

fika jam thumbprints

I marked a number of recipes to try, including the Jam Thumbprint Cookies pictured above (I love that they are more like tiny tarts than the thumbprints we’re used to), the Almond Tart on page 58, and the Quick Buns on page 70. There are also a few jam recipes tucked here and there throughout the book, and they are sensible, non-nonsense takes on preserving which I appreciate.

fika back

Instead of using photography to depict the recipes, this book relies on Johanna Kindvall’s charming illustrations. I love this element, but if you buy cookbooks for the images, this might not be the right book for you.

I predict that this is a book that I’ll keep in regular rotation, both for the approachable recipes as well as for the reminder to take step away from the phone/computer/camera/stove for a little while each day.

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Preserves in Action: Grain Bowl with Chutney

Today's take on the soft boiled egg lunch. This time, with whole wheat couscous, chopped arugula, and plum chutney.

The classic grain bowl is a dead easy way to start moving your chutney from the jar to the plate (or bowl, as the case may be). In the picture above, I  used whole wheat couscous, which I do realize is not truly a grain. But this idea works equally well with bulgar, farro, or quinoa (a pseudo-cereal), so I’m grouping it all under the grain heading for ease.

I toss the warm grain of the day with some chopped arugula or spinach, top it with a couple of soft boiled eggs (I am partial to the six minute egg), and lay down a generous spoonful of chutney along the side. If you’ve got a container of pre-cooked grain in the fridge (or portions in the freezer), it takes nearly no time.

As I eat this quick little bowl, I make sure to get a little chutney into each bite of the egg, grain, and green for maximum deliciousness. I’ve eaten versions of this meal with plum chutney (that’s what you see above), as well as rhubarb, apple, and pear. Each variation has been different and wonderful. Best of all, it can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, so it’s a good one to have your mental arsenal for days when you need fast sustenance no matter the time of day.

How are you using your preserves this week?

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Guest Post: Aged Persian Garlic Pickles from Stefanie Kulhanek

Ingredients 1

Today’s guest post comes to us from Stefanie Kulhanek. She is an ecologist and science educator living in Montreal, Canada who currently works at the Montreal botanical gardens and Biodome. She has done extensive work with local non-profit organisations promoting urban agriculture and community composting in both Montreal and Toronto.

Stefanie first began canning and preserving 8 years ago as a way to deal with surplus from her garden. Since then she had attended various courses and workshops on the topic and loves to experiment with new recipes. Her other hobbies include winemaking, foraging for wild edibles, growing mushrooms and even cultivating Bonsai trees from native species.

Garlic bulbs

Last fall I was first introduced to the fascinating food item know as Seer Torshi; a unique garlic pickle of Persian origin, which is often aged for seven years or more. I was attending a workshop given by a friend on the topic of unusual foods that she’d discovered while traveling. Amongst the various goodies I sampled at the event, Seer Torshi impressed me the most!

When raw garlic cloves are immersed in plain white vinegar for a very long time, a rather magical transformation occurs. The cloves turn from crisp white to ivory, sometimes with hints of blue-green (see the note at the end of the post), eventually fading to a light brown that deepens with age. After several years the cloves become very tender, mild and almost fruity, while both the garlic and its brine take on a deep mahogany colour – reminiscent of balsamic vinegar.

ingredients 2

Seer Torshi is mainly served as an appetizer, much like olives or a fine cheese and is rarely added to recipes. In fact, given its lengthy aging time and supposed medicinal qualities, this pickled garlic is considered a real delicacy and it’s definitely quite addictive.

I was lucky enough to leave the workshop with what remained of an 8-year old jar and a determination to make a batch myself. After doing some research I learned that, while traditional Seer Torshi requires only minimal preparation but lots of patience, there are also several short-cuts that can be taken to reduce aging time substantially. I decided to try my hand at both methods, based on the recipes below.

Fermentation

Method 1: Old school Seer Torshi (makes 1 pint)

4-6 heads of garlic, or enough to tightly pack a 1 pint mason jar
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon honey

  • Split garlic heads into individual cloves but don’t peel them, otherwise they’ll turn to mush as they age. Try to choose similar sized cloves and pack them tightly into a pre-sterilized 1 pint mason jar.
  • Add the honey and salt to the vinegar and stir to dissolve. Then fill the jar with the vinegar mixture leaving about 1 inch of headspace. You may need to put something sterile on top of the garlic to ensure it stays immersed.
  • Place the lid on the jar but don’t seal it too tightly. The garlic should actually undergo a short fermentation and the gas will need to be released by loosening the cap about twice a day for the first week or so. Alternatively use a jar fitted with an airlock.
  • After the fermentation subsides, the garlic should have softened and no longer float. You can then remove the weight, top up with vinegar and re-seal the jar. It should be stored in a cool, dark spot for a minimum of 1 year but ideally for 7!

blue garlic

Method 2: “Quick and dirty” Seer Torshi (1 pint batch)

4-6 heads of garlic, or enough to tightly pack a 1 pint mason jar
2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

  • Split garlic heads into individual cloves but do not peel them.
  • Add garlic and white vinegar to a stainless steel pot and heat uncovered on medium-high until simmering. Add salt and honey and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool. The garlic cloves will have soften somewhat but should still be fairly firm with their skins intact.
  • Pack the garlic cloves into pre-sterilized 1 pint mason jar. Add 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and then fill the jar with the cooled white vinegar mixture, leaving about an inch of headspace.
  • Unlike the traditional method, this garlic pickle should not ferment. Also as that garlic is pre-cooked, it tends to sink in the brine and shouldn’t need to be weighed down. I imagine you could process the jar at this point to seal it – I didn’t bother. Store in a cool, dark spot for a minimum or 3 months or up to 1 year.

garlic in different states

A note on garlic turning blue-green

Under certain conditions, garlic may develop a blue-green hue especially when exposed to certain acids or fats. This is the result of various reactions between the sulphur compounds and enzymes than naturally occur in garlic and the fat or acid it’s exposed to. It doesn’t effect the safety or even the flavour of the food but can be a bit unappealing to some.

When making Seer Torshi using the traditional methods, some degree of blueing is likely. The extent however, will depend on anything from the age of the garlic to the chemistry of the soil in which it was grown. In any case there’s no need for alarm, as the colour will eventually fade to brown. If using the quick method the garlic shouldn’t turn blue as boiling destroys the enzymes responsible for the colour change.

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