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Archive for the ‘Preserves’ Category

PEACHES. Holy moly, do I ever love them. I feel like this year I’ve missed a lot of the summer seasonal fruit, both because I was out of town so much during the month of July when things like raspberries and blueberries were in their heyday, but also because this year was actually not very fruitful for some of our more beloved summer fruits – mostly the stone fruits.  Why? Well, we had a wet spring, and our already-waning pollinators can’t go out in the rain to pollinate those beautiful cherry and apricot blossoms.  Not Far From the Tree has a great blog post explaining this, check it out here.  What this all means is that now that I’m finally moved and settled, I’m also ready to start cooking, baking, and preserving like a madwoman, and peaches are right on time.

I bought myself a basket of Ontario peaches, and since our dear friend Emily was coming over the next day to see our new apartment in the morning, I wanted to make some kind of breakfast cake to be enjoyed with coffee or tea.  In the recent tradition of my freestyle banana bread, I decided to essentially make the recipe up as I went along.  The problem? Well, it seems that when I cook I can remember EITHER to take photos, OR to write down the recipe I’m making up as I go.  I have yet to master the taking of pictures AND the recipe recording AND the cooking altogether.  The result this time is that I have a great new recipe for you, with no photos of the work in progress. D’oh!

The good news? I couldn’t have been happier with how this little coffee cake thing turned out.  It was just the right sweetness, a great texture, and the peaches weren’t overpowered by the other ingredients.  Without further ado, here’s my recipe – finally, an original of mine!

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour (I used bread flour because it’s what I had on hand)

1/4 cup or so of regular large flake oats (this was an afterthought so I just dumped some in)

3/4 tsp of both baking soda and baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

some freshly grated nutmeg, and a generous pinch of cinnamon

Stir together those dry ingredients!

3/4 stick of butter, softened (a stick is one quarter of a 1lb block of butter, or 6/8 of a cup)

1/4 cup of white sugar

1/4 cup plus another small glug of maple syrup

1 egg

a splash of vanilla and a splash of dark rum

3/4 cup of plain yogurt

1 cup of chopped peaches

Cream together the butter, sugar and syrup, and then beat in the egg, vanilla, and rum.  Stir in the yogurt and then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Stir until combined and then add in the peaches.  Bake in a VERY well-greased or parchment-lined loaf pan for approximately 45 minutes at 350 degrees.  You’ll have to keep an eye on it and just keep inserting a toothpick or fork to test for the cake’s doneness – for a long time it seemed like the top of mine was going to burn long before the cake was cooked, but it worked out fine.  I also sprinkled the top with some turbinado sugar before baking for that crunchy sugar topping!  A great finishing touch! Here’s what the cake looked like when it was done:

Now, since I did such a poor job of photo-documenting this tasty little creation, I’ll end with a smattering of photos of recent edible delights.  Next time I’ll do better, I promise!

Pizza with golden zucchini, caramelized onions, and fresh basil and kale from the garden!

Bread and Butter Pickles with Fresh Ginger!

Strawberry summer cake back from Canada Day weekend! Kat didn't get any and she was sad...

See you next time! I’ll keep you posted about my preserving exploits and the vegetarian creations I cook up on my brand new (drumroll!) BBQ!

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Building my pantry…

I moved again last weekend. Yes, again.  In case you aren’t keeping track, this is the 4th apartment I’ve lived in in the last year. CRAZY. What is this, Montreal again? Whatever stability credibility I gained by living at 381 Lansdowne for two whole years is now shot! The important thing is that I’m hoping to be settled in this new place for awhile.  I have a roommate again – none other than Kat Burns – which means some changes for me but it’s going to be great! Next month I’ll be back in school, and since I’m going to be living off of savings and OSAP I want to be as self-sufficient as possible.  Therefore, while I am terribly behind (too many vacations in July! Sigh, woe is me!) the canning and preserving marathon month starts now.  I’m looking forward to building a pantry of preserves that can help me last through the winter months.  That, in addition to making more and more things from scratch (granola, bread, CHEESE, yogurt…) will hopefully mean that Kat and I can live on the cheap, and still on the delicious! Once tomatoes are in full swing I’ll be going crazy standing over my big pot of boiling water filling jars forever, but for now – it’s PICKLES.

Last year I made my first foray into pickling, which was also one of my first adventures in canning beyond jam.  Don’t get me wrong, jam is awesome, but really I don’t eat that much and I’ve been looking for more challenging projects.  I love dill pickles, and the ones I made last year turned out pretty great, so I opted to make a similar batch again this year, with some slight changes.

First of all, this year I made a bulk order of pickling cukes from my CSA.  I picked them up yesterday – all 12lbs.  While I would have been happy to turn them all into dill pickles, I thought maybe I’d do half that and half something else.  Today I made the pickles, and I’ll still accept your suggestions as to what I should do with the second half of those cukes! Last year when making my dills, I used a club house pickling spice mix.  This year I opted to make my own – because really, why wouldn’t you? After a trip to my new neighbourhood bulk store for spices, I crafted a spice mix containing: coriander seeds, mustard seeds, whole allspice, ground ginger, red pepper flakes, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, and dill seed.  Let me tell you, this pickles are going to be ZESTY.  I also opted to put a bit of sugar in with my brine because last year my pickles were just a touch too zippy – likely because I used the 7% pickling vinegar rather than the regular 5% stuff, which I did again this year.  Into each jar I put a dill head, a clove of garlic, and a dried chile.  Dried chile! I’m excited about this addition – I have no idea how spicy these pickles are going to be, but I think they will be pretty hot and I’m psyched.

I packed in my cukes – I actually had washed and prepped too many, so hopefully they will keep for a few days in the fridge until I make whatever’s next.  (As for prepping, I cut the nub off of each end and let them sit in some ice water for awhile – this supposedly helps them to stay crispy – and I like a crispy pickle).  Boiled my brine and poured it over, and processed my jars for 10 minutes! They look pretty good.  The worst thing about making pickles is the waiting – they’re best if you wait a couple months before eating them.  TORTURE.  I’ve been thinking of trying to make a dill relish with the rest of the cukes, because yesterday I was inspired by the internet to try my hand at making ketchup, mustard, and relish this year for gifts.  I just simply don’t think there is anything cuter sounding than that! I’m a dill relish, not a sweet relish kinda gal, so that’s my plan for now, but I’m also open to other pickle suggestions! I can always get more cukes for relish! Tell me your pickle ideas!!!

P.S. Here lies the requisit apology for taking so long to update, accompanied by the requisite photo of my new, terrific kitchen! Still unpacking but this apartment is really coming together, and I love this kitchen!

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The following post can be read to the tune of:

I have been a very bad blogger.  This has, most certainly, been my biggest lapse and as always, I apologize.  But rather than dwell on reasons or excuses, how about I just tell you about some delicious things?  Since it’s been so long since I’ve posted here’s a smattering of images from foods I’ve made in the last couple of months:

Buckwheat pancakes with blueberry-rhubarb compote

Shaved asparagus pizza

That last photo is of my go-to veggie burger recipe.  I’ve been making it for years, and I often crave it.  Usually I have everything for it on hand, so it’s a great recipe for when you are trying to use up things in your fridge.  The first time I had these burgers my good friend and housewife Krista Nerland made them for me and some friends, back in Montreal, many moons ago.  This was when I still ate meat, and when I thought of vegetarian food as usually lacklustre – particularly when it seemed like vegetarian “health food”.  What I’m trying to say is that I was expecting to hate these burgers, and to lie through my teeth that I liked them.  But then, I DID like them.  I was surprised.  They contained something called “bulgur” and that did not at all sound appealing.  Perhaps my now-love of delicious, natural, whole foods can be traced back to this moment.  The recipe itself is from a Moosewood cookbook – Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home – to be precise.

I’ve adapted this recipe slightly – mostly to make a smaller batch, and used their variation of adding chickpeas (I honestly can’t imagine these burgers without the chickpeas – I don’t think I’d like them nearly as much).  The “small” batch – the one I’m sharing here – still makes 6-8 good sized burgers.

Mince 1 garlic clove, and saute it in some oil for a couple minutes with 3/4 cup of bulgur.  Add 1 1/2 cups of boiling water, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and bulgur is tender.  *NOTE* for years when I made this recipe I made it with fine bulgur, and never needed to actually cook it at all – I just poured the water over and covered it and let it sit (like couscous) off the heat.  This was the first time I’ve ever actually cooked it on the stove, because now I have whole bulgur which is much larger, like wheatberries (are they the same thing?!) so just note that if you have fine grain bulgur you really don’t need to cook it.

Meanwhile, assemble the following things in a mixing bowl:  1/4 cup chopped green onions, 1/4 cup grated carrot, 1/8 cup chopped parsley (I frequently use cilantro instead, and I also don’t ever measure it, I just throw a big pile in, YUM), 1/8 cup tahini, 1 tbsp. tomato paste (get the stuff in a tube and you won’t have a rotting can of paste in your fridge!), 1 tbsp. tamari, 1/2 teaspoon (or however much you like) dijon mustard, add your favourite hot sauce (optional) and salt and pepper to taste.

Mix all those things together! Then, mash 1/2 -1cup chick peas (the more you add, the harder it will be to get them to stay together, but I generally use more than the 1/2 cup the recipe calls for) and add them into the mix.  When the bulgur is ready, mix it in too.  Then form your patties (don’t burn your hands!) and place them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Bake for about 20 minutes, flipping halfway through.   You can also fry these burgers, but I gave that up a few years ago because they never stay together and they become an oily mess.  In the oven they still sometimes fall apart when you flip them (be gentle!) but it’s nowhere near as bad as the frying scenario.  But if you’re brave and wanna fry them, be my guest.

If you love chick peas and veggie burgers that don’t try to taste like meat, I hope you will like these a lot.  They are nutty, and the flavours all mingle so well.  I imagine you could alter this recipe to put your own favourite seasonings/sauces in it, but you would want to keep the same amount of binding liquid-y stuff (i.e. tahini, tomato paste, mustard) to drier grainier things if you care about them actually staying together.  Yum! Now I just want these for dinner, but that’s not what I’m having tonight.

In other news, that time of the year is here again – the time when I feel busy all the time because I need to use most of my precious non-working moments to can things.  Canning! I made two batches of jam today, which meant standing in a small, sweaty kitchen and stirring for longer than I normally would on a day off, but really it’s so easy and satisfying and it made me remember why I like preserving things so much.

I made an old favourite today – my Aunt Linda’s Christmas Jam, which I blogged about last year (and used my own blogged recipe today while making it, which Paul thought was cool), but I also made a new, slightly experimental jam.  Rosemary Rhubarb.  Now, I followed a recipe, and in theory it’s not very different from the Rhubarb Ginger jam I’ve made a few times before, but obviously the flavour combination is totally different, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Paul loves it.  I like it quite a bit, though it’s the kind of thing that tastes good but also confuses your brain a little bit.  I’m interested to see how other people find it, but I think that it would definitely be amazing with a good goat’s cheese and some bread.

I hope to do a lot more experimental canning this year, and I want to break away from just jam and into more challenging things – more relishes, chutneys, sauces, syrups! I also have big plans to buy a bushel of tomatoes and can them all so that I can live off them in the sad winter months.  So stay tuned, this won’t be my last sweaty stove afternoon!

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Alright, I could make a million excuses here again for why I haven’t posted as frequently as I’d like, but I don’t really have any good excuse.  Except that I got a kitty cat and I’ve been spending more of my spare time throwing crumpled up balls of paper down the hallway for her to chase! But I’ve still been cooking and taking photos, and have a backlog of things to tell you about.  I will try and post a lot in the next few days to get up to date and also since this weekend is Thanksgiving there’s sure to be some delectable treats being made in this lil’ apartment.

So, onwards! First off, I canned some tomatoes! See?

I won’t go into too much detail about it, but it’s exciting! I used Roma tomatoes, which are the best for canning since they’re meatier and not as watery, and I only got three 500ml jars out of them, but I’m excited to crack them open in the dead of winter to make something really delicious that tastes like summer.

Next up, I made a delicious pumpkin curry with a pie pumpkin from my CSA.  I’m very excited to actually make a pumpkin pie this week from an ACTUAL PUMPKIN because I’ve never done that.  We always used canned pumpkin – not pumpkin pie filling, don’t insult me! We spiced it ourselves and all that, but never bothered with actually starting from a real pumpkin.  I don’t think I realized that there was such a thing as a pie pumpkin, but there is, and they’re much smaller than regular pumpkins.  As soon as I realized that pie pumpkins existed and that I didn’t have to try and cut a giant pumpkin in half, I was all for it!  But trust me, trying to work with a full-sized pumpkin is nutty – my mom and I once made a pumpkin risotto that was amazing, but had to enlist Jeff solely for the purpose of cutting the pumpkin because it was insanely hard to do.  Anyways, a few weeks ago I used a pie pumpkin for something other than pie, and made a curry with it!  This is not a recipe from a blog or a book, I just sort of made it up as I went along.  First, you cut the stem off of your pumpkin, cut it in half, and scoop out all the seeds and guck with an ice cream scoop.  Save the seeds, so that you can burn them later on in the oven! Then you cook your pumpkin.  I steamed mine, since it seemed like the method that was both the least time consuming (rather than roasting it) and the least gross (as opposed to microwaving it for 30 minutes – microwaves should not be left on for that long!).  It was super easy to steam it, and then once it’s cooked and cooled, you can easily slip the skin off.  Or, if you’re impatient like me, you can slip the skin off while it’s hot and burn your fingers a hundred times.

Then I cut the pumpkin into cubes (very mushy cubes) and brainstormed what to do with it.  A curry, I thought!  I figured a curry would also be a good way to use up a bunch of the CSA veggies that I’m always working to get through.  Actually, to be honest I think I used store-bought swiss chard in this curry, and then a few days later got the HUGEST bunch of swiss chard in my CSA share and struggled to use it all up.  But bygones.  All good curries start with onion, garlic, and ginger.  And, ideally, a chili pepper, but I didn’t have one so I skipped it – but I was sad that I did! You want to saute your onions and garlic and ginger until they’re looking really good and translucent, and then add a spice mix.  I’m no expert at Indian spice mixes, but I’m starting to get the hang of what you want in them – a bit of turmeric, a bit of cayenne, a lot of cumin, a lot of coriander, some garam masala – all good things to have in there.  I think this is basically what I used, and probably added in some cumin seeds as well.  Saute the spices with your onions – it will be really dry and gummy, but let them cook for a few minutes, and then add a bit of water or broth to it and scrape up the brown bits from the pot.  Then, add some tomatoes.

Basically, once you’ve got the tomatoes in there, you can add all the stuff you want, let it simmer, adjust your seasonings to your taste, and play with it until you’re ready to eat.  In this case we threw in some potatoes (which we boiled separately to start) and chick peas, along with the pumpkin and then, in the last moments of cooking, some chopped swiss chard.

It looked pretty much like this, which is to say, glop:

But, you know, glop is basically what I want out of my Indian food – I am fairly sure Paul and I remarked that it was the perfect consistency.  You want something that is saucy enough to be good on rice, but not so soupy that it’s, well, soup.  This was pretty successful, particularly for a made up recipe.  And pumpkin, like all squash really, is a delicious addition to curry.

Lastly, I will just quickly tell you about the potato leek soup I made – the first such soup that I’ve made without an immersion blender, since I no longer have one and absolutely refuse to puree soup in batches in a blender or food processor.  I did that once a long time ago, and frankly, it’s not worth the effort.

So, potato leek soup goes like this: you chop up some leek.  You saute it in butter, and season them a bit with salt and pepper and whatever else you’d like, such as thyme.  Then, you add a bunch of chopped up potatoes, Yukon Golds work best, and that was what came in my CSA (with the leek and the thyme) so that is what I used.  Add some water or broth until the potatoes are just covered, and boil away until they’re nice and tender.

When the potatoes were good and tender, I just mashed them with a potato masher, in the pot.  Mash away, until desired consistency – it will never be perfectly silky smooth, unless you blend it.  But I liked the hearty texture of it – it made it feel more like a meal then when it is pureed.

Once your potatoes are all mashed up, add more liquid until it is the consistency you’d like.  I added a bunch of milk, and also some buttermilk, because it seemed like the right thing to do.  Adjust your seasonings (i.e. add salt) and serve! Best if topped with grated aged cheddar and alongside some toasty buttery delicious bread.

That’s all for now, but stayed tuned for more catch-up posts in the next couple of days before I create a small feast on Monday for Thanksgiving!

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Okay, so I obviously owe anybody who has actually been reading my blog an apology.  Because I haven’t posted in like, a month.  There are various excuses for this, which include:

a) being out of town for various stints of time to do things like go visit family, go to Hillside festival, go to Muskoka, and just do the sorts of things that people like to do when it is July.

b) not being able to find my camera cord and therefore not being able to upload any photos to my computer to include in a post.

Anyways, I do apologize, and I very much intend to continue updating regularly now that I have found my camera cord and will be more around in this hot, humid, sweaty city.

So please accept my apology, and onwards!

I haven’t made a lot of things of note lately, so I think I’ll talk a bit about some of the little food projects I’ve done recently.

So I’ve been trying to grow some foods on my lil balcony this year.  I got a few yellow beans and one or two peas earlier this spring/summer, but now those plants seem to have withered and some died with the heat of this summer.  My kale and my tomatoes are still flourishing though.  And my tomatoes have finally started to ripen! I’m growing Golden Nugget cherry tomatoes, which I started from seeds from Urban Harvest.  I’ve started picking some and it’s really satisfying, though I don’t think they’re my favourite tomato variety.  I think next year, when I have a south-facing balcony at my new apartment, I will try and grow a variety that needs more sun and maybe will be one that I like a bit more.  But these little guys are still great.

Next, I’ll tell you about the dinner that Paul and I made the other night.  It wasn’t really anything particularly fancy, but it was so so delicious.  It was on the holiday Monday, the holiday known by a million different names – everything from the simple “Civic Holiday” to “Simcoe Day” to “Alexander Mackenzie Day” in my hometown of Sarnia.  Anyways, it was a nice day and we decided to have a sort of BBQ styles supper, but since neither of us eat meat it would be altered slightly.  But we had really delicious corn on the cob, some of which had been bought at a regular grocery store in Huntsville last week, and some of which came in my CSA last week.  We also made mashed potatoes, and a REALLY good mushroom-miso gravy that I’m not entirely sure how I made it so damn good, but it was really really good.  And then we had these BBQ tofu sandwiches, and they had iceberg lettuce on them, since that came in my CSA last week as well.  I have a total love affair with iceberg lettuce.  I know that it probably has no nutritional value, and it doesn’t really have much flavour and it isn’t in any fancy mesclun mix salads and whatnot, but it is SO crunchy and SO SO refreshing.  I love it.  And there is something about having iceberg lettuce on a sandwich with mayo that just tastes simultaneously amazing and also gives me that feeling that I’m eating some kind of junk food, even if I’m not really.  It’s like a McChicken, or the cheese sandwiches I used to eat when I couldn’t find anything else I wanted to snack on in my parents’ house.  Anyways, it was a delicious BBQ dinner, and even Kat watched us eat and said “Oh wow, you really did make a BBQ dinner, good for you guys!”

Ah, yes. Kat, the delightful Kat Burns gets an honourary blog mention here because she recently returned from her Western Canada tour with a gift for me.  She herself even proclaimed that she almost never buys gifts for people, but that she made an exception in this case, which made me feel very special.  This is what she got me:

How perfect is that? She got it at this place in Winnipeg, which sounds like a great little place.  I think when I move into my new place I will put this up in my kitchen.  My new kitchen.  I am moving out of this lovely house where I’ve lived for two years to live all on my own, and I’m looking forward to it though I will also be sad to go.  But my new kitchen is a serious downgrade.  Last night I found myself reading the tips on Smitten Kitchen about how to make the most of your small kitchen and looking at the photos on her page, I think my new kitchen is almost identical.  I’m moving from having a lot of counter space and shelving space to having barely any counter space at all.  I won’t have room for a real table and chairs in my new kitchen. And, perhaps worst of all, I’m moving from having a giant full-sized gas stove to having one of those 3/4 size ELECTRIC stoves.  Sigh.  The up-side is that I will have a full-sized fridge all to myself, which I can barely fathom.  But it will be an interesting transition, and I will keep you all posted with how I cope with it.

And last, but certainly not least, I ventured into a new realm of preserving yesterday.  Thus far, I’ve only made jams.  Jam is the easiest thing to preserve, because fruit is so high in acid and so there’s little risk of spoiling and there’s so few ingredients.  But yesterday I made PICKLES.  Yup, pickles.  I’m not supposed to open the jars for two whole months! That is allegedly how long it takes the flavours to mingle and mellow, but it’s going to be difficult to wait that long.  I made five jars of dill pickles, and 2 jars of dilled beans, and I may pickle more things yet.  It was very easy, and very satisfying.

So that’s all for now folks, I hope I haven’t lost all interest there ever was in this blog, and I leave you with promises of many more posts to come soon.  Like PIE! Stay tuned…

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Today, it is meant to be 33 degrees, and 42 with the humidex.  Yesterday, it was the same.  This is Celsius people, for those of you who prefer fahrenheit, that’s 108 with the humidex.  Suffice it to say, it is HOT.  Yesterday I hit a real low point mid-afternoon in my apartment where I felt really nauseous and awful – cold showers, ice packs strapped to my chest, and wet hair against the fan simply was not doing the trick.  Eventually I cracked and decided to fish deep deep into my storage crawl space (which is about 20 degrees hotter than the rest of the house) to find my old window unit air conditioner and installed it (read: taped it in with duct tape) in our living room.  I wasn’t able to put it in my own bedroom because I don’t have any real windows because our balcony is off my room.  Anyways, life was much much better after getting the a/c in, even though its not COLD in the living room it is a reasonable temperature for surviving in.

I’m not sure if I’ve already mentioned this on this blog, but I am getting a CSA this year.  For those of you who don’t know what that is, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  Basically you get a box of fruit/veggies every week, but instead of paying once a week you pay all the money up front back in the winter, so that the farmers can actually use your money to invest in growing the crops instead of struggling all winter until the food is ready to sell.  I’ve had about 4-5 weeks of it so far, and it’s awesome.  I pick it up really close to my house, and I have some set products and some choice in what I fill the rest of my share with – they have eggs, they have meat (which I don’t eat, but it’s still really good meat I hear), they have jams, they have pickles, they have breads and flours and all sorts of wonderful things.  A few weeks ago I got a bag of dried chipotles that I still haven’t used.  This is all to say that yesterday, in my real low point of heat exhaustion, all I could think was “I can’t move there’s no way I can go pick up my CSA” and I was dreading having to walk over there and get it.

When I finally mustered up the courage to brave the heat, on the walk there I kept thinking “There’s no way I want to cook or eat anything hot tonight, maybe I can make pasta salad”.  I was thinking about this Jamie Oliver pasta salad recipe – it’s one of those recipes that really you don’t need a recipe for, but sometimes it’s nice to have a picture and a guideline to match your thoughts to stay on track.  When I got there to pick up my CSA it was as if they knew exactly what I had been thinking – my share included two small cucumbers as well as basil, and there were some of the most beautiful little heritage cherry tomatoes available for purchase with my extra dollars.  But wait – what are THOSE?! I thought – and asked.  “Black raspberries, and I think they’re even more delicious than the red ones, if you can believe that” was the answer I got.  I believed it, and they were beautiful.  I immediately starting digging in my purse for all my loose change, so that I could buy as many of these black raspberries as possible – I didn’t have much money on me, so I almost changed my mind and just got other things but then the jam-maker in me thought Are you crazy?! BLACK RASPBERRIES! How do you know you will see these anywhere else, anytime soon?! I found myself 50 cents short of what I needed to get the cherry tomatoes and 3 pints of the raspberries, so I asked if I could owe them for next week – but then a kindly stranger there to pick up her own share said “Here just take this!” and gave me 50 cents of her own – this, my friends, is one more reason why CSAs are wonderful.

So I got home, and I made this pasta salad.  Cherry tomatoes, cucumber, basil, garlic scapes, with a simple dressing of white wine vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper.  I forgot to put snowpeas in, which I had been planning to do, but I remembered near the end that I had an unopened jar of black olives my parents had brought me back from Argentina and so I used my still new-ish cherry pitter to pit those olives and diced them up and threw them in too.  I crumbled some goat cheese on top, and enjoyed multiple bowlfuls with my Porch Swing and followed by a banana split.  And then I watched cable television in the air conditioned living room for hours on end.

This morning I got up and sweated out the morning in my kitchen before the afternoon dead heat set in, so that I could turn those black raspberries into jam.  I won’t write about that here though, because if I post about every batch of jam I make, it will get quite boring.  But I will say that I’ve discovered Certo Light – the word “light” makes me assume that there is some gross chemical fake sugar sweetener or something else scary in it, which is usually the case, but I recently learned that Certo Light is just higher in acid so that you can make jam with less sugar.  Which is like a dream come true for me, because I don’t really have a sweet tooth and jam has started to just taste too sickly sweet to me the last few batches.  So I will tell you that this black raspberry jam, apart from being so nice and dark to look at, only includes 4.5 cups of sugar instead of the otherwise-required 7 cups.  Amazing.

p.s. I also have not been able to get “Heat Wave” by Martha and the Vandellas out of my head for DAYS.  But, it could be worse.

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Let me first say that I know that it is nowhere near Christmas time.  It is July, I know this.  But summer is the time when you make the jam, and Christmas can be the time for eating this jam, if it actually lasts that long.

Let me also warn you that this post, it is of the bittersweet nature – there is sad in here along with this delicious jam.

In March of this year, my Aunt Linda died.  Suddenly, in her sleep, while on vacation in Australia.  I’m sure that I don’t need to go into the details of how shocking this was, and how confusing and sad on top of that.  I love my entire family, and love them all completely and unconditionally, but I think we all know that there are sometimes favourites.  And, my Aunt Linda, for a variety of reasons, was my favourite aunt (at least on my dad’s side – aunt Glenda if you’re reading this, you are obviously also the loveliest).  I think this favouritism was at least partly due to the fact that she was the aunt I saw and interacted with the most – she was the one who usually drove down from Trenton to my dad’s in Chatham for visits, she was the one who we stayed with the last bunch of years when we would go there.  She was the mother of my older cousin Amanda, who I followed around and admired like annoying 10-year-old cousins are wont to do.  In less than two weeks, I will be going to Trenton for our annual summer visit with my dad’s side of the family, and it’s sort of like the shock and sadness is setting in because things will just be so different, you know?

Anyways, this post is about jam, not about grieving.  Well, I suppose it is about both of those things.  You see, my aunt Linda was a jam-master.  She was the master of a lot of things food-wise, quite honestly, and preserves of all sorts were included in that.  I only started making jam at the end of last summer – it’s this thing that is terribly intimidating when you’ve never done it, and then you do, and you’re like “That’s it?! But it’s so easy!“.  When I started making jam, the first thing I did was ask Linda for her recipe for “Christmas Jam” which had been my definite favourite of her creations.  I imagine that it’s called Christmas jam because of the presence of cranberries.  I didn’t end up making it last year, partly because of the conundrum of the fruits – this jam uses both strawberries and cranberries – which are not at all in season at the same time.  But then! I recently noticed that I could get cranberries frozen (Thank you again, President’s Choice brand).  There’s something about frozen cranberries that seems less quality-compromising than frozen strawberries – probably because cranberries are already so hard and tart that the freezing doesn’t seem like it would damage them as much in my mind.

So today, after much hunting for fresh Ontario strawberries (are they out of season again already?!) I made this Christmas Jam.  It is beautiful to look at, the colour is lovely and dark compared to the brightness of strawberry-only jams.  I know that strawberry jams in particular don’t require store-bought pectin so much, but I’m just not there yet, and I always use pectin.  I’ll grow away from it eventually.  My aunt’s recipe was actually kind of confusing measurement wise, so I compared it to one I found on the internet.

Aunt Linda’s Christmas Jam:

2& ½ quarts strawberries
1 lb fresh or frozen cranberries
5 lbs white sugar
2 pouches Certo Liquid

Internet recipe:

1 qt. strawberries
2 c. cranberries, chopped
4 1/2 c. sugar
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 of 6 oz. bottle of liquid pectin

The basic procedure for both of these is to bring the fruit, sugar, and lemon juice (if used) to a hard boil for one minute – this means a boil that won’t disappear when you stir it.  Then turn off the heat, stir in the liquid pectin immediately, and then stir for 5 minutes to prevent the fruit from floating in the finished product.  Ladle into hot, sterilized jars, put hot, sterilized lids on top, and boil the jars for 10 minutes in a hot water bath.  Do not open for 12-24 hours.

Let me also mention that one recipe I found on the internet was also titled Christmas Jam and had been posted on Cooks.com by “Linda”.  This was decidedly eerie, but also comforting.  Now excuse me, I’m going to eat my feelings now (well, in 12-24 hours when this jam is done setting I will).

Oh, and p.s. – this is where I cook these days, and I feel pretty lucky to have such a great kitchen as a mere renter in Toronto:

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