Daily Archives: August 13, 2012

E is for Environment – Pagan Blog Project 2012

I was out gleaning this morning – harvesting choke cherries (plus a couple of crab apples and one sweet apple) from neighbourhood trees – and made a bunch of jelly plus a small bottle of syrup out of my haul. πŸ™‚

It seems appropriate that – as someone who harvests food from the wild and weedy places around my neighbourhood – I should talk about Environmentalism and its place in my Pagan practice. As such:

E is for Environmentalism

You’d think it would be a no-brainer. But everywhere I look, I actually see Pagans and Heathens bemoaning the way other Pagans and Heathens lack a connection to the Natural World. I see authors recognizing that most of us live in cities, don’t like bugs, and so on. I periodically come across bloggers going on about how they’re wild witches in the woods – unlike those wanna-be fluffy bunny types who barely go camping…

I think there’s a bit of a thing – a combination of the culture/nature dichotomy with-which a lot of us were raised and the guilt that comes from being part of a petroleum-dependent culture – wherein a lot of us think of “Nature” as being places that are less obviously touched by human activity.
And that’s an attitude that isn’t help us. It’s not helping “us”, people who are part of this culture that sees humans as separate from the rest of Life; It’s not helping “us” who are guilt-ridden about environmental degredation but can only envision a change as being either “useless” (switching lightbulbs, bringing cloth bags to the store, and other tiny things that – when held up against the Enbridge Pipeline – don’t seem to do much good) or too drastic to handle (living off the grid a million kilometers from the nearest grocery store and virtuously freezing/starving/suffering all through the winter while going slowly round the twist from the isolation). And it’s also not helping “us”, people who do earth-based religion/spirituality and are wondering how to Comune With Nature when they feel that “nature” is only available on the weekends or at Fest.

I think that a more wholistic (sorry – there are New Age Buzz Words that, while they make me cringe, are also occasionally very applicable) aproach is needed here.

If you stop thinking of pigeons as “vermin” and recognize that they’re part of an urban ecosystem – same as squirrels, raccoons, flies, starlings, crows, grackles, sparrows, cats, dogs, emerald ash borers (you don’t have to like them either – my mother-in-law sticks her knitting needles into the holes they drill in her Rowan tree, with no remorse what-so-ever), choke cherries, dandelions, crab grass, norwegian maple, juniper, carp… (you’re getting the idea) – you maybe lose the idea that humanity and The Natural World parted ways some time in the 1600s.
And when you do that – when you realize that “The Environment” isn’t some abstract idea, possibly connected with Brazil, but is, rather, what you are and where you live – then making those small changes doesn’t seem quite so futile (because you’re helping your own neighbours, right?) and the big changes (living in the middle of nowhere) don’t seem like the only “real” option.

My goal? A down-town bungalow, retrofitted with solar pannels and (hopefully) geothermal heating, that has a big garden and a couple of fruit trees.
That’s my goal. Not disappearing into the wilderness.
Fishing in the river down the street from where I live, not sitting Up North for three days, hoping a moose comes by at the right time (I can barter for that stuff). There is probably a CSA Share in my future, and a chest freezer. But there’s also a closeness to friends and phamily (and family), because that’s important, too.

And, for what it’s worth, that’s my post on Environment (The environment; My environment; you name it…)

Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Balsamic Tomato Sauce

This is a recipe I’ve cobbled together from a couple I found online (here and here – although more-so the first one).


16 roma tomatoes (AKA: 2kg OR 7-8 cups), diced and roasted
1 yellow pepper, diced and roasted
1/2 C red onion, diced
8 medium-sized cloves of garlic
Olive oil (to drizzle)

1 sweet-pickled red pepper, rinsed and mashed

1/4 C balsamic vinegar
1/4 C red-wine vinegar
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp dried basil, crumbled
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp marmite[2]
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp black pepper


1) Dice the tomatoes, the onion, and the yellow pepper

2) Roughly chop the garlic

3) Throw them all onto a greased cookie sheet and roast them for half an hour

4) Throw the roasted veggies, plus the sweet-pickled red pepper, and all the seasonings, into a food processor and blend until you have a very smooth sauce

5) Transfer sauce to a large sauce pan and heat on low, stirring regularly (bring to a boil)

6) Sterilize seven 1-cup jars (or 14 half-cup jars, or a mix of whatever sizes you want to use) plus their lids and rings in a boiling-water/steam bath for 5-10 minutes while bringing the sauce to a boil

7) When the sauce is boiling and the jars, lids, and rings are sterilized, ladel the sauce into the sterilized jars

8) Cap the jars and process them, upside down, in a boiling-water/steam bath for 5-10 minutes

9) Set the jars on a wire rack to cool – you will hear the “plunk” as the lids seal (they all need to do this, so pay attention – any lids that can be popped up and down with a fingertip after an hour or so probably need to be re-sealed… or kept in the fridge and used up in the next couple of weeks).

Makes about five cups, total. (Ten half-cup jars).


And there you have it. Balsamic roasted tomato sauce with added peppers and garlic. The flavour of the peppers is very prominant – I acutally added the 2tbsp and the extra salt mid-way through because I found that the peppers made it too bitter… however, with the added seasonings (salt helps to cancel out bitterness on the palate, and sweetness will temper it) it’s quite tasty.

The next time I make this sauce, I’ll probably only use one pepper, will add extra garlic (I love garlic), and may up the marmite a tad. We shall see.

Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] Yes, really. Although if you’re marmite-averse, you can use tamari – or half a teaspoon of table salt – and you’ll be just fine. That said, if you do go the marmite route, you’ll get an extra hit of umami… Which, as someone who really enjoys meat and cheese, is a nice way to add that rich, pungent, complexity of flavour while, say, making something vegan.

More Canning Plans

Back from Funeral Number Two in as many weeks, and feeling a big need to create, create, create. So last night I made a batch of chocolate soap (vanilla and chocolate absoluts + saponified olive oil, soy wax, and coconut oil… plus a couple of scraps of beeswax in there for hardening). Today, I’m planning to make balsamic tomato sauce and peach-apricot chutney.

I made a spicey peach-apricot chutney last year using tinned peaches and dried apricots. This year, I’ll be using fresh peaches and may or may not add the apricots at all (not sure yet), though I do have a heap of dried apricots lying around, so I could…

I wrote, the other day, about choosing recipes for preserves that you will actually use, and mentioned about the difference between tomato salsa and tomato (pasta) sauce. I’m personally a much bigger fan of salsa – the mix of sweet and sour, fruit and vinegar and tomato and cilantro and garlic – than I am of tomato sauce that’s destined for pasta. However. I do love rosee sauces, and a little bit of fresh tomato thrown into the sauteed veggies that, yes, I’m about to pour over pasta, tells me that I don’t actually dislike tomato sauce. I just prefer it in moderation. (Not a big fan of spaghetti swimming in tomato-and-onion sauce, I have to confess).

So my Big Idea is to make a batch of balsamic tomato sauce – with lots of garlic, but not very much onion – and can it in very small (half-cup) jars. So that, when I’m doing pasta – or slow-cooked roasts, for that matter – I can add a taste of tomato without having to drown everything in it. (Also, using half-cup jars means that I have twice as many jars of sauce… meaning that I’ll probably have enough to give away in gift baskets this winter!)

First, however, I need to actually find half-cup jars. My local grocery store seems to be pretty… random… about its jar sizes (this year it’s one-litre and one-cup; last year it was two-cup and half-cup… Who knows…)

So off I go to my local hardware store. I’ll post recipes later on. πŸ™‚

Meliad the Birch Maiden.