Category Archives: preserves

May Long Weekend in the Garden – A “Productive Home” Post

So! Erica, over at NWedible, is doing a Productive Home Weekly Report thing, and has invited people to chime in with their own productivity reports.
I’m… not totally fussed about tracking productivity. It feels a bit like giving myself a performance review. BUT, if I think of it as an opportunity to brag about the awesome-fun-cool stuff I’ve been doing/planting/harvesting/cooking/baking/canning/fermenting/etc chez moi that I’m really excited about… it gets a whole lot easier.
So here we go.
 
IN THE GARDEN there has been sprouting and there has been planting! Of both seeds and starts! And there has also been (a tiny bit of) harvesting! Because perennial food crops are fantastic!
 
PLANTED:
I picked up some starts from the local Home Hardware (I’m not choosy). Purple basil, peppermint (I seriously managed to kill my peppermint last year – possibly due to drought, or possibly due to poor management – so I’m trying again), Lebanese cucumber, yellow bell pepper, and yellow cherry tomato. I got them in the ground early this afternoon, along with planting some golden zucchini seeds. We’ll see if they come up.
 
I’ve got scarlet runner beans and butternut squash, along with a “perimeter fence” of daikon radish (I’m hoping the long, thick tap-roots that develop will help keep water in, and invasive runner roots out, of the in-ground bed where I grow my cucurbitas and all my nightshades) planted as seeds, and have some probably-butternut squash coming up from compost-seeds already, which is nice. My rainbow chard is popping up all over, and I spent part of this afternoon transplanting it into more orderly rows (yeah, I’m doing rows… ish. I want my chard to have lots of room to get big and gorgeous and start thriving). My kale – which is, in theory, the Tuscan Black variety (Cavalo Nero) – seems to have sprouted, too, which is nice. I’ve been thinning out the self-seeded mustard greens a LOT in order to give the chard and kale some room to grow. Mustard, I’ve decided, makes a lovely “baby green” for salads, but isn’t something I love as a cooking green, partly because it bolts so darned quickly. It makes for decent sprouting broccoli when it bolts, though, so I’ll have to leave some to mature. 😉
 
The as’kebwan’ (sunchokes) are starting to sprout (again – I dug up a bunch earlier, as I needed to get the last of last year’s harvest out of the ground, once it had thawed – they’re great, by the way, and finding their way into a lot of stew and “potato” salad).
I have no idea if my (new to me) raspberry bush is going to flower this year. Or any year. But fingers crossed?
 
READY TO HARVEST / HARVESTED:
I have tonnes of rhubarb (and sage, and winter savoury) ready to harvest. Along with some frozen rhubarb left over from last year. Uhm. So, as I’ve previously mentioned, I need to make some pies. Or at least a Rhubarb Cafloutis or a crumble or shortcake or something. It makes a great coffee cake (I use the recipe in Company’s Coming “Muffins and More” for cranberry coffee cake, and just use diced rhubarb in lieu of cranberries) and, now that I have eggs in the fridge again, I may just go that route as it packs easily for lunches.
 
The sage has been getting picked and chucked into braises, fairly frequently, but I haven’t been doing a whole lot with the savoury. The dandelion greens and Vietnamese garlic (the tops, not the roots) have been getting added to pastas every so often, but (weirdly?) I’m concerned about using them up too quickly (or at least before the garlic starts to scape).
 
OTHER:
I turned the compost (first time!) and edged the in-ground beds (front and back). I’m happy with how the compost is doing. I put stuff like pizza boxes and newspapers in the compost heap in order to add carbon to a pretty “green stuff” heavy heap (at least I think it’s heavy on the green stuff, as it’s mostly spent coffee grounds, old tea bags, egg shells, and veggie ends) and its rotting into oblivion along with everything else, which I assume is a good sign.
Also, there are wriggly worms in the compost (and even in the raised beds!) and the soil in the back yard’s in-ground bed (which, until Wednesday, the compost heap was sitting directly on top of) is dark a relatively easy to turn – unlike the dirt in the rest of the yard, which is pretty compacted and mostly supports stuff with deep tap-roots, like dandelions.
 
 
IN THE KITCHEN there has been baking and fermenting!
 
FERMENTS:
I’m drinking a LOT of kombucha lately. Partly because I’ve been home, sick, this past week, and drinking Lots Of Fluids has been a significant part of the bill, and partly just because it’s hot out now, or reasonably so, and I’m wanting cool bevvies, rather than hot ones (at least when I’m not hacking up a lung. Appetizing, I know). So I’ve been topping up my kombucha bottle a lot more frequently. NOTE: This makes for a less sharp kombucha which, with my love of the sour stuff, isn’t really what I’m going for. It’s still good, it’s just “lighter” than I like. I continue to cut it with a cup or two of lightly sweetened, long-steeped hibiscus (raspberry/pomegranate/etc) tea, as I like how that works out.
 
I’m continuing to make dairy kefir. My wife won’t touch it in terms of using it as a yoghurt substitute, but she likes it fine in baked goods, so I’m using it a lot in pancakes and coffee cake and similar. Even in bread (see below). I’m making Very Small Batches, and hoping I can get back to the stuff I was making in winter, where it would separate really evenly into curds and whey, and I could get super-thick “kefir cheese” (more like yoghurt or sour cream) that way, while using the whey in things like bechemel sauce or briases. Today, I made chocolate popsicles using (1) chocolate chips, (2) coconut milk, and (3) kefir. They probably won’t be solid until tomorrow, but they should be VERY delicious (and not overly sweet, which is a help when you want something refreshing on a hot day) if the liquid mixture is anything to go on.
 
I (finally) drained my sour kraut crock and packed the fermented cabbage (which is crunchy and done, but also salty AF, holy moly…) into some big mason jars and put it in the fridge. Time to start using this stuff on sandwiches. (Conveniently, I have some beet-and-bean spread sitting in the fridge that will work really nicely with this).
 
Speaking of sandwiches… I tried making a sour dough starter. It.. was not that? successful?
I separated out into Kinda Brown Water on top, and sludge on the bottom. Except, when I drained off the water, it was actually pretty bubbly and fermented-looking. So… It sort of worked? Maybe?
Basically, I poured the entire ferment into my most recent batch of bread, along with 2tsp of dry yeast, so while it was doing its thing, I don’t actually know if it was lively enough to lift a whole new batch of dough.
Yeah.
I’m learning to make sour dough from books like Michael Pollan’s Cooked, and I’m not too quick on the uptake. I don’t usually (yet) start making my bread dough the night before I actually want to bake it, and I’m realizing that if I want to do sour dough, that’s how it’s going to go. Or else I’m going to be starting the chef – like maybe making a chef from equal parts kefir and flour and water, which I’ve done, but am not entirely sure about (my wife liked it. I wasn’t too keen on the texture, which was a lot denser than I’m used to, but it was flavourful and made an acceptable sandwich, so it did the job) – at breakfast, and baking the bread after dinner. This is, by the looks of things, a bit of a slower process than the “only takes 2 hours” version using dry yeast woken up in sweetened warm water. So we’ll see. I’d like to keep this up, just because it would be nice to not need the dry yeast, eventually. But, for now, I’m really glad I have some on hand.
 
BAKING:
The entirety of this week’s baking has been the above-mentioned bread and rhubarb coffee cake. There are a couple of chicken legs baking in the oven right now – although that’s more like a “confit de poulet” than a “baked goods” kind of thing. It’ll be dinner along with some left-over potato salad (not made with sunchokes, or even at home, but left over from a catered lunch at a place where I was temping) and some wilted greens (as in: dandelions and garlic greens. I want that sorrel to successfully germinate even more now… Hm… a little lovage wouldn’t hurt, either…). Big Plans for this weekend include a new batch of bread (made with dry yeast, I have zero doubt), a further rhubarb Thing (maybe muffins), and cookies or cornbread. Probably not both.
 
 
GENERAL HOUSEHOLD STUFF:
Put together a care-package for someone who helped do the C-16 rally on Parliament Hill the other day. (Pasta, crushed tomatoes, salsa, tinned tuna, tinned soup, and 2L of pumpkin-coconut-lentil stew that I made with the stuff I had lying around).
I haven’t been gleaning a lot yet this year. I’ve got dandelions growing in my raised beds, so we’re just harvesting them like any other intentional crop. The the local fruit trees (my favourite cherry, plus tonnes of serviceberries) will be fruiting in about six weeks, and so will the red currants, and I’ve been watching their progress with GREAT interest. (The alley raspberries are about to flower, though they’ll take a little bit longer to fruit). I’m hoping the garden will keep us happily in greens all summer (and fall, and into the early winter…) with lots to spare for the freezer, so I’m not worrying too much about foraging for wild greens right now.
Went grocery shopping! I’ve been on “milk and eggs only” for 3-4 weeks, after a fairly lean winter. We’ve run out of a few things that I’ve been putting off replacing. It’s really nice to have cooking oil, mustard, mayonnaise, chocolate chips, and a bunch of other “not 100% necessary” things again. Plus I bought chicken. 7 chicken legs for $10. I have no idea if that’s a good price or not, but I’m really happy to have 3 meals for two + a chicken leg for some evening when I’m on my own over here, sorted as the greens start to come in. There’s still a lot of dry-goods to replace (particularly flour, but also honey and some basic baking things), and I want to re-stock on chicken and fish in one big go, though I suspect that will happen at Costco or similar, rather than ordering another half a pig. (Yet. We’re still finishing our first one). We’ve got a gallon of maple syrup due to arrive some time this coming week, which I’m looking forward to. I want to try using it more frequently in my baking.
As per usual, I’ve been offering the first slice of every new batch of bread to my gods and ancestors + Anybody local who wants to partake. Now that I’ve got the compost turned (and regularly watered – thanks to the neighbours who are okay with me using their hose), I can use it as an offering place for more stuff, should I happen to have it. The compost heap makes a great offering altar, just because it’s got All The Things in it – heat and wetness, earth and air, and movement, and change, all going on at once. If I manage to successfully make mead (hello, summer fermenting project), some of it will be going in there.
We turned the heat off. (Technically this happened a week ago, but close enough). It’s been wonderful to sleep with the windows open again!
I moved the fig tree outside. My landlord’s husband and I stood outside, drinking coffee and chatting about gardening. He said the fig tree needs a bigger pot (again), and that going around the edges with a big knife will help keep it from becoming root-bound. Which, admittedly, it might already be. But… we’ll see. It’s not technically ours, we’ve just been babysitting it for two years.
 
ANYWAY. That’s the state of the garden and the rest of the household for the moment.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Sour Kraut: The Adventure Continues!

So, back in the summer, I learned how to make sour kraut at a Queering613 workshop. (It was a tonne of fun, and I made a few new friends, which was also pretty great). We’ve been eating it for months, because I made a big jar off it, and it was time to top it up a couple of weeks ago.
 
I transferred everything to my spiffy Fermentation Crock (a gift from a pottery-making friend who is just as DIY as I am, if not more-so), topped it up with salt water and fresh cabbage, and let it sit for a week or so.
 
Woops.
 
Reader, I let things get mouldy. O.O
 
Now, if you’ve been reading this for a while, you know that I am generally not a “Throw It Out, It’s Ruined!” kind of gal. I have scooped out the spoiled stuff (which was above-water-level, as is to be expected[1]) added a cup of filtered whey (from my last batch of kefir – see, I told you I’d mention whey in a follow-up post) and 2tbsp salt dissolved in some filtered (boiled and cooled, actually, which seems to be working just fine, at least when it comes to making kombucha) water and… we’ll see if this works.
Fingers crossed.
 
I hope it works. I don’t want to have to compost the entire batch, and I do want to be able to serve sour kraut with perogies in the near future, plus use it to make sandwiches (it goes really well with garlicky hummus, and I think it would be good on a roast pork sammie as well) when my wife and I are working in the shop.
 
I’m really interested in continuing to make fermented veggie pickles. I’d like make some rutabaga & beet pickles (like you eat with shawarma) and to try lacto-fermenting as’kibwan'[3] using either a recipe like this or just working it the way I do my sour kraut (similar to this). I’m interested in using diced chard and kale stems (which I typically dice and freeze, and then chuck into stews and braises) to make a chunky, crunchy kraut for sandwiches, too, that I could also chuck into stir-fries or braises in lieu of needing to add vinegar for “brightness”. I’m even thinking about trying to make fermented hummus using whey and maybe kombucha-vinegar (instead of lemon juice)… just for the heck of it, really.
I mean, we’ll see if I do any of this. But it’s on my mind, and they are things I’d like to try.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Sour kraut is an anarobic[2] ferment, so it’s only good (or safe, for that matter) to eat if you’re keeping it submerged. Which is why fermentation crocks often involve a weighted lid that fits inside the crock, rather than on top of it.
 
[2] Meaning “needs to be kept away from air” in order to ferment properly. Kefir is an example of an arobic ferment, that needs air circulation to properly do its thing.
 
[3] I have yet to dig my sunchokes – which are maybe called as’kibwan’, or something close to it(?), in Anishnaabemowin (local indigenous language – I figure it’s an indigenous-to-the-area plant, might as well use its real name) – out of the back yard, though it’s warm enough to day that I can probably do so. I admit to be a bit nervous about storing my (current) favourite root crop. I don’t (yet) have a bucket of sand that I can stick them in, so I’m looking at blanching-&-freezing and pickling in the interim.

Adventures in Cheese-Making, Part Five: Kefir (this time with kefir grains!)

So I’ve started making kefir.
Kefir isn’t technically a cheese (although, strictly speaking, none of the cultured dairy I’ve made, including the ricotta, has been “cheese” because none of it has involved any kind of rennet? Who knows), but it is a cultured milk product that is vaguely related to yoghurt, so I’m putting it under this heading.
Why Kefir? My wife, who is generally not a fan of anything less cheese-like than old cheddar or a fairly firm blue, asked me this the other day. It is, after all, basically just milk that’s Gone Off in a very specific way. Here’s (essentially – I’ve expanded it a little bit) what I told her:
 

So, I love yoghurt. I love it on pancakes. I love using it instead of sour milk to make coffee cakes and muffins and stuff. I love it as a base for a creamy salad dressing for winter veggies[1]. I love it with maple syrup and frozen service berries as a breakfast. It’s fantastic. It’s also expensive as fuck. Plain yoghurt that isn’t full of thickeners, but also isn’t Organic, runs about $3/kg. A kilogram of yoghurt, at my house, lasts about 2 days, if I use it as a breakfast food. Longer if I use it as a topping or a dressing, but it’s primarily a protein source and major meal component, when I have my druthers. I’m not down for spending $10 a week on yoghurt. But I’m buying a $6 gallon of milk every week anyway and, over the summer, I was having about 1L of every gallon go bad on me. So I thought: Why don’t I make yoghurt?
Except that, every time I try to make yoghurt[4] all I get is a skiff of yoghurt floating on top of a litre+ of whey. Not helpful. That, or I thicken the milk with powdered milk (not cheap) which gets me yoghurt, yes, but it gets me chalky yoghurt that I don’t want to eat as a breakfast food.
So I decided to look up mesophilic[5] dairy cultures and try my hand at those.

 
And try, I did!
My first attempt was actually using powdered “kefir starter” which… works. Ish. But the kefir I got wasn’t very thick. Basically, a powdered starter will only ferment the milk up to a certain point, and that point was a little runnier / more watery than I liked.
But then! A friend of mine arrived at my birthday party (about 2 weeks ago) bearing a jar of milk for me. Floating in the milk were a few tablespoons of kefir grains happily getting their ferment on. 😀
Woohoo!
So, as they say, it was on. I set the jar down on top of my chest freezer (warm, out of direct light, not likely to get knocked over) and let it do its thing for a few days. The kefir grains did their job fantastically (maybe too fantastically?) and I wound up over-fermenting things just a little bit.
This isn’t the end of the world, especially if you’re wanting thick kefir to begin with, but it did mean that – after I poured off most of the whey (kefir totally separates into curds and whey, fyi – it doesn’t mean something’s gone wrong, that’s normal and your kefir is okay) – I actually had trouble separating the curds, which I wanted to use in lieu of chevre, from the kefir grains (which you have to strain out, so that you can ferment more milk).
 
Kefir grains, by the way, are a SCOBY. They’re like the weird jellyfish/pancake thing that develops in, and creates, kombucha, but rather than being a jellyfish/pancake, a kefir SCOBY is dozens (or more!) of translucent little blobs like tapioca pearls[6].
 
So I bugged my fermento/DIY friends on FB and they all gave me suggestions for how to handle this little problem.
What I ended up doing was the easiest option possible.
I transferred everything except the poured-off whey (more on that in a follow-up post) into a larger jar – the one I’d first fermented sour kraut in, as it happens (don’t worry, I washed it VERY well to avoid flavour-crossing) – topped that jar up with milk, and let it sit, covered in a clean dish cloth, for another few days.
After enough time had passed that my ferment was starting to separate, I poured off some of the whey, but kept some in the jar. I shook everything up a little bit, and then tried straining the grains again.
 
Behold!
 

Using a plastic mesh strainer (kefir, like other SCOBYs, doesn't do well with metal equipment) and a plastic funnel to strain kefir into a 1L mason jar.  Mesh strainer contains clumps of kefir grains, which will be reserved to make the next batch of milk kefir.

Using a plastic mesh strainer (kefir, like other SCOBYs, doesn’t do well with metal equipment) a plastic funnel, and a wooden spoon to gently strain kefir into a 1L mason jar. Mesh strainer contains clumps of kefir grains, which will be reserved to make the next batch of milk kefir.


&nbs;
Suffice to say, it worked.
What I ended up with, once I’d strained the kefir into a clean, 1L mason jar, was about 3C of drinkable fermented milk. (If I want something more like a cheese, I would need to ferment my kefir longer, drain off more of the whey, and put a little more work into pushing the curds through the strainer to separate them from the kefir grains).
 
Which brings me to: So, How Was It?
 
It was. Fermented. It was really fermented.
See, I’ve been drinking a lot of those 1L bottle of “yop” style kefir that you can get at the grocery store. I love them, they are delicious. But they’re also pasturized. Meaning that, yes, they’re not fizzy. But, more to the point, they’re not actively boozy anymore.
That’s pretty relevant.
Especially when you’ve (mixed it with some maple syrup and (fake) vanilla extract, and) packed it as your lunch f
or a day of modeling. In a high school. For an exam.
>.>
Yeah.
I’m a light-weight, but I didn’t think I was that much of a light-weight. O.O
 
I’ve since learned that Kefir isn’t a “beginner” pro-biotic ferment like Sour Kraut. It can give you headaches and digestive issues for the first few days, if you’re not used to it, and it’s… wise to start slowly. So maybe my having started with 2C of the stuff had something to do with why I was dizzy. Then again, maybe the kefir, alone, wasn’t enough food to cover an afternoon of physical labour and rapid changes in planes/levels (lots of 30-second poses) and I should have brought nuts or other carbs with me as well. Not sure.
Regardless, the very definite alcohol smell threw me for a loop.
That said, I’m still enjoying it. (Felt weird about having it on school grounds, which I’m pretty sure is Not Allowed, mind you). It fizzes on my tongue like a weak mimosa, if that helpful for giving you an idea of what the ferment level is. 🙂
 
Beyond that? If you have Texture Issues, kefir may not be for you. At least not as a beverage. (As a beverage: Shake it well, but not TOO well, because even after straining the grains and a lot of the whey out, and storing it in the fridge, a jar with a lid screwed on will be under pressure! Let the gas off every 1-2 days or so to avoid exploding jars). It’s grainy. Tiny curds suspended in liquid. Not smooth like the grocery store stuff (I don’t know how they get it smooth, but I suspect it involves some kind of thickener like carageenan). You might enjoy it as a cheese spread though, maybe blended with garlic and thyme to be used a bagel or as a topping for beets, or else sweetened and baked into a torte or even used as frosting for red velvet cupcakes.
 
I’m currently drinking the last of my first batch of kefir, while my second batch ferments away in its jar on top of the freezer. I look forward to incorporating kefir (and kefir products – like strained soft cheese, or using the whey to kick-start other fermenation projects) into our meals. 😀
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Combine diced raw apples and steamed diced celeriac, toss with plain yoghurt plus some prepared mustard and ground nutmeg. Serve. It’s amazing. Also works for khol slaw with carrots and cabbage. Also works as a cheaper-than-goat-cheese topping for boiled beets and/or perogies.
 
[2] Possibly because I was drinking iced herbal-fruit teas (no milk), rather than hot chai (which I put milk in), and that was just enough of a change for me to lose a litre every week to spoilage[3].
 
[3] Not the end of the world. I can use gone-off milk to make coffee cakes, same as I use yoghurt. But I don’t necessarily want to be baking in August, either.
 
[4] Which is thermophilic, meaning that you have to heat the milk up and keep it at a fairly consistently warmer-than-room-temperature, but cooler than the “keep warm” setting on my slow-cooker, temperature while the culture is doing its thing.
 
[5] Meaning that the culture does it’s thing at room temperature.
 
[6] Which you can also use to make water kefir, coconut milk kefir, and, in a neat twist, even grape juice kefir (apparently). A friend of mine has heard tell of fermenting grape juice kefir for a day or two specifically to stain the SCOBY grains purple so that they’re easier to see. I haven’t tried this, myself, but I’m kind of curious. Could I make a cherry-berry “country wine” cordial using kefir grains? Inquiring minds want to know!

Green Tomato Chutney 2016 Recipe

So, I’m about to run out of the house to do laundry, but I wanted to get this down. I finally got around to making my green tomato chutney (after, what, a month of saying I was going to get to it?), and put it in the slow-cooker to do it’s thing while I’m out this afternoon.
The recipe is a little different from last year’s, because I have slightly fewer tomatoes (my mistake – I waited too long, due to having run out of canning jars, and the first batch I harvested went moldy), and slightly different ingredients on hand, and also because my garlic basically dried to the hardness of cashews in the fridge, but here’s what I did:
 
 
Green Tomato Chutney 2016
 
~10 C green cherry tomatoes (halved, if they’re bigger than your thumb-nail)
8 garlic cloves, rough-chopped (very rough… um…)
1 yellow onion, diced
5 apples, diced
 
1 C cider vinegar
1 C kombucha vinegar (yep, I totally trying this out)
3 C white sugar
 
¼ C prepared mustard
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp nutmeg
1 tbsp ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
20 grinds of black pepper
 
 
DIRECTIONS
Put everything in the slow-cooker and set it on “low”. Let it do it’s thing for 24 hours and see where everything is at. If it smells tangy and zippy and tastes good, turn up the heat ’til it’s bubbling. Sterilize some 1C jars, can and process in a boiling water-bath for 10 minutes. Allow to cool (listen for the “plunk” that tells you the jars have sealed properly). Let sit for at least a month before opening to allow everything to get even more flavourfully mixed.
Enjoy!
 
I have no idea how many jars of chutney this will make, but I’m guessing about 6-8. Fingers crossed!
 
I’m glad I got around to doing this. Green-tomato chutney is a really great way to get tasty, edible veggies into your system over winter, it adds a lovely tangy flavour to pork, turkey, cheese, and even tuna sandwiches,and it lets me get a second harvest from my cherry tomatoes (some of which are sitting in a bowl, with an apple, ripening indoors) after the season is well and truly done.
Green tomatoes from the garden + onions & apples (both pretty inexpensive, if you buy them, and apples can often be found on urban trees either growing wild, or planted so long ago that the current owners don’t know what to do with all the food that’s suddenly available) make for an inexpensive preserve that let’s you use free bounty and “hard luck harvests” to make something delicious.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Wild Rice Pilaf + Sage Pesto Recipes

So, for the pervy-queer Thanksgiving Potluck, I roasted a turkey (also: my gravy brings all the pervs to the yard, I’m just saying) and made the following vegan dish that is (a) delicious, and (b) does not contain gluten or soy or nuts (though adding walnuts or pecans or even toasted Himalayan Balsam seeds would be an excellent addition) but DOES (c) contain white beans, so it’s definitely not Paleo, but can be made so very, very easily (drop the beans and add a bunch of nuts and/or extra seeds, basically).
 
Wild Rice Pilaf
 
INGREDIENTS:
1 C raw wild rice
4 C water
Pinch salt
+
2 C cooked white kidney beans or other white beans such as Great Northern (I just used 1 tin of same, drained & very well rinsed, but feel free to cook your own)
1/2 C cider vinegar
+
3 C diced butternut squash (I used pre-diced stuff from the store, but you do you)
2-3 sprigs fresh sage, shredded (or used the dried stuff, as you will)
+
2 apples (Cortland recommended, but I used McIntosh and it was just dandy)
1/4 C dried cranberries (sweetened)
1/4 C pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp prepared grainy mustard
1 tsp ground nutmeg (note: if you are going for Super Local, and have these available, you can use dried, ground spice berries in place of the nutmeg. The flavour (in theory – I haven’t tried this yet) is a combination of nutmeg and black pepper and should work well in this dish).
 
 
DIRECTIONS:
 
1) In the bottom of a double boiler combine the wild rice, water, and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Allow to cook for upwards of an hour.
 
2) In the top of the double boiler, while the wild rice is cooking, combine the diced squash and the sage. Allow to steam for 20-30 minutes. Squash should be easily pierced with a fork, but not straight-up falling apart.
 
3) While the squash is steaming and the wild rice is cooking, in a large (1 gallon would make this very easy) bowl or casserole dish combine the cooked white beans and the cider vinegar.
 
4) Core and dice the apples and add to the bean mixture
 
5) Add the dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds and toss it all together like a salad
 
6) Add the cooked squash and sage, as well as the mustard and nutmeg. Toss again then cover with a plate or the lid of the casserole dish.
 
7) When the wild rice is done, add it to the mixture in the large bowl and toss until well-combined. The whole thing should smell gloriously of nutmeg and mustard and apples and all the other good things that are in it.
 
8) Serve hot (ideally) OR chilled.
 
This dish works as both a main and a side.
It goes well with chokecherry chutney and sage pesto (below), too. 😉
 
NOTE: If you want to fancy it up a little:
Leave the squash out (I do still recommend cooking the fresh sage, though) and, instead, bake delecata, sweet-baby, or other miniature squash halves in the oven for an hour while the wild rice is cooking. (When I do this, I splosh a quarter-cup of apple juice into each of the squash cavities so that the flesh is tender and easy to scoop when they’re done). Stuff the squash halves with the wild rice mixture and serve garnished with sprigs of fresh sage. If you wanted to do this as a fancy center-piece dish, I would suggest using something like a cupcake tower to display the stuffed squash halves before plating them at the table.
 
 
Sage Pesto
 
INGREDIENTS:
4C fresh sage
1 C pumpkin seeds
4 cloves garlic
¼ C nutritional yeast
½ C cooked white kidney beans OR cooked green lentils
¼ C apple cider vinegar
Pinch ground ginger
Pinch salt
Grind black pepper
¼ C oil
 
 
DIRECTIONS:
 
1) Pulse the pumpkin seeds in a food processor until they are grainy but well-smashed (this takes waaaaaay less time than making pumpkinseed butter, fyi)
 
2) Add the sage, cooked lentils, garlic, vinegar, salt, and pepper
 
3) Blend until well-combined
 
4) With the motor running, drizzle in the oil
 
5) Spoon into ice-cube trays for freezing (works great) and/or pop some into a half-cup jar for fridge storage (I don’t know how long this will stay fresh, as I keep mine in the freezer to use as-needed, but if you want to serve it with stuffed squash, for example, within a day or two, this is an easy way to do it).
 
This stuff is lovely-and-delicious as the “sauce” for a pasta dish, mixed into scrambled eggs, spread (lightly) onto a chicken/turkey/roast-pork sandwich, blended into a bean dip/spread, stirred into root-veggies blender soups (rutabaga-cauliflower or carrot-apple would both be amazing with this), or, y’know, used as a condiment/topping/garnish for baked miniature winter squash stuffed with wild rice pilaf.

Chokecherry Chutney / Plum Relish and The Reason for the Season (of the Witch)

Hello!
So, today I ran a canning workshop which, alas, did not have a great turn-out. BUT the lovely thing about running a canning workshop is that either (a) you get a big group and you all geek about canning and you have waaaaay less stuff to cary home than you originally brought OR (b) you get a small group and you all geek about canning and you get to bring home a whole bunch of preserves that you didn’t have to mess up your own kitchen to make. (The ACO, where I ran the thing, has a dish-washer and TWO STOVES. It was great!)
So I’m counting it as a win. 🙂
 
My one co-canner and I nattered about canning (of course), about how satisfying it is, about our respective not-distant-at-all farming ancestors, and about familial and cultural food traditions… and on my way home, I realized: we were talking about what this time of year is about. About the harvest, about getting the family (chosen or origin or both) together, about sharing, about where and whom we come from.
It was really wonderful.
 
Anyway. I had about 5 cups of chokecherry purree put aside for today, so I ended up re-jigging last year’s recipe into something a little more plum-heavy. You can call it Choke Cherry Chutney if you want to, but you could also call it Plum Relish. Either way, it tastes amazing, and I have six jars of it put up in my cupboard. 😉
Enjoy!
 
~*~
 
Chokecherry Chutney 2016 (AKA Plum Relish)
 
Ingredients
30+ blue plums, pitted and diced (leave the skins on, it’s fine)
+
5 C chokecherry puree
1½ C red wine vinegar
+
4 medium onions, diced
+
2 C dried (sweetened) cranberries
+
2 C granulated sugar
2 tbsp dried rosemary
2 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
 
 
Directions
 
Well in advance:
Pick chokecherries – you will need 3 litres to start with. This will take anywhere from 2 hours to a couple of days, depending on how abundant the chokecherry trees are being in a given year.
 
Wash the chokecherries, discarding any stems, leaves, and other detritus
 
Simmer chokecherries in a little water, covered, for half an hour, poke at them with a fork occasionally
 
Strain chokecherries & liquid through a sieve (or a food mill, or an apple-sauce strainer, or a colander with very small holes… you get the idea), scraping the sides to make sure you get as much pulp in with the juice as possible (this will take about an hour if you’re using a sieve, it will probably take less time if you’re using a food mill or an apple sauce strainer). The goal here is to remove the pits (which, like all almond-related fruits, have cyanide in them) and get a smooth chokecherry base for your preserve.
 
Day Of:
Wash, pit, and dice the plums
 
Peel and dice the onions
 
Combine all the ingredients in a wide, ideally deep, pot (this stuff will splatter)
 
Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent things from sticking to the bottom (leave the lid off the pot, at least a bit, to let the liquid cook down faster)
 
Sterilize a doezen 1C jars + lids and rings – you can do this in a dish-washer, by boiling them in a water bath, or by baking the jars (you still have to boil the lids and rings) in an oven set to 225F for 20 minutes.
 
When the chutney is bubbling and nicely thickened (the liquidy part will sort of glob together a little before dripping off a spoon and/or when you stir the mixture, you’ll be able to see the bottom of the pan for just a second before the mix oozes back in to fill the space), ladle it into your sterilized jars.
 
Cap and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
 
Allow to cool, listening for the “plunk” that tells you they’ve properly sealed.

New Moon – Harvest / Squash Moon Begins

It’s been an Eight of Disks kind of day. Grey clouds scudding across the sky, sun warm when it’s out, but mostly it’s chilly enough to remind me that it’s autumn, nearly October.
I’m running that canning workshop the day after tomorrow, and one of today’s tasks was getting the last of the ingredients together. I’m so relieved that Ontario blue plums are still available, because I’d have been in some trouble otherwise. (I promised I’d bring enough to make 3 litres of the recipe I’m teaching – about 1 pint each, basically, since it’s a small class – and I was worried I’d have to add rhubarb or apples or something to get the full amount).
Other tasks have included vacuuming, dishes, laundry… all the things that are required to keep a house going, day to day. It’s been really good to just dig into it and do it without feeling like I “should” be doing something else.
 
I’m feeling the spiral of time particularly thickly right now – mostly because, this time last year (and every year before last year for the past six years), I was prepping to go to an event that isn’t (exactly) happening this year. I keep going over “this time last year…” in my head, and part of me really wants to stop. I’m trying to focus on food, and the very beginnings of our local Festive Season (which basically runs from the full moon closest to the Autumn Equinox, all the way through the winter to almost Beltane – although, yes, things quiet down a little bit after Mother’s Nigth and New Year’s Day). I’ll be cooking a couple of turkeys, this time next week, bringing one – along with a wild rice pilaf ft butternut squash, McIntosh apples, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, onion, garlic, and sage – to a potluck thanksgiving gathering, and the other will be pulled apart and frozen in meal-sized portions to be added to pasta dishes and similar on nights when I’m too tired/busy/lazy to cook anything with a lot of forethought.
 
i’m glad that the temperature has dropped, though also glad that there hasn’t been a frost just yet. My forest of cherry-tomato and roma tomato plants (most of them a re volunteers, if you can believe it) are heavy-heavy with green fruit, and I’m looking forward to stewing it all into a chutney again, but it will be nice to gather in at least a little bit more of the ripe stuff before the season ends for good.
 
I picked all of my eggplants yesterday. Small, glossy, and dark purple – one of them has a “nose”, of all things, this random purple spike sticking out of the side. I’m going to peel them and cook them up with chick peas, coconut milk, and some of last year’s tomato sauce for dinner tonight. I’m down to only a few jars of 2015 preserves at this point (phew!) and I’m kind of hoping we’ll all be slightly sick of prserved tomatoes by the time the frost hits. That way, I can easily put off opening this year’s preserves until January or February, when the root veggies start getting scarce and I need to start leaning on what I’ve put up in jars.
 
That’s the way I’ve been cycling things, so far. Trying to rely only on jarred and frozen veggies for as little time as possible (which, let’s be honest, is still something like five months, but still), and have a few solid blocks where I’m serving fresh stuff (even raw stuff!) without anything I’ve put up. Otherwise, it can get to be too much vinegar in everything. Tonight we’re having jarred tomato sauce, yes, but this morning was eggs with garden tomatoes. Chicken and pasta with sage pesto fresh mashed from the garden and never having seen a freezer, or jerusalem artichokes (a solid month or more away from being dug up) sthen boiled like buttery potatoes or else sliced thin and stir-fried for a crunch like water chestnuts.
 
Next New Moon is the weekend of Samhain. I’ll have the squash in by then, and the garden will have mostly gone to bed. Between now and then, who knows what will happen.
 
~*~
 
Motion: Lots of walking, lots of lifting. A friend told me I was strong and that my muscles are in good conversation with each other, which was not what I was expecting at all, but which is wonderful to hear. The weather’s getting chilly, but I’m still trying to get out dancing now and again. Some of that’ll happen tomorrow evening, I think. 😉
 
Attention: Watching the way my hope and my cynicism fight it out against each other. It’s not a great thing to watch, but there it is. Also keeping an eye on screen time (I say, typing this on a computer, having spent the last two hours reading The Internet…) – my lovely wife has suggested that we do a regular No Tech Night together – the kind of thing where we stick to tarot cards, accoustic instruments, conversation, reading aloud to each other, and that sort of thing for the evening’s entertainment rather than zoning out behind our electronics. I fully support this plan (and so want to get this finished in the next 10 minutes).
 
Gratitude: Running into a friend while out doing errands today (she said “I had no idea why I came in here, and then there you were”). Grateful, too, for the above-mentioned No Tech Nights. Grateful for house guests. For suggestions on how to approach house-hold cleaning and organizing as a series of short, contained “blitzes” rather than as this endless battle against entropy (hopefully this method will help us get our house in order for what, with a little luck and some encouragement, will be a winter full of guests and gentle entertaining). Grateful for friends who get in touch to tell me that they miss me. ❤ Grateful, even, for the taurus (they had it tattoo'd on their arm) working their second shift at the McDonalds counter (yeah, you heard me) who made me change to get the laundry done with. Grateful for local-ish blue plums and on-sale Quebec McIntosh apples at the grocery store. Grateful for witchy fam and people to talk shop with.
 
Inspiration: Other artists (always), though not necessarily the way they usually are. The poetry of other femmes (always – this week, it’s Leah Horlick’s For Your Own Good), geeking out about how we’re a narrative species that loves fitting life’s intricacies into patterns that make sense to us. Talking tarot and witchcraft with masc-of-centre folks who, until this year, I never expected to be such a part of my woo-munity.
 
Creation: I wrote two poems this week, and submitted them to an anthology of femme writing! 😀 Heaven and Earth only know i either (or both? A gal can dream) will be accepted, but I’m so glad that I did this!