Mad for Marmalade

Mad for Marmalade tables

Every February for the past 8 years, there is a magical event that takes place at Fort York. I discovered it 3 years ago and have made it a must go to event ever since.

You walk into the barracks at Fort York and are instantly awed at the beauty of your surroundings. Not only is Fort York an amazing space for an event, but the volunteers pull together an extremely well organized day filled with great workshops, interesting speakers, tonnes of great door prizes and of course, the marmalade competition.

Fort York

It will come as no surprise that the marmalade competition was what drew me to this event initially and it was the first event I ever entered. I was thrilled to walk away with two 2nd place ribbons

Last year I gave one of the workshops and this year I was chosen to be one of the judges for the competition. My partner in judging the Citrus Preserves category was a Tom Boyd. Tom is an avid preserver and has won numerous ribbons at The Royal Winter Fair, his most recent being 1st place for his Pear Ginger Lime Marmalade. 

Tom Boyd

We had the extremely difficult job of trying at least 8 different preserves made with citrus. Marmalade with Whisky, Pink Grapefruit marmalade with Brandy...my tastebuds were in heaven.

marmalade competition
marmalade and whiskey winner
marmalade entries

But my knees went weak when we had to judge best in show and we got to taste the Baking with Marmalade category. This pie had a crust that has been imprinted on my tastebuds for eternity.

baking with marmalade

Congratulations to all the marmalade winners, thank you to all of the wonderful volunteers who pull this event together. I thoroughly enjoy being a part of such a great citrus-y day and highly recommend you marking it in your calendar for next February.

Posted on February 25, 2015 .

Raspberry Bourbon Vanilla Jam

raspberry bourbon vanilla jam

Three of my favourite words are in the name of this jam. Seriously, how could anything that includes raspberries, bourbon and vanilla bean not be a delight for your tastebuds. 

Raspberry Jam will forever be my favourite jam to make. Not only because I absolutely adore raspberries, but also because it was one of the first jams I learned how to make and whenever I make it I almost feel like I am a teenager once again back in my nona's kitchen.

This jam, while still delicious on your morning toast, croissant or bagel is almost more suited in my mind to be paired with ice cream, layered between chocolate cake or used as icing on a cupcake. But I leave it to you if you even want to do anything more with it than eat it straight from the jar with a spoon.

The recipe provides a range for how much bourbon you can use and the decision is completely up to you. I will just say that in my last preserving class when samples were given out and I advised the class that what they were eating was the full bourbon recipe, the decision was unanimous that we should make the batch with the full cup ;).

Raspberry Bourbon Vanilla Jam

Ingredients

600g raspberries (fresh or frozen)

3.5 cups sugar

1/2 cup - 1 cup bourbon

2 vanilla beans split and scraped

Instructions

Heat the raspberries in a small saucepan over medium heat and mash until they start to release their juices.

Add the sugar and stir until it fully dissolves, then add the bourbon and both vanilla beans and increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Check for set. Once you have reached the desired set, turn off and remove from heat.

Skim off any remaining foam, remove the vanilla beans and ladle into previously sterilized jars. Leave ¼” head space. Place in a hot water bath for 10 minutes

 

 

Posted on February 2, 2015 .

How to reprocess a jam or a jelly

how to reprocess jelly or jam

You are all familiar with Goldilocks and the Three Bears. She didn't want to sleep on a bed that was too hard and she didn't want to sleep on a bed that was too soft. She wanted one that was 'just right' and she kept going until she got what she wanted.

Well just because you made a batch of jam or jelly only to realize a short while later that it did not set, doesn't mean you have to open up those jars and pour all of your hard work away. There are options. You can reprocess your product until it too is, just right.

As I mentioned in a previous post, you can always just repurpose your jam and pour it over your pancakes in the morning instead of spreading it on toast. But it's a little harder to do that with a jelly.

Reprocessing your jam or jelly is simple to do. And in this short video, I will show you how. Hope it helps save your batch!

Posted on January 28, 2015 .

Tips for award winning marmalade

canning competition

With the deadline for the The World's Original Marmalade Awards right around the corner and with Seville Oranges currently in season (I just saw them being sold for $1.99/lb), I thought it would be a good time to share some of the things I have learned over the years having entered my jams, jellies and marmalades into several different competitions.

Let's start off with the judging criteria. How exactly will your marmalade be judged? Now each competition may vary slightly, but they all have similar themes.

The Royal Winter Fair - Your preserves will be judged based on the following criteria:

Visual appeal

  • do you have the correct headspace
  • clarity - they are looking for a clear jelly, a bright coloured jam, a solid amount of fruit
  • suspension - is your peel/fruit distributed equally throughout the jar

Aroma

  • can they smell the different ingredients in your product
  • is it a nice clean smell
  • are there any off notes

Texture

  • have you achieved the desire set
  • is your peel too hard or is it chewy but soft
  • is it spreadable (think of Goldie Locks and the 3 bears here - they want spreadable but not too firm. Soft but not runny)

Flavour

  • is the first thing they taste the fruit used to make the marmalade, jam or jelly
  • is it a clean taste or has it been muddied by overcooking
  • too sweet, too bitter, etc

Originality

  • are you showing them a combination they haven't seen before

Each category is marked out of 10 for a total score of 50.

Now for The World's Original Marmalade Awards, the criteria is slightly different. They judge the following broken down like this;

  • Appearance (2 points)
  • Colour (5 points)
  • Consistency, texture, quality (6 points)
  • Flavour, aroma (7 points)

To get a gold you need a score of between 19.5 - 20. Silver 18-19, Bronze 16-17.5 and Merit 12-15.

So now that you know what you are going to be judged on, how do you go about creating a marmalade that stands a chance of winning? 

seville.jpg

Marmalades can be made from a variety of citrus fruits; grapefruit, lemons, meyer lemons, blood oranges, limes, etc. But for this particular example we are going to assume that you are making a traditional marmalade made from Seville Oranges. Seville Oranges have a short season and usually arrive in Canada in January or February and can be found in stores for approximately 3-4 weeks. They make a great marmalade because of their high pectin content and their peel has a very interesting bitter flavour. 

  1. Start with using organic seville oranges if possible. Because you are including the peel as well as the meat of the fruit, it does make a difference to the overall flavour when the peel has not come into contact with pesticides. Scrub each orange gently with a vegetable brush and then dry completely.
  2. Prepare your oranges carefully. Marmalade is not a quick jam. So give it the time it deserves and you will be rewarded.
  • Cut your oranges in half and juice. Collect all the seeds so you can put them in the cheese cloth along with the pith and membrane. You may also want to consider supreming your orange segments and cutting it into small pieces.
seville oranges
  • Using a spoon, scoop out the membrane and place in a bowl with the seeds. Be consistent with the amount of pith you scoop out for a nice uniform peel
seville oranges
old fashioned seville orange marmalade
  • Cut your peels in half and flatten, then trim off any points or curves so you can create a nice uniform rind size.
seville orange peel preparation
  • you can decide here if you want a chunky peel or a fine cut peel, but ensure you are consistent
marmalade rind prep

3. Soak your peel in an equal amount of water for 1-2 minutes. This removes some of the bitterness from the peel. Drain the water and do not keep it.

4. Cook your peel with a little bit of baking soda. This will help keep your peel nice and bright once it is cooked. Remember to simmer gently. Peels that are cooked on a high boil tend to get tough.

5. Warm your sugar in the oven before adding it to your fruit. This reduces the chance of crystallization of the sugar in your marmalade. It helps it to dissolve quickly. If you can't warm it in an oven, be sure to allow the sugar to completely dissolve before bringing to a boil

6. Consider making your marmalade in a copper pot (keeping in mind not to soften the peel in the copper pot on it's own. Copper pots require sugar to always be present). Copper is an amazing conductor of heat and allow you to cook your jam down to the desired consistency quicker and without cooking away too much of the flavour of the fruit.

7. Add a small amount of unsalted butter to your marmalade. This reduces the amount of foam as it cooks and reduces the amount of skimming your final product will require. Not properly skimming off the foam can lead to a cloudy marmalade.

8. Allow your marmalade to cool for at least 5 minutes in the pot and off the heat before ladling into previously sterilized jars. This helps to reduce the fruit floating to the top of the jars and leads to nicer suspension.

9. Accurately measure your headspace. Especially in North American competitions, this will be noted and you will lose points if you leave too much or too little headspace.

10. If a jar doesn't seal properly it doesn't matter how delicious your marmalade may be, your entry will still be disqualified.

Now if you are feeling inspired, you still have time to make some marmalade and enter it into The World's Original Marmalade Awards or if you live in Toronto, consider Mad For Marmalade, Crazy for Citrus. 

For a few other pointers you can check out my Marmalade video here

GOOD LUCK!

5 ingredient gnocchi

gnocchi

For years I have been deluding myself into believing that the gnocchi I was buying in the packages from the grocery store were actually 'pretty good'. You see, I grew up with a Nona and a mother who always made their own gnocchi from scratch. They were always light and fluffy and seemed to melt in your mouth. But when I moved out to Toronto to go to University and started down the path to cooking for myself, I always thought it was simply too much work. Making the sauce from scratch was easy enough, but the gnocchi felt like a daunting task and one that was doomed for failure

So when my mom came to spend Christmas with us this year, I decided the time had come for us to make it together so that I could say good bye to store bought gnocchi once and for all. Making it with her, I was amazed at how much simpler it was than I remembered and amazed at how I had ever managed to convince myself that those dense little balls that come out of the package were 'pretty good'. 

Our gnocchi turned out amazing, beyond amazing actually.  And from the number of times that all of us, including the friends we invited over to enjoy this meal with us returned to the pot for 'just a little bit more', I think this rating was shared by all.

Now like all good Italian recipes, some of the quantities below are suggestions and as my mother says when I ask, "How do you know if you will need the full 6 cups of flour?", she replies "You can tell by the touch."

Five Ingredient Gnocchi

6-8 large potatoes

6 cups flour (approximately)

2 tbsp kosher salt

2 eggs

2 tbsp milk

gnocchi potatoes
gnocchi_eggs.jpg

Directions

Gently wash and scrub your potatoes and place in a large pot and cover with water. Bring water to a boil over high heat and boil potatoes until you can poke them with a fork and the fork travels smoothly through the potato.

gnocchi_potato boil.jpg

Drain the potatoes and allow to cool slightly (enough that you can handle them without burning your fingers) but not completely. At this point the skin should peel off the potatoes smoothly. Discard the peel. Place the potatoes in a bowl and add the 2 tbsp of milk and mash. If your potatoes feel runny or watery, place them in the oven on a low temperature for 10-15 minutes to dry them out a little bit. This step will help you eliminate some of the flour you will need to use and you will end up with a fluffier gnocchi.

Our potatoes were perfect, so we did not have to do this step.

To get a nice, light and fluffy gnocchi you really need to put them through a potato press to get rid of any clumps.

potato press
gnocchi_potatomashbowl.jpg

Once all of the potatoes have been pressed, stir in the salt, eggs and a couple of cups flour and mix together. This is where you need to start to go by feel. Once you have completely mixed in those first few cups of flour, you pick up a small amount of the mix and roll it gently in your hands. If it rolls smoothly and without any of the potato mixture sticking to your hands you know you have the right consistency. If this does not happen, add another cup of flour and mix thoroughly and try rolling it in your hands again. 

Once you have reached the desired consistency (we only ended up using 4 cups of flour) you will want to transfer to a larger work station. We covered my dining room table with a large cloth so we could start rolling and forking the gnocchi.

gnocchi ready to roll

Sprinkle a little flour onto your cutting board and cut off a small amount of the gnocchi mixture and roll it out onto your cutting board until it is about the thickness of your pointing finger and start to cut it into small pieces

gnocchi ready to cut

Now while my mom did all the work that requires skill and finesse, I had the easy job of taking the little pieces she was cutting up and rolling them gently off a flour covered fork onto the cloth we had covered the table with. Sprinkle flour over the gnocchi and cover with another cloth until it is time to cook them.

gnocchi rolled with fork

This part took my mom and I the better part of an hour, which is what I think made the process feel daunting in my mind. But it was actually quite lovely. We talked and laughed and the work made us look forward to the meal we were about to have once all the work was done.

gnocchi_overheadshot.jpg

To cook the gnocchi bring a large pot of water to a boil and drop the gnocchi in slowly, stirring as you drop to ensure they don't stick together. When the gnocchi have cooked they will all start to pop up to the surface of your water. This doesn't take long. Once they have all risen, drain and rinse and add to your sauce and serve.

But be prepared to stand up several times and refill plates, because trust me - you and your guests will want more than one serving.


Posted on January 11, 2015 .

The Pectin Test

pectintest.jpg

Pectin fascinates me. Did you know that it is found in most fruit in varying degrees? Did you know that under ripe fruit have more pectin than ripe fruit?When I first started preserving and learning about pectin I wondered how this water soluble enzyme could make the difference between a jelly/jam that sets and one that does not.

So naturally when I began developing more of my own recipes I wanted to better understand pectin and how it impacts the preserves I was making. I wanted to know how to determine when you needed to add commercial pectin in order to achieve set and when you did not? 

pectin test pear

Who better to turn to when you want to learn something about preserving, but the Jamlady. I saw her alcohol test for pectin and decided I needed to give it a try.

pectin test pear

You start by cooking the fruit for at least 5 minutes. As it cooked I crushed it down, then strained it through a sieve and allowed it to cool. You then mix 1 tsp of the juice with 1 tsp of rubbing alcohol in a small jar with a lid. Give it a good shake and then pour it out onto a plate. If a solid mass forms, the pectin level is high.

Raspberry Jam formed a nice solid mass

Raspberry Jam formed a nice solid mass

With the formation of a solid mass during this test, you can use the rule of a cup of sugar to a cup of juice when developing your recipe and you won't need to add pectin.

Blueberries has a small amount of gelatin formed in the test

Blueberries has a small amount of gelatin formed in the test

And in the instance of the over ripe pears below where absolutely no gelatin formed during the test you can conclude that you will need to add pectin to your recipe in order to achieve set.

Happy experimenting!

Over ripe pear showed no gelatin

Over ripe pear showed no gelatin

Posted on January 4, 2015 .

Ruby Red Raspberry Red Pepper Jelly

Just before the holidays I did a sampling day at a fantastic Vegetarian Butcher Shop called Yam Chops. There are many reasons I really enjoy sampling in the stores that carry my product but one of them is because it gives me time to not only meet the customers who shop at the store but I get to watch them shop and see what they are most interested in.

This particular sampling day was extra interesting. I walked up to a couple who was obviously doing some Christmas shopping for their foodie friends and asked them if they would like to try some of my Apple Pie in a Jar. After a quick conversation and introductions, Karen told me that she had in fact emailed me just after hearing me on the cbc about a product that her sister brings with her from BC whenever she visits. Raspberry Pepper Jelly.

So with a free afternoon over the holidays I decided to experiment with the idea of Raspberries and Red Peppers and see what would come out of it. Karen...if you are reading this, this is for you!

raspberries

Raspberry Red Pepper Jelly

1/3 cup diced yellow banana pepper

1 1/3 cup diced sweet red pepper

2 cups frozen raspberries

1 3/4 cup cider vinegar

1 cup water

5 cups granulated sugar

1 - 3oz liquid pectin

Directions

In a medium sized pot over medium heat combine the peppers, raspberries, cider vinegar and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes.

Using a tight weave strainer pour the liquid into a bowl catching the meat of the peppers and raspberries. For a nice clean jelly, take a piece of cheese cloth or a coffee filter and strain the liquid through several times.

Cover the liquid, refrigerate and allow to sit in your fridge over night. Strain once again in the morning, being careful not to disturb any sediment on the bottom of the bowl.

red pepper jelly

Pour the strained liquid into a medium sized pot over low heat and allow the liquid to warm. Once the liquid is warm to the touch, add the 5 cups of sugar and stir thoroughly. Once the sugar has dissolved fully increase the heat to medium. While stirring constantly bring to a full rolling boil. Add your liquid pectin and stir continually until it returns to a rolling boil. Time the boil for 1 minute and then turn off the heat. Skim any foam off the surface and ladle into previously sterilized jars.

Place jars in a waterbath for 10 minutes. Yields 4-5, 250ml jars

raspberry red pepper juice


Posted on December 28, 2014 .

Cleaning your Copper Jam Pot

copper jam pot

I love my copper jam pot for so many reasons. First off, it is gorgeous. Yes, that is right. I just called a pot gorgeous. Secondly, it conducts heat beautifully so it makes lovely jam full of flavour with a smooth consistency and lastly it is EASY to clean. No expensive special cleaners required.

Copper can get a beautiful patina, but I like the inside of my pot to be nice and fresh looking.

dirty copper jam pot

As you can see it had been a while since I had given my pot a proper cleaning so it was developing a patina along the edge. All you need is a slice of fresh lemon and a pinch of salt. Scrub the pot with the lemon and salt, adding more salt as required until the pot shines like new.

lemon and salt
clean copper jam pot


Posted on December 14, 2014 .

Three Heart Warming Christmas Preserves

It is not that I hate winter, I just don't particularly like it. The days are too short, the evenings too dark. But mostly, winter is just too cold. No matter what I wear, how many layers I put on, I step outside and instantly my shoulders are up round my ears, my jaw is clenched and I am angry. Angry because I spend 6 months of the year feeling cold.

But enough complaining, right? To combat the cold, I find I am drawn to rib sticking food like meat loafs, steak pies, lasagna, roasts. Gone are the Quinoa salads of summer.

The same is true with the preserves I am most drawn to making. Nutmeg and cinnamon come into rotation a lot more. Ginger and apples. Oh and lets not forget the warming effects of booze ;).

cranberries2.jpg

It is for this very reason that I am drawn to the following recipes that just sound perfect for the winter months and for holiday meals.

Christmas Cranberry Gin

Spiced Clementine Preserve

Sugared Plums

I hope if you try any of them that you will report back to me with whether they brought some warmth to your winter months.

Posted on November 25, 2014 .

Meaningful Gifts for Christmas

fall

Fall has always been a season that seems to pass in a blink of an eye. One minute I am picking tomatoes from my garden and the next the snow is flying. This year is no exception. Halloween just passed in a blur and we all know that Christmas will be here before half of us have even figured out what we are going to get our families and friends. Let the mad scramble begin.

This Christmas is a special one for me. Mostly because my mom is coming out from Alberta to spend it with my husband and I. As some of you may know, this was a pretty tough year for my mom. Triple by pass surgery and then shortly thereafter another surgery to remove an extremely large mass. The fact that she is getting stronger with each passing day and that this year, I will get to spend Christmas with her makes me extra thankful. 

For about seven years while I was growing up, my mom took in exchange students. One year it was Wakako Futakuchi from Japan and the next it was Claudia de Carvalho Pinto from Brazil. I never asked my mom why she did it, I just adjusted to a new presence in the home. I just accepted a new culture in my life. Over the years, I learnt a lot from these additions to our family and each year I waited anxiously to meet the new student who would spend a year with us. But not only did my mom accept exchange students into our home, we also always had a foster child. Letters and photos would arrive from Lasa thanking us for our families generosity and telling us about how he was progressing in school. I got to glimpse into the life of someone much less fortunate financially than I.

Perhaps that is why when I was asked to take a look at Gifts that Matter, it struck a chord. I was particularly drawn to the Mothers Matter page - for obvious reasons based on this year's events. Not only because of what my mom has gone through this year, but also because of everyone's generosity with our kickstarter campaign. We are building a rental kitchen here in Toronto, so how wonderful would it be to help fund a stove for a family in Ethiopia and have that be the kind of gift I give this season?

giftsthatmatter
fueleffecientstove

I encourage you to take a look at their site and see if maybe something within the pages strikes a chord with you. You just never know when or where inspiration will hit you.

Manning Canning and Yeeboo Digital are each donating a fuel-efficient stove for a family in Ethiopia and giving them away on our facebook page, so be sure to check it out. Who wouldn’t want to receive a Gift That Matters this holiday season?

 

 

Posted on November 4, 2014 .

How our Rental Kitchen means more GOOD FOOD for Toronto

Our kickstarter campaign is now 71% funded with 8 days to go. This is our 3rd story highlighting a Toronto food producer that would benefit from the use of the rental kitchen. Thanks again to Mark Cirillo for guest posting for us. For more information on Mark and the great work he does, click here

Manning Canning talks with the Founder and Chief Foodie of GOOD FOOD FOR GOOD.

Richa Gupta with Glen Peloso at Distinctive Appliances Showroom 

Richa Gupta with Glen Peloso at Distinctive Appliances Showroom 

When Richa Gupta made a career shift from Fashion to Food in 2010, she was hoping to find more satisfaction by pursuing her passion. “I grew up in a family where we cooked real food three times a day,” she says of her upbringing in Delhi, India. “It is a big part of the culture.”

But working in marketing at a large packaged food company, she often found herself at odds with the direction the industry was going.  “Industrialized food companies are looking for ways to make production cheaper and more efficient. They often use additives instead of real food, and preservatives to extend the shelf life. I found I was always pushing against this because I believe food is our natural fuel,” she says. 

good_food_for_good

So in 2013 she quit her full-time job to launch GOOD FOOD FOR GOOD, a social enterprise with a dual purpose: to make real food to people who can afford it, and donate a portion of the proceeds to provide healthy food for people who cannot. 

“Every purchase feeds a hungry child,” says Richa. “I chose to partner with Akshaya Patra in India because of their transparency. I know they provide real, healthy meals for the 1.4 million children they help every day,“ says Richa. 

Here in Toronto, GOOD FOOD FOR GOOD makes a line of Indian, Mexican and Mediterranean spreads and simmer sauces. All of their foods are additive and preservative free and use predominantly fresh, organic and local ingredients.

“My philosophy is to use the freshest ingredients possible,” says Richa. “Real food is supposed to go bad if it sits on a shelf for too long. Our sauces have an expiry date of about eight to ten weeks from when they’re made; spreads are a little over two weeks.” 

To work with such short production cycles requires close partnerships with suppliers like Samsara Fields in Waterford, Ontario, a grower of certified organic produce.

It also requires a lot of kitchen time, and without a reliable long-term solution in place, Richa and her team are struggling to meet demand for their products. In less than a year they have changed kitchen facilities three times. 

Having a dedicated commercial kitchen would save a lot of time and effort for the GOOD FOOD FOR GOOD team, energy that could be invested in growing the business. Richa also feels a shift from non-profit to private partnerships will help take her business to the next level.

“Until now community kitchens like Foodshare have worked well for us. But it’s hard to expand using that model, “she says. 

“Working with someone like Christine Manning, who has a vested interest in our success and firsthand entrepreneurial experience in our industry, would be very helpful.

“Manning Canning is more than just a resource, I think of it like a long-term strategic partnership.” 

To learn more about Good Food For Good, visit their website.

To learn about the Manning Canning Kickstarter campaign to build a commercial kitchen for the Toronto food community, click here.

Posted on October 16, 2014 .

Thanksgiving horseradish

grindrod

For the past few days I have been out in Beautiful British Columbia at my eldest sister's house spending time with my mom who is recovering from 2 back to back surgeries this year. We've been soaking up the amazing views that surround my sister's home and enjoying being surrounded by nature.

When my sister Monica suggested we spend part of the day making horseradish from the wild horseradish that grows in abundance on her property, you have to know that my answer was out of my mouth before she even finished asking the question. YES, YES, YES!

I couldn't think of a better way to spend thanksgiving than with my mom and my sister doing what I love to do most - preserving. It really was a magical day and it reminded me of the reasons I find preserving to be so rewarding and what made me fall in love with the process in the first place.

Spending the day digging in dirt, peeling, chopping and laughing with family. Working hard, but feeling such a tremendous feeling of accomplishment when you look at the finished product all lined up in jars. Knowing that throughout the winter when you crack that jar open you will remember the afternoon spent in the cool October air making memories with family.

Who knew that something that could burn your eyes and make you cry could also make you smile?

horseradish

Our first step was simple...we walked out into their alfalfa field and dug up the wild horseradish that grows there. I couldn't believe how much of it was there and wish that I had an empty suitcase with me to bring some of this stuff home.

Once it was all collected, we laid it out on the grass and sprayed the dirt off of it to help make it easier to peel.

With three people on the job, peeling it was easy. My sister used a carrot peeler, but to get the job done quickly, I chose to assist with a spoon. I found it peeled just like ginger with a spoon.

peeled_horseradish

Then we cubed the peeled ginger and measured it out according to the recipe. Now, I have never made horseradish before, so for our recipe, we turned to the experts at Canadian Living.

The best part about the whole experience and the part that really put me in touch with my Italian heritage was the gas stove in the garage that my sister has hooked up to a propane tank. Made me wish we were spending the day with the garage door open making tomato sauce!

Italiankitchen

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and did something you LOVE!

Posted on October 14, 2014 .

A Milestone for the Toronto Food Community

We are 51% funded on our kickstarter campaign with 15 days remaining. As you know, our goal is to build a much needed rentable commercial kitchen space in Toronto to help food producers bring their amazing products to the market. This is our 2nd story highlighting a Toronto food producer that would benefit from a space like this and their challenges to date. Thanks to Mark Cirillo for taking the time to interview Stewart and for writing the great post below. For more information on Mark, click here.

crownandanchor

Crown and Anchor’s Stewart Robertson says the Toronto local food scene is overdue for a dedicated commercial kitchen.

“I’ve talked to a lot of chefs who say they don’t want the hassle of renting out their kitchens,” says Stewart Robertson. “And I really don’t blame them.”

“It’s not just a lot of trouble for the money, there’s also trepidation. If they’re serving vegan, glutton-free or nut-free foods there’s a real risk of contamination if someone comes into your kitchen and doesn’t use or clean it up properly.”

As the owner of Crown and Anchor Food, makers of traditional sausages and sauces, Stewart understands the problem firsthand.

“When you’re grinding meat for sausages you have to be very careful about the spread of bacteria,” he says. “The Toronto Board of Health has very specific guidelines about how to do it.”

In practice that means the already small pool of available commercial kitchens in the city is even smaller for meat producers like Stewart.

“It’s kind of sad in the fourth largest city in North America that there are so many people producing food but it’s so hard to get kitchen time.”

Crown and Anchor makes a range of handmade sausages: German Bratwurst, North African Merguez, Mexican Chorizo, Cajun Andoille, Italian Barese, English Breakfast. They also make organic mustards, and plan to launch a line of barbeque sauces in the near future.

“Right now I’m focused on supplying restaurants but I expect we’ll be in some retail stores in Toronto by next year,” says Stewart.  

But to continue to grow he needs to find a more scalable production model. Pretty soon, hauling over one hundred pounds of meat and equipment across the city to make small batches of sausages during off-hours just won’t cut it.

That’s why he’s looking forward to the Manning Canning Commercial Kitchen, a resource he feels is overdue in this city.

“The local food community is a growing scene in Toronto. We need something that’s dedicated to small batch artisanal products, where you don’t feel like second banana and you’re confident they’re going to be around for a long time,” he says. 

He feels the new facility is a milestone for the city that will most likely pave the way for others in the future, as demand for commercial kitchen space continues to increase.

In Stewart’s own case, simply having sufficient storage and refrigeration in one place will be a huge benefit. But he’s also looking forward to sharing a physical space with other small producers and expects it will act as an incubator for new projects in the years to come.

“The local food community is pretty amazing. I’ve only been involved a short time but I’ve met so many people who have been willing to lend me a hand,” he says.

“Honestly, you really don’t know how great it is till you get involved.”  

To learn more about Crown and Anchor Foods, visit crownandanchorfood.ca

 To learn about the Manning Canning Kickstarter campaign to build a commercial kitchen for the Toronto food community, click here.  

 

 

 

Posted on October 9, 2014 .

Manning Canning Rental Kitchen - In Support of Delicious Pies

Photo credit: Peter Visima

Photo credit: Peter Visima

As you may or may not know, our kickstarter campaign is live right now. Our goal is to build a much needed rentable commercial kitchen space in Toronto to help food producers bring their amazing products to the market. I wanted to give you a glimpse at some of the food producers that would benefit from a space like this and share with you their stories. Thanks to Mark Cirillo for taking the time to interview Evis and to write the great post below. For more information on Mark, click here.

How our commercial kitchen will help Evis Chirowamhangu keep her unique Zimbabwean pastries in the Toronto market. 

Growing up with her eight siblings in the little town of Nyanga, Zimbabwe, Evis Chirowamhangu looked forward to a special treat her mother would buy for the family once a month, on payday. 

It was a seemingly simple meat pie made with common spices like clove and nutmeg, but years later when she immigrated to Canada, Evis could find nothing like in the Toronto market. 

“This led me on a personal journey to recreate the taste I remembered from back home,” says Evis. “I did some research and spoke with my brother in Zimbabwe, and experimented with the recipe until I was able to get it right.” By the time she perfected the recipe and started sharing it with friends, Evis had decided to start her own company making the pastries. She would call it Mnandi, meaning “delicious” in her native language of Ndebele. 

But she soon discovered a significant hurdle: “I learned that I couldn’t just make the pies in my own home and sell them. I needed to find a commercial kitchen to prepare and store the food.”

As she started searching for a suitable space, she learned there was a shortage of commercially certified kitchens in Toronto – not enough to meet the local food community’s growing needs. 

Amongst the ones that were available, some were cost-prohibitive for small business, while others were only available during off-peak hours like nights and weekends. 

With the help of Food Forward, a non-profit local food industry advocacy, she eventually found the west-end caterer whose kitchen she now uses to make pastries and store her supplies, but even today circumstances are far from ideal. 

Evis lives near Victoria Park and Eglinton Ave E. The catering kitchen is located on the other side of the city at Dufferin and King St. Having to make that trip every time she sells her pies at a city market can add up to two hours of commute time to her day. 

Weekends are the only time Evis can use the kitchen for preparing her pies, and because it’s an aging facility there have been problems with equipment breaking down, decreasing the supply of pies she can produce. 

So it’s easy to see why Evis is looking forward to the launch of the Manning Canning Commercial Kitchen. 

1. Located at Eglinton and Laird, it will save her at least an hour of commuting each day. 

2. With its fully dedicated rental kitchen, there will be more flexibility for scheduling prep times. 

3. And equipped with newer resources, there will be less risk of lost revenue due to equipment malfunction. 

But just as importantly, there are also intangible benefits she anticipates with the launch of this new community hub.

“It’s the connecting,” she says, “the sharing stories and experience, and working together in the same space that enhances the local food community.”

To learn more about Mnandi Pies, visit their website at mnandipies.com

To learn about the Manning Canning Kickstarter campaign to build a commercial kitchen for the Toronto food community, click here.

The Chef Series: Chicken Meatballs with Dried Porcini Cream Sauce

It was 3 years ago that my path crossed with Chef Cheryl Torrance, known to the twitterati universe as @Chef_inked and we became fast friends. The kind of friend that you know will have your back and be there when you need them. The kind of friend you can go raspberry picking with and who will make you laugh your ass off.

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But beyond being a great friend, Cheryl is an amazing chef. She is creative and smart in the kitchen. She knows her stuff and when I asked her to create a recipe with my Spicy Zucchini Relish I knew the end result would blow my socks off. Her ability to take an ingredient (any ingredient) and create a recipe that will have an entire room ooh'ing and aah'ing astounds me. 

Chicken Meatballs with Dried Porcini Mushroom Cream Sauce

Meatball Ingredients

1lb ground chicken

2 heaping tbsp finely chopped red onion

Generous pinch of flaked sea salt

Fresh ground pepper to your liking

4 tbsp Manning Canning Spicy Zucchini Relish

2 tbsp fresh shredded parmesan cheese

1⁄2 cup panko bread crumbs

Sauce Ingredients

1 cup dried porcini mushrooms

2 cups boiling water

1 tbsp butter

1 1⁄4 cups of large diced red onion (cook until golden brown)

1/4 cup white wine

5 tbsp Manning Canning Zucchini Relish

1⁄2 cup whipping cream

1⁄4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese

Directions

First boil 2 cups of water and cover 1 cup of dried porcini mushrooms and let stand while you prepare and cook the meatballs. Preheat oven to 350F.

In a bowl combine ground chicken 2 heaping tbsp red onion, sea salt, ground pepper and 4 tbsp Zucchini Relish. Once these ingredients are fully combined add 2 tbsp parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs.

Using a 5oz professional scoop (or you can hand roll to your desired size) prepare your meatballs. Place on parchment lined baking tray and cook the meatballs for 25 minutes. The internal temperature should be 165F. Allow meatballs to fully cool.

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While your meatballs are cooling, begin to prepare the sauce. Strain the mushrooms (keeping the water) and roughly chop.

In a large sauce pan on high heat melt 1 tbsp butter and add 1 1/4 cups of red onion and cook until golden brown. Add the mushrooms and stir until completely coated. Continue to cook until the mushrooms just begin to stick to the pan.

Deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup white wine and then add 5 tbsp Zucchini Relish and stir thoroughly. Add reserved mushroom water, 1/2 cup whipping cream and 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Place the meatballs into the sauce and reheat them to your desired heat. Serve them on noodles, quinoa or on a crusty bread for an upgraded meatball sub.

Posted on September 22, 2014 .

Beau's Beer Honey Pickles

The cucumbers in our garden this year went absolutely insane. Thank you Cubits for the amazing seeds and for the bumpercrop that they produced. And in no way am I complaining, but it seemed that every time I stepped into the backyard I would return to the house with a small bushel full of GIGANTIC cucumbers. We use no sprays or pesticides in our garden, so the fact that these cucumbers grew like they were on steroids we can only attribute to the great compost we added to our soil and the solid seeds that we started with.

I made Manitoba Pickles, Spicy Garlic Pickles, cucumber salads, gave them away to our neighbours, friends and family and still there were more. Again....not complaining. More expressing shock at the sheer number of cucumbers that kept appearing.

But of all the things I made, my absolute favourite was a small batch of Beau's Beer Honey Pickles. This is what happens on a sunny afternoon when you have bottles of Beau's cooling in the fridge, a garden exploding with cucumbers and empty jars lying about.

beaus beer honey pickles

Beau's Beer Honey Pickles

4 pounds of medium sized cucumbers

1.5 cups Beau's Lug Tread Beer

1 3/4 cups water (preferably distilled)

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar

1 1/2 cups pickling vinegar

3/4 cups Amber Honey

1/4 cup pickling salt

1 clove of garlic (per jar)

1 tsp black peppercorn (per jar)

1 tsp mustard seed (per jar)

cucumbers

 

Directions

The first thing you want to do with freshly picked cucumbers is to thoroughly wash your cucumbers and then you want to remove the blossom ends (Why? You ask. Find out here). Then slice your cucumbers into 1/2" slices.

In a medium sized pot combine the Beau's Lug Tread beer, distilled water, cider vinegar, pickling vinegar, amber honey and pickling salt. Over medium heat being sure to stir until the honey completely dissolves, bring the mixture to a boil and then turn off the heat.

While your brine mixture is coming to a boil, pack the cucumbers loosely into previously sterilized jars, add 1 clove of garlic, the peppercorn and mustard seed to each jar. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the cucumbers, burp each jar to ensure no air is trapped and top up brine level to ensure 1/2" head space. If necessary, wipe rims with damp paper towel. Centre lids on jars; screw on bands fingertip tight.

Process your jars in boiling water for 10 minutes (start timer only when water has achieved a full boil). Remove jars from water and allow to cool. Try to be patient and wait at least a week in order for full flavour. Yield 6-7, 500ml jars

beaushoneybeerpickles
Posted on September 13, 2014 .

The Chef Series: Cheesy Date Night Magic

For the second post in The Chef Series, I reached out to the very talented Chef Laura Gallivan to see what she could create with my Orange Onion Marmalade. What follows below is a recipe that will kick your September off with the feeling of comfort food. I warn you in advance that you may want to wear 'comfortable pants' when eating this creation ;). I decided to make it using my favourite bread made by my friend Simon over at Blackbird Bakery. It was a wise choice.

Laura_Gallivan_recipe

Cheesy Date Night Magic - Ingredients

1 med wheel of Brie (enough to feed 2 people who love cheese)

2-3 tbsp Manning Canning Orange Onion Marmalade

4 cloves roasted garlic

Toasted pecans 

2 tbsp caramelized onions

1 pinch chili flakes

Baguette, crustini or favourite crackers for cheesy goodness

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°

You can get fancy with this one if you want, if you’ve got one of those clay Brie crocks that someone got you that time you got married...but it really isn’t necessary. Any size appropriate oven proof dish will do, or you could even McGuyver a tinfoil baking vessel, I would just recommend giving it a little no stick spray first...as this dish is gooey & sticky.

Here’s the tricky part....Get your trustiest paring knife. Starting from the outer edge of the wheel of brie, insert the tip of the knife into the cheese, angling it towards the middle on a 45° angle, being careful not to pierce the cheese all the way down to the bottom. Slowly turn the wheel of cheese so that you cut all the way around the edge. The idea is that you are making a well in the center of the wheel & keeping the top intact as a lid to keep all the goodness in.

Now that you have the hardest part done, take the caramelized onion, garlic & chili flakes & mince them all together...you can use a food processor, your knife, a mortar & pestle...whatever you like. Once that is done, add in the orange onion marmalade & fold it all together & season to taste.

Dump this mix into the well you’ve created in your cheese & spread it around, sprinkle some nuts on top (totally optional) and put the lid of the cheese back on. Cover with a lid (if you are using a fancy crock or baking dish) or wrap seal it in tinfoil & put on a baking tray and pop it into the oven. 

Set a 15 minute timer and check it at that point. You want it soft & gooey, but not completely molten. Once it is done, remove lid, sprinkle with more nuts (if you want) & a little good salt (maldon or fleur de sel would be nice), crack open a bottle of wine & enjoy.

Posted on September 1, 2014 .

Manning Canning is opening a commercial kitchen

I write a lot on these pages about my love of preserving, gardening and local food in general. But at the moment, I have something else on my mind. So will you humour me for a moment?

You see, Manning Canning has been in business for about 3 years now – just over a year of that has been full time. I love preserving so much that I chose to quit my full time marketing job and make this my career or more accurately - my life.

I have learned a lot in these 3 years. And that is what I want to talk about today. I have learned that the food community in Ontario is vibrant and made up of a group of very passionate people. I have stood next to other vendors at farmers markets and heard their stories. I have spoken with many small food producers about the challenges of starting, running and building a food business. Many of the challenges stem from the fact that each of us are trying to build a business alone and without the support of a central group or even a unified resource centre. Want to know the steps to getting a food business started, well get digging because it is going to take you a while to uncover all of the different pieces of information you need.

Want to find a supplier to deliver you produce – well get prepared to hear that your minimum order is too small. And then there is the simple fact that each and every thing that you make needs to be made in a commercially certified kitchen. When I first started off, I found a restaurant in Scarborough that was willing to trade me kitchen hours for help with their social media strategy. It was a great score for me starting out as I could not afford to pay the rental fees of the few kitchen spaces I had been able to find. But it also meant that my access to time in the kitchen was extremely limited. I had to go in when the kitchen was closed. It also meant that you could only grow your business very slowly as you could not meet demand with limited kitchen space.

I scoured the internet looking for alternative space and stumbled across a small rentable kitchen in Leslieville. The hourly rate was affordable and it was available for more regularly than my first kitchen. But it was small and cramped and working with one other person in the kitchen was challenging, to say the least. But it did the trick and I continued to grow. Added mores store to the list of stores carrying my product and added a 2nd farmer’s market to the roster. But with the confined space in the kitchen there was little I could do to improve efficiencies or increase output.

I then discovered the Scarborough Storefront. A kitchen in the KGO that granted new food businesses kitchen space for free up to a year. I had just quit my full time job, so the timing was perfect. I was granted access every Monday from 9-2pm at no cost. And then, one of the butcher shops carrying my product one day offered the use of the basement kitchen two days a week – with 3 glorious steam kettles and I was finally able to really push forward with some growth.

But still, Manning Canning could only produce so much on 2.5 days in the kitchen. Each time I go to the kitchen, I have to bring every single ingredient with me. That means on days when we are making Pickled Carrots that I pack over 100lb of carrots from the food terminal where I buy them from the farmer, to my house and then down the 15 stairs to the basement kitchen. It also means that every small ware from the cutting boards , vegetable peelers, measuring spoons, bowls, stir sticks, funnel, towels, bleach solution and aprons has to be packed up and taken to the kitchen with me and packed up and taken back home at the end of the day.

The packing and hefting adds easily an hour onto the start of my day as well as the end of my day. No matter how much I love it, I can’t deny that it is exhausting.

Flash back to the discussions I have been having with other small and successful food entrepreneurs I have met over the past 3 years and their stories are similar. There is a lack of commercial kitchen space in the city and the kitchens they end up using have no space for them to store raw materials, supplies or tools. Making it almost impossible to grow at a pace that our customers would like.

Sure, there are options. You can get your product co-packed. But for those of us who want to maintain control over the process or can not commit financially to the minimum orders required by most co-packers it is difficult.

For the past 2 years I have been talking with the managers at farmer’s markets and other food producers about my desire to open a commercial kitchen. In between making jars of jams and pickles, I have been working on my business plan. When I am not teaching preserving classes or making deliveries I have been researching possible grants I could apply for and when I am not labeling jars I have most recently been putting the finishing touches on my kickstarter campaign.

I have decided that now is the time. That for Manning Canning to grow and for other small food producers to have the chance to build their businesses that Toronto needs a rentable kitchen space that allows food producers to just show up and create.

I am all in. I am committing financially to this dream and I hope you will too. My campaign will be live in September and I am hoping those of you that feel as passionately about small food producers and local food, will want to help support this. Stay tuned for more.

Private Preserving Classes

Suddenly it is August. The past few months we have been hopping over here at Manning Canning preserving some of the amazing Ontario fruits and vegetables that the farmer's at The Ontario Food Terminal have had on offer. But we have also been extremely busy teaching others the fun and amazing art of preserving. 

You might not know this, but in addition to our monthly preserving classes at The Depanneur (please note there is no class in August, but we will be back with a vengeance in September) we are also offering classes in conjunction with Fairmount Park Farmer's Market and our next class is September 10th where we will be making Pickled Hot Peppers and then we return on October 8th for Apple Pie in a Jar. 

And then for those of you that really want to learn how to preserve but can't make any of the classes currently on offer, there is the option of private preserving classes. How great is that? You get to learn how to preserve and you don't even need to leave the comfort of your home. Invite a group of friends over, and I do all the rest. I bring all of the canning equipment, ingredients, pots and pans, etc. 

Before the class, we determine what you are most interested in learning how to preserve. Is it pickles, or jam or chutney and we choose a date that works for everyone.

Want to hear from someone else what they thought of the private preserving class, just click here. Think this might be interesting, drop me an email and prepare yourself for a great class.

private_preserving




Posted on August 3, 2014 .

Strawberry Balsamic Jam

ontariostrawberries

As a Canadian, I think it is safe to say that for approximately 9 months of the year we spend our time remembering the taste of Ontario Strawberries as we bite into bland strawberry shaped imposters that leave our tastebuds crying out "Where is the FLAVOUR?"

The Ontario strawberry season is short, but it is ever so sweet and flavourful. The berries burst with juiciness and our minds try to imprint that sensation so that throughout the rest of the year when all we are faced with are dry imported strawberries we can try to trick ourselves into believing they actually have flavour.

That is why when strawberries are here I tend to pounce on them, stuffing them into my face and into jars at a rate that surprises even myself. No shame and no regrets.

In June of this year, I was a vendor at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival. It is a great event in Picton and I thoroughly enjoy being a part of it. I meet great people, get to spend a weekend in the ever so lovely Prince Edward County, but I also get to buy LOTS and LOTS of fantastic cheese. While stuffing my face (you get the theme, right?) with some amazing Quebec cheese, I started to think about a strawberry balsamic jam I had tried last year and how it would pair amazingly with this cheese with a few changes.

Strawberry Balsamic Jam - (adapted from a recipe by Alec Stockwell)

strawberries_hulled

8 heaping cups of hulled strawberries

3 cups sugar

4 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tsp cracked black pepper

3 tbsp chopped fresh basil

strawberries_sugared

Day One

Wash and hull your strawberries. Cutting the larger strawberries in half and leaving smaller strawberries whole. In a non-reactive bowl combine the strawberries with the sugar and lemon juice. Stir thoroughly, cover with a cloth and place in a cool place and allow to macerate for up to 24 hours. Note: I really like to let them sit for the full 24 hours to pull the juice out of the berries.

strawberries_macerated

Day 2

Sterilize jars and warm your lids. In a wide bottomed, non-reactive pot bring the strawberry mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly.

With a slotted spoon, remove the strawberries and place in a bowl. Continue to boil the liquid until it begins to thicken and coat the back of a spoon. Return the strawberries to the pot and stirring constantly, bring it back to a boil until the contents begin to thicken up nicely.

Add vinegar and pepper and on medium heat continue to cook the jam until you reach your setting point. Remove from heat and stir in the fresh basil.

Ladle into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4" headspace, seal with warm lids and process for 10 minutes at a rolling boil.

Yields approximately 8 - 125ml jars

strawberries_copperpot


Posted on July 9, 2014 .