How to choose the right marmalade recipe for you?

There are seemingly countless ways to prepare seville orange marmalade and with the right group of people, this topic could lead to a rather long and heated debate. Some of it comes down to personal preference - do you like a fine, medium or chunky peel, would you prefer a low sugar jam if it means compromising the perfect set? But some of it also comes down to science and what constitutes a perfect marmalade.

Here are some things to consider when looking for the perfect marmalade recipe for you.

1) Choosing your Seville Oranges

If you are lucky enough to live in an area where you can actually choose your Seville Oranges, consider yourself lucky ;). In previous years, I have been lucky enough to get my hands on organic sevilles and have noticed a couple of difference when using them to make marmalade. So if you are wondering if there are benefits to going organic over and above health benefits - there are! They definitely have better flavour and they set more quickly than non-organic. Overall leading to a higher quality marmalade.

The fresher they are when you make your marmalade the better. Over ripe fruit tend to lose some of their pectin so you will have to cook your marmalade down too far in order to achieve set if your oranges are old.

And you may not know this but Sevilles come in several sizes if you are buying them in bulk, this is a good thing to know. In Canada you can get 88, 72 or 56's. The smallest are the 88's and the largest the 56's. If you are following a recipe it is always a good idea to use one that goes by weight and not number of oranges as this can lead to varying results.

shredding peel

2) Preparing your peel

There are so many different ways to prepare your peel and this is truly where personal taste comes into play. If you prefer a less bitter marmalade you can peel the skin off like would would an apple, getting as little of the pith as possible and shred it super fine or you can leave it nice and chunky. Just keep in mind the chunkier the peel, the darker your marmalade will end up as it will take longer to soften it. If you find a recipe you like the sounds of but want to alter how you prepare your peel, just keep in mind it may affect how long you need to cook it in order to soften the peel.

marmalade soaking peels

3) Soaking the peels overnight

Recipes vary and you will find as you comb through them, that some suggest you prepare your peels one day, soak them overnight and cook the marmalade on Day 2, while others have you do it all in one day. How do you know which is the better option?

For me it is a simple answer. If you are looking to enter your marmalade into competitions you always want to follow the 2 day process. You will end up with a brighter marmalade that is more appealing from an appearance perspective for the judges. I also find, that when you split the tasks over 2 days it is a lighter workload on each day.

But if you are pressed for time and you only have the one day available in your calendar to make marmalade, don't worry about it. You will still end up with a lovely tasting marmalade if you do it all in one day.

preserving pans

4) Open pan vs lidded pan  

Yes, recipes will vary on what type of pan you should be making your marmalade in. Some swear by the preserving pan, which is generally not lidded, has outwardly tapered edges and is quite often made of copper. While others will swear by using a pot with a lid.

Why the difference in opinions and which route should you go? I have made marmalade both ways. With the open pan, (especially if it is copper just remember to not use it until you have added sugar to the mixture. Use a different pot to soften the peels) you will notice a high bitter note to your marmalade. You may also notice that the liquid in your marmalade evaporates more quickly and you end up with a higher concentration of peel to liquid ratio when jarring. With the open pan method your peels also may lean towards a chewier consistency.

The lidded pan obviously contains the evaporation which means it will not reduce as quickly. You will have a less bitter flavour and a lower ratio of peel to liquid when jarring.

5) How much sugar should the recipe have?

There are wide swings in the amount of sugar stated in recipes that I have tried over the years. If you want a marmalade lower in sugar you will have to keep in mind that your marmalade will not achieve a proper set and will be softer in consistency. It will also have a shorter shelf life which means it most likely will not last you til next marmalade season. 

6) Testing for set

I am not going to go into the details of how each of these tests are performed in this post. I am just going to give my opinions on which method I think works best when making marmalade. You can use the plate test, a thermometer r

Personally, I prefer the spoon test. This gives me the closest relationship with the marmalade. This may sound strange, but I think this is important. When I can see the consistency of the marmalade beginning to change and I think I am getting close to set, I dip my spoon in every 5 minutes or so and check on how the drops are falling off the spoon. I find this visual way of checking gives me the ability to achieve the set I prefer.

Trusted marmalade recipes I have used in the past with great success:

Lower sugar - Nigel Slater shares his marmalade recipe which is lower on the sugar side which leads to the softer set and shorter shelf life I mentioned earlier

Smaller batch - Vivien Lloyd shares her small batch marmalade recipe. This recipe leaves you with a bright marmalade with a perfect set

One day marmalade - Canadian Living provides a recipe for those that want to get it all done in one day

Posted on February 2, 2016 and filed under Tips and Tricks.

Marmalade, glorious marmalade!

Shredded Seville Orange Peel

Shredded Seville Orange Peel

I am admittedly a bit of a marmalade lover. And while, I love meyer lemons, blood oranges and the like, my one true love is the Seville Orange. I can get well and truly absorbed by the process of making marmalade. It is not something one does quickly. There is a process, a cadence to making a truly wonderful marmalade and I get excited in January as marmalade season approaches. I sharpen my knives, get my cheese cloth ready and sit and wait til I hear from my suppliers that Sevilles have arrived. 

And then me and my team all get into the marmalade rhythm. We embrace the blisters one gets from hand shredding the peel and we bask in the citrus smell coming from the kettles as it takes it's time to simmer down to perfection.

Seville Oranges have ARRIVED. I have seen them on the shelves is stores across the city ranging in price from $2.49/lb to $2.99/lb up from last years price of $1.99/lb. If you want to make lots of marmalade consider asking the produce manager at your local store to bring it in by the case. The lovely produce manager at my local Coppa's is more than happy to do it. Currently a case is $75/box.

Here are some wonderful marmalade recipes (not all made with Seville's in case you don't share my love) to get you started.

Lime Cilantro Marmalade - this recipe was created for an entry into Mad for Marmalade. It ended up winning a 2nd place ribbon. I love this marmalade with fish tacos. It has a nice bright citrus flavour that compliments fish very well. P.S. I am judging the competition this year, so if you come be sure to say hi!

Seville Orange Marmalade - If Christine Ferber is the 'Queen of Jam', then the title of 'Queen of Marmalade' goes to Vivien Lloyd. She is passionate about marmalade and shares my same adoration for the Seville as I do. This is a great recipe which gives you a clear, beautiful marmalade flavour as a result

Blood Orange and Vanilla Marmalade - If you missed it Amy launched a preserving cookbook earlier this year called The Canning Kitchen. It focuses on simple and small batch.

Understanding preserving recipes for the best results

preserving recipes

Have you ever decided that you are going to try a new preserving recipe and even after you follow the instructions closely, when you open that jar to test the results you find a runny jelly or a rock hard jam? It's disappointing - no two ways about it. Not only did you spend money on the ingredients but you took the time to set everything up and the results are less than perfect.

There are parts of a recipe that you need to pay close attention to and if you are new to preserving, you might now know it. Here are a few things you should pay close attention to in a recipe for consistent and delicious results.

Non-Reactive Pot or Pan - A lot of recipes start off by telling you the size of pan or pot you require and it will sometimes state non-reactive. It is important to use the size of pan asked for in the recipe because this determines how quickly the contents will come to a boil and how much of the liquid will evaporate. Both of these things are important if you want to achieve the desired 'set'.

Non-reactive is important because the natural acids in the fruits and vinegars used in preserving can react chemically with aluminum or galvanized metals and have dangerous results.

Stirring constantly, versus stirring frequently or regularly - Preserving recipes will often state that the jam should be stirred constantly, frequently or regularly. When it says to stir constantly, if you fail to do this your jam or jelly can come up to a full boil too quickly and not enough of the liquid will have evaporated. This will lead to a jam with a very loose set or a jelly that does not set at all. 

Powdered versus liquid pectin - these are not interchangeable. If a recipe calls for powdered pectin do not substitute it for liquid. Powdered pectin goes into a recipe right at the start and liquid closer to the end. They each react differently with the ingredients and substituting one for the other will lead to undesired results. It's also always good practice to check the expiry date on your pectin before using it.

A rolling boil - when a recipe tell you to bring something up to a rolling boil, remain patient and don't stop until you have achieved this boil. A rolling boil has been achieved when you stir the jam/jelly and the boiling does not stop. This is to ensure you are getting the product up to the temperature required to achieve set. If you stop before it achieves the rolling boil you are going to have inadequate temperatures for set.

Most recipes also ask that you maintain the finishing rolling boil for 1 minute. This is the appropriate amount of time for the pectin to begin to work. Boiling for less time may leave you with a soft set and over boiling can lead to a very hard set.

Skim off foam - You always want to skim off any foam that might appear on the surface of your jam or jelly. This foam is just trapped oxygen being released from the fruit and if you stir it back into the product, you are simply stirring oxygen into an environment where our goal is to be oxygen free. It's a simple step and it will increase the shelf life of your jam.

Headspace - Why do you have to leave a 1/4" headspace? If you leave more headspace, the contents of the jar may not expand enough to push any trapped oxygen out of the jar and you will have jars that do not properly seal. If you leave to little headspace, the contents may expand so much that they expand right out of the jar and into the water bath itself. This may lead to jars not properly sealing as well.

Hopefully these few pointers will help you achieve a perfect jam the next time you try out a new recipe.

Posted on January 10, 2016 and filed under Non Preserve Recipes.

Pressure Canning Grapefruit Curd

Whether we want to admit it or not, we are approaching the upcoming holiday season at warp speed. Today is December 1st which means in a blink of an eye Christmas trees will be going up in houses all around you, mall parking lots will be full at the crack of dawn til the end of the day and carols will play on the radio 24/7.

Love it or hate it, Christmas is coming!

And with the approaching holiday season, comes the fact that friends and family will be popping over for visits, bites to eat and festive drinks.

While I love to cook, I also love having some of the food prepared ahead of time. And what better way to be prepared than to have pre-made dessert just sitting in your pantry awaiting the arrival of planned or surprise guests.

Pressure Canned Grapefruit Curd

Ingredients

1 2/3 cups superfine sugar*

1/3 cup fresh grapefruit zest (generally takes 4-5 grapefruit. You want zest and not pith)

4 large eggs

8 large egg yolks

1 cup grapefruit juice (freshly squeezed and strained)

2/3 cup of chilled unsalted butter cubed

In a small bowl, combine the superfine sugar and zest (if you do not have superfine sugar, run granulated sugar through a mixer to reduce the size of the granules), stirring until well blended. Let stand for 30-45 minutes to allow the sugar to pick up the citrus flavor of the zest.

Fill the a medium saucepan about ¼ full of water. Over med-high heat bring the water to a gentle boil.

Meanwhile, in a medium metal bowl, gently beat the whole eggs and egg yolks. Gradually whisking in the sugar and the zest until well blended. Stir in the grapefruit juice and then add the butter.

Place a medium sized glass or metal bowl in the fridge to cool.

Place bowl over the pan of boiling water. Make sure the top pan sits well above the water so the curd will be cooked by the steam only, not the boiling water. Reduce the heat to keep the water from boiling too vigorously.

Slowly heat the mixture, stirring constantly with a flexible spoon or spatula. Stir gently or the curd will be filled with tiny air bubbles. Scrape the bottom of the pan frequently to prevent scorching or curdling. Cook the mixture until it reaches a temperature between 168F and 170F (76C and 77C) about 5-7 minutes.

Remove the top pan or bowl from the double boiler and place it on a dish towel. Continue to stir the mixture until the curd thickens and coats the back of a metal spoon, about 5 minutes.

Remove the chilled bowl from the fridge. Place a fine meshed sieve over the bowl. Slowly pour the curd through the sieve and into the chilled bowl to strain the zest and any small lumps from the curd. Gently stir the curd to remove any trapped air bubbles. Don't be surprised if this part takes you between 5-10 minutes. If you want a nice, smooth and creamy curd it is well worth the time it takes.

Ladle the curd into hot jars, leaving 1/4” head space. Using a plastic knife, remove any trapped air bubbles. Wipe the jar rims and threads with a clean, damp cloth. Cover with hot lids and apply screw rings.

Process 125 and 250ml jars for 10 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure in a weighted gauge pressure canner or 10 minutes at 11 pounds pressure in a dial gauge pressure canner. Yields 6-7 125ml jars.

 

Posted on December 1, 2015 .

Perfect Pickled Jalapeño Peppers

pickled jalapeno

A couple of weeks ago I headed south over the border with my mom to visit my Uncle in Lewiston, NY. How could I possibly begin to describe my Uncle Louie so you can appreciate the kind of person that he is?

Well to start, his nickname for me is 'the brat'. He has called me that for as long as I can remember. Now you might think that one would find this kind of nickname insulting. But when you hear him say it with his Italian accent, his godfather voice and with the cheeky glint in his eye, you would know that he says it only in love. And like me, you would grow to love the nickname. 

He is an extremely talented man who could build almost anything; from his own house to the most beautiful doll houses for his grandchildren to a stunning birdhouse made of cararra marble. He has endless patience and is a meticulous man - as could be witnessed by the fact that he hand painted all of his tools the same colour blue and each and every tool has a particular spot just for it or by the fact that his tomato plants grow with absolute precision. He pinches them, ties them and trains them to grow in straight lines full of fruit.

Louie's workshop

While we were visiting he brought out a jar of Pickled jalapeño that his neighbour had made for him. He exclaimed about the simplicity of the pickle and how he could sit and eat them straight out of the jar. It reminded me that a couple of years ago I had made jar after jar of a very similar pickle and that my pantry was currently devoid of them. Time to get my pickle jalapeño ON!

Perfect Pickled Jalapeño Peppers

Ingredients

4 cups chopped Jalapeño Peppers

2 cups red wine vinegar

2 cups water

2 tbsp pickling salt

Combine vinegar, water and salt in a non-reactive pot and bring to a boil, add pepper rings and stir to submerge. As soon as the brine and peppers return to a boil, remove the pan from the heat.

Funnel peppers into your previously sterilized jars, top off with brine. Burp your jars to remove any trapped air bubbles and measure your headspace to 1/2 inch.

Wipe rims, apply lids and process jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Do not start timing until the water is at a boil.

It is best to let these age for at least 2-4 weeks in the jar before opening to enjoy and eat out of the jar as my Uncle Louie does!

IMG_0325.JPG


Posted on October 24, 2015 .

How to avoid soggy pickles

My mother does not have a green thumb. Even she would admit it. I still remember vividly the first plant that I ever received as a gift when I was still a child and how she mercilessly overwatered it and then underwatered it and how with each passing day it wilted and shrunk until there was nothing left to do but to throw it out.

Over the years, I have watched her murder many plants. She doesn’t do it on purpose as I know she loves them…she simply doesn’t have the touch. This is not a criticism of my mother as she is one of the most talented women I know. She makes amazingly beautiful quilts, crochets tablecloths and bed spreads with some of the most complex patterns and she can cook a meal that will make your mouth water just in the memory of how good it tasted.  But gardening is not one of her skills.

So it will be no surprise when I tell you that I grew up having no personal experience or understanding of how, let’s say tomatoes or cucumbers grew. My aunt and my nona had an amazing garden. And I would spend my summers walking up and down the rows gorging on the fresh sweet peas and raspberries but not really contemplating how these plants produced their bounty.

Now with a garden of my own, which at times can be more weeds than vegetables due to my rather hectic life running two businesses, I have had what I consider the honour to learn more about where our food comes from and just how hard the people who grow it work to bring it to our tables.

When I first read the phrase ‘cut off the blossom end’ in a recipe for Dilly Pickles I had no context for what that could possibly mean. Now, if I were to read that phrase again for the first time having had the experience of growing cucumbers in my garden it would immediately make sense.

But for those of you who grew up in a city, with a plant murdering mother or just no where near where food grows, this is for you ;).

It all starts with the seed, which I get from my friend Laura at Cubits. I love supporting other local small businesses and on top of that, have always had a great success rate with her seeds. Once the plant begins to grow, it produces these lovely yellow flowers.

Cucumber flower

Cucumber flower

You will notice at the base of the flower a itty bitty cucumber will begin to grow pushing the flower further from the stem. These cucumbers are spiny and seem to have little thorns all over them.

Baby Cucumber begins to grow

Baby Cucumber begins to grow

With time, the flower drops off the end and the cucumber continues to grow. As it grows it becomes less thorny.

pickling cucumber

Now here is where we get to the part about how to avoid those soggy pickles that no one loves to eat. I hope that by showing you how a cucumber grows that it is more obvious which end is the blossom end. It is the end furthest from the stem that started out as that lovely yellow flower. But what does it look like?

Blossom end

Blossom end

The blossom end of the cucumber has a smaller circle in general than the stem end and can be slightly rough at the end. 

stem end

stem end

You can generally envision where the stem once attached to the cucumber when you look at it. There is the slight indent from where it was once attached to the plant.

So why do we need to cut off the blossom end if we want our pickles to stay nice and crunchy. Strangely enough, there are enzymes contained in the blossom end that can cause softening of the vegetable once pickled. General rule of thumb is to cut off 1/16" from the blossom end.

Some people also like to use distilled water to help their cucumbers stay nice and crunchy. And don't forget the fresher your cuc is the crisper it will be once pickled.

Posted on September 2, 2015 .

How to choose the perfect peach

I was recently asked to write an article for Edible Toronto on a seasonal fruit of my choice. With peaches about to burst into full flavour, they were the hands down winner.

peaches

There are many different ways to preserve peaches, three types of peaches to choose from—freestone, semi-freestone, and clingstone—and numerous varieties within each type.

All are delicious, but when it comes to preserving you will want to keep your eyes open for freestone peaches, the flesh of which separates easily from the pit making it simpler to preserve whole or even in pieces. And if you quickly blanch your peaches in hot water and then plunge them into ice water, the skin of a nice ripe peach will fall away easily in large pieces, making your work that much easier.

I often get asked how to determine when a peach is ready to get made into jam or to be preserved in general. There are a couple of things to keep in mind as well as look out for, and some are more obvious than others.

For me, I always start with smell. Don’t be afraid to pick up a fruit at a market or a store and give it the good old-fashioned sniff test. With most peaches, it should smell just like that first bite into the perfect peach tastes—sweet and delicious. If there is no obvious peach aroma, then there is a high probability that there will be no strong peachy taste. 

Keep in mind that this is not true for all varieties of peaches, so be sure to ask questions if you are ever in doubt.

Pay additional attention to the skin and weight of the peach. A nice, ripe peach should feel surprisingly heavy and dense for its size. (Mealy peaches tend to feel lighter in weight.) If the skin is wrinkled or puckered, put that peach right back down because it means it is dehydrated. If the peach is hard, that means it is unripe, but the great thing about peaches is that they will continue to ripen nicely off the tree. Just be sure to lay them out separately and not pile them up in a bowl where their weight could cause those on the bottom to bruise.

I always say that what goes into the jar comes out of the jar, meaning that you want to put the best possible quality of fruit into your preserves. Pass over peaches that are overly bruised or flattened. And if you end up with a peach with a mealy consistency it simply means that it was most likely picked when it was very green and then refrigerated for transport.

To read the full article and to check out some other amazing stories, click here for the online version.

Posted on July 23, 2015 .

Best Meal for your Money in Toronto

MT_FoodServices

There are no shortage of amazing places to have dinner in this lovely city of ours and at times even trying to make a decision on where to go for dinner can be overwhelming. But in my very humble opinion, one of the best places to get the best value for your dollar is The Depanneur. Every month they hold a couple of fantastic supper clubs where they invite different chefs to create amazing multiple course meals. These meals are served family style giving you the chance to meet other like minded food lovers.

the depanneur supper club

Last month clients at our kitchen, M&T Food Services were the guest chefs and they created a menu inspired by the food of the Ottoman Palace. Dish after dish of traditional food was served and it was such a success that it sold out almost faster than a Rolling Stones concert and a second night was added ;).

MT Food Services Murat Ozsuvari,
MT Food Services Tolga Ay

If you weren't lucky enough to snag tickets to this amazing supper club, you can still try Murat and Tolga's amazing food by ordering meal delivery from their web site. And if you want to experience one of the great supper clubs at The Depanneur you can sign up for their newsletter and be among the first to know which chef will be appearing next. I can tell you that the next supper club will be both a meal and a magic show. Tell me where else you can get that for $40 a person.

But right here, right now for one very lucky person,  I am giving away a $50 gift certificate to M&T Food Services website. Tell me why you love the local food movement and you could be the winner. (Available only to those who live in the GTA).

Posted on July 1, 2015 .

The Canning Kitchen

the_canning_kitchen

It was a lovely surprise last Friday when a package arrived at my kitchen from Penguin Random House Canada. I immediately tore it open to find this lovely new preserving book inside by Amy Bronee, blogger and author of this lovely canning cookbook. Thank you Random House for thinking of me!

I had an upcoming preserving class at Le Dolci, so thought what better way to test drive a new cookbook than to use one of the recipes with my students. Asparagus are in season, so the Pickled Asparagus Spears Recipe seemed like the obvious choice.

Pickled Asparagus

It was a gorgeous Saturday morning and in the class we were going to make Strawberry Balsamic Jam and Pickled Asparagus.

preserving class

We started off with the Pickled Asparagus for a couple of reasons. One because I love how pickling shows new preservers how simple the whole process can be and that it does not have to be a time consuming or labour intensive. I shared with the class a couple tips with making pickled asparagus.

  1. I like to draw lines on my cutting board that show me the different lengths to cut items depending on my jar size. This makes the prep process so much easier.
  2. I arrange my spears with tips pointing all in one direction in rows so that you can grab your product quickly and easily when it comes to filling the jars

The class was excited to hear that we were using a new recipe and instagram and tweets were being sent all throughout the class. We even got Amy engaged all the way from Victoria.


Before they knew it the Asparagus was in the jars with their spices and brine and were ready for the hot water bath. Amy's recipe has a nice little twist in that it uses fennel instead of some of the more popular combination of dill and mustard seeds. I imagine when the class opens their jars in the recommended 2-4 weeks that they will be thrilled with the flavour combination.

pickled asparagus

I look forward to trying a few of the other simple small batch recipes in this cookbook throughout the summer months. If you are interested in getting your hands on The Canning Kitchen the release date is June 9th, 2015 or you can pre-order it here.

Posted on June 1, 2015 .

Pickled ramps

foraging for ramps

It's this time of year when ramps begin to poke their lovely greenness up from the ground in parks and forests. They are a wild onion native to North America and are kind of like a cross between an onion and a leek with a strong garlic aroma.

If you are fortunate to stumble across a monster batch of them like the one in the photo above always remember not to be greedy. Take only a small amount as they will not grow back and quantities of wild ramps are diminishing due to over foraging. They should be sustainably picked to ensure the return of the crop the following season.

wild ramps

These little babies make the most amazing pickles which can be used on burgers, cheese plates, chopped up into salads and so much more. Their brine can be added to a small amount of olive oil to make salad dressing. Nothing goes to waste. Which is something that makes me very happy.

But what I have learned over the years of pickling ramps is that not all of it likes to be pickled. And what I mean by that is the green leafy part can turn brown and mushy when preserved in a vinegar brine. I choose to clean my ramps up, cut this part off and turn it into a ramp pesto. 

Pickle what's on the left. Make pesto with the green leaves on the right

Pickle what's on the left. Make pesto with the green leaves on the right

One of my favourite pickled ramp recipes is based on a recipe found on Front Door Organics site. I just made them spicier and determined that all of their optional spices in my opinion were required.

Spicy Pickled Ramps

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups pickling vinegar

2 1/4 cups water (distilled if available)

2 cloves of garlic, slivered

3/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp ground coriander

1/4 cup pickling salt

1 tsp dill

1/4 tsp whole allspice

1/4 tsp cumin

Preparation

Combine all the ingredients except the ramps in a non reactive pot over medium high heat. Bring to a boil stirring to dissolve the salt completely. Turn off the heat and remove the pan.

Pack the cleaned and trimmed ramp bulbs into hot and previously sterilized jars. Fill with the vinegar solution leaving 1/2" headspace. Be sure to burp your jars and then remeasure the headspace. The wipe the rims and place lids on jars.

Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. 

Yields: approximately 5-250ml jars.

 

Posted on May 5, 2015 and filed under Pickles.

Toronto Rental Commercial Kitchen

Manning Canning Kitchens

It started as a dream 3 years ago and over the past 6 months we have been working hard to make it a reality. A rental kitchen in Toronto where small food producers, chefs, caterers, etc could bake, preserve or create.

Why did I want to open up a commercial kitchen? You may not know this but all food that is produced in Toronto and made available for sale HAS to be produced in a certified commercial kitchen that has been inspected by the City of Toronto. And when I started my preserves company, I quickly discovered that these types of kitchens were very hard to find. It quickly became the biggest challenge in my business and as I spoke with other producers that I met at food shows and farmer's markets, I realized I wasn't alone.

I was very lucky that I found the East Scarborough Storefront and for just over a year I was able to use their fabulous kitchen once a week at NO CHARGE to make my jams, jellies and pickles. And if you happen to live in the KGO (Kingston, Galloway, Orton Park) area you should definitely acquaint yourselves with all of the wonderful work they do and the amazing services they provide. 

And then I got lucky for a 2nd time; one of the stores that carries my products allowed me to use the kitchen in their basement. SCORE! It had 2 - 10g steam kettles and really allowed me to increase my productivity and batch up my recipes.

But even with access to these 2 wonderful kitchens, which is more than a lot of food producers manage to find, it was limited and my business could not grow fast enough to keep up with demand. My husband and I knew it was time to really push ahead on our dream of Toronto's rentable commercial kitchen space.

But building a commercial kitchen is EXPENSIVE and we knew we would need some help making it a reality. So in late September we launched our kickstarter campaign. We reached our goal (thank you, thank you, thank you) and it has been full speed ahead ever since.

Below shows you some of the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into the space.

The very first step was to ensure that the floor in the main kitchen space was food space. This involved degreasing the existing floor, sanding it down, and painting it several times with a food safe apoxy that left it shining.

main kitchen before and after

The existing space was set up as a cafe/coffee shop so we started by tearing out their seating, removing the 3 pc bathroom and building the great wall of canning.

Progression of the space from cafe to 2nd rental kitchen and Manning Canning production space

Progression of the space from cafe to 2nd rental kitchen and Manning Canning production space

During the construction, we were also sourcing all of the equipment for the kitchen, buying expensive transformers, working with master electricians, dealing with water outages. But each hurdle we came up against, and each hurdle we jumped took us that much closer to the finished product.

The hunt for the equipment

The hunt for the equipment

Today for the first time after many months of hard work, set backs, picking ourselves up all over again, painting and then painting some more along with a few other things thrown in there for good measure - my team and I worked in the brand new kitchen for the first time.

toronto rental kitchen

And it was GLORIOUS! We didn't have to carry all of the ingredients and tools we needed down a flight of stairs and soon I will transfer all of my preserving tools into the kitchen and I will be able to walk from my vehicle to the kitchen with nothing but my keys in my hand.

And the great thing is that we have created a space that makes this possible for other people as well. It has been amazing being able to see and SMELL all of the wonderful goodies the people using our kitchen have created.

Producers putting the kitchen to the test

Producers putting the kitchen to the test


Posted on April 9, 2015 .

Can I reduce the sugar in this jam recipe?

Can I reduce the amount of sugar in this recipe?

It's a pretty common question in my preserving classes because a lot of people are interested in learning how to preserve BECAUSE they are interested in controlling the type of ingredients they are consuming. I love preserving for this very reason as well. I can preserve ripe organic Ontario peaches in August in a low sugar syrup and know that when I open that jar I am not consuming anything that I don't want to be eating.

So when a new preserver starts to look at a lot of jam and jelly recipes their initial reaction is to be shocked that they contain such high levels of sugar. But once you understand the role of sugar in preserving and what happens when you decide to reduce the sugar you can start to make educated decisions on when you want to reduce the sugar, substitute some of all of the sugar for honey, etc.

In this short video, I talk about the role of sugar in preserving and what you need to know about reducing it in recipes you find.



Posted on March 30, 2015 .

What is headspace, suspension, etc....

headspace

I get a lot of questions about preserving terms and what they mean. For me, they are second nature. I have been hearing about headspace and suspension for years. But for those of you that are just starting to preserve here are some common preserving terms defined for you!


Posted on March 15, 2015 .

Apple Onion Relish with Ale

apple onion relish with ale

It is almost the end of 'comfort food' season. That's what I like to call winter. The time of year when it is cold outside and all I want to eat are cheesy carbohydrate-y,  packed with meat style meals. Whether that is a big bowl of spaghetti, my Aunt's fabulous meatloaf, or my personal favourite - a grilled cheese sandwich.

Now that the weather is warming up, my taste buds are already starting to transition to lighter fare but before that transition is complete I wanted to make one more batch of Apple Onion Relish and send this season off with a bang!

Apple Onion Relish with Ale

Ingredients

6 cups chopped onions

4 tbsp kosher salt

2.5 cups dark brown sugar

2 tbsp mustard seeds

1/2 tsp cinnamon (ground)

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1.5 cups cider vinegar

1.5 cups ale

5 cups peeled and chopped apples (your choice)

5 cups peeled and chopped tart apples (your choice)

ontario apples

Instructions

In a medium sized non-reactive bowl, place your chopped onions and sprinkle the 4 tbsp of salt. Mix thoroughly and let sit for at least an hour. Drain the onions through a fine mesh sieve pushing down to drain as much liquid from them as possible.

onions

Place the sugar, mustard seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg and vinegar into a medium sized pot over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium high and then add the onions and the first 5 cups of apples as well as the 1.5 cups of beer. Bring this to a boil, stirring regularly. Then reduce the heat and simmer until the apples soften and break down. The mixture will have thickened by this point (10-20 minutes).

Stir in the last 5 cups of apples and simmer until the apples soften slightly and the mixture thickens. You may want to stop cooking this before you can drag a spoon across the bottom of the pot and leave a trail that does not fill in immediately, as the apples will continue to absorb moisture in the jar after water bath canning.

Ladle into previously sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe the rims with a damp cloth and place the lid and threads on the jars. Process for 10 minutes. 

Yields 10-12, 250ml jars.

 

 

Posted on March 9, 2015 .

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 .