Rhubarb Recipe Round-up

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About 2 weeks ago the weather tricked us into thinking that spring had arrived. The temperatures began to climb and people started to rub their eyes and crawl out of the spaces they have spent the winter hibernating in. For me, that was most certainly our basement parked right next to our wood burning stove.

During one of these milder days, I did a lap around my garden. It is not a very large garden so the lap didn't take all that much time. But during perhaps the second lap, my spirits were buoyed by the fact that I saw the first glimpses of my rhubarb plants pushing up through the soil.

Very shortly after that discovery, the weather dipped quickly, dropping back down below zero and mother nature decided to bless us with yet another snow fall. Sigh. I quickly ran back down to the basement and parked myself right next to the wood burning stove.

My next lap around my garden was just after the snow once again FINALLY melted. Where had my rhubarb gone? It had slipped back down under the soil waiting for warmer temperatures. Can't say that I blame it -it didn't have a wood burning stove to warm up beside.

But ever since that first sign of my rhubarb plant, I have been tasting fresh rhubarb like a mirage in my mind. And I find it difficult to remain patient. Hurry up Rhubarb, I want to scream from my bedroom window each morning in an effort to coax it along.

If you are as anxious as I am to see your rhubarb in full bloom here are some recipes for you to ponder as we all wait patiently together for spring to completely arrive.

Pineapple Rhubarb Jam - the combination of pineapple and rhubarb is a fresh combination that I think sounds like a great alternative to the tried and true Strawberry Rhubarb.

Straight up Rhubarb Jam - while rhubarb pairs beautifully with so many different flavours, it truly does stand well on it's own. This simple recipe only requires 2 ingredients...how easy is that?

Pickled Rhubarb with Ginger - this is a flavour combination that has my tastebuds delighted just at the thought. Just imagine the amazing 'pop' these would add to a summer salad.

Rhubarb Cordial - fast forward to the middle of June when you are sitting outside on your front porch, in your back yard, at the cottage or even just in your kitchen. The sun is beating down and you need something to quench your thirst. Well, this ought to do it!

Stewed Rhubarb - if you are like me and happen to plan ahead for what you will preserve now so that you are surrounded by your favourite flavours all year round, this recipe is perfect. But please note it requires a pressure canner.

Posted on April 21, 2014 .

The man behind the preserves

Almost a year ago, I left my full time marketing job to pursue Manning Canning full time. It was a big decision and one that I did not make lightly. Nor, did I make it alone. My husband James had been telling me for months that it was time to move past marketing and give Manning Canning the chance that it deserved. But I was full of reservations and questions. But with his support, I finally pushed those reservations aside and found answers to the questions I needed.

Well almost a year into this wonderful adventure, it is time for me to give props to the man that gave me the courage to do it.

Not only did he help me transition from standing on the edge of the cliff - to finally having the gumption to jump, but he has played an important part in Manning Canning's success.

He may not be in the kitchen helping me make preserves or be a part of the day to day management of the business. But he is the man behind the preserves. He helps me navigate complicated situations and he is my sounding board. He has allowed my business to take over rooms in the house. He has been understanding when during the summer I am just a blur that runs through the house in between kitchen days, farmer's markets and shows. He helps me load the car, unload the car, carry HEAVY boxes of preserves up and down stairs and you may even have seen him standing under the tent with me at a farmer's market or two. Even when the wind is blowing and the rain is streaming down.

James has been the unseen hero of Manning Canning and for that I am naming him:

Volunteer of the Year. 

Posted on April 12, 2014 .

Interview with Alberta Farmer - James Heitzman

It's hard to believe that with 90 head of cattle and 720 acres of acres of land, that James Heitzman considers himself a small farmer. But it's true - compared to some of the large scale farming that happens in Alberta, James' farm is small. It's so small that it doesn't even have a name. Or could it be it doesn't have a name because James has no time to think about pesky little things like marketing? Whatever the reason, James is one farmer you are not going to be able to find with a quick Google search, but you will wish you could after you read this post.

On their combined 720 acres, James and his dad grow canola, wheat, barley, oats and hay for the cattle. When asked, Why the variety in crops if you consider yourself such a small farm?, he didn't even hesitate with the answer "We rotate our crops to cut down on things like disease. If you seed canola from year to year on the same land you risk bringing disease into the crop". He went on to explain how hay puts nitrogen back into the soil, which cuts down on the need for fertilization and fertilizer costs money. When you are small, you need to think about how you spend every penny "Take care of the pennies and the dollars take care of themselves", says James.

When running a small farm, James tells me that if he can get 50 bushels to the acre and keep his costs down and his product top quality, he would much rather do that than get 70 bushels to the acre with higher costs and poorer quality. And rotating his crops is just one of the many things that allows him to do just that.

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James got into farming at a very early age. His dad was (and still is) a farmer and his grandpa raised cattle. His grandpa used to buy orphaned cattle and feed them by hand. They were called 'pailbunters' and James says they were more like pets. When he turned 18, James had managed to save $10,000 and with that money he bought himself 10 head of cattle and he has never looked back. Now it's his full time SECOND job. Oh, didn't I mention that James also works full time at the Edmonton International Airport.

That's right, James puts in a full time work week, usually working 4 days on and 4 days off. But even when he is on, he comes home from work and can put in an additional 5 hours, especially when they are haying or calving. He says that a lot of small farmers have second jobs; some have gravel trucks or are welders, etc all because it's too hard to support a family with a farm alone.

When I asked him why he does it, his answer was simple "Because I love it" and there was no hesitation. Raising cattle helps offset the cost of raising a family, but it doesn't come without it's sacrifices. During calving season, James and his wife Yvonne tend to take turns sleeping on the couch so that they can go out every 3-4 hours during the night (sometimes in bitterly cold temperatures) to check on the cattle. And they do it without complaint. "It's a hard life, but it's a good life. We enjoy the family farm lifestyle and are happy for the values it has taught Harley (their son). He understands the value of food and where it comes from."

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I asked James why he thought Alberta Beef was so darn good and this is where he got a little too technical for this farming novice ;). He listed a lot of reasons; Alberta Beef is grass fed, a lot of Alberta farmers raise Angus cattle which are born smaller, get up and feed faster, tend to be smaller with better cuts.

But James just doesn't know a lot about farming, to be a good farmer you also have to keep abreast of what's happening around the world and James does just that. He explained to me how Canadian farmers have a hard time competing with countries like Australia and Brazil who can feed their cattle grass all year long and don't have to supplement their feed with hay. You see - grass is cheap and keeps the cost of raising cattle down. We talked at length about how a lot of the smaller grain terminals have closed down, which puts additional pressure on the small farmer because the remaining terminals cater to the 'big guy' with larger yields. Bumpercrops of grain in other countries drives down the price of grain in Canada. It's a constant shifting of variables and then you throw disease, illness and weather into the mix and it's amazing James gets any sleep at all.

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The one question I really wanted an answer to when I was speaking with James was this "What's the one thing you wished more people understood when it came to farming" and his answer really resonated with me. "Lots of people don't understand where the food they eat comes from."

I couldn't agree more with this simple statement because it is true. If people would sit down and look at that loaf of bread on their table and think about all of the work that it took to get it there, from the farmer that took the time to grow it, to the work it took to get it off the field, to the baker who put it all together and made the loaf itself, they might better understand it's true value.

We spoke a bit about the 'farm to plate' movement taking place right now and while James knows it could be good business for his farm, he also mentioned that a lot of small farmers just simply don't have time to look at new opportunities, get involved with social media or really market their product well. I guess that's what happens when you have two full time jobs.

The small farmer may face a lot of challenges, but James doesn't think they are going anywhere. They may be small, but it has also forced them to be more resourceful and to do more with less. As a small farmer he believes you take more pride in what you are doing because you aren't doing it for money, but because you genuinely enjoy it. He knows he is not going to get rich off farming, but says it is just a part of who he is.

My husband and I buy a half a side of beef from James' farm on a yearly basis and every single one of our dinner guests who have been lucky enough to have us share it with them can attest to the fact that it is some of the best beef they have ever tasted.

It's important to know where our food comes from and I am thankful for small farmers like James Heitzman.

 

This post is part of The Canadian Food Experience, it began June 7 2013. As we share our collective stories through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity.

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Lemon Honey Vanilla Bean Jam

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Huge thanks to Lindsay Zaraska, a Manning Canning facebook fan for sharing her lovely story and even lovelier sounding recipe for Lemon Honey Vanilla Bean Jam

LEMON HONEY VANILLA BEAN JAM - GUEST POST - Lindsay Zaraska, Edmonton, AB

I've been on a total lemon and vanilla kick lately. Probably because it reminds me of spring, and here in Edmonton, it feels like spring is never going to arrive, so I've been trying to replicate it through food. So far, I've made pavlovas with lemon curd, berries and vanilla bean whipped cream as well as lemon and vanilla bean trifle. 

I was on holidays earlier this March in Phoenix, AZ staying at my parents house. They had a fridge full of lemons off their friends tree and I couldn't get enough of them! They're not like the ones you buy in the store, and they're not like Meyer lemons either. They're super sweet and mild. You could eat the fruit like an orange.

Once I got home, I found out that most of the time, you can take lemons across the border. From what I gather, it's pretty much at the discretion of the border crossing agent. So I tasked my mother with bringing lemons home, and it worked!

I sweetened this batch of lemon vanilla bean jam with honey. I used a thick, creamed style raw honey from a friends uncle who has bees in Saskatchewan. I buy it by the gallon, so I had plenty on hand for this project.

I have 6 of the lovely lemons left, so I think I will make a second batch, perhaps adding some pomegranate juice as well, for a nice pink colour.

I based the jam off of this recipe.
http://www.gardenbetty.com/2012/03/lemon-honey-jelly-and-an-accidental-syrup/
 

Lemon Honey Vanilla Bean Jam

1 cup of lemon juice, strained of any pulp (about 6 lemons worth, measured after straining)

3 cups of honey

2 vanilla beans, split down the center

zest of half a lemon

1 pouch of liquid pectin (I used Certo)

In a large pot, combine the first 4 ingredients and over medium heat, bring them to a hard boil stirring constantly for two minutes. It really bubbles up and expands, so please use a big pot! Add in the full pouch of liquid pectin and stir thoroughly to combine. Return the mixture to a full boil and boil for one minute. Turn off the heat and skim off any foam. Ladle into previously  sterilized jars leaving 1/4" headspace and process for 10 mins. 

I think it worked perfectly! It's got a nice jelly consistency, albeit a little on the loose side, but that's how I like it.

I'm sure the jam will taste just as good with conventional lemons, it will probably just have a little more zing and tartness.

Posted on April 1, 2014 .

Lime Cilantro Marmalade - an award winner

I have been kind of quiet for these past few weeks. There were a combination of factors that led to this silence. Let's start with the most obvious; winter. Yes, I am afraid I was wintered out. The below average temperatures and the dull grey sky and the snow had rendered me without words.

The second thing that kept me from my computer is the sad fact, that three weeks ago we had to put our big ol' beautiful Bull Mastiff 'Betty Boo' down. The loss of her really stole all my energy. It was a struggle just getting used to how quiet our house now is and to be honest, I couldn't face sitting down and talking about it or even worse - not talking about it and acting like everything was normal on this side of the fence.

BettyBoo

The last contributing factor is that my husband and I decided almost over night that we had to escape the house and this never ending winter and we booked a last minute trip down south. We spent a week lounging in the sun, snorkelling, eating, reading our books and trying to put some distance between the lack of Betty Boo and ourselves.

So now we are back and on a somewhat sunny Sunday I find myself sitting here looking at the cilantro that has been growing from seed on my windowsill and I feel inspired and once again full of words. It is going to be a slow recovery, but we will just take it one step at a time ;).

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Last year, I was experimenting in the kitchen making some lime marmalade, which is one of my favourites (there are so many) and I wanted to create something sweet that would be tasty in a fish taco but that wasn't salsa. Out of this day in the kitchen, lime cilantro marmalade was born. This won a 2nd place in Mad for Marmalade and I knew I had a winner.

Photo credit: Sarah B. Hood

Photo credit: Sarah B. Hood

Lime Cilantro Marmalade (2nd place winner at Mad for Marmalade)

Ingredients

1 cup of lime peel zest

1 cup water

1/4 cup fresh lime juice (strained)

1 cup water

2 1/2 cups lime segments

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

5 cups sugar

1 - 3oz liquid pectin

2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro

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Instructions

In a bowl combine the 1 cup of lime zest with 1 cup of water and stir to cover zest completely. Soak for 10-15 minutes, drain and discard the water.

In a medium sized pan, combine the peel with the strained lime juice and add 1 cup of water. Using medium-high heat, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat once a boil has been achieved, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the lime segments and lime juice. Cover and continue to simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

Remove the cover, stir in the sugar and continue to stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Return the heat to medium-high and stirring constantly, bring the contents to a full rolling boil. Stir in the 3oz of liquid pectin and return to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute. Remove your pan from the heat and skim off any foam.

Quickly stir in the cilantro and allow the marmalade to cool for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Ladle your marmalade into previously sterilized jars leaving 1/4" headspace. Wipe the rims and threads and apply lids and screw rings. Process in a 200F water bath for 10 minutes.

Yields approximately 6 - 250ml jars

 

Posted on March 30, 2014 .

The 25 minute raspberry tart

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In times of stress - I bake. Mostly because in times of stress I want to stuff my face with anything that is sweet and can make me feel better even for a moment. This past week, I have made peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, breakfast bars and now this - the 25 minute raspberry tart.

This tart is especially dangerous because it literally only takes 25 minutes from the moment you stand up out of your chair to walk to the kitchen to start making the tart - to the moment you return to that very same chair with the warmed tart, fresh out of the oven, in your hand. Trust me - I timed it!

I don't want to get bogged down in the 'why am I so stressed' conversation, because we are here to talk about tarts, but I feel like a little history is required so you can understand how we ended up here with raspberry jam and frangipane being licked off my fingers at a rate that is surprising even to myself.

For the past month, my bull mastiff Betty has been in a fight for her life. It started off with a breast cancer scare - which turned out to be benign. We thought 'whew, that was a close one' and then a few days later she slipped on the ice and hurt her front elbow. Fast forward 2 weeks and we are still having to carry her outside, she is only able to put the slightest amount of pressure on her leg and the vet is telling us we are approaching the end of the road.

S-T-R-E-S-S.

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So I turn in moments like this, to things that give me comfort. My mom used to fill the house with the scent of fresh baked bread, homemade raspberry jam, our deep freeze was always full of cookies she had made and her cinnamon buns to this day still haunt my dreams with their deliciousness.

I knew I was looking for the ultimate 'nostalgic comfort sweet' and what better way to get there than to bake something using raspberry jam - which has always reminded me of home, of my nona's garden and of summer (which we all need a reminder of at the moment).

Please note that below, I say the Double Devon cream is 'optional'. I don't really mean it ;). It absolutely should be included, but let's just assume you don't have a jar in your fridge at all times (not saying that I do), the tart is still delicious on it's own.

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The 25 minute raspberry tart (adapted from a recipe by Jamie Oliver)

Ingredients

12 frozen tart shells

1 egg

1 cup flax meal

1/2 cup granulated sugar

7 tbsp unsalted butter

Zest of one large orange

English Style Double Devon Cream (optional)

1 tbsp of brandy vanilla extract

Good quality raspberry jam

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Instructions

Preheat your oven to 375 and get your tart shells out of the freezer and place on a cookie sheet.

In a small bowl, combine the egg, flax seed meal, sugar, butter, orange zest and brandy vanilla extract and stir thoroughly.

Add a small dollop of the egg mixture into the tart shell, layer a small dollop of raspberry jam and repeat one more time.

Place in the oven and cook for 18 minutes until nicely browned. Remove from oven and serve with a little bit of English Style Double Devon Cream.

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This post is part of The Canadian Food Experience, it began June 7 2013. As we share our collective stories through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity.

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Preserving with Spices and Herbs

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Adding spices and herbs to your preserves can completely transform the contents inside your jar. A touch of rosemary to rhubarb jam makes a completely different flavoured jam than the addition of vanilla. This is where exploring new recipes and getting creative in the kitchen can be a lot of fun. Pickles made with the exact same brine and same vegetables except with altered spices or herbs end up tasting extremely different.

Here are a few of the recipes out there with interesting herb/spice combinations that I have put on my list to try in 2014. What's your favourite preserving recipe that uses interesting spices?

Apricot Currant Grand Marnier and White Pepper Jam

Peach Lavender Jam

Rosemary Rhubarb Jam

Spicy Quince and Apple Chutney

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Posted on March 5, 2014 .

Winner of a 2014 Canadian Blog Award

I was so excited to learn that 'Secret Diary' was the winner of a 2014 Canadian Blog Award. This blog has been an absolute labour of love and to know that it is enjoyed by others only makes me even more motivated to keep at it!

So thank you. Thank you for reading it, sending me your comments, sharing it with others and for voting for it. :)

Posted on February 25, 2014 .

Blood Orange Curd - Pressure Canned

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The last Monday of each month, I teach a preserving class at The Depanneur. During the summer months, the classes fill up quickly as people are excited about getting all of the wonderful local, in season produce into jars. In the winter when the winter blah's have set in, the world is white and local produce lacks the excitement of the bursting, juicy raspberries of summer - it is a little more difficult to get people excited about the idea of preserving.

This month we decided that it was time to teach a Pressure Canning 101 class and to 'sexify' it up we chose Blood Orange Curd. Today, I gave the adapted recipe a test run just in time for tomorrow's class and also because the blood oranges looked too delicious to just sit there for the next 24 hours.

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Blood Orange Curd (adapted from a recipe by Linda Amendt)

Ingredients

·       1 2/3 cups superfine sugar

·       1/3 cup fresh blood orange zest

·       4 large eggs

·       8 large egg yolks

·       1 cup strained fresh blood orange juice (5-6 orange

·       2/3 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into approx. 10 pieces

Preparation:

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

In a small bowl, combine the superfine sugar and orange zest, stirring until well blended. Let stand for 30 minutes to allow the sugar to pick up the citrus flavor of the zest.

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

In the top pan of a double boiler or a medium metal bowl, lightly beat the whole eggs and egg yolks. Gradually whisking in the sugar and the zest until well blended. Stir in the blood orange juice. Add the butter.

Place the pan or 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.

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 3-250ml jars


Posted on February 23, 2014 .

Award Winning Raspberry Jelly

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I have always loved picking raspberries. Growing up, we would spend weeks at my Nona's house in Sparwood, BC and at my nona's house there was a garden filled with fresh vegetables and several rows of juicy and delicious raspberries. I would sit and wait for those raspberries to become ripe and then while the sun beat down on my shoulders I would walk up and down the rows searching out the plumpest and reddest raspberry to pick. I loved how they practically fell off the canes right into your hands. Their skin so tender and full that even the slightest amount of pressure at times could set their juices free.

And now, many years later, it just doesn't feel like summer if I don't get out amongst the raspberries with a bucket in hand. And each summer I freeze bag after bag of ripe raspberries so that in the depth of winter I always have summer close at hand.

My favourite raspberries jellies have always been made from frozen raspberries and my Champion Jelly at this past year's Royal Winter Fair was no different. You may be surprised when you read that frozen berries are suggested for use to make this jelly. But I have found that frozen berries (especially when you have picked them yourself from a trusted farm) give you a more intense raspberry flavour.

Ingredients

  • 4 - 600g bags of frozen rasberries
  • 7.5 cups sugar
  • 2 - 3 oz pouches liquid pectin

Directions

Defrost your berries overnight in a large bowl (do not rinse). Using a potato masher, crush the berries a couple of cups at a time to release the juice.
Over medium heat in a large stainless steel pan, bring the raspberries and their juice to a gentle simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and continue to simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the cover and gently skim off any foam. Cover once again and let the pot with the raspberries stand for at least 20 minutes.

Place a fine meshed sieve over a bowl and gently ladle the raspberries and their juice into the sieve. Don't rush this process. Let the juice fall through the sieve on it's own. Do not crush the raspberries in order to extract more juice or to extract the juice more quickly. This will lead to a cloudy jelly. Throw out the meat of the raspberries as well as the seeds. Rinse the sieve and ladle the juice once again into the sieve to catch any seeds that may have snuck through the first time.

Rinse the sieve thoroughly and line with 2 damp paper coffee filters and strain the juice once more. Again...be patient. For an extra clear jelly repeat this process once again.

Cover the juice and refrigerate over night.

Being careful to not stir up and of the sediment that may have settled on the bottom of your bowl, once again line a fine meshed sieve with a damp coffee filter and strain the juice once more. You will want 4 cups of raspberry juice in the end.

Warm your oven to 200 and place the sugar inside to warm.

In a large stainless steel pan over medium heat, heat the 4 cups raspberry juice just until it is warm. Add the warmed sugar and stir constantly until the sugar has completely dissolved. Increase to medium-high heat and while continuing to stir constantly bring to a full rolling boil (a boil that can not be stirred down). Empty the contents from both packets of pectin and stir fully. Stir constantly and once again return the mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil and stir for 1 minute.

Remove the pan from the heat and turn off element.

Skim off any foam and ladle into sterilized jars. Leave 1/4" headspace. Process at 200F for 10 minutes.

Yields approx: 8 - 250ml jars
 

 

Posted on February 18, 2014 .

The retirement of Miss Cackles

On Friday, I met with one of the students at George Brown who is working on a Digital Marketing Strategy for Manning Canning. See - Manning Canning has been chosen by the Marketing program there to be the recipient of customized Digital Marketing Strategy. How lucky am I?

We covered many different topics in our brief check in meeting, but the one that stuck with me and that I knew I needed to kick into action sooner rather than later was the inevitable retirement of my social media handle @misscackles.

I joined twitter well before Manning Canning was even a twinkle in these lovely brown eyes of mine and never even considered the switch when the business started.

But now that we are growing, it is time to @misscackles to retire gracefully and allow @manningcanning to take centre stage.

If you follow me and are wondering where I went...I am still out there. Just follow the laughter and you will find me.

 

Posted on February 16, 2014 .

February 2014: A Canadian Worth Watching

Photo credit: Sauer and Steiner Toolworks

In my previous life, before I became a full time preserver, pickler and jam maker I worked in Marketing. I started off my career in packaged goods, spent a while in traditional marketing and eventually ended up in digital marketing. In the span of years where I was working in traditional marketing I had the pleasure of working with Konrad Sauer. He was an art director at an agency where I was a Project Manager. Kon and I got along like a house on fire. Not only did we work well together but we enjoyed one another's company. He got my sarcastic sense of humour and I think I can go so far as to say he even appreciated it.

Kon took the leap and followed his dreams well before I even knew what my dreams were. See, not only was Konrad an extremely talented designer but Konrad had a talent for woodworking like few others and he had a passion for wood planes.

He had been doing woodworking for long enough to realize that there were not a lot of people out there making quality wood planes and he decided to start a business doing just that. Like me, Konrad didn't just quit his day job and launch into his new business overnight. He moonlighted for quite some time. Being an art director by day and a husband, father and wood plane builder by night. Eventually the time came where he knew it was time to transition and he hasn't looked back since.

Photo credit: Sauer and Steiner Toolworks

I cheered Konrad and his decision to follow his dreams on from the sidelines, and occasionally sit down to read his blog and admire his work. I believe him to be one of the most talented people I know and I am thrilled for the success he has achieved. And I know that Konrad is sitting on the sideline cheering me on in my new venture. 

You should really take a few moments and get lost in his blog. His projects are amazing, his approach is fascinating and the work he does is astounding. He is a Canadian to keep an eye on.


This post is part of The Canadian Food Experience, it began June 7 2013. As we share our collective stories through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity.

Easiest Dessert EVER - Sex in a Pan

 

Two quick points before I begin.

1) Yes it tastes as good as the name suggests,

2) It tastes that good because there is not one single healthy ingredient in this recipe, except perhaps for the pecans and maybe the milk. But in my case, not even really the milk because I used full on 2%.

Sure, if you wanted to you could make this dessert 'less bad' for you, but my thinking is - what is the point? You could use fat free pudding or low fat cream cheese, but seeing as I only make this dessert once every couple of years, when I make it I simply throw the kitchen sink at it. How bad could 1 slice of this (ahem...maybe 3 or 4 if I am being honest with you) actually be?

Over the past 2 weeks, I have basically been making marmalade every 2nd day. I have taken just over 200lb of Certified Organic Seville Oranges and made a LOT of marmalade. This also means that I have hand cut the skin of over 200lb of oranges. For the past few nights every time I turn my head, I get a shooting pain, which I am now calling Marmalade Neck.

It's now Superbowl Sunday (obviously) and a very good chef friend of mine (whom also happens to be a HUGE football fan) has invited herself over (actually I invited her over, but it sounds better this way) and is basically catering our Superbowl meal. The menu is outstanding and I offered to make dessert.

What does one make for dessert when they are exhausted, tired of being in the kitchen yet know they want something that tastes delicious and everyone is sure to enjoy? SEX.IN.A.PAN

Sex in a Pan (recipe given to me by my mother; Sheila Manning)

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups pecan, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup margarine
8 oz cream cheese
1 cup icing sugar
Large tub cool whip
Instant chocolate pudding (1 package)
Instant vanilla pudding (1 package)
3 cups milk
1/4 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped

Directions
Bottom layer:
Combine 1 1/2 cups pecans, 1 1/2 cups flour and 3/4 cup margarine in a bowl and combine throughly. Press mixture into a 9 x 13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Second layer:
Combine 8 oz cream cheese, 1 cup icing sugar and 1/2 tub of cool whip in a large bowl. Cream together and spread on the cooled bottom layer.
Third layer:
Pour contents of both instant pudding packages in a bowl and combine with 3 cups of milk. Mix and let thicken. Once thick, spread over the second layer
Fourth layer:
Spread remaining cool whip over the top of the pudding. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans.
Place in fridge until it is time to consume 

Like I said - easiest dessert ever ;)
Posted on February 2, 2014 .

My Copper Jam Pot

This is a story about falling in love. If that sentence made you roll your eyes and almost instantly lose interest, would you stick with me if I told you it was with an inanimate object?

Yep...you guessed it. The love that I speak of is with a copper jam pot. If you want to read a blog post about whether preserving with a copper pot is safe, why copper pots are considered great for jam making, etc, then I suggest that you immediately stop reading this blog and click here. Her post may have been written in 2010, but it is thorough and is certain to answer all of your questions. Be sure to scroll through all of the comments as well as there are some hidden gems throughout.

Now lets get back to the matter at hand. Love. L-O-V-E. The kind of love that makes your throat feel dry, your heart beat faster and all logic to simply slip right out of your brain.

At first, I have to admit that this love was of the shallowest kind. I fell in love based on looks alone. I was immediately pulled in by the beauty of the hammered copper jam pot with it's gleaming brass handles. It's alluring angled sides made this pot one that I could simply sit and stare at for hours. I wanted it simply because it was sexy. You heard me...this is one sexy pot!

Sure, deep down I hoped there were other factors at play when I was entering my Visa # on the online order page and staring at what was really an exhorbinent dollar figure in the total column considering I was just buying a pot for making jam. But were there?

With each number that I entered I would tell myself that there were practical advantages to this purchase. The angled sides of the pot allow for better evaporation and shorter cooking times. That copper is an excellent conductor of heat. It all just sounded like 'yadda, yadda, yadda" in my mind. And I hit ORDER while I still knew instinctively that I had just completed the purchase on looks alone. I was shallow and I could live with that.

I practically bounced right out of my skin on the day it arrived. I couldn't open the box fast enough and when I finally pulled it from it's paper wrapping and held it in my hands I let out a little gasp when I finally saw it in person. Ridiculous really, but true.

Then today I took it with me to the commercial kitchen to make a batch of marmalade. It was the first time I would put it to use. I kept admiring it's brass handles and all of the other physical attributes about it that I loved. But I knew I had fallen into a different kind of love when I actually tasted the finished batch.

 

 

Posted on January 20, 2014 .

Marmalade - Superfine, Fine, Medium or Thick Cut

Superfine peel - best obtained with a zester

When you make your marmalade, do you slice the peel real thin?

Do you zest it very slowly, or cut it while you grin?

Eat that thick cut, thin cut marmalade, but tell me when I ask,

when you make your marmalade, do you cut the peel real fast?

Fine cut peel - best obtained by cutting the peel off with a sharp knife and then chopping it very fine

Medium Cut Peel - best obtained by juicing the orange and then removing all of the membrane from inside the peel, and then cutting into medium size chunks.

Thick cut peel - best obtained by juicing the orange and then removing all of the membrane from inside the peel, and then cutting into thick size chunks.

Posted on January 12, 2014 and filed under Tips and Tricks.

January 2014: A Canadian Resolution

I love lists. Yes, that may sound strange, but it is true. Nothing pleases me more than a well thought out list, except maybe the joy of crossing things off that list. What a sense of accomplishment that simple act of putting a line through something on your list produces.

So it may now seem strange for a list lover like myself to admit that I have never really been the type to make New Year’s Resolutions. It almost seems like when you make a resolution you are just putting something up on a ‘What I will Fail at This Year’ list. And while that in itself is a list, it isn’t the kind of list I love.

Instead I try to set goals for myself that include a sublist of all of the steps required to help me achieve that goal. These goals don’t get set out at the onset of a New Year, it is an ongoing process; things get added, things get removed.

There are a couple of items on this list that I will share with you. The first is something I knew would be a struggle the moment I decided to hand in my resignation at my full time marketing job back in May of 2013 and go full time on my small preserving business. 

1)   Work/life balance.

While 2013 was a wonderful year filled with many great and wonderful exciting things for Manning Canning, it was definitely a year that fell heavier into the work side of the pendulum. It was to be expected and I weathered the storm, but in 2014 I am going to make a real effort on swinging that back over just a touch.

2)   Carry on family traditions.

Just over a year ago, my nonna passed away. She was 96, she went peacefully in her sleep as she always wanted and she had lived a good life. But after she passed, the hole that she left behind started to feel larger and larger with each passing day. I thought about all that our family had lost with her passing. Not just her presence, but the memories of the past and the skills she brought to the family unit.

I started to want to learn to make all of the wonderful things that she used to bake, I wanted to somehow carry on whatever bits of her knowledge that I could. Last year, I took on her infamous butterhorns and cream puffs and on the list for this year is her Italian Sweet Bread and her gnocchi to start.

My first attempt at the sweet bread produced a heavy, dense bread that was nothing like the light, fluffy bread she would make in her coal/wood burning stove. I could blame my instruments but in actuality I know it is my own personal skills that need tuning. I am not fazed by my failure, quite the opposite. It feels like a challenge and one that I am going to enjoy facing head on. After all, my nona made that bread hundreds of times. I am sure her first batch was not the 'light as air' loaf that I remember from my childhood.

Whatever your approach to your New Year's Resolutions may be, I hope you all succeed at the one's that are the most important to you.

Happy New Year!

This post is part of The Canadian Food Experience, it began June 7 2013. As we share our collective stories through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity.

Grapefruit Marmalade with Candied Ginger

A couple of months ago I had a conversation with an old friend of mine about flavour combinations. Flavours that when combined made their taste buds happy; such as coffee and cream, or peanut butter and jam. For weeks my mind kept popping back to this chat and some of the flavours we had brought together in what was a really a rather vibrant discussion.

Over the holidays while I was beginning to think about the upcoming marmalade season, a flavour combination came to mind that just wouldn't go away. Grapefruit and candied ginger. So I decided to kick 2014 off with the adaptation of a marmalade recipe that I love, to see if this combination was as good in reality as it had been in my mind. I am happy to report that it was. The sweetness of the ruby red grapefruit combined with the subtle heat of the candied ginger is really quite lovely.

Thsi recipe takes a little time as I am suggesting you supreme the grapefruit so you exclude the skin and the majority of the pith. This makes for a less bitter marmalade which I think was needed in order to more fully complement the candied ginger.

Grapefruit marmalade with Candied Ginger (adapted from Linda J Amendt Grapefruit Marmalade)

Ingredients
1 cup of grapefruit peel or fine zest
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup strained grapefruit juice
3/4 cup water
1/8 tsp baking soda
2 3/4 cup supremed and finely chopped grapefruit segments
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
5 cups sugar
1/2 cups finely chopped candied ginger (you can go up to 3/4 cup if you want a stronger ginger flavour)
1 - 3oz liquid pectin
Directions
Combine the peel and the water in a small bowl and let soak for 10-15 minutes. Drain and then discard the water.
In a medium sized pan, combine the pre-soaked peel, the grapefruit juice, 3/4 cup water and baking soda. Over medium heat, bring to a boil. Reduce to medium low heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Giving an occasional stir to ensure zest is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add in the supremed grapefruit, cover and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
Stir in the sugar and candied ginger. Stir constantly until the sugar is completely dissolved and then turn heat up to medium high and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Stir in all 3 oz of liquid pectin and return mixture to a rolling boil (one that can not be stirred down) stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute and then remove the pan from the heat. Skim off any foam.
Allow the marmalade to cool for 5 minutes (stirring occasionally) before ladelling into pre-sterilized jars. Leaving 1/4" headspace. Process for 10 minutes. Yields 6 - 250ml jars.

 

Posted on January 3, 2014 and filed under Marmalades.

New Year's Eve Jelly

When I think of New Year's Eve I think of shimmery objects, whether it is the sparkle of a sequin dress, the diamond like quality of a crystal champagne flute or the fireworks that light up the sky as the clock strikes midnight. New Year's Eve has a sparkle to it that just simply isn't matched on any other holiday.

So when I thought about making the perfect jelly to celebrate this occasion I just knew it had to shimmer. This was the beginning of my hunt for edible glitter which pretty much became an obsession in November if I am to be totally honest. I finally sourced it online from CK Products. This glitter is intended for the purpose of baking, so it did not maintain it's flake like form in a hot liquid environment, but the final result is perfect.

The other requirement for the perfect New Year's Eve Jelly is really - you guessed it - WINE. I chose a rose because of the beautiful colour but this recipe would also work with a white wine. If you choose to go the route of something bubbly, keep in mind that you will need to boil the champagne/prosecco before adding the pectin in order to boil off the carbon dioxide.

The other GREAT thing about this recipe is that it is SUPER easy. You could have 7 jars made in 45 minutes from start to finish. What a great gift to give to the friends you are having over to help you celebrate the start of another fabulous year!

New Year's Eve Jelly

Ingredients
4 cups wine
6 cups sugar
4 tbsp edible glitter
2 - 3 oz packages liquid pectin

Directions

Place the 4 cups in a medium pot, over medium-high and heat the wine until warm to the touch. Add the 6 cups of sugar and 4 tbsp of edible glitter. Stir until sugar completely dissolves. Continue stirring constantly until the wine just begins to simmer. You may be able to see bubbles on the bottom of the pot begin to appear. Do not bring to a full boil or it could alter the taste of the jelly in an unfavourable way.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the pectin.

Ladle the jelly into hot sterile jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe lids and jar edges clean before finger tightening lids and placing them back in the hot water bath. Process jars for 10 minutes.
Posted on December 11, 2013 and filed under Jellies.

December 2013: A Drayton Valley Christmas Tradition

I grew up in a small town in Alberta called Drayton Valley with my mom and 4 older sisters. Christmas was generally a very busy time of year as we spent it with my Mom’s brother (Uncle Rudy) and his wife (Auntie Dena) and their 3 kids as well as my nona (grandma).

We alternated locations each year. One year everyone descended on our house and bedrooms were overflowing, couches transformed into beds and the house was filled with the smell of Christmas cake, polenta, chocolate chip cookies, spaghetti sauce, etc. And then the next year, we would pack up the car and travel to Sparwood, BC where we would all stay at my nona’s house and travel back and forth across the yard to my Aunt and Uncle’s. Here the food wasn’t that much different, except you could always count on a bowl of hot soup for lunch.

 As you can imagine, a house filled with 4 adults and 8 kids got pretty rambunctious at this time of year. We were in and out of the house all day long traipsing snow across my mother’s porch when we were told to come in for lunch. The sound of someone running up and down the stairs was almost a constant, like a drum beating. Laughter (or cackling) practically shook the windows as stories were told, Christmas movies were watched and the teasing commenced.

As a child, my nona had a wood burning stove in her basement. And this is where she would bake her bread, her butterhorns and something so delicious that to do this day my mouth waters simply at the memory – cream puffs.

Christmas, simply would not have been Christmas without them.

Quick and Delicious Cream Puffs

Cream Puff Ingredients

1/2 cup butter

1 cup water

1 cup flour

1/8 tsp salt

4 eggs

1/2 tsp vanilla

Filling ingredients

2 cups Whipping cream

2 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a medium sized sauce pot and then add butter and salt. Stir over heat until butter melts and then bring the mixture to a vigorous boil. Add the cup of flour and continue to stir until dough forms a soft ball and leaves the sides of the pan clean. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook.

Fold in eggs one at a time and stir them into the mixture briskly until the mixture thickens and becomes quite stiff. Repeat this process with the remaining 3 eggs. Using a spoon,  place the mixture on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

While the puffs cool on the counter, you can make the filling. Place the 2 cups of whipping cream into a medium sized bowl and using an egg beater, whip the cream until it begins to thicken. Add the sugar and the vanilla. You can also choose to add chocolate or raspberry jam or a combination of other tasty ingredients should you choose.

Slice the cooled cream puffs in half and spoon in your filling of choice.

This post is part of The Canadian Food Experience, it began June 7 2013. As we share our collective stories through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary
identity.

 

Posted on December 7, 2013 .

Top 3 Cranberry Sauce recipes

I have to be honest with you, I didn't even like cranberry sauce until about 2 years ago. I suppose I am a late bloomer. But I don't really recall it playing a regular role in our Thanksgiving dinners and my earliest memory of it was seeing it slid out of a tin can into a bowl and then mashed around with a spoon. Perhaps that image scarred me and my eyes spoke to my tastebuds telling them that they could not possibly like something that maintained the shape of the can it was once in.

Whatever the reason, I remember countless thanksgiving dinners in my adult life where I would noticeably cringe when the bowl of cranberry sauce would get handed to me. There was NO way any of that was coming anywhere near my plate or more importantly my delicious turkey.

Then a couple of years ago, I was given a sandwich made with leftover Thanksgiving turkey (which by the way is the best part about Thanksgiving in general) and for some reason I didn't even ask what was in the sandwich, I just opened wide and sank my teeth in. My tastebuds shrieked, but not with horror, they were shrieking in sheer delight. The turkey in combination with the tartness of the cranberries was amazing. My mouth watered in between bites at the anticipation of the flavour combination that awaited me.

That was the day I realized what I had been missing out on for all of these years. I am now officially a cranberry sauce lover.

The list of cranberry sauces that I want to make is long. There are endless flavour combinations and just when I think I have found my new favourite, I stumble upon another recipe that turns me upside down.

At the moment, these are the 3 that are top of my list.

Cranberry Sauce with Juniper and Orange

The description of the flavour of pine being balanced by honey and brown sugar sounds like fall in a jar. I also love that this sauce remains tart in flavour.

 

Cranberry Sauce with Cinnamon and Cloves

I love cinnamon, especially in the fall months. It is a flavour that makes me feel warm and cozy even when it is cool and dark outside. The combination of apple and orange with the cranberry is a twist that makes this sauce worthy of a try.

 

Moroccan Cranberry Sauce 

I have found that people either love or hate preserved lemon. I fall into the 'love' category, so really anything that includes preserved lemon intrigues me as I am always curious about new ways to incorporate it into dishes.

Happy Thanksgiving and save me some leftover turkey!

 

Posted on November 26, 2013 .