Meaningful Gifts for Christmas

fall

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

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

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

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

giftsthatmatter
fueleffecientstove

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

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

 

 

Posted on November 4, 2014 .

How our Rental Kitchen means more GOOD FOOD for Toronto

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

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

Richa Gupta with Glen Peloso at Distinctive Appliances Showroom 

Richa Gupta with Glen Peloso at Distinctive Appliances Showroom 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on October 16, 2014 .

Thanksgiving horseradish

grindrod

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

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

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

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

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

horseradish

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

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

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

peeled_horseradish

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

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

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

Posted on October 14, 2014 .

A Milestone for the Toronto Food Community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Posted on October 9, 2014 .

Manning Canning Rental Kitchen - In Support of Delicious Pies

Photo credit: Peter Visima

Photo credit: Peter Visima

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Chef Series: Chicken Meatballs with Dried Porcini Cream Sauce

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

raspberrypicking.jpg

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

Chicken Meatballs with Dried Porcini Mushroom Cream Sauce

Meatball Ingredients

1lb ground chicken

2 heaping tbsp finely chopped red onion

Generous pinch of flaked sea salt

Fresh ground pepper to your liking

4 tbsp Manning Canning Spicy Zucchini Relish

2 tbsp fresh shredded parmesan cheese

1⁄2 cup panko bread crumbs

Sauce Ingredients

1 cup dried porcini mushrooms

2 cups boiling water

1 tbsp butter

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

1/4 cup white wine

5 tbsp Manning Canning Zucchini Relish

1⁄2 cup whipping cream

1⁄4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese

Directions

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

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

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

meatballs2.jpg

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

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

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

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

Posted on September 22, 2014 .

Beau's Beer Honey Pickles

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

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

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

beaus beer honey pickles

Beau's Beer Honey Pickles

4 pounds of medium sized cucumbers

1.5 cups Beau's Lug Tread Beer

1 3/4 cups water (preferably distilled)

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar

1 1/2 cups pickling vinegar

3/4 cups Amber Honey

1/4 cup pickling salt

1 clove of garlic (per jar)

1 tsp black peppercorn (per jar)

1 tsp mustard seed (per jar)

cucumbers

 

Directions

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

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

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

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

beaushoneybeerpickles
Posted on September 13, 2014 .

The Chef Series: Cheesy Date Night Magic

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

Laura_Gallivan_recipe

Cheesy Date Night Magic - Ingredients

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

2-3 tbsp Manning Canning Orange Onion Marmalade

4 cloves roasted garlic

Toasted pecans 

2 tbsp caramelized onions

1 pinch chili flakes

Baguette, crustini or favourite crackers for cheesy goodness

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on September 1, 2014 .

Manning Canning is opening a commercial kitchen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Private Preserving Classes

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted on August 3, 2014 .

Strawberry Balsamic Jam

ontariostrawberries

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

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

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

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

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

strawberries_hulled

8 heaping cups of hulled strawberries

3 cups sugar

4 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tsp cracked black pepper

3 tbsp chopped fresh basil

strawberries_sugared

Day One

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

strawberries_macerated

Day 2

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

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

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

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

Yields approximately 8 - 125ml jars

strawberries_copperpot


Posted on July 9, 2014 .

Quick Tips for Great Preserves

I should start this post with an explanation of my extended absence, but I think that would be rather boring for you ;). Let's suffice it to say that in the last 4 weeks I have sold a house, gone to Alberta to care for my mother, renovated a kitchen and started a preserving season. Every day when I reviewed my 'to-do' list there were always 2-3 items that just had to get pushed to the next day. So there you have it - writing a blog post got pushed to the next day over and over again.

Until we arrive at Canada Day (Happy Canada Day by the way), and I find myself with a few moments to spare and about a million ideas in my head bursting to get out.

In case you haven't noticed, Ontario strawberries, cucumbers and rhubarb are in season. This means there are a lot of people making jam and pickles out there. Strawberry Rhubarb, Balsamic Strawberry, Rhubarb Pepper Jelly, Rhubarb Banana - the combinations are endless and the results are delicious.

The worst thing you can have happen after spending all that time lovingly cooking your jam or preparing your pickles is for something to go wrong. So here are some ways to avoid problems with your preserves.

1) No matter how pretty it may look, never store your preserves in a warm or a bright location. Your jams and jellies may look lovely on your windowsill, but the heat and the light will cause them to spoil and in the depths of winter when you are craving that jar of home made jam - you will be disappointed to find it spoiled and gone to waste.

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2) Floating fruit - we have all had this happen to us, come on, haven't we? You make that jar of strawberry jam only to have the strawberries float to the top of the jar once they are ladled in. Try to hide your disappointment. But don't let it get you down. You can simply stir it all up once opened. They will be just as delicious whether they float or not. But if you want to avoid it the next time, keep this in mind. Floating fruit can be the indication of under ripe fruit or under cooked fruit. Try letting the jam sit for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally before you ladle it into your jars

3) Garlic turned green or cauliflower turned pink? Don't take it as a personal failure. You have done nothing wrong and your preserves are not spoiled. It is simply a chemical change. Sometimes it is due to sulfur compounds reacting with copper elements in your water, sometimes it is due from using under dried garlic. No matter what the case, there is no reason to be alarmed or disappointed with your results.

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4) Don't over pack your jars. We all want to cram as much goodness into each and every jar that we put up. But this will only lead to problems - trust me. I too have been tempted to overcrowd my jars from time to time. But a jar that is too tightly packed can't expand without pushing some of the juice or brine out of the jar. If you find a jar or two where the brine level has dropped but the jar has still sealed, try laying the jar down in the fridge and rotate it regularly so that all the juice or brine touches all of the contents inside of the jar.

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5) Jam or jelly is runny - this is generally because the ratio of sugar, fruit, pectin and acid is off. Doubling or tripling recipes because you want to make more jam is usually the first mistake.Your surface area is reduced to the volume of jam and the amount of evaporation is is not great enough to cook your jam to a set.

6) Can you bounce a spoon off your jam. Come on - raise that hand if you have been here and done that. You have either used too much sugar to fruit ratio or cooked down your jam for too long. Always pay attention to set and don't let your jam or jelly over cook.

7) Always use the freshest product possible. I repeat this phrase over and over again - what goes into the jar is what comes out of the jar. And whenever possible try to use chemical free or organic produce. Another great tip when using dried spices is to ensure they are as fresh as possible or you could end up with pickles that look like they have been pickled in swamp water ;)

Now get out there and pick some produce, visit a farmer's market or local farm and get preserving.






Posted on July 1, 2014 .

Exciting joint venture with Not Far From the Tree

Several months ago I received an email from Not Far From the Tree asking me if I would be interested in a little preserving adventure with them. I was instantly excited because I had partnered with them in the past to offer a family style preserving day to can some urban harvested apples, so was well acquainted with the amazing work they do. I love the idea of being a part of the effort to help reduce the amount of fruit that is grown on city trees that simply goes to waste. It dove tails perfectly with my beliefs and desire to preserve the harvest that I jumped at the chance.

There were many steps along the way to finalizing the details, but the most exciting moment was when they sent me a list of fruit options. Which to choose? Apricots, crab apples, pears, sour cherries...they all sounded so good. I finally decided to do Preserved Pears with Ginger in a light syrup. 

Today, after many months of talking it over with them and keeping it a secret from all of you ;), I can now shout from the rooftops that I am thrilled to be a part of Fruitful. You have from today until June 30th to purchase your very own share. 

Each preserve pack is $50, comes in a Not Far From The Tree tote and includes each of the following items:

 All proceeds will support Not Far From The Tree's fruit picking and sharing program. For full details or to purchase your share, simply click here.

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Posted on June 10, 2014 .

It's that time of year - Chive Flower Blossom Vinegar

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Ok...I have to confess something to you. I get perhaps a little too excited about chives. This year as the chives in our garden started to emerge from the cold earth, my husband said 'Do we really need all of these chives? Couldn't we plant something else here?'

To say that I over reacted is an understatement. But I practically saw RED. He has lived with me for long enough to know that every year I make the most BEAUTIFUL chive flower vinegar and that seeing those flowers turning the vinegar a lovely shade of pink almost makes my toes curl up with happiness.

'NO, WE WILL NOT BE GETTING RID OF ANY CHIVES' was my very soft and flowery response. I think he got the message ;).

Want to make your own chive flower vinegar, simply click here and follow the easy instructions from a previous post ;).

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Posted on May 26, 2014 .

A morning at Sheldon Creek Dairy

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I love dairy products. There I said it. I am so thankful I am not lactose intolerant because I am not sure what I would do without milk, cheese and yogourt in my life. So you can imagine my delight when I was doing a sampling one day at Roast and at the table next to me Marianne from Sheldon Creek Dairy was sampling her delicious milk and yogourt. How could I resist when she asked me if I would like to taste their chocolate milk? And boy was I glad that I didn't. It tasted like the milk that used to get delivered to our door in glass bottles when I was a kid. Just one sip and it was like I was transported back in time. 

A couple of weeks ago, friends of mine agreed to go on a little road trip with me to Loretto; home of Sheldon Creek Dairy. I was intrigued to learn more about this wonderful farm and the milk that they produce.

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Marianne met us in their farm store and the tour started with some rubber boots and a hair net. ;) She showed us the area where the magic happens (where the milk gets pasteurized), to the bottle washing and filling stations and then my favourite part - we got to meet the cows.

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I am almost certain that in a past life I was either a farmer or a veterinarian because I get downright giddy on a farm. When I visit my sister's farm in Alberta the first thing I want to do (after spending time with her, my brother in law and nephew of course ;) ) is to get outside and walk around the farm, check in on the barn cats and see the cows.

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Marianne's family dairy farm has 50 cows who get to listen to music while they are being milked, they graze on crops grown right on the farm and each cow has a name and damn were they cute.

Sheldon Creek Dairy started making white milk and the reason their milk reminded me of the milk from my childhood is because it is not homogenized. This allows the cream to rise to the top and gives you that full bodied milk that tastes fresh from the farm.

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Then they introduced their chocolate milk. Marianne explains that the chocolate milk took about 30 different recipes to get it right. They needed the chocolate and sugar to mix perfectly. So it took a lot of experimentation, ultimately deciding on raw cane sugar and dark chocolate versus milk chocolate. Once you try their dark chocolate milk you will be spoiled forever. It tastes like a fudgesicle in a glass ;). In addition to their white and chocolate milk, they seasonally have strawberry milk available and I have been told it flies off the shelves. I can't wait to give it a try.

Marianne said something while giving us our tour that really stuck with me "They want to be a part of the community, not just a product of the community." And you can tell this is true. As we were in the farm store concluding our visit, customers were coming through the door and not only was Marianne greeting them each by name, she generally had their purchase prepared for them before they even made it to the door. Talk about customer service!

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But don't just take my word for it. On June 14th you can head up to their farm yourself for their annual day on the farm. You can take the tour, meet the cows and taste their delicious products first hand. The day on the farm goes from 10am - 4pm and the best part is that it is FREE. But be sure to bring a buck or two because you are not going to want to go home empty handed ;)

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Posted on May 19, 2014 .

Gardening - A lifetime of learning

I love this time of year. Finally the snow has melted and even though this particular spring is cooler than I might like, the buds are starting to appear on the trees, the tulips are popping up and my tomato plants are getting ready for hardening off.

When my husband and I bought our house almost 5 years ago, I had very little experience with a vegetable garden, but I knew I wanted one. I wanted to taste carrots like the one's I would pull up from my nona and my aunt's garden, I wanted to sit on my front porch and shell peas and I wanted to know that what I was eating was pesticide free and grown right in my own yard.

In our first summer we just kind of planted things and hoped for the best. There was no plan and between the two of us - no gardening experience. We had some hits and we definitely had some misses. Our tomato plants grew like crazy, so much so that they broke the stakes we had set up and they bent over from the weight of their yield. But even though they looked a mess, we got so many tomatoes that I had frozen tomatoes in my deep freeze that lasted us until spring.

Fast forward 4 summers and I can tell you that I have learned a lot over the past 5 years, but as Grandma Betty puts it 'A garden is a lifetime of learning'.

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But no matter how many mistakes I make in the garden, I never feel like I have had a failure. It always just feels like I learned something 'not' to do the following year. Even with no experience we decided we wanted to grow everything from seed. I was thrilled to discover Cubits at a Seedy Saturday at Evergreen Brickworks. Laura was informative and patient with my endless list of questions. Where the garden is concerned I just throw caution to the wind. If it doesn't work this year, I will learn from my mistakes and try again next summer.

The garden also gives me the freedom to experiment with my preserving. Last year I had a bumpercrop of cucumbers. We had more cucumbers than we could eat even when we shared with our families and our neighbours. Several great things came out of that bumbercrop - Manitoba Pickles and Honey Beer Pickles just to name a few.

The year before our tomato plants were very late to ripen and I had a huge amount of green tomatoes that I knew would go to waste with the first frost - this led to an afternoon in the kitchen and jar after jar of Pickled Green Tomatoes.

This year we are planting broad beans and peas for the first time so once again I will be a novice and will learn a few more things about what it takes to make a garden grown. I hope you all have luck with your garden this summer!

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 May 7, 2014 .

How to cut an onion without ruining your mascara

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Onions always make me cry. Like not just one glistening tear in the corner of my eye, but the kind of cry where if you walked into the kitchen you would think I had just cut off my finger or lost a loved one. Tears stream down my face, my eyes burn and my nose starts to run. It is not a pretty sight or a fun experience.

It wouldn't be such an issue if I only cooked with them occasionally, but when your business makes Onion Garlic Jam and you are cutting 100lbs of onion in one afternoon, it tends to get rather annoying. And yes, annoying is the perfect word to describe the experience.

I am not a trained chef, so my knife skills have been learnt from watching others and hours spent cooking and preserving.

So I asked Chef Cheryl Torrance to come to the Manning Canning kitchen several week ago and provide myself and my staff with a knife skills lesson. Initially I trembled when she said we would be starting the lesson with onions - my nemesis, but in a few short minutes I was literally in shock. I was cutting onions and NOT crying.

STEP ONE: Start by cutting the 'outtie' end of the onion off and creating yourself a flat surface to work with

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STEP TWO: With the onion standing up on it's flat end (the one you just cut off), proceed to cut the onion in half and lie it down on it's larger flat surface

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STEP THREE: Cutting away from yourself, cut halfway through the onion stopping about an inch from the end

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STEP FOUR: Proceed to cut the onion in 1/2" strips or to the size that you would like your diced onions to be once completed

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STEP FIVE: Working with your nice flat surface so the onion isn't rolling around on your cutting board, begin to cut the onion to your desired size.

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STEP SIX: When you get to the point where there is not enough onion left to cut comfortably, simply tilt your onion so the largest flat surface is against the cutting board and continue to chop

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STEP SEVEN: Stand there amazed staring at the diced onion on the cutting board and relish the fact that you didn't bawl, that your eyes aren't burning and you didn't need to use a single kleenex while you cut your onion.

Thanks again to @chef_inked for the fabulous tutorial. You have changed my relationship with onions forever

Posted on April 30, 2014 .

The Chef Series: PB&J Ice Pops

One of the questions I get asked the most when I am talking with customers at markets, shows or even in-store sampling days is this "How would I use this product". I always answer with one of the many ways that I integrate my products into my cooking and recipes, but decided to reach out to some very talented chefs and creators that I know to see what they would come up with if they were given the product to spend some time with.

For the first post in this series, I reached out to Sanober Motiwala. Some of you may already know Sanober, but for those of you meeting her virtually for the first time, you may want to bookmark this page because you are going to want to taste her fabulous creations this summer. She is the owner and ice cream magician behind the company Sweet Sammies. And I speak from first hand experience when I say her sammies are wonderful. They were my breakfast at almost every Withrow Park Farmer's Market last summer (she says as she shamefully hides her face in her hands).

PB&J Ice Pops - guest post by Sanober Motiwala

Photo courtesy of: Sanober Motiwala 

Photo courtesy of: Sanober Motiwala 












I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Manning Canning last summer at a couple of local farmers’ markets where both of us sold our wares. I quickly became a fan of Christine’s products, especially the rotating selection of jams and jellies. Imagine my delight when one day she casually suggested collaborating to prepare a Sweet Sammies product utilizing her jams. The result was our bestselling PB&J ice cream sandwich – two slices of vanilla buttermilk cake with a peanut butter ice cream and swirls of Manning Canning jam in between.

This ice pop is an adaption designed to be made at home with pantry essentials. The best part: no specialty equipment required!

Photo courtesy of: Sanober Motiwala 

Photo courtesy of: Sanober Motiwala 

Ingredients

• 1/4 cup Manning Canning Grape Jam

• 1/3 cup Peanut Butter (smooth or crunchy, whatever strikes your fancy)

• 1 & 1/3 cup Whole Milk (can be substituted with cream or skim milk depending on desired richness)

• 1/4 cup Sugar

• 1/4 cup Water

Recipe

• Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat until all the sugar has dissolved.

• Blend together the “simple syrup” (sugar-water mix you just made) with the PB and 3/4 cup milk. Pour up to a third of the way into popsicle molds, using up half of the PB mix. Small reusable plastic food containers, drinking glasses, and cups work well as alternatives to popsicle molds. Freeze for about one hour. Place the remaining PB mix in the refrigerator.

• Whisk together the remaining milk with the grape jam.

• Remove the molds from the freezer, and pour the grape jam mix in next, about two-
thirds of the way up in the molds. This is a good time to insert a popsicle stick or chopstick in, anchoring it in the semi-frozen PB mix so it stays upright. Freeze again for about one hour.

• Remove the molds from the freezer and top up with the remaining PB mix. Freeze for at least four hours.

• To unmold the ice pops, remove the molds from the freezer. Run them under hot water. Slowly pull the popsicle stick or chopstick out of the mold, and the ice pop should slide out with it. If you used a cup or glass without a popsicle stick, serve the dessert in that cup with a spoon.

Makes 5 ice pops

Photo courtesy of: Sanober Motiwala 

Photo courtesy of: Sanober Motiwala 

Posted on April 28, 2014 .

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 .