Post #3071: Tis the season to put down some pickles….

Summer has been full of things thus far, and so has work – leaving me little extra-curricular time for posting on my blog. But I think I’m going to return to writing about food since we are in the season of bounty and the preserving instinct has once again kicked in (not to mention cooking! but more in the next post on that).

We’ve just wrapped up our long weekend open house (with camping in the yard) – which started on Friday and ended around noon yesterday – and as at the end of every party, we were left with a glut of a few things. At every one of our gatherings we supply the main food items for breakfast and dinners (with grazing foods for lunch) – but we usually ask that people bring a few other things to share – particularly those that get expensive. This year those requests were for coffee and limes (for drinks). Our friends are generous when we ask – the result being that whatever we desire we get times ten. Last year was cheese, and we never did eat it all before it went bad.

With coffee — it’s not such a problem — it keeps in the freezer and we drink it every morning so we’ll go through it happily. Limes – on the other hand — need to get used.

And so as exhausted as I was yesterday, I managed to rouse myself from the couch to deal with some of the leftover foods. The pictures in this post represent some serious good eating in our future as I am in the process of:

  • Lime pickle using this recipe
  • Lacto-fermented dill-green beans (3 tbsp to 4 cups of water for the brine ratio)
  • Salt-preserved eggs from the book Asian Pickles by Karen Solomon – these are salt cured with star anise, in the shell and raw for five weeks – which flavours them for addition to fried rice and other dishes.

As we were preparing for our weekend, I also managed to put my hands on some meyer lemons (first ones I have seen in over a year) and now have three jars of salt-curing lemons in my cupboard as well.

In the kitchen today, Brian is making tomato sauce out of 30 pounds of roma tomatoes that we bought through – this being the first year in our relationship that we couldn’t make the timing work to be in the interior to buy late-season offerings (I have a trip to Toronto at the end of August when would normally go). I also have 20 pounds of cherries that need pitting before going on the dehydrator – so I expect when my working day is done I’ll be sitting outside on the deck and taking care of that.

As always – I have more plans in the wings as I am expanding my cooking repertoire and new flavours, sauces, and pickles are on the menu. Still need to track down a few ingredients at the asian markets when I am back in Vancouver this fall – but looking forward to some new dishes and techniques to bring to the table.



Post #2058: Ten pounds of olives

A couple weekends ago I was at my local market and a bag of raw olives just jumped into my basket. Besides that, I have really no explanation for how I managed to bring home ten pounds of Sevillano Olives without the faintest idea of what to do with them.

But here they were in my kitchen, wrapped in a mesh bag all the way from California, and so after about eight days of that I realized – I have to get going on these before they shrivel and become unusable, and so at the end of last week (right before the start of meditation retreat) I got down to processing them.

This extension office hand-out is the best thing I found, by far, on the many ways to cure olives. (I personally think the Extension Offices in the United States are pretty much the best thing about that country and I don’t understand why Canada doesn’t have something similar.)

Although I am super-curious about lye-curing olives, I didn’t have any lye on hand, nor did I have time to stop at the Homesteader’s Emporium to get some. Instead, I opted to try them two different ways – Brine Ferment, and Water Cured. Because ten pounds of olives translates into 2 gallons of processed olives, I’ve got two jars of each, and I’ve done each jar differently. The brine-ferment jars are spiced – one with pickling spice, and the other with peppercorns and chilis. I plan to spice the water-cured ones differently as well, but I also processed them in two different ways – cut, and cracked. I figure that since this might be the one and only time I get my hands on raw olives (I’ve never seen them in a store here before) – I might as well experiment and see what turns out the most edible.


At the moment, I’ve got them lined up on the counter, mostly so I can keep an eye on the brine-fermenters, and so that I don’t forget to change the water on the water-cured ones every day for the next couple of weeks. I’m notoriously bad about starting fermented projects and then leaving them to dry out or mould – which is basically why I ended up with no sauerkraut this year. (It fermented super fast because of the heat and then turned to mush pretty much just as fast.)

Anyhow, these definitely require some attention, so I’m leaving them where I can see them.

Post #2044: Yes, it’s an amazing canning cupboard but nope I’m not a prepper…

The picture above was taken the other night, after Brian and I packed the cupboards at the bottom with tomatoes and tomato sauce made and canned over the weekend. At one point, both the pressure canner and the boiling water canner were going at the same time – and we ended with about thirty more filled jars for our basement “pantry”. Last night he made BBQ sauces, and this week I’ll round out the canning with some apples, stewed plums, and pickled beets – thus completing the major cycle of canning that we do each year in preparation for the winter.

For the record, I also did my annual “clean-out” where I remove all jars that are 2 years are old (from 2013 at this juncture). This year that was twelve jars – which I consider exceptionally good since we can about 200 jars worth of food a year (possibly more, I don’t keep good track). I used to have a much worse record of actually using my canned foods which was related to making too much of things that I wouldn’t be inclined to use (I never needed 12 jars of zucchini relish, for example). Over the years we’ve learned to make what we will eat, and eat what we make – an integral part of ecological sensibility around food supply.

I’ve noticed that whenever I post a photo like this out in the world – to Facebook for example – an awful lot of comments come back in the “well I know where to go when the apocalypse comes” variety – allusions to the fact that this looks like prepper behaviour and so forth. So to set the record straight! Though we have developed many skills (hunting, gardening, seed saving, canning, food storage, building small things, sewing, knitting, and so forth) – we are *not* doing it because we believe we will need to survive a nuclear winter or even a really bad drought.

In fact, despite what we were taught as children (my mother, in particular saw learning these skills as somewhat pointless because why bother in the age of mass manufacturing), some of us derive great satisfaction from making our own things, keeping a stocked larder, sustaining our own lives through the work of our hands, wearing clothing made in our own style, and continuing the learning cycle throughout the whole of our lives. At least, that’s my main motivation. I’m not really sure what else is a worthy use of my time either – I mean, I could be watching TV in the evenings or playing video games, but instead I choose to knit, sew, play music and so forth.

Additionally, we economize by purchasing food at its cheapest point in the cycle, and by preparing our own sauces, preserves and so forth – we eat gourmet-quality food all year long without paying ridiculous prices for so-called “bespoke” foods (which are all the rage these days).

I’ve been around prepper behaviour lots in my lifetime – had friends that stockpiled for Y2K (remember that?) and carved bunkers into their basements. For the most part those foods rotted in the ground or got bugs (one of my old roommates brought several bins of Y2K foods into our house and then left them there while they developed moths) – and the culture around prepping was fearful and secretive. That’s not my life, nor the life of my community now – which means that we get to do things just because of the joy of doing them.

The prepper label suggests that those of us who pay attention to what we eat, wear, and make are somehow driven by fear and anxiety – and ultimately slapping survivalist terms on the making of everyday life diminishes the value of what we do and the homes we create. The Urban Crow Bungalow is a place of great joy and love, where we frequently invite people to share at our table in the continuation of our community network. We are not stockpiling ammo and hoarding food – but growing outwards from our own labour in order to support our lives and the lives of those around us. It’s not survivalism that drives us, but love – and nothing more than that.



Post #2029: Foolproof fruit

Stone fruit season came early to BC this year – cherries! nectarines! peaches! apricots (and soon, plums too ). Now, I know that we all dream of the canned fruit the way your grandmother or father used to make (it was my grandpa who did all the canning) – the perfectly sliced peaches and apricot halves floating in golden sugar-syrup, ready to be doled out after dinner as a dessert…. but I just don’t can that way (or use fruit as a snack). In fact, I try to do as little as possible when it comes to putting up for the winter – and that means no perfectly sliced or pitted peaches. When it comes to fruit that can easily be stirred into plain yogurt or oatmeal, and sometimes added to pancake batter – it really doesn’t matter what it looks like – it just has to taste like fruit (not sugar) and come in bite-sized chunks. What follows is my foolproof fruit recipe – I use this every year to put up enough for a jar per week in the winter. Yesterday I put up 40 of those jars which means I’ve got some more work to do in the near future (applesauce probably, perhaps some kind of plummy jam). You can adjust this to the actual amounts you might use:

2o pounds nectarines or peaches
2 cups of water
2 cups of honey (or more to taste)
spices (I use about 15 anise stars for the nectarines, 10 small cinnamon sticks for the peaches)

Wash and rough chop fruit, leaving peel on (discard the pits) . Throw it into a big (very big) pot with the honey, water and spice – bring to a boil on medium temperature, stirring every once and awhile. Ladle into jars and process (12 minutes for 1/2 pints, 20 minutes for pints). This recipe will make 12 1/2 pints plus 8-12 pints (depending on how much fruit comes off the pit) – so plan on two full canner batches.

And voila! Much fruit to put by without too much effort – it’s even better when your partner cuts the fruit for you beforehand (thanks Brian!)

Post #1985: In which I confess to purchasing canning supplies over clothing……

I had $200 set aside to buy myself some new clothes this paycheque and instead I took that money and spent it all on a bulk order of canning lids – enough to last me through two canning seasons (about 800 lids – they come by weight, so piece number of approximate). I’m not sure whether that says that I am meh about buying new clothes, or fanatical about being right on the cusp of another canning season – but it’s probably a mix of both.

I’m meh about the clothing because 1) I mainly only purchase the boring kind of clothes – underwear, jeans, yoga pants and t-shirts (and try to make the rest) and 2) I am at a heavier weight than I would like to be at the moment and actively working to change that.

I’m stoked about the canning because – omigod I got to fill the basement with food again! Also, we really ate down our canning in a serious way this year and I’m proud of the fact that after years of canning, we are actually eating most of what we can (it’s taken me years to get realistic about what and how much we actually need in the canned goods department).

In any case, it’s not quite BC canning season – so all that excitement is currently confined to reading canning books and pressure canning the odd batches of broth and beans (4 quarts of bone broth, 16 pints of beans this weekend) to satisfy my larder. I’ve found a couple new-ish books recently (both modern and practical) that I’m quite pleased about  – I will write reviews in the near future – but since this post isn’t a book review I’m going to leave those alone for now.

Point being that I found a recipe for blood-orange and meyer lemon marmalade in one of those books on the weekend that got me all hot and bothered – not because I love marmalade so much but because the idea of red citrus in the grey of March is oh-so-pleasing to me. And so I added the ingredients to my Saturday shopping list – only to discover that while blood oranges are everywhere right now, I could not get meyer lemons in any of the local shops (I swear I saw some earlier this week at Donalds…..)

So instead I settled on blood oranges alone and turned to the Internet to find a different recipe – one that called for the oranges alone….. and of course I was pretty much instantaneously rewarded with a Small Batch Blood Orange Marmalade recipe over at Food in Jars. Of course I decided to double it – three jars never being enough of anything for me (well except the sage flower jelly, I sure never needed six jars of that, although it does look pretty on the shelf). This recipe is particularly nice because instead of removing all the white pith, the process calls for soaking the oranges and rinds overnight in water which softens things up and evens out the bitter flavours. I did the orange prep on Saturday and yesterday when I returned from the zendo, I set those two pounds of chopped oranges to cook with five cups of sugar. Because I was doing other things and didn’t want to risk burning or boiling over I set these to simmer on low heat over many hours (five or so) before they met the gelling test (frozen plate, temperature @ 220, sheeting off spoon) and I put six half-pints the colour of a sunset into a pot of boiling water for sealing.

The picture at the top of this post is, of course, proof of my patience and I’ve set a task for my husband and step-daughter this week: find the perfect scone recipe to go with this beautiful jam!


Post #1959: Even if the apocalypse doesn’t arrive….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese cans are full of sockeye salmon from the Johnstone Strait – my first go at pressure canning after years of extensive water-bath canning. My basement has a special corner just for preserved foods – jams, pickles, wine, liqueur, spiced fruits and many other fabulous things. I got into food storage in a serious way because I was preparing for the urban collapse I was sure would one day arrive. Now I do it because I love having so much great, well-made food on hand year round. Love is a much better motivation than fear, and we eat really well around our place.

Post #1957: In which I acquire a pressure canner

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaving wished often for a pressure canner over the last few years I finally bit the bullet and ordered one on Amazon a few days ago. It arrived last night and we intend to use it soon. Tonight maybe even. Brian is afraid of such devices because he was warned away from the family pressure cooker too many times as a kid – so I guess it’s up to me to learn about this thing.