Not sure about you, but my fridge is currently loaded to overflowing. So many things coming out of the garden (and the CSA box, and the neighbour’s garden) with greens on top that almost take up more room than the things themselves – the beets and carrots, mostly. I manage to cook beet greens sometimes, and always hate throwing the carrot tops away, but once in awhile I manage to turn them into a batch of pesto. Yes! They’re green and good for you.

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Having acquired a stunning loaf of bread that had toast written all over it, I simmered up a small pot of jam using the handfuls of berries I foraged from my sisters’ back yards (strawberries in Anne’s, raspberries in Ali’s) and the Nanking cherries I shook into my empty coffee cup between the car and our house, and a few Juliette cherries plucked at my parents’ house. I want everyone to know that making jam is not scary, and does not have to be an all day, dozens of jars process. Small Nanking cherries and even bigger but softer, juicier sour cherries can be tricky to handle, not quite firm enough to be pitted for pie. Typically impatient with random cherries, I usually cover them with water, bring them to a simmer and press them through a colander back into the pot to get rid of any pits. As easy as draining spaghetti, really. From here you can make syrup for waffles or cocktails, orContinue reading

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There are wild blueberries here in Muskoka, but they’re tiny and tedious to pick, and I miss the round, sweet highbush blueberries that had just come into season in BC before we left. We snuck away for brunch the weekend before this past one, which seems like forever ago, before heading out of town. It was early afternoon and we were hungry, and jumped straight to the fried chicken on biscuits, but they recognized we had missed an integral course and brought a tray of breakfast pastries anyway – croissants and other fancy breads, along with a pot of blueberry gin jam to spread all over everything.

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The text came in early one Saturday morning. “The tomatoes have spoken,” it said. “It happens today at 11am.” It was my friend Victoria, alerting me to the specific time her in-laws would be putting up their tomatoes this year, something they’ve done since they moved to Calgary from Sessano del Molise, a small town just outside Naples, in 1967. When I heard it was an annual thing, generally a major production involving 20 cases of tomatoes, a dozen friends and neighbours, tables set up in the garage and a hot tub-sized pot set over a single burner in the driveway, I begged to tag along. Putting up tomatoes is largely a lost art, what with the availability of good-quality canned tomatoes just about everywhere food is sold, for a dollar or three. But I love the idea of picking up cases and doing it myself, and of letting the tomatoes determine when they’re ready to go. If you’re going to do this kind ofContinue reading

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These are a few (OK, two) of my favourite things: 1) When friends adopt me for the day (or hour, or afternoon) and let me cook with them and their families, and I get to pull up a stool and sit in their kitchen and watch their moms make dishes they learned from their moms. 2) When what they make is unfamiliar to me, and I learn something entirely new, like the joys of a fresh coriander chutney sandwich on buttered white bread. I’ve since learned these were the sandwiches of many friends’ childhoods – just the chutney, on squidgy white bread, with butter. It’s apparently a thing. I now know this thing, and although I didn’t grow up eating them, I can start now, and I’ve learned to make coriander chutney the likes of which I’ve never tasted before from someone who knows.

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If any of you are anything like me, you have a glut of Mandarin oranges in some corner of the kitchen, most likely because you, like me, keep buying them on sale and then running out of gumption to eat your way through that entire box. It turns out they’re delicious in smoothies, or pureed whole with vanilla ice cream to make a sort of orange creamsicle milkshake, but if you have a couple pounds to go through, it also makes a deliciously mild orange jam – not quite marmalade as the heft of it is juicy flesh rather than finely chopped peel – and if you stir a bit of vanilla in, it too tastes like an orange creamsicle.

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I’ve been oddly addicted to dill pickles lately – as in, I’ve been eating my way through jars and jars of them, ice cold, straight from the fridge. Recycling last week was scary. And so I did not procrastinate this time when I came across bags of knobbly thumb-sized pickling cukes at the market – I bought the biggest bag I could ($22 worth-I may have overdid it) and W and I turned them into pickles the other night, after coming home from his cousin’s birthday dinner, before going to bed. Even when you have that much to work with, making pickles isn’t an all-day endeavor – it really isn’t as big a deal as it sounds. Start with the snappiest cukes possible – a bendy cucumber means a bendy pickle. Tuck a couple peeled garlic cloves and a big sprig of fresh dill into each clean jar (I like to run them through the dishwasher first), then pack in as many cucumbers as youContinue reading

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It’s time. The bushes are heavy with ripe Nanking cherries, and the birds haven’t managed to get at them all – Nankings are those small, brilliant red cherries that grow up against their branches, rather than dangle on stems like a Bing or Evans. A kind neighbour took pity on me picking cherries out by the road and brought me a bag she had picked from her back yard. This is what I call being neighbourly. (And yes, she got the biggest jar on her step this morning.) Nanking cherries are perhaps my favourite foraged fruit – and yet there’s not a lot you can do with them. They’re juicy but pit-heavy; I’ve heard of people pitting theirs to make pies, but can’t imagine what you’d be left with. I’m not sure I’m up to the task. It’s much easier to dump all you can manage to pick into a big pot, add a bit of water, and coax them to release their juice onContinue reading

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I’m a sucker for jam – making it and eating it – and I always dig for the wee jar of cherry jam on restaurant brunch tables. BC cherries aren’t quite ready yet, but I happened to have a bag of frozen ones in the freezer – already pitted, even – and so tonight in an attempt to kickstart summer I made a small pot. Four jars’ worth – just enough to disgrace myself with buttered toast, and share a few with those I know will do the same. I can hardly keep up with the influx of beautiful new cookbooks these days, but my pal Amy in Victoria has been working on hers for years, and I’ve been particularly looking forward to it – not only because Amy is awesome, but because I have a fondness for books on the subject of preserves. Also – a fondness for Amy. She’s sweet and lovely and kind and funny, and showed up at my launch forContinue reading

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