I need to squeeze this in, before the plums are gone – it seems every year I wind up putting up jars of jelly and chutney that I’m most excited about having once cheese season begins. That is, the holiday party season during which I seem to be putting out a cheese board every few days, even if it’s just for whomever is sitting around our kitchen table. And one of my favourite components of a cheese board is the little bowl of rosemary-apple jelly or tart plum or apricot chutney. Of course a deep plum chutney is equally at home with samosas or roast pork, but mine inevitably gets doled out with cheese – plums make a perfect pairing for cheese of every texture and intensity. It’s simple to simmer a batch, and measurements are approximate – this is also a great way to use up plums that are starting to get wrinkled or squishy. If you’re nervous about the jarring process, don’t sweatContinue reading

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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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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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Just when I think I’ve tried everything (not really, but some days are more uninspiring than others) something comes along that is so much better than the sum of its familiar parts. Had I flipped past a recipe for bacon and tomato jam I would have certainly done a double take, but I’m not sure this would have jumped off the page and grabbed me – but when Shauna came to visit in Tofino and brought a copy of their latest book, she looked me straight in the eye as she handed it to me and said, “try the bacon and tomato jam.” It seemed at first as if she was speaking in code, like I was meant to read more into her message. I wasn’t. She just meant to make it clear that I should make the damn jam. And so I did. This is not jam in the typical sense of the word – it’s sweet on account of the roasted tomatoes andContinue reading

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Can we have peach week please? There’s still time. Did something go awry with peach season, or does it always linger this late? Looking at the ginormous bins of peaches alongside tomatoes, peppers and zucchini feels like every year at Easter, when I wonder aloud to anyone who might know whether it’s the Friday or Monday that’s the holiday? And who gets it off again? And what day do you hunt for eggs and eat the ham? And why can’t I remember how it goes from year to year? Maybe I’m overthinking things, but it’s never a bad idea to stock up on peaches when they might be the last of the season. Awake with insomnia, skimming food blogs I haven’t visited in awhile, pondering what to do with all those peaches (it’s what I do) I came across Delicious Days (hello, old friend!) at about midnight last night, and on it this tangy peach ketchup, which is really like a pureed chutney. Sweet, vinegaryContinue reading

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