When I was a child in the 1980’s, canning and preserving food from our farm was a way of life. I’m not going to say it was essential for survival like in pioneer days, but our family has always had large gardens that produced enough to almost get us through the winter. Garden produce, along with cattle farming were the main portions of our diet. I do remember my mom and grandma getting together to ‘do pickles’, do the ‘kraut’, or to can the dreaded tomatoes (they were grandma’s least favourite to preserve). I didn’t get to help too much, though I was pretty good at fetching jars/lids and packing them with food. Sauerkraut making day was my favourite day of preserving because I had several jobs. I would bring the cabbages to grandma who would shred them on an old (but super sharp) wooden mandolin. Then I would take the shredded cabbage back to the large crock where my mom would start pounding the layer with a filled plastic vinegar bottle. I would add the salt (and a bit of sugar), watching grandma closely for the nod that meant ‘enough’. I felt needed and useful; and that’s why I still preserve food to this day.
Then I grew up
After university and the birth of our first child I began preserving again by making jam. Just enough blueberry, strawberry rhubarb, and raspberry to get us through to the next season. Then when our daughter was weaned it seemed like all she would eat were pickles. She was an odd little duck, moving straight from breast milk to chunky food and forgoing baby food altogether. So, I began pickling pretty much anything I could get my hands on. Carrots, asparagus, beans, beets, and she ate them all.
It wasn’t until just last year that I started to think about making my own sauerkraut. I hunted around for a crock of my own and found one for a steal at a garage sale. Working from memory (the last time I made sauerkraut I was about 10) I bought a head of cabbage, shredded it, added some apple slices, added some salt and waiting for the kraut magic to happen. Nothing. One week later I looked in and there it was….mold! I binned the whole thing and put the incident out of my mind.
What I needed was some Preserving Food Skills
One day I was checking out the Calgary Bloggers Facebook page I noticed an invite for bloggers to come out and try a food preserving class at [Pre] Serve Food Skills. I had heard of this cool new small business before through twitter and had every intention of checking it out. This invitation was all I needed and I was finally able to attend a Fermentating 101 (Sauerkraut & Crazy Blends) class courtesy of Jessica Matthies, owner and chief preserver at [Pre] Serve Food Skills. I was super excited because this meant that I would finally have the answers as to why my sauerkraut didn’t work out.
Let me take a moment to talk about Jessica. She knows her stuff, that’s for sure. She grew up in a Mennonite household and has been preserving food her entire life. Jessica is super friendly, funny, charming, and best of all she can steer all off topic class conversation back to preserving without being ‘teachery’. Yes, I count this as an important skill.
Fermenting 101 (Sauerkraut & Crazy Blends)
The class sizes at [Pre] Serve Food Skills are kept small on purpose (10 person maximum); while it’s fun to get together and share the workload, too many cooks in the kitchen equals chaos. Our class had four eager ladies and I thought it was just about right. We began by eating and I already knew I was in my happy place. We tasted some of Jessica’s previous preserving experiments which included various sauerkrauts and kimchi.
I really surprised myself by loving the kimchi because when I had it on our trip to South Korea I couldn’t stand it. It may be that I prefer less fermented versions as I think the oldest kimchi Jessica had was about 6 months old. I had a chance to flip through one of her Kimchi cookbooks and happened upon a tantalizing photo of a kimchi/grilled cheese sandwich. I still can’t get that image out of my head so it looks like I will be starting my own kimchi ferment soon.
While we ‘taste tested’ Jessica began soaking a bowl of Napa cabbage in salt water, then began explaining ‘the science’ behind fermentation. I got to ask all sorts of questions which she patiently answered. Nudging us (me) back on topic she explained the difference and similarities between fermenting sauerkraut and kimchi; the former being a slower ferment than the latter because of added starch and sugars.
Getting our hands dirty
One of the best things about Jessica’s classes is that they are ‘hands on’. So many classes I’ve attended are just based on watching and I don’t know about you but I learn better by getting my hands dirty. We all received a pound of cabbage and were allowed to ‘personalize’ it how we wished using a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, flavoured salts, and spices. Several of us, myself included, chose to make the Carrot, Cabbage, and Ginger Sauerkraut because it was so delicious.After our ingredients had been massaged with salt, we transferred them to a quart jar to take home. My jar is sitting on the kitchen counter top and so far (fingers crossed) everything looks good!
Fermentating 101 (Sauerkraut & Crazy Blends) is a great class but it’s not the only class you can take at [Pre] Serve Food Skills. You can start with the very basics of canning if you take the Water Bath 101 class, learn about dehdrated foods, or even make your own cheese! For a full class schedule visit [Pre] Serve Food Skills.
If you know what you are doing and are a ‘canner from way back’ you can join the YYC Preservers club. On opening canning days, just bring your materials and your recipes and preserve them onsite in a fun and nicely air conditioned kitchen that is not your own. I bet grandma would have loved this place!
Oh, and in case you were wondering I found out that the mold on my sauerkraut happened because I didn’t have the proper ratio of salt AND because I didn’t work the cabbage and salt together to form the liquid needed to submerge the kraut for proper anaerobic fermentation.
[Pre] Serve Food Skills
We’re located at
3117 34 Ave SE Calgary,
shared with Brenda Pierson Catering
If you knew me, you would know that I am pretty stubborn. I’d say it’s endearing but my family might say that this is a fault of mine. I don’t think they should be the ones to throw stones at glass houses because we are all pretty hard headed. There are only certain things I am stubborn about and one in particular, is food. If there is an ingredient I would like to work with and that is difficult to find it becomes the ‘green flag’ to drive my hunt for said ingredient. A treasure hunt if you will, for food. If the item is out of season I will wait, biding my time until that day when I arrive at market and there it is, waiting for me like a gastronomic beacon. There are no words to express the joy that I feel when this happens.
Fava beans are one of those ingredients. They are just beans really, in season now and useful in a variety of ways. I’ve been thinking about making these Fava Bean Crostini for some time now and especially since they were served at a recipe app launch event…one that I wasn’t invited to and am not promoting here. I saw photos of them all over various Calgary fellow foodie social feeds and that fed my hunger to make them even more. The main problem is that for some reason it is extremely difficult to find fava beans here in Calgary even IF they are in season.
Last week the stars aligned and I got lucky (no not THAT kind of lucky!). My friends, the only way you are going to find Fava Beans at the market is by luck. You can try to increase this luck by rubbing a Buddha belly, finding a penny, carrying around a horse shoe, finding a four leaf clover, etc. I find that buying coffee for the person after me works really well also….but I digress. I walked into the Market on Macleod last Friday and there, in a bin not 5 feet from me was a carton of fresh bagged fava beans. I heard bells, I heard whistles and it took everything inside me not to buy out the whole lot. From the amount of attention my fava bean find got on Instagram maybe I should have…I could have made some hefty change. I left the market with two measly bags which, when shelled, ended up to be about 2 1/2 cups worth.Saturday was a busy day…as all late Summer days should be in a foodie kitchen. I made and preserved some rhubarb and strawberry jam and some rhubarb barbeque sauce. Then I started thinking about dinner. We had some lovely fresh Taber corn and a marinating flank steak. I posted about all my food adventures on Facebook and invited the first person who commented over for dinner. I didn’t think the one small flank steak would feed us all so I also thawed some crab legs.
For some reason I had boundless energy and making all that food was fun! I had hubby start peeling the fava beans and he was pretty proud of himself until I told him that he needed to double peel them. He wasn’t too impressed with that but I think he decided that in the end, the Fava Bean Crostini were worth it. I blanched the fava beans for a couple of minutes, then rinsed them with cold water to cool them down. To the fava beans, I added some olive oil, finely grated Parmesan, salt, and pepper. Then I mashed them all up. I had planned on adding some truffle oil to finish it all off when I suddenly remembered I had a little vial of truffle salt so I added a little bit of that too. After everything was mashed together it seemed a little dry. I had heard that this crostini is also made using a bit of mushed peas and now I get why. They would for sure add a little moisture to the mix. I cut a baguette and toasted the pieces, rubbing them with fresh garlic as they came out hot from the toaster. Then I piled on the fava bean mixture and added some truffle oil. My guests had never tried truffle but not to worry, they loved it!
Is there are particular ingredient that you only find when you get lucky?
Whew! August….summer seems to be rushing by. It’s like I’ve blinked and July has come and gone. August should be a bit slower in this house because kid number one has football practice almost every night and that kind of limits our summer activities. I forsee that August will be a busy food month as all the summer fruits and vegetables are harvested and sold. I’ve already got a jump start on some canning…I made some rhubarb barbeque sauce and some strawberrry and rhubarb jam with what very well may be the last of the rhubarb pickings. Unlike previous years I’ve actually managed to get about four good harvests out of my rhubarb plants AND make good use out of it.
My tiny little community garden plots have been producing some really lovely mixed lettuce greens for a while now, but on my last visit I just couldn’t resist pulling up some of these young Chioggia Beets, also known as Candy Cane Beets. I roasted them in a pan covered with foil during the cool hours of the evening to have on our salads for the next couple of days.I ended up roasting the last of our Okanagan cherries with a bit of balsamic in the oven. I was really keen on making a classic cheesecake with a bit of a twist on the cherries but I just ran out of time. Instead I preserved them with a bit of amaretto and intend on using them in cocktails in the winter…right about the time I start dreaming of Okanagan cherries.I’m never too sad to see the end of cherry season because that means that apricots, plums, and the beginnings of peaches. And of course, some really nice cut gladiolas to brighten up my kitchen.I had so much ‘summer bounty’ in my kitchen this weekend that after I made the barbeque sauce and jam I was still keen on cooking. I posted my adventures on my Facebook status and invited the first person who left a comment for dinner. We ended up seeing some treasured friends that we never get to see enough of. They have a two year old and another on the way…I’d forgotten what it was like to have little hand prints on my refrigerator.We had a lovely dinner beginning with some of these fresh fava bean crostini with truffle oil. Our company had never tried truffle before but of course they decided that they definitely liked it. Have YOU ever met anyone that doesn’t enjoy truffle? Later for dinner we enjoyed some marinated flank steak and King crab legs that we cooked on the barbeque as well fresh, sweet Alberta corn and a quickly tossed together Caprese salad with bocconcini, home grown tomatoes and basil.I hadn’t really planned on dessert after all of that food but it’s always nice to end the evening on a sweet note. I quickly sliced up a pineapple which hubby grilled while I whipped up some cream spiked with a bit of amaretto. It was the perfect ending to a meal best shared with friends.
A huge thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting this fun monthly peek into kitchens around the world. If you would like to join or just drool over her amazing bread and chocolate posts head on over to Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.
Even though I’ve been pretty blasé about this blog during these summer weeks I’ve still been cooking. Better yet…I’ve been sharing those cooking skills with my daughter who has had an awakening of sorts. Formerly content to spend her time drawing and watching physics lectures online, she has now suddenly become interested in cooking and what she puts into her body. We’re talking about a teen here, that would bake a batch of cookies (the only cooking skill she deemed necessary until now) and eat them all in her room. All of that is over. In fact, she won’t even eat a cookie let alone bake one.
I’m keeping a close eye on her to make sure she isn’t obsessing too much and I’ve asked what her ultimate goal is. Apparently she wants to become ‘strong’ and try out for the rugby team at school in the fall. I don’t have the heart to tell her that her 5′ 1″ frame is a bit too petite for rugby but I’ll go along with the charade. So far I’ve had fun cooking with her and teaching her how to marinade, etc. The other day she suggested that she would make meatless burgers. It sounded like a good idea at the time, but then again I wasn’t really thinking about her two meat loving brothers. One in particular would be coming home from football practice and craving vast amounts of meat.
So, she made the burgers. They were made of cannellini beans and quinoa so they did have a lot of protein in them. I have to give her credit because they actually did taste pretty good but we all agreed that next time they would be more ‘slider style’ because they were excessively filling. I also think with a little playing around we could find the fine balance between too sloppy and too dry. The recipe made four gigantic burgers so there were none left by the time her brother got back from football. We ended up just barbequing a couple of chicken burgers for him instead.To accompany the burgers we made a salad together. While I chopped all the vegetables, my daughter J made the vinaigrette. The salad was a nice mix of crunchy elements but I think I need to take the time to show her how to balance the flavours. We were in a bit of a rush so we left it as it was…made directly (with some substitutions) from Roots by Diane Morgan. Whether it was the substitutions, the recipe itself, or just lack of tasting by J I’ll never know but it was very sour and needed a bit of sweet and salty to balance out. I guess the only way to be sure is to make it again and make it a learning lesson. It does look lovely though.
I had found fresh the lotus root at the Asian market and was excited about making some sort of salad with it. Previously I had tried to marinate it like to make it similar to something we had in South Korea with no luck. I’ve also tried to deep fry it and that didn’t work well either (probably because I have a fear of deep frying). So, salad it was. I peeled the root and sliced it about 1/8 inch thick. While I was doing this I noticed thin, barely there ‘hairs’ and though it was really odd because I have really coarse hair…then I realized these were the fibers from the root. They were so delicate, almost like a spider’s web. J tried one raw and didn’t exactly like the texture but after I had blanched the slices in boiling water for about a minute the texture had changed for the better. The rest of the salad was pretty easy to throw together.
Lotus Root Korean Style Salad (adapted from Lotus Root Salad with Spicy Thai Vinaigrette in Roots; by Diane Morgan)
6 tbsp fresh lime juice
4 tbsp neutral oil (we used grapeseed)
1 tbsp gochujang (Korean chili paste)
1 tbsp creamy dijon mustard
2 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 minced garlic clove
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar (I would add more or maybe use honey)
sesame seeds, for scattering.
Mix ingredients together in a small bowl.
10 oz lotus root, peeled and cut into 1/8 inch thick and blanched for a short time so they are still crisp
1 medium apple (I used Pink Lady); peeled, quartered, cored and cut lengthwise into slices 1/4 inch thick
1/4 small sweet onion; small diced
1/2 cup freshly packed cilantro leaves
1 cup coarsely shredded napa cabbage (I would double this next time)
I’ll admit that visiting Manitoba wasn’t high on my list of priorities this summer. Extensive flooding has left many roads closed or really messed up and there’s still a lot of standing water. Large bodies of standing water means…you guessed it, mosquitoes. Manitoba is already well known to be a mosquito haven but this year they are particularly bloodthirsty. We camped our first night in Duck Mountain Provincial Park, which is absolutely lovely. There’s a beautiful campground at Blue Lakes and we would have enjoyed it but for the voracious hoards of blood suckers that no amount of Deep Woods OFF! would protect us from. I’ve never seen anything like it. We tried to stick it out, sticklers as we are for cooking outside during camping. We barbequed my previous marinated cashew chicken and made rice and carrots but we drew the line at eating and swatting at the same time, hauling our food back into the tent trailer so that we could eat in peace. We left as fast as we could the next morning.
What kept me sane was the promise of delicious shared meals with my in-laws in Pinawa and hubby’s promise to take me to Deer + Almond in Winnipeg. We found out when we arrived in Pinawa that the Fringe festival was on in Winnipeg and I was a little bit skeptical about getting a reservation and a place to stay overnight. Fortunately Winnipeg does not have such an intense dining out culture as we do here in Calgary. Believe me, if I tried to book a restaurant and hotel in Calgary in a similar time frame it just would not be possible.
We arrived a bit late to find hubby’s brother waiting for us at a cozy corner table. I sat next to him on the back bench so I could have a view of the goings on and get some of the fading evening sunlight for pictures. I think he found it a bit odd when I whipped out the camera as each dish arrived at the table. After all, it was his first dining experience with a food blogger and we can be a little nutty at times!
As a concept I liked Deer + Almond immediately. Locally grown, foraged, and produced ingredients packed into tapas sized plates to share. I immediately started wishing we had brought the in laws as well, that way we could have tried many more dishes. As it was we did fairly well with four plus a couple of desserts to finish. I’ve never been one to really sit down and eat an entire plate of mussels but I will usually have two or three. These mussels were so good I ate more than my usual share. The broth was really flavourful and I loved the addition of feta cheese. When we ran out of mussels I used the shells to scoop up stray cheese chunks. I would recommend that the bread be served alongside rather than arriving swollen and soppy inside the broth.The next dish to arrive was one of the evenings specials. Fried pork belly with really addictive fried rice, a soft cooked egg, green onions, and pickled green beans. All of this was topped with house made ‘barbeque sauce’ which tasted a fair bit like gochujang to me. While it wasn’t the prettiest dish to look at, it was definitely my favourite dish of the night.
For some reason I had convinced hubby and his brother that we really needed to try the Sautéed Brussels Sprouts and Orecchiette. The boys couldn’t say no to bacon and I am glad we ordered this dish. It didn’t really go with the other flavours we had enjoyed, which were more ‘Asian’ inspired but if you are looking for comfort on a plate this is the dish to order.
And for our last dish, we decided on the the Calamari. It was perfectly cooked and had a nice spice edge from the chilies. We ate it all before we realized the lime wedge on the side. I think it would have been a nice touch and that is probably why they included it on the plate.Could three people eat all of that and still have room for dessert? We had to at least check out the dessert menu to be sure. Hubby could not pass up this peanut ice cream covered with salty caramel. The chocolate smudged on the side was also very delicious. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a simple affogato on a menu so even though I was quite full I figured the ice cream paired with espresso would wake me up enough to take in a Fringe show.
I really wished we had more people in our group so that we could have tried more from the menu. The Stinging Nettle Linguini sounded really delicious but I think it freaked hubby out. Other dishes I would have loved to have been able to try were the Grilled Stone Fruit Salad, the Hokkaido Scallops, and the Ricotta Malfatti. I guess another trip to Winnipeg is in order!
(204) 504 8562
This post was featured on GustoTV Guesto Blogger Series. I was the GuestoTV blogger of the month for July 2014.
I just couldn’t wait for this year’s fresh British Columbia pears to be in season. While shopping at our local Co-op not too long ago when my nose picked up a light, slightly sweet scent near the produce aisle. I followed the scent until I located the source. A large display of lovely Forelle Pears. Choosing fruit out of season is not always a good choice but my rule of thumb is that I always have to find it by scent. If I can’t smell the fruit by just walking by, I know that it won’t be worth purchasing. I’ve always had a strong sense of smell but I am married to someone who doesn’t and it drives both of us nuts. It makes me crazy because I can’t understand why hubby can’t always smell what I can and him goes nuts because I am always asking him if he can ‘smell that’. Let me assure you, he could smell these pears fairly well.
Since visiting France, making a Tarte Tatin or Tarte aux Poires has been on my ‘to do’ list. I enjoyed a few really delicious treats along with a café au lait or two.
The recipe for a tarte tatin begins with making a pastry. I always add the flour and salt to the food processor and cut the cold butter into little squares. Then I process it until the butter/flour resembles coarse sand. With the processor running I add the cold water one tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together.
Once the caramel is done, it’s time to get creative with your pear arrangement. Then all you have to do is roll out the pastry and place it on top of the fruit. Be sure to have it nestled among the pears and over the edge of your ovenproof pan. Don’t forget to poke a few holes in the top before you put it in the oven.
Bake it until the smell seeps through the house and the pastry is nice and golden. The most difficult part is flipping it all over onto a plate. Remember the sauce is very hot so try to suck it all up with a turkey baster or pipette before you flip it. Place the extra sauce back in the pan and reduce to make a thicker caramel. When it has thickened slightly, pour back over the warm tarte and enjoy!
Tarte Tatin aux Poires (recipe from Saveur)
FOR THE PASTRY:
1 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
2 tbsp. shortening
FOR THE FILLING:
2 lbs. firm pears, peeled, cored, and halved lengthwise; then sliced.
Juice of 1 lemon
1¼ cups sugar
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt, then rub butter and shortening into flour with your fingertips until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle 3 tbsp. ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, into flour mixture, and knead until dough just holds together. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate.
2. Preheat oven to 425°. To fan pears, place core-side down on a cutting board. Starting from just below the stem, cut each one into 4 lengthwise slices, leaving stem end attached. Place in a bowl, gently toss with lemon juice and ¼ cup of the sugar, and set aside for 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, melt butter in a 9″ ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add remaining 1 cup sugar and cook, stirring constantly, until it turns golden brown and caramelized. Remove skillet from heat. Stir to cool, as the sugar will continue to darken even off the heat.
4. Drain pears and place in skillet with caramelized sugar round side down, with stems facing center. Gently fan slices out.
5. Roll out dough on a floured work surface into a 10″ round about 1⁄4″ thick. Place dough on top of pears, covering edge of skillet. Press edges down between pears and inside of skillet and cut four ¼” steam holes in center. Bake for 25 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.
6. Remove skillet from oven and tilt it carefully, using a baster to draw off excess juices. Transfer juices to a small saucepan and reduce over high heat until thick. Place a large, flat serving platter on top of the skillet and invert quickly and carefully. Spoon the reduced caramelized juices over the pears. Serve warm or at room temperature.
For the most part Hubby is the weekend breakfast chef in our house. He began his breakfast career by making really flat pancakes but I had faith that eventually he would begin to make pancakes as good as his dad does. Isn’t good pancake making genetic? He still has a bit of difficulty timing everything so it’s ready (and hot) at the same time but if I get to sleep in a bit longer, who am I to complain?
It seemed only fair that he didn’t have to cook his own Father’s Day breakfast so I decided to take him out for brunch. We had previously enjoyed a great brunch buffet at Craft Beer Market on New Year’s Day but I failed to get a reservation there for Father’s Day even though I emailed a couple of days early. I’m not sure why I didn’t phone but at any rate we were left hanging on Sunday morning and I was in a panic!
We live in the very south of Calgary so I thought maybe I would try to get a last minute table at The Lake House in nearby Lake Bonavista community. The restaurant uses the OpenTable reservation system and when I typed in a reservation for four at the ’10:45′ slot, I was pleasantly surprised to see an opening. I was hopeful, but soon realized the actual time was 10:30 and hubby was out walking the dogs. Never one to give up hope, I made sure the kids were ready and hoped that he walked through the door soon. He came home two minutes later and we were out the door in another two….and we made it just in time for our reservation. We were seated at a lovely table overlooking the lake and we were soon able to relax and enjoy the view. We ordered some really great lattés and kid number one ordered a hot chocolate. As we sat and enjoyed our coffees we were treated to an amazing lake view. We watched the falcons hunt over the surface of the glass like surface of the lake and even saw a falcon fly by with a fish in its talons. It was the perfect morning.
We’ve never ordered a ‘starter’ or ‘appetizer’ for breakfast before but we couldn’t resist ordering these Lindt Chocolate and Strawberry Beignets. They were nothing like the beignets in New Orleans but they were delicious in a different way. The prosecco cream was a bit odd for us, it just tasted a bit off so we ignored it and ate the beignets without it.
Most of us wanted to have Eggs Benedict; it’s a favourite in our family. Hubby decided to order the smoked salmon version just to be different from kid number two and I. He loved the flavours but found the dill biscuit couldn’t stand up to the heat and humidity of the eggs and hollandaise. It fell apart and was awkward to eat. I think he would order it again but ask for it to be served on a traditional English muffin.
Kid number two and I really enjoyed the more traditional ‘Lake House Eggs Benedict’. The eggs were poached perfectly (medium for us) and the hollandaise was the best I’ve had. I couldn’t wait to blog about it so I tweeted that I wouldn’t mind having litres of it to bathe in!
Kid number one went the non traditional route and had the Bison Brisket and Game Meat Chorizo Hash. It came with an egg on top and more of that amazing hollandaise. The bison was fork tender and the saltiness of the dish was balanced really nicely with the addition of sweet corn. He really surprised me here as I thought he would go for the Wild Boar Mac ‘n’ Cheese.
The atmosphere, service, and food quality were outstanding at The Lake House. I’m happy to live very nearby so we can visit again. Maybe hubby will get to sleep in on the weekend a little more often now.
747 Lake Bonavista Dr SE Calgary AB
Reservations via Opentable
food lover, food maker, food dreamer