All posts by Eatin's Canada

Vinegar making

Apple cider vinegar with motherJuly16
Apple cider vinegar with mother, July16

I first thought about making vinegar back in the early 80s when reading Craig Claibornes column in the New York Times. He wrote an article about using up old dribs and drabs of wine to make vinegar.

He’d kept one culture of vinegar mother going for years, which he swore made a superior vinegar. Unfortunately, one sad day a house sitter, while doing some well meaning tidying up, had tamped the ground-glass lid down on the vinegar vessel so tightly that “he smothered Mother”.

Then, last year in Cowichan I heard the story of a neighbour who had made delicious apple cider vinegar, and spoke with another who infused vinegar with blackberries, and boiling it into a thin syrup, created a superior vinaigrette.

In late summer our front yard apple tree began dropping more fruit than we could keep up on trimming for freezing and drying, and the piles of cores and peels started to look like something I could work with. Even though the bulk of the fruit was cut away, there was still a good amount of juice and flavour in what was left, which was expressed when water and a bit of sugar were added.

Topped with a bit of wine yeast, this fermented into a fairly nice tasting cider. Since cider wasn’t what I was after, this was followed by a few spoonfuls of cloudy vinegar mother from a purchased bottle of organic cider vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar, mid ferment
Apple cider vinegar, mid ferment

Fascinated by this process, I also began a batch of plum wine/vinegar but didn’t pay enough attention to this ferment. The yeast was old, and the ferment went sideways, making a sizeable addition to the compost. This was followed by more successful batches of blackberry and pear, and in the end, I made 2 – 3 gallons of apple cider vinegar, 1/2 gallon of blackberry (blue ribbon at the Cowichan Exhibition), and one gallon of pear.

The results were outstanding. Each has a unique character and I’ve enjoyed them so much that the year was nearly done before I realized that I haven’t even considered using anything else for months. Naturally, I’m making more this year and in larger quantities.

Most instructions for vinegar suggest that you are done in 5 weeks. It is true that there is at this point a definite vinegar formation, but it’s really not finished. You will be better off making double your needs in the first year, so that you can wait a full year before using it in the future, as there seems to be a significant maturation of the vinegar flavour between 6 and 12 months, at least in my observation.

You will want to aerate the vinegar as it develops, in order to prevent it from developing an acetone finish and other unpleasant aromas. Ideally have an empty vessel into which you can pour the vinegar, and then transfer it back to the original.

Tomatoes with yeast
Tomatoes with yeast, Sept 17

After aging last year’s batch for about 4 months, I decanted most of the clear elements of the vinegars from the original aging vessels into smaller jars, setting the filtered sediment aside in a new vessel to sit.

Over time, this sediment settled at the bottom, eventually developing into the mother, floating at the top until disturbed, whereupon it would drift to rest at the bottom; and a beautiful amber and powerfully pungent vinegar, floating above the remaining settled sediment and mother.

As this occurred, I decanted the pure vinegar, and set the remainder aside to see what would happen with the remaining sediment, then set the mother aside, collecting it into a separate jar with enough vinegar to keep it active, until time to use it in the next batch, where it now is, fermenting.

Currently fermenting into cider in 4 gallon containers are 16 gallons of apples (which will be about 8-10 gallons of cider), and one with about 2 gallons of tomatoes, and on the second stage fermentation to vinegar, are eight gallons of apple cider, three of plum, three of rice vinegar, two of blackberry and a gallon jar of mixed plum/Oregon grape (a berry which is not a grape, but grows in clusters, and tastes similar to currant, but with hideously bitter seeds).

Tomato vinegar. Oct 21
Tomato vinegar. Oct 21

Looking for a good supply of large food grade buckets? Stop by your local supermarket and ask at the deli/bread counter if they have any buckets with lids, and you’ll likely find them happy to help.  This will also help keep some of our plastics from being discarded too soon.

The “recipe” for making vinegar is simple:

Fruit juice, sugar (optional depending on the sweetness of the fruit), yeast, time.

That’s essentially it.

Strictly speaking, the yeast and the vinegar culture can be obtained from the air, but that’s a trickier process, and at least with yeast, the flavours obtained from them can vary greatly from yeast to yeast. I use a good commercial wine yeast to begin.

Even though the recipe is simple, I’m providing it below with the “steps” showing how a rice vinegar I made this past summer aged over time.

Vinegar on shelf
Vinegar on shelf

It’s a bit different with rice vinegar, since you use a grain rather than fruit. Also in the making of rice vinegar, there are two methods for the first stage. In the simple method, the rice liquid is sweetened with the addition of sugar. The more complex method uses amylase, an enzyme, which converts the starches in the grain to sugar before the fermentation is begun.

I’ll do another batch in the next few months and will add that to this then, along with a comparison of results.

Here is a lovely video: Brewing Korea’s Hanega Vinegar for 35 Generations from great Big Story & Korean Air

It’s a very short, pretty story, about traditional rice vinegar making in Korea, where they leave the rice in throughout the fermentation…another thing I mean to try in the next batch.

Happy Birthday GaddAbouteating!

It’s been a while since she posted an article here, but GaddAboutEating has helped keep readers up-to-date with posts to the Eatin’s Canada Facebook page.

Here on the website, her articles, recipes, reviews, and photographs are very popular and appreciated by readers.

We’re very happy to have her contributions whenever she is able to make them and in whatever form they happen to take.

Thanks GaddAboutEating for being part of Eatin’s Canada!

Brine Curing Olives

Olives in bowl
Olives in bowl

I’ve been curing olives for a few years now. It used to be easier when living in Toronto. It was merely a quick walk to the local fruit market, which thankfully the city is still rich with, to buy a bag of raw olives. Now living in Cobble Hill,  it’s much more difficult to find fresh olives, as they’re not available locally.

Fortunately for me, I was headed to Vancouver on family business last week. I called Bosa Foods, the only place I’ve found reasonably close (a mere 4 hours away by ferry and car) where one can buy them, and was told that they had just received their annual shipment of green olives (black ones will come a bit later in the season, sometime next month).

I made sure to pick up two 10k bags, as last year the single bag I’d bought had been barely enough for our own annual use, and didn’t allow for any gifts (or product for my farm stand). To be sure of maximum freshness and quality, I began to prepare them the minute I got home.

Soaking Olives
Soaking Olives

The first stage of curing involves leaching the tannins out to reduce the natural bitterness of the olive fruit, the second is brining them, either in a wet or dry cure. These instructions are for wet cure, I’ll try dry cure when I get the dark olives next month and write about that process as they progress.

There are several pages online with instructions for how to wet cure olives, some of which suggest using lye, a caustic solution, to soften the olives prior to bringing. There are also instructions for using merely water, which struck me as wiser and which in practice, yields excellent olives.

I’ve seen instructions for whacking them with a mallet, which I tried once, and shan’t be attempting again. Not only did the mallet recoil and almost hit me in the forehead at least twice, but the olives when cured, were bruised. Meh.

Slicing Olives
Slicing Olives

The Greek method, slicing them on either side lengthwise, is perfect…but have the water bath ready to pop them into immediately, or you will have badly oxidized slashes on either side, as this happens very quickly…as I learned last year. That would have been a bigger problem if I’d had enough to give away, so I guess it was just as well that I made fewer then.

So, all that said, this is easy peasy. Get olives, fill a jug with water (I use a party drinks dispenser with spigot, so that it’s easier to empty each day, as the water needs to be refreshed daily). Slice olives into water bath. Change water daily, after one week add brine and leave to age for a month in a loosely covered jar or crock, stirring daily if possible. Put a weight (like a plate) on the top to keep them submerged, or they will go mouldy and infect the batch.

Olives in jars
Olives in jars

Use a 1:10 (10%) salt:water ratio. If you have kids and want to amuse them with science, test the density of the solution by floating an egg on top. If it floats, you have enough salt. If not, add more.

It will be another few days before I am ready to brine the current batch, for which I’ll use seawater which has been evaporating to about 1:6 and boil it down to the required density…mainly because I live at the beach and a local salt company uses the same spot to draw from, so why not? I’ll report back when these are done to brag about how great they taste. I’ll report back when they’re ready. Maybe with a recipe for tapenade.

Pierogis (Ukranian Style)

Recipe by Gayle Hurmuses, photo by Gisela McKay

I typically make large quantities of pierogis, usually with a friend and while watching an old movie, but it would be easy to make these in small quantities as well whenever one has leftover mashed potatoes, or the opportunity to make extra for a meal..

It’s a simple matter of mixing sour cream and flour together in nearly equal amounts…about half again more flour than sour cream…so 2 Tbsp of sour cream to each 3 Tbsp of flour.

You should let the pierogis  dry out a bit before cooking, as it is a pasta of sorts. I turn them over when the tops are dry to let the bottom air out. Be sure to lay them on cloth, not paper, as they will stick to anything but fabric.

My Ukrainian friend Shona says that at a pierogi party you would use a double bed to dry them on, and would not start cooking until the bed was full. Then, start cooking the first ones that were made. She also has suggested that when they are made and before they are frozen (if you are making enough to freeze, and you should) you should boil them all, she says and toss them in melted butter to coat them.

Tomato Ketchup with Roasted Red Pepper and Sundried Tomatoes

Homemade ketchup - easy to make and uses the scraps from tomato canning and sauce making.
Homemade ketchup – easy to make and uses the scraps from tomato canning and sauce making.

I’ve been making variations on this recipe for nearly 20 years now.  This is the best version of this sauce to date .

It’s especially timely now while tomatoes are at their most plentiful, and an ideal way to use up all the skins and cores generated in canning.

If you are canning/skinning a full bushel of tomatoes, using these trimmings would make several jars of ketchup even without using any whole tomatoes, which of course you may also do.

It’s also very nice with green tomatoes, green apples, and cider vinegar, with a larger percentage of cloves to peppercorns, and intended to be used with pork.

 

Nocino

Nocino in Brandy
Nocino in Brandy

Recipe and photos by Gayle Hurmuses

Nocino is a fabulous digestif, a traditional Italian bitter made from unripe walnuts (any type) that can be made into a lovely liqueur given the right treatment.

The articles I read before making last year’s batch suggested that it would be gone before the year of proper aging was complete and the authors were right. The first few tastes were much like Fernet Branca, but over time it mellowed nicely into something much more subtle and compelling.

Traditionally, the latest date to make Nocino is June 24. Thanks to a late winter in BC, we’re weeks behind, and in late June, the walnuts were still barely marble-sized. They’re nice and plump today however, and the shells have not yet begun to form, so it’s a perfect time to begin. From the look of the fruits there are still a few more days to go before it’s no longer possible.

This recipe will give wonderful results. You may not want to share. I didn’t. O:-)

Walnuts for Nocino

Centennial Park Cob Oven in Duncan, BC

One of the great assets of the Cowichan Valley is the Centennial Park Cob KitchenIt’s a beautiful Cob pizza oven and cooktop available to the community.
The Cob Kitchen can be used by individuals for family use, community organizations who wish to host an event or program, or by local businesses.  One local baker uses this kitchen to bake products to be delivered to her customers. 
Requirements are: Completion of a 1 hour hands-on training, a registration form, a small insurance fee, and a donation.
As the time of this post, there are two Cob Kitchen trainings coming up!
  • Monday June 19, 2017, from 10 – 11 am: 3 spots open
  • Monday June 26, 2017 from 1 – 2 pm: 3 spots open
Bookings may be made through their website at this page.
More than merely a kitchen, the Cob Oven is also a community art project, featuring work by: Maynard JohnnyNan GoodshipPat Amos, and Sarah Way.
Cowichan Community Kitchen in Use
Cowichan Community Kitchen in Use

The Cob Kitchen is sponsored by  the BC Arts Council, Peninsula Co-op, City of Duncan, and Matrix Marble and Stone. It is a project of Cowichan Community Kitchen, a local agency that helps families learn to plan, budget and cook at their partner facilities, and bring meals home for the family.

Operated at five locations throughout the valley (including the Cob Kitchen), the Cowichan Community Kitchens provides valuable services to the community in the Cowichan Valley Regional District. 

Cowichan Community Kitchens is sponsored by:St. John’s Anglican Church, Duncan, St. John’s Anglican Church, Cobble Hill, Lake Cowichan Community Hall, Warmland House, True Grain Bakery – Cowichan Bay, Valley Floors, Webtec, North Cowichan, Rotary. CVRD Area C, Cobble Hill, CVRD Area D, Cowichan Bay, CVRD Area F, Honeymoon Bay, City of Duncan, Jackson on the Moon, and an anonymous donor.

Duck Confit

Duck confit in jar
Duck confit in jar

Duck confit may seem decadent, but the process doesn’t leave the meat fattier than it began.  You’re  going to have mere slivers of the meat, and you’re not going to drink the fat.

I won’t be serving an entire duck leg or wing for each person. The pieces will be deboned, and the meat will be used as an accent…almost as a seasoning to the dishes it’s used in. I truly do get 10 or more dishes from the two legs and wings of an 11lb duck.

Mind you, it was a very happy, exceptionally lean, free-range duck, from neighbours at Legacy Farm. There was little waste on this bird .

Because the duck used was truly free range, it was almost entirely without fat. Even after rendering the skin from the breasts, which was used for another purpose, there was only a small amount of fat, and there was none at all clinging to the bird.

With no duck fat for sale locally, butter was the only solution. It proved to be a delicious problem.

Mein Gout

Over the past  year, I’ve realized that the occasional pain in my right leg and foot that has been with me since my early 20’s is most likely to be gout. The symptoms fit, and are exacerbated when I eat the trigger foods.

It began as a tingling in the toes of my right foot, and soreness in my knee, with occasional shooting pain up the leg. Sometimes I’d have a bunion on my big toe, but I’d tended to blame it on 4″ heels, rather than on diet.  I’d mentioned the pains to my doctor, but she was unconcerned. That I missed the similarity to what had happened to my father’s feet is doubtless a testament to denial.

I began to suspect gout last year when working at a wine show. I’d bought very well-fitting “sensible shoes” in advance specifically to be comfortable throughout long days on my feet.  They were just a bit loose when purchased, but I was expecting to wear thicker tights with them at the show. On my first shift, the shoes were painfully tight by the end of the day, so I looked up possible causes, finding gout at the top of the list.

This has happened before with my shoes, and gout runs in the family, so it should have been a suspect sooner, but I’d always blamed it on not taking enough care when buying shoes. I’ve experienced tingling foot pain and occasional shooting pain in my right leg, but my former doctor had never thought much of it when I’ve raised the issue.

I’ve generally been pretty fit, and thought my diet, which is well-balanced, was good. A bit high in animal fats perhaps, but well in line with my mostly Mediterranean heritage.  It may be a mostly healthy diet, but not apparently, for me. Sadly, it seems that now, many of my favourite things are verböten.

While not specifically life-threatening, gout can impede general health a great deal, and as a form of arthritis can be extremely painful. Arthritis also runs in the family on the other side. I’ll go to the doctor to confirm, but meanwhile, it seems prudent to proceed as if it’s a fact.

It’s not so much a resolution as an imperative.

On the sad side: Less butter and heavy cream in sauces, lower fat milk, no chicken livers, no anchovies, which I have only just begun to enjoy, nor turkey, goose, scallops, salmon, beer, (which both has purines and makes them harder to break down) and alcohol in general is to be taken in extreme moderation. Sadly, beef and pork are preferable for the gout, than lamb, which I prefer. Meat in general, even the “good” ones, should be eaten in extreme moderation.

On the positive side: Lobster, crab, and shrimp are all okay, and so are chicken and duck. No tuna (which I love, but is endangered, so this takes some of the sting of that part out), no sugary pop, and not much sugar in general, which I already don’t care for, and I have no complaints about an excuse to avoid steak and kidney pie. Fortunately, while asparagus, cauliflower, spinach, and mushrooms are also high in purines, at least being veggies, they are thankfully less of a risk overall. Also fortunately, I have long been working towards a “Third Plate” approach, which lends itself to a low purine diet.

For this year (anticipating confirmation from my doctor), I’ll be doing my best to cook within the limitations of a low-purine and purine-clearing diet…while continuing to make mind-bendingly delicious foods that occasionally score high on the hedonism index …but I’ll try within that to use those ingredients that most closely fit my culinary needs, while also being least detrimental from the gout-y perspective.

This very complete chart, and the excellent website it comes from, is going to get some use and I’ll be googling other people’s recipes to try and to share as well as inventing my own.  Either way, the year has begun with a personal challenge. Not one of my choosing, but accepted nonetheless.

I see more beans and vegetables in my future…meat more as a garnish or enhancement than as a cut. More chili and cornbread, dal and rice, more spanakopita, and duck.

Last night’s dinner involved the use of small amounts of duck confit (perhaps 1 oz per serving), cooked with a reduction of light cream and mushrooms, served over penne. The confit had already been seasoned when cooked with thyme and garlic, so there was no need to add anything in that way. It was a simple and satisfying meal that had only a small and measured amount of decadence.

Some of the recipes may not look entirely gout friendly, the confit for example, but they’ll nevertheless reflect a new approach to moderation disguised as excess. In the case of the confit, the fats are used to cook/condition the meat and to preserve, but is not absorbed by the meat…which as above, I use only in small amounts to flavour dishes.

Given my propensity to denial, and their general suitability to the gout diet, Egyptian foods are likely to make an appearance.
O:-)