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In appreciation of those who cook

By Arlene Bishop to her partner, Yawd Sylvester, formerly the chef at Toronto’s Lula Lounge.

Like you I’ve read articles on the inequality of household jobs but the job of making dinner has to be the most unbalanced gig in a household. The job of ‘making dinner’ is misleading because it actually contains a series of tasks: organizing, planning, shopping, stocking, prepping, cooking, preserving, storing, cleaning, and the earning required before any of it, and each one taking mental and physical energy, creativity, and time.

Granted, in this house our meals are made by a nurturing, thoughtful, creative multi-talented actual chef, but the tasks are the same from household to household, especially if anyone has special dietary needs.

In our house, Yawd makes at least two meals (gluten-free veggie for me and healthy teenager-friendly for the giant teen) and he does it on a very modest budget. Our fridge is always ready to fuel. For example, right now there are fixins’ prepped so that it would take me no more than 90 seconds to make myself a beautiful salad for lunch.

That 90 seconds is actually the point I’m trying to get to: because Yawd has taken on the role of running the kitchen, I have more time in my day to tend to other things like my creative career. And it’s not just a little time – a substantial span of continuous time where I’m free to start and complete tasks. It’s huge.

Anyone who works at home doing creative work knows how important it is to be able to think and work something through. It means I can plan, batch, compile, edit, render, upload, tag, promote, research, write, edit, layout, download, upgrade, administrate….so many music business tasks that are made manageable only by being able to sit with them from start to finish.

This is new for me. When I became a mother my creative work got carved into 20-minute batches, sometimes longer but seldom more than two distracted, exhausted hours.

Now there are days when I can do what I need to do and a healthy dinner magically appears. What’s my point?

My point it is that whoever has a person in their life that manages meals from day-to-day has an advantage to further their career and earning stream.

They have more creative time. More leisure time. More time in their day. More control over meeting their deadlines. Yes, I also do the shopping, cleaning, and organization, and I have jobs in the house that are also time and energy consuming, but I’ve noticed that the heavy lifting of making the meals is a job that is under-valued and misrepresented. It’s a big time sucker. I’m grateful. I’m lucky. I don’t want to take that for granted.

Thank you, Yawd.

Peterborough Commercial Produce Reseller’s Market

@PTBO_SatMarket an ersatz (the polite term for fake) “farmer’s market” in Peterborough, On, recently featured in a @cbcmarketplace expose for falsely marketing commercial produce as locally farm grown. Rather than fix this, they’re threatening seven local farmers & artisanal producers with expulsion from the market, as of January 8, 2018. 

One would think that the market would be aghast at the duplicity of the reselling vendors, but in fact, this practice is not only supported, but considered desirable. The goal is to present the market as fully stocked with farm produce even when most local farms would have little or no product left.

The market owners are using a tautological argument to obscure the general understanding of what a traditional farmer’s market represents. “All vegetables are grown in farms” “All produce is farmed”. Effectively, that argument leads to the assertion that any supermarket is also a farmer’s market.

This is an appalling practice. Farmer’s markets are a vital link to more than merely food. Seeing the ebb and flow of produce, becoming accustomed to natural availability, puts us closer to an understanding of how the world creates our sustenance.

Obviously, the consumers are also being taken advantage of.

Worse still, the fake farmers sell their produce for the same price as that available from local farmers, with none of the overhead or risk…effectively stealing from the pockets of both vendors and consumers. Literally stealing the reputation and ineffable contribution of farmers and wearing it like a sheepskin on a wolf.

The market’s board of directors are having a special meeting on Jan. 8 to vote on whether to dismiss Circle Organic, Otonabee Apiary, Necessitea Elixir, Chef Marshall, Finest Gourmet Fudge,
Ashburnham Farm Gaelic Garlic, and McLean Berry Farm, all selling items either grown, or made by them, locally.

*Update* This CBC article, published on May 5, 2018, details advances in the Peterborough Resellers Market case: 

…With spring taking grip across Canada, farmers markets are returning to public spaces. But five agricultural producers have been kicked out of one of Ontario’s largest markets after speaking out about other vendors masquerading as growers of all the produce they sell.

Meanwhile, there is no indication that vendors who were exposed as misleading consumers faced any sanctions. They told CBC News that they will be returning to the market this season… (more)

To read more on this topic, click on this link for the Peterborough Examiner, which links to other articles by the paper on this issue.

Caramel banana ice cream

Ice cream in bowl
Caramel banana ice cream

Picked up a big bag of bananas for almost nothing back in June, so I decided to make this. It was pretty satisfying and is quite decadent tasting, despite the fact that the only non-nutritious ingredient is the sugar, of which there is not a lot per serving.

By the way, if you are tempted to reduce the amount of sugar, you’ll discover the ice-cream to be very difficult to serve. One of the things sugar does is restrict the freezing of the custard to a workable softness.

$5 case of sightly overripe bananas.

Made it a few more times after that, and then yesterday we picked up a full box of perfectly good, slightly frost-damaged bananas at The Old Farm Market on the Trans-Canada Highway, just inside of Duncan, BC., for only $5.

Mega dehydrator
Mega dehydrator

We’ll be drying the bulk of them in our new (to us) jumbo food dryer (formerly a warming cabinet for the Hudson’s Bay catering department), but I think a few other things are in order, this being one of them.

Making a double-batch so that we can take some later for NYE, and also have some at home tomorrow. I was reminded in looking up the recipe, that I’d shared it on the Facebook page, but had not added it here as yet.

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.