Monthly Archives: July 2012

Food Dehydration

Photo by alyssssyla, used under Creative Commons license

Big thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s Food Dehydration workshop!  There was a great group of folks with lots of expertise in growing and preserving food, and it was a lot of fun to hear about everyone’s projects, challenges and goals.  For those of you who missed the workshop, you I’ve put together some helpful information and tasty recipes to help you with your food dehydration adventures.  Continue reading

Seasonal Recipe Roundup: Cherries!

Photo by Wonderlane, used under Creative Commons license

As I type this, there is a huge bucket of cherries from one of the trees on-site here at the Compost Ed Centre sitting on the office floor.  We are all gorging ourselves on cherries, but I can still see tons more hanging off the branches of the tree outside the window.  I’m not telling you this to boast (honest!), but to mention that cherry season is here, and if you’re not taking advantage of it, I highly recommend doing so as soon as possible!  In case you get sick of just gobbling them down fresh (it seems impossible at first, I know, but I’m getting close to my saturation point and it’s only been two days), I’ve put together a seasonal recipe round-up with some rad and unusual looking cherry recipes.  You won’t find any jams or pies or cobblers, but there are some shrubs, pickles, and fruit leathers that look pretty damn fine. Continue reading

Haultain Common Work Party: Saturday July 28th, 3:30-5 pm

The Haultain Common is looking amazing, and our new food forest has really filled out nicely and deliciously!  Come by to do some harvesting, some weeding, some learning, and some hanging out — it’s a great way to spend a weekend afternoon.  Whether you’ve put in time working on the Common in the past or are new to the space and interested in seeing what it’s all about, we would love to see you there.

Location:  The Haultain Common, 1420 Haultain (at Asquith)

Seriously Spectacular Sourdough

Photo by victoriachan, used under Creative Commons license

Thanks to those made it out to last week’s sourdough workshop — it was a great time, with lots of learning and tasting and sharing of skills.  For the folks who weren’t able to attend but who are still sourdough-curious, Karen, our workshop facilitator, has given me permission to reprint some of her bread info here.  She also put together a really amazing zine called “Sourdough Bread is for Everyone, or Why the @#%^ didn’t my bread rise?!?!” which is an excellent primer for new bread bakers, as well as having the added bonus of coming with helpful and endearing cartoons, some of which I’ve reproduced here.  If you’re interested in snagging a copy, drop me an email and I would be happy to hook you up.  For now, click through for a thorough primer to rocking some sourdough.  Continue reading

Food Dehydration workshop, Tuesday July 24th, 7-9 pm

Photo by donkeycart, used under the Creative Commons license

It finally feels as though summer is in full swing, which means it’s time to start thinking about preserving all the produce from our gardens!  Dehydrating food is an amazing way to preserve your harvest for many reasons:  it’s economical, nutritious, easy to store, and also has the decided advantage of being easy and fun.

In this workshop, we will learn about the benefits of food dehydration, explore the advantages of various dehydration methods, and do lots of snacking.  Each participant will leave with a string of “leather britches” (a rad olde-timey name for dried beans) and lots of recipes and resources to keep exploring the possibilities of food dehydration.

Suggested donation:  $5

Location:  The straw bale building at the Compost Ed Centre, 1216 North Park St, Victoria, BC

Please email slugs.coordinator@gmail.com to register for this event.

The Wonderful World of Slow Cooker Fruit Butters

If you missed our recent canning workshop on slow-cooker fruit butters you missed a good time and some incredibly delicious strawberry-rhubarb butter.  However, all is not lost — Lindsay, our resident canning pundit, has given me permission to reprint her recipe and pass along some slow-cooker fruit butter techniques.

THE RECIPE:

Photo by La Grande Farmers’ Market, used under Creative Commons license

Strawberry-Rhubarb Butter (yield:  ~6 cups, but this is very dependent on how cooked down you make it, as well as the water content of your fruit)

  • 2 lbs mashed or roughly chopped strawberries
  • 2 lbs chopped rhubarb
  • 2 c sugar, honey, or maple syrup (to taste)
  • Optional:  flavourings such as citrus zest, vanilla, cinnamon, or whatever else catches your fancy

Combine strawberries and rhubarb in a slow cooker, cover and turn to high heat.  Stir occasionally until mixture boils.  Reduce heat to low.  Prop open lid of slow cooker (see below for more info).

Let cook for around 8 hours.  Turn heat back up to high and add sweetener a little at a time, tasting after each addition to make sure it’s right, and flavour as desired.  Now it’s time for canning!

Wash 6 – 250 mL jars and sterilize in boiling hot water bath.  Fetch the jars, and return the hot water bath to a boil.

Photo by laurenipsum, used under Creative Commons license

Fill jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace.  Wipe rims, apply lids and screw on rings until fingertip tight.  Place jars in canner rack, lower into boiling hot water bath, and let process for 15 minutes.  After that time is up, turn off heat, let sit for 5 minutes, then carefully remove jars to a safe, draft-free location to cool.  Listen for the distinctive “ping” of the seals!

Once jars are at room temperature, remove screw bands and store in a dry, cool, dark place.  Eat within a couple of years for the best flavour.

THE TECHNIQUE:

Basically, the key to slow cooker fruit butter is slightly altering the way you use your slow cooker.  Usually, you want the lid on because the whole point of crock pot cookery is to keep your food nice and moist over a million hours of cooking. However, when you’re stewing up some fruit butter, you want to let the steam escape freely — the thick, jammy texture that results is exactly the delicious result you’re looking for.

Lindsay accomplishes this by propping the lid of the slow cooker open with a wooden spoon on the across the edge of the pot.  If you try this and still find that lots of steam is condensing inside the lid instead of getting the hell out, wrap the lid in a tea towel to absorb the steam.

SOME HANDY DEFINITIONS:

By now you are perhaps wondering what exactly a fruit butter is, and how it distinguishes itself from your regular, everyday jams and jellies.  The folks behind the Spoonfoolery blog have created a “Guide to Spreadables” to answer these exact burning questions.  Here’s their take on the world of spreadable fruit treats:

Jam and Conserves: Made from whole, chopped, or crushed seeded or seedless fruits and sugar boiled together; jam often comes together without sugar, but what makes it a conserve is that sugar is definitely an ingredient.
Preserves: Jam or conserves with seeds.
Jelly: Made from fruit juice only, no fruit or fruit bit content.
Fruit butter: Seedless fruit cooked to spreadable consistency, containing no pectin or other gel-activating agent; normally made from pitted stone fruits (mango, plum, apricot), pumpkin, apples, or pears.
Curds: As in lemon, lime, or orange… Contain sugar and eggs with the rind and juice of a fruit and cooked slowly over a bain marie until thick and creamy.
Marmalade: A citrus-based preserve, often containing the rind; caramelized onion marmalade is a common find these days, but to be totally honest, I’m not sure why it’s particularly called marmalade and not chutney. I do think it’s the only vegetable spread that is qualified as a marmalade.
Salsa and Chutney: Combinations of chopped vegetables and spices or fruits served together either raw (salsa) or cooked (chutney).

OTHER DELICIOUS FRUIT BUTTERS TO TRY:

Apple butter image by erinsikorskystewart, used under Creative Commons License

The always inspiring Marisa of Food In Jars has blogged about a wide variety of fruit butters she’s experimented with:  check out her blueberry butter, apricot-peach butter, tomato butter, or her primer on slow-cooker fruit butters.  They all look ridiculously good, and I’m looking forward to trying some of them over the summer.

Backyard Chickens: Tuesday July 17th, 6-8 pm

Photo by kusine, used under the Creative Commons license

Backyard chickens are a great addition to any burgeoning urban homestead:  they’ll eat your food scraps, help nourish your plants, and provide you with fresh eggs and endearing company.  Whether you’re a total chicken novice who’s interested in getting started with a backyard flock or an experienced chicken raiser looking for some troubleshooting tips, you’ll love this workshop!

Topics covered include types of breeds, basic anatomy and life cycle of a chicken, ongoing care (daily routine, feed and water requirements), housing requirements and chicken coop designs, and troubleshooting common challenges.

Suggested donation:  $7

Location: The straw bale building at the Compost Education Centre, 1216 North Park St, Victoria, BC

Please email slugs.coordinator@gmail.com to let me know if you plan to attend.