Archive for July, 2009

Burgers, then Cherry Hand Pies and Sour Cream Ice Cream



Dinner was a barbecue at Cheryl‘s tonight, where we both met Aimée of Under the High Chair, who was coming through town from BC en route home to Montréal, for the first time in actual 3D.
That’s us: Cheryl, Aimée, Me. They’re holding Mila and Matteo; the two three-year-old boys are trying to figure out how to blow up the house from the empty planter behind us.

Curiously we didn’t spend a whole lot of time alienating our husbands by huddling in the kitchen or chatting about food blogs and camera lenses and Twitter. It could be that we were too busy monitoring our collective toddlers, attempting to keep them from steamrolling each other (no need to mention which one might have been steamrolling the others) – in fact, an unassuming passerby might have fancied us a regular group of friends getting together on a Friday night until dinner came out, and we all pounced for our cameras, maneuvering around the picnic table like a bunch of girly Jedis, poking at food, turning it this way and that in the light. And the boys just stood back, silent, all accustomed to the pre-meal ritual. Mike even dutifully dressed his burger and asked if I needed a photo before he bit. I’m so proud. Snif.

Before dinner, there were sticks of watermelon and jicama to nibble on with dishes of chile-spiked salt to dip them in. Then Cheryl’s husband made the burgers (recipe: ground Hoven farms beef – that’s it. No egg. No breadcrumbs. No ketchup. No S&P.), which we topped with Elna Edgar’s asparagus relish (confession: I ate a serving of it straight up with a fork. I don’t think anyone noticed) and Cheryl’s homemade ketchup. Beside it, a romaine, grilled avocado and corn salad with chipotle Caesar dressing. The kids got bison hot dogs. (Aimée opted for a kid-sized burger, which looked like a slider.
I, of course, un-daintily opted for the fist-sized burger.)

For dessert she scouted out some actual sour cherries to make hand pies – another on my to-bake list. Her pastry was wonderful – I should have known someone so adept at making peroghies could handle pastry no problemo – and the filling was just right; not overly sweet, with a zero sog factor. You’ll have to wait until next week for her to retrieve the recipe from her brain and record it on her blog.

With it – ready for this? – oh wait, you already read it at the top – Sour Cream Ice Cream. It’s delicious. We guessed at first that it was buttermilk, on account of the tang – and yet it was pure white. Sour cream. Genius!

Cheryl’s Sour Cream Ice Cream

2 cups sour cream
1 cup half & half
1/2 cup whipping cream
juice of half a lemon
splash of vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt

1. Blitz it in a blender for a few minutes.
2. Freeze in an ice cream maker.
3. Freeze until ready to serve.

Before I go I have a few suggestions if you’re looking for ways to spend your long weekend. I’m sorry for the last-minute notice, but tomorrow is Food Day. I know! It’s like I’ve gone my entire lifetime without knowing Christmas existed. Food Day. How could there be such a thing and I don’t know about it? There are events going on all over Canada (but mostly out east – we need to rally the troops out here!) to celebrate local food, and Anita Stewart is extending an invite to the World’s Longest Barbecue. The idea is that you gather a few friends or family members (or strangers – what the hell) and sit down to a feast of the best local food you can find. Then share it on their website. I’m thinking lamb chops and chard.

Second – this weekend is the Summer Country Drive – a do-it-yourself tour of a couple dozen farms, U-Picks and other interesting rural locales. I’ll be making the rounds – The Blooming Fields has limited strawberries (expect this everywhere), but tons of saskatoons, peas, onions, Swiss chard, lettuce, carrots, potatoes, and probably mini tomatoes and beans. They also have Sunday brunch at 12:30, English high-society style, with a costume contest if you’re up for dressing circa 1920s. Edgar Farms is in the midst of super-sweet fresh pea season, and will have a petting zoo and bale fort, and are stocking the farm store with fresh Swiss chard, beets, spinach, lettuce, peas, and produce (like the asparagus relish I like to eat with a fork). A message from The Jungle Farm read: We will have lots of pickling cukes, lettuce, spinach, zucchini and summer squashes available this weekend as well as a great crop of lilies and u-cut flowers. We are also serving beef on a bun at our farm store, as well as home baked apple pies, Jungle farm chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and a large selection of jams, jellies, salad dressings, pickles and our home made naturally fermented sauerkraut. We will also have Innisfail growers vegetables including new potatoes and a selection of BC fruit at our farm store. Unfortunately it is too late for U-pick strawberries at our farm. We will be offering a hay ride tour of the farm and have a large playground for the children.

So there you go – as good a reason as any to hop in the car on a beautiful day and spend a few hours poking around some good local farms. And coming home with dinner. And letting us know about it! Happy Food Day!

One Year Ago: Pickled Beets

July 31 2009 | dessert and pie | 28 Comments »

Nanking Cherry Jelly



It’s Official: I’m a grown-up. Married to a dude with gout.

At 41, this is not the first of his old-guy afflictions: in 2005, when we moved back from Vancouver in blazing hot late June, packing everything we owned into a rented U-Haul with me 8 months pregnant and nowhere to live (besides my parents’ basement) when we got back, he came down with a raging case of shingles. Shingles! Damn sexy, they are. I wish I could find that photo I made him pose for – in his tighty whities, black socks and nothing else, reclining chaise-lounge-style on the bed with a can of Pil and ring of red blistery scabs around his middle. I called him Fred Garvin, Male Prostitute.

OK, why is it I can’t access video of FGMP from NBC, MySpace or Hulu unless I’m in the states? what century is this? have they not heard the phrase WORLD WIDE WEB??

So it’s a good thing it’s cherry season – apparently cherry juice is good if you’ve got The Gout. (I discovered this on GoutPal. For real.) Something to do with the fact that they help your body eliminate uric acid. Something I didn’t expect to have to know for another good twenty years or so. BC cherries are all over the place, but there are a handful of Nanking cherry bushes on our block that are loaded with fruit about to turn winey. The birds are taking care of some, and two bushes (trees? shrubs?) are curiously devoid of fruit, but the rest are almost too easy; there’s no sport to it. I run my hand down the underside of a branch and loosen each cluster with my fingers, holding a colander underneath to catch them. Easy. Also, my excellent neighbours brought me over a Tupperware container full, knowing my obsession with free-growing fruit of any sort.

The problem with Nanking cherries is that they’re small. You can’t really pit them and make a pie (or maybe you can, but I sure don’t have the patience to try). However, their tartness makes them ideal for cherry lemonade and cherry jelly. Here’s what I do: put as many cherries as I’ve picked into a pot, and add a bit of water. (Not much, like half a cup to a cup to half a pot of fruit?) Bring it to a boil and let it cook – the berries will soften and burst and release their juices – let it go for about 20 minutes, then take it off the heat and cool, mashing occasionally with a potato masher or whisk or something. If you want something jammier – or don’t care about cloudy jelly – just strain it through a colander to leave the seeds behind. Otherwise line the colander with cheesecloth and strain it – you’ll get clear, ruby red juice. (Which I made Mike drink a bunch of, straight-up, before I turned the rest into jelly, as I’m not sure toast and jam provides sufficient cherry intake for gout patients.)

At this point you can make jam or syrup for cherry lemonade: for lemonade, add about half as much lemon juice as there is cherry juice, then an equal amount of sugar. So if you have 4 cups of cherry and lemon juice, add 4 cups of sugar. Heat and stir to dissolve the sugar, then store the syrup in the fridge to use as a base for lemonade (add water -sparkling or still- and ice) or boozy drinks (you’ll figure it out).

To make jelly, add a splash of lemon juice if you have it, and then add as much sugar, or a little less. I cheated and sprinkled in half a package of Certo (to just over three cups of juice and three cups of sugar, and a couple tablespoons of lemon juice), just for insurance. Generally what I do is add some chopped apples from the tree for their pectin, but they aren’t ready yet – but tomorrow I’m conducting an experiment: adding a few apple cores left over from W, since the pectin is largely in the seeds and it’s all being strained anyway. So the Certo batch was kind of part of the experiment. I’ll keep you posted. I have a very exciting life.

Boil it hard for two minutes, then skim any foam off the top, ladle into hot, clean jars, and seal. And in case you hadn’t noticed my very Martha Move: paper muffin liners under the screw bands – seal them properly first, so that you know the tops pop in as they cool – then remove the bands and put on the papers. (I used to do this with the glittery gold and silver-flake paper squares you can buy at Asian groceries, but they were too thin.) Bonus: you can write what it is on top.

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July 30 2009 | preserves | 50 Comments »

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