Saturday, August 10, 2013

Summer Bounty - Part III

Red Currants simmering
     One of my favourite discoveries this summer has been the joy of making jellies.  It was something I was always a bit afraid of, thinking it would be difficult and time-consuming, but that could not be further from the truth!  Two weekends ago I made my first-ever batch of red currant jelly and last weekend I followed up with my first-ever batch of black currant jelly.  Knowing that currant season is short, I was thrilled to find more red currants at the market this morning.  I bought two pints, rinsed them well and followed a recipe from one of my mother's old, English cook books, Practical COOKERY for all, which I'm pretty sure is from the '50s.

                                         Red-currant Jelly

     3 lb. red currants     3/4 pint water     Sugar
     Time: about 50 minutes.  Temperature: low to moderate

Method: Put the fruit into a colander and spray with cold water to clean.  Do not remove the stalks.  Put into a preserving pan with the water.  Bring very slowly to the boil.  Cook the fruit very gently until all the berries are pulpy - about thirty to thirty-five minutes.
     Strain through a jelly bag and leave to drip for several hours.
     Measure the juice which is collected, then pour it into a pan and bring to the boil.  To each pint add three-quarters to one pound of sugar, stirring until dissolved.  Continue to boil briskly for ten minutes.  Test for setting.  Pot and cover.

     The above is the recipe verbatim but I should add a few of my own notes: preserving pan?  I used a regular pot, no lid necessary, and mashed the fruit with a potato masher after it had simmered and become soft.  This time round, I added a crushed, dried pepper to the mash to give the jelly some zing. I bought a jelly bag from a local kitchen store and it was the perfect size for the rim of my Mexican glass pitcher, which had the added bonus of being useful for pouring out the juice after the three or so hours of dripping.  N.B. do not squeeze the jelly bag to get more juice as this results in the jelly being cloudy, instead of lovely and clear.

Finished product
     Serving suggestion: every weekend, CC and I have cheesy bagels.  We get Montreal-style bagels from the market, toast them and then I add sliced cheese - CC likes cheddar, I prefer spiced Gouda or Oka - and then put them under the grill in the oven until the cheese is runny.  Lately, I have been spreading jelly on the bagels, post-toasting and pre-grilling - the colour is great, and the taste is tres je ne sais quoi.

Summer Bounty - Part II

Apricots, washed and ready to go
     Saturday in G-town is market day, and I love checking out all of the fresh, local produce.  Lately, I have gotten into canning and have found it easy and satisfying, especially when you get to enjoy a taste of summer year round.  Today, I bought a quart of apricots, to make some more apricot chutney (I made a batch 2 weeks ago, but have already given lots away).  I follow the following recipe, but changed it to accommodate the weight of fruit:

Half the recipe's worth
     It's quite simple to follow.  Chop the fruit according to preference - I like smaller pieces because I use small (125 mL) mason jars.  In a large pot combine the cider vinegar, fruit, spices, finely chopped red onion and raisins - I used a combination of small, dark Thompson raisins and the larger, golden raisins to provide variety in colour and texture. Allow to simmer, uncovered, for an hour, and then add to pre-sterilized jars.  Voila, you now have a delicious accompaniment for cheese or meat.  The batch I made before was great with sausage rolls and Shepherd's Pie, but let your imagination run wild!

Ready for simmering

Summer Bounty - Part I

     Two weeks ago, CC had a fall from a ladder while pruning some vines away from the roof of the house.  He unknowingly disturbed a wasp's nest, they attacked, he panicked and fell, fracturing his tibia.  He had his surgery just over a week ago and his been home almost a week.  His parents came by last weekend bearing gifts of fresh fruit - grapes, cherries, plums and peaches.  As CC is somewhat bed bound I spent most of today in the kitchen dealing with our bounty of fruit.  I made a fruit salad with some of it and stewed the rest.  For the raw fruit, I just cut them in chunks and sprinkled freshly-squeezed lemon juice over top to help preserve them.  For the stewed fruit, I cut them as above (sans grapes), added some of last weeks leftover blueberries and an apple, and cooked them slowly in a pot with some sugar and Calvados.  It's a great way to get rid of overripe/bruised fruit (gag).  I like the fruit salad with yoghurt for breakfast and CC likes the stewed fruit with muesli for his morning start.  Both are packed with fibre, vitamins and nutrients, a good start to any day!

Ready for stewing

Ready to eat (bowl not included)

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Graffiti - Art or Vandalism?

     Down the hill from us is a trail that goes along the Speed River and passes by an apartment building.  The wall adjacent to the path is the side of the underground parking, and is not pretty, to say the least.  Lots of "kids" (read ne'er-do-wells) hang out down there at night, letting off fireworks and getting up to other mischief, including spray-painting the wall.  Recently, after some years of some quite interesting painting and scrawling, the owners of the building painted the whole "canvas" grey.  Well, it wasn't long before some creative types set to work making the bland, grey canvas into their own studio.  Sure, there are some tags and other ugly bits of work, but I'm intrigued by the "stencillers", who clearly have put some time and effort into their work.  I thought I'd share some examples with you.