Sunday, July 25, 2010

Eat Local. Eat Happy.

~karen hunter

With the current and intense presence of summer, and its heat and the necessary trips to the Nanaimo River to cool off, we have been granted so much fun food to share with you, and yet not quite the time to make that happen.

To get started, I decided to go ahead and have finger puppet fun with the fruits of summer. I say those fingers look pretty happy wearing all those big raspberry tuques. After I'd eaten off all those sweet pretties from each of my fingers (ok, I did this numerous times), I contemplated the thought of how summer and its food alter the frequency of my happy-go-lucky kid-like behaviours. It doesn't stop with raspberries! Is it perhaps the freshness and taste of such deliciousness that encourages this youthful energy? Plenty of folks are aware of the improved nutritive value of fresh (i.e. local) foods (see the following link for more information: But what if they make us happier?

(psst... this cake made me happy too!)

With all that said, I'm hoping that you are inspired to make something nutritious, simple and perhaps silly with local foods, or rather to grow something yourself. It is not too late to plant for fall harvesting of peas, beans, spinach and other greens etc.

In the near future I will write to tell you of my current experiences with growing meat chickens at the farm where I live. We have yet to process the birds into an edible form and am a little uncertain of how to document all of that... It will be my first time ever butchering my own meat. I'm giving thanks to all my chickens well in advance!

Pictured above are ISA Brown hens which are our egg-laying birds. Our meat birds are basic, commercially bred broilers.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Only 7 Buckets

~karen hunter

While there are many things to do on a day off, not all can be treated the same as Canada Day. In order to celebrate something local on our national holiday, I chose to do the season's first JAM.

Jam. The grocery store has nearly half an aisle full of it, yet it is so easy to make. I'll provide a nice recipe for fresh strawberry jam in just a moment. But first, let's talk about the star fruit, the Strawberry. Below are some buckets of summer-sap ladden berries picked just yesterday south of Nanaimo.

It's not uncommon to hear people agonizing about the last time they had a good strawberry. Of course, what they are longing for are those berries that are so truly flavourful, juicy and 'warm from the sunshine fresh' that they could only be from a local farm. Here in the Nanaimo area there are at least 2 farms operating as strawberry U-Picks. We know of these two: Dudniks Farm (2219 Gomerich Road, South Wellington; phone: ;; U-Pick and We-Pick Berries: Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, gooseberries, and red and black currants Fresh vegetables. Open mid-June to late August, 8am -5pm) and Katie's Farm (phone ; Fruit and produce in season. U-pick strawberries).

Yesterday, I picked enough to freeze about 11 small bags, have some for jam, some for a pie or two, and yes, some for eating. YUM. I was actually a little sad when my buckets were full as I did not want to leave the company of the field, the rows of fat fruits or the company of other pickers. Not even the bodily pains associated with kneeling for an hour made me want to leave that summery morning (yes, the sun was out). The flip side is that it only took about an hour or so to be rewarded by the fruit. Well, that's if you don't include the taste-testing I did on site. I encourage you to go picking, and now jamming!

Here's a simple recipe to make strawberry jam taken from Janet Chadwick's 'Preserving Food at Home' (2009, Versa Press). It uses SUGAR. In the jam I made today, I used 1/2 sugar and 1/2 honey as an experiment. If you do this, the jam may not set. So if you must have stiff jam, follow a traditional recipe. Otherwise, I suggest trying out other sweeteners and being happy with the result, even if it doesn't require a knife to spread it.

Basic Strawberry Jam
Makes about 7 500ml jars.
8 cups strawberries
6 cups sugar
1) preheat the canner, sterilize jars and keep lids in hot water.
2) Rinse the berries and remove the stems
3) Combine the berries and sugar in a stock pot. Crush the berries to release juice.
4) Bring the mixture to a boil until sugar dissolves. Then boil rapidly about 40 mins until thick. Stir the jam for the last 10 minutes to prevent it from burning.

5) Remove from heat and skim off foam.
6) Pour into jars leaving 1/4 inch head space. Wipe the jar rims clean with a clean damp cloth. Adjust the lids and screw on the rings until finger tight.
7) Place the filled jars on the rack in the heated canner. Process the jars for 10 minutes once the water has returned to a boil.
8) Remove jars from canner carefully. Place them somewhere to cool. In an hour or so, check the seals, remove the rings, label and store your lovely work.