bubble bubble toil and… yum!

OK, OK, so it’s not a direct quote, and it doesn’t even rhyme. But it reflects how I spent a good part of the Labour Day long weekend…

Yup. The Mad Princess of Preserves is at it again, folks.

You see, I made the mistake of going to Loblaws on Saturday for…oh, toilet paper and other boring things. But for once they had some local Ontario produce going!

So, I had to buy about 20 pounds of plum tomatoes and 10 pounds of these Shepherd peppers. I’ve never really noticed these before – they taste like red bell peppers, but sweeter and better. So, my first thought was to try for some flavoured booze:

This, in about three weeks, will be Shepherdised Tanqueray gin. I have no clue whether this one will taste like anything you’d wanted to drink, but I had a bunch of Tanqueray left over from the recent party, so thought I’d give it the old college try.

This, on the other hand, I can hardly wait to crack open:

Iceberg vodka with Shepherd peppers and ten jalapenos with the seeds left in. Better stock up on those ulcer meds… I love pepper vodka!

I also decided to make some infused rice vinegars, one with the peppers and one with lemon and lime:

Then I decided to roast the hell out of the rest of the Shepherd peppers:

…and start making some real stuff. First, I made a whole lot of tomato sauce with roasted pepper, roasted garlic and onion puree:

That took care of about half the peppers. So, what to do with the other half?!?

Initially I wanted to try to make some tomato/roasted pepper low sugar jam. Unfortunately, however, I made the mistake of musing about this aloud, at which point JJ overheard and suggested very reasonably that I not make any more jam until some of the stuff I made some weeks back was gone.

When I say “reasonably”, I mean this of course in the Scottish fashion:

Ye daft wee lassie, what on God’s grrrrreen airrrrth would possess ye to make more jam?!?! Every time ah open the cupboards, ah almost get murdered by a flyin jar of jam. And ye doan’t even eat the stuff! Ye should go tek a long harrrd look in the mirror…

He did, however, have a point. So, instead I made…

… salsa! Three bloody litres of the stuff. It has tomatoes, the peppers plus a third major secret ingredient. I first premiered the secret ingredient salsa at my party to great accolades (I must say I was shocked – I had only come up with it at the last minute when I realised I had 5 million bags of nachos and no salsa as I had dumped all the salsa into the slowcooker with IKEA swedish meatballs in a panic…). That version, however, did not have roasted peppers.

If it turns out at all good, perhaps I will post the recipe here. Or, perhaps I’ll just send it to the Food Network and wait for the telephone call offering me my very own programme.

I also made a V8/coriander jelly:

… and rehabbed some former jellies I had made which hadn’t set properly, including this bell pepper one:

So, I think that was a guid weekend’s work, don’t ye?

Off now to premiere the fabulous new salsa with the colleagues work.

Happy Tuesday, all!


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an apology from our Prime Minister

Hello all: I should note that the subject line is rather misleading as this post will actually not contain any direct wording from our greatly esteemed PM, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper.

Mr. Harper is the guy on the right, in case you had a problem figuring it out.

WARNING/ATTENTION/ACHTUNG: this post will contain a political rant which might offend some Canajan readers, and which will probably make no sense to readers from other countries.  You may, accordingly, wish to skip to the (blurry) photos at the end.  Consider yourselves warned.

Mr. Harper has, however, spent lots of time in recent months apologising to all and sundry for stuff which happened away back before he was born.  Most recently (and in fact, he managed to pull off this one on a long weekend when people aren’t typically paying all that much attention), he apologised for an incident that took place in 1914 – 376 Sikh and other people from the Indian south continent came into Vancouver on a boat and were not let in to Canada.  Many were murdered upon their return to Calcutta, after spending two months on a dock in the Vancouver harbour.

Now, it’s not for me to say that the Canadian government shouldn’t apologise for that, really.  But, in fact, the community he tried to apologise to has rejected the apology, saying it should come from the House of Commons rather than from Mr. King Stephen Harper trying to gain favour in their community when he shows up for a festival.

And, frankly, I don’t know if these apologies matter whether they come from the legislature or not.  However, it seems that he should have figured this out by now because he’s already issued apologies to the First Nations (without offering up any cash to back it up.

He’s also apologised to the Chinese-Canadian community for a head tax imposed on newcomers between 1885 and 1923 – and offered compensation to those who actually paid the tax, or their children.  Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t most people that got penalised under this old system be dead now?  And I’ve had at least one client who tried to negotiate the compensation scheme and was told “without original documents, you get nothing.

Now, I think that Mr. Harper is actually quite shrewd (or rather, that his advisors are geniuses) by hitting on a great way to deflect from what’s going on now – just apologise for what has happened in the past.  I mean, we are a nation of people who are socialised to say “sorry” if someone else bumps into you on the street.  And – they say “sorry” too and everyone moves on.

So, the apology as a political concept makes a lot of sense… and hey, the guy is apologising for stuff which happened well before he was even born!  How Canadian… and how dishonest.

Why dishonest?  Because this party is doing a whole hell of a lot of stuff right now that someone fifty years down the road will no doubt be apologising for.  Stuff such as decimating our health care system, reducing public pension entitlements for those who have paid in for 40 years or more, and so forth.

But hey, someone’s sorry – so that must count.  But you don’t see him shedding any tears either:

So, Mr. Harper, thank you for apologising, and I’m sorry too.  In fact, I’m sorry that you’re not offering some of my homemade preserves to those who have been wronged in years past, such as my tomato jam:

… or my jalapeno/green bell pepper jelly:

So, Mr. Harper, should you read this, have my people call my people and we’ll set up a proper “apology basket” for you to give to everyone who has been historically wronged.  JJ is, after all, retired, and has lots of time to can produce.

Happy Tuesday!

the mad preserver strikes again!

Well, I couldn’t help myself. You see, I had to go to the local farmers’ market on Saturday to replenish our stocks of produce and fruit.

(And, of course, a wee treat for JJ: apricot loaf!

Looks decent, eh? It’s all gone now!!)

Then I got home and realised that I’ve been bringing in produce etc at a rate that JJ we just can’t seem to come up with.

What to do with all of the leftover stuff? Why, get my cauldron going, of course!

And find my special preserving outfit to go with the cauldron…

And… voila!!!

This one is blueberry and apricot jam with lemon zest and lime juice.  It’s my first effort in making jam without pectin, which just means that you have to boil the fruit mixture a lot longer.  There is also a little extra ingredient in there… cherry tomatoes (I didn’t have enough of the blueberries and apricots, so had to improvise.  Not telling my chief taster, JJ, about the tomatoes though!!!)

And here’s another experiment:

This one is mixed bell pepper jelly with rice vinegar and rosemary.  The experimental component: midway through I realised I didn’t have enough sugar.  So, I’m not sure it will set.  But what the hey…

I also had a heap of fresh herbs, so decided to make some Sassy Scarborough Fair oil.

Parsley, garlic, rosemary and thyme… with some lemon zest added.  The garlic and the lemon are the “sassy” components.  I don’t like sage.

So, please do wish me luck – and don’t tell JJ about the tomatoes, eh?

Happy Monday!  Today is a holiday for us up here – yippee, yahoo, etc!!!  No big plans although there will surely be some patio or other calling our names out later this afternoon.

generosity and the grammar of beer

The two topics addressed in my subject line today, by the way, are meant to be read separately. I just thought it was too anal-retentive-lawyer-lingo-like of me to put (a); (b) in the subject line.

WARNING/AVERTISSEMENT/ACHTUNG! Today’s post is excessively verbose, even by my wordy standards. Don’t say I didnae warn ye.

Today was my last official day at my legal research workplace. I would have been a bit sad to leave but they’re finding they can’t get rid of me that easily – I’m going in tomorrow to excavate clean out my office. I’m only moving one floor up in the same building (we Legal Aid types can be fairly incestuous) and the person who will be using my office won’t be starting until mid-August, so had no real incentive to put the full push on for today. Also, I have to go back next week Tuesday for my official going away pizza lunch.

So, I was well surprised to get this lovely gift today:

This lovely bunch of sunflowers was presented to me by the reception/support staff J. and L. I hadn’t expected this at all and was almost moved to tears quite chuffed – particularly when they told me they had picked sunflowers because it was something different and I’m a weirdo they thought I would prefer that. I believe they will miss me because I was by far the noisiest person in an otherwise very quiet office sent them lots of Email jokes, bitched at them about consulted them on important issues, and brought in snack food.

J. runs the office lottery pool, and has also kindly granted me a dispensation to keep playing with the research office team (only after I whined at length that if they won next week when I’d kicked in my $2 a week for the past year and a half, I would sue).

Anyway, please accept my thanks, J. and L. (as I was too verklempt frazzled to tell you properly yesterday). And I thank you for providing a very friendly presence in the office (it’s so nice to come into work and have friendly people say “hey and how are you”) – and, more importantly, for providing that invisible and seamless support and help that is really so invaluable but which is probably not always recognised just because you’re so good at your jobs. You’ve made my work life a lot easier during my time at the research office, and I thank you for that.

Sniff. Sob.

Where was I?

Oh yes, generosity. This very hectic week was also greatly improved when I received a swap package from Clarabelle. Unfortunately, because J. and L. have not committed to running my life in addition to making my work life smoother, I can’t show you my own photos right now. However, she sent me a 1200 yd merino laceweight skein of yarn from the Natural Dye Studio and the colourway looks something like this:

She also enclosed these brilliant UK sweeties:

.. and the UK version of Skittles (one of my favourites – and she didn’t even know that!):

Clarabelle has also mentioned that my recent obsession about preserving food has inspired her to make some jam. Huzzah! So, now I’m mulling over whether I can make jam out of these stems I had to cut off from the sunflowers from J. and L. to make them fit into my vase:

Sunflower stem jelly, anyone? No? Hey – suspend your disbelief… and there is a long weekend coming up for me after all. This coming Monday is “Simcoe Day” – the Toronto excuse for “you need a long weekend in August”. And so we do. The fact that the holiday is called after a long-dead white settler guy shouldn’t really matter.

However, I’ve often wondered why they don’t just call these summer long weekend Mondays “Beer Day”, being in Canada and all. This trend has already started here by the way… the long weekend organised around “Victoria Day” after this person who was born on 24 May:

… has morphed into a whole weekend which many of us Canajans affectionately refer to as the “May Twofer Weekend”.

Huh?!? you people not lucky enough to be living in Canada are saying? Herein starts the grammar lesson.

Well, not quite yet. The necessity of the grammar lesson was brought home to me when, on the way home from my “last day at the research office” dinner, I told JJ that I wanted to deke into the LCBO to buy a six of beer. He started to laugh at me but I was too busy deking into the LCBO to investigate the cause of the laughter until he drove up in his chariot to carry me home with my six-pack.

He then telt me “Well, lassie, ye’re always so big on the grrrrammar, yet ye’re saying “a six of beer” and that makes no grrramatical sense”.

And (as almost always), he is right. It doesnae make any grammatical sense… unless yer Canajan, apparently. Since he has been some 18 years in Canada, it is surely not the first time that JJ has heard reference to “a six/twelve/twentyfour/2-4/twofer” of beer, and I of course reminded him of this. He said (and I quote):

Weeeeeeellllll, that still doesnae mek it right, hen.

Sigh. But of course it is right, in the Canajan context. We buy so much beer, what does it matter if we say the word “pack” after the quantity?!? Our dialect has evolved so that we can avoid this unnecessary verbiage. And, by the way, JJ well knows this – he was just being difficult.

Anyone here ever had to learn how to decline nouns in Latin/Ancient Greek/other foreign language lessons where the language distinguishes the noun ending depending upon how you’re using the noun? If you didn’t, you might as well skip this part of the rant. I, as a young lassie, had to attend Greek School where we were forced to learn this stuff by rote – but it’s not a concept that applies to the English language.

This is the updated version of the book of my nightmares when my parents forced me to go to Greek School instead of letting me attend Brownies.  Now older and wiser, I'm (somewhat) grateful... but anyway.

This is the updated version of the book of my nightmares when my parents forced me to go to Greek School instead of letting me attend Brownies. Now older and wiser, I'm (somewhat) grateful... but anyway.

So, let me try an example from Greek school. Under the direction of teachers who had been kicked out of Greece because they were too cruel to stay there and ended up coming to Kingston, Ontario with the sole purpose of whacking kids with a ruler Kirie Yiorgho, Kirie Pavlo and Kirie Kosta (“Kirie” meaning “Master”), we’d have to recite this sort of thing over and over (and over) again, using the ever popular noun naftees (sailor):

SINGULAR NOMINATIVE: o naftees (“the sailor went out into the boat and sailed it”)

SINGULAR GERUNDIVE: tou naftees (“the boat belonging to the sailor got stolen”)

SINGULAR DATIVE: tou naftee (“I’m giving the boat to the sailor“)

SINGULAR ACCUSATIVE/VOCATIVE: NAFTEE! (Hey, sailor!)

PLURAL NOMINATIVE: ee naftess (“the sailors went out into the boat and sailed it”)

PLURAL GERUNDIVE: tou nafton (“the boat belonging to the sailors got stolen”)

PLURAL DATIVE: tou naftes (“I’m giving the boat to the sailors“)

PLURAL ACCUSATIVE/VOCATIVE: NAFTES! (Hey, sailors!)

(I’m still trying to figure out, by the way, why in a Greek school in Kingston, Ontario we had to keep going on about sailors and the other Greek textbook favourite, the soldier [stratiotis]. I’m also trying to figure out why I decided to blog about this because now it’s all ringing in my head. Oh, and by the way, it’s even more complicated in Ancient Greek – as every idiot Greek Canadian like me who managed to get into a university where they offered Ancient Greek and signed up in the first year thinking “Bird course!”… WRONG. But that is perhaps another topic for another blog post… then again, maybe NOT).

Anyway, if you’re still with me, here is my rendition of the noun declension for “beer” in Modern Canajan:

SIX PACK: a six of beer

12 PACK: a 12 of beer (NEVER “a dozen beer”)

CASE OF 24 BEER: a 2-4; a twenty-four; a twofer ** please note the omission of “of beer”

There are also strange variations on the theme as one local beer company insists on packing its beer in nine and eighteen bottle packs, just to be perverse different. I’m not sure of the grammatical implications of that, but I’ll keep you posted.

Oh, and please note: in Canajan, the plural of “beer” is … “beer”. NOT “beers”. If ever you are in Canada and you say “I had too many beers last night”, you will be instantly identified as Murcan. It’s easier if you’re from the UK because then Canajans can talk the common language of “pints”. The ordinary English grammar rules apply to the term “pint”, as far as I’m aware.

Oh, did I ever happen to mention that my undergraduate degree is in linguistics? Probably I had managed to avoid that admission, as that should be enough to drive even my very staunchest readers away. Sigh. Too late now!

Anyway, on that note, happy weekend to all… and I hope you enjoy it with whatever beverage you choose, but preferably beer (plural).

Cheers!

Kristina

when do I get my programme on the Food Network, anyway?!?

Now, I’m the first to admit that I can become rather obsessive about hobbies – none more than food prep right now, apparently.

This was my haul from my raid on the local library the other day. Sigh. My knitting has been suffering from this latest revival of Kristina Does Food… and More Food… and Still More Food.

The obsession leads me to do very odd things – like boiling vats of stuff for four five hours in 30C weather:

This was a cauldron of beef stock I made on Sunday after our little $230.00 foray to Fiesta Farms, my new favourite supermarket too (and, I hasten to say, JJs – he was personally responsible for about $150.00 of the acquisitions). They cater to Europeans like me, which means (among other things) that at any given time there are lots of humungous and dirt cheap cuts of meat intended for soups and stews, like the Tyrannosaurus Rex beef knuckle shown above at the top centre of the pot. Two beef knuckles cost $2.25 – and now I have four litres of stock, 14 consomme ice cubes and at least three cups of shredded meat for soup.

Mmmmm.

Now, while at Fiesta Farms I promised myself I would not buy anything to preserve this week as it was too hot. And – I didn’t! However, when excavating the fridge to find room for the new purchases, I found an embarrassment of berries which were past their prime.

So, what was a frugal food obsessive to do?

Why, make jam, of course!!! I call this KBs Secret Cherberry Jam. The “secret” bit is that little white blob, which is cheesecloth containing fresh rosemary and pink peppercorns. Yes, rosemary and peppercorns.

The household jury of one (JJ, of course – because you know what? I don’t even EAT jam!!) has rendered his verdict – two thumbs up. He didnae know about the rosemary – when I told him after he tried it, he said “That’s just weirrrrrrd, lassie”. I note, however, that this did not stop him from polishing off the better part of a 250 ml jar yesterday, though).

I was actually thinking of adding some of this instead of the rosemary:

Now, that would have been really weirrrrd, I decided. Also, I’m giving some away for gifts and I’ve found that rose water is something that people either love or detest. I’m sure some of this will find its way into some jar at some point, though – stay tuned!

Anyway, the recipe (my adaptation of a blueberry jam recipe in the Bernardin Guide to Home Preserving):

Put four cups of crushed berries (I used strawberries, blueberries and cherries – and yes, I know cherries aren’t berries – I’m trying for pithiness for once, OK?!) in a saucepan. Add one 57 g packet of fruit pectin, three tablespoons of lime juice, two large sprigs fresh rosemary and 20 pink peppercorns, and one half vanilla bean. Bring to a boil over high heat. Mix in three cups of sugar and bring back to a rolling (i.e. big raging) boil and let boil one minute. Pour into sterilized and heated 250 ml (one cup) preserving jars. You can either keep this in the fridge for up to one month or process by boiling for 10 minutes. Yields six jars.

But hark! Is that something else in a jar that you spy in the back row at the left? Why, yes. Having ranted on last week about crazy hot foods, I decided to try to make my very own hot sauce.

Basically, I boiled about one litre of leftover white wine I had let go to vinegar (my frugality knows no bounds. How do you think I pay for all that yarn?!), about an inch worth of rice vinegar I’d had sitting around for some time, and a cup of white vinegar for about 5 minutes or untit it reduced back to a litre (four cups, approximately). I kept it hot and put the following things into a heated 1 litre mason jar:

  • seven fresh long red hot chili peppers (I imagine you could use any type of pepper, really). The peppers that were too long to fit in the jar, I cut in half and then split both halves down the middle to release the seeds.
  • four cloves of garlic, cut into slices
  • four sprigs of fresh thyme
  • four green onions, cut to fit into the jar (just the bulbs and some of the green part)

I’m going to let this sit for three weeks or until it all turns red, whichever comes first. We’ll see what happens. But it looks purdy, though – doesn’t it?

Any day now, I reckon I’ll get a call from the Food Network offering me my own segment on how to recycle food. I promise I won’t forget my friends, though. Really.

Happy Wednesday!

preserving my (in)sanity

Well, an update in the weather that I know you’ve all been waiting with virtually bated breath to hear…

(By the way, what is “bated breath”, exactly?  I think I smelled some on the tram today… does “bated breath” mean that something crawled into your windpipe and died and is now being exhaled as you snort and cough all over the pole that I’m hanging on to?!?)

Yesterday was so hot that the charcoal in our new easy light charcoal BBQ (prohibited, by the way, by virtue of my tenancy agreement.  Oh well.) ignited by itself!!!!

JJ: Stop exaggeratin’, lassie!!! Don’t ye think these blog readers already know yer a wee bampot?!?

Yeah, ok, ok… I lied to you.  Actually, those are the remains of the big souvlaki feast we enjoyed last evening…courtesy of Loblaws who had a big sale on these premade things when I popped in Wednesday evening (not as guid as mom and dad’s, but for $1 a stick and no work on my part, they did just fine):

What they did not have at $#&*($&*@#($#@* Loblaws, however – and what I had popped in especially to get – was any local produce.

And herein starteth the rant.  American friends, believe me, I have nothing against your fair country – nor against Peru, nor against South Africa.  However, one might just expect that in Ontario in mid-July one could go to the grocery store and buy… let’s say, local strawberries.  But no.  The closest to “local” I could find there was New Jersey (for those as geographically challenged as I, some 500 clicks/335 miles from here at closest.  This means at least five hours bumping around in some truck just to get here to Toronto, never mind to my local Loblaws from wherever they keep their secret huge warehouse!!!).

Sheesh!!

So, I had to limit my purchases to souvlaki, smoked sausage, four litres of vinegar and sugar.  And no, this is not the fixins for some esoteric greco/scottish summer stew.  Rather, I needed the vinegar for… you guessed it!… more preserves.  And then I hit Bari fruit market for some decent local stuff.

Wednesday’s obsession product was infused vinegars.  From the left: strawberry and vanilla bean, blueberry and lime, ginger and chilli, and Europe’s Best Zen Garden frozen veg mix (I boiled too much vinegar and sugar.  What can I say?)

There are also various other permutations and combinations on the above.  And, if I actually liked salad, I might have been able to tell you some day how they all worked out.  But I don’t like salad.  So, I will have to rely on JJ and other friends to let me know how these all taste – on salad, anyway.  I have been known to dip bread (which I do like, in quantity) in vinegar – yes, yes, I am a wee bampot, I know.

Why all this zeal, especially when it’s not all that prudent to keep a big pot of water boiling for three hours, making it 500 million C with the humidex in my apartment?  Well, I read this article in the Globe and Mail on Wednesday at lunch, which will give you some ideas for fancy flavoured vinegars if you’re so inclined.

I also bought two kilos of “last day special” plum tomatoes at Bari, which I also canned after boiling them in some V-8 juice.

Then, just when I thought I’d had enough, JJ made the mistake of mentioning that he was glad I’d brought in more strawberries, because the ones we’d bought at the weekend had gone somewhat dry…

So, six more 500ml jars of vinegar – three strawberry/mint (at left) and three balsamic/strawberry (at right).

What’s that you say, JJ?  I should learn to like salad, should I?

But why, when there are chips to eat and bread to dip in oil and vinegar??? Huh? Huh?

Oh, and by the way, the sour cherry jam has been a big hit so far with the man of the house:

Wishing you all a lovely Friday and a happy weekend.  Tonight we will be heading out to meet some landlord rep friends (eeek!!!) at an indian restaurant, followed by a pub crawl.

And what does the weekend hold?  I’ll be seeking out some more sour cherries, I suspect…

she likes it hot hot hot…

How do you like this glorious tropical colour?!

Fitting, given that it was so hot today that the thermometer on our balcony cracked!

(This is what you get for buying delicate instruments at the Dollar Store, I guess.)

However, JJ has been busily tending his newly laid balcony garden, and the results are starting to show well:

Don’t ask me what these are. I can tell you, though, that these are little baby marigolds…

… and that this is what they look like when they grow up.

The purple ones in the front are pretty too, no?

I particularly like this one:

Come to think of it, the only plant that is not looking so… ahem, hot… is the one that is in my charge:

It’s a cactus. My colleague L kindly gave me a cutting of it and told me it was impossible to kill. However, she didn’t know that she was consigning a piece of her plant to Kristina the Ripper. The door above the entry to my apartment should read “Abandon hope all ye greenery who enter here”, really.

Also, that lazy@$$ Mr. J “Ah’m rrrretired nou and ah don’t need tae do much of anythin’!” J has completely forgotten to plant my herbs which I put into his capable hands…

So, apparently it’s a very very guid thing that I decided, despite the fact that it was 5 million degrees C/7 million degrees F (10 million degrees C with the humidex), to stop at the shops on the way home and get some more stuff to preserve – otherwise we’d starve this winter, no doubt.

Stay tuned. Knitting progress photos, alas, will have to wait until next week. Despite the fact that I steamed up the apartment all last evening with boiling vats full of jars, I’ve decided that it is simply too hot to knit

Did I ever mention that I detest eggs, by the way?!?

A very, very happy, healthy and humidex-free Thursday to you all!