Monday, August 3, 2009

Market day

You know what? All this rain that's been pouring down on the North East has been a boon to raspberry growers! I went to the market to supplement my CSA basket, and I came back with a case of raspberries! Twelve punnets for 20$, they were cheaper than the strawberries!

I don't recommend buying a whole case of rrr-berries unless you intend to make something of them or have a crowd coming over for brunch, seeing as they do not keep very well. Since they were relatively cheap, I decided to make jam -which is kind of a sacrilege, but homemade raspberry jam is quite lovely for breakfast! I even had enough left over to freeze for the winter (well, I don't know if they with last til then...)

Making jam is a great way to preserve summer flavours, and it's a pleasant way to spent an afternoon. No joke! If you make small batches, jamming and canning can be quite fun, and you'll glow with pride every time you bring out the jam jar! I highly recommend purchasing a kitchen scale if you do not already own one, as they simplify jamming.

Raspberry Jam
1 Kg (2.2 lbs) raspberries, fresh or frozen
600g (1.32lbs) sugar
1 packet of liquid or pow
der pectin

Take a large saucepan, add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan (5mm /¼" deep), add the berries.
If using powder pectin, blend into the sugar and dump in the pan.
Bring pot up to the boil, stirring the berries to crush and extract juice.
If using liquid pectin, add it now.
Once the berries are at a rumbling boil, turn down the heat to medium low and let simmer for at least 10 minutes. You can let it boil longer if you want a more concentrated "jammy" flavour, but 10 to 15 minutes is enough to set the pectin, and your jam will keep more of its "fresh berry" flavour.
If you don't like seeds in your jam, now is the time to sieve them out, but I think it's a wast
e of time, and you risk burning your self.
Pour hot jam into sterilised jars, and cap. You should get three 500ml (1 pint) or six 250ml (½pint) jars.
You can process your jars for 15min (place in a large pot, cover with warm water, bring up to the boil, and let
simmer), or you can just let them cool overnight, away from drafts and keep the jars in the fridge.

The whole process is the same for other fruits, however the amount of sugar will vary. For example, strawberry jam will require at least 800g of sugar, sometimes even a whole kilo. All that sugar really cuts down on the freshness of the berries, so I often add the zest of a lemon to give it some brightness.

It's too early for autumn strawberries, but since our territory is so big, we are still getting "locally" produced summer strawbs, though they are no longer within the "100 mile" radius. Blueberries and raspberries are plentiful and well within the backyard range for Montreal, and I am quite sure the same goes for most places across North America.

I had some berries with whipped cream today, and it was D-I-V-I-N-E!!!


The first sweet corns are in, and they are a sight for sore eyes! I love corn on the cob, and I always look forward to eating my first ears. It's still early in the season, so it's a little pricey and the kernels are a little small, but they are sweet and tender. Once again, the rain seems to have been beneficial because corn is a thirsty crop, and the season usually starts later. So all you barbecue enthusiasts start your engines!!!!

Corn has been getting a bit of a bad rap lately, but don't worry your little noggins about fresh corn on the cob: the main beef is that corn has become ubiquitous, from feeding our livestock to our cars, and turning up in every processed food in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. But corn in its wholesome, natural form is a healthy vegetable, high in fibre and a whole slew of nutrients. In Canada, none of the corn sold for eating out of hand is genetically modified (those are reserved for cattle feed and processed foods, though we will never know which until we get proper labelling laws), though I'm not sure what the situation is in the US.

So eat away! And make sure you buy it at the market!!! Corn, like asparagus and other crop I may have mentioned before, is very perishable! It will not turn mouldy overnight (like strawberries or raspberries), nor will they go limp and yucky, but it will lose all of its natural sugars, and your 'sweet' corn will disappoint. The corn sold at farmers' markets is picked that very morning, and on busy days there are often afternoon deliveries of fresh picked ears. Not so at the supermarket.

By all means, eat any leftovers, but preferably in a cornbread, chowder, or pancake, rather than in its natural attire. If you don't believe me, go ahead and buy a dozen, eat 6 as soon as you get home, and keep the other half dozen for tomorrow's lunch. You will taste a sizable difference. Leftover cooked corn can also be frozen for later use: simply cut the kernels off the cob, and freeze.

Summer garlic is here! Summer garlic is nice: these ones here are mid-season, so the bulbs have already started to split into cloves, but there is little or no skin between, and whatever there is thick and soft so it's easy to peel.

It isn't really different from storage garlic in flavour, but it is milder raw, and yet more pungent: I was engulfed in a cloud of garlicness on my way home in the metro!

Another brownie point for local garlic is that it will likely be organic. Garlic is a relatively easy crop to grow, it requires little care, and absolutely no pesticides. So even if it not certified organic, it is very likely that your local garlic will have been grown without the use of (very expensive) chemicals. And local garlic keeps better: left in a 'cool' dark place, but never in the fridge, fresh garlic will keep for a long time. Storage garlic will keep for months, but it still a little early for those.

A word on stone fruits: there were some nice Ontario peaches at the market (Californians are long gone, I think the US peaches are currently arriving from Washington), but it is clearly still early in the season as they all had green shoulders. Most likely is that all the pretty ones were kept in Ontario... The fruits were also small, and some looked a little worse for the wear: I'm not sure it was because of bad transportation, or if the excessive rain is taking a toll on the peaches. Still no sign of apricots, but the plums looked very appetising, and the vendors claimed that both the peaches and the plums were excessively juicy and sweet.

I haven't mentioned any meat or fish lately because the cornucopia of fruits and vegetables has been so overwhelming. But Pacific wild salmons are in season. The Pinks have come and gone, Sockeyes are now abundant and reasonably priced. Cohoes will be swimming later in the season.

Atlantic mackerels are still abundant, and they look beautiful! These babies would be marvelous on the bbq, with a generous sprinkling of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice.

The season for Quebec lobsters is now closed, but Nova Scotian lobsters are still to be had.

Bon app'!


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