Thursday, December 29, 2011

Coldrooms and Curing Cellars

My cellar is now empty.
The chorizo didn't -quite- dry to the centre. It was just that little bit moist... but it was 95% perfect! not bad for a first try. Could've been better had I been able to fix my humidity issue.

Damn humidity.

The sausages I'm keeping whole, but freezing. Then I can take them out to use on pizza, in pasta, etc once thawed. They're quite tasty :)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

duck breast prosciutto

ok, first of all, i suck. i suck at getting photos up.
it's just so much easier to type than to piss around getting the photos embedded AND where i want them.

secondly, i still suck.
the humidity in my curing cellar is the bane of my existence.
i even put a humidifier in there.

The duck breast prosciutto (one in white pepper, one in gingerbread spices) is now out.
i sliced it up.... and... i didn't know what to think of it.
the non-fat side was too dry (humidity=too low) and it was still fairly moist in the centre. Was that because the fat kept it moist? was it not in the salt long enough? (i wasn't the one to take it out) did it not dry through to the centre because the humidity was so low that the outside dried too much before the centre had a chance too?
maybe i just couldn't slice it thin enough to get what i think is the correct texture of prosciutto?

So many questions. No answers.

What do I do now? They were supposed to be for my Yule Dinner on Saturday, but I decided they weren't ready.

Well, I sliced up both of them. Put the slices in separate baggies. Labelled baggies. Put baggies in freezer. And I'll think on it for a bit.
We're not big prosciutto eaters in my house to begin with (nor are any of the homes that we'll be visiting over Christmas weekend) so I'll save my slices to throw into a pasta dish of some sort. They'll get heated through (that'll put my hubby at ease) and wont go to waste.


Now, the Chorizo!!
Oh the wonderful chorizo!

The only reason I think they're working is because I've been spraying them down 3-4x a day so the outside stays moist enough to allow the centre to dry.
I cut one up the other day. Wasn't quite ready, but it was so close I could taste it!
And taste it I did!

Because it really wasn't quite done (less than a week and it will be!) I fried up the slices and had chorizo "chips"
It has a really nice heat too it. It was a cold smoked one that I tried, but because I had nothing it compare it to and i fried it, I couldn't pick up a smoky taste.
Maybe it wasn't in the smoke long enough?

There will be better tasting notes on the Chorizo before New Years.

In other news, I finally got my beef in to make peperone! I'm gonna switch out my wooden shelves for stainless steel though.
I think the wood is absorbing too much of the humidity that's going in. Thus, once I get replacements, they will be removed from the cellar!
And, once the humidity issue is solved, I'm going to try and get a couple aging cheeses made to put up :)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Curing Update!

No, I still haven't gotten my pics up yet... but I'm hoping to be able to get them up later tonight. Because I refuse to be beaten by a computer (even though I'm sure it's gotten the best of me many times already).

The Chorizo hanging in my cellar! (yes, I'll have a pic of them here too)

They're doing wonderful, as far as I can tell. The temp has been stable. Never got over 16C and hasn't gone below 14C. That's perfect as far as I'm concerned.
They're feeling stiffer everyday. And I've been misting them with water 3-4x a day to keep the casing moist enough to allow the centre to cure properly. My link that I molded DOES have mold on it still. However, it's all on the bottom tip of each sausage in the link. *shrug* Can't win them all I guess...

Humidity is still a problem. Everyone else I know who cures uses a large bucket of salty water with a cloth wicking water out onto the floor to up humidity. I have 2 5gallon buckets of salty water with wicks! in my cellar. The highest it's gotten is 35%. It's sitting at around 30% now...

Why? My room isn't large by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, most would call it tiny.
Could it be the shelving? Is the untreated (no chemicals for my cheese and sausages!) wood absorbing too much of the moisture? Is that a problem now, but an asset later (When it finally absorbs so much water that it's helping keep the humidity stable)?


I'm gonna be putting my parents old cool-air humidifier in there later this week. I forgot to grab it when I was out there this weekend. Made about a 1000 chocolate truffles with my sisters. Only ate maybe 6 throughout the day and that was way more than enough for me :P
They're delicious, truly, but one can only be around chocolate for so long.
Good thing they're for presents and not for me!

Also in the cellar right now is Duck Breast Proscuitto (recipe from "Charcuterie"). It cured in kosher salt for 24hrs in the fridge then was rinsed, dried, spiced, wrapped in cheese cloth and hung downstairs. Some people hang in the fridge, but I have a cellar and I better use it! lol
It should be ready by Saturday, that's when I checking it.
I'll get pics posted of it when I slice it. Then everyone can see how it turned out (good, bad, or ugly).
There's two breasts, one done in white pepper and another done in a blend of gingerbread spices (my own blend). Because there's nothing quite like the smell and taste of baking spices, especially around Christmas!

In the new year when I have the sausages and proscuitto out of the cellar I'm taking out the shelves that we built and reducing the width by 6inches. That's right, my cellar is sooooo small that 2' wide shelves are too big!
And then once that is fixed and the humidity is FINALLY up to where it should be... it'll be time for aging CHEESE! :D

Monday, December 5, 2011

Curing Cellar

Well, I have pics of the finished Jagerwurst, fresh Kielbasa and the Spanish Chorizo (for dry curing).... they're on my other computer. The computer that keeps crashing the website when I try to upload them for a blog post.

** I hate computers! ** specifically, really old ones. (really old in the computer world is 5+yrs)

Anyways, instead of arguing with it again (will try again tonight) I figure I'd do a post on my epic failures... yes, already.

My cellar is a degree too warm. A whole frick'n degree. That is easily fixed with getting an outdoor vent installed to let in some cold air and another to let out warm. Of course, when the temp finally gets to -20C for winter that one degree shouldn't be a problem. Should do it anyways.

The bottom of my wall isn't sealed properly. I had a water mister bottle thing crash and bust open today and all the water ran under the wall to the laundry room. That means I have cold air leaking out of there.

I can't get my humidity up. (hehe, can't get it up. oh dear...) There's a bucket of salty water dripping onto the floor (idea stolen from Kevin Kossowan) and I've been misting the untreated wood shelves and the sausages with plain old water.
I was hoping to have cheese in there by now. That would have put a couple more tubs of water in there to get the humidity up as well.

I'll try a get a couple of problems fixed then I guess I'll go from there.

Such is the way things go. Can't get everything right the first time. What would be the fun of that?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

First Step into Sausage Making!

Today I picked up my order of pork shoulder from Acme Meat Market and dove head first into the world of sausage making!

Needless to say (if you've been following, even causally, my blog) that I obviously put a lot of time, effort and $ into being prepared for this. Getting the correct curing salts, doing research on the equipment I'd need, how to tell if something has gone wrong, sourcing suppliers, etc.

For my first round of sausage making I did a Jagerwurst (Hunter's Sausage).

It's very similar to a ham or garlic sausage that you'd find in the grocery store. It has curing salt #1 in it and is hot smoked, which fully cooks it. There is no drying/curing time in the cellar for this one, which is why I chose it (greater chance of success! lol)
The spices are (in the order I remember them in): coriander seed, mustard seed, ginger, nutmeg, garlic, blackpepper

It didn't get smoked today. That'll be for tomorrow when I have the Chorizo to go. The chorizo gets a cold smoke then goes in the curing cellar.
Also being made tomorrow is a fresh sausage (no smoking, no curing), kielbasa (Rulhman's recipe from "Charcuterie").

Then, when I get around to it, an all-beef peperone (pepperoni) in natural sheep casing. It's a non-smoked dry-cured sausage that'll be perfect for my friend Sean! He's allergic to pork and is gluten-intolerant. Since I can control everything and it's a smaller size which means it'll be more likely to succeed (dry-curing time is only 6 to 10days for sheep casing) it'll be a marvelous treat when it's done!

Here's some pics of what happened this evening...

Pork Shoulder from Acme

Beautiful! isn't it? :)
(sorry, no pics of all the spices. I'll remember to do that tomorrow for Chorizo)

Step one in the grinding process. Coarse grind. Then, half of that was put back through on a fine grind. Mix them all up and it's ready to stuff!

Natural hog casing, soaking in water.

Finished product! Ready to be looped into rings and hot smoked over some applewood tomorrow.

I'll post tomorrow on the status of the hot smoking as well as the other sausages.

And I'll even try to remember to take more pictures :)

Friday, November 4, 2011

DIY, is it worth it?

I recently came across this article written by an urban homesteader in San Francisco Bay area.

It brings up some valid points... buying organic produce to make your own jams and pickles or organic pasture meats to make your own bacon can be WAY more expensive than buying organic products in a supermarket, or even a farmer's market.

Doing those types of home preservation isn't about saving money (though sometimes it is), it is about supporting local producers and knowing about your food. Does that mean you always have to make your own products? Of course not! Buy from your local bakery that uses local grown and milled grain products. Buy meats and eggs and dairy from the farmer's market, direct from the farmer, and use those in your home.
That'll support your local economy and farmers more than you realize.

However, when it comes to homesteading, it's about growing $2000 worth of produce from $30 worth of seed and learning how to store it over the winter so you don't have to go buy from the supermarket.
It's about, if you have the space, to have a hobby farm with chickens or a goat or two, maybe even a dairy cow or a couple pigs, and tending to them for eggs and meat and milk.
But it takes commitment.
Getting your money's worth out of your animals doesn't happen in a year. Not even in 2 years. Try 8 or ten.
That's when all your investment in supplies and materials and animals begins to pay off.

It's a lifestyle.

An urban homesteader has to realize that it's a lot of hard work to raise chickens for eggs and meat (pens, shelter, feed, TIME), and that chickens generally DON'T lay eggs in winter. Supermarkets have eggs all year 'round because they have UV lights making the chickens lay eggs all year 'round and that's why those chickens get burned out and end up being "tossed" when they can't keep up with production.
To have a couple goats just for milk?! In the city? Yeah, you're a little crazy. You have to tend to them (clip hooves, milk them, clean up after them), give them shelter from the elements ($ and space) and then feed them ($ and time finding and storing enough feed, especially over the winter).

Why go through all that when you have a full time job to go to, a social life and friends to keep up with, television shows to watch, twitter conversations to follow?!?!?

It's crazy, right?

If you think of it as a hobby or "something fun to try". It's a lifestyle choice. It takes time. It takes an investment of time and money.
It seems really expense to go through all that just for something you can buy in the store.

Then don't do it. Find some trusted farmer's at a market and buy their products. It's why they're there.

What homesteading and preserving is about is self-sufficiency. Knowing where your food is from. Feeding your family with healthy, non-gmo, products that you know what all the ingredients are and can pronounce them all!

In North America we are spoiled with the amount of food we have available to us. We waste it. We destroy it. We mutate it. We change it into things that our great grandmothers wouldn't even consider food and then consume it as our main source of energy.
And we're dieing of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. We pump our food-animals full of antibiotics and drugs to keep them healthy when they're not. We then consume them and then we become unhealthy ourselves.
We moved from natural fats like lard, suet, butter and olive oil to commercial fats like margarine, canola oil (though you can now get cold pressed), and "butter". I say "butter" because the store bought butter has trans-fats in it without any indication of a additive in the ingredients label. Trans-fat is a MAN MADE fat. Butter is a natural product. Trans-fats are not found in nature. You see where I'm going...

Anyways, read the article. Decide for yourself whether or not learning those skills are something you want to commit to. Or, if you want to support your local farmer's and buy their products instead of giving your money to industrial farms.

Also, go visiting Kevin Kossowan. He posted something that plays into this debate quite nicely... It's about eating seasonally and how things taste better when you don't eat them everyday...

Friday, October 28, 2011

New Blogs

I'm always on the hunt for more charcuterie and locavore blogs. Here's some more that I happened upon...

Salt Sense, Rulhman

Enjoy exploring! Start your own food adventures :)

here's some links for myself on curing techniques i want to try...
Fiocco, Sausage debauchery Blog
Fiocco, Cured Meats Blog
South African Biltong, made without the use of curing salts, just rock salt!

Any meats you're itching to try to make at home?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Farmer's Market

We finally made it down to the Alberta Ave Market (93st and 118ave) earlier this evening. Visited with Amy (OFRE and fruit mob fame) and checked out this small, but diverse, market hidden away in downtown Edmonton.
And I realized I'm a bad market shopper. All these great local vendors with fresh veggies, breads made with grain, homemade pastas and cookies and art... And I hate buying things that I can make myself.

It's true.

I go to markets to buy the base of my baking and cooking (flour, grains, meats, etc), not the finished products.
But I want to support the other local vendors as well. So, I spread the word to my friends to go buy from these great and incredible people instead :)

And thus, I shall continue to go the markets, buy a few things here and there, and continue to make my own foods using ingredients from my favourite farmers and gardeners and my mother's garden that she works so hard on all summer...

To eating local and preparing your own food!

Thursday, October 13, 2011


just a bit of info from a favourite of mine, Hank Shaw.
all in preparation of my upcoming sausage making adventure!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cheese and Charcuterie

Today I finally ordered my cheese making supplies and sausage making goodies :)
I used these two websites...

Why order online? Because I hadn't the faintest idea where to purchase any of those supplies here in Edmonton. A little research on other blogs (buttonsoup and kevinkossowan) suggested that the place they were getting some of their supplies from either moved or went out of business.

I'm happy with what I picked up and excited to finally get my butt organized enough to do this!
When my packages come in I'll give a much better listing of what I purchased. Until then, wait in suspense! ;)

Now, to clean up the basement and get my cellar up... October is a busy month... but i think if we plan it right and start picking up supplies now, we should be in good form to build at the beginning of November.

Better late than never? I think so... :)

Now, to find a dairy farmer that can sell milk... pasturized is fine with me, i know they probably can't legally sell raw milk. (Trade, maybe :) )

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rendering Lard

We picked up our hogs from Country Quality Meats today. I got Ingrid and Nestor (the owners) to grind the fat and set it aside for me so I could try rendering my own lard.
Kevin Kossowan (blog link right -->) has a couple of posts on his adventures of rendering lard, and it looked beautiful!
I have 5 bags, some bigger than others, and did one of the larger ones tonight. I melted it down on the stovetop and then poured it through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth.
I let it settle then poured it into a 9x13 pan, being careful not to pour the dark bits at the bottom into the pan.
It's currently cooling, hopefully it will be nice and white, though there is the chance I over heated it and it may be a bit brown... time will tell.

I am taking pictures along the way, though I am terrible at getting them posted.
(i still have chicken butchering pics to post as well as pics of all the preserves I made with my mom a couple wknds ago)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Farm Meats, Charcuterie, Cold Storage, Hunting

I placed an order for pig this wk, just in time for the fall rush to get GOOD QUALITY meat in the freezer.
We ordered from Country Quality Meats, a shop just by Bon Accord that my farmer, Nelson of Rose Ridge Land and Cattle, does all his beef through (the BEST all beef pepperoni! I slice it real thin and put it on top of pizza to crisp up. YUM!)
The service there is great and since I've already tasted their work through Nelson's products I know what I'm getting.

The bags and bags and BAGS of rescued apples that currently fill my freezer are being turned into applesauce this wknd. With the crabs being used for crabapple jelly and rose hip jelly (still need apple to set the jelly, naturally anyways)

Meaning, rm in my freezer! Unfortuately, it won't last long. I still have farm chickens that we butchered this summer in my mom's freezer and my sister is taking the cow to butcher this wknd, meaning Octoberish I'll need to make more rm. Plus, my 2/3 of a hog.

Eep! I need another freezer...

Anyways, I'm currently devouring "Charcuterie" by Ruhlman and Polcyn (got my order from Chapters in the mail today!). I really really REALLY want to make homemade kielbasa for a family holiday this yr!
Maybe if I really get my act together I can do some for Thanksgiving... But a more realistic goal would be Christmas.
Especially since my mother's coldrm should be reaching a good temp now... I want to try my hand at aged cheese. I have succeeded in doing fresh cheese, but to be able to serve my own cheddar with homemade sausage and preserves and home-dried local fruits... wouldn't that just be amazing?
Well, I think so!

And it's decided that we're going to rearrange our rental townhouse basement --
(yes, they really don't care what we do to the place as long as it's in one piece and adds to the "value" of the house. they've stopped putting money into them because in 10-15-20yrs they'll be torn down to make way for an LRT line)
-- so Zac's tools and workbench will be where my photography studio (portable studio) is and then we're going to put in a modest coldrm with an even more modest "curing closet" on the side.
I need just enough space to hold potatoes, jars of preserves, etc in the coldroom. And then a closet big enough to hang a rack of charcuterie and a shelf for cheeses. With room for a coldair humidifier, temp and humidty gauges, cuz i'm a big novice and super nervous about messing something up O_o *eep!*

I'm so excited for everything it's hard to keep it all in! :D

I renewed my WIN card today too. Online. It was sweet!
I've been nagging my man (that would be the elusive Zac) to get his firearms licesense and go out with the guys or my sister hunting, and he took the firearms course, and then didn't do his paperwork. That was 2 summers ago.
So, I made the decision that I would start hunting. I'm already willing to clean and butcher it all myself (even though the biggest thing I've ever cleaned and butchered is a chicken), why not hunt it myself too?
Alberta Hunter Education offers a course online (you'd have to take the test in person... somewhere. probably a library. that's where I'll have to take my FoodSafety Course final, when I'm finished the online modules that is), so I would probably do that and then phone up one of the 1/2dz firearms instructors in my hometown area and do that one day/wknd.

So, next fall. I'm hoping to be ready for next fall. *fingers crossed*

Thursday, September 15, 2011

when preserving...

this is a very important site...
check it!

CSA Salmon

I joined twitter a short while ago. I was holding out on joining, thinking, "I'm on facebook, that's good enough."
well, it wasn't.

being on twitter has got me far more involved in the local food scene and in touch with likeminded edmonton foodies :)

And that's where I found this link...

I will definitely be joining next yr!

It's just one more way to support our "local" economy. supporting our OceanWise fisheries!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Apple Picking and Backyard Gardening

Today Zac, Londyn and I went out to a BEAUTIFUL acreage to pick a whack of different apples :)
We went with Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton, a wonderful non-profit organization that goes out and collects all the over following fruits from around Edmonton (with the owners permission of course) and then the bounty is shared among the owners, pickers, food bank and the organization. OFRE then makes goods to sell at the Alberta Ave Farmers Market to raise funds to pay for equipment and kitchen rentals (among other things).
Tomorrow, with the apples picked today and throughout the wk, cider will be made! :D

I took home some little red crab apples (i forget the name....) that apparently make THEE BEST! crabapple jelly. So, i will clean and cut and freeze until the weather cools off enough to can.
And I have a collection of larger apples (some from Vala and some from today that need cleaning still) and other fruits in the freezer waiting to be made into an assortment of delicious apple sauces for my little Londyn to enjoy.
She is an Applesauce Monster! :)

This afternoon I finally gave up on my little backyard garden. I picked my green tomatoes, dug up my dz tiny little potatoes (mostly purple), and fluffed up the dirt and DUMPED my entire compost bin on it! and then layered in the now done potato tops and tomato plants.
There was actually quite a good layer of wonderful black humus at the bottom that I'm sure will add lots of good stuff to my soil for next spring :)

The leaves of the trees in our yard will eventually end up on the plot as well, and then i'll cover it all with a tarp while there's still some sunshine to help cook it.

OH! but the most excited thing about my compost (besides all the slugs on the underside of the bin :P) is there was some avocado seeds that had split open and sprouted!
I saved one. I want to see how big I can get it :)

I did take a pic, but it hasn't even made it off the camera yet.

Until next time!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rosehip Jelly

Here's a link to make Rose Hip Jelly.
Now, my parents acreage always has lots of rose hips so this will be something excellent to try :)

Seeds for Next Spring!

Kevin Kossowan directed me to this marvelous place that operates out of Salt Spring Islands in BC.
A seed catalogue that has SO much to offer I couldn't possibly list them all here.

You gotta check'em out!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Day at the Acreage

Today, being the day after Londyn's FIRST BIRTHDAY!, we went out to Grannie and Papa's at the last minute to do some gardening and food-stuffs.

We picked blueberries at Kathy's farm (my mom's friend. my mom being Grannie :) ). My sister Kristy and her son and our Aunt and Baba and Gido (Grandma and Grandpa for non-ukrainian types) came too for the last haul of the season.
Kristy brought up a couple BIG bags of corn from her trip to southern alberta earlier this wknd and Grannie and I made MY FAVORITE! corn relish and then frozen the rest of the blanched kernals.
From the apples Zac's grandma gave us and the sweet yellow plums from our friend Vala we made apple-plum sauce. Canned that for my little Londyn. She LOVES! applesauce :D

Now we're going through the process of doing a pig order for the fall through Country Quality Meats (Bon Accord). My good friend Nelson of Rose Ridge Land and Cattle gets his beef done there as well as all the smokies and jerky and sausages (and now weiners too! very good on the bbq :) ). He gave them a glowing revue and the pork that goes into his mixed meat sausages comes from the farmer's they deal with. All his products are BEYOND! excellent, so there's no reason to doubt the quality of the meats :)

I'm taking him a jar of my FAVORITE! corn relish for his sound advice :)

Friday, September 2, 2011


one more thing on a list of things i need to start doing...

also known as Creme-de-Cassis

U-Pick farms beware! I'm on the hunt for fruits and berries of all sorts :)

oh, and a gouda recipe i need to save. once it starts to cool off a bit, my mom's home wil become a cheese lab :)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Is fall here yet?

Today is a cooler-than-normal day in Edmonton.
It makes me want to bake!

Today, I'm making ciabatta. I actually started it last night, made a poolish that fermented overnight. It's now mixed and risen once and it's on the counter in a slab rising again as I update.

Summer, it's great and all. Gardens grow, flowers bloom, homemade ice cream and fresh fruit and veg for everyone! kinda thing.

But I LOVE LOVE LOVE fall!!!

I could live in fall all year. Seriously. I could.
Now, I know, it's always better when you have to wait for it kinda thing, but there's something about fall that I just can't get enough of.
Some of those things don't happen without a summer, which is why i haven't invented a weather machine to bend the seasons to my will ;)

First, cool weather is sweater weather! Too cool for a shirt, too hot for a jacket, sweater weather. Cozy, plush, knitted, warm sweaters. Plus a hot cup of tea, cocoa or coffee and a fire. Nothing in the world could bother me at that point.

Second, bringing in the harvest (thus, i need summer). Digging potatoes, carrots. Getting tomatoes and beans and the last of the peas (usually seed at this point). Braiding onions and garlic to hang downstairs.
Blanching then freezing, drying and canning. All wonderful things that say, "Time to slow down and take stock, prepare and be thankful that we have wonderful food for the winter."

Third, the sights and smells. Balsam poplar. Bright orange leaves and a scent that will send anyone into a state of bliss! We have a pile of them at my parents place by the old barn and in the fall when they were all orange I would make excuses (and sometimes just go!) to go out there and walk and sit and take it all in.
The rose hips are also ready at this point to gather for tea or potpourri. All the bugs have pretty much gone away, but the bears are out.
Animals are going to the butchers and packages of meat go into the freezer. Family members go out hunting and (usually) return with prize in tow, ready to be made into jerkys and sausages and roasts and chops/steaks, etc.

Forth, I love that I get to cook differently in fall. In summer I hardly cook. It's too bloody HOT! Plates of fresh fruit and salads and things to cook on the bbq are all i try to do. Now, I admit, I am quite the charcoal bbq efficientado (smoked chicken, pizza, grilled veggies to toss in pasta with goat cheese, etc) but braised meats, roasts and stews. Hearty soups with fresh bread or homemade crackers. I like to eat them, I LOVE to cook them :)

That's one of my problems. I love to cook more than eat. But I hate wasting food, so I don't cook as much as I would like. And when I do get into a cooking/baking streak, while I try to give some away, I usually end up eating it. Thus, I'm heavier than I'd like to be lol
Doesn't help that my baby weight hasn't left me yet...

Such is life. I try not to dwell on it. It just means that I have plenty to eat and share and that's something I should be thankful for :)

(Feel free to invite yourselves over to dinner at my home one autumn evening :) )

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fall Gardening

Fall Gardening Guide from Natural Home and Garden

We work so hard in the spring to get our plots ready for seed, but what if we planned out our beds so we could be harvesting just past the frost?
Now, in Canada this isn't as realistic as in the USA, as our winters are earlier and harsher than the rest of North America.

But that doesn't mean we can't hold off till the last minute.
Some greens even taste better after having a mild frost! (I remember hearing that on an episode of Jamie at Home... which ones specifically he was talking about, I can't recall).

Between sowing in cold frames as the cold arrives for EARLY spring veggies, and timing out the planting so there's greens right up until the frost, there's no excuse for not having fresh produce all year.

Yes, all year. That's what your coldroom or cellar is for :)
And freezer. Bags of blanched peas, beans, carrots, mixed veggies and many more are a large part of my winter staple.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Update on Other Life Adventures

We've been getting The Organic Box (see links in right hand column) for 4wks as of tomorrow. I'm really quite happy with it. I get to choose what I want and add in wonderful things like cheeses and yogurt and breads.
It's perfect for meal planning because I know what's coming into the house and it helps keep my grocery bill on budget because I'm not going to a store every week (or twice a week) to pick up this that or the other thing and then leaving with 4 bags :(

We're eating better and spending less by not being sucked in by the grocery store.

I've recommended it to a couple of my friends and I hope they try it out and find that it works well for them :)

My hubby and I have made a big lifestyle change this past week. We sold our Jeep (the vehicle I drove) to my brother. That means we cut enough expenses from our monthly budget that I can stay home and raise our little girl :D

Londyn will be a year old in less than 2wks and I would've had to been back at work already. Missing out on her walking around and feeding her oatmeal and raspberries in the morning and all those wonderful things :)

It's a huge change, not being able to just pack up during the day and drive off somewhere. I have to plan appts around when Zac can be home to take us or one of my family members. Londyn and I just can't take off to visit Grannie and Papa for the weekend if Zac is working.
But that's nothing compared to being able to stay home with my baby.

As a friend of mine was fond of saying, "I need the car for work, I work to pay for the car."

If I don't work, I don't need the car. Perfect :)

Baking Adventures

I love to cook. I love to bake. I love to eat ;)

One thing that I have never managed to master is baking pies.

I can make pefect pastry, and blind bake and fill no problem.

What I can't do is bake a filled pie and have my bottom crust done and brown :(

That is, until yesterday :)

It may be cheating, but it's the only thing I found that works!

I place my filled pie plate on a preheated baking stone in my oven to bake.

It was magic!

A beautifully browned crust, top and bottom :D

I just wanted to share my success...

(Now I need to get a big slab of stone to put on my bottom oven rack and leave there all the time for pies and breads and pizza, etc :) )

Thursday, August 4, 2011

More Info on the Expo

Here's what I got off the Devonian Garden website...

Wild Mushroom Exposition
The Alberta Mycological Society presents their annual “City of Champignons” Wild Mushroom Exposition! View specimens of wild mushrooms. Bring your own fungi for identification. Scientific displays, photos, field guides, cookbooks, tastings and much more. A guided walk through the Garden will show you local varieties that are edible, poisonous or medicinal. Free with admission; nominal charge for food samples.

Schedule to come

Date and Time
Sunday, August 14, 2011 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM

If you ever wanted to learn more about mushrooms, this would be a great place to start!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

More on Mushrooms!

Now, I haven't made it out very often this year to go picking mushrooms, but I do hope to be able to make it down to the Devonian Gardens on August 14th!


Because it's their Wild Mushroom Expo that day! :D

The Strathcona Antique Mall is also having a boot sale (street sale/vendors) that day as well.

There's always lots to do in the summer months :)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Lots to update!

Once again I've fallen behind on updating my blog...

Since my last post we've butchered chickens at my Baba and Gedo's farm (I have pictures but unfortunately haven't gotten them ready yet cuz I'm working on editing wedding pics... paid work before pleasure!),
I signed up for The Organic Box, I'm very excited to receive my first one this coming Thursday!,
and I now have a couple of country Saskatoon bushes and a rhubarb root transplanted into my backyard! :D

I've also managed to keep up with what Kevin Kossowan is posting on his blog. He always has wonderful tales to share of his adventures in Edmonton's local food scene. If I was only so lucky to have all the access he does...


On that thought... I think Zachary and I have managed to fix our finances enough for my to stay home with our daughter! She'll be 1yr at the beginning of September and I would've had to go back to work a couple wks before that.
If you're curious how we're going to do that, here's the plan.
Sell our jeep to my brother (cuts $490 in payments, our insurance goes down to $125ish, and have only one tank of gas to fill)
Sell Zac's truck to his foreman for his daughter ($4500-$5000)
Buy Beth's '98 GMC extended cab 4x4 truck (costs $2500)

Yes, baby and I wouldn't have a vehicle of our own, but does that really matter??? In order for me to stay home and raise my child and tend my small garden and cook good meals that don't come out of a box and sew clothes and finish learning how to knit and the list goes on, I think I'll be just fine with a lifestyle change.

I'm all about lifestyle changes that improve a family's happiness.

Western society as a whole needs to start living within not only our financial means, but by our environmental means as well.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Farm Fresh Butter and Cream, PLEASE!

My mother and I made our way down to the Salisbury Greenhouse Farmer's Market yesterday evening to enjoy the products of Johnson Family Farm (Bonnyville).
She picked up a litre of cream for her mom (my Baba :) ) and I skipped all the way home with butter and cream in tow. They also had eggs and cottage cheese and buttermilk and a whole bunch of other goodies that I unfortunately didn't have time to go through as we had to rush back to the city so Mom could get to her meeting.

On the Johnson Family Farm business card they have listed: Pork-Meat; Cows-Meat, Cream and Cheese; Turkeys and Chickens-Eggs and Meat; Lamb-Meat.
Definitely worth going back for :)

With my butter I'm sure I'll be greedy and put it on 100mile homemade bread :)
And perhaps make some shortbread cookies. Because there's no other cookie that you can really taste the butter in quite like a shortbread :)

Now the cream... I bought it mainly just to say I found some lol It is pasteurized, which is wonderful. What to make...
Ice cream?
Custard? Pudding? Creme Brulee?
Soup? Chowder?
Make -MORE- butter and then make buttermilk biscuits? Or buttermilk pancakes?? (and then put the fresh butter on them :) )

oh dear.

I think I need more cream... :)


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pesky Squirrels

My beets are missing their tops, my peas have their leaves chewed off, the spinach is missing chunks off their leaves...

And I saw a squirrel in my yard a couple days ago.

I do believe he used my garden as his buffet line.


Not much I can do about it...

Only about half my plants are doing well, the other half are doing ok.
I don't quite get enough sunshine in my backyard, so the beans are alittle thin and the lettuce isn't growing as fast as it should.

But the potatoes are super tall! And my tomatoes have beautiful green fruits hanging from their branches :D

Waiting for sunshine...

Which we should get this weekend.


- Deb

(UPDATE! I have since learned that there are mice feasting in my little garden as well... but that's ok. they eat the weeds too :) )

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Nose-to-Tail cooking? Not on FoodNetwork...

Chef Unleashed

Chris Cosentino, a nose-to-tail chef from San Francisco, recently tried to bring something new and exciting to FoodNetwork.

It didn't stick (go figure). Which is sad because that would've been something I would watch. At the moment, my love of FoodNetwork doesn't exist and I'm looking to cancel it. The programming just isn't what I want to learn about.

Anyways. Watch the video! I found it through Kevin Kossowan's blog. Go read that too :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Simpler Times and What a Conservative SHOULD be

Let's start with the word Conservative.

Yes, I'm referring to the political party and their platform. Or, more importantly, what their platform SHOULD be.

Today a Conservative is someone who generally believes in capitalism, industry, and "fend for yourselves" attitudes. Amongst other philosophies, of course.

A Democrat is someone who thinks we should tax more and thus provide more for each other, cutting military and large corporations, etc.

Pros and Cons to both.

However, wouldn't a TRUE conservative be more like a modern Democrat?

Think about it.

How did the human civilization live 150-300yrs ago?

We supported each other with providing food, shelter, child care, education, etc. to everyone in our village/community.

We HAD less money, but we didn't NEED more money.

People lived together in a village to work the fields to provide grain for all the families. Those with cows traded cream and butter to those who didn't for eggs or wool, etc.

It didn't take two "incomes" to raise a family. There was less STUFF and more community.

Even if you look at just the past 100yrs. Just the houses. We've gone from the bungalow, a perfect little house that didn't need hours of upkeep, to 4000sqft "houses" that you either spend all your free time cleaning and repairing or spend even more $ on it maintaining it.

The Western civilization is in a financial crisis and still all we can do is spend more money on things we don't need and let the things that are irreplaceable fall to the wayside to be all but forgotten.

We truck in food from thousands of miles away, non-renewable fuel from tens of thousands of miles away, borrow $ we will never be able to pay back, spend $ on homes we never enjoy, pay people to raise our children instead of living within our means and staying home with them....

What has our culture created? What have we, people as a whole, turned into??

We listen to fast food commercials saying that their food is "wholesome and nutritious". "Spend more time with your family! Feed them deep fried chicken tonight!"

Why don't we shut off the tv and COOK with our family tonight instead?
Why don't we go to a farmer's market OR to a u-pick farm and PICK FIRST HAND wholesome and nutritious food?

Why are we "conveniencing" ourselves to death?

On that note, simpler times....

I watched an episode of M*A*S*H today, it was a Christmas one.

One of the doctors was feeling particularly blue about not being at home with his family for Christmas so the Priest wrote to the doctor's mother and asked her to send something that would cheer up her son.

She sent his old tobogging toque.

He was overcome with joy, with memories, with love.

There are a couple of things that is special about this.

First, his mother kept his old toque.

Second, his memories are of a time of free play. Not organized sports or forced piano lessons, etc. Free play. Without grown-ups. Where kids rule and dream and solve problems and create worlds within our own...

Our society and culture has created this fear that if we let our children out of our sight for even a second then someone will snatch them up and take them away forever. We dont let them walk down the block to a friends house or the park or playground or corner store for icecream, even with a friend. Not until they're 13 anyways... and by then they don't want to do that stuff. They sit around and play video games all day, playing and chatting online with their friends who only live down the street instead of getting up and going out to do something together.

AND, if they do go out then we all start worrying that they're doing drugs or having sex and getting pregnant or std's/sti's!

What have we created??

What is your favorite childhood memory? What was your favorite free-play game?

Mine? Going around mom's garden and the yard collecting "food" to make "soup" with. It was mostly still-dirty carrots, fresh peas and rainwater.

Guess I've been a foodie for quite sometime now :)


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cheesemaking and Lamb

I've been following Kevin Kossowan's blog for a short while now... He always has great articles and wonderful tales of his adventures! I've now put him as one of the HomePage Tabs on my browser so I don't forget to check it :)

His latest posting is about Tangle Ridge Ranch, a lamb ranch. It's definitely worth the read, and I'm seriously considering purchasing from them. I'll have to discuss it with my hubby first, of course. But he likes lamb, so that shouldn't be a problem :) And I'm sure I could get at least one of my sisters/aunts/etc in on it as well...

"Hello? Yes, I'd like to order 4 whole lamb please..."

:) Yes, they only sell whole lamb. Which is the way to go in my opinion. How will you ever know what you like if you only purchase/cook/eat "prime"/"choice" cuts??? That's one way to really miss out...

And now for CHEESE! :D
If I'm gonna make cheese this summer I better get on it... My basement is almost organized enough that I should have a good cool spot to keep it. Otherwise, it'll be stored in my mother's or my baba's cold room. Which I guess would be ok, but not ideal.

Again, thanks to Kevin's Blog, I'll be looking into Glengarry Cheesemaking. Their site so far is very straight forward, easy for a novice (like me!) to understand and be able to order the right ingredients and equipment with only the beginnings of research under my belt.

So, go check the sites and be adventurous with your cooking!! :D


Market Adventures!

Alberta has been seeing a lot (I mean, A LOT) of rain lately, mostly in the evenings when I'm trying to get out to the farmer's markets.
Yesterday at Baseline, downpour! I didn't even stop because I didn't see Nelson there... I'll see him tomorrow though at the Garrison Canada Day Market.

Today I finally found a vendor that sells fresh cream and butter. yes, BUTTER! Johnson Family Farms attend the Salisbury Greenhouse Market in Sherwood Park Thursdays from 4:30 till 8pm. So, Londyn and I took a trip down there, in the rain, to go get FRESH BUTTER!

And they weren't there.

Just a sign that said, "Due to care troubles Johnson Family Farms won't be here until 5:30pm."

Londyn and I were home through all the rush hour traffic by then.

Next week. Next week I shall have FRESH BUTTER! Or make fresh butter from their cream... and then I'd have buttermilk to make biscuits from! :)


The Garden is Up and Growing!

Spinach up, check.
Lettuce up, check.
Beans up, check.
Peas up, check.
Carrots up, check. (though some silly person ended up planting them all in a clump...i still dont know how that happened...)
Beets up, check.
Onions up, check.
Potatoes up, check.
Tomatoes planted and making fruit, check!

YAY! by the end of July I should be able to start getting a nice little haul out of my garden plot.

There was thunderstorms and big fat raindrops and a little bit of hail yesterday evening... my spinach has thus been pinned to the dirt and the lettuce looks a little beaten, but I see a full recovery in their future. The rest of the garden was none the worse for wear this morning.

Here's some pics of my upcoming bounty :)

Almost ready to eat!

The fat raindrops and a touch of hail flattened my spinach... but it'll recover.

Mmmmmmm... peas :)

Tops of the onions growing high to the sunshine! And some wicked tall (in need of larger hills...) potatoes in the background.

Fresh beans are one of my favorite summer treats!

My sister Kristy and our aunt attended the Summer Mushroom course last weekend. Ate puffballs and whatnot :) We'd all like to take the Fall course as well, but it wasn't on the list yet when we were registering and now it's all full up... next year maybe...

Nelson of Rose Ridge Land and Cattle is attending a Market at the Edmonton Garrison tomorrow. Londyn and I will make a stop there to sample some wares on our way out to see my parents for the long weekend. Mmmmmmm, farmer's market goodies...


Sunday, June 12, 2011

My Garden Plot

My little garden plot was finished a couple wks ago now... the frame was filled with soil and the seeds were planted.
There's potatoes, beans, peas, carrots, spinach, lettuce, beets and onions.
As well as some transplanted full grown tomato plants from the Strathcona Farmer's Market :)

The spinach is the first to come up! :D

Isn't cute?? :)

My compost bin is also completed and in use. No smell, as all good compost bins/piles should be lol
It's quite large. I'm hoping it'll last through the summer and winter no problem, breaking down and shrinking as it goes....

Now all that needs to happen is bright sunshine, but not too hot, during the day, and lovely rain all night for gardens everywhere to grow! :D

New Resources

When I first went looking for Eating Local/Eating Organic/Living Local/Living Sustainably/100mile Edmonton/etc I could hardly find anything. I knew it was out there, somewhere!, on the inter-web, but nothing time after time again showed up. For Edmonton. Canada's most northern major city.

It's much easier to find things for Canada, specifically Vancouver area and Toronto area. Of course it's easier to eat local in southern BC and southern Ontario! Their growing season is WAY longer compared to Edmonton! They get more heat and moisture, close to large bodies of water giving more variety for 100mile foods, and since they're larger than Edmonton, their environmental communities are larger and stronger than what is found here in Edmonton.

There is also something to be said for the Conservative Albertans... BC and Ontario are still largely Liberal in their views. Albertan's are seen as rednecks, behind on the times. And some are. And sometimes it's hard to get past those people when you're trying to create a better life for yourself, your family and your community.
But those people exist everywhere. Sure Alberta probably has more than the national average, but it hasn't stopped the green movement. Maybe, just a little, slowed it down compared to the rest of the country.

That being said, here's some links for Canada-wide resources.

Organic Alberta. Yes, it says Alberta, but most of the resources are for Canada. The few that are strictly Albertan are mostly about GMO canola...

Earthsave Canada. Mostly Vancouver and Southern Ontario...

Travel Alberta. Listing of farmer's markets, amongst other great Alberta attractions.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mushrooms and RoseRidge on Global!

Had the mycology course at the Devonian Gardens a couple weeks ago (yes, I'm behind on my blogging) and it was quite informative (as all courses should be).
We learned how to use our books to id mushrooms, which species are mostly likely to be edible and which ones in our area which can be easily identified by viewable physical characteristics only.

REMEMBER! Only consume a mushroom when ALL the characteristics match! very important.

One of the biggest things I learned was the "Brown Tops" that we collect out at the farm when spring is wet and hot (above 20C for more than a couple days with lots of moisture) aren't Brown Morels. They're Verpas. Which are similar to morels, in look and taste, and yes, are a tasty edible mushroom :)

Mike, our instructor, teaches a Spring Summer and Fall course every year and they ALWAYS fill up. If you're interested in forging, be sure to sign up fast! It's definitely worth it :)

In local news, Nelson Boychuck of Rose Ridge Land and Cattle (link on right hand side) was in an "Eating Local" segment on Global News Edmonton this evening.
I'm so proud of him!!! Of course, now my -not so secret- supplier of great local beef and grains and eggs, etc has been let loose on the world!
But I know he can handle it ;)

Way ta-go Nelson!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The mushrooms are here!

That's right folks! Brown tops (brown morels) haven't come to our little neck of the bush in quite some time. It takes a perfect combination of moisture (rain, melted snow) and heat (20+C) to make them come up.

Here's a pic from our first haul.

That's my nephew holding them, they look so much bigger in the hands of a 4 1/2yr old lol

In other news, there's finally a stall at the Strathcona Farmer's Market selling local organic flour. That means, I can try to make a 100mile bread!
It starts with a natural sour made from the flour and goes from there... :)
I didn't pick up any when I was there this weekend, and next sat is the mycology course, so i wont have any in my hands until June 4th.

Here's their blog if you wish to check them out... Gold Forest Grains

Thursday, May 5, 2011

New Books!

To me anyways :)

Mushrooms of Western Canada, which I need for my mycology course at the end of this month....
Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada. Yay foraging!

Both are from Lone Pine Publishing, a great company that has a wide range of everything Canadian.

So, in addition to my cheesemaking adventure this summer, I would also like to get out in the bush more and do some plant id and foraging. I'll just strap my kid to my back (or leave her with Grannie for a bit) and explore the wonders of the always beautiful Aspen Parkland and Boreal Forest... :)

Saturday, April 23, 2011


I love cheese!! And really, who doesn't? Even if you can't eat cheese (lactose and whatnot) you still love the idea of it. Admit it :)

Here are some artisanal cheese makers from right here in Alberta. Their websites will tell you where you can go to pick up their products...

Smokey Valley Goat Cheese, Smoky Lake Alberta (North of Edmonton)

The Cheesiry, Lloydminster Alberta (East of Edmonton)

Harvest Haven Health, Lethbridge Alberta (South of Calgary)

Now, while I know where I can go to get artisan cheeses with a MADE IN ALBERTA stamp on them, there's nothing quite like trying to make it yourself... which is one of my goals for this summer. My aunt is trying it as well. We'll see who has the best cheese!! :D

Here are some excellent resources if you're going to attempt cheesemaking yourself...

Danlac Canada, Airdrie Alberta (North of Calgary)

The Cheesemaker, Wisconsin

Cheesemaking Supply Company, New England

Making Cheese at Home, University of Guelph Ontario

Are you eating local yet?

Spring has finally come to Edmonton!
We had a bit of a rough start with more snow than usual over the winter and a cooler than normal spring, but most of the snow is gone and the sun is shining bright :)

I'm taking the Spring Mushroom course through the Devonian Botantical Gardens May28th with my Aunt and Sister. It is now full, so if you haven't signed up by now you're out of luck.

My family and I went out to the Strathcona Farmer's Market this morning. We walked/squeezed our way through the crowds of people (spring fever? I think so!), sampled goodies from the stalls and bought a carrot cake (the sample was REALLY good! The cake didn't disappoint.)

I've been interested in Lamb lately. One of my favorite FoodNetwork shows is Jamie at Home. He's always cooking and really enjoying it! When I look for it at the grocery stores there's hardly ever any selection and the price is always ridiculous. So, when I found a vendor at the market that does ONLY lamb, I grabbed a pamphlet and checked out their site when I got home.
Farm Fresh Lamb
I sent them a msg asking the price on a whole lamb and what age they take the lamb for slaughter.

I'll let you know what I find out.

For all you gardeners, Bedrock Environmental Services Ltd. has a wide selection of native flowers, grasses, shrubs, etc for Alberta.
Just one more way to go LOCAL!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Thoughts of Spring Run Through My Head...

Let's start with a link from Canadian Living website on...
Wild Edibles in Canada

If you're a mushroom fan, like my family :), then you better sign up with the Devonian Gardens just south of Edmonton for one (or BOTH!) of their mushroom courses.
Mike Schulz is hosting a Spring Mushrooms May 28th, and a Summer Mushrooms June 25th. Both are already starting to fill up!

We moved to a new townhouse this fall, with our baby girl Londyn. This one has enough green space that I can have a garden! yay!!
I've already started planning what I want to grow (peppers, tomatoes, herbs, strawberries, onions, garlic, beans, radishes, turnips, lettuce, potatoes, corn, squash, pumpkin, beets... ) and how to build my planters.
Not everything will go in ground planters, some I'm planning for pots. My herbs I want to do in pots on a stand that I can move inside during winter so I can have them all year round. I even have a spot picked out in the living room for it :)

If you've read any previous posts you know that we're using cloth diapers. It's so easy I don't know why more people don't use them. As long as you have a washer and dryer at your disposal (we do a small load a day) then you save SO much $$$$$!
I decided to use Mother-Ease diapers. It's a Canadian company that is owned and manufactured out of Ontario. The styles and colours are great and I haven't had any problems with them leaking. Londyn is now just over 4months old.

Nelson and Maria at Rose Ridge Land and Cattle have invited us out for coffee and a tour of the farm this spring, right when all the calves are running around and Londyn will be old enough to be excited about it. She already loves to "pet" our kitten, Miss Harley Quinn. By the time we're out at the farm she'll be 7 or 8 months old and ready to explore, in her own special way from Daddy's arms lol

And that's all for now, as I watch more snow fall upon Edmonton, adding to the pile we got last week. I hope that means lots of moisture for the fields this spring... :)