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the shortening of days

every year, the length of daylight ebbs and flows…it’s impossible not to notice. the languorously long, sun-soaked summer days eventually give way to the chilled, dreary-dark of winter. and yet, i have never noticed it quite as much as this year.  though i recollect the year i lived in rural japan {“teaching” english}, where in august it was bright past 11, and in december, it was pitch dark walking home from work at 4, never before have i noticed how i tend to embody the changes in season. perhaps, i never took the time to notice.

more than ever, i’m recognizing patterns: in the foods i crave, in the activities i want to do, in the beer i drink, and in how i notice/partake in time. in the bright months of summer, i want nothing more than to be outdoors–even if it’s just reading a book, with a thermos of unsweetened, iced green tea or mugicha by my side. i crave cold/cool things, lighter in body, simpler in profile: sushi, salads, watermelon, fresh fruits/veggies, cold pasta/chicken/tuna salads. i drink hefeweizens, pale ales, things low in abv. and above all, even with loads of sunlight, it feels like i never have enough time to accomplish everything i want to–> time slips by unnoticed.

in contrast, these shortened days we’re now facing, i’m amazed at all i get done before the sun sets, particularly on my days off. i drink heavy-bodied ales: stouts, porters, things barrel-aged, barleywines, spiced ales, pumpkin beers. i want hot, rich, savoury foods: casseroles, soups, crock pot meals, fresh-baked breads, root vegetables & gourds, things loaded with cheese/sour cream/ butter. i prefer being indoors, under loads of blankets, with my kitties on my lap- sipping hot cocoa, cider or small-earthenware pots filled with lapsang souchong or puerrh.

even with all the technology at our finger tips- instant communication, movie streaming, the “plugged in” culture- and all the modern “food” conveniences- like raspberries at the grocers in january or the conveyor-belt sushi joint by work–it’s absolutely,mindbogglingly amazing to me how my body still is in tune with its surroundings. it hasn’t lost touch with seasonality, and i endeavour to do the same

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further adventures in culinary exploits! { soup stock & moroccan lemons }

awhile back, we had an epic day of food preservation. on that glorious day, we tackled 3 projects, two of which i’ll attempt to recall below { with pictures! }. the first, and by far the looooongest was making a giant—6 quart— batch of soup stock. at any given meal time, the spousal unit and i will save any vegetable scraps, peels, stems, etc. and put them in our freezer bag for future stock exploits, usually ending up with a good old fashioned vegetable stock. but this THIS was a special batch: we were making *duck* stock! we had picked up approx. a pound of duck bones from our awesome, ethical, locally-sourced butcher and got the ball rolling by roasting them in the oven.

IMAG0282 <— there they are, all laid out on a cookie sheet. roasting the bones helps brings out the flavor and begins the softening process on the marrow inside, making the marrow easier to extract during the broth-ing { now a word } process. bone marrow stocks are super rich in flavour, and full of excellent nutrients!  after about 20 minutes, they were good to go into the giant stock pot of doom, and were joined by the aforementioned veggie scraps { onion, carrot peel, broccoli stems, asparagus “butts”, and mushroom stems }, as well as fresh chunks of carrot & parsnips, a couple of cheese rinds for creaminess, a combo of fresh and dried herbs { thyme from our mini-herb garden, rosemary from the same, bay leaf, white peppercorns, szechuan peppercorns, applewood smoked salt and fresh sage }. here is what the simmering pot looked like —–>IMAG0283 (1)

after a LITERAL two days of simmering over a supper low heat, we strained out the desecrated duck carcass and all the remaining veggies and spices, let it all cool, and portioned it into both 3 cup and 2 cup amounts. those freezer baggies are now living happily in our freezer, awaiting future use!!!

 

the second project tackled were moroccan lemons { aka salt-preserved lemons }. these are super easy to make, are shelf-stable and make an excellent condiment to chicken dishes, or can be used in salted lemonade { which is waaaaay yummier than it sounds }. at its most basic, all that is needed are lemons and salt. we opted to use{ organic } meyer lemons because they are a little bit sweeter and more flavourful . first, parboil the lemons for a minute or two to help bring out the juiciness. then, we cut them into 8 wedges and started to jam them into a pre-sterilized jar { see previous post on how easy that is/ the importance of doing so }, layering the lemons with salt and the spices of our choice. to keep a more “moroccan” profile, we used a whole cinnamon stick, cloves, coriander, a bayleaf and a few green peppercorns, making sure to really squish out the juices of the lemons. the spousal unit is looking forward to trying them thinly sliced on pizza!

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adventures in culinary exploits! { pickled asparagus }

in the past, i have dabbled in preserving my own foods. { think jams, pickles, fruit butters } there are many reasons why people “put up” food, but here are mine:

1. when i was young { under 10 } my family had a lovely backyard garden. mom had her flowers: petunias, marigolds, snapdragons, etc. but what i remember most was the pure joy of grabbing veggies so-fresh-they-still-had-dirt-on-them and shoving them into my mouth. we grew carrots, beets, green beans, tomatoes, strawberries, cucumbers, spinach…one year we even tried corn { failed experiment }. and every year, mom would pressure-can- half from the garden and half fruits from the farmer’s markets. when we moved to the suburbs, gardening went by the wayside, much to my dismay. now that i’m “grown up”, i’m inspired by what my mom used to do.

2. it’s creative/ creation. there is something immensely satisfying to  me in preparing and canning my own foods. from picking what to make, to how to best preserve it, to what spices/flavours to incorporate. past examples are things like nutmeg & clove-spiced persimmon/pear jam. or lavender earl-grey peach butter. or juniper & rice-wine pickled turnips.

3. the awesomeness of knowing that i get to eat locally brought, sustainable, seasonal fruits and veggies all year round! over the years, i have become a firm believer in eating seasonal, sustainable, locally-produced foods. this means that seasonal delights, such as asparagus { which in reality, only has about a month-long harvest in the early spring. the stuff at the grocers is being shipped from far-flung places all over the world, which i’m personally not down with. } or stone fruit, or strawberries can still be savoured well-past their “due dates” as jams, jellies, pickles, etc.

and i’m sure i have many more if i thought hard enough about it. but, let’s get to the heart of the post, today’s “putting up”: BRINE-PICKLED ASPARAGUS!!!!

IMAG0263  here we have the spousal-unit chopping the asparagus { don’t worry, i had already washed it thoroughly to get out all of the sand } we had bought at the   sunday farmer’s market. you can clearly see our very technical method of making sure the spears will fit in the jar, a.k.a. we measured one, then cut the rest to match. we are sooooooo savvy.

IMAG0264 while the chopping was a-happenin’, the pint sized mason jar and lid were on to boil. it’s super important when “putting up” food of any kind that your jars are clean and sanitized, as to prevent the possibility of bad bacteria forming { say, like botulism }. the easiest way is to completely submerge the elements in which you’ll be preserving the food into boiling water for at least 10 minutes.

IMAG0265the final product! once the jar was sterilized, the asparagus spears were packed in to the jar. the hot brine which consisted of 1/3 distilled white vinegar with the remainder of acid used { rice vinegar } for a total of 3/4 cup vinegar, 1/4  cup water, 1 1/4 tsp salt, about a 1/4 tsp green peppercorns,  1/4 tsp coriander, and 6 large burmese tea leaves, was poured over the spears, and we lidded it all.  then, to create a final seal, the packed & lidded jar goes back into boiling water for 10 more minutes to make a vacuum seal.