General


What do you get when you take this:
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Throw it in the food processor, cook it up, and can it?

Use lots of chillies and leave the seeds and you end up with what I call “Hotter than Hades Salsa”!

I made this salsa during the winter, but the mid-winter tomatoes in Ontario are really awful, so the salsa ended up more heat and less flavour – spicy but bland. My husband still loved it though, so I promised him I’d make more during tomato season so he would get to experience what it should taste like.

The leftover bit that I didn’t can was eaten up quickly last night, so I think he liked the results.

Word of Warning: The reason you’re getting my husband’s interpretation of the flavour of this salsa, not mine, is that it is way too hot for me. So, if you can’t handle the heat, substitute a milder pepper for the chillies, cut back on the jalapenos, and make sure to remove all the seeds. Or marry a heat-lovin’ partner like I have! Then you can substitute hotter chillies for some of the jalapenos and leave the seeds in…

Hotter Than Hades Salsa
From The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard (they call it “Beyond Hot Salsa”)
Yield: 3 cups (750mL) – I almost quadrupled the recipe and got 14 1/2 cups.
Level: Beginner

8 plum tomatoes (about 2lbs/1kg)
1 large onion
4 large cloves garlic
4-5 jalapeno peppers, seeded
2 small hot red chile peppers, seeded (I left the seeds in!)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tsp dried oregano leaves (or 2 tbsp fresh)
1 tsp pickling salt
1 tsp granulated sugar

1. Combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, and peppers in a food processor or blender; process until smooth. Transfer to a medium stainless steel or enamel saucepan.

2. Add vinegar, oregano, salt, and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat, and boil gently, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. or until the salsa is thickened (cook longer if you double or triple the recipe).

3. Remove hot jars from canner and ladle salsa into jars to within 1/2 inch (1cm) of top rim (headspace). Process 20 minutes for half-pint (250mL) or pint (500mL) jars.

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Click for tigress can jam food blog challenge

It’s been a busy month or so. Family member in the hospital, crazy garden work, crazy husband doing a crazy sailing race, new work responsibilities with a demanding manager… I’m doing alright, but I have no time for extras. So I missed last month’s Can Jam. Unfortunately, that may mean I’m out of the round-up, but I’ll keep doing the Can Jam. I’m LOVING this project. 🙂

So, for June, I’m WAAAY late, but here’s my recipe:

Drunken Sour Cherries
Adapted from Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving
Yield: 6 half-pint (250mL) jars, plus 3 half-pints of syrup
Level: Beginner to Intermediate

1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups water
5 cups sour cherries with pits (or 7 1/2 cups pitted)

Per Jar
1 1/2 tsp Kirsch

1. Prepare canner, jars, and lids.
2. In a large stainless steel saucepan, over medium-high heat, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add cherries, stirring constantly, and return to a boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 5 minutes.
3. Using a slotted spoon, pack cherries into hot jars to within a generous 1/2 inch (1 cm) of top of jar and add the Kirsch. Ladle hot syrup into jar to cover cherries, leaving 1/2 inch (1 cm) headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot syrup. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
4. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool, and store.

I had extra syrup at the end, so I did three more jars as above, but without the cherries. Yum!

Drunken Sour Cherries

Click for tigress can jam food blog challenge

The Beach in February

The great thing about living in The Beaches (or, if you prefer, The Beach) in Toronto is the easy access to walk along the waterfront. I especially enjoy spending time there with my brother, his wife, and their two dogs.

I saw a dead fox on the side of the highway this morning.

It is rare to see a fox in the wild in this part of Ontario. It’s even more rare to see them within the city, although a friend told me today she’s seen them in High Park in Toronto.

This fox was stunning. His bright orange coat constrasted with the white fur of his chest, which was glowing in the early morning light. He stood out against the bland background of asphault and concrete on the QEW. I caught just the briefest of glimpses as I sailed past at highway speed – just long enough to know I’d identified his spieces correctly, but thankfully not long enough to see the extent of his injuries.

He has been with me all day.

I have been struggling with a decision I made. The decision to take down the trees at the back of my new yard. This decision has put two parts of me at odds with each other: first, my desire to grow vegetables in order to feed my family and second, my belief that we shouldn’t remove habitat useful to wild animals if it’s not absolutely necessary. The birds love those trees – it’s rare that I see the branches empty!

What does this have to do with the fox? You see, I hate that I drive to work. I was going to say, “That I have to drive to work”, but that would be a lie. I don’t have to drive to work. I choose to drive to work. I took transit for my first week (TTC bus-subway-subway, GO Transit train, Missisauga Transit bus) and it was nearly 2 hours each way – in perfect weather and without any of the usual GO Transit delays. So I bought a car. I made an effort to buy a car that would have a smaller impact on the environment than others, but still, it’s a car. And I drive alone 35km each way from my house to work and back again. I carpooled for a while, but there’s no one in my neighbourhood that works at my company.

And I feel. so. guilty.

Seeing that fox this morning, I had a sudden vivid visual reminder of the impact of the decision I made when I gave up my transit passes and bought my car. My car that I love so much I’ve given him a name (“Oswald”, if you must know). Although I didn’t hit him myself, I have been consumed by self-loathing all day for that choice that I made – that many other people make every day – that led to the death of that rare and beautiful creature. That choice that flies in the face of some of my strongest values. I have no guilt for buying my car – but I feel guilt for driving it every day. For putting 55 litres of diesel fuel into the air every two weeks. Even when it’s biodiesel, it’s still so wasteful.

That fox – and the guilty concience he’s become for me today – have made me think again about other decisions I’ve made. Like those trees. Those beautiful, healthy cedar trees that make up wonderful habitat for the neighbourhood birds. Those trees that I am cutting down on Saturday, to make room for my garden – my hobby.

Yes, gardening is more than a hobby. I believe strongly in gardening as a political act, an act of care for my family, possibly even a revolutionary act. But without touching those trees, I could still plant tomatoes. I could still grow my peppers. I could cover my giant deck with containers and grow food there. I do not have to take those trees down. But I want a bigger garden, so the trees are being cleared out.

This decision has been made and I’m not going to go back on it. I’ve even made myself feel better by planning a large patch of berries, which should drive those birds even more wild than the cedars do. I can take down those trees and I can live with the decision.

But I will think of that fox and the awareness that he brought that my choices have consequences. And that sometimes my choices have more to do with my convenience than my values.

I do my best to make my choices after long and careful thought.

But still, I am haunted.

Not the blog… just me!

My husband and I have bought a house in the Beaches in Toronto.  We’ll be moving in 12 days.  Which means I’ll be establishing a new garden.  Again.

My New Back Yard
This is my new backyard. Those cedar trees at the back will come out and my garden will be along the back fence, with containers at the back of the deck.

I’m very excited about the idea of establishing a garden that is finally fully MINE and that I will be able to keep for more than a season or two. This will be the first time in my gardening-without-mom experience that’s happened!

I’ve also started posting at the You Grow Girl forums again.
Just this morning I shared a list of the things I’m planning so far for the new garden. This is an excerpt of what I said:

As for what I’m planting, right now my garden plan reads as, “tomatoes go here. peppers go here. Get raspberries from Sorellina”… and that’s about it! I haven’t had a moment to go through my seeds and figure out what specific varieties to grow.
I do know a few things I can share right now though:

1. I’ll be putting in about 12-16 tomatoes, and about half of them will be pastes, with half of those being yellow paste (I’ve discovered a love of yellow pasta sauce!). My brother will also be planting about a dozen tomatoes and we’ll be sharing the harvest, so I’ll probably be starting those for him too. For sure one of the featured plants will be Sorellina’s Uncle Charlie’s tomato. It’s one of my all-time favourites.

2. For peppers, I’ll be putting in about 5 hot and 5 sweet. The 5 hot will be determined by my husband – he picks them, I grow them, he eats them (match made in heaven!). For sweet, I’m trying out the mini-sweet varieties from Seed Savers.

3. ONLY TWO ZUCCHINI. This will likely morph into 4 plants by the time I’m actually planting them, but two plants will give me more than enough for two people.

4. I’m trying cabbage and broccoli for the first time this year. Red cabbage and Romanesco broccoli.

5. I’m avoiding onions and potatoes. I just find they’re so cheap at the grocery store that I’m better off buying them there and saving the garden space for things like tomatoes that are more expensive to buy from the store.

6. Now that I’m going to be in my own house, I’ll be trying out some new things that take time to get established: strawberries (I’ve grown them before, but now I can actually establish a proper crop), blueberries, raspberries, rhubarb, horseradish.

7. Soup beans. I grew some neat varieties last year, but I didn’t have enough room to get a sizable crop. I’ll be trying again this year with Calypso, Red Cranberry, and Hutterite Soup Bean.

So that’s what I’ve got so far.
I will post garden plans, photos, planting lists, etc as I get a better idea of what the garden will look like.

There are some very definite reasons why I’m having difficulty with writing on this blog.  Call it fear of success AND failure (strange combo, I know), call it procrastination, call it laziness… I think it’s best summed up by this fantastic video post from illdoctrine:

http://www.illdoctrine.com/2007/12/beating_the_little_hater.html
(can’t get the thing to embed, so you’ve gotta deal with it like this for now.)

I have an idea for what to do with this space that may help me with this.  Because I. Have. So. Much. In. My. Head.  Gotta get it out.

Stay tuned.

I have a new post up at the Garrison Creek Park Community Garden Association webpage.

It was a lot of fun to write, so I think I’m going to try to keep this up.  I just might not be posting very frequently.

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