Preserving the Taste of Summer in Mixed Berry Jam

mixed-berries-in-a-bowl

What are your favourite flavours of summer?

My favourites are:

the taste of a ripe tomato, fresh off of the vine;
grilled corn on the cob,
peaches and nectarines on the day that they are just ripe enough to be sweet, but not too ripe,
fresh salads filled with seasonal fruits and nuts,
watermelon,
fresh lemonade,
grilled chicken,
and most of all
fresh berries

When the season starts to change I will miss those summer treats.

One way that our ancestors were able to stretch their fresh fruits was to preserve the taste into jars of jams and jellies. You can open a jar in the dead of winter and still taste the wonderful fruit like it was the day you canned it.

I have wonderful memories of homemade jams from my childhood; memories of an older aunt who loved to cook. I remember her making luscious fruit jams and spicy chili sauce every summer. She was very generous with her cooking. We had a large family for which she would whip up sensational meals because she loved feeding a crowd. I miss her.

Everyone has a childhood memory or two that is related to food. We remember those wonderful days when we taste the dishes that our mothers, grandmothers, aunts or uncles used to make.

For me, making jam is like making a jar of memories.

Mixed-Berry-Jam

Mixed Berry Jam

Makes approximately 9 -500 ml or 1 cup jars

Ingredients:

9 cups mixed berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, mulberries)
1/3 cup lemon juice
4 1/3 cups sugar, warmed
1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. pectin

Directions:

Remove stems, stalks, leaves and any blemishes from the berries. If the berries are sandy or gritty, wash then gently under cold water. Be sure to drain them well in a colander.

Place the berries and lemon juice in a large pot and gently cook for 10 minutes. Add the sugar and stir over low heat for 5 minutes, or until all sugar has dissolved.

Mixed-berries-in-a-pot

Boil for 15 minutes stirring often. Remove from heat.

Add the pectin and return to the heat. Boil rapidly for 5 minutes. Remove any scum from the surface with a spoon or ladle.

Pour immediately into clean, warm jars leaving ¾ inch headroom, and seal. Turn jars upside down for 2 minutes, then invert and let cool. Label the jars with the name of the jam and the date. Store the jars in a cool dark place for 6-12 months. Refrigerate after opening for up to 6 weeks.

mixed-berry-jam-jars-cooling

Recipe adapted from Jams and Preserves by Thunder Bay Press.

Berry, Cucumber and Quinoa Salad with White Balsamic Vinegar for a Gluten-free Life

Do you know anyone in your life that has a gluten allergy or has been diagnosed as a celiac?

I have more than a few relatives and friends who have had to change their diets due to one of these conditions. At first the idea of changing their eating habits was daunting but with a little research and the help of a few specialty stores they were able to get started. What I have noticed is the growing variety of Gluten-free and even Vegan Gluten-free products that have been showing up, even in the mainstream grocery stores.

A few weeks ago we went to a pop up market called Gluten-free Garage that was held at the Artscape Wychwood Barns in Toronto. Dozens of food suppliers, bakeries and caterers were on hand allowing visitors to taste their products and ask about ingredients. We had attended the event in the hopes of finding a bakery that could offer gluten-free, dairy free and egg free cupcakes for my granddaughter’s first birthday party. Surprisingly, there were a few excellent choices that offered tasty solutions.

http://glutenfreegarage.ca/

While wandering the fair I spent some time chatting up a few of the vendors to get a sense of what each vendor had to offer this niche market. I came across two vendors who were offering classes in gluten-free cooking. Since I am so interested in new styles of cooking I immediately gravitated to their booths for tastings.

Arvinda’s offered us a lentil curry dish that was truly remarkable. They are suppliers of Indian spices through retail and online sales. Chefs Arvinda Chauhan and her daughter Preena teach classes in home-style, healthy and traditional Indian cooking at Nella Cucina in Toronto. I see an Indian cooking class in my future.

http://www.arvindas.com

Gluten-free-garage-3

Pimenton offers cooking classes and catering for gluten-free events. Chef Jose Arato was serving up some Paella Vegetariana for those who like a little Spanish in their lives. Chef Jose was telling me that it was his birthday and he was having a great time meeting people at the market.

http://www.pimenton.ca/

Gluten-free-garage-1

Other vendors who we spoke to were suppliers of ready-made gluten-free dinners for those who were looking for quick meal options. We particularly enjoyed the gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free Gnocchi from Antipastos Kitchens.

http://www.antipastoskitchen.com/

gluten-free-garage-2

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the event even though I am not on a gluten-free diet. I found out more about these diet restrictions and what is available to accommodate those whose health is affected by them.

I have learned over the past few years to make a few gluten-free dinners that are not only tasty, but healthy options for everyone. This Berry, Cucumber and Quinoa Salad with White Balsamic Vinegar is one of my favourites from Quinoa Revolution. Like many of you, I have added Quinoa to my diet for its health benefits but also because I like how it tastes in salads and baking. This recipe has a great blend of fruit and cucumbers with the Quinoa that tastes fresh and light.

quinoa-and-cucumber-salad-v4

Berry Cucumber Salad with White Balsamic Vinegar

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

2 cups (500 ml) water

1 cup (250 ml) quinoa

¼ cup (60 ml) white balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp. (15 ml) pure maple syrup

1 tbsp. (15 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup (250 ml) fresh blueberries

1 cup (250 ml) fresh strawberries, quartered

1 cup (250 ml) diced English cucumber

½ cup (60 ml) thinly sliced red onion

¼ cup (60 ml) sliced blanched almonds

Directions:

Combine the water and the quinoa in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil;. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Transfer to a salad bowl and cool completely.

Whisk together the vinegar, maple syrup and olive oil; stir into the quinoa. Gently toss in the blueberries, strawberries, cucumber and red onion. Sprinkle with almonds just before serving.

Recipe from Quinoa Revolution by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming

 

Wheat Berry Salad with Mangos, Blueberries and Cucumber

It is amazing how quickly this year is passing. It is May already and I feel as though I am just gearing up. Maybe that is because life picks up pace so quickly in the spring.

I am participating in a 32km walk to raise money for Cancer Research this fall. I have started training by walking 5km home from work a few times a week and will push myself to improve my times and my distance as I go. I am feeling very smug that I have started to train so early this year. I want to breeze through the finish line on walk day without being in pain.

I am starting to realize that eating healthy and exercising really is the key to a better life. I always knew this to be true, but now I want to stop thinking about it and do something about it. I am committing to improving my lifestyle by making it part of my day. They say if you publicly commit to doing something you are more likely to succeed. So here it goes:

I am publicly committing to exercise at least 4 times per week and to eat healthier.

Whew, I feel better already.

A few months ago I bought a wheat berry salad at my local deli and took it home to try. I fell in love with the texture and chewy grains complimented by fruit. I immediately went searching for wheat berries at my local health food store. I created my own combination of flavours by adding the mango and blueberries and then building from there. This salad makes a wonderful side dish at dinner or a main course salad at lunch.

Wheat Berry Salad with Mangos, Blueberries and Cucumber

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

2 cups soft wheat berries
1 large mango
½ cup blueberries
1 large English cucumber
4 green onions (scallions)

Dressing:

1 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. orange juice
Juice from ½ lemon
2 tsp. honey
2 tbsp. raspberry balsamic vinegar
¼ tsp. salt
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

To prepare the wheat berries, it is best to soak them overnight in a large pot covered with water to 2 inches above the berries. Once wheat berries have soaked, rinse them and return them to the pot. Cover with water, making sure there is at least 2-3 inches of water above the wheat berries. Add a pinch of salt and boil for 50-60 minutes. The wheat berries will be plump and tender. Drain well and set aside.

While the wheat berries are boiling peel and chop the mango and cucumber to ¼ inch chunks. Finely chop the green onion.  Rinse the blueberries. Add all of these ingredients to a large bowl and set aside.

When the wheat berries have cooled, mix them in with the fresh ingredients until blended. In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients together until well blended. Add the dressing to the salad and serve.

This recipe can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.

Blueberry Crumb Squares with Icewine

The last time that I was in the Niagara region, I found a beautiful cookbook called The Ontario Table. This book was availalble at the local wine shops in the vineyards but is also available online. The book features local harvest, local produce, and stories of local growers and suppliers from across Ontario. 

The photography in this book is outstanding, making it a delight to read. It also features some wonderful recipes that I plan to try out over the summer. I plan to visit some of the featured growers to taste what they have to offer.

This recipe stood out as a modern version of the classic blueberry squares. I could not resist using the Icewine because it is my favourite sweet dessert wine. As it turns out, I was right. The Icewine was a perfect compliment to the fresh blueberries. The squares were amazing!

Blueberry Crumb Squares with Icewine 

Ingredients

1 cup (250ml) sugar
2 ½ cups (645 ml) all-purpose flour
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 ¼ cups (310ml) unsalted butter, cold
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. (5ml) baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 cups (1l) fresh blueberries
1 tbsp. (15ml) sweet white wine (I used Icewine from Ontario)
½ cup (125ml) sugar
3 tsp. (15ml) cornstarch

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees f.

Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan. In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, flour and cinnamon. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter and then the beaten egg. Divide mixture in half and add baking powder and salt to one half. Pat this half of the dough into the prepared pan.

In another bowl mix the blueberries with the sweet wine to completely coat them. Stir together the sugar and corn starch and sprinkle over the wet berries. Spoon the berry mixture evenly over the crust.  Crumble the remaining half of the dough over the berry layer.

Bake for 50 minutes or until slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares. Make about 16 squares.

Recipe from the Ontario Table by Lynn Ogryzlo, Photography by Jon Ogryzlo

Veal Chops with Red Wine and Blueberry Sauce

The Weather Network is forecasting winter storms for our region today. Since our winter has been unusually mild this year people are not too pleased that we might be getting a blast of winter after all. I think it might be nice to catch up on movies this weekend and make a nice dinner at home.

This simple veal chop recipe would be perfect for inviting a few friends over and enjoying good conversation and great food. I served mine with mashed sweet potatoes and salad but it would also go well with rice.

Veal Chops with Red Wine and Blueberry Sauce

Makes 4 servings

Veal Chops

Ingredients

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. fresh thyme
1 tbsp. coarse kosher salt
1 tbsp. ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix thyme, salt, and pepper in a small bowl or crush together in a mortar and pestle. Rub thyme mixture all over veal chops. Heat olive oil in an oven proof grill pan over medium-high heat. Add veal to grill pan and grill 3 minutes per side.

Transfer the grill pan to the oven and roast veal until cooked to your taste, about 10 minutes for medium.

Red Wine and Blueberry Sauce

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped shallots
½ cup dried porcini mushrooms
1 tsp. sugar
2 tbsp. balsamic glaze
4 cups dry red wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions

Heat oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add shallots, sauté until tender, about  8-10 minutes. Sprinkle sugar over, sauté until mixture about 2 minutes. Add wine; boil until reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Add chicken stock, balsamic glaze, thyme, peppercorns, mushrooms; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, simmer uncovered 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add blueberries and simmer another 5 minutes.

Place one veal chop on each plate and top with 2 tablespoons of sauce on each, add side dishes of your choice and serve.