Then a few potted tomato plants in the backyard taught me how much heat they need to mature. Once they started to fruit, the woman next door was in awe, as not thirty feet away she had tried to grow tomatoes to no avail. We decided it was the exposed, south-facing cement wall behind my plants, storing heat during the day to pass to the tomatoes at night, that let them flourish. After harvest, I built a special room in my heart for tomatoes, the demanding plants that grow best in greenhouses … Continue reading.
We didn’t eat spicy food when I was growing up. Not at all.
I didn’t learn to appreciate spicy food until I was in my early twenties, and it was at an Italian restaurant, of all places. I patronized Mercato in Calgary throughout high school, then later I had the opportunity to work in their kitchen. They make food from all over Italy, but the owners are Calabrian, and there’s always a few pastas on the menu made by infusing olive oil with garlic and hot chili flakes. I remember the first time that I realized how effective a little heat can be. It wakes up your mouth, and it elongates the sensation of the dish, as your mouth is … Continue reading.
I come from a land of “refrigerator pickles”: cucumbers steeped in syrupy vinegar and spices, and stored in the fridge through the fall. There is another type of pickle called a lacto-fermented pickle. The idea of producing an acidic pickle with only brine was a revelation.
The procedure couldn’t be simpler. Make a brine of one cup salt in one gallon of water. Cover your chosen vegetables in the chilled brine (most vegetables want to float, so you’ll have to find a way to keep them submerged) and leave for a week at a cool room temperature. This is the only tricky part: the solution must stay below 23°C to prevent the proliferation of harmful bacteria. I don’t have … Continue reading.
Rumtopf, literally “rum pot”, is a traditional German fruit preserve. As each type of fruit comes into season, it is macerated with sugar, placed in the pot, then covered with rum. Traditional rumtopfen are earthenware pots with heavy lids, but any wide-mouthed, non-reactive vessel can be used.
I use about one part sugar to two parts fruit, by weight, for each addition.
Once the last layer of fruit is added, the mixture steeps for a few months, and is traditionally eaten around Christmas.
The mixture goes through some profound transformations during aging. It loses the striking vibrancy seen above and turns a uniform burgundy. The liquor loses its clarity and becomes murky, with an exceptionally rich mouthfeel, verging on … Continue reading.