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Canning Season

Oh dear, I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve posted yet again!  My dearth of regular posts, however, have no relation to my dedication to eating local.  Quite the opposite in fact.  This time of year I am busy trying to keep on top of my garden, looking for recipes and finding ways to preserve summer’s bounty and keep myself from going hungry this winter.  Plus it’s too nice to be sitting at a computer any more than I have to!

One of my current endeavours is trying to find naturally raised (i.e. pastured and grass finished) meats to feed my dogs (and myself for that matter).  This is really a challenge!  I am looking for cheap cuts of meat to feed them: scraps, organ meats, bones and so on.  What I am finding is that most people who sell meat get their meat already cut.  Even butchers only get certain cuts and don’t get the parts I’m looking for.  Some are able to get them for me by special request, but most cannot.  So I continue to search for these products, and in the meantime am feeding my pets far too much factory farmed food (even if it is local).  My best bet is to buy directly from a farmer, but that’s not easy either as they tend to use these parts, or feed them to their own dogs!  I’m working on it, and will be sure to detail what I come up with when I’m finally successful.

Regarding my own culinary regime, last week I made pickles for the first time.  That was an exciting adventure.  It was actually very simple, albeit took the most part of an evening to complete.  I am a little worried that the cucumbers were a slightly wilted by the time I got around to it (I bought them 2 days earlier) but I just couldn’t do it any sooner.  I am also a bit worried that I didn’t boil them long enough.  I expect since they are pickled in vinegar that there is little concern about botulism, but I still worry.  Typical city slicker canning newby (and product of capitalist industrial brainwashing) concerns I’m sure.

I used a very simple pickling recipe (which I will post if it turns out well), but as always had to modify it somewhat.  I did use pre-packaged pickling spice (left over from before I was a dedicated locavore) and skipped the mustard seed (I didn’t have any).  The cucumbers and dill were local and organic, and the garlic came from my own garden.   And instead of using white vinegar, I used apple cider vinegar which I purchased last fall from an apple farm not far from where I live.  I read somewhere that apple cider vinegar is ok to use for pickling (it has the same percent acidity).  I guess I’ll find out in a couple of weeks when I sample my pickles!

Now I want to try making pickled beets, bread and butter pickles, and canned peaches and pears.  I am presently visiting my family in Niagara – not entirely coincidentally the week that the baby gold peaches are now ready for harvest – and will bring back as many peaches as I can to stock my pantry and freezer for the winter.  The memory of how good my friend’s canned peaches tasted last January remains as a driving force to get me to do all of this.  That and my food budget – I spent far too much on other people’s preserves last winter and hope to change that for 2009.

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3 Responses

  1. I’ve been buying whole and half fully grassfed bison from Southern Ontario farms for the last few years. I now have in my freezer a number of hearts, livers, tongues, and some coarse ground meat that people find unattractive but my dog loves it. I have enough to share but I’m in Toronto and can’t afford to travel at the moment. If you have any plans to visit the city and can take some meat back with you please let me know.

  2. I think there are few natural meat farms in Chatham if that’s not too far. One of our local wineries offers the “extras” from their natural cattle but I don’t know if Essex County is ever in your plans.

    Last year we canned apples and loved the results. Basically it’s a ready-made pie filling but we found many uses and enjoyed the treat through the winter, especially on pancakes!

  3. Alan – Wow! That would be amazing. I am hoping to come to Toronto soon and would be more than happy to pick this up from you. I be sure to let you know.

    Victoria Rose – I would be willing to drive if I can buy in bulk. I enjoy excuses for road trips and usually combine them with checking out new markets and farms etc. to get as much as possible out of my gas!

    I love the idea of canning apples. What kind did you use? I think I will try the same. I sampled some of my canned peaches and they were really tasty. I was planning on doing pears as well, but hadn’t considered apples. I think that’s a great idea!

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