Canning & Preserving: Time to Batch it Up!

FROM THE FIELDS- ISSUE #70

With Ontario’s seasonal foods available in abundance, it’s time to start collecting and batching things up. With a little guidance from Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison’s Batch Cookbook, we are ready to batch! We were curious about what they like to batch so we sat down for a little Q&A + extra tips!

Photography by Reena Newman

Photography by Reena Newman

IN DOESN’T TAKE MUCH to sell us on healthy eating. We love finding new ways to be inspired and make healthy living more sustainable.  That is why we love Batch! This book is packed with delicious recipes, tips and techniques on how to preserve. If you’ve never tried to preserve on your own, you should definitely add this book to your kitchen.

PRESERVING is great for many reasons, including making healthy eating more accessible, reduce food waste, and increasing the nutrient value through fermentation. Joel (writer and cook) and Dana (illustrator, designer and art director) have created ‘Batch’ for everyday cooks and families. They wanted to make sure that it was accessible to a variety of people and that you didn’t need cordon bleu education to understand the ingredients or the techniques. But at the same time it was important to them to inspire the more advanced home cook to think differently about their ingredients and their kitchen. We sat down with them to see what inspires them and share a few of their favourite things…

Photography by Margaret Mulligan

Photography by Margaret Mulligan

Q&A: Joel & Dana

First 3 things you do when you wake up: Saturdays and Sundays we get coffee and walk the dog. We have a 7 year old Vizsla so he likes a nice long walk and it’s great to do together on the weekends, we live in the east end so every possible route involves a really beautiful park. Next we head to a market, Leslieville Farmers Market Sundays in the summer or Evergreen Brickworks Saturdays.

Best advice you ever received: Wow! It’s hard to choose…the best part about having wellpreserved.ca for the past nine years is all the amazing people we have met. Farmers, Chefs, food activists, urban homesteaders, mixologists, brewers, beekeepers…the list goes on and on. We love nothing more than talking to someone about what they’re passionate about, and they usually have a lot of great advice that we can use in our day-to-day whether it’s in the kitchen or about the business or blog. Our advice would be to have great conversations with as many and varied people as you can as much as you can! You’ll be amazed at what you learn.

Favourite super food: We think all fresh seasonal vegetables and fruit are super! We eat as seasonally as possible, in Toronto we are so lucky to have such an abundance of produce in the summer months that we gorge on fresh as much as we can, and preserve the rest for winter! Fresh sweet summer strawberries are made into jam, fruit leather, flavoured vinegar and put in the freezer so we can enjoy them in winter! We’re not really up on all the ‘super foods’ but learn a lot from friends like Meghan Telpher when we are looking for info!

Go-to meal: This time of year (August) it’s definitely a fresh tomato “sandwich”!  In Tomato season we eat them as often as we can. Fresh pumpernickel bread, slices of fresh tomato, feta cheese and cucumber, topped with a dressing of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs. We eat them open faced with a knife and fork because the point is the dressing and tomato juice/feta brine to soak into the bread. Summer!!

Latest health “obsession”: Getting a good nights sleep! It’s so difficult when you have so many things going on! But when we are sleeping right it affects every aspect of our health and creativity.

Can’t live without: We would have really different desert island lists. Dana can’t live without a notebook (blank pages for sketching) and her fountain pen and mechanical pencil. Joel can’t live without his Mandoline Slicer and the dehydrator.  We both agree we can’t live without mason jars..haha. They make great wine/water glasses, hold pencils, you can shake up salad dressing or a cocktail in them…and oh yeah stash some preserves in there too.

This seasons’ essentials: Simple syrup in the fridge (rhubarb is awesome) and lemon on hand for whiskey sours! A constantly fermenting jar of Kimchi and Sauerkraut.

Fav Batch recipe: The ones we are currently making, there’s so many things in season right now it’s getting hard to keep up! Apricot Infused granola is a current favourite and the Fermented Apricot Butter…so we can have lots for the Curry Baked Acorn Squash (also from Batch) this fall and winter!

Current fav ingredient: We treat most of our preserves as ingredients. That’s a main theme in Batch. Always a favourite is the Blueberry Maple Jam, it’s used in the recipe for BBQ Salmon (both in the blueberry chapter), it’s unbelievably delicious.  An all around favourite ingredient is flavoured salts…they’re so easy to make and add a bit of unique flavour to anything you would normally use salt in. There’s recipes in batch for Chili Salt, Peach Salt, Smoked Cherry Salt….the possibilities are endless…we have a palette of them!

Weirdest Preserve you came up with/tried that came out yummy: There’s been a lot of those! Most of our recipes are a result of experimenting with flavours and textures and techniques. A lot of them are unexpected, but it’s pretty tough to get weird. Smoked red peppers that have been dehydrated into crisp triangles throw a lot of people off. They taste like campfire and are AWFUL on their own but are AMAZING when added to a soup, stew or braising liquid. Think of them like a sweet version of chipotle; when you cook with them they fall apart and add an awesome smoky flavor to your meal in the middle of winter (even when cooking with a slow cooker!)

Preserve that didn’t work out so well: That would have to be the ‘blueberry meade incident’. Joel was experimenting with fermenting a batch of meade. He decided to add wild blueberries to the primary ferment, which is really active. A blueberry got stuck in the airlock , the pressure mounted and we had a bit of an explosion. The rubber stopper did it’s job and blew off the top of the carboy with such force that there was a 4’ wide blueberry splatter on our ceiling…complete with blueberries embedded in it. We actually don’t count this as a failure because A/ we learned something (add your fruit to the secondary less active ferment) and B/ it makes for an excellent story! Nobody got hurt, and we got a freshly painted ceiling.

Preserve you always have in your fridge: Kimchi and/or saurkraut. so easy to make and can add to so many meals for amazing flavour. Also quick fridge pickles of whatever is currently in season.

Health trend you want to see go: We don’t really follow health ‘trends’. We have some trusted individuals that we listen to (friends and professionals). But to each their own, if the current ‘trend’ gets you excited to try something new…go for it. You never know where it could lead you! We are all for jumping on all kinds of trends, try them out to see if they fit, keep what’s good and toss the rest! xo