Browsing Category

Preserving Know-how

Preserving Know-how/ Winter

Tomatoes in Winter

Tomatoes in Winter

Tomatoes in Winter

If you’re a preserver, this is a great time of year to crack out the tomatoes in whatever form you have them. Like many of you, I can, dry, freeze, or turn them into a pesto-like format after roasting with garlic and olive oil. My motto is “never waste a tomato” regardless of season.

Being over-loaded with frozen roasted tomato sauce I made deliveries to friends and my daughter-in-law. Of course, the tomato sauce is delicious with pasta, but my daughter-in-law asked about ideas for using the sauce without pasta (New Year’s resolution!). So, here is what I shared.

Tomato Sauce

Use your own tomato sauce or begin with canned or frozen tomatoes, seasoned, and reduced to a thick sauce. Add fresh or dried herbs such as parsley, basil, oregano. The recipes below are for two, but you can double or triple the size depending on the number of mouths you are feeding.

Tomato Poached Halibut or Cod

Place one cup tomato sauce in a skillet. If too thick to simmer without burning, add a couple of TBSP of water. Cut the fish into 3-4 oz pieces. Season them with salt and pepper. Put them in the simmering sauce and cook for about 8 minutes with the lid on. Spoon sauce over top.

Mediterranean Shrimp

Prepare sauce as above. Add ½ tsp of oregano. Once simmering, place cleaned and deveined large shrimp into the pan in a single layer. Cook for 3 min and flip. When you flip the shrimp add crumbled feta cheese (about 1 oz per person). Cook for another 3 min. The feta will melt making a creamy sauce. Serve fish or shrimp with salad, bread or atop of rice.

Quick Baked Parmesan

Slice zucchini and eggplant in long strips. Salt the eggplant for 15 minutes. Put veggies on parchment paper and bake at 400 until they are cooked with crispy edges. Put the sauce under and over the veggies in layers like lasagna. Top with fresh mozzarella and a hefty sprinkle of parmesan. Bake 20 min or until the cheese is melted. 

Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce

Many cuisines around the world have a recipe for poached eggs in tomato sauce. In Mexico, you will find the delicious dish called “divorced eggs” using both tomato and tomatillo sauces. In Africa and Israel, the Shakshuka is a dish of poached eggs in spicy tomato sauce often with chopped vegetables, cumin, hot peppers and feta cheese. The dish is served in the cast iron or other frying pan with sour dough bread to mop up all the yummy sauce and eggs. You can create your own version of poached eggs in tomato sauce and serve for breakfast or dinner.

Tomatoes are most wonderful in the summer and early fall but having them in the pantry or freezer through the winter months is not only handy, but cost-effective and healthy. This is the season to celebrate the versatility of this fruit. Enjoy.

Share your ideas for tomato sauce without pasta! Send them along to me at:



Preserving Know-how/ Winter

Soup’s On!


We’ve certainly had some remarkable weather ups and downs, but we know the New Year will bring cold temperatures, snow and a desire hunker down. How better to enjoy winter than with a steaming hot bowl of soup and some homemade bread?

According to culinary history, the word soup dates to post-classical Latin “suppare” or soak. The term later appeared in the French language as “soupe”. In the Middle Ages cooks spoke of soup as any liquid that was poured over bread. The word supper is also derived from this term. In general terms, “soup” applies to any liquid, savoury dish. All cultures have soup as a culinary foundation.

If you’re going to the effort of making a big batch of soup, why not make extra for later use? To preserve soup, there are basically three methods: Freezing, dehydrating or pressure canning.


The easiest, least time-consuming method is to freeze. Freeze soups in a wide-mouth Mason jar or food grade plastic freezer container. Leave an inch headspace to allow for expansion. To prevent ice crystal formation, crinkle up some parchment paper and place it on top of the soup. Always cool the soup, then refrigerate before freezing. Label and date the frozen soup. Thaw in the fridge and heat to 165 degrees before serving.


Most of us have bought a “Cup of Soup” or Lipton package of soup. These are examples of dehydrated soups, and this can be done at home. One approach is to dehydrate vegetables, cooked rice or potatoes, and seasoning. Rehydrate in boiling water. Broth and soups can also be dehydrated after reducing to a condensed or pureed form and then laying out on a Silpat sheet or parchment lined rack in the dehydrator as you would do when making fruit leathers. The dehydrated broth can be ground into a powder or simple broken up into pieces and stored in a cool, dark, dry place. The dehydrated soup puree can be stored as you would a fruit leather.

Pressure Canning

Because soup is made with low acid foods like vegetables, meat, poultry, and fish, pressure canning is necessary for safe long-term storage. Pressure canning raises the internal temperature to 240 degrees which is required to kill heat resistant bacteria such as those that cause botulism. Always follow reputable recipes and proper methods (see Bernardin, National Center for Home Food Preservation or refer to “So Easy to Preserve”). There are many soups suitable for pressure canning making instant meals easily accessible from the pantry in a matter of minutes. Do not pressure can soups made with pasta, rice, flour, cream, milk, or any thickening agents as these agents interfere with heat penetration and therefore safety. You can add them just before serving if you wish.

Winter is the time for hot soup and crusty bread. Home-made stocks and broths, hearty chowders, simple garden vegetables or instant soup mixes ready for winter camping can all be available for quick suppers, lunches, or picnics. Call the family: “Soups on”.



Preserving Know-how/ Winter

Celebratory Treats

Celebratory Treats

This is the season for special treats. Whether it’s Christmas day, a holiday party or bringing in the New Year, there are many reasons to celebrate. My recent preserving adventures have led to some wonderful new recipes.

Raspberry-Rhubarb Juice with Prosecco

My daughter-in-law created this special cocktail using the raspberry-rhubarb juice I made in the spring and summer. Think of this a pink Mimosa; pretty, festive, and delicious.  You can always use POM or raspberry juice as well. For a non-alcoholic version, replace Prosecco with sparkling water. For extra panache, drop in a fresh raspberry.

Cranberry Port Conserve with Walnuts

I recently made this recipe created by Topp & Howard. A conserve almost always includes nuts and often citrus. This is outstanding and would be a great accompaniment to turkey, chicken, or capon but also with ham, duck or beef.

4 cups cranberries 2 cups sugar

¼ cup Port ½ cup finely chopped orange peel

1/3 cup raisins ¼ cup chopped walnuts

Combine cranberries, sugar, and Port in a large pot. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered until cranberries pop. Add orange peel and raisins. Reduce heat and cook for about 15 minutes until a light gel point is reached. Remove from heat and stir in nuts. For long-term storage, process in a water bath or atmospheric steam canner for 10 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before removing from canner.

However you celebrate, enjoy the season. All the best for the holidays and Happy New Year.

For more information:

Tarts: The Finishing Touch

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

I love making small French-style tarts using my preserves. A couple of weeks ago I made tarts using my preserved pears, maple roasted rhubarb, apple sauce, and, of course, pear mincemeat (pictured here). In a recent Jamie Oliver show, he used ready-made tart shells and lined them with raspberry jam and topped them with a light meringue baked to golden colour. Tarts are easy, flexible and are part of any celebratory meal. I usually use a pate brisee for the crust but for the gluten free in my family, I searched for a recipe that would work. I adapted this pastry recipe from by Claire Tansey’s in her book called “Uncomplicated”. She calls this forgiving pastry and it is. It can be rolled out many times without getting tough. It also lasts well and is flavourful. The gluten-free version is very good.


  • 1.5 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour (or regular flour)
  • 1/8 tsp salt ½ cup cream cheese cold and cubed
  • ½ cup butter cold and cubed



Combine flour and salt in food processor. Pulse to combine. Add cream cheese and butter and process until the dough comes together in a ball.  Wrap in plastic and chill for at least ½ an hour. Roll out or freeze this pastry for future use. Be creative using your own preserves from the panty.



Preserving Know-how/ Winter

Let it Snow

Mulling Spice Mix

With the first big snow under our belts, the motivation to plan for the Holidays is kicked into high gear. I find that one of the most wonderful things about preserving is using my skills and preserves for creative gifts. I thought I would focus a couple of articles on creating warm, delicious, and satisfying gifts and treats for the season.

Last week I dehydrated oranges and lemons for several purposes, one of which was to make mulling spice mix for gifts. The bonus is that the house smells divine as the citrus releases its aroma while drying. The dried fruit can be used to brighten up garlands or centre pieces, added to tea, used to embellish a cake, or simmered in a pot of water before guests arrive.

I was fascinated to read that mulled wine in particular dates to the Roman Empire where honey and spices were added to wine in winter. Many consider mulled wine or the wassail to be distinctly Victorian where it was considered a holiday drink celebrating health, happiness and warmth infused by spices and citrus. Mulled cider was and is considered a British winter celebration drink. The cider carries the apple taste which makes for a lighter beverage. Mulling was eagerly embraced by North Americans. Whether using wine or cider, adding mulling spices produces a flavourful warm winter drink perfect for snuggling up in front of the winter.

For more information:

Mulling Spice Mix

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)


  • ½ cup dried orange slices broken into small pieces
  • ½ cup dried lemon slices broken into small pieces
  • 6 sticks of 4-inch cinnamon broken into small pieces
  • 4 TBSP ground nutmeg
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 2 tsp cardamon pods
  • 2 TBSP allspice berries
  • 1 TBSP whole black peppercorns
  • 4 – 6 star anise



Dry citrus using a dehydrator (125 for 10 hours) or in the oven on the lowest setting. Slices should be thin with seeds removed.


Mix the mulling spice mix together. Add 2 TBSP mix to 4 cups of cider or red wine and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain and serve with a cinnamon stick and/or the addition of a slice of fresh orange. This recipe produces about 3 cups. Store in airtight containers. This is a super hostess gift to give with the recipe attached.


If you are out-and-about, I will be at the Kimber Valley Farm Christmas Market on November 26th. Check out their website and drop by.



Fall/ Preserving Know-how

Autumn Herb Bouquets

Herb Bouquet

The winds are blowing, the evenings are cool, and the end of season is in sight. But before the weather turns, it’s time to pick the final herb bouquets to dry, freeze and store for winter. Of course, using them fresh while they last is wonderful too!


Some herbs are better frozen than dried because the drying process reduces flavour. A typical freezing method is chopping herbs, adding a bit of water, and placing them in ice cube trays. They can be tossed into a soup, sauce, or pasta. I also chop herbs like mint and cilantro in amounts required for favorite recipes. One or two tablespoons of the herbs are placed in tiny mini paper bags I found at Michael’s. I freeze sage whole in wax paper as shown above and then placed in a small freezer bag. Since I love sage with squash and sweet potatoes, I will often freeze the cooked vegetables with sage and brown butter for use later in the season.


I have a dehydrator, but I don’t bother with it for herbs. They dry well using less energy-consuming methods. For smaller quantities I put bunches in a paper bag with air holes created using a hole punch. Each bag is labelled and tied to my portable laundry rack. Pictured above are various herbs that will be used for home-made Herbes de Provence. For larger quantities such as those I use for teas (mint, lemon balm, lemon verbena, bergamot), I hang them on my main laundry room rack (until there’s no more room for my husband’s shirts!). Drying can also be done in the oven simply by placing herb leaves on a screen, perforated pizza disk or a cookie sheet. Turn on the oven light and leave the herbs to dry overnight. Small amounts can be dried quickly in the microwave. Thyme (my most used herb), basil, parsley, savoury, tarragon, lavender, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, bay laurel and chives are all suitable for drying. If you are drying herbs, thoroughly shake and dust them off but don’t rinse them. The water can contribute to mold growth.


Capturing the end of season herbs is every cook’s delight. Take pesto for example. Use up basil, parsley & chives in a traditional pestos. Get creative with a sage-parsley and toasted walnut pesto. Freeze the pesto. Quick fry sage as an accompaniment to a pre-dinner drink or atop of a sage-butter pasta. Use herbs for a stuffing for pork, poultry, peppers, or cabbage. For a casual dinner, whip up brown butter scrambled eggs with herbs and an end of season green salad. The sky’s the limit.


Finally, it’s time to bring in the herbs indoors. I bring in parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme and bay laurel and put them in a west-facing window. As the sun diminishes, I add a small grow light on a timer to keep the herbs going until spring.

The blessings of the autumn herbs are wonderful. Dry them, freeze them, use them fresh or use them in preserves, and bring them in for the winter! Keep the faith until spring!

For more information:

For information:




Preserving Know-how

The Lowdown on ClearJel

Many of us are in the annual canning frenzy as the summer bounty bursts forth. That means making jams, jellies, pickles and other treats for the long winter. Many recipes, like mustard pickles, pie fillings and sauces require the addition of a thickener. The product most widely cited in modern recipes goes by the brand name of ClearJel. What is ClearJel? How is it used in food preservation? What are the pros and cons? Let’s take a look.

ClearJel is a corn starch derivative sometimes called a “cooking starch”. It comes in two forms: regular and instant each with a specific purpose. Regular ClearJel requires heat to activate the starch which makes it the type used for canning purposes. Instant ClearJel will thicken without heat so it used for items such as fresh pie fillings.  The product can be ordered online and bought at some stores like Misty Meadows in Conn.

The advantages of ClearJel over other thickeners like flour or regular corn starch are numerous. First, because it thickens upon cooling, it does not affect heat penetration during processing which is important from a safety point of view. It does not break down or become thin and liquids will not separate or curdle. And it’s shelf like is very good. It has no aftertaste, is less expensive than pectin and is neutral in terms of pH. The only disadvantage is that some people find it thickens too much. The University of Wisconsin food scientist recommends using 75% of the amount of recommended ClearJel to eliminate the problem.

ClearJel is good to lightly thicken relishes, sauces, salsas and mustard pickles. It can also be used instead of pectin in all jams and jellies that are cooked or frozen. The University of Washington suggests Substituting 7 tbsp ClearJel for regular pectin in cooked jams and jellies and 3-4 tbsp ClearJel for pectin in freezer jam. ClearJel does not dissolve easily so add a bit of sugar to it before mixing in. If using the product for a gravy, mix it with water first and then add the slurry to the liquid.

For canners and home cooks, ClearJel is a very effective thickening product that has many advantages and almost no disadvantages. It isn’t easy to find but is well worth the search. If you like a smooth, clear, stable, and tasteless approach to thinking jams, jellies, relishes, pie fillings or sauces, this is the product to add to your pantry.

Mark the date: September 14th, 7 – 9 pm. Drying, Freezing and Storing the Fall Harvest. To register by email or call 519-986-3756.

Preserving Know-how

Atmospheric Steam Canning

Several people have asked me about atmospheric steam canning. It is growing in popularity so let’s explore the uses, advantages, and disadvantages of this method of food preservation. In 2015 atmospheric steam canning was approved by the National Centre for Home Food Preservation and the USDA as a safe and efficient alternative to water-bath canning.

The steam canner (pictured here) uses a small amount of water (usually about 2 to 3 litres) or a couple of inches that creates an enclosed environment of steam at a temperature of 212 F or the same as boiling point. Jars are placed on a rack above the boiling water and are processed by the hot steam instead of water. This approach saves on water, eliminates heavy lifting associated with water-bath canners, saves on electricity or propane and saves time.

The advantages of steam canning are clear, but there are a couple of disadvantages to consider. Steam canning should not be used if processing times exceed 45 minutes because the water can run dry. Also, most steam canners are made of aluminum which cannot be used on induction burners. However, Vittorio does produce a stainless-steel version which addresses this problem.

As an alternate to water-bath canning, steam canning is suitable for processing high acid foods. As always, it’s important to use modern, tested recipes from reputable sources to ensure proper acidity levels. Processing times are the same for steam canning as they are for water-bath canning, adjusting times for altitude.

With the steam canner, you can warm your jars on the rack inside the canner with the stove on a low heat until you have filled the jars leaving a headspace as directed in the recipe. Once the filled jars are on the rack and the lid is on, increase the heat to boil the water. Once the steam is being release from the tiny port in the lid in a continuous stream of about 6 inches in length, begin your processing time. Once the processing is done, turn off the heat and allow the pot to rest for at least 3 minutes before carefully removing the lid of the canner. Remove the jars and allow them to stand undisturbed for 24 hours.

Steam canners are available on Amazon and at Peavey stores (formerly TSC). If you happen to have a Ball electric water bath canner, it can also be used for steam canning. Add water to the pot just below the lower ridge (about 2 inches of water), then rest the diffuser on the ridge. This becomes the rack for the jars. Proceed as described above.

Atmospheric steam canning is becoming increasingly popular for very good reason. The canners are inexpensive, use less water, are lighter, save time and energy and are as effective as water-bath canners for safe processing of foods. So, consider adding this method to your home food preservation repertoire.

Steam Canner

Preserving Know-how

The Pectin Challenge

As we’re all busy in the kitchen making jams and jellies, I thought it opportune to write about my experience with the “pectin challenge”. I went on a mission to experiment with and learn about pectin. So here we go.

Pectin is a carbohydrate naturally occurring in fruits to varying degrees. Some fruits like lemons and apples are high in pectin while others, like peaches, pears, raspberries are low. Pectin also changes with the ripeness of fruit is. Unripe and over-ripe fruit contain less pectin. There are tests you can do at home to determine the level of pectin. If interested, see my resources section at

In order to create a gel in jams or jellies water, sugar and acid are needed in the right proportions for the right amount of time in order for pectin to act like a web holding together the fruit and sugar. Pectin has a negative charge so it will not bind with water unless acid is added. This is why lemon juice is frequently added in jam and jelly recipes in addition to being a flavour amplifier.

Fruits high in pectin can normally be made without added pectin. For example, making apple jelly without commercial pectin is simple and reliable. The set or gel point happens between 217 and 220 F on a candy thermometer depending on altitude. It is also possible to test for doneness using the frozen plate test. Put a small plate in the freezer. When the jam or jelly begins to coat the back of a spoon, place a teaspoon on the frozen plate. If a finger drawn through the mixture leaves a clear trail, it’s ready.

It is possible to add pectin through natural means without turning to the commercial varieties. First, is the traditional long-boil method. Boiling causes pectin chains to be released from the fruit which then combine with sugar and acid to result in the “set”. Another way to naturally enhance pectin is by adding grated Granny Smith apple as is done in recipes from Test Kitchens of America. Finally, you can make your own pectin from apples. The pectin can be water-bath processed for long-term storage and used whenever you are in a jam-making mood.

 On the commercial side, there are basically two types of pectin. The first is high methoxyl pectin like regular Certo or Bernardin pectin in powder or liquid form. These pectins are activated by sugar which is why recipes often require a lot of sugar. Newer to the scene are low methoxyl pectins that are activated by calcium rather than sugar. Certo, Bernardin, and others have low or no sugar pectin options. Pomona was first to produce low methoxyl pectin and it is preservative free.

I set out to try these approaches in order to share my results.The disclaimer, of course, is this is my personal opinion!

The long-boil method without added pectin is a purist’s dream. The upside is it requires less sugar. There are two downsides: First, you need the skill of determining the set point either using a candy thermometer or the frozen plate test method. The second downside is that the longer the boil, the more the flavour diminishes. In fact, during my Cornell course, we tested strawberry jam made the traditional long-boil method comparing it to jams made with regular pectin and with freezer jam pectin. The findings were startling. The freezer jam produced the brightest colour and flavour of all! If you have little time and lots of freezer space, by all means make freezer jam. If you are a traditionalist, go for the long-boil method.

As far as high methoxyl commercial pectin goes, I find regular liquid pectin to be great for jellies. There is no risk of getting clumps of undissolved pectin in the jellies and the set seems consistently good. Regular powdered pectin often creates too firm a set for my taste. However, Canadian Living suggests using tablespoons of powdered pectin rather than the whole box and this produces a much nicer set. I have also used the grated apple method recommended by Test Kitchens of America for both peach and raspberry jam, and this too produces excellent texture, flavour and colour. Last year I experimented with Pamona low-methoxyl pectin hoping to become a convert to low sugar pectin with no preservatives. Alas, that didn’t happen. While Pamona requires low levels of sweetener, I didn’t find the texture to be appealing and it does not hold colour over the course of the year. The jam turns brownish. This problem exists for all low methoxyl pectin options. Sugar is simply necessary to hold the colour of the jam/jelly.

The power of pectin is critical to a good jam or jelly. Knowing the pectin levels of fruit you are working with is important and is available in reputable canning cookbooks. The question then is how to enhance pectin when it is required. Whether using a long-cook method, a natural enhancement, or a commercial pectin, all can work well. To some extent it is a matter of personal choice. To another extent, it is a matter of science. Embracing both yields the best results.

Preserving Know-how/ Spring

Wild Leeks in Spring

Wild Leeks in Spring

It must be spring when the forest floor is dotted with wild leeks! The cool spring this year has meant the leeks are starting later and staying longer which is great for we foodies.

Wild leeks, commonly called ramps, are of the onion family. They are easily spotted in forests and fields. The plants have distinctive elegant bright green leaves and bulbs that look like green onions but smell like garlic. They have strong roots which means a shovel makes foraging easier.

Once cleaned, wild leeks have many culinary uses. The bulbs and leaves are edible. Try a sauté, braise or stir-fry.  They are delicious any way, cooked or raw. I make Wild Leek and Potato soup and freeze it for a cold summer vichyssoise or warm winter soup. The bulbs freeze well but don’t forget the leaves. Throw them in the food processor and add a bit of water. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze for a bright addition to a winter soup, stew or sauce. Pickled wild leeks are amazing too. To store fresh leeks, wrap in paper towel and put into freezer bags in the fridge. Don’t bend the leaves as they bruise easily. Make sure the bags are sealed or the entire fridge will smell of garlic!

Wild leeks have been over harvested to the extent they are becoming endangered! Take no more than 20% of any cluster of leeks. If you’re heading out to forage for wild leeks put on your conservation hat and then enjoy these precious gifts of nature.

For recipes/info: Martha Rogers

Leeks in Spring

Preserving Know-how/ Summer

Tomato Season Approaches

“You say tomata and I say tomato.” Whatever your pronunciation, we can all agree that tomatoes are beginning to ripen on the vine. For all you foodies, get ready to preserve these fruits to brighten any snowy winter day. Tomatoes are perfect for freezing, drying or canning.

Freezing: Tomatoes can be cored, blanched, peeled and frozen whole or in quarters. Or roast tomatoes, garlic drizzled with olive oil at 350 for an hour until edges are darkening. Put in blender or food processor with additional oil and a large bunch of basil. Process until smooth. Freeze in containers for excellent winter sauce.

Drying: Tomatoes can be dried in a dehydrator for later use on pizza or pasta. Tomato pulp can also be dried as fruit leather and eaten or added to soups & sauces.

Canning: Homemade tomato sauce, chili sauce, salsa or simple canned tomatoes are hands down the most useful winter preserves. It is important to understand that the pH of tomatoes is around 7.6. This is critically important in order to choose the correct, safe canning method. Today’s tomatoes are less acidic than they once were. In part this is due to hybridization and also changes to growing conditions. This means that all tomatoes that are processed in a water-bath canning situation must be acidified. Chili sauce and salsas have added vinegar enough to increase acidity to a safe level. It is also essential to add 1 TBSP of bottled lemon juice to each 500 ml jar of tomatoes or tomato sauce to ensure safety. This might not be what your grandmother did, but it is required today. If you want to make stewed tomatoes or create a tomato sauce with vegetables or meats, pressure canning is necessary in order to raise the processing temperature to 240 degrees.

Stock up the pantry with tomatoes for winter: Freeze them, dry them or can them. Follow a reputable modern recipe (see Bernardin, Ball or Centre for Home Food Preservation websites) and specified methods to ensure high quality, safe tomato products for the home pantry.

For information about recipes or workshops, contact Martha Rogers: