Oh, hello there summer

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Our fennel over-wintered nicely and will be full of seeds this year that we're looking forward to using in homemade pizza sauce.
So here we are already at the end of June. It's been a very busy spring, and as you may have noticed, the blog hasn't been very active.

Moving to a new home can turn your world upside-down, but on top of that I've been busy with work since the new year, so that doesn't leave a spare second for anything. I did get to do my first travel photo shoot, criss-crossing Ontario for an amazing client. In the meantime, my dad did more than his share to help get our new (to us) 1920s house up to code.

Our garlic seems to be growing very well this year, and the scapes, or flower stalks, should be harvested to focus growth on the bulbs. The scapes have a wonderful flavour and have been ending up in nearly everything we cook.

It's a great new space for us. More space than our old little "cottage" which was feeling very tight with five people living in two bedrooms. Apart from having a whole second story, simply having a basement that I can stand up in opens up the place so much more (I'm taller than the average guy).

But one of the best parts of our new house is that under the front porch is a real root cellar. Dirt floor, nice and humid, ready to store some potatoes. We've talked in the past about digging one into the side of a hill at the farm, but we really don't need to any more. Maybe we can put that effort into something else, like a wood-fired outdoor oven.

And one other thing-it's just a few kilometres from the farm where we grow our food. In fact, I rode my bike there a few days ago.

Heirloom malting barley I'm mostly growing for seed this year.
I look forward to brewing with my own barley and hops some day.

The garden would have been the easiest thing to just forget about this year. With moving, renovating, and working, it doesn't seem like the most important thing. But it's painful to imagine an August with no peppers to bite into and no fresh tomato sandwiches. So we pushed to get things into the ground.

We planted our tomatoes and peppers in the first week of June, and a few straggling pepper plants just went in last week. I'm not sure if the late peppers will even ripen, but it's worth a shot. They've all turned their dark, happy green which is the sign to us that they love the soil.

The tomatoes went in a bit late this year but should be fine. Most of the peppers should be ok. They're starting to turn their deep green as they shake off the yellowness of their nitrogen-depleted pots.

Our strawberries are incredible. We planted them last year and pinched all the flowers to let the plants focus on establishing, but this year we were able to eat every one the popped up. The problem is that since they're so good, it's hard to find one on the vine that little fingers haven't already found. I didn't even find any to photograph.

Another favourite is the sweet peas we planted. We've never grown peas before, and I don't know why, since they're so delicious same story-too delicious, so no photo ops.

The zucchinis have already started producing. They're the base for two favourites-zucchini relish and loaf and there are lots of blossoms on our pickling cucumbers. The rest of the cucumber family-our pumpkins and melons-are growing well, however there's a little wonder in how they'll turn out since they're all grown from saved seed, and I'm not sure how the cucumber family deals with cross pollination.

Since our strawberries are more of a snacking quantity, Melanie managed to go to a local farm and pick a few baskets for jam like she did last year. The jam is delicious and I couldn't imagine going a winter without it.

We grew up selling sweet corn at markets, and although we don't sell it anymore, my dad always grows enough for everyone (including the raccoons) to enjoy.

It's hard to find the time to put into the garden when there's too much going on, but the reward of good food makes you think you're crazy for even considering passing on it.

We've been without internet for most of June, so now that we're online again, we hope to keep up with the blog like the good old days.

84% More Delicious Butter

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Is there something wrong with us? Every time we're faced with a choice of light, fat-free, or regular, we always reach for the highest fat content possible. Whole-milk lattes, a splash of table cream in our coffee...  there's only whole milk in the fridge at home. So when the news of a higher-fat, European-style butter reached our ears, we couldn't help but listen.

I had heard rumblings of a decadent butter over on Twitter, and then heard a program on Toronto's CBC radio 1 on how boring Ontario's butter is. Nadege Nourian spoke on how a tiny increase in butter fat can make a world of difference in a recipe. She owns Nadege the bakery, or I guess, you could authentically call it a pâtisserie. I have the good luck to frequently work near it, and treat myself to their heartbreakingly delicious almond croissants more than I'd like to admit.

Ontario butter is leaner than the butter a pastry chef would be used to working with in Europe, or even the United States. Listening to the show and hearing that people are bringing it in from the States or even ordering from New Zealand is so heart-breaking, especially after driving past countless dairies in Hastings County in Ontario two days ago.

I knew I had to make the short detour to Stirling and pick up some of this butter (you can find it in specialty grocers all over Ontario.) We've only had it one day, but the flavour is much better than the butter we're used to.

Most of all, we're ready to take our baking to the next level. Have you baked anything with a higher fat butter before?