Conserving Autumn: Canning, Fermenting and Salting it!
Hot vegetables in brine, pickled spiced beets, salted herbs and ketchup
The weekend of October 21st to the 23rd was spent canning, salting and starting vegetables fermenting. Friday the 21st of October, Judith Colombo, elite member of the 4 COINS DE LA TABLE dinner club for many years, went into the fields of D-Trois Pierres in Cap-St-Jacques and harvested cases of vegetables and herbs for the dinner club to transform. She is the agricultural co-ordinator of the largest organic farm on the island of Montreal, and, although she said this was a terrible year, boy she grew some beautiful vegetables. We had picked the date 3 weeks prior, and it was the very end of the season and the organic food hampers. Each member of the dinner club planned and brought the ingredients to transform a vegetable or two. Judith made a salsa with the tomatoes, peppers, onions and hot peppers. Jeremy made swiss chard in a highly seasoned lemon and garlic oil and vegetables and hot peppers in brine. Suzanne, Tisha and Majiza (mother and daughters) made sweet and spicy beets and started a beet sauerkraut, Ameur salted herbs, Gisèle pickled root vegetables and Mario (my blog techie) made a Portuguese tomato jam with porto and cinnamon. I bought some apples and nectarines and used the farm’s onions, celery and tomatoes to make catsup aux fruits (fruit ketchup). When I got home, I started a cabbage sauerkraut and a kale kimchi fermenting.
We made 72 jars of stuff in an evening, and 3 buckets of cellar vegetables are still fermenting. It was a party of abundance, marking the changing of the seasons, and it was heart-warming to send each other off with a dozen jars for each household. The preserves are not only useful and delicious, but a reminder of the seasons, local production and the people that made the preserves with love.
We were also reminded of how much work agricultural life entailed back in the day. We canned from 4pm to midnight, and we were numerous. However, a woman doing it by herself after milking the cows, tending the fields, cooking and caring for her children…I can guarantee she didn’t have time to complain about the change in temperature or ponder what to do with her life. Like back in the day, all of the women did all of the organizing, delegating tasks, gathering mason jars and were ready to work when they got there. The girls started work at 4pm, Judith around 1pm picking the vegetables and the guys trickled in around 6:30, 7 o’clock ready to drink beer. Jeremy knew what the work entailed as he does product transformation for Wing Noodle, but the other guys insisted we were there “to have a good time”. At the end of the night, everyone was wiped, but we were really happy with what we’d done. I think some actually realized that, although it was work, work does not always mean suffering. It is actually key in developing one’s sense of purpose, accomplishment and self-esteem. When you make the effort, you get the pay-off. Avoiding the effort is even more painful than digging-in. It is also nice to attack the work as a group, make a party out of it and help the other with their task. Each person has different strengths to offer.
The canning was not done. I had a workshop with the Réseau d’Entraide de Verdun as well. We went out to D-Trois Pierres (in Cap-St-Jacques) the morning of Sunday October 23rd and picked carrots, beets, cabbage, herbs, rutabagas, white turnips, and some green tomatoes. There were 2 families and an individual. There was a buzz in the air. It’s exciting getting out of the city, and it was beautiful out. When we got back to the Réseau d’Entraide de Verdun, we made a fast sauerkraut, catsup aux fruits (fruit ketchup), salted herbs and pickled beets.
Some of the people that came out had never been to a farm before, and, before they came to the farm, some of the kids didn’t really understand that a carrot grew under the ground. They were mesmerized by the farm animals and just generally enraptured by the countryside. As with the dinner club, they also found out that a day of picking vegetables and conserving them is really hard work. Surprisingly, the kids out-toughed the adults, and it was a really magical…and productive day.
The weekend of Oct. 21st to the 23rd was a work sprint like in the old school. It didn’t pay, but it stocked the shelves in quite a few pantries for winter and got together dear friends from the dinner club and other Verdun citizens that wanted to learn to preserve the fruit, vegetable and herb fall bounty. We were put back in contact with the Earth, and we remembered where vegetables come from, that people grow and harvest them and the work that goes into transporting and preparing them. It ended up being a celebration of the seasons and a breath of fresh air and solidarity. Stay tuned for more cooking parties of the sort.
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