Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city.

Month:

Red pepper jelly – Gelée de piments rouges

You have to read past the big roll o’ fencing to find out more…

On Monday morning, I had planned out an awesome Homestead day. The weather was beautiful so I was only lacking one person and one tool (a post-pounder, an auger, or a sharp-shooter) for finally replacing my rustic-unchic front fence. This is the kind of fence I want, minus the barbed wire, but instead, I’ve got a roll of this –> which should look something like this when done. I’ve got nice round cedar fence posts from the country, rather than square city posts.

Instead, being one person too short (yes, I am one person and, at 5’4″, too short, but here I mean too few), I mucked about with what remained of putting the garden to bed for winter, and covered the rose bushes. Yes, I have rose bushes. I barely deserve them. (So rarely does one have what one deserves!) In so doing, I got stung by a wasp on the fleshy part of my left hand. That put a stop to further garden work – and then the sun went behind the clouds.

It also put a stop to chopping, so I didn’t tackle the red pepper jelly until today. These beautiful red “piments rouges” peppers – which doesn’t translate into pimentos, which are stumpier – came courtesy of the grocery store, which is so kind as to give me, the bunny lady, their trimmings and vegetables destined for la poubelle. I gave a few peppers to the rabbits (they were not so spicy as to be a problem) before I thought to make jelly out of them. Red pepper jelly is a great addition to any cheese or cold cut sandwich.

I found the recipe easily enough in my collection of cookbooks from yesteryear – which are, bar none, the best cookbooks if you’re into the idea of local food. When I cannot find a pickle or preserve suggestion in my mother’s old stash, I go straight to Jehane Benoit’s Encyclopedie de la cuisine canadienne. Between this book and Mrs. Appleyard’s Family Kitchen, I have the historical stories and recipes of my entire region’s local food prior to the globalization glut that landed cantaloupe on every restaurant breakfast plate in the month of March, and the concomitant assumption that the food supply chain takes care of everything so that all we have to do is choose. — hobby horse ends here for now.

The recipes are diverse and simple. On this page, you can see quince (coings), mint (menthe fraîche), parsley (persil), lemon verbena (vervaine), and sage (sauge) jelly. Most if not all of these will be eaten with cheese or meats, so it’s no surprise that they’re on the same page as red pepper jelly. However, they also have (swoon) currant and elderflower jelly (groseilles aux fleurs du sureau). I’m half-Danish, and when I first had elderflower juice in Copenhagen (København) it struck a chord with me that I knew this and I’d had it before, though I could not say how or where. But as Swedish venture would have it, one can now get it at IKEA. And you can get elderflower or elderberry tea at the Polish bakery.

So I’m making the jelly today. The peppers are on the old side, so they were drying out – which made them fabulously easy to de-string and seed, though more difficult to chop. The wasp-stung hand had some work to do. Presently I’m waiting for the four hours to elapse for the peppers to sit in salt. Did you know that Windsor is next to Detroit, where they have a huge salt mine? It’s worth seeing the Time photo essay. Yet despite the Windsor mine being in Windsor, Windsor Salt is headquartered near to me, in Pointe Claire, QC. (And since I’m showing sugar here, I have a blog post on that.)

When the pepper jelly is done, I’ll probably update this with another photo. Though this one, with the ingredients, is more illustrative than a Bernardin jar with pretty red contents.

…et voilà: 

These are what I’m up to, this November

It’s a good thing I haven’t updated in  a month, because the posts would have been obsessed with squirrels. (No squirrels for you! Trust me, I’ve got pictures.) They are under strict (oh well, not so strict) rationing of two to three chestnuts per day. The two boys – Rufus and Clyde – know me well. Clyde dominates Rufus, but Rufus seems to be more like a pet. A smaller squirrel comes by and I chuck it a chestnut that it fails to notice, because squirrels are not super-scenters like dogs are, it seems.

We had our first frost a couple of nights ago. The swiss chard is surviving, as it usually does, but its days are numbered. I’ll be eating more of it in the coming weeks. The rabbits are getting peevish about getting old tomato leaves, but I’m also giving them juicy wilted nasturtiums. The green tomatoes are in a box in the garage, still on their vines, and the ones in the kitchen are turning red.  Continue reading