Living rural in the city is great – you can do it, too.

Category: Food, Cooking, and Processing

A day to make red pepper jelly – Gelée de piments rouges

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 welded wire, which should look something like this when done. I’ve got nice round cedar fence posts from the country, not square city fence posts.

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. 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, in case you didn’t know, is a great addition to any cheese or cold cut sandwich.

L'encyclopedie de la Cuisine Canadienne by Jehanne Benoit and Mrs. Appleyard's Family Kitchen
Jehanne Benoit’s “l’encyclopedia de la cuisine canadienne,” beside Mrs. Appleyard’s Family Kitchen. (I’ve since replaced the cabinet shelves with glass. But the same books remain!)

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 before 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.

Red pepper jelly recipe in French – along with many others

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, it also has a recipe for (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 drying out, on the old side, so they were 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‘s headquarters are near me, in Pointe Claire, QC. Sadly – and preventably!their building kills birds. I’ll still buy their salt but I want them to fix their windows and landscaping.

Now that the jelly’s done, here’s a belle photo. The one with the ingredients is more illustrative than a Bernardin jar with pretty red contents, but which one do you see in a magazine?

Le voilà! 

Red pepper jelly in 250 mL Bernardin jars

The garden harvest, pickling, and homemade sauerkraut

My SPIN farm plans have not panned out this season. Harvesting is underwhelming: I’ve come to admit that none of my cucurbits will be producing any squash, melon, or pumpkins for me this year, except for one cucumber plant that isn’t even for pickling. I should have eaten the flowers all along. Here is the normal state of affairs for any one of them:

The sumac that I planted last year is now about my height, and the lower leaves are beginning to change colour for fall. In addition, more wildflowers are creeping into my soon-to-be meadow.

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A few front yard garden photos – the harvest slowly begins

I misplaced my good camera, the one I used to take the following photographs. Until I find it, I’m limited to grainy iPhone snaps, or the marginally better (or not) pictures I might take if I dig out my old Sony Ericsson CyberShot cell phone. That camera was good but became distorted through the kinds of mishaps that phones can get into.

And more bad news: the beautiful cucumbers that made up for the dismal start to my backyard garden? Most of them got cucumber wilt, a bacterial disease transmitted by cucumber beetles. I wrote a paper on them only a few months ago. The paper is dry, chunky, and a synthesis of a lot of information out there. It’s useful to the organic farmer planting a good couple of rows of cucurbits.

As the growing season soon will be over, I’m planning my garden changes so that next year is more productive – other gardens near me were lusher. This is what I want: a proper fence down the meridian of the front yard, and a rain barrel with a seeping hose so that I can better serve the water needs of my front garden. The back garden wants lots of compost enrichment this fall, soil testing in the spring, liming it, and getting things better prepared earlier in the season.

Here are photos of my garden two weeks ago, when the drought finally ended. You can see tiny watermelons (they didn’t make it – it’s a mystery what happened to them) and a new watermelon sprout with attendant tomatoes, basil, and a small pepper plant.

The chicken-wire barricade there is my rabbit fence – not like it stops them, it only slows them down. There’s tasty, tasty clover to be had…

And my first fruits of the garden – not counting a handful of curly yellow beans – are these delicious cherry tomatoes. The parent plant is very prolific. I am looking forward to having more of them this coming weekend, when I return to Montreal from my parents’ home in Ontario.

The cool weather has brought on more new growth. So at least there’s that.

Lastly, the flax seed I’d scattered in the front yard is in bloom:

Flax plant in flower
Flax plant in flower

If you want to catch up with my garden adventure, each of these blog posts has “Previous post – Next post” navigation buttons at the bottom. They take you through my writings in chronological order, but the previous post was A Few Garden Photos – The Harvest Slowly Begins, and the next post is:
The Garden Harvest, Pickling, And Homemade Sauerkraut