As I’ve written before, I love me some HGTV. And when I can’t find something I like there, you might just catch me watching something on the Food Network, or The Great Canadian Baking Show or The Great British Baking Show. I have always loved cooking – be it a main course or dessert. I think I was about six years old when I baked my first cake by myself (mum wasn’t far, but I did it alone). So I guess it’s no surprise I love a good baking show. For that matter, I also love watching Nailed It, where people who can’t bake…try. It’s so funny, and I have to give them props for attempting the crazy stuff they are asked to bake – I’m not sure I would!

A few years ago, I spent the better part of a three-day bone broth cleanse watching the Food Network. I couldn’t eat anything, but I sure could watch people cook and bake all day! No wonder I came out of that cleanse and immediately made brunch for about 20 people – even though only ten or so were actually in attendance. Oh, I do make myself laugh.

I went a little crazy with the baking when I got back from Tokyo – taking full advantage of having an oven once again. Thankfully I calmed down a bit on that one (eating too much of it myself!).

This summer, a friend mentioned the desire to can peaches — I was all in. I love peaches, and when they are in season – so amazing. So why not try to preserve some of that summer goodness for cold winter days? We looked online to see what equipment we needed, and find instructions. Couldn’t be much easier – a massive canning pot, pot-lifter, and jars – lots of jars.

Although I am saving most of the peaches for the dead of winter…I did open a jar. I must say, they are DELICIOUS! The only mistake we made was not canning enough of them. Next year, three times as much!

While working on the peaches I mentioned that I have another friend who married into a large Italian family, and they can tomato sauce every year – and I mean A LOT of tomato sauce. V was interested in doing this too, so I called A.M. to get the details on what to do. This also seemed easy enough. All we needed to get was a food mill – and more jars, of course.

When I saw these bushels of roma tomatoes at the Atwater Market I got super excited! I wasn’t going to be doing 15 bushels like A.M. though. One, let’s start with one bushel, and see how that goes.

The process here is a tad more involved and laborious than the canning of peaches.

1) Boil the tomatoes until the skin cracks.

2) Put them in a colander and press out the water (so the sauce won’t be too liquid).

3) Run them through the food mill to remove the skin and seeds. Our one bushel took four hours of food milling…manually cranking the mill for four hours! Next year I’m definitely splurging the $100 or so for an electric food mill.

4) Once all the tomatoes have been put through the mill, cook up some onions and garlic in olive oil, add the tomatoes, some salt, and let it simmer for a few hours.

5) Put some fresh basil in the bottom of the jars and fill with sauce while it is still super hot (when you put the piping-hot contents into a jar, you don’t need to boil the jars to seal them).

6) Place the jars upside down on the counter and let them sit for at least 12 hours.

There’s something very satisfying about hearing the ‘pop’ when the jars seal.

Fresh tomato sauce is now ready for pasta of all kinds. And let me tell you, it is pretty damn tasty!

I’ve been making my own apple sauce for years now. I have it almost every day with oatmeal or granola for breakfast. Normally I’d be making it every weekend. But then with all the jars I have, I thought to myself why do this every weekend? It’s apple season, get a bunch and can it!

All in all, pretty pleased with the canning this year. And looking forward to doing more of it in future.

While doing the canning, I found myself thinking that our ancestors really were on to something. Okay, I know a lot of it was out of necessity, however having the freshness of available fruit canned and at the ready for consumption during winter is just smart. Plus it feels good to make this myself and reach into the pantry to get some more once a jar is done. Next year I’m adding pears to the mix. Yes, it’s “convenient” to buy it at the super market, but it does not taste like this! It is also very satisfying to see the fruits of your labour.

Now that we are well past the canning season, and with Christmas around the corner, you know that means — time for baking! Even though Covid-19 means Christmas won’t be quite the parade of dinners and time with family and friends it usually is, you can still bake and share that love. So V and I decided that we would bake, exchange recipes and baking. Because I am in V & P’s bubble, and they are in mine, we decided to bake together. Also, I live alone, so for sanity reasons am allowed to visit someone or have someone visit. I mean, I love my own company, but even I get tired of hearing myself talk sometimes! It’s great to throw in another voice or two every now and again.

A quick chat revealed we wanted to make:

  • Chocolate Chip Butter Balls
  • Candy Cane Cookies
  • Date Pinwheels
  • Ginger Cookies
  • Lemon Cookie Sandwiches with Lemon Curd and Meringue filling
  • Caramel Candy
  • Shortbread Cookies
  • Hello Dollys

This was a two-day endeavour. Next year we will start sooner and spread it out more!

The lemon cookies are delicious – however they take a while because of the lemon curd and meringue. I strongly recommend making the curd the day before (which we did, thankfully). And although the recipe says you can make the meringue the day before too, I’m not sure I would – putting it into the piping bag when it’s a day old and has been in the fridge overnight might be a little messy and challenging.

The caramel candy – well that was another story. Day one’s batch became some awesome caramel sauce to have with ice cream. Day two saw V headed to a local kitchen shop in search of a new candy thermometer as the one we used the day before was cheap and not so good. Day two’s batch was a success. Woop woop!

Day one’s results!
A quick look at all the different items baked. Some from my childhood, some from V’s, and a few new recipes thrown in.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been in the same place for a while and I’m nesting – big time – but it’s feeling really great to do all of this. Makes this woman want a little house with a little land, enough for a veggie patch and hopefully a few fruit trees (what kind will depend on where I find this little bit of paradise). An old barn or church or house that needs some loving, preferably close to water, would be perfect. I know that sounds like a lot, but why not ask for a lot and see? Things to ponder…. We shall see what happens next.