The Queen of Cans and Jars…

Though it is not my intention to write solely about food and drink, I am currently obsessed with the bounty of harvest vegetables we recently received from our favorite organic farmers, Potager André Samson. As you can see from their picture, André and Sylviane are incredible lovely people, and work hard all summer to supply Hochelaga’s more omnivorous residents – there are probably hundreds of people in our neighborhood whose diet consists exclusively of hot dogs and other meat products, and cigarettes – with a remarkable array of organic vegetables, not to mention eggs and maple syrup. Though we have been receiving baskets of vegetables all summer, this past Thursday was the last of our weekly pick-ups, and brought with it a plethora of earthy delights.

And so we are currently in possession of several dozen pounds of red (and white) beets, onions, garlic, turnips, celery root, cabbage, Jerusalem artichokes and various squashes piled up on surfaces around the kitchen. The goal, to actually eat them all before they rot and turn to mush, or find a way to preserve them so we can enjoy them at a later date.

Making soup is an obvious option, as it can be popped into the freezer and saved for a day in the as yet impossible to imagine future when I will actually want to consume another root vegetable. We chopped up six or seven turnips, threw them in the oven with some onions and garlic and set them to roast at about 375 degrees. Then, because it was actually a beautiful and temperate day in Montreal – in a month where it can rain for days on end, and the only bright note is that the rain might possibly turn to snow – we went for a walk in the Botanical Gardens. Because they are now laying fallow for the winter, the gardens and their environs are free to visitors, and so we roamed about, enjoying the subtle aromas of lingering shrubs like juniper, lavender and sage.

When we got home, we tossed the vegetables in a pot with some sliced apples, water and salt and brought it to a boil. After 30 minutes, the flavours had mingled. A quick spin in the blender and it was ready to go. But what really made the soup something special, was the dollop of yogurt and slices of beet pickles which we laid on top.

Beets are funny vegetables. Though my 9 year-old nephew loves them, when I was a kid, I disliked them without evening trying them. In fact, until quite recently, my response when offered beets was to politely decline. “Thanks, but I don’t like beets,” was my customary response. Then I discovered that beets are awesome. Stick one in a juicer with a carrot, apple or pear, and good-sized chunk of ginger and you’ve got yourself a glass of health. But be careful. A friend of mine, when on a juice cleanse a few years ago, put herself into some kind of toxic shock after drinking several beets worth of juice a day for a week. What is awesome about the beet pickle option is how delicious they are, how fresh and full of taste, how long they last, and how few of them you need to eat at one time. The recipe is also incredibly easy:

Grama King’s Beet Pickles

* boil beets until cooked, about 1 hour
* meanwhile, take some canning jars and turn them upside down in a shallow pot of water
* bring the water to a boil and sterilize the jars, and their lids – this takes about 10 minutes
* when the beets are done, slice them and fill the bottles
* then, in a sauce pan, add 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup of water (for 6-8 beets)
* bring the liquid to a boil and add 2/3 cup of brown sugar, 2 teaspoons salt, some black pepper and 8 cloves
* as a final touch, add a teaspoon of pickling spice if you have it
* pour the hot liquid over the beets and seal them
* I am paranoid about health stuff and so keep ours in the fridge
* they last for awhile, but we usually eat them before it becomes a concern anyway

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