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Preserving the Harvest...Prairie Style

Our summers are short but wonderful. The days are hot, the skies are blue and the sweet smell of gardens and fields fills the air. I have a little garden but it is mostly herbs, rhubarb and a few tomatoes for the table. I buy at the Farmers' Market to enjoy that summer flavour.

I grew up in a home where we traditionally preserved B.C. fruit, garden vegetables, butchered meats and freshly caught northern lake fish for the winter. I always wished we had a cold room. Even as a young person in high school I was intensely interested in fresh local food and foraging for berries and other edibles.

Farm life back then assured us that we would have all that.

This year I am preserving a few things. I don't use a lot but I cannot help myself when I see the beautiful stone fruits, pickling cucumbers and local berries. These can be the beginning of an even greater meal. A little black currant jam added to pan juices of a roast duck takes the sauce to the next level. Apricot jam has varied applications in the baking world. This is my justification for adding to my cold room collection.

In addition to these recipes, I have blanched and frozen green beans. Saskatoon berries are in the freezer. I have cured fresh garlic from Anna at The Garlic Garden in Yorkton. Last year I had her fresh garlic throughout the winter and up until the new harvest. I keep it in a basket that I hang on the wall of my cold room. I buy potatoes to store in the cold room. Now I wish I had a root cellar! One day.

This fall or early winter I do expect that I will be gifted some wild pheasant. Last year was my first time plucking and cleaning pheasant! I was sorely unprepared but a quick lesson from the hunter set me in the right direction. Pheasant makes the loveliest clear consommé.

I had a lot of hot peppers from the market that I could not eat quickly so I have pickled them. They will be great in sandwiches. Yum.

Apricot Jam
This is a simple recipe but just bursting with flavour. It has quickly become my favourite jam for toast.

8 c. coarsely chopped apricots
4 c. sugar
1 c. honey
juice and grated peel of 1 orange
1/8 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients in a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil. Cook, stirring frequently until thick, about 30 minutes. Pour into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe jar rims thoroughly. Seal and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (or more depending upon altitude). Yield: about 8 cups.

Chokecherry Jelly   recipe from Bernardin

When I was a teenager we would drive to the hills and seek out locations where we might score a good amount of chokecherries. They have a unique puckery flavour that translates well into jelly, jam and syrup. I could never get the recipe right back then. They have no natural pectin and there was no real recipe. The farm women just knew how to make it. I should have planted myself in my favourite cook's kitchen and documented her recipe. Regrets!

This produced a very soft jelly. I see there is no lemon juice in the recipe. Next time I would add 2 tbsp. bottled lemon juice. Bottled lemon juice has a consistent acidity level as compared to the fresh fruit that can vary.

12 cups (3000 ml) chokecherries
3 cups (750 ml) water 
6 1/2 cups (1875 ml) granulated sugar
2 pouches (170 ml) BERNARDIN® Liquid Pectin

Wash and remove stems from fruit. Combine with water in a stainless steel saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and boil gently 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
Pour prepared mixture into dampened jelly bag or cheese cloth-lined sieve suspended over a deep container. Let drip to collect juice. For quicker results, squeeze bag; juice may be cloudy.

Measure 3 cups (750 ml) chokecherry juice into a large, deep stainless steel saucepan. Stir in sugar and 1/2 tsp (2 ml) butter or vegetable oil to reduce foaming. Over high heat, bring mixture to a full rolling boil. Stirring constantly, boil hard 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Immediately stir in Liquid Pectin, mixing well. Skim foam. Ladle into prepared jelly jars and water bath process. Makes about 6 - 250 mL jars.

Bread 'n Butter Pickles   recipe from Bernardin
Last week after the Market ended a man from one of the Hutterite colonies gave me 3 bags of pickling cucumbers. How could I refuse?

My mother always made bread 'n butter pickles. We loved them. I have never tried making them until now. I cannot ever remember her looking at a recipe book and she always sang while she made them. Slicing cucumbers give a lot of time for reflection and I realized that this simple act of making pickles formed a connection with my mother that was never possible when she was alive. She suffered with schizophrenia most of my life. Relationships were not her strength.

6 1/2 lb (3 kg) pickling cucumbers
1 lb. (454 gm) onions, sliced 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) thick
1/3 c. (75 mL) pickling salt
5 c. ( 1250 mL) white vinegar
1 1/4 c. (300 mL) white sugar
1/2 c. (125 mL) pickling spice
2 tbsp. ( 30 mL) celery seed
2 tsp. (10 mL) ground ginger
1 tsp. (5 mL) ground turmeric

Slice unpeeled washed cucumbers 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) thick, discard ends. In a large glass or stainless steel container, layer cucumbers and onions, lightly sprinkling each layer with salt. Cover and let stand 15 minutes.

Combine vinegar, sugar, pickling spice, celery seed, ginger and turmeric in a large stainless steel saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and boil gently 15 minutes.

Drian vegetables, add to pickling liquid. Mix well. Return mixture to a boil.

Yield – 7 x 500 mL jars

Hot Cucumber Relish   
Three bags are a lot of cucumbers. I needed to make something else. This recipe for cucumber relish looked good and might be nice on hotdogs and hamburgers. We have a block party coming up. I will test this on my neighbours!

7 c. peeled, finely chopped cucumbers
3 c. finely chopped red peppers
1 c. finely chopped hot banana peppers
2 c. finely chopped green peppers
1 c. finely chopped onion
2 c. finely chopped celery
1/2 c. pickling salt
2 1/4 c. sugar
3 c. white vinegar
3 tbsp. celery seed
3 tbsp. mustard seed

Combine prepared measured cucumbers, red peppers, hot peppers, green peppers, onion and celery with pickling salt in a large glass or stainless steel container. Cover and let stand 4 hours.

Drain vegetable mixture through cheesecloth lined sieve. Rinse with water, drain again squeezing out excess liquid.

Combine sugar, vinegar, celery seed and mustard in a large stainless steel sauce pan. Mix well. Bring to a boil. Add vegetables. Stirring frequently, return to a bil and boil gently 10 minutes.

Yield: about 6 - 500 mL jars.

This is my contribution this month for The Canadian Food Experience Project, the brainchild of Valerie at A Canadian Foodie. This is the 5th edition of a yearlong project. You can find posts from other  participants here.

Pickled Peppers recipe can be found here

My previous posts in this challenge can be found here -

My Earliest Memory of Canadian Food
Regional Canadian Food - SW Saskatchewan 
Local Food Heroes 
My Cherished Canadian Recipe - Saskatoon Berry Pie 


  1. Back in the day when I felt I had time for canning anyone of these delectable treats would have been in my cupboards.

  2. There is nothing like living through the time when it was all so real. So necessary and such an inherent part of our traditional food culture as Canadians, is there. Understanding that deep satisfaction of growing, harvesting and preserving one's own food is so - well, human. There is, somehow, that primordial connection - the memories of those who came before - that just make it feel right and good. Like you, I almost have to justify all I do, as it is hard to use it all within the year... another testament to how hedonistic and self indulgent we have become as a society. I fear for the future as this fundamental skill is no longer on many know. It is one that so few young people have ever seen happen in their own home kitchens, that understanding these stories is just so important. Thanks so much, Sarah!

  3. Lovely photos of your preserves. I just finished canning the last (I think) of the fruit this year (crab apple jelly). Whew! I don't know how pioneer women did this over a wood stove with kids underfoot!

  4. Hi Sarah, just stopping by to say how delightful your blog is. Thanks so much for sharing. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris


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