The Okanagan Valley is giving up the last of its bounty in one giant explosion of colour before the grey and white of winter moves in. Most of these photos were captured on the weekend at the Penticton Farmer’s Marketor while helping with the grape harvest. Colour wheel!
Apple butter is a highly concentrated form of apple sauce produced by long, slow cooking of apples to a point where the sugar in the apples caramelize turning the apple butter a deep brown. Originating in the Middle Ages at monasteries with apple orchards, the secret to making this delicious preserve came over to colonial America with the settlers. Apple butter originated as a way to store apples without refrigeration, before canning was available. Groups would get together for an all-day affair that involved big kettles filled with apples, cider and spices that required constant stirring with big wooden paddles.
Everything you would ever need to know about the historical methods of making apple butter and a recipe to make your own with original methods can be found on the skill cultblog. It’s author encouraged me to try to the historical version but a bit leery on the food safety question, I decided sterilizing jars and finishing off with a good hard boil in a canner was a surer bet.
My recipe is a modern version using a crockpot, an apple peeler (can peel by hand) and an immersion blender (can use a blender or a whisk) and requires no all-day wooden paddle manning. Maybe I’m missing out although I’m happily married to my swain, The Handyman…
Here is where the fun came in, or the ladle was too large, in theory, at least, to be handled by one person, and it was customary for the girls and boys in pairs to take turns in stirring. The lady always had the choice of a partner to assist her when her turn came, and whichever swain she selected was regarded by the others as her favourite beau… The Conquest of Missouri, Joseph Mills Hanson, 1918
Step One: Apples
Step 2 Peel
Step 3 Fill your crock-pot
Step 4 Add sugar and spices
Step 5 Cook on low for about 10 hours
Step 6 Water bath can your apple butter. Sterilize your canning jars, fill them leaving 1/4 inch head space, wipe rims clean, place your lids on and place in a canner filled with boiling water and boil for 15 minutes.
Top down to take advantage of the sun on the first day of fall, The Handyman and I head out from Naramata past Almost a Ranch, Foggy Mountain Ranch, Cedar Creek Ranch and the infamous Crazy Zach’s junk/antique on the way to the “Fruit Stand Capital of Canada” on our annual pilgrimage to bring home some summer to store for greyer days ahead.
Nonna’s secret tomato sauce recipe
(Disclaimer…I am not Italian and do not have a Nonna but if I did this would be her recipe…I have made this basic but lovely tomato sauce for years and it pays homage to Keremeos’ bounty. This makes a lot of sauce at one time and takes advantage of Farmer’s Market tomato prices.
20 lbs. of perfectly ripe tomatoes
3 or 4 large onions chopped
4 to 6 cloves of garlic chopped
1/2 cup of Similkameen honey
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons salt (or to taste)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
1/4 cup of fresh basil
2 teaspoons pepper
splash of olive oil (if freezing your sauce, omit if canning)
If you are freezing your sauce you could also choose to add in peppers, mushrooms…Don’t add in if canning as the additional fresh vegetables will change the pH so it’s unsafe for water-bath canning…
You can either can or freeze this recipe. If canning, omit the olive oil (very important) and follow standard canning direction adding 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to each quart jar after filling. This ensures that the sauce will be safely acidic.
Soften onions and garlic in a splash of olive oil (if freezing sauce) or in a small amount of water in a heavy large pot. (I actually use two large pots, dividing the onions and garlic between them, as one won’t hold 20 pounds of tomatoes.) While the onions are softening, begin preparing your tomatoes.
Add tomatoes in batches to a pot of boiling water for about minute and transfer to a cold water bath (I use the sink). This will make peeling easy… the skin will just slip off. Take a paring knife and cut out the stem end and remove the peeling skin and discard. I then give each tomato a bit of squeeze to eliminate some of the juice so you will have a nice thick sauce. Add the peeled, squished tomatoes to the onions, bring to a boil and then simmer.
Once all your tomatoes have been added to the pot or pots, add in your seasoning reserving the fresh herbs until the sauce has finished cooking. Simmer on low for two to three hours until your sauce reaches your desired thickness. Be sure to taste and adjust your salt and pepper if necessary.
If you like a smooth, uniform sauce, add the cooled sauce to a blender for 30 seconds or so. Add about three cups to each freezer bag and place all the bags on a cookie sheet (to prevent leakage in your freezer) and freeze. Remove the cookie sheet after your sauce is frozen. If you prefer to can your sauce, load your jars, add the lemon juice and place in a canner and boil for 35 minutes. (Do some canning research if you haven’t canned before so you know how to sterilize your jars and so on…)
Every birthday deserves a home-made layer cake. Making one for my daughter Lizzie gives me as much pleasure as it gives her, more really. Healthy lifestyles are super important to our family but come on… it’s a birthday and a once-a-year excuse to pull out all the stops.
Carrot cake ingredients
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
4 large free run eggs
3 cups shredded carrots
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
Pre-heat oven to 350F and grease and flour three 8-inch cake pans.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat together the oil and sugars for 2 minutes and turn the mixer to medium-low and add the eggs, one at a time. Add the flour mix in two batches and mix until just incorporated. Add carrots and pineapple and mix until just combined. Evenly divide the batter among the three pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cakes come out clean. Cool and remove from the pans.
Lemon cream cheese frosting
4 ounces softened cream cheese
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
3 1/2 to 4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp pure vanilla
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla and mix until fluffy.
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp large egg whites
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 cups butter at room temperature, cubed
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
few drops of yellow food colouring
Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk together by hand to combine. Place the bowl on the top of the a saucepan filled with a few inches of water on medium-high heat to create a double boiler. Whisking intermittently, heat the eggs mixture until it registers 160F or is hot to the touch. Once hot, fit the bowl onto your mixer and whisk the egg white mixture about 8 to 10 minutes. The mixing bowl should be room temperature and the eggs should hold a medium-stiff peak when done. Swap out the whisk for a paddle attachment and add the butter a bit at a time with the mixer on low. Once all the butter is added, turn up the mixer and beat until smooth for about 3 to 5 minutes. Add a few drops of yellow food colouring to achieve a light lemon colour.
Some assembly required
Choose which will be your bottom layer and place it on a cake plate. Spread half the cream cheese frosting with an offset spatula. Top with another layer and spread the remaining frosting. Add the final layer and ice the top and sides of the cake with the vanilla buttercream. Make the spun-sugar decoration just before serving as it will only hold its shape for a short time.
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
Secure two wooden spoon handles with tape over your sink. Add the sugar, corn syrup and 1/2 cup of water to a saucepan and heat on medium-high until the mixture reaches 300F, about 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile prepare an ice bath in a large metal bowl and set aside. As soon as the sugar reaches 300F remove from the heat and submerge the bottom of the pan in the ice bath. Let it stand about a minute and then dip a wire whisk into the sugar and wave it back and forth over the spoon handles. Working as you go, gather the strands and shape into a round shape with your hands about the size of your cake and add to the top of your cake.
Even non banana bread lovers will be won over with this Canadian version sweetened with maple syrup and topped with a maple, nut crumble. So good eh?
3/4 cup of nuts, lightly toasted and finely chopped. You can use walnuts, pecans or flaked or slivered almonds.
2 teaspoons of Quebec maple syrup
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup softened butter
Combine all ingredients except the butter in bowl. Add the butter and mix with your fingertips until the crumble is just moistened and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350F and butter a six-cup (1.5 litre) 10 x 4-inch loaf pan and line it with a sheet of parchment paper, letting it hang over both the 10-inch sides.
1 1/4 cups very ripe bananas, mashed with a fork (about 3 bananas)
3/4 cup Quebec maple syrup (Aunt Jemima’s? Forgetaboutit)
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
Whisk together the bananas, maple syrup, butter and eggs and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. With a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the banana mixture until the batter is just moistened.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Sprinkle on the maple crumble. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before lifting from the pan by the parchment paper.
Jennifer Cockrall-King’s Food Artisans of the Okanagan will make you salivate and then want to hop on a plane, train, car or bike and set out to sample as much of this bounty as your pants will allow. This new guide to the best of what’s grown, fished, foraged, made, baked, brewed or cooked in the Okanagan and Similkameen is the result of a year of Jennifer’s curation, interviewing and storytelling of more than 125 artisans. A food culture writer and urban agriculture expert for more than 20 years, she spent an afternoon talking to me about the the behind-the-scenes process of writing the guide book, the momentum of the Okanagan’s culinary scene and the people and passion behind it, life as a food writer and her next big project. Highlights of our discussion follow.
“The toughest thing about the project comes after all the writing, editing and lay-out work is done and it’s too late to change anything,” she says. I’m always scared that there will be something I want to change or I’ve gotten something wrong.”
Food Artisans of the Okanagan is attractively and thoughtfully designed and well laid out. The guide is organized geographically and then by category such as fish and seafood, cheese, spirits, beer cider and mead, fruits and vegetables and chefs… Each section (North, Central, South Okanagan and The Similkameen) includes a clear map to help you plan your foodie route. It’s also fun just to flip through the guide stopping to admire the great photos and reading through the stories of the artisans that catch your interest.
“I’m pleased with the book,” says Jennifer. “The publisher (Touchwood) spent money in the right places. The cover stock is perfect and the illustrations great. We went through a lot of different ideas for the cover and then chose between six different colour schemes.” The guide’s Tuscan yellow and blue scheme is perfect for the Okanagan.”A good cover design makes a world of difference as does a good spine design. There are so many things you don’t think about such as the trim size. The book feels good in your hand and it’s a standard guide book size which helps you see immediately how the book is designed to be used. There is nothing worse than picking up a nice looking book and it’s all floppy in your hands.”
After Jennifer was approached by the publisher to write the book, she pushed back on the timeline to allow her the breathing room to do the great job she wanted to do. That meant the time to visit each of the artisans in person in a 20,000-square-kilometre area. “For that entire year you have no income from the project. You are working on perspective and just hope people will buy it.” (Sales are great so far…) Not to mention all the driving…
Her criteria for choosing the artisans to feature is illustrated by a recent encounter at The Bench Market (featured in the guide). “I ran into a German tourist who bought a copy of my book which I signed for him. “I thought to myself if this guy buys my book and decides to drive to Osoyoos to seek out some of the artisans that captured his interest am I going to feel confident that he will be happy he did? This was my gut check. Can I feel confident that someone randomly opening a page and deciding to go somewhere will be glad they did.”
Jennifer writes about who the artisans are, how they got into their business and what makes their offering unique. “Part of the fun of writing the book was making new discoveries myself. I didn’t know the North Okanagan at all. One really surprising discovery was Fieldstone Organics in Armstrong. I’m a Prairie girl and just didn’t picture grains being grown in the Okanagan.” Fieldstone Organics works with 25 other local organic farmers and now has a line of dozens of organic, non-GMO whole grain and whole seed products like rye, flax, spelt and Emmer wheat along with organic lentils, dried peas and buckwheat.
She also had fun discovering unlikely success stories like Doug’s Homestead Meat Shopwhich is pretty much in the middle of nowhere in Hedley. With a cult following Brent and Linette McClelland sell over 300 pounds of beef jerky alone every day through their front door.
Jennifer also made a point of giving a shout-out to the amazing chefs of the Okanagan that are doing some very cool things attracting international attention with all the lovely meat, fish, produce, grains, fruit…that our bountiful valley produces.
“My hope for the success of the book is largely for the people I profiled. I want readers to make an emotional connection and to understand what goes on in the production of their food. These people put their heart, soul, sweat and backs into this physically demanding work.”
Jennifer’s engaging writing gets right to the heart and stomachs of the people who buy her book. “Good food writing is not as much about the writing as it is about communicating. It’s not about flowery quill pen activity but more about being approachable, open, curious and well-informed.”
Job done or job jobbed as they say in England.
Her next project is about seed banks around the world and we got onto the topic of her visit to the Norway Global Seed Vault on the island of Spitsbergen. Future blog post I hope…
When Marichel owner, viticulturist and winemaker Richard Roskell is asked what makes his winery special he pauses and chooses his words very carefully: “The offerings from this farm are an expression of love of Naramata. This is a special place for growing and making wine.”
More than just the attention and care Richard pours into the 1,500 cases of Viognier and Syrah Marichel he produces yearly, the farm too is about love. He was persuaded into buying it by his wife Elisabeth in 2000 who fell hard for the beautiful land on a bluff overlooking Lake Okanagan with its incredible across-the-lake view of Summerland’s Giants Head Mountain.
Elisabeth passed away a year ago. “She was key in helping us acquire the farm,” Richard says. “For example, she spoke German with the former owners who were in Germany. We both fell in love with it as soon as we saw it. She is a huge part of what Marichel is today, her efforts and her vision.”
The vineyard’s name is a combination of the first initials of Elisabeth’s son Marlow, Richard and Elisabeth. I think it sounds lovely and very French.
A retired Air Canada pilot, Richard says he is relishing his second career spent in the outdoors. “There is some useful cross-over from my days as a pilot,” he says. “The discipline you need to approach a problem and the organizational skills definitely apply. But it’s not in any way a mechanical process like flying from Point A to Point B. It’s a much longer and hugely rewarding process to plant vines, watch them grow, tend them and years later literally see the fruits of your labour.”
Richard says his take on wine-making is very hands off. “The wine is quintessentially an expression of the farm. I don’t manipulate the wine…It’s the vineyard you are tasting.”
Anthony Gismondi does a much better job at describing Marichel Vineyard’s Syrah saying, “Mocha, liquorice, black berry jam, port-y nose with intense vanilla, leather, resin, cooked rhubarb notes spiked with garrigue and slightly volatile notes…” Sounds good too me. Here is my description: “Damned good.”
This small winery is a bit of a hidden gem tucked away in Naramata on Little John Road which boasts only two properties…that of our good friends Bill and Pam and Marichel. Richard carefully tends the vineyard himself which is divided up into eight small microclimates. He has left areas of natural plantings on the property which is home to a variety of wildlife. Partway through the growing season he will select prune off a good deal of the fruit to supercharge the flavour of the remaining grapes.
With a quiet, but dedicated following, Marichel is a wonderful surprise for new visitors who are astonished by the dramatic views, special wines and the warm welcome. The tasting room is open daily through mid-October from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 1016 Little John Road is on the lakeside of Naramata Road before you reach the Village of Naramata.
A sold-out crowd of about 100 wined on 10 Okanagan wineries’ takes on Sauvignon Blanc and dined on three famous local chefs’ versions of spot prawns on a heritage paddle wheeler. I have a wonderfully scribbly, tomato-stained notepad to show for it and a spot or two of my own on my white blouse. OK by me. It was just the right number of people to fill the beautifully-restored SS Sicamous to create a convivial buzz of talk and laughter and the feeling that this was the perfect place to be on a Sunday afternoon in Penticton.
The inaugural Wine Party (Jennifer Schell and Terry Meyer-Stone) spotlight event was designed to focus on a local sampling of a single varietal paired with the BC shellfish that has risen to superstardom in the seafood world. Spot prawns are such a big deal in the culinary world that it’s gotten to the point where it’s very hard to part fisherman from some of their catch before it heads overseas to lucrative markets and if you do, the prices are higher than for lobster. This year’s catch is 50 per cent more than last year’s, partly because Asia’s farm-raised tiger prawn industry has been decimated by a disease.
What’s the big deal about spot prawns? The little critters are large, sweet, firmly fleshed and are harvested sustainably for about 80 days every spring off BC’s coast in the inside waters of Vancouver Island.
The Spotlight on Sauvignon Blanc and Spot Prawn Festival chefs worked some magic with those already tasty crustaceans.
I now get what the big deal is about spot prawns. A doggie bag would have been an idea…
“Our Wine Party brand is about education as well as fun and this type of event allows people to experience a range of styles produced here in the Okanagan,” says Jennifer Schell. We are spotlighting the local version of the varietal — many wine drinkers immediately think of New Zealand when they think of Sauv Blanc — so we are aiming to redirect their palates here.”
Lovely glasses of summer-in-a-glass Sauv Blanc was poured by these fine wineries:
“Can you believe this venue?,” says Jennifer. “I immediately fell in love and couldn’t believe I hadn’t been on it before. That will not be the last Wine Party event on the SS Sicamous.”
We’ve come a long way baby. I wonder what the crew of the ship would make of the wine and spot prawn party and some of its interesting guests?
Renée Stewart (Operations & Sales Manager) and her mom, Jeannine Fradelizio are pictured here with Jeannine’s cool invention, Wine Glass Writer. These fantastic pens helped me keep track of my wine glass throughout the event. Beats a wine charm. Who can ever remember which charm you had?
Being spoiled for choice of wineries to visit in my own Naramata Bench neighbourhood, we rarely venture down the road to OK Falls or Oliver or across the lake to Summerland which we view from our deck, but we really should get out more. A trip to Thornhaven Estate Wineryand some time spent in those red chairs is time perfectly spent. I have a soft spot for anything do with Summerland because any town with “Summer” in it seems like a warm and happy place…add a glass of their Infusion frizzante and the happy metre goes into the red chair zone.
Jan Fraser, who with her husband Jack, started the winery as a “retirement” project says, “There is something special about the wineries in Summerland. I think it has to do with how many of them are family-owned. They are all pretty special out here and their is a lot of pride.” In addition to Jan and Jack, who also run Jackson Height’s vineyard, their son Jason is winemaker and cellarmaster for the estate and oversees three of Thornhaven’s Summerland vineyards. Daughter Cortney heads sales and marketing for the winery and with husband Nick oversees the Elmo’s Vineyard, where the winery grows its unique Orange Muscat.
The family is celebrating the 15 anniversary of Thornhaven in the best way possible with the release of their XV, which is the Syrah-Cabernet Sauvignon blend available just at the winery. If you like pink and bubbles (yup), their Infusion is made from classic Champagne vareitals Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. I loved it.
The family has a lot to celebrate. Jan says she is most proud of being around 15 years. Thornhaven was only the third winery in Summerland when they opened. “It’s great to be part of a community of wineries now which makes such as a nice destination for wine touring.” The Bottleneck Drive Winery Association, of which Thornhaven is an active participant and booster, now has 19 members including a fruit winery and cidery. Among the members are Dirty Laundry Vineyard,Silkscarf Family Boutique Winery, and 8th Generation Vineyard.
Daughter Cortney says she is most proud of her brother Jason. “We never set out to make award-winning wines. Our goal was to make really good wines but it’s a happy surprise to be recognized and it’s all down to Jason. He has control of the vineyards to the cellar to bottling, until the wine hits the shelves. Have to give it to him. We are already having an award-winning season taking two golds at Spring Wine Festival, for the XV and our 2015 Gewürztraminer. With so many wineries now its such a great surprise that we make really great wines too.”
Thornhaven has grown from producing 2,800 cases to about 5,600 and the hard work is still engaging, Jan says. “The wine changes every year and we add new things like the frizzante.” Cortney chimes in saying, “It’s dangerously easy drinking.” I can testify to that. It was a good thing the Handyman was driving.
The family is expanding with the addition of Cortney’s three children and it’s looking like the family business may remain so for years to come. “Cortney, our first to reach Kindergarten age, was in class and the kids were working on learning how to set the table. After everything was placed, Cortney says, ‘This is where the wine glasses go.’ I explained to the teacher that we are in the wine business so she didn’t get the wrong idea.” Cortney added that local teachers get a lot of bottles of wine at the end of the year versus I Heart Teachers mugs. I bet they are OK with that.
If all the other Bottleneck Drive wineries are as warm and welcoming as Thornhaven and their wine as good, I can understand what Jan means about Summerland having a unique vibe. “It’s a pretty great community of like-minded people who know what it takes to get great wine into the bottle,” she says.
Like the movie “Sideways” here is a bit of digression. This little bear cub is peeping in the window of our deck doors as I write this. You know the feeling when you’re back is turned and someone is watching…