Preserving the Season

Vaughan is a cultural hot spot, and with all that diversity comes a rainbow of culinary adventures that keep our mouths watering all year long. As we segue from summer to autumn, City Life investigates what seasonal sauces, pickles and preserves our citizens make recreationally, using generational family recipes that have followed them all the way from their hometowns to our vibrant city. So grab your empty mason jars and your fresh produce — these are recipes that would turn Peter Piper himself green with envy!

Shu Yuan Long’s Laba (fermented) beans

Named after the Laba Festival in China, Laba (fermented) beans are one of the most beloved homemade dishes in Shu Yuan Long’s home province, Hunan, in the southern part of the country. Not only do these beans make a delicious sidekick to your main meals, but they’re also rich in protein, vitamins and minerals.

Ingredients
Soy beans (preferably yellow soy beans)
Salt
Cooking wine
Minced fresh ginger or spices
(Dried chili or Sichuan Pepper)

Directions
1. Make sure you’re working in a warm place — about 20°C. 2. Wash the soybeans (don’t soak them, or else they might lose their skins).
3. Boil the soybeans in a pressure cooker on high heat. Keep an eye on the pot until it reaches high pressure, then reduce the heat to medium or medium-low and start timing the beans for one hour.
4. Drain the beans in a coriander or sieve. Allow them to cool until they’re a little bit warmer than your hand temperature.
5. Find a clean carton box and line the bottom with a couple layers of hand-rolled paper towel balls, then put a layer of clean cotton on top of the balls. Evenly pour the warm beans over the cotton. Finally, cover the box and keep it in a warm place (or incubated) for a few days (about 50 hours) until they are covered with a fragrant white mycelium. This is the first step of fermentation.
6. Mix the soybeans with salt (50 grams of salt per 500 grams of soybeans), cooking wine, minced ginger or spices. Put the mixed soybeans into a glass bottle, packed tight. Seal the bottle with plastic wrap before putting the lid on. Keep this sealed bottle in room temperature for at least three to four weeks. This is the second and final step of fermentation — the longer this step lasts, the better the beans taste.

Secret tip The best time to ferment soybeans is in the early winter, when your home’s heating system can usually guarantee a stable temperature.

Jayashree’s gooseberry jam dish (Amla ka Murabba)

Jayashree and her fellow ladies in the women’s group at WEConnect Community Services will tell you that pickling and preserving is a meaningful part of South Asian cuisine. These preserved gooseberries are a quirky and irresistible dessert with a sweet ending to a spicy meal and will have your loved ones hooked at their very first bite.

Ingredients
1 kg of gooseberries
½ tsp. of alam
1 ½ l of sugar
½ tsp. of cardamom powder
1 tsp. of black salt

Directions
1. Wash the gooseberries and soak them in water for two days.
2. Pierce the gooseberries all over with a fork.
3. Dissolve ½ teaspoon of alam in 1 ½ litres of water, and soak the pierced gooseberries in it for two days, making sure to turn the gooseberries over twice each day.
4. Remove soaked gooseberries from the water and wash them thoroughly with tap water.
5. In a pan, boil 1 l of water, pour in all the washed gooseberries and bring it to a boil. Boil the gooseberries for two minutes, then remove from the stove and keep the pot covered for 10 minutes.
6. Remove the gooseberries from the boiling water.
7. Pour 1 ½ kg of sugar over the gooseberries in a large bowl and keep it covered for five to six hours. The water content from the gooseberries will come out into the sugar and turn it into a sweet syrup.
8. Boil the gooseberries in its sugar syrup until the syrup becomes as thick as honey and the gooseberries begin to turn a golden brown colour.
9. Once the sugar solution has reached the right consistency, remove it from the stove and allow it to cool.
10. Add one teaspoon of black salt and ½ a teaspoon of cardamom powder. Mix it well and then store in a dry container. The gooseberries will become darker over time.

Secret tip For an extra kick of flavour, add ½ teaspoon of saffron or cinnamon.

Julio Aguirre’s Spanish hot sauce

Julio Aguirre has carried this punchy family recipe all the way from his hometown of Guayaquil, Ecuador, where he learned how to cook from his parents. After moving to Canada in August of 1974, Julio says he’s wowed all his friends and colleagues with this exotic recipe, which he claims not many people outside of Ecuador know how to make. Take a peek at the secret recipe and add this scrumptious concoction to all your savoury end-of-summer dishes.

Ingredients
One tomato
Cilantro
Hot pepper
One red pepper (cut in half)
Chives

Directions
1. Put the tomato, the hot pepper, the red pepper half, three teaspoons of cilantro and some water in a blender. Blend until it’s a liquid-like texture.
2. On the side, chop up some chives, chop up the other half of the red pepper, and mix together with some olive oil.
3. Mix the tomato mixture with the chive mixture.
4. Enjoy!

Secret tip If you want your Spanish hot sauce to last a few weeks in the fridge, don’t dip contaminated spoons into it — make sure your spoon is completely clean before you dig in!

Isabella Ferrara’s fresh apricot jam

As president of S.A.V.I., a community of retirement residences across Vaughan, Isabella is
a busy woman. But she always clears some space in her schedule to spend time pickling, preserving and jam-making — an Italian cultural pastime that’s been passed on through the generations. We sampled her homemade apricot jam, the perfect sweet treat to spread on toast or add a dollop to your favourite dessert.

Ingredients

3 cups coarsely chopped, unpeeled fresh apricots
(about 20 apricots)
3 ½ cups granulated sugar
¼ cup lemon juice

Directions
1. Stir together the apricots, sugar and lemon juice in a large bowl. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 12 hours, stirring occasionally.
2. Place apricot mixture in a large stainless steel or enamel saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently.
3. Reduce heat to medium and boil rapidly, uncovered, stirring frequently until mixture forms a gel (this will take about 25 minutes). Remove from heat.
4. Ladle hot jam into sterilized jars.
5. Place in a cool, dry place.

Secret tip Always use new lids when sealing jam jars — it’s more sanitary.

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Amanda Storey

Amanda Storey