Sionainn Cailís

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since Apr 03, 2020
Sometimes I draw people
5b Ontario
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Recent posts by Sionainn Cailís

I think I am just more accepting of many others here. lol.

Probably comes with living in the middle of real urban sprawl with high density. Seven million people around me. That number only ever moves in one direction. I am living in quite the luxuriously sized urban lot here (over 500m², where standard urban lot here is just over 300m²) but I can't escape 7 million people. It isn't possible to escape this civilization driving 100 km in any direction.

I look at it this way- regular conventional food, including all the common grains, fruits, and vegetables, plus a lot of animal feeds and everything else people eat, is SOAKED in pesticide, fungicide, and herbicide. Organic is definitely a lot better, but still might be using stuff that isn't great. Plus all that food is picked up by smelly tractors, and forklifts, and put in smelly warehouses, and transported on smelly trucks into a smelly parking lot, where it is offloaded into your local store where you go buy it and probably put it into your smelly car to get it home, before you prepare it and eat it.

If I grow stuff, and use NOTHING dangerous on it- regardless of the local car exhaust, or construction dirt, or my neighbour's chlorine pool-  it cant possibly be worse than what I can buy to eat. Plus my city water is treated and often smells like chlorine, because it has to be treated. I bathe and drink in this. Plus I breathe these chemicals when I walk outside, or open my house windows.

Maybe someone wants to say my little urban garden veggies are no good because they can't be completely "natural." Good for them! I will eat my damn veggies, and they are definitely fresher than what I can buy.

I say grow your veg, wash it nicely (which you should always do regardless) and accept that if you live in an urban environment, there is a tradeoff to the freshness and cleanness of the air you breathe and water you drink, and that relates to the food you eat. :) Such is our lives, friend.
1 day ago

Catie George wrote:Sionainn -  And how do you make the pepper spread? I love a commercially made eastern european pepper condiment that is used to add flavour to soups and stews and would love go make something similar at home.

Sorry for pause, it IS pepper picking time lol. We just finished picking the peppers yesterday!

We make ajvar, I have never seen it used to flavour soup or stews, but it is very useful condiment to flavour eggs, meats, smear on bread, serve with cheese or sour cream, etc.

Ajvar needs red peppers, garlic, pepper, salt, and oil. We always use a mix of of spicy and sweet peppers for the best taste. Years ago I also convinced my mother in law to switch from cheap oil to very good quality olive oil, it is healthier and olive oil is also tasty.

We use 10 bushels (Canadian bushel is I think about 36.5 litres) red peppers-  for that quantity we need 2 bushels eggplants, a few litres of olive oil, maybe 1 kg salt (14 handfuls of salt), 2 handfuls freshly ground black pepper, and about 2 kg fresh crushed garlic cloves.

Wash all the peppers and eggplants, roast all over open flames until the outsides are blackening. Peel them all, deseed them all, and put them all through a grinder. Grind up your garlic. About half the olive oil is added, and it gets slowly cooked down over low flame until it is all a beautiful dark red colour and thick spread. Usually takes about 4-6 hours of stirring a cauldron like a witch. Add in the salt and pepper. Put it to jars and we use the rest of the olive oil to top each full jar to make like a secondary air seal before we cap and put in the oven to seal.

We make approx 50 Litres of finished product from this amount. It keeps over a year easily, not that we ever have jars last so long. 500ml jars are, imo, the best size, as once opened a jar lasts about a week in the fridge since theres not much preservatives.

1 week ago

Catie George wrote:Sionainn - what is the brine solution recipe? And how do you make the pepper spread? I love a commercially made eastern european pepper condiment that is used to add flavour to soups and stews and would love go make something similar at home.

Oof!! My inlaws have no recipes. Oral tradition and shown example is so important for that reason. Hundreds of years of little regional traditions, and there is never a recipe to be located. :) It's okay, my family never wrote down anything either. Also in the habits of oral traditions and showing by examples. This is probably the case for 95% of all European peasant families lol.  

I would have to give it a best guess.

I would estimate each cabbage head is close to around 2kg mark. The family only picks the biggest, and most dense winter green cabbages for this job, and they are BIG.

So maybe one barrel is approximately 50-55 kg cabbages. I think approximately two boxes regular sea salt (1 kg each) is about what is used to pack cores and the rest mixed to make salt water. Mom cuts a bigger and more squared hole when she cores, so whatever is the size of the hole needs to be packed with salt. I have no idea for drum size, except that I could probably take a swim in it, lol, because the drums used for cabbage are impressive. The drum fits approx that much cabbage, with enough space for the big stone to be lifted on top of it.

Also, my mother in law used to add whole peppercorns before, stuffing them into the cores along with the salt. She only stopped last few years because she seems to have developed an allergy to black pepper. She also likes some whole bay leaves, and told me they used to sometimes also add a piece of horseradish root to the brine in her village. Father in law mentioned before that it was common in his village to add some dried whole paprika peppers into the pack.

My mother in law is an ethnic Serb from part of the region that is now in central- eastern Croatia. Her methods are different from her husband's family, which is a region that is part of very southeast Serbia, and also HER brother in law (the uncle who picks the cabbages) as his family is from mid-southwest Serbia. Each little hamlet and village will produce the same item with a slightly different special taste. :)
2 weeks ago
Bonnie, sorry for my ramblings, hah. I guess I inherited the Irish curse of wordiness..

Here are many more words :)
Balkan cabbage preparation is a lactoferment. Compared to German krauts I would say it is usually less salty and sour and it is preferred for the favoured cooking methods to pack the heads whole or at least with big leaves, instead of shredding and packing like for german style.

Whole cabbage preservation to make kisela kupus (sour cabbage) :

All my inlaws have huge barrels that they pack cabbages into for fermenting. Cabbages are picked in autumn, washed, any loose outer leaves removed, and cored. Outer leaves are used to make a layer on the bottom and then again on the top. They use handfuls of plain salt (not iodized) to pack the cores, and really stuff all the cabbages into the barrel.

Some portion are halved or quartered and used to pack in the holes between each whole head. All the while someone gets the cauldron going with salted water. Once all the barrel is packed, outer leaves are layered on top, then some specially made hardwood sticks are shoved in to hold the cabbage tight, and a big stone is placed on top to anchor them down. Water is cooled with plain water (but needs a certain portion boiled to dissolve the salt into it hence big cauldron) and then this salted water is added to fill in the barrel.

Now it is time to hermetically seal the barrel and be patient. :)

Cabbage packed in September harvest will likely be ready sometime in end November. My husband's family saint is michael, so their orthodox slava date falls November 21. Quarter heads are ready by this time, but sometimes inside of the whole heads still has a bit longer to be ready. We will always start to eat it by Christmas celebrations (orthodox christmas is January 7th.) We usually will finish the barrel right around his uncle's slava, which is May 6th.


My mother in law makes it the best of anyone (not just my compliment, she is known by all the others to have the best) and her tips are:

1.) Take time to fully remove the entire core and pack well with salt. If not, the outer leaves will ferment too much and get too soft before the heart is fermented. This can also cause rot and for the brine to turn very clouded. It won't last the whole winter. Even in southern Canada we have decent winters. ;)

2.) Pack as tightly as possible, which is why her barrel holds usually 24-28  big winter cabbages, and usually about 7-8 of them are chopped to half or quarter to tightly pack all her layers. Also make sure you have winter cabbages with very tight leaves. I am told loose heads make for bad kiseli kupus.

3.) Cold is best. It takes longer for ferment to finish, but the colder the storage means you use less salt and the cabbage brine is better. You get a better flavour/colour/scent and the cabbage also usually doesn't need rinsing. Cold rooms in basements are very popular here (except for brand new housing since not many cook anymore) so the cold room is best. The warmer it is, the more salt is needed, and more frequent topups with salt water.

As a side note, the drum weighs at least a couple hundred kilos if not more. Choose locations and positioning carefully because once full and sealed, no one is moving it. lol.

Also, periodically through winter the brine needs to be drained from the bottom and poured back into the top. All of their enormous drums have a tap installed at the bottom used for this purpose in addition to draining the finished drum. After it's opened and is being used through winter, it needs to periodically top up with more salt water and mix the brine from bottom to top.


Whole cabbage leaves are very often used for sarma - the Balkan version of cabbage rolls, made either vegetarian or with pork meat mixed into the rice filling, and boiled in tomato juice. Sometimes also some smoked bacon is added to filling to cooked in the pot in the liquid.

It is also used to make sour cabbage soup. (I can't remember the name for this at the moment ) This is winter soup with cured sausage, sometimes with beans or just with potato.

The quarter heads are usually shredded very thin to make podvarak - baked sour cabbage. (Forgive my crude translations) Podvarak can be made vegetarian or with either smoked pork neck, smoked turkey, or smoked sausages. the cabbage is sauteed with lots of sliced onions and garlic, and the meat, and baked in oven. I like to use julienned carrots to add a bit more veg.

Vegetarian versions of all dishes are usually made for the fasting purposes, otherwise Balkan people are really meat lovers.

Last but definitely not least is as side salad, not cooked but just shredded and dressed with a bit of vinegar and pepper and thin sliced salted onions. adding grayed carrots is also nice, but then it needs more vinegar.

All these dish suggestions also go well served with ajvar (or "Serbian ketchup"  as I sometimes refer to it) which we also make yearly, and is a spicy roasted pepper spread. In fact, I am prepping my jars now for next week to do the ajvar making.

It you made it through all this congrats. lol. Hopefully someone can reference it when looking for ideas on how to save and eat their cabbage harvest. ;)  
2 weeks ago
My grandparent's knew how to do everything from butcher livestock to farm to fly small planes and repair engines :) They passed all the knowledge they could onto their 4 kids, who prompty tossed all the useless old ways out and never looked back.
My nana would pass on information to us grandchildren whenever oppourtunity presented itself, but such oppourtunities dimished as she aged. I learned from her to make cheese,  jam, and to salt and smoke fish.

My inlaws are Yugoslavian, and  have also been quite helpful to share the preservation techniques they know, although I am the only one of this generation that's really interested. I find it interesting that they preserve all their cabbages whole.

Besides oral traditions, I have actually enjoyed sniffing out old books. I have a few Victorian references that can offer some insights to 19th century and sometimes older methods of preservation and brewing. There's even a bit to be gleaned from Book of the Farm by Henry Stephens, even though it's mostly focused on large things like grain and hay storage. Beeton's Book of Household Management has some good info on jams and pickles, but also some strange recipes. Considering Mrs. Beeton was such a well to do lady, I expect that none of the recipes are hers, but rather that she collected from her servants. Some other very old versions of Good Housekeeping Illustrated cookbook and a few Foods of the World Series cooking books from Time-Life Books from the 1960s add a bit more insight, as well as recipes and meal customs to use such varied preserves.

Food preservation is also quite different in different parts of the world. I learned how to make preserved lemons in salt from a Moroccan coworker. I lesrned to make richly sticky, opaque pork stock from a lovely ramen chef in Tokyo- if I get to visit Japan again maybe I will learn to they make pickled ginger.  Lots of places to learn from, when we look beyond our doorsteps.
2 weeks ago
Hugo, is that purslane in the last photo? I have some that planted itself, but not sure how one would eat it. Do you use it for salad?
3 weeks ago
Oh and to add something useful to this thread, I grow hinkelhatz peppers and "Grandpa's Siberian" peppers here in containers.

They are nicely hot *with* a good flavour. They are also very small plants that can easily fit into a small pot and the light requierements are such that they will still survive a really dark Canadian winter without much in the way of sunlight- ESPECIALLY the siberians which are basically meant for producing through a miserable and lengthy siberian winter. One cat bit once last year and will never make that mistake again.

Hinkelhatz are "Pennsylvania Dutch" (which I believe is actually german-american) and is some transliterated version of "chicken hearts" to relate to their chicken heart-shape and size. The red hinkelhatz have been kind of jalapeno level of heat (so not very) but the yellow hinkelhatz I have grown to date are HOT. close to or comparable as fresh cayennes. I tested last year amongst all willing guests and everyone thought they were amazingly hot, but still with a nice flavour, if that makes sense.

I cannot normally grow hot peppers. They simply wont produce hot because they need more sun and heat than my local microclimate can provide. But I discovered these a couple years back and they produce a more modest crop over winter indoors, and a more happy crop outdoors on my patio in summer.

These can also dry and be used as powder, or ferment to use for sauce. The flavour is nice and a touch fruity.

I also grow lemon balm, and am attempting to grow lemon grass this year. I have it outside now for the summer, but it will be like my rosemary that I dig up and bring indoors for the winter. The lemongrass is wonderful - all the lemon citrus flavour but without the bitterness of lemon balm or the sourness of actual lemons. Very nice in cooked dishes and in gin cocktails. I am really hoping it can hold itself for the winter indoors, as it promises to be less finicky than an actual potted lemon tree. ( I grow precious few tropical things because I live in Canada, but warm-loving grass seems more promising than actual lemon trees.)
3 weeks ago

tony uljee wrote:yes the wasabi growing and selling get rich quick plan , i had grand visions of it ---but  the kiwis and the chinese have beaten me to it ---they supply world demand it seems despite the reported shortage always being talked about , i do believe it has a potential here in ireland once it becomes available to a wider market---just we are slow here to mainstream accept things related to food--yes we have posh resturants and menus but  we are only just getting the hang of pasta and rice over spuds as an option. I suppose if its marketed as a type of cabbage with a kick

I know this is a year old, but I laughed and laughed and laughed. I could try selling that to my nana- cabbage with a kick.

I am Canadian, but my family is as Irish as they get (they are from Kerry) and I remember the once a year we would order special Chinese takeout and everyone would be baffled by the exotic offerings of rice and steamed dumplings.

If you see this, thanks for the laugh! Living in such a large and cosmopolitan city as Toronto makes people wonder why I am always so fascinated by their cuisines and why I love to cook everything from all over the world,  but definitely I grew up on porridge and boiled dinners and thats the truth of it now.
3 weeks ago
Jay I am impressed with your garlic!! I love garlic, I put cloves in just about every dinner and supper we eat;) I don't care if we smell, I can't smell much anyway. :p haha

And Inge those potatoes are fantastic! I have to wait longer for mine, and I have a sneaking suspicion they have been eaten by wild(urban) life, like everything else this year. Between the city construction projects ripping up the greenspace behind us and this terrible, relentless heat, I seem to have collected a big hodgepodge group of refugees.

I have beans! beans beans beans. I Only pick a big handful every day, just enough for us to eat fresh daily. But this year I am growing noodle beans for the first time, and they are so fantastic and funky looking to my northern Canadian/Euro-centric vision. lol.

Longest set to date, which was over 63 cm!!! My friend thinks I am growing skipping ropes lol.

3 weeks ago

Douglas Alpenstock wrote:
Whoa! I just did a double-take reading this.

Recipe please!

Not sure how accurate, I checked my notes and I wrote for myself to use less sugar next time. This is the original how I wrote. I am not as much a fan of so sweet, so this year will start with 400 gr and see how it goes.

Confiture de tomates verte

1kg of firm green tomatoes
600 gr sugar
15-20 ml best vanilla liquid or use a scrape bean
2-3 lemons, juiced and use the grated rind (lemons vary a LOT in size here, sometimes they are very big, and sometimes they are tiny. or dry)

wash and quarter or cut smaller depending on size of tomatoes, toss with others, cook to jam consistency and jar.

For apple varient I used about 400gr sugar per kilo tomatoes and kilo peeled and diced apples. I think apples I used were likely spy apples, which are about my favourite for baked winter desserts.

I also made note to try other seasoning. This year I might make some variation with ginger. :)

3 weeks ago