by Kylie Meyermann
No matter where he goes, Jamie Kennedy always brings with him what he calls his ‘bottled sunshine.’ When I meet him, lined in front of Chef Kennedy was a row of canned preserves: tomatoes, peaches and a variety of chilies, each one long since out of season. “Canning speaks to where we live and the seasons. This is why we should take advantage of real food when it’s fully ripe,” he explains, pointing to the cans. “This is like bottled sunshine for us.”
Chef Kennedy’s restaurants are characterized by his lovely displays of home-crafted preserves. The latest addition to Jamie Kennedy Kitchens, the Gilead Cafe & Bistro, follows this principle and is decorated attractively with rows of canned preserves.
February is one of the most difficult months for people to attempt to stick to their strict regime of eating local food. Most of Canada’s produce is out of season, and there are only so many renditions of a beet salad that one person can feasibly consume. Chef Kennedy is a passionate contributor to the local artisan production of food, and this is why he participates in the Gardnier Museum’s Lunch & Learn Events. This past Thursday, Chef Kennedy taught an intimate group of thirty people how to preserve food so that they can continue to support local farmers.
Chef Kennedy came to class armed with an assortment of spices, knives and a large fresh pickerel from Georgian Bay. The class was quick and informative, covering all the basics, from proper seasoning to secrets straight from the Jamie Kennedy Kitchen. Chef Kennedy says that preserving meat, fish and produce is not really difficult, it’s just a matter of interest; interest and time.
In order to cure a pickerel, crushed coriander seeds, peppercorns and equal parts of salt and sugar (think bucket-loads of salt and sugar), are required to thoroughly coat the fillet. The seasoned fish is then left to cure in a humidity controlled environment.
Chef Kennedy owns a farm in Prince Edward County. He grows his own vegetables (when the weather permits), and cures meat in his spare time. He has a wooden shed separate from the house that he uses for smoking and curing meat. Many Canadians may feel helpless in the winter, unable to garden or enjoy the privileges of harvesting their own produce, curing meat may be a fun alternative.
Chef Kennedy spent the majority of class discussing the proper technique for smoking and curing meat. He also stressed the importance of preserving vegetables and fruit, when they are fully ripe in the summer. Jamie Kennedy Kitchens only use preserves during the off season. I frequently use tomatoes when I am cooking and I will definitely take Chef Kennedy’s advice and attempt to preserve some fresh tomatoes this summer.
Continuing to ‘eat local’ throughout each Canadian season can be difficult. Being prepared and taking advantage of fruit and vegetables in the summer, when they are ripe, can make February cuisine much more enjoyable.
Chef Kennedy’s cured meats and preserves are available at the Gilead Cafe, located at 4 Gilead Place, Toronto ON.