Thankful for preserves

How you can use easy preserving techniques to enhance family dinner

With the fall harvest in full swing we caught up with Dana Harrison and Joel MacCharles of WellPreserved. Joel spoke as part of the Green Living Show’s Mindful Plate last year and shared five preserving techniques that could be done in 5 minutes or less. We had a chance to ask Joel about his favourite preserves and see what’s going on in his kitchen this fall.

What produce is most abundant right now?

Things change so fast this time of year. It is the most exciting time because of all the available variety but it is also one when we see ingredients rapidly disappearing from market shelves. I really try to drop my preconceptions about what to cook and head to the market with an open mind and see what’s available. I’m getting really excited about soup, roasted vegetables and those fall meals that are too hot to cook in the summer.

What are some of your favourite preserves to use for holiday dinners?

Dried mushrooms! They are easy to buy or make (if you spread mushrooms on a baking rack on your counter for a few days they will dehydrate) and can be turned into a powder by pulverizing in a blender. This powder is awesome when added to homemade gravy. If you’ve never made it on your own you must - it’s easy and delicious! Here are the steps:


• After your mushrooms are dehydrated, you can grind them in whatever you have lying around. We chose our coffee grinder.

• Careful to not breathe in the powdered mushrooms; so wait a few minutes before opening the lid.

• If your mushrooms are not getting powdered to your desired consistency, put them in the freezer for no more than 10 minutes and you’ll notice the powder will become much finer.

• Place in an airtight jar and enjoy!

Add a few tablespoons (or more) of mushroom powder to gravy to help thicken it and to add a ton of mushroom flavour. It’s awesome.

What is your favourite fall preserve to add to a recipe?

Definitely stock. It’s one of the simplest things you can make yet there is a complete art to mastering it.

When we spoke at the Green Living Show we noticed that a lot of people were passionate about reducing food waste, so here’s a tip on making stock: there’s no need to peel your onions when adding them to stock! We just cut them in half (I often char them black in a cast iron pan to darken the stock) and add them with their skins on. Skins will add minimal flavour but will help add colour to the broth and you’ll be removing them before serving or preserving.

We have a series of posts on learning to pressure-can stock (so that you can store it on your shelf for months, if not longer) on our site. A lot of people are intimidated by pressure canning but it’s remarkably easy (the most difficult thing is often finding a pressure canner to buy).

What are some quick and easy ways to preserve what's left in your garden this time of year? (ie. carrots, herbs, kale)

If you have a garage or shed, many root vegetables will survive quite well if stored in there as long as they have plenty of air, no direct sunlight and don’t freeze. There are endless other possibilities (including fermented-carrot pickles, salt-cured herb-salees, pressure-canned soups, dehydrated kale chips or more). Preserving is near limitless once you learn the basics.

What's a great starting point for those who have never preserved before?

We get asked this a lot and my answer is unconventional - start with things you LOVE. If you don’t want to eat it, it won’t be worth making. If you LOVE something you’ll figure it out and see that it isn’t as tough as you thought!

How do people learn more?

Come visit our website (www.wellpreserved.ca) or find us on social media. We’re re-launching our newsletter soon and it will bring ideas directly to you.

What else is going on?

We’re putting the finishing touches on our first book (Batch). We’ve been working on it for the last 3 years and are so thrilled to see it ‘come alive.’ It will be in stores in May and features 200 recipes for 7 different preserving techniques and plated meals, which feature preserves. I can’t wait to share it with you!
Make sure you sign up to our newsletter to be alerted about the launch