Name: Amy Beaith-Johnson
Blog name and URL: Urban Food Preserver. http://urbanfoodpreserver.com
Where were you born? Peterborough, Ontario
Where are you living now? Edmonton, Alberta
Why did you start your blog? I had been canning and learning food preservation skills for a few years and giving a few classes through OFRE: Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton, and after signing up to take the online course “Food Preservation for Urban Gardeners” from the University of Guelph, I decided I wanted to start blogging about my experiences in Canada. I love writing and taking photos of food, plants, gardening, and neat examples of upcycling projects. People were asking me for recipes, canning tips, and troubleshooting advice. I thought it would be a good place to capture and share that knowledge.
How did you decide on your blog name? I think food preservation skills are a lost art, and it’s something our generation are keen to learn, but many of us live in cities, as do I. I chose Urban Food Preserver as it speaks to what I’m doing and I think something others living in cities who are also learning or wanting to learn how to preserve can identify with.
What do you blog about? Canning mostly, a bit of urban gardening, local food politics & events, food advocacy & security, etc. I also from time to time share recipes for things I have made from canning goods, like beet chocolate cake.
What post are you most proud of and why? DIY pallet gardens: the possibilities are endless. I had so much fun gathering photos off the web of interesting pallet garden projects that were vertical, horizontal, on the ground, wall mounted, on balconies and patios. I had been asked by a local organization for some ideas of something we could do related to food and we had come up with the idea of a pallet gardening project. I had gathered photos partly to inspire them and get them excited. The project will hopefully come to fruition next year. I wanted to use the post to inspire people who don’t have land to grow or have a small space, that they could grow a garden using an upcycled pallet. The plan worked. A couple of friends saw the post and heard about my idea and started their own pallet gardens in their backyards!
Which post do you wish received more love and why? BC Adventures: Learning how to smoke salmon. This was a very personal post for me. My dad is the chief salmon smoker in our house and my siblings and I live in all different places in the country. This was one of the few times we have gotten together all at once and took the time to learn smoking with my dad. He usually just does it on his own when we aren’t there, so it’s ready to eat and give away when we arrive. It was special to get to do this together as a family, especially since my dad’s health has changed dramatically this year.
Which post’s success surprised you and why? Vegan Chocolate Beet Muffins. I wasn’t setting out to write a blog about baking, but wanted to share the recipe to give people an idea of something to do with canned beets. It’s one of my most viewed posts now. The muffins were delicious. Writing about them, is making me want to go back a fresh batch!
What is one (non-kitchen) gadget you can’t live without? A barrel press for making cider & wine. Since getting involved in OFRE: Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton, one of the most delicious spin-off projects has been when we started making fresh-pressed apple cider out of the rescued apples volunteers were picking from trees in Edmonton. I love getting to help with cider making, especially the tasting! It’s so delicious and nutritious. I pasteurize the cider so that it’s safe for shelf storage in glass jars. We enjoy it all year long at our house, hot and cold.
What is one kitchen gadget you can’t live without? Oh, that’s a hard question! Besides canning and preserving, I love to cook and do most of the cooking in our household. I’m going to say two items that I can’t live without. One pricy and one cheap. The pricy one would be my cast iron skillet. I love the flavour of coking in this and that it adds iron to your diet as well. Something that you can use on the oven or in the oven makes it extra versatile in our small kitchen. A cheap tool that has saved my bacon has been a lid lifter. It’s a little plastic or wooden wand with a magnet at the bottom. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? It’s designed for lifting hot canning lids out of boiling water. I first laughed at this device when I saw it in a store and totally thought it was a gimmick for people excited about canning. So, I tried doing without one for a while and burned my fingers a couple times on hot lids. I decided to get one after a friend showed me she had been using one, and I’m so glad I did. It keeps me sane and saves me time when I’m doing several batches of canning in one day!
Favourite food, care to share a recipe? I would say honey. We grew up raising bees and making honey on our farm for ourselves and a few friends and customers. Beekeeping is something I distanced myself from once I went to university, then became a city dweller, but I always loved looking for honey at farmers markets and still do. It’s something I have been wanting to learn more about again and hope to delve into urban beekeeping in the future. I love sampling honeys to detect the subtle flavours from the different flowers the bees have been into. One of the highlights from my recent trip to Slow Food International’s Terra Madre in Turin Italy, was spending time with local bee & honey enthusiasts at the Honey Bar. This was a place where people from all over the world had brought a jar of their local honey for people to try. It was so fun to try honey’s from India, Africa, South America, and European countries as well. The unique flavours of each reminded me of: caramel, salt, nuts, mint, various fruits, and more! Soem were bitter and some were sweet! It was fascinating and something I will remember! I’m working on some recipes for canning that would be entirely honey based for the sugar factor and will be releasing those on my blog in the coming months. There are a couple on my blog in the Taste Alberta post that using honey in canning recipes. I also like to use honey in my skin care regimen as well as a honey facial or in soaps too. There is a honey facial mask recipe on my Ameya Studio blog.
What else should we know about you that may or not be in your “About Me” page? Yes, it’s been a busy and wonderful year! My partner Mike and I got married this fall. We had a farm to table wedding at Mike’s family farm in Guelph. It was a very special and fun day shared with relatives and friends. We timed it with fall hoping we would get to see the Ontario autumn colours we miss living in Edmonton and we did! Another wonderful event that happened this fall was that I was nominated by Slow Food Edmonton for my work in building a stronger food community, to attend Terra Madre in Turin, Italy this past October. Mike was able to attend as a delegate as well and we both thoroughly enjoyed it! It’s an amazing conference full of everything from food tastings, gardening classes, food security & urban agriculture lectures, wine tastings, and more! A few years ago I founded a small company called Ameya Studio, where I make artisan castille olive oil soaps & beeswax creams using local & wild ingredients. I had started out making soaps from a personal desire to create my own natural products to help keep my skin healthy and reduce risk of infections I am prone to with Lymphedema and this led to a business enterprise based here in Edmonton. The website is: http://ameyastudio.com. I was also recently awarded a Top 40 under 40 by Avenue Edmonton Magazine. I feel honoured to be included in a great list of people who are helping to build a unique and vibrant Edmonton!
What makes your blog unique? Perhaps that I’m touching on many topics that intersect when it comes to good food, such as policy, food preservation techniques, gardening, and growing food in the city. For me, you can’t talk about building a better, more sustainable and just food system without talking also about health, agriculture, wild foods, and the environment. If I can encourage one more person to try canning, or plant a garden, or use an ingredient in their cooking that is locally grown, it makes me feel really happy. We have slowly transformed our urban lawn into an urban garden with almost no grass. I love exploring the idea of living a smaller, more sustainable life using foods right at my fingertips.
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Twitter URL: @UrbanPreserver