Winnipeg chefs hop on custom preserves food trend

Take a look around Winnipeg restaurants these days and you’ll spot more than original canvases, objets d’art and photographs adorning the walls.

Preserved fruits and vegetables add pizzazz to dishes out-of-season at Winnipeg eateries

Chew's chef and co-owner Kristen Chemerika-Lew holds a jar of pickled golden beets. Chemerika-Lew and her husband Kyle Lew, also a chef and owner, made jams and pickled fruits and vegetables in late summer to use throughout winter in their new River Heights-area restaurant. (Robin Summerfield)

Take a look around Winnipeg restaurants these days and you’ll spot more than original canvases, objetsd’art and photographs adorning the walls.

Jars of preserves and jams — multi-hued and edible foodstuffs like granny used to make — have taken residence in more local dining rooms.

Aside from decorating, the house-made jams, jellies, chutneys and pickled vegetables are valuable ingredients that add extra pizzazz to dishes and are great for winter months when fresh, local produce is unavailable.

Jars of pickled Thai chile peppers, golden beets and tomatoes line shelves inside the entrance at Chew. Chefs at the new River Heights-area eatery pickling about 200 jars of foodstuffs to use throughout the winter. (Robin Summerfield)
“You can add the flavour out of season,” and also try to use more ingredients that are “locally sourced and responsible,” said Kyle Lew, chef and co-owner of Chew, a new eatery in River Heights.

In late summer, Lew and his wife Kristen Chemerika-Lew, also a chef and Chew's co-owner, preserved golden beets, jalapeno and Thai chile peppers, bing cherries and cherry tomatoes in oil and herbs.

Exchange District eatery Peasant Cookery has been preserving and pickling for several years, displaying bottles of pickled asparagus, beans and carrots in its front windows. Bistro 7 1/4 makes its own bacon jam.
Prairie 360, Winnipeg’s revolving restaurant that opens Nov. 11, has its stockroom loaded with pickled cauliflower, cherry tomatoes and green beans.

Inside the pantry at Prairie 360, executive chef Alfonso Maury holds a jar of house-smoked and preserved red peppers. The new revolving restaurant, which opens November 11, is stocked with preserves and pickled vegetables. (Robin Summerfield)
It’s about “back to roots cooking,” said Alfonso Maury, executive chef at the new skyline restaurant and lounge.
Preserved foods, he warned, must be used in moderation in dishes because the strong sweet and savoury notes can easily overtake all other flavours.

The preserving trend, which gained a foothold in Toronto’s food scene about five years ago, is an extension of the artisnal movement that includes craft beer making, fibre arts and gardening, according to Ciao! magazine editor Erin Bend.

It’s a great way for chefs to up their game in the kitchen with “interesting textures and unique concentrated tastes.” For diners, it’s a chance to try something new like bacon jam or pickled gooseberries, she said.

“The flavour profiles are seemingly limitless,” said Bend, “and preserves can often be the element on a plate that really makes a dish pop.”


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