Take a look around Winnipeg restaurants these days and you’ll spot more than original canvases, objets d’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.
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.
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.”