The Market Kitchen offers cooking classes in downtown Toronto in a very attractive location – in the level above the St. Lawrence Market. You can actually watch the shoppers as you wash your hands in preparation of cooking. I joined them and worked, as part of a team, to make tasty condiments from fall fruits and vegetables, including: Fruit Ketchup (Chow Chow), Spiced Wine Pickled Pears and Grape Jelly. I don’t have any experience in this area of food preparation so I was excited when I was invited to attend the Market Kitchen’s introduction to the basics of canning and preserving class.
The kitchen overlooks the Market and all its bustling activity. The big windows fill the space with light, enhanced by exposed brick walls, and the kitchen is state-of-the-art with induction stoves.
When we walked in, everything was set for us on kitchen islands. We were asked to arrange ourselves four people to a table. There was a mother and daughter plus another girl on her own. My group was so friendly and we worked well together – it was an easy exercise in teamwork. We learnt from each other and relied on everyone to keep the us on track.
The active participation provided us with a taste of what this was going to be like when we did this at home, but we didn’t have to clean up our mess or wash our dishes. Which is really, really nice for a change. I would say it is a bit of a holiday to not have to clean up. Which makes me think this type of class may be a lovely gift for someone or for a couple. But I digress…
The instructor of cooking classes at the Market Kitchen is Gabrielle Bright. Gabrielle was very clear, patient and engaging while leading us through this fun culinary experience of learning the secrets of preserving. For example, we learnt that when cooking pears, you want to make sure they cook evenly and thoroughly while preventing discolouration. In order to do this, we used a circle of parchment paper to fit over the top of the pears, while they’re cooking. The parchment paper had some slits in the center, which allows some of the steam to escape. The longer the pears sit in the flavourful syrup after poaching, the better they’ll taste. They smelled great. Someone said the room smelled of Christmas.
So, I have to be honest. The whole canning process is so that preserves can last a while on the shelf – to be eaten at some point when there is no fresh local produce. But the smell of spices tantalized my taste buds and the sight of seeing the pears simmer in wine left me feeling as though I must sample my work much sooner than later. In fact, that very afternoon after class, I went home, sat my boyfriend down and served up the scrumptious pears with a dollop of soy whip cream. It was unbelievably good. There was no way this was going to last another day. I promised myself that I will refrain from eating the chow chow. The instructor said that the vinegar is more pronounced right away, but diminishes over time while the other flavours meld and become more pronounced. I’m expecting to eat this at Christmas. We’ll see if I have enough self-restraint to wait until then.
I had a great time and found Gabrielle to be so down to earth, knowledgeable and passionate about food and preserving. I gained a lot of new information, which I am excited to incorporate into my kitchen. The course gave me some new confidence in preserving foods – it is not as intimidating as I once thought.
Some other cooking classes at the Market Kitchen include Secrets of Homemade Pizza, Macaron-making class, Taste of: Middle-East Mediterranean and Choux making class. Check out St. Lawrence Market events for more options for fun recreational workshops for home cooks. Whether you are attending solo, as a couple or in a group of friends, these cooking classes offer a memorable experience for all adults!
The Market Kitchen, St. Lawrence Market West Mezzanine, 93 Front Street East