Friday, September 30, 2011

Fast Dinner Recipe: Sole in Tarragon Cream with Capers

Why does Sea World have a seafood restaurant?? I’m halfway through my fish burger and I realize, Oh my God....I could be eating a slow learner. – Lyndon B. Johnson

Delicate fish in a creamy tarragon sauce.
You’ll never imagine what inspired this recipe. Recently someone brought fish chowder – good smelling fish chowder – to work for dinner. The smell wafted over to where I was and instantly I wanted some.

Only purchase fresh fish that is "translucent." As it ages the
flesh becomes more opaque and loses its lustre. This looks
pretty good. Photo: Eggybird, Flickr ccl
I recently had made fish chowder which was fantastic (see Chowder) and it was a little too soon to make again. But I knew fish was on the menu, and probably haddock.

A trip to the local grocery quickly changed my mind. There was no way I was going to pay the price they were asking for fresh haddock. Frozen just isn’t the same. When I was looking around for alternatives my eye wandered to the sole fillets.

Sole is kind of odd as far as pricing goes. Sometimes fresh sole is pricey, other times it is not. Today it was not. I quickly gathered up three small packages and started thinking about what to make.

If you’ve never had it, sole is a very delicate fish. The flavour is not strong and the flesh is not firm. It’s certainly not made for a chunky chowder. You also really have to be careful not to overpower the taste of sole. I decided a good solution would be to fry it and make a tarragon cream sauce. 

Tarragon has a gentle taste as far as fresh herbs are concerned, and it’s always a good partner with fish. A little garlic and some capers add punch to the finished dish and can be adjusted to suit your individual taste. 

This recipe was on the table within one half hour, which is pretty good speed for an after work dinner. It also was very tasty. Tasty enough for “seconds”…

Sole in Tarragon Cream with Capers
Prep: 5 min  |  Cook 20 min  |  Serves 4
Growing your own herbs is a great boon to your cooking.
Photo: zenryaku, Flickr ccl
1-1/2 lb sole fillets
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt 
1 tsp  pepper
1 tbsp each vegetable oil and butter
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 cups 32% whipping cream
2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped, or 1-1/2 tsp dried
1 tbsp capers, chopped

1 cup basmati rice
2 cups salted water
green beans for four

The rice
Bring the 2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the basmati, reduce heat and simmer until all the water is absorbed. This is usually between 12-15 minutes. let sit covered for 5 more minutes.

The beans
Steam the beans in a little salted water for about 5 minutes until done but still crisp.

Chopped capers add a salty tang. Photo: mrkvm, Flickr ccl
The fish and sauce
While the rice is cooking, combine the flour, salt and half the pepper in a bag. Add the sole and shake gently to coat.

Heat the oil and butter in a large sauté pan. When hot, add the fillets and fry on both sids until just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. 

Do not crowd the fillets. Do multiple batches if necessary. When done remove to a plate and keep warm in a very low oven.

Add the garlic to the oil and butter remaining in the pan. Sauté for about 1 minute. Add the cream, remaining pepper and the tarragon. Cook on medium high until the cream reduces to a sauce. 

Taste and add salt if desired. Chop the capers.

Plate the warm fish atop hot rice. Spoon the sauce over the top and sprinkle with some capers.

Serve with steamed green beans.


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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Booze of the Week: Homemade Hazelnut Vanilla Liqueur

When I sell liquor, its called bootlegging; when my patrons serve it on Lake Shore Drive, its called hospitality. – Al Capone

Young hazelnuts. Photo: FotoosVanRobin, Flickr ccl
Sometimes you just have to slow down and wait. I’ve been waiting for a month for this liqueur. It’s standard procedure to allow nuts to infuse in liquor for that long (or longer) for the flavour to develop. It works, but it’s an interminably long time…

Toasting brings out the hazelnut flavour.
I’ve been investigating nut liqueurs lately and decided that this one would be my first foray into the genre. I have others planned for future.

Hazelnuts are exactly what they sound like – the seed of the hazel tree. We often call them “filberts” as well. Hazelnuts and their extracts are used extensively in confectioneries and as flavouring in many products, such as Nutella. Hazelnut oil, squeezed from the nuts, is quite strong and quite expensive.

Hazelnuts are rich in protein, unsaturated fat and B vitamins. I do not know if the infusion process extracts any of the vitamins or minerals from the nuts. I doubt it.

One of the most famous liqueurs made from hazelnuts is Frangelico, which has been produced only since the 1980s. It is currently being made by Gruppo Campari. It is used in Hazelnut martinis, a Hazelnut Cranberry mixed drink and others, as well as in cookery as a flavouring. I can’t see why this liqueur couldn’t be used in its place.

This is NOT an imitation Frangelico. Homemade Frangelico recipes do exist, but the quantity of vanilla in mine makes this a blend of the two flavours.

After chopping the toasted hazelnuts you can smell the fragrance that will be infused into the grappa for the final result. Add in your mind the scent of vanilla and you’ve got an idea of what this liqueur is like.

I chose to use Grappa (38% alc. vol.) which is a brandy distilled from the residue of grapes after they have been pressed in winemaking. If you wish, you can substitute vodka. Just make sure it's good vodka. Garbage in, garbage out...

By the way, I purchased my hazelnuts at the bulk food stores. Ensure when you buy any nuts you check the ingredients list. Believe it or not, besides salt, many nuts have soy oil added when they're processed. Look for "dry roasted" which has neither.

Two notes: First, strain the infused liquid through a fine cloth at least three times. Second, squeeze the nuts in the cloth as hard as you can to extract as much hazelnut flavour as possible. You will still find your end result is a bit cloudy due to the breakdown of the skins. Not to worry—it doesn’t hurt the flavour at all!

Homemade Hazelnut Vanilla Liqueur
The strained infusion after one month.
Infuses 1 month  |  about 15% alc. vol
3/4 pound hazelnuts, with skins (about 370 g), dry roasted unsalted
2 cups grappa (white brandy)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1-1/4 cup water
1” piece of vanilla bean, sliced open

Place the hazelnuts in a frying pan and toast for a few minutes. Do not allow to scorch. Keep them moving in the pan either by shaking or stirring. They will become fragrant and just start to smoke when ready.

Coarsely chop the toasted nuts in a food processor until they are in medium sized chunks. Put them in a 1 L Mason jar or other container with a tight fitting lid. Pour the grappa over the top, seal and let steep for 4 weeks.

After the month, strain out the nuts, vanilla and pieces of skin from the infusion using a piece of muslim cotton cloth.

Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and let boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Remove the vanilla and add the syrup to the nut infusion and stir. 

This will improve if let to sit for 2 further weeks, but can be enjoyed chilled right away (if you can’t wait). After all, you’ve already waited a month…


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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Foraging 30 & Recipe: Spiced Cranberry Sauce

And they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart, and a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart. – from The Jumblies, Edward Lear

Cranberry sauce on roast turkey. Mmmm... Photo: 3m1ly, Flickr ccl
Who can think of roast turkey without cranberry sauce to accompany the meal? Even if you don’t like it, I’m sure the condiment was present at nearly every family gathering, be it Thanksgiving, Christmas, and more. 

Thanksgiving is an unusual holiday in North America because it has no "fixed" calendar date. Canadians celebrate on the second Monday of October and Americans on the fourth Thursday of November.

Thanksgiving is a blend of Native and European traditions and celebrates the harvest, family and friends. In the time of the New England Pilgrims, celebrating the harvest was a time to thank God for the bounty of the season.

Since cranberries are plentiful at this time of year, they are drawn into the celebration. It’s very difficult to misidentify cranberries. They’re quite unique. It is best to allow a frost or two to happen before picking as that helps develop the red colour and some additional sweetness in the fruit.

From Wikipedia
Cranberries are a group of evergreen dwarf shrubs or trailing vines in the subgenus Oxycoccus of the genus Vaccinium. In some methods of classification, Oxycoccus is regarded as a genus in its own right. They can be found in acidic bogs throughout the cooler regions of the Northern Hemisphere.

Cranberries are low, creeping shrubs or vines up to 2 metres (7 ft) long and 5 to 20 centimetres (2 to 8 in) in height; they have slender, wiry stems that are not thickly woody and have small evergreen leaves. The flowers are dark pink, with very distinct reflexed petals, leaving the style and stamens fully exposed and pointing forward. They are pollinated by bees. The fruit is a berry that is larger than the leaves of the plant; it is initially white, but turns a deep red when fully ripe. It is edible, with an acidic taste that can overwhelm its sweetness.

This photo was taken a few weeks ago before any frost
brightened the red colour of the berries.
Don’t be misguided by the Ocean Spray commercials that show the gentlemen standing in the water. Those are cranberry washing/holding pools, not growing fields. Cranberries may grow in slightly boggy areas but often at this time of year those areas are nearly completely dry. You can easily forage for cranberries in sneakers.

Health properties
Since the 1900s there has been increased interest in cranberries from a nutritional standpoint. They have been found to contain phytonutrients such as flavinoids, as well as having great antioxidant properties. 

One half cup contains 10% of our daily requirement of Vitamin C. Recent studies have shown that drinking cranberry juice daily can reduce "bad" colesterol and increase good. Cranberries help stop urinary tract infections and a recently discovered compound in the fruit helps reduce the buildup of plaque on the teeth. 

These are just a few of the benefits of cranberries in the diet. Companies market them as a "super fruit" and obviously with good reason.

Highbush cranberries
I'll talk more about this plant in the near future, but in the meantime…

These are Viburnum trilobum, or highbush cranberries. They are
a wonderful landscaping plant as well as a source of edible fruit.
Highbush cranberries are Viburnum trilobum, which are a completely different genus than cranberries. They grow on a shrub which can reach 8 feet high. The berries are borne from flower head clusters that resemble flattened snowball bush flowers (Viburnum opulus). As you can see the plants are closely related. 

I understand that highbush cranberries can be substituted for "normal" cranberries in recipes, but I want more research under my belt before I recommend doing so with confidence. Supposedly they should be consumed only in small quantities. Regardless, one thing I have learned is that the one large seed must be removed before they are eaten. I’ll probably be tasting these “cranberries” very soon as they are nearly ripe.

Cranberries are a must-have at nearly every extended family gathering. They complement turkey (even more so if it's dry…) and are a wonderful way to incorporate the best of the season at your table.

Of course, you don’t actually have to forage in the bogs to get your cranberry fix. A forage to your local grocery store will yield the same result, and they’re available fresh or frozen year round. Part of the fun of foraging are the bonds that form with your family and friends. That’s something they will never be able to sell at the grocery.

Honestly, although quite good, canned cranberry is no substitute for homemade… It only takes you about 8 minutes. You should really give it a try!

Spiced Cranberry Sauce
Prep: 2 min  |  Cook: 5-10 min  | Serves 8+
Photo: aliciagriffin, Flickr ccl
1 bag fresh cranberries (3-1/2 cups)*
1 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice (or water)
1/4 tsp cinnamon, ground
1/4 tsp cloves, ground
Optional: 1 tbsp Grand Marnier

Wash the cranberries under cold water, removing any leaves or undesirable berries.

Combine all the ingredients, except for the Grand Marnier, in a medium sized sauce pan. You can substitute water for the orange juice, but the juice complements the cranberries very nicely.

If desired, go the extra mile and squeeze fresh. It should only take two oranges.

Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer until the berries pop open which may take upwards of 5-10 minutes. Let them cook for a minute or two more. The natural pectin in the cranberries will thicken the sauce when it cools. Remove from the heat and stir in the Grand Marnier, if using.

If putting up in jars: Place the hot sauce in small sterilized Mason jars and process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. Remove and let cool until the tops pop closed and the jars seal.

If using within a few days: Chill the sauce in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

*If you're foraging cranberries yourself, pick lots more than what you need for this recipe. Simply pick clean, wash and freeze. At any time throughout the winter you can have cranberries at hand!


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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Recipe: Sweet Apple-Pear Chutney

Chutney is marvellous. I'm mad about it. To me, it's very imperial. – Diana Vreeland

Interesting colour for chutney.. and delicious, too!
Speaking of “imperial,” a few days ago I made a delectable Afrikaans sausage called Boerewars. I made the meat but didn’t actually make “sausage," because I don’t have a sausage stuffer… yet. But I made the meat.

Regardless, after making a 2 lb batch I was left with 1 lb of this remarkable sausage meat to use in some other wonderful way. A friend at work, who also makes boerewars, suggested a great way to serve it was barbecued and in buns with chutney.

All the ingredients just before cooking. This is a regular sized
Dutch oven. The apples and pears are almost to the top...
I could have ran to the store for some nice mango, lime or onion chutney. But Christmas is coming so I decided to double duty the project and make my own chutney from scratch, with enough leftover for several jars to be given as gifts.

The word “chutney” is from the Sanskrit word caṭnī, loosely defined as a spicy preparation used as an accompaniment for a main meal. We’ve all had delicious chutneys used in this way, either at a restaurant or at home. It’s hard to think of a curry dinner without it.

Because of the loose definition, there is no limit to the number of chutneys one can dream up. Come up with a combination of any vegetable, fruit, herb and/or spices and go at it. What you put into your chutney, or the kind you choose to buy, should depend on what flavours it is supposed to accompany.

Chutneys fall into two main groups, sweet and hot. Both contain spices, usually including chilli, but but that’s where the similarity ends. Even within India and Pakistan the types of chutneys vary widely.

This is the fruit and other ingredients after 25 minutes.
Since I was accompanying a sausage made with cloves, coriander and cinnamon, I thought a sweet chutney would be a good choice. That’s why I made apple-pear. It didn’t hurt that both are now in season either…

This chutney is “blonde.” It’s a beautiful yellow colour, much like applesauce with some additions. This recipe made six 500 ml bottles of a consistency of apple sauce. If you wish, you can continue to cook to make the chutney thicker. Just be aware, the longer you cook, the fewer pieces of apple and pear will remain.

One word to the wise. The peeling of the apples, pears and other ingredients seems to take an eternity. But remember, if you’re making this for friends it’s a labour of love. That will make the time pass more quickly. Hopefully...

Apple-Pear Chutney
Makes 5-6 500 ml jars
The thickness is like apple sauce. If you let it cook longer
you will get a thicker chutney, but less fruit pieces and volume.
6 500 ml Mason jars, washed and sterilized
4 cups white vinegar
1-1/2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup dried apricots, chopped small
3 lbs Granny Smith apples
3 lbs green pears, hard
8 garlic cloves, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 medium onion, chopped
4” piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped (about 3/4 cup)
3 hot finger peppers, seeded and diced
1 tbsp coarse salt
2 tbsp dark rum
a little lemon juice

Peel and core the apples and pears and place in water with some lemon juice to prevent oxidation until ready to use. When ready to start, drain off the water.

In large pot mix all the ingredients and cook until the apples are tender. This will take about 25 minutes. You don’t want the apples and pears to disappear entirely. There should be pieces left in the cooked chutney. 

If you reduce the chutney more than 25 minutes it will be thicker but with fewer fruit pieces. At 25 minutes it's about the consistency of applesauce.

Taste and add more sugar if desired. Stir in the rum.

Spoon into sterile, hot jars and seal to finger tight. Once the tops have popped down tighten the rings more. Any that haven't sealed are not air tight and will not last without refrigeration.


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Monday, September 26, 2011

Foraging 29: Preserving Chanterelles, or any Mushroom – Two Methods

All mushrooms are edible…once. – Anonymous

This is what I thought was a chanterelle. But I think it might be a false chanterelle
which causes problems for some people if ingested. So I didn't collect them.
Remember: always be 100% certain that what you forage is completely correct. Also, only forage in areas that you know are unpolluted. If in any doubt about either of these two, leave what you find where it is.

Last week I made a sojourn to the country. While I was there I made a point of making my way to the woods to see if I could find any identifiable mushrooms that could be foraged.

1.5 lb of purchased chanterelles. Why I trust someone else over
myself is beyond me... (mushrooms before cleaning)
I’m a chicken. I was 99% sure I found chanterelles but that 1% made me leave them where they were. There is a mushroom called “false chanterelle” in Nova Scotia. Although it isn’t actually deadly poisonous it can cause “discomfort” in some people’s digestive tracts. I didn’t feel up to the risk.

So what was I to do? I remembered in years past that certain vendors in the old Halifax Farmer’s Market used to sell them about this time of year. If what I found was chanterelles it made perfect sense someone would have them there for sale.

The new Seaport Farmer’s Market, although a marvel of locally produced food, didn’t yield a one. So I went back to the old original Farmer’s Market with little hope. Lo and behold, just inside the lower door there they were. Tons of them. I quickly picked up 1 lb of the golden treasures.

Use a small bristle brush to remove the dirt from mushrooms.
Cleaning them under running water isn't nearly as good a method.
It’s always helpful to let the vendor know what you plan on doing with what you buy. They know their products. I wanted to preserve them, and already knew how to dry them. She volunteered another different method entirely – freezing.

So I picked up another 1/2 lb and decided to try both methods. Home dried chanterelles are the same as the product you pay about $4/100g for in the grocery. I dried 750g for $7.50. Of course they weight much less dried… but I got a lot.

The second method requires sautéing briefly and them freezing. The upside is that they retain their structure and colour. We’ll see how they perform in my Garlic Chanterelles in Phyllo Crowns… I will post that later. I need company for dinner to warrant making that one. It's very rich.

I hope that you try these methods for preserving mushrooms. Although these recipes call for chanterelles they can be made with any mushrooms, even white. (Pete's Frootique usually has fresh shiitakes...) Any time you find a gourmet fungus for a good price grab it, and save it for later! 

Drying or Freezing Chanterelles
Fresh chanterelles (I had 1.5 lbs)
olive oil (for freezing method)
bristle pastry brush

Clean the chanterelles with the pastry brush taking care to remove any needles or dirt from the forest floor. Trim the ends if necessary. You can do both methods if desired or all one.

To show each method I divided my chanterelles in two and did both freezing and drying. If you’re going to the trouble of drying or freezing you may as well purchase a fair amount of chanterelles to make it worth your while.

Clean the mushrooms with a soft brush – NOT water wash.
Arrange on a wire rack above a cookie sheet
Drying Chanterelles
Take a wire rack and place in a jelly roll pan. Arrange the chanterelles on the rack ensuring there is breathing area around each mushroom. If there are any larger pieces cut or tear them apart so no flesh overlaps on itself.

Preheat your oven to 160°F. If you have a convection function use it. Place the mushrooms in the centre of the oven and allow to slowly dry. This will take about 7-8 hours. Slow drying preserves the colour better than higher heat. They will still get quite dark.

After drying the mushrooms will feel leathery and there will be no moisture in the larger mushrooms when they are cut.

To ensure they are dry, let the mushrooms cool completely and place in a Mason jar. Leave the jar on the counter for 24-48 hours. If any condensation forms, they are not completely dry. Re-dry in the oven for a few more hours.

You can then bag the mushrooms and store in your cupboard.

To use, reconstitute in hot water for 20 minutes. When you do, don’t throw out the mushroom water if you have a use for it. It's wonderful.

The end result after 8 hours at 160°F. I can't wait to use them!

Freezing Chanterelles
Pour some olive oil in a large sauté pan. 

When the oil is heated sauté the mushrooms for about 2-3 minutes to set the colour. While they cook, sprinkle with a little salt to draw out some moisture. You are NOT cooking them through.

Note: Reserve the olive oil and mushroom liquid that is left in the pan. Use it as a start to fry chicken pieces, pork or beef. The leftover infused oil is too important to just throw out! I used it to brown a pork sirloin roast before braising it.

Colour and structure is preserved
when mushrooms are sautéed and frozen.
With a slotted spoon scoop out the chanterelles and arrange on a freezer-safe tray. Arrange the mushrooms in one layer. 

Let freeze for a couple hours and then break apart into individual mushrooms. This allows you to only take out the quantity you need at a later date. Place in a freezer bag.

The frozen mushrooms will last for about six months.


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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Recipe: Sweet Onion Tapenade, with No Olives!

Too few people understand a really good sandwich. – James Beard

"Do as I say, not as I do." I couldn't find a chiabatta loaf so a bun was conscripted...
Continuing with my theme of "sacrilege" from yesterday, I have in this recipe made a delicious tapenade without olives. Tapenade always has olives… I will be going straight to hell. (I do hear that is where all the interesting people are…)

This step differs from any other tapenade I know.
 Strain the liquid and boil to reduce it.
I created this recipe because our Autumns in Atlantic Canada tend to be quite glorious through to late October. As such, there is still be plenty of opportunity for walks where good sandwiches may be a distinct advantage.

To make a wonderful sandwich to take with you on treks purchase decent bread (chiabatta is nice), some Genoa salami (hot or otherwise) or other good Italian meats. Layer the sandwich with the meat, slices of provolone cheese and then some tapenade. That’s it.

Make this tapenade the night before so it chills and the flavours have a chance to meld. All you have to do the next day is take it from the refrigerator – as easily as you would your jar of mayonnaise. Keep the mayo in the ‘fridge. You won’t need it.

This tapenade is quite sweet and accompanies hot or cured meats very well. There is no added sugar. The sweetness comes from the reduced onion juice and balsamic vinegar. Together they lift a sandwich from ordinary to extraordinary!

Of course it can also be served with pita chips or as a topping on crostini with goat cheese. I'm certain people will be asking you for the recipe.

Sweet Onion Tapenade
The resulting reduction of the strained liquid.
Makes about 2 cups
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 medium sweet (Vidalia) onion
1 medium green pepper
1 tbsp capers
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp crcked black pepper
salt to taste

Combine the oil and vinegar in a food processor and process. The mixture will thicken and become light.

Chop the onion into medium to small pieces. Seed and chop the green pepper in the same way. Add to the olive oil mixture and pulse until chopped fairly fine or to your liking. the finer you grind the more paste-like it will become. I left mine "chunky."

Drain the liquid from the vegetables into a small saucepan. Quite a lot of liquid will probably come out. Boil down the collected liquid until it is reduced to about 1/3 cup. It will thicken and darken considerably.

Pour the reduced liquid over the vegetables. Add the oregano, chilli flakes and pepper. Mix well to combine. Taste and add salt if desired. Place in a container and refrigerate.

This tapenade will last, covered and refrigerated, for about one week.


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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Recipes: Boerewors Sausage with Patatas Bravas

The dog's kennel is not the place to keep a sausage. – Danish Proverb

Delicious and complex flavours form the many spices.
Sacrilege. That's the word my creative director said when I told him I was making boerewors sausage meat without stuffing casings. You see, I don't (yet) have a stuffer, and he is from South Africa and knows borewors well. He even makes his own. He's a good man, and I take what he says to heart. (Maybe Santa will have a stuffer in his sleigh this year.)

2 lbs of boerewors sausage meat
Boerewors sausage is popular in South African cuisine. The name comes from the Afrikaans words boer ("farmer") and wors ("sausage"). It is based on an older Dutch sausage called verse worst, but differs somewhat in spices.

Boerewors originated in the early days of the Boers in South Africa who used to combine minced meat and cubed spek (pork and/or beef fat) with spices and preservatives (vinegar) which were readily available in the then Cape Colony.

Large quantities of wors would be made by the farmers. Whatever amount that wasn’t eaten immediately was hung to dry to be taken along on exploration treks through the southern tip of Africa.

While it originated with white Afrikaner South Africans, this tasty sausage is now popular throughout southern Africa. It is commonly not twisted into individual links, but left continuous and coiled, then barbecued, boiled or baked in that shape.

The following recipe gives quantities for making 2, 4 or 8 lbs, depending on how much sausage you need. A small family will find 2 lbs is good for 2 meals, with accompaniments.

Boerewors Sausage

Grind the meat using a medium-course grinding plate. Place ground meat in a bowl and mix well with all the other ingredients. Fry a small piece and taste for seasonings. Adjust if desired.

Fill the sausage casings firmly but not too tightly with the meat mixture. Alternatively, as I did, you can use it loose.

Boerewors with Patatas Bravas
Prep: 10 min  |  Cook: 25 min  |  Serves 4
Leave the oil and fat in the pan. You'll need it when frying
the onions and potatoes.
Boerewors sausage (half the 2 lb recipe – save the rest for another time)
4 potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, cut into eighths
2 tsp smoked paprika
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup tomato paste mixed with 1/4 cup water
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried chili flakes
1 tbsp sugar
salt and pepper

Cook the potatoes until still firm but able to be pierced with a fork, about 8-10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, shape the meat into 12 equal small patties. Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the sausage until browned on both sides, about 7 minutes total. Take care not to dry them out. Remove the patties to a plate. 

Reduce the heat tom medium. Add the onion,garlic and paprika to the oil in the pan and sauté until the onions are softened. 

Drain the potatoes and add to the pan with the onion. Add a little water to the pan to help release the fond from the pan bottom. Let cook, trying to let the potatoes brown slightly.

Mix together the tomato paste, sugar, thyme and chilli flakes. Add to the pan with the potatoes and mix well.

Finally add the sausage patties back into the pan. Cover, reduce to simmer and let cook for 5 minutes to reheat the sausage. Add 1/4 cup of water (or more) if it looks too dry for your liking.

Plate and enjoy! Steamed chard would make a good accompaniment to round out a meal.


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Friday, September 23, 2011

Booze of the Week: Pucker up, it’s Chokecherry Liqueur

Don't be afraid to go out on a limb. It's where all the fruit is. – Shirley MacLaine 

Chokecherries or are they chokeberries? Photo: withrow, Flickr ccl
Have you ever eaten chokecherries and some are sweet and others make you pucker up like you ate a lemon? There’s a reason for that. Not all choke”cherries” are chokecherries. "Huh?" you are saying...

Flowers, leaves, bark all look the same...
Photo:pchgorman, Flickr ccl
I never knew this. There's chokecherries and chokeberries. They look pretty much the same, grow pretty much the same, but their taste is substantially different. 

Chokecherries are usually sweet. Chokeberries are the ones that give you a "fuzzy" mouth. 

I thought it had something to do with where they were growing, like the soil pH or the amount of available water.

I was wrong.

Prunus Virginiana versus Aronia
Prunus virginiana (chokecherry) is a species of suckering shrub or tree native to North America that grows to about 5 m tall. It is found almost throughout the continent except for the Deep South, Labrador and the far north.

The fruit are about 1 cm across and range in color from bright red to black, with a very astringent, sour taste. The very ripe berries are dark in color and less astringent than the red berries.

Let soak in sugar and vodka for 1 month.
Chokecherry leaves and branches are toxic to horses, and moose, cattle, goats, deer, and other ruminants (animals with segmented stomachs). Cyanide is released into the leaves when they wilt, such as after a frost or branches have been broken. Cyanide makes these parts sweet.

Chokecherry is a favourite fruit to make homemade wine in wide parts of Canada and the United States.

Aronia (chokeberry) is also a suckering shrub or small tree growing to 5 m tall. The fruit are about 1 cm across and range in color from bright red to black, with a very astringent, sour taste. The very ripe berries are dark in color and less astringent than the red berries. (Sound familiar?)

Juice from chokeberries is astringent (pucker inducing) and not sweet, but high in vitamin C and antioxidants. The berries can be used to make wine, jam, syrup, juice, soft spreads, and tea. In The U.S. chokeberries are added to juice blends for their color and antioxidant properties.

The red chokeberry is more palatable and can be eaten raw. It has a sweeter flavor than the black species and is used to make jam.

Press out as much vodka/juice from the berries as you can.
Chokecherries and chokeberries are very high in antioxidant pigment compounds, such as anthocyanin. 

I hadn’t a clue about all this when I went picking choke”cherries” for liqueur. So this is decidedly a blend. You will note from the recipe that there’s an inordinate amount of sugar used. I would suggest I had more berries than cherries.

One thing I do have to say is that you can taste no alcohol at all in my finished product. At first I though I had forgotten it, but I never would have let it age on the conter for a month without it.

Without any discernible alcohol taste...c’est dangereux !

Chokecherry Liqueur
Yield: two 375 ml bottles
2 cups chokecherries, chokeberries or a blend
1-1/2 cups white sugar*
1 pint (375 ml) vodka
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Wash a 1 L Mason jar and lid.

All ready to go after one more straining. My labels
are available for free download here.
Pick through the berries for stems and rinse. Discard any that are damaged or otherwise undesirable.

Add the berries and 1-1/2 cups sugar to the Mason jar. Pour the vodka in over the berries. Seal tightly and shake well.

Let stand for 1 month in a shady place, shaking the jar on a daily basis. Over the month you will notice the berries become engorged with the alcohol. 

A the end of the month, bring the berries just to a boil in a saucepan. mash them while this is happening. You’re trying to break up the berries as much as possible to extract the maximum juice without damaging the pits (which are toxic).

Strain a few times until fairly clear.

Bring the remaining sugar and water to a boil and let boil hard for 5 minutes. Combine with the infused vodka and bottle.

* If using all chokecherries you will want to reduce this sugar. Taste your fruit. If they’re sour add it. If not, cut back the amount.


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