Sunday, June 30, 2013

Homemade Cantalupo Sausage

Feasts must be solemn and rare, or else they cease to be feasts. – Aldous Huxley 

Slap this on the barbie.

It's the last day of June 2013. Can you believe it? Time is flying. Almost a week ago I was raving on about many of us only being familiar with only a few sausages the world has to offer. It seems like yesterday.

Turn this...
It’s true about our dearth of sausages here, and for example I listed a few names to see of anyone had ever heard of them. The response was thunderous (silence...).

So be it. Whatever. It feels good for me even if I’m only having a one way conversation.

Some would even venture to say that’s the way I prefer it...

One of the sausages I mentioned was Cantalupo. It was supposedly named for the Italian town in which it originated. It must be a real rarity since I believe this recipe is only the second for it on the web, unless Google isn’t doing its job.

Where is Cantalupo?
Cantalupo is Italian for “song of the wolf,” the Greek “Kata-Lupon” (middle of the woods), or even the Bulgarian “Kan-Teleped”  (chief residence). Since it’s in Italy, my money is on the Italian (from Latin). Why on earth would Bulgarian get in there? Darned Wikipedia.

into this, and then...
There are several towns called Cantalupo in Italy, and because the information on this sausage is slight I’ll give a little information about the two I found. It could be from another Cantalupo altogether.

The first is Cantalupo in Sabina, about half way up Italy. It is famous for the muskmelon called cantaloupe. In Imperial Roman times Cicero's family owned a villa there.

The second I found is Cantalupo nel Sannio in southern Italy. The town was known simply as Cantalupo until 1864, when the “nel Sannio” was added in order to tell it apart from others. Many Cantalupesi settled in Montréal where they still maintain the Associazione di Sant'Anna di Cantalupo, named in honour of their patron, Saint Anne.

You go looking for some simple information and you get porridge... Neither mentioned anything about sausage.

Where I found this
I found this recipe on a site that has compiled quite a few sausage recipe, They cite it as being submitted by R.J. Scorzafave. The recipe was for 10 lbs of pork, a bit of a pile unless you’re really into it.

and then into this.
That’s a serious amount of sausage, and would make about 40 links. I find 2 to 2.5 lbs a goodly enough amount for a small gathering or family. We usually buy sausages in 1 lb packages.

This recipe intrigued me because it had orange peel in the mix. Orange and fennel are predominant. Other than the orange the recipe follows “normal procedure.”

We’re having a Canada Day feast at the house today. I already have the “Canadian” sausage I concocted (and froze) last weekend, but we have enough people coming that I may need more.

So I’m testing these on our friends. Actually it’s not much of a test. I already have tried it. I couldn’t wait. I fried up a little to see how orange flavoured they were.

I wasn’t disappointed. The orange and fennel were in perfect balance, with a little spiciness added by the chilli flakes. Quite interesting actually, but at the same time quite “Italian sausage.” I believe it’s the fennel that identifies them as such.

I used a pork shoulder that I had in the freezer. It was about 2kg. By the time I removed the skin and bones I had exactly 2 lbs of meat and fat, perhaps a little more fat than usual, but that’s what makes sausages good!

I’m having a lot of fun making sausage, and plan on travelling the world via recipes in the future. I don’t know if the spouse is sick of them yet. I probably have a grace period over the summer. Once cooler weather comes, who knows... I may have to start curing them!

BBQ whole, twist into links, or use loose if you prefer.
Cantalupo Sausage
Time: 1 hour  |  Yield: 8 links
2 lbs coarse ground pork shoulder
2 tsp salt
1-1/2 tbsp chopped garlic
2 tsp black pepper
1-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp whole fennel seed
2 tbsp grated orange zest
2 tbsp ice water (or maybe orange juice)

Mix well. Stuff into casings and twist into 8 links. Refrigerate for up to 1 week before use, or freeze.

It can also be shaped into sausage patties or balls.


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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Chicken Chasseur (Hunter Style)

Sharing is good, and with digital technology, sharing is easy. – Richard Stallman 

Homey, delicious and very special.

It never ceases to amaze me the reach one has from their own kitchen table. I’ve been blogging since January of 2011. Over that time I’ve gone from zero page views to over 10,000 per month. I have people looking at my blather from every corner of the globe.

Recently I’ve had the privilege to be asked on Fridays to post recipes to a blog from New Zealand called Carole’s Chatter (link here). Carole is a self described “self employed semi retired woman of a certain age.” We’re two peas in a pod, except for the woman part. She “found” me a few weeks ago.

On Fridays she does something interesting. She puts out a call to food bloggers she likes to submit links based on a topic of her choosing. She has contacts all around the world that submit. Yesterday’s posting (here) was French food. I’m there at No. 95 (French Onion Soup).

It’s quite an interesting mix as you can well imagine, since the submission is up to the individual blogger. The topic, although topical, is broad enough for people to post something of interest for everyone. I found last night’s dinner there. Great – very French tasting – and very filling. (Original here)

Chasseur is French for “hunter.” There are probably as many variations on “hunter-style” chicken as there are/were hunters. This type of recipe is most likely centuries old.

Interestingly, as far as I understand, it’s not based on preparing a hunter’s catch. Hunter chicken is a country dish that uses a chicken when the hunter returns empty handed. The wife (not sexist, just the truth) had to be prepared for that eventuality.

Luckily a chicken was always near at hand. Or at least easy to get your hands on, literally.

I posted a recipe for Corsican chicken that is in the same vein. If you’re interested, the recipe is here

The recipe I found posted on Carole’s blog was a real winner. Of course, never one to leave well enough alone, I modified it slightly. Not a whole lot, but a bit. I didn’t have a whole chicken, but did have breasts, and a couple other ingredients changed to fit my pantry. 

The end result is deep and delicious and very “French” tasting. I always find it interesting that adding certain flavours to a dish turn it into a very “regional” recipe. In this one it’s tarragon. If you substituted oregano it would be more Mediterranean and completely different.

Here’s my take on it. Thanks go out to Carole, and the original poster.

Chicken Chasseur (Hunter Style)
Prep: 10 min  |  Cook: 30 min  |  Serves 4
4 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless (or 1 chicken, cut up)
salt and pepper
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
200 g white mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp flour
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
2 tbsp dry sherry
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp dried tarragon (or 2 tbsp fresh)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (or parsley)

Sprinkle salt and pepper on the chicken breasts. Heat the oil and butter in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot with a cover. Brown the breasts on both sides. Then remove to a plate.

Add the onion, garlic and mushrooms to the pot with the oil/butter. Sauté until softened. Then add the flour and cook for about 1 minute.

Add in the stock, wine, sherry, tomato paste, tarragon and cilantro. Add a little more pepper if desired. Watch out for salt as many chicken stocks are very salty. Adjust if desired.

Slice each chicken breast in half and nestle back into the sauce. Bring the liquid to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium low.

Cover the pot and let cook for 30 minutes.

Serve atop a pile of buttery mashed potatoes.


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Friday, June 28, 2013

Red Eye Wet Steak Rub

I wear my Viking helmet because the horns define how sharp my brains are. If you try to rub me the wrong way, I will stick you with both of my horns. – Flavor Flav 

Yeah, OK... I don't quite follow that, but onward and upward. Here’s a recipe just in time for two of the biggest celebrations this year in North America.

This weekend Canada celebrates its 146th birthday. The actual date is July 1, but we will be celebrating all weekend. Next week, on July 4, the United States celebrates its founding. That falls on a Thursday this year, so most folks will be taking Friday off as well, making for a 4-day weekend. Hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot of our American cousins this side of the border.

So it’s going to be a big week, full of outdoor activities like going to the beach, camping and lots of backyard parties and cookouts with family and friends.

How about a good rub to accompany all that activity? By that I mean a barbecue rub. What you do in your own time is none of my business...

Rubs are a good alternative to barbecue sauces, and if they’re a good recipe can impart just as much flavour.

This is the mixture before adding the whisky.
My big problem with sauces is they often have a lot of sugar in them and tend to burn, especially over open flame like a barbecue. Rubs, with less sugar, not so much.

Rubs fall into two main categories: dry and wet.

Essentially both are mixtures of spices that are applied to meat before they are barbecued. A rub applied just before cooking flavours the meat. A rub applied hours before flavours as well as tenderizes the meat, depending on what’s in it.

Dry rubs contain only dry ingredients. Common ingredients are spices, garlic powder, onion powder, peppers and salt.

Wet rubs are the same, but as the name suggests also contains something wet, usually vinegar or oil. The combination is of a paste-like consistency. My rub contains whisky, just ‘cause.

Both types of rubs can be used just before cooking or as a sort of “marinade” overnight. The main difference is that wet rubs tend to stay on the meat better as it's being cooked.

Rubs are also kin to mixtures used in making the the finest of charcuterie. The rub imparts flavour over weeks or months instead of minutes or hours. The process to finish the meat is sort of “dehydration” rather than cooking.

Here’s a little trivia for you about the origins of barbecue. It’s actually Caribbean than Southern USA. Of course its popularity in the Deep South has now far surpassed Caribbean popularity.

The word "barbecue" is from the Spanish barbacoa and/or the French babracot, both of which come from the indigenous peoples of Haiti and Guiana. Both refer to cooking meat by draping it across moist wood over a fire until it dries out. 

The greens are mesclun mix, from our garden! Tossed in a
simple oil, vinegar & oregano dressing.
“Real” barbecue is still done in much the same way. Barbecue isn’t really slapping a piece of meat on our outdoor cookers. That’s grilling. 

Barbecue is a slow method of cooking in an enclosed space over low, constant heat. The slow cooking breaks down the connective tissues in the meat and tenderizes it. Anyone from the South who is reading this knows exactly what I mean.

Rub is perfect for real barbecue as well as the more common grilling. It’s also great for steaks cooked inside, if you happen to be reading this in the winter.

This rub is pretty flavourful, with a bit of a kick. You can adjust that kick with the amount of cayenne pepper you use.

The reason I called it “red eye”? Two reasons. First is the obvious colour. The second is because if you use the full amount of cayenne it ill certainly snap open anyone’s red, tired eyes!

If you want to try something other than barbecue sauce this weekend try a wet rub. This will work equally well on pork or chicken. Maybe even shrimp or some firmer, stronger flavoured fish "steaks."

Red Eye Wet Steak Rub
Prep: 5 min  |  Rest: 30 min  |  Enough for four steaks
2 tbsp whisky
1 tbsp  brown sugar
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 to 1 tsp tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp ground coriander

Mix all the rub ingredients together in a bowl. Distribute the mixture evenly over the steaks and, as the name suggests, rub it in.

Let the steaks rest on the counter for at least 30 minutes, or in the refrigerator overnight.

heat up the grill and you’re on your way!


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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Music to my ears. One Big Panino

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. – Harry S. Truman 

No that’s not a typo. It’s panino, not “piano” that is music to the summer cook’s ears. Why? Because you can feed a whole family without turning on the oven – after the bread is baked of course.

Panino is the Italian word for any sandwich that is made from bread that is not sliced. If the bread is sliced, it’s called a tramezzino. We have adopted the word panini on this side of the big pond to refer to grilled pressed sandwiches. (It’s the plural form of panino.)

So what do you need for a family sized sandwich? A big loaf of bread.

That’s where this post comes in. The recipe I am posting makes a loaf about 14” x 12” which is enough to easily feed 8 with a side dish or two.

I hate to admit it but I did knead this loaf for all of 5 minutes. My usual bread recipes don’t call for any kneading. It’s done by autolysis, overnight. I don’t proof the yeast either. Of course make sure you are using fresh yeast – not from a jar that’s been in your cupboard for a year. I keep mine in the freezer.

The reason I did knead is because to maintain a shape without a baking dish you need to have a little less water content than usual. It makes a stiffer dough. My ratio for most bread is twice as much flour as water. I went a little scant on this one.

The dough at bedtime.
If you use a 2:1 ratio the bread may “blob” out while rising and not retain a rectangular shape. That shape is important for making even sized sandwiches.

This type of sandwich is great for those hot summer days when you dare not turn the oven on in the kitchen. We’ve had a few in the past week and more will be coming.

To make the actual sandwich I layered spicy mortadella, salami with prosciutto, and calabrese. For the cheese I used sharp provolone.

There’s one ‘secret ingredient” to finish these sandwiches. It’s actually not a spread but more of a pickled condiment. 

There is an Italian classic, but I opted to venture out on my own after reading up on a few. It’s pretty good.

The dough in the morning.
This is a great make-ahead recipe for a weekend fête or for any time you are having a group. I do have to admit this isn’t a cheap sandwich. Each of the meats, pre-packaged, range between $4-$5. So that’s $20 right off the top.

But it does feed 8, so the per sandwich cost is bearable. It just hurts a little bit when you go through the checkout.

I did do one semi-unusual thing with this loaf. For a little extra nutrition I substituted one cup of the flour for a whole wheat. I had red fife on hand – a heritage Canadian grain. You can use all white flour if you wish.

Next time you’re having a gathering and don’t want to spend your time in the kicthen, or if it’s just too darned hot to turn on the oven, think panino. It can bring a song to your cooking-weary heart.

You have to pull the corners out to keep a rectangle shape.
Italian Panino Loaf
Prep: overnight  |  Bake: 25-30 min  |  Yield: 1 large loaf
3 cups unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat or red fife
1-3/4 cups water
3 tbsp yeast
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. There is no need to proof the yeast. Transfer to the counter and knead for 5 minutes. It will be “wet” but not sticky.

Place a little oil in the mixing bowl. Plop the dough back in and swirl to cover all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then a towel. Let rise overnight (about 8 hours).

In the morning, punch the dough down and knead for about 1 minute. Roll like a log and then shape into a flat rectangle about 10” x 8”. Pull the corners out to points with your fingers to maintain the shape while proofing again.

Let rise again until doubled, about 1 hour. While it is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F with a pan of water on the bottom rack.

Just before baking, make 4 slits in the top in the shape of a rectangle. This helps prevent the bread from rising into a mound. Dust the top with flour.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, removing the water pan at the 10 minute mark. The loaf is done when the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the top.

Proofed, slit and ready for the oven.
To make a big panino you will need:
sliced Italian meats, be creative
sliced provolone cheese
an Italian style “spread”

My panino spread:
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp capers
1/4 cup diced carrot
1 tsp dried marjoram
a pinch of cracked black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Place all in a food processor or small blender and pulse until chopped small, but not a paste.

Slice the loaf horizontally. Hollow out the top and bottom pieces. If not there will be too much bread in the sandwich. The excess bread can be saved for a stuffing, bread pudding, etc.

Layer the meats, then the cheese, and finally the spread. Press the sandwich together, put a weight like a cast iron frying pan on top, and let sit for about 30 minutes.

It can be heated in the oven to melt the cheese and crust the bread if you wish. Cut and serve.


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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Cake is your enemy...apparently

Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide. – Marcus Tullius Cicero 

Public enemy no. 1: Chocolate cake

There is an attack on cakes going on in Nova Scotia. Not only cakes, but cookies, pies and squares as well. Did you know?

I had a few recipes I could have chosen for today, but they were pre-empted by what I read in today's Chronicle Herald Op Ed pages. So instead I’ve opted for posting an old cake recipe. It’s my way to counter the “black or white” nature of governmental policy makers.

You see, I have this “thing” about food. Good homemade food, what I hope is healthier food, in moderation. We need all nutrients supplied in food, not just some. The trick is to use some common sense in your choices. There are “bad foods,” don’t get me wrong. But they certainly aren’t a slice of pie or cake. A whole pie every day, yes – a slice once a month, no.

In Nova Scotia, the baby has been tossed out with the bath water. It all has to do with the “Nova Scotia School Food & Nutrition Policy.”

In part, it states:
The promotion and sale of healthy food and beverages in school reinforces the nutrition messages taught in the classroom and at home. When food and beverages of limited nutritional value (i.e. those that are high in sugars, sweeteners, fat, salt, and caffeine) are available or promoted to students at school, it becomes increasingly difficult to limit intakes.

Of course, this policy came into existence to limit access to pop, chocolate bars, chips and low nutrition foods from cafeterias and snack machines in our public schools. You know, those items that were available to students within school walls on a daily basis. They were the norm, rather than the exception and something did have to be done.

I am in complete agreement. Students should have limited access to low nutrition foods in schools. They should be the exception. That's why we call them "treats" and not "steady diet." It holds true at home as well. 

This is where the OpEd gets up my nose. It’s excessive. In the newspaper there is a well articualted attack on anything that isn’t a carrot or glass of water. I was going to say milk, but it would have to be skim milk.

To see what bent me out of shape read here

The health policy police have levelled their steely gaze at things like bake sale fundraisers. These – at least in the country – are where parents bake goods at home that are then sold at special school functions to raise money for extracurricular activities. Most purchasers are adults. They are very popular and raise a lot of money.

Anything in excess is unhealthy, even the drive to be healthy, if you know what I mean. But bake sales held one a year? Come on...

From the “Fundraising with Healthy Foods and Beverages” publication:
Many traditional fundraising activities rely on the sale of food and beverages high in calories, sugar, and fat and low in nutrients—particularly chocolate, cookies, and pop. This practice sends confusing messages, such as when athletic programs, which promote physical activity, sell nutritionally poor items as a means of support. Fundraising that involves selling less nutritious items can also send the message that schools are more concerned about making money than helping students to maintain healthy habits.

I found page 10 particularly illuminating. That’s where they outline alternatives for healthy fundraisers. One is “Create an exploratory basket featuring vegetarian items such as tofu, soy milk, beans, nuts, seeds, tahini, and include healthy and tasty recipes.” That’ll bring them in droves.

Another wasn’t even a fundraiser. It said (and I agree) schools should start vegetable gardens and include parents and the community. That would promote exposure to healthy choices, but raise money? How?

“Everything in moderation, including moderation,” Oscar Wilde said. And it’s true. Excess in anything – including regulating to death eating habits – is a bad thing.

So one of the great culprits to the wellbeing of future generations is a piece of cake or cupcake bought at a school fundraiser once a year. It sets a bad example, so they say. Regulation run amok.

Our local school has been read the riot act in this regard and will have to toe the line on Department of Education policy. It’s a shame that there never seems to be much – dare I say it? – common sense in governmental policy.

The hold of healthy habits taught at home is so tenuous in our children that they need to be protected by our educational system from every vestige of dessert, via the Department of Health. Cookies are evil.

Yes, they’re evil, if you eat them as a steady diet. That’s where moderation comes into play.

Healthy habits do have to be taught in school and at home, but not to the extent that things like bake sales have to be, in essence, outlawed.

There’s plenty of blame to be handed around in relation to our obese children. How about the prevalence of unhealthy, inexpensive pre-packaged meals in grocery stores? Or the lack of time parents have to prepare healthy food? Or perhaps the sedentary lifestyle of children – glued to a myriad of screens throughout their day – including at school?

Choice is they key. Avoid heavily processed foods high in salt, trans fats or unhealthy amounts of other fat, or sugar. Choose to get up off your a** and do something active. Once again, common sense and moderation...

When I was growing up a piece of cake wouldn’t push us over the dietary cliff. We “worked it off” by playing outside with other kids.

In the end, it is the responsibility of parents to teach healthy habits, and moderation, by example to their children. It isn’t the responsibility of governmental committees and policy writers to regulate out of existence something as harmless as a once a year bake sale.

If you visit the OpEd link, you’ll see every commenter agrees with me. Or at least they did when I looked.

I know some of you won’t agree with me. Perhaps we can discuss it, over a piece of cake.

Chocolate Bundt Cake with Pink Clove Drizzle
Prep: 15 min  |  Cook: 45 min to 1 hour
1 tbsp cocoa mixed with 1 tbsp white sugar
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cup white flour
3/4 cups cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup milk
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp instant coffee
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

Combine 1 tbsp cocoa with 1 tbsp sugar. Grease a bundt or other tube pan with butter and dust the inside with the cocoa sugar mixture. Shake out any excess and set aside.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl. Set aside.

Combine the milk, yogurt, instant coffee, melted butter, and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Mix on low. Add the eggs one at a time and beat for 2 minutes. Then add the sugar 1/2 cup at a time and beat well after each addition.

Then slowly add in the remaining dry ingredients. Once combined, turn the mixer to medium and beat the batter for a further 5 minutes.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and a cake needle inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Depending on the pan you use, your time will vary. Start testing for doneness at 45 minutes just to be safe. If using layer pans, start testing at 30 minutes. (The pan I used took 1 hour 5 minutes.)

Allow the cake to partially cool on a wire rack before glazing. While cooling, make the icing and drizzle it on top of the cake. If you glaze it hot the drizzle will just run off.

Pink Clove Drizzle
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tbsp white corn syrup
1/2 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
water and food colouring

Combine the first four ingredients in a bowl. Start with 1 tablespoon of water and continue adding a little at a time until you reach the consistency you want, then tint with red food colouring. Only add a drop or two of the food dye at a time and beat well to judge the final colour.


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Questions? Comments? Derogatory remarks? Just ask! I’ll answer quickly and as best as I can. If you like this post feel free to share it. If you repost, please give me credit and a link back to this site.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Homemade Maple Syrup Mustard

Take a chance! All life is a chance. The man who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. – Dale Carnegie 

“A generous pinch of salt.” That’s one of the measurements in this recipe.

It’s what I used and is a semi-common measurement – especially in handed down recipes – but what exactly is it? 

Well, in theory it’s what you can hold together between your thumb and forefinger. How big is your hand? Not the same size as mine. So it’s not exactly an accurate measurement, but small enough to not be a deal breaker in a recipe.

There’s two other infinitesimal measurements you may sometimes come across: smidgen and dash. Smidgen is half a pinch, and dash is two pinches. So now you know. 

The vinegar and mustard have to sit for several hours.
I mixed the mustard in a saucepan, but it then went into
a "non-reactive bowl" to bloom.
These measurements are so small as to not do much more than add a bit of flavour or spiciness to a recipe. They won’t cause your cake to bake like a brick.

If you look at old recipes you will also find directions for “handfuls” of flour and sugar. 

I do have to say that cooking and baking are two different beasts. Baking relies on chemical reactions that occur between specific quantities of ingredients. Cooking is a lot more forgiving and allows you a lot more leeway.

But where did those old terms originate and why were they used?

It can probably be safely said that they originated all over the world simultaneously. When is lost in the mists of time.

Measurements like “pinch” were used when our home kitchens were’t outfitted like high-end restaurants. Until recently most people didn’t have standardized sets of measuring spoons or cup measures.

It actually was only rather recently that cookbooks defined accurate measurements. Before then we were all supposed to know the basics of cooking. So you ended up with directions like “add butter the size of a walnut” and “sufficient salt.” 

Even early recipes that called for a teaspoon usually meant “the spoon we use for tea in the cutlery drawer” as opposed to the 4.928 ml of a US teaspoon (UK teaspoon is 3.551 ml...). 

It wasn’t until around late 1800s that accurate measurements in recipes became popular. One example was Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, published in 1896.

This codification had the advantage of being able to predictably reproduce recipes over and over. It also had a disadvantage. Common sense in cooking was replaced by fear. Now people are afraid to deviate even the slightest from a recipe for fear of ruining what they’re making.

But think about it. What’s the worst that can happen?

It’s too bad that most of us fear the kitchen. I fiddle with recipes all the time. That’s essentially the essence of this blog.

Cooking should be an adventure. For example, this recipe started out as honey mustard. Honey and maple syrup are close, right? Why not make a substitution?

As long as whatever you are making is cooked it probably won’t kill you. It just might not taste good. Just don’t add a pinch of arsenic.

Interestingly, unless you have “Swiss engineered” measuring spoons, you’re probably already dealing with inaccuracy in the kitchen. You can’t tell me that a set of dollar store measuring spoons deliver what they promise.

If you cook at home you may as well enjoy doing it. Eating is a very large, time consuming part of our lives. It’s a real shame that so many of us look on it as a chore instead of the delight it can be.

If you don’t take chances in the kitchen how are you ever going to make the great discovery of a new taste sensation and become world famous?

This will be used on my Canadian sausage, posted yesterday.
Maple Syrup Mustard
Time: overnight  |  Yield: about 2-1/2 small jelly jars
3/4 to 1 cup white vinegar*
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup yellow mustard powder
1 cup maple syrup
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne pepper
generous pinch salt

Place the mustard powder in a non-reactive bowl (like ceramic or glass). Bring 3/4 cup of white vinegar and the wine to a boil in a saucepan. Pour over the mustard powder and mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning (or 8 hours later) pour the mustard back into a saucepan. 

Taste the mustard for spiciness. Mix the maple syrup, yolks, onion powder, cayenne and salt together. Use either amount of cayenne, depending on how hot your mustard mixture is.

Mix the maple and mustard together and slowly bring to a boil over medium high heat, whisking constantly.

Once the mixture comes to a boil continue to cook, whisking, for 2 more minutes. If the mustard is too thick, add the remaining vinegar. It will set up more as it cools.

Remove from the heat and pour into jars. Keep refrigerated. The mustard will last for 3 months.


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Questions? Comments? Derogatory remarks? Just ask! I’ll answer quickly and as best as I can. If you like this post feel free to share it. If you repost, please give me credit and a link back to this site.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Truly Canadian Sausage

Canada is the only country in the world that knows how to live without an identity. – Marshall McLuhan

I’ve been having a lot of fun making my own sausage meat lately. Two reasons are the fact I now have a grinder/stuffer attachment for my KitchenAid (who doesn't love gadgets) and that I have found a place locally that sells natural casings (Greeks in Bridgewater).

Natural casings is code for salted pig intestines. Gross, right? Not really. They’re the thing you need. No real way around it. If you’ve purchased boutique store-made sausage you’ve eaten them. You survived.

If you can get past that fact, which I’m sure you can, a whole world of sausages open up for you. All of us, unless you’re in an extremely cosmopolitain area, live in a sausage dead zone. We only get a few types of what’s made world wide. Italian, chorizo, lamb, andouille, bratwurst and the like are as exotic as it gets.

But if you make your own, well, the world is your oyster. There are sausage specialties in almost every country. We are only familiar with the tip of the iceberg.

Have you ever heard of cantalupo, leberwurst, boudin blanc, lap cheong, lukanka or cervelat? I rest my case.

There’s also another good reason to make your own sausage. If you’re at all worried about fat content, or preservatives, you can control exactly what goes into your homemade sausages.

Sausage making is actually an old-world tradition that dates back centuries, if not millennia. It was a way to do “nose to tail” eating, when we didn’t waste so much of our food. If you had a pig, or sheep or cow, you used all of it. It was simple practicality.

Since we on this side of the Atlantic were populated by old world immigrants there really are no actual sausage recipes originating here. Those immigrants brought their family recipes and traditions with them.

When you go looking for American – or in my case Canadian – sausage you are out of luck. It makes perfect sense that we don’t have any. Native populations didn’t make sausage, that I know of. I’m assuming because of the semi-nomadic hunter/gatherer nature of their existence.

So what does define a regional sausage? Usually it is signature flavours common to the cuisine where they originate.

What would make a Canadian sausage?
That’s the conversation I found myself in a few weeks ago with friends after we had finished eating homemade hot dogs. What are signature “Canadian” flavours?

The first two things that spring to mind are Tim Hortons coffee and donuts but they probably wouldn’t be too good in a sausage. With sausage yes, in sausage...not so much.

But there are some other signature “Canadian” tastes. How about maple syrup, smokey bacon and beer? There’s always beer. Now we’re on the right track. Yes, there are maple sausages around, but they’re often quite sweet and eaten for breakfast.

To make a truly Canadian dinner sausage you would have to strike the right balance of bacon/smoke/sweet. That became my goal. 

I actually did a few fry tests on this as I went along, just to make sure that the everything was in harmony. It took a couple adjustments to make me happy.

I included smoked bacon and liquid smoke. I don't have a wood smoker (yet). That would have been a better way to go.

We will be enjoying the fruits of my labour next weekend. Just to be safe I’m going to be making maple mustard as a condiment. That way we can adjust the maple flavour as we wish as we eat. I may even try sauerkraut on them.

Fear not in case you feel you can’t make your own sausage because you don’t have a grinder or stuffer. You really don’t need either. You can use a food processor to “grind” meat (or buy pre-ground) and a large funnel is used in many kitchens to stuff sausages. I’m sure something could be found very cheaply at a dollar store.

Making your own sausage is actually quite a lot of fun and you can tailor them exactly to your own taste. I hope this recipes is tried by at least a few of you. Maybe we can start a Canadian tradition.

Canada Day (July 1) is just around the corner. Wouldn’t it be fun to celebrate by cooking up some truly Canadian sausages, or if you prefer, sausage patties? Wave "the flag" in a different way.

Truly Canadian Sausage
Time: 24 hours (includes overnight resting)
2 lb pork loin, cubed and ground
1/2 lb naturally smoked bacon, ground
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup beer
2 tsp sage, finely chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp whole fennel seed
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tsp curing salt (sodium nitrite), optional*
(no salt)

Combine all the ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate overnight. The next day either shape into patties or stuff into links. 

If making patties, freeze until ready to use. If making sausages, boil in just enough water to cover for 30 minutes. Drain and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Cheap bacon is the way to go. It’s much fattier. Just make sure that it’s naturally smoked.

* If not stuffing and boiling you can omit the curing salt. It makes the colour much pinker than if it’s not present and helps keep them fresh longer.


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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Vegetable Garden Update

The best place to find God is in a garden. You can dig for him there. – George Bernard Shaw

Green Towers romaine.

The sun’s starting to break through the morning haze. By all accounts another glorious day in the countryside of Nova Scotia. It’s 7:30am and already 16°C in the shade, although I have my doubts about the trustworthiness of our thermometer...

The garden going in May 12.
Great weather for growing vegetables though. We put in a small veggie garden May 12 of this year and a small extension of transplants two weeks later. Today I thought it was about time that I gave an overview about what’s been happening.

As it turns out, quite a lot.

We moved to the country to start a new life the first week of March. One of the things we promised ourselves was to grow some of our own vegetables. We don’t have a lot of land so we had to be a bit stingy on how much room we gave things to grow. Luckily we do have sun.

For the most part to seems that our amending of the soil with plenty of organic matter is working. We’ve got “action” on many fronts.

We planted a wide variety of vegetables that we hope will help us at least through to the fall. Some we’re harvesting now, some will be coming soon and others months later (or so we hope).

After 5 weeks. That's 35 days...

Remember, this is only after 5 weeks from seed in the ground. I hope it serves as inspiration for anyone with only a little land in the country, or urban gardeners who want to try their hand at a little self-sufficiency. You don't need a "back 40 acres" to do this.

The first harvest that we had was radish greens. yes you can eat them. They’re great for a salad and are a little peppery. They were followed by mesclun greens (a mix of different salad greens) and radishes themselves two weeks ago.

Our beans and peas are really starting to take off as are our tomatoes. Almost all the tomato plants are either blooming or will soon be. That’s good news as they like to ripen in the warm summer sun.

Spinach (from seed 3 weeks ago) is starting to show true leaves as are the carrots. We sowed two kinds, the normal orange variety and purple ones. Basil from seed is a little slow but we didn’t have all that great a first half of June (wet and cool) so perhaps they will start growing better now.

The corn is up and hopefully we’ll have a “feed” some time in August. “Feed” is the term my father used to use. Actually he used that to refer to harvest of all his veggies. I hope he is looking down on us and smiling. I gave him more frowns than smiles when he was alive. The stupidity of youth...

Something besides us has been enjoying the bok choy.
Squash, beets, eggplant and cucumbers seem to have hit a bit of a slow down. Not sure if it was the recent cool weather or of they’re setting roots. I hope it’s the latter. 

We set transplants of romaine lettuce and bok choy that seem to have settled in nicely. Green Towers romaine is starting to live up to its name. Interestingly they are only planted a few feet apart but it seems we are “sharing” the bok choy with the insects but not the romaine. Is it something we said?

The perennial herbs have settled in and we hope they will grace us with a return next year. I have trimmed back the Italian and curly parsley already to use in the kitchen. It seems they were “inspired” by my threat.

A lesson I did learn is to NOT buy basil plants early in the season. The cooler weather almost finished them off. Some are trying to come back from the base. That's why we planted seed. We want pesto!

One thing that doesn’t seem to be doing very well is the dill from seed. Not sure of we didn’t amend the soil enough, if they’re slow starters or if it’s just been the weather. Time will tell.

Something has been eating the haskap berries before we have had a chance to pick them. But that’s not too much of a disappointment. The bushes are small and we wouldn’t have had enough for “a feed” anyway!

We’re newbies to all of this. When I was growing up I never really paid attention to my dad and his gardening, even though he used to put one in every year.

Of course none of this includes the free bounty we have around us – those wild fruits and greens that go so unnoticed by most of us. One example is the rampant wild blueberries we have in our backyard. Another was the dandelions. They’re passed now. If you read up on wild edibles you will be surprised about what you find.

Beans at left and peas on the right.
If you are interested in growing some of your own food, it may not be too late. If you start with transplants – still available at garden centres – you probably have enough time. It all depends on how much of your growing season is left.

Just remember there’s some basics that vegetables need to reward you with a harvest: sun, water, warm temperatures, good soil and care. The only one you can’t control is the sun. The others are entirely up to you.

Here’s some growing times to maturity for some of the more common garden vegetables:
Beans (bush and pole) 60 days
Beets 40-70 days, depending on variety
Carrots 90 days
Corn 60-90 days
Cucumbers 60-90 days
Lettuce 70-90 days
Onion sets 50-60 days
Tomatoes are flowering. We have to do something about
those radishes!!
Peas 60 days
Radishes 3-10 weeks (they will bolt *go to flower* in warm temperatures)
Spinach 90 days
Squash (winter) 100 days
Tomatoes 120-160 days (buy transplants)

Remember, if you buy transplants you’re ahead of the game, so if you want tomatoes or squash or whatever if you can find them at a garden centre it’s worth a try. They’ve already been growing for at least a month or two.

We’re hoping for two things from our gardening foray: vegetables and experience. That way we’ll be better prepared for continued success in the future.

If our winter crops turn out I can see a post on how to build cold storage in the future. One must live in hope!


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Questions? Comments? Derogatory remarks? Just ask! I’ll answer quickly and as best as I can. If you like this post feel free to share it. If you repost, please give me credit and a link back to this site.