Metro Cooking Class: Sweet and Delicious Cider Making

Autumn's gift to summer: sparkling hard cider.On Saturday, September 15, 2018, I will be leading a class for Metro Continuing Education called Sweet and Delicious Cider Making.

There are countless apple trees in Edmonton, and cider is one of the best ways to preserve and consume local apples. Learn how to make sweet and aromatic apple juice and hard cider like you’ve never tasted before. Allan will show you how to crush, press and ferment your cider using affordable homemade equipment. Demonstration course.

You can register for this course here.

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Cocktail Equipment and Technique

A bartender's took kit, with all the equipment required for making stirred and shaken cocktails.We often describe cocktails as “mixed drinks”.  In this post we will discuss the two main ways we mix drinks -stirring, and shaking – and the equipment required for each.

Before diving in, two important points on consistency: the dry build, and accurate measures.

Dry Build

  • Whether shaking or stirring, best practice is to “dry build” your drink, that is, combine all of the liquid ingredients together before adding any ice.
  • This is a technique from professional bars where consistency is paramount. The idea is that you want total control over the time that your drink spends on ice, so that you control the dilution and the final concentration of the drink.
  • If you were to put ice in the glass, pour your spirit, then take time to juice your citrus, the dilution and chilling process has already started, and variances in how long it takes you to assemble and pour the other ingredients will affect your final drink.

Measures

  • And speaking of consistency, accurate measuring is important.
  • Classic hour-glass jigger.
  • “Japanese jiggers” – you will often see fancy bartenders using jiggers that are strikingly taller and more slender than the classic North American jigger. These are called Japanese jiggers.  They are designed for a more consistent pour.  Say you consitently pour to within 2-4 mm from the top of a jigger.  The narrower the mouth of the jigger, the smaller your variation in pour volume will be.
  • Quick pour spouts

Why Cocktails are Mixed with Ice

With the exception of hot cocktails like Irish coffee, when we mix cocktails we are always mixing them with ice.  Mixing with ice actually does several things:

  • combines the ingredients (duh),
  • chills the ingredients (also duh),
  • dilutes the drink, and
  • develops texture.

Combining and chilling are pretty obvious, but the dilution and texture developed by the ice and mixing technique are extremely important, often making the difference between an okay cocktail and an exceptional one.

Dilution

  • If you’ve ever wondered why bartenders don’t just keep all their ingredients in the fridge and bypass the whole shaking/stirring with ice step, this is why: classic cocktail recipes account for the dilution of their ingredients caused by the melting ice.  (Also there is the I sheer joyous pageantry of mixing a drink in front of a guest.)
  • For instance, if you make a classic Manhattan with 2 oz rye and 1 oz sweet vermouth, if you stir the drink properly, you end up with around 4 fl oz of liquid: you’ve added a whole ounce of water!  This makes a huge difference in the final drink.

Mixing Methods: Shaking vs. Stirring

There are two main ways to mix a cocktail: shaking and stirring.  James Bond’s famous drink order suggests that whether you do one or the other is a matter of personal taste.  Most of the bartending world would disagree.  There are cocktails that are meant to be shaken, and cocktails that are meant to be stirred (a martini, for the record, should be stirred…)

So, how do you know which should be shaken and which should be stirred?

Rule of Thumb: When to Shake and When to Stir

  • drinks made entirely of spirits are stirred
    • eg. Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Martini, Negroni
  • drinks that contain juice, egg white, or cream are shaken
    • eg. Sidecar, Margarita, Dacquiri, Brandy Alexander, Whiskey Sour

Stirred Cocktails

The equipment required for a stirred cocktail: mixing glass, barspoon, and julep strainer.

Bartenders usually stir drinks that are comprised entirely of spiritous liquids, ie. no citrus juice, no egg white, no cream.

The goal when stirring is to produce a frigidly cold drink, completely crystal clear, without any ice shards or air bubbles.

Stirring sounds moronically simple, but there are a few very important not-so-intuitive details that elevate stirred drinks to the next level.

Equipment

  • Mixing Glass – There are standard mixing glasses that look a bit like a large beaker.  You can really use any vessel you like, but the advantages of the glass beaker style are:
    • They are heavy enough that they will stay in position on the counter as you stir.
    • They are large enough to accommodate the copious ice required for proper chilling and dilution
    • They are glass so that the customer can see the drink being stirred (pageantry)
  • Barspoon
    • Long spoons help your stir without moving your hands too much
  • Julep Strainer – To hold back the ice as the drink is poured into the serving glass.

Standard Stirring Procedure

  • Dry build cocktail in mixing glass.
  • Fill the glass 3/4 full of ice.  Yes, this seems like a lot but it is important!  As the ice begins to melt the ice level will fall.  Having a large matrix of ice from wall to wall and above the liquid level actually helps you stir rapidly.
  • Stir smoothly and rapidly for 30-45 seconds. Yes, this seems like an unnaturally long period of time, but it is important!
  • Strain the drink through julep strainer.
  • Garnish as required.

Manhattan

Ingredients

  • 2 oz Bulleit Rye
  • 1 oz Carpano Antica Vermouth
  • 1 dash Angostura  Bitters
  • orange zest

Procedure

  1. Follow standard stirring procedure described above.
  2. Pour drink into a chilled 4 oz coupe.
  3. Garnish with orange zest.

Shaken Cocktails

The equipment required for making a shaken cocktail: Boston shaker, Hawthorne strainer, and fine mesh strainer.

For drinks that contain citrus, egg white, or dairy.

The goal in shaking is again a frigidly cold drink with a full, almost airy, frosty texture, but still without shards of ice.

Equipment

  • Shaker – The two main types of shaker are the Boston shaker and the cobbler shaker.
    • Boston Shaker – This is the iconic mixing … glass and tin.
    • Cobbler – This is a shaker with three parts: one that looks like the tin from a Boston shaker, a fitted top that has a pour spout with perforations that hold back ice, and a cap that closes the pour spout.
  • Hawthorne strainer – Used to hold back large pieces of ice when pouring the drink from a Boston shaker.
  • Fine mesh strainer – When a cocktail is being shaken the ice is shooting back and forth, slamming against one wall and then another within.  This produces many small shards of ice that are not welcome in the final drink.  The Hawthorne strainer holds back the bulk of the ice, but a fine mesh strainer is required to get the finer bits.

Method

  • dry build
  • fill shaker FULL of ice
  • shake 12-15 seconds
  • strain through Hawthorne and fine mesh
  • garnish

Sidecar

Ingredients

  • 2 oz Cognac
  • 1 oz Cointreau
  • 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
  • splash simple syrup

Procedure

  1. Follow standard shaking procedure as described above.
  2. Strain drink into chilled 6 oz coupe.
  3. Garnish with lemon zest.

 

Variations

Now, there are a handful of very important drinks that are not mixed with these methods.  The Old Fashioned and Planter’s Punch are both “built drinks” that are made directly in the glass they are served.  Many other classics use slight variations on the techniques described above.  For instance bubbly ingredients like sparkling wine or soda would never be shaken or stirred as it would destroy the effervescence.  When making a French 75, the gin, syrup, and lemon juice are shaken in the manner described above, then poured into the Champagne flute, and then the Champagne is poured on top.

And of course there are drinks that employ muddling, and “frozen” (slushy) drinks and hot drinks like Irish coffee.  I’m hoping these will be discussed in future posts.  However, by learning the simple mechanics of standard stirring and shaking you will be capable of mixing the vast majority of cocktails, both classic and new-fangled.

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Greek Lamb Sausage

I have Greek food on the brain.  The current infatuation has many diverse origins.  For starters this summer is the ten year anniversary of an epic trip through southern Greece, and I have been reading old food notes from the journey.  Also I’ll be doing a class on Greek mezze for Metro Continuing Education this fall.  With all this in mind last week I made a Greek lamb sausage.

Coils of Greek lamb sausageIn 2008 I spent five weeks in Greece, eating in tavernas two or three times a day.  I don’t think I ever had a sausage like this.  In other words this sausage is not traditional, but it is very much inspired by Greek loukaniko, a pork sausage flavoured with orange zest.

This version is made with 100% lamb shoulder, so I figured we may as well go ahead and use lamb casings.  And we may as well wrap them up into adorable little coils and skewer them.  I never saw this in Greece but it makes for an interesting mezze.  And as I wrote here, Canadian Greek food is very much wanting for interest right now.

 

Greek Lamb Sausage

Ingredients

  • 2.270 kgs lamb shoulder – I like Four Whistle lamb
  • 35 g kosher salt
  • 54 g garlic, minced fine
  • 25 g orange zest (I use a zest compound called Perfect Purée)
  • 6 g ground black pepper
  • 3.6 g allspice
  • 2.38 g dried oregano
  • 1.8 g cayenne pepper
  • 1.17 g bay leaf
  • 0.9 g chili flake
  • 240 mL chopped parsley
  • 220 g ice water

Procedure

  1. Cut lamb shoulder into 1″ cubes.  Mix with salt and spices.  Spread onto a sheet tray in a single layer and semi-freeze.
  2. Grind meat using a 3/16″ plate.
  3. Transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand-mixer.  Add chopped parsley and water.  Mix on speed 2 for two minutes.
  4. Stuff mixture into lamb casings.  To make the spirals shown in the photo above, stuff into 19-21 mm lamb casings.  Be careful not to over-stuff as spiralling puts a bit of pressure on the contents.  Link into 22″ lengths.  Cut the links apart.  Curl into spiral shape.  Set spirals right up against each other on a sheet tray so that they are holding each other in shape.  Skewer.

Yield:  Approximately 16 spirals

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Papa Suds’ Pizza Dough

This is my family’s pizza dough recipe.  We make pizza almost weekly, so it is a workhorse recipe, one of the most important in our kitchen.

People familiar with our neighbourhood have asked why we make our own pizza when we live literally one block from a pizzeria.  The answer is that it’s easy and good and fun and cheap.  The scaling and mixing of the dough take less than ten minutes.  All together the ingredients for our homemade pizza cost under $5 per 12″ pie, something that we pay $18 plus tip for down the street.

I feel obligated to mention that our recipe is adapted from the little booklet that came with our KitchenAid stand mixer.  I resent having to mention that, because the recipe in that booklet is completely useless!  Firstly because the quantities are all in volumes, making the results wildly inconsistent, and secondly because the quantity of flour it calls for is “2 1/2 – 3 1/2 cups”.  Such a huge variation is absolutely ridiculous.  “You either need this quantity of flour, or 40% more flour than that, I’m not sure.”  How can it even claim to be a recipe when it makes statements like that?  It’s more like a Vague Outline for Pizza Dough.

Anyways, we made the following changes:

  • Converted all units to precise, reliable weights.
  • Dialed in the flour quantity so that the dough is nice and wet but still workable.
  • Increased the salt content from a meagre 1/2 tsp to a much more sensible 1 1/2 tsp.

 

Papa Suds’ Pizza Dough
Adapted from the absurd excuse for a pizza dough recipe in the KitchenAid Stand Mixer booklet

Ingredients

  • 240 g warm water
  • 8 g dry active yeast
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 330 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 + 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • extra olive oil for greasing fermentation bowl
  • extra flour for rolling out
  • coarse cornmeal for baking

Procedure

  1. Weigh the water in a bowl. Add the yeast and oil.  Stir to moisten yeast.  Let stand a few minutes.
  2. Weigh flour in the bowl of the stand-mixer.  Add the salt.
  3. Add the liquid components to a well in the centre of the flour.
  4. Mix the dough using the dough hook on low speed until the dough comes together in one ball and the sides of the bowl are clean.
  5. Turn the mixer speed to 2 and knead for 2 minutes.
  6. Put a splash of olive oil in a large bowl. Wipe the oil up the sides of the bowl. Put the dough in the bowl. Turn the dough so its entire surface is coated with oil.
  7. Cover the bowl with plastic and a towel and leave at room temperature until the dough has doubled, roughly 90 – 120 minutes.

Yield: dough for 2 x 12″ pizzas

 

Homemade pizzas with sausage, peppers, and provolone.

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Buranelli Cookies

Buranelli cookies in the traditional "esse" shape.One of my favourite Italian desserts is simple, elegant, and endlessly adaptable: cookies and sweet wine.  In Italy I’ve seen this dish served with every manner of cookie, from amaretti to lady fingers to biscotti, and sweet wines as various as Vin Santo, Recioto, and Pantelleria.  You could easily take the dish outside the realm of Italian cuisine and try something like ginger snaps and sweet applejack.  A particularly memorable experience was being served s-shaped Buranelli cookies with a glass of sweet Zibbibo in a small restaurant in Venice on a wet, chilly September afternoon.

Buranelli are from the Venetian island of Burano.  The dough is a bit like shortbread (more sweet and less buttery than my preferred Scottish-style shortbread) enriched with egg yolk and flavoured with lemon zest and vanilla.

There are two classic shapes, the bussola (“compass”) and the esse (“s”).  The compass is just a strip of dough curled into a perfect circle.  For some reason the s-shapes are made backwards to how the letter is normally written.  It’s a simple, versatile dough that could be made into any shape, including the classics of Scottish shortbread like fingers and petticoat tails.

Buranelli Cookies

Ingredients

  • 125 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 110 g white sugar
  • 80 g egg yolk (4 large egg yolks)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 + 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
  • 250 g all-purpose flour

Procedure

  1. Combine butter, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Using the paddle attachment, cream ingredients thoroughly, roughly 10 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl every few minutes.
  2. Combine the yolks, zest, and vanilla.  Add to the creamed mixture and paddle until well mixed.
  3. Slowly add the flour will the mixer runs on its lowest setting.  Stop mixing as soon as the flour is incorporated.
  4. At this point the dough can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for later use, but note that the dough is much easier to work with when it is at room temperature.
  5. Divide the dough into 20 equal portions.  Roll each portion into desired shape.
  6. Line portions on a heavy bake sheet lined with parchment or a silicon mat.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  7. Bake in a 375°F oven until the edges and bottoms are just starting to brown.

Buranelli cookies with Recioto, a sweet wine from Valpolicella.

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Chili

A bowl of chili with sour cream and cilantro.Chili is one of the great North American dishes, and one that is especially relevant and useful in modern life, as it is a hearty one-pot meal that can be put together and left to cook in a crock pot or low oven for several hours.

I’ll argue that the only two essential ingredients in chili are meat and beans.  When I was growing up that meat was always, always ground beef, though I have to say I really like using shredded or cubed braised beef like brisket or chuck.  For beans you are not beholden to the canned red kidney beans of my childhood: any and all pulses are great.  These days my kitchen always has dried pinto and garbanzo beans, which have textures, flavours, and names that are all tailor-made for use in chili.

Beyond meat and beans, chili is a very diverse dish, akin to stuffing, in that every little boy will obnoxiously defend his mother’s manner of preparation and dismiss all others.  The beauty of chili is that it can really be anything.  It’s a good way to use leftovers like hamburger or sausage.  If the opportunity presented itself I would even put such apocryphal ingredients as mushrooms and potatoes and lentils in mine.  When given a carte blanche I love to pack chili with as many ingredients reminiscent of the old west as possible:

  • beef (as discussed)
  • beans (as discussed)
  • molasses
  • coffee – Every so often I make more coffee than I can drink.  When I do I pour the leftovers into a jar and keep it in the fridge for use in chili or braised beef.
  • cayenne, paprika, bell peppers, and any other capsaicin-producing relative
  • corn… I am very partial to chili that contains corn.

A recipe in that southwestern vain follows.  It is best served with these biscuits or this cornbread.

Chili

Ingredients

  • canola or vegetable oil
  • 500 g yellow onion
  • 35 g garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tbsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tbsp hot smoked paprika
  • 3/4 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 300 g yellow or orange bell pepper
  • 300 g red bell pepper
  • 415 g brewed coffee
  • 1 kg canned tomato, puréed quickly with a stick blender
  • 175 g fancy molasses
  • 260 g corn
  • 440 g cooked pinto beans
  • 440 g cooked garbanzo beans
  • 875 g cooked beef or pork (this can be ground or shredded or cubed)
  • kosher salt

Procedure

  1. Combine oil, onion, garlic, and herbs and spices in a heavy pot.  Cook until onions are starting to turn translucent.
  2. Add bell peppers and cook briefly.
  3. Add tomato, molasses, and coffee.
  4. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until vegetables are tender.
  5. Add beans, corn, and meat.  Return to a simmer and cook briefly to let flavours combine.
  6. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
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Introduction to Charcuterie

This is the information I provide students in my Charcuterie at Home class, which I run a few times a year for Metro Continuing Education.

A charcuterie plate with air-dried beef in the top right.

What is charcuterie?

  • Charcuterie is a French word, from char for flesh or meat, and cuit for
    cooked.
  • Originally this was a medieval guild that was allowed to prepare certain cooked
    meat dishes like pâté and terrine.
  • These days it broadly refers to cured meat, whether bacon, ham, salami,
    prosciutto, or even duck confit and jerky.  It also encompasses other meat preparations like fresh sausages.
  • Most charcuterie techniques – salt-curing, smoking, and air-drying – were
    developed as a way to preserve meat.
  • Even though we now have ways to pasteurize, refrigerate, and freeze
    meat, we still use these ancient techniques because they are so delicious!

Types of Charcuterie

  • Most classic charcuterie is make from pork, but there are several examples made from beef, duck, and other animals.
  • Charcuterie can be made from whole, intact muscles, or ground meat
    • eg. of whole muscle charcuterie: bacon, ham, prosciutto, coppa
    • eg. of ground meat charcuterie: salami, mortadella, pepperoni
  • After curing, charcuterie is either cooked, or air-dried (ie. hung in a cellar to dry out, after which it is eaten raw)
    • eg. of cooked charcuterie: bacon, ham, mortadella
    • eg. of air-dried charcuterie: prosciutto, coppa, salami

Important First Principles

When making charcuterie…

  • Use the highest quality meat you can afford (see Resources below).
  • Weigh all ingredients, especially salt and curing salt.  If you don’t already have one, you should invest is a good digital scale with precision to the gram.  I use a Starfrit scale that I got at London Drugs for less than $30 if my memory serves me.  This is partly for food safety (ensuring we always have the right amount of salt) and partly for consistency.
  • Carefully control time and temperature as per your recipe.
  • Invest in a good reference such as Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian
    Polcyn (again, see Resources below).

Salt and Curing Salt

  • All charcuterie is made by applying salt to meat.
  • Salt preserves meat by killing or disrupting micro-organisms.
  • Table salt (NaCl) was used for thousands of years to preserve meat.  Sea salt, sel gris, fleur de sel, Maldon, Himalayan pink salt…. these are all NaCl, just with different mineral impurities that give them subtly different flavours and colours.
  • In medieval Europe a new type of naturally-occurring salt was discovered, saltpeter, which is potassium nitrate (KNO3).  People found that using it in very small amounts improved their cured meats.  It affected the meats in the following ways:
    • produced a distinctive, piquant flavour
    • gave the meat a bright, rosy pink colour
    • preserved the meat better than normal table salt (for instance, it prevents oxidation and rancidity)
  • Later it was discovered that microbes in the meat convert the nitrate in saltpeter to nitrite, and that this is the actual active ingredient.
  • Modern curing salt is sodium nitrite (NaNO2).  It is available at butcher supply shops like Halford’s Hide, Butchers and Packers Supplies, CTR Refrigeration

Cure #1 vs. Cure #2

  • Nitrate can act as a “slow-release” cure, as it is slowly converted to nitrite by micro-organisms in the meat.
  • Air-dried preparations that will spend weeks or months in a celery (eg. salami) are usually treated with a combination of nitrite and nitrate.
  • Preparations that are cured and cooked over the course of a week (eg. bacon and ham) are usually treated with nitrite.
  • In the US, curing salts are usually died pink so that they are not confused with table salt.  For this reason, curing salt is often called pink salt, or tinted cure.
  • Note that there are several types of table salt that are pink, but are not curing salt!  Eg. pink salts from Hawaii and the Himalayas.  This should not be used in charcuterie!
  • Common names for nitrite mixtures: Cure #1, FS Cure #1, pink salt, tinted cure dmix (TCM), TCM #1, Prague Powder
  • Common names for nitrate mixtures: Cure #2, FS Cure #2, Salami Cure, TCM #2
  • If there is any uncertainty, the package should clearly list the ingredients and their percentage weight.

A Quick Word on “Nitrite-Free” Charcuterie

  • In recent years nitrites have been portrayed as unsafe, even carcinogenic.  Harold McGee, one of the world’s foremost food scientists, writes in his book On Food and Cooking: “At present there’s no clear evidence that the nitrites in cured meats increase risk of developing cancer.  Still, it’s probably prudent to eat cured meats in moderation and cook them gently.”
  • Even though there is no proven link, there are now many “nitrite free” products in the super market.  The disturbing part of all this is that these products always contain something like fermented celery extract, which contains nitrites!  In other words there are nitrites in the product, but they don’t appear in the ingredients list because they are an elemental component of the celery extract.  It’s a bit like like saying that your hot dog is “sugar free” because you didn’t sprinkle white sugar on it, even though there is sugar in the wiener and the bun and the ketchup and the mustard.  Always…

Rub-Curing vs. Brine-Curing

  • Traditionally most charcuterie was simply rubbed with or packed in dry salt.
  • Many modern charcuterie items are cured by being submerged in a brine,
    which cures faster and plumps the meat.
  • Generally, lean cuts like pork loin and leg benefit from brine, while fattier cuts like belly are best rubbed.

Brine Basics

  • We heat the water to dissolve the salt and sugar.
  • Chill the brine thoroughly before submerging the meat.
  • Make sure there is enough brine to keep the meat fully submerged.
  • It may be necessary to weigh the meat down to keep it from bobbing at the surface.
  • Brine penetration: larger cuts of meat benefit from a small injection of brine into the centre at the start of curing.
  • Brine time: a good rule of thumb is to leave the meat submerged for 12 hours for every pound of meat (eg. a 10 lb ham would cure in 5 days).

Rub-Cure Basics

  • Rub-cures should be periodically overhauled: this is simply redistributing
    the cure over the surface of the meat.
  • Rub curing takes longer – even relatively thin pork belly is left in contact with a rub-cure for a week.

Smoking

  • We make the distinction between hot-smoking and cold-smoking.
    • During hot-smoking the meat is held between 200°F-250°F and is slowly
      cooked as it is exposed to the smoke – bacon and ham are hot-smoked.
    • Cold-smoking is done at 100°F or lower so that the meat remains raw – air-
      dried products like speck are cold-smoked.
  • Pellicle formation: after rinsing the cure off the meat, dry the surface of the meat by patting with a clean dish towel.  Set the meat on a wire rack and leave it uncovered in the fridge overnight.  The surface of the meat will dry and become slightly tacky: this will help smoke adhere to the surface.
  • We usually smoke with hardwood (eg. maple, apple, hickory, mesquite, cherry) though there are some traditional preparations smoked with evergreen like juniper or fir (most notably true Black Forest ham)
  • Usually 2/3 of the wood chips are soaked in cold water for 30 minutes prior to smoking – this helps the smoulder longer.
  • The key is to have intense heat that can smoulder the chips, while keeping the ambient temperature of the chamber in the ranges mentioned above.
  • For more info and a thorough explanation of how to smoke meat using a barbecue, see my post called Smoking Meat at Home.

Smoking bacon on the barbecue

Air-Drying

  • Air-dried products are cured (typically with a rub-cure), then held at cellar
    temperature and humidity until they have lost a good deal of their moisture
    content.
  • Examples: guanciale, coppa, lonzo, lonzino, lardo, pancetta, prosciutto,
    salami, speck, bresaola, bündnerfleisch
  • The key to this process is controlling temperature and humidity:
    • Too moist and the moisture will not leave the meat and mold will grow on the surface
    • Too dry, and you may see case hardening: the outermost part of the meat will dry so thoroughly as to become impermeable, locking moisture within.
  • Ideal temperature range is 12-15°C.
  • Ideal humidity range is 60-70% humidity.
  • Highly recommended product: Auber Instruments Temperature and Humidity Controller.
  • Friendly mold cultures can be applied to the outside of the meat to prevent colonization by less-desirable microbes.
  • Hang-times vary from a couple weeks for slender sausages to one or two
    years for prosciutto.

The finished air-dried sausage

Resources

Meat

  • Acme Meat Market – These guys source quality meat and are great with special requests and cutting instructions.
  • Nature’s Green Acres (City Centre Market) – Probably the most unique and ethically- and sustainably-raised meat in the province.  This is the meat I use in my home.
  • Pine Haven Meat Shop – Pine Haven is a Hutterite colony near Wetaskiwin.  This is the meat I use at work at Elm Catering and Salz Bratwurst Co.  You can order their meatonline for pick-up at Ben’s Meat and Deli.

Equipment and Material

Books and References

  • Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn – One of the most influential food books published in the last 20 years, this is an amazing primer on curing, grinding, sausage-making, and air-drying.  Lots of theory, and an expansive collection of solid recipes.
  • Charcuterie by Fritz Sonnenschmidt – An old-school reference by a German-born Master Chef. I  like this book because it includes some lesser-known old world preparations like Pressack, Leberkäse, and Kassler Rippchen.
  • Salumi by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn – A very thorough treatment of traditional air-dried Italian preparations like salami, coppa, pancetta, and prosciutto.
  • The Button Soup Charcuterie page.  Basic theory and lots of recipes.

 

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Pickling Spice

Homemade pickling spice mixture.This is my homemade pickling spice.  To be wholly honest I don’t use it very often.  I make a lot of pickles, but I prefer my pickled vegetables to taste of vinegar and garlic and maybe one other flavour like dillseed or caraway.  The only preparation for which I regularly use this mixture is corned beef, which I make once a year, for St. Patrick’s Day or sometimes Easter.

That being said I do really love the flavour and aroma of this blend.  To me there is something festive but medieval about it.  It conflates the so-called sweet spices (allspice, clove, cinnamon) and savoury spices (pepper, mustard, coriander, bay).  That distinction between “sweet” and “savoury” flavours is more or less arbitrary: a touch of star anise or clove in a meat preparation is a thing of beauty, and spices like coriander and bay easily elide into the sweet world of cream and sugar and lemon.  Anyways, I digress.

Like mulling spice, pickling spice is used to infuse a liquid, so I typically keep the spices whole, without grinding.  One other note: the recipe below is the spice blend that I keep in my pantry, but when I use it I always combine it will an equal weight of fresh, crushed, garlic cloves.  So for instance my corned beef recipe calls for 30 g of this pickling spice mixture and 30 g whole crushed garlic cloves.

Pickling Spice

Ingredients (by weight)

  • 2 parts coriander seed, whole
  • 2 parts yellow mustard seed, whole
  • 2 parts black peppercorns, whole
  • 1 part allspice
  • 1 part clove
  • 1/2 part chili flakes
  • 1/2 part bay leaves

Approximate Yield: if 1 part is 100 g, this recipe yields roughly 240 mL

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Tap Takeover at Salz

Medicine Hat Brewing Co logo.Once a month at Salz we invite an Alberta craft brewery to take over all of our four beer taps.  In April we welcome the Medicine Hat Brewing Co.  I have personally consumed about ten gallons of their delicious Vienna-style Boomtown Lager.  I’m particularly excited for this event, as it will be the formal release of their new seasonal brew, the Munich Dunkel!  The crew at Salz is putting together a special food menu, with each item featuring a MH beer right in the dish.  Salz is a small space that fills up quickly, especially during these takeovers: come early to ensure a seat.

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Styrian Pumpkin Seed Oil

A couple bottles of Styiran Gold brand Styrian pumpkin seed oilStyrian pumpkin seed oil (Steirisches Kürbiskernöl in German) is a remarkable artisan product.

Styria (Steiermarck in German) is a province in the southeastern part of Austria.  Here and in parts of adjacent Slovenia they grow pumpkins that produce hull-less seeds.  These seeds are roasted and pressed to produce a fabulous oil that puts all other pumpkin seed oils to shame.  Whereas most North American versions are a yellow-brown colour, Styrian pumpkin seed oil is deep forest green, and powerfully redolent of roasted nuts.

Unfortunately I have not been able to find a high-quality Styrian pumpkin seed oil at any of the continental import shops in Edmonton like K & K.  To get my fix I purchase online from Styrian Gold, a company in Ontario that imports direct from Austria.  I buy it by the case for use at Salz Bratwurst Co.  I also purchase the whole, hull-less seeds from Rancho Vignola.

How to Use Styrian Pumpkin Seed Oil

The most important thing to know about this oil is that you don’t cook it.  Like ever.  I know a lot of people say this about olive oil, but there are some olive oils you shouldn’t cook with, and some you definitely should.  Styrian pumpkin seed oil is emphatically a finishing oil: cooking kills the aroma, produces bitter flavours, destroys the nutrients, and turns your food a weird brown colour.

There are old-timers in Austria that take a tablespoon of this oil every morning for its nutrients, like how some folks here take raw apple cider vinegar.

Here are my favourite ways to use the oil.

Garnish for Soup.  The deep green oil looks amazing floated on a bowl of vibrant orange pumpkin or squash soup.

Pumpkin soup drizzled with Styrian pumpkin seed oil

 

Finishing oil on salads.  Especially tomato salad.  Season the tomatoes with salt and a splash of vinegar.  Let stand to marinate, then drizzle pumpkin seed oil over top just before serving.Tomato salad garnished with Styrian pumpkin seed oil.

Steirische Eierspeise

“Styrian egg dish” is scrambled eggs finished with the province’s signature oil.  I started making this dish with soft-boiled eggs still in their shell, instead of the traditional scramble.  As the egg yolk is fatty, it mingles perfectly with the oil.

To prepare, cook a whole egg, in the shell, for five minutes in gently simmering water, so the whites have set, but the yolk is still runny.  Crack the shell to expose the top of the egg, then use a spoon to remove the top of the white.  Rest the egg on a bed of coarse salt, and spoon half a tablespoon of pumpkin seed oil into the yolk.  Add a pinch of salt and enjoy.

I have tried this dish with other flavourful, high-quality oils, such as the canola, hemp, and flaxseed oils produced in Alberta.

Soft-boiled egg with pumpkin seed oil

 

On Ice Cream (Seriously)

When I worked at Looshaus in Kreuzberg they had a dessert called “ice cream with oil and vinegar”.  It was a bowl of ice cream drizzled with Styrian pumpkin seed oil and apple balsamic vinegar.  It sounds so, so weird, but is so, so delicious.  When I make this at home I like to add some of the toasted pumpkin seeds for crunch.  I call it Austrian rocky road :)

A bowl of vanilla ice cream with Styrian pumpkin seed oil and apple balsamic vinegar.

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