Part I: Horseradish as Weed
Horseradish is a common weed in Edmonton, as invasive as it is delicious. The plant is pretty easy to identify by its distinctive curly leaves. If allowed to flourish, they eventually grow into wild, drooping masses that look like Sideshow Bob’s hair. There happens to be a particularly robust example in a friend’s back alley. I visited it this morning to see if my clumsy attempt at harvesting it last summer had killed it. As you can see, it’s doing fine. You can also see all the dead stalks from last year’s growth around the base. It’s a very prodigious plant.
Last summer I was invited to help myself to the spicy root of … Continue reading.
I really want to like mead.
When I was a kid, before I knew exactly what mead was, I associated it with vikings and long wooden tables and serving-wenches. Even then, I wanted to like it.
My associations were correct in that mead has been a popular drink in northern Europe since antiquity. The epic poem Beowulf, for instance, is about a dragon (Grendel) that terrorizes the mead-hall of a Danish king (Hrothgar) and that dragon’s subsequent ass-kicking at the hands of a young warrior (Beowulf). So yes, vikings and mead go hand in hand, but the drink is part of cultures far beyond Scandinavia, in Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America.
These days I’m trying to like mead … Continue reading.
For the last few years we’ve been curing our own Easter ham with more or less an entire leg of pork.
The primal cut of pork known as the leg is separated from the loin and belly by sawing through the middle of the pelvic bone. The section of the pelvis that is left on the loin is called the pin bone. The section on the leg is the haitch bone. To remove the haitch bone you have to follow its frustrating curves with your knife until you expose the ball joint where the leg meets the pelvis. Cut through this joint.
Next the skin is removed in one large sheet.
What remains of the leg typically weighs about 15 … Continue reading.
‘Now, my dears,’ said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, ‘you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don’t go into Mr. McGregor’s garden: your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.’
-from The Tale of Peter Rabbit
After stewing the choice legs and loins of a Trowlesworthy Farms rabbit, I found myself with a lot of trim. Most notable were the forelegs, the belly-flaps from the saddle, and the kidneys. Besides this there was miscellaneous trim pulled from the carcass. I decided that this would become a rabbit pie.
Making the Recipe
A classical rabbit pie (and yes, rabbit pie is a classical preparation…), would use lean rabbit meat and … Continue reading.
As I mention on the Button Soup rabbit page, my first taste of rabbit was in Greece. Rabbit plays a fairly important role in traditional Greek cooking. A stew called stifadho, which is practically the national dish of Hellas, was until recently most often made with rabbit and pearl onions. Rabbit meat appears in several other dishes, often paired with fruit, especially dried currants and prunes.
One of our favourite restaurants in Greece was Portes, in Hania, Crete. “Portes” means “doors”, and the stone walk approaching the taverna is lined with brightly painted wooden doors, leaning against an adjacent fence. After our meal, the bill came with a recipe for rabbit stew with prunes printed on a souvenir bookmark. … Continue reading.
…a “break” from tradition…
Rabbits are not traditionally butchered by neatly separating the joints, as you would a chicken. They are broken into forequarters (shoulder-foreleg), hindquarters (hip-hindleg), and a saddle (backbone, with surrounding loins, tenderloins, and belly) by cleaving right through the bones. In a rustic preparation, all these parts, with bones, would be thrown into a stew.
Chefs often bitch about the tedium of cutting rabbit, “especially since there’s practically no meat on them.” Their words. Not mine.
The problem with cleaving is that you’re bound to splinter the bones. I’ve bitten down on a fragment of rabbit bone in restaurants more than once. Taking the time to properly butcher the rabbit by cutting through the joints and not … Continue reading.
The term “barbecue” is used pretty loosely around these parts. Most often it refers to an outdoor grill, but I have also had “barbecued” items in restaurants that haven’t been anywhere near an outdoor grill. In fact, these items, usually ribs or pulled-pork, have been braised or even stewed in an acidic solution called “barbecue sauce”.
True barbecue is meat, usually pork, that has been smoked at low temperatures for several hours. Tough cuts that stand up to lengthy cooking are the most common, especially pork shoulder and ribs, as well as beef brisket. The home of true barbecue is the American south, notably the Carolinas and Tennessee. True barbecue is unlike any other meat. It is transcendent. Complex, aromatic … Continue reading.
My dad grew up in eastern Ontario, in sugar shack country. The most common applications of maple syrup in his home were pouring over pumpkin pie and cornbread, or, if he was especially well-behaved, as a dip for white bread. These dishes win for most direct conveyance of syrup to mouth without drinking from the bottle, but I need something (slightly) more refined.
My Québécois dessert of choice is pouding chômeur. “Chômeur” means unemployed. Here it functions as a substantive, so this is “unemployed person’s pudding.” “Poor man’s pudding” is a more natural sounding translation. Whatever you call it, it’s a fantastic, unadulterated way to enjoy maple syrup.
A simple batter of creamed butter and sugar, eggs, … Continue reading.
Slow-cooked pork that is mixed until creamy and spreadable. It is very similar to the French rillette. Rillettes are traditionally sealed in ramekins with rendered fat. This is great for potted pork, too. Especially in winter, as the fat looks like a skating rink once it sets, and because with the addition of a sprig of rosemary and some peppercorns, you can imitate holly.
- 3 lbs pork shoulder, diced to one inch pieces
- 1/2 lb bacon
- 1/2 lb smoked ham hock
- 1 pork bone
- 1 bundle thyme
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
- 1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
- 4 peppercorns, tied into a cheesecloth bundle
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (I didn’t have whole cloves on
… Continue reading.
This was the first year that I had a hand in preparing the Thanksgiving turkey. Subsequently it was also the first time that I came in contact with the infamous giblets: the neck, heart, liver, and gizzard of the turkey, stored together in a bag in the cavity of the bird.
First things first: I needed to know what I was dealing with. I was familiar with the general shape and function of the first three items on that list. The gizzard, however, I embarrassingly thought was the flap of skin hanging between a turkey’s beak and neck. Turns out this is the wattle, “an organ of sexual dimorphism” (Wikipedia), whatever that means. The gizzard is actually a stomach with … Continue reading.