Green Plums Cured like Olives

Green plums cured like olives

Right off the hop: I stole this idea from Ben Staley. He made “Green Plum Cured like an Olive” at Alta (RIP) and it really blew my mind. Not sure if he is serving these at Yarrow or not. After my meal at Alta I talked to Ben briefly and asked how he made the plum olives. If I remember right he said they were fermented in brine, then pressure-cooked with a bit of vinegar. I’ve since done some research and it tuns out that pickled green plums are actually quite common across North Africa and the Middle East. Still, I owe Ben for introducing me to the concept.

To be clear we are talking about plums that are … Continue reading.

Plum Jam with Japanese Plums Prunus salicina

Three types of plum jam made with Japanese plums (Prunus salicina).

Can you make plum jam with Japanese plums? Of course! However as we’ve discussed several times this season, when you cook the flesh of Prunus salicina some powerful sour flavours develop.

Out of hand the flesh of a Japanese plum is so mild you might consider dialling back the sugar for a jam recipe. You definitely should not! First, the sugar is essential for the mixture to actually “jam” or set, but also that generous dose of sweetness balances the acidity that is unleashed during cooking. I ended up using the same ratio I use for raspberry jam: 2:1 fruit to sugar. Even with this high sugar content, the jam is quite tart. We noticed that of our two … Continue reading.

Drying Japanese Plums Prunus salicina

A bowl of dried Japanese plums (Prunus salicina)
A bowl of dried Japanese plums (Prunus salicina) var. Ptitsin.

No process better demonstrates the difference in “behaviour” between European plums (Prunus domestica) and Japanese plums (Prunus salicina) than drying. Whereas typical grocery store prunes made from domestica are soft, chewy, and super sweet with dark flavours of caramel, dried Prunus salicina are much more like dried sour cherries.

These plums at left were halved, pitted, and kept in our dehydrator overnight around 40°C.

Even though the flesh of fresh Japanese plums has very little acidity, as I wrote about in this post most processing methods cause a dramatic change in flavour and the fruit becomes sour. Dehydrating of course concentrates this acidity. I like sour … Continue reading.

The Surprising Flavours and Behaviour of Japanese Plums – Prunus salicina

A bowl of nearly-ripe Ptitsin plums.

Last summer I posted about our Japanese plum trees, and how we had harvested a few plums from each tree the last two summers.

This year we got our first appreciable harvest, so I have finally been able to play around with how best to store, cook, and preserve the fruit. There is almost no useful English-language information online regarding Japanese plums in the kitchen, and we’ve had some pretty surprising results, so I thought I would share!

The following information is all about our Ptitsin #3 cultivar. We are still waiting for the Ivanovka to ripen, but expect similar results.

Harvesting. Plums are able to ripen off the tree. When the Ptitsin plums are almost fully ripe, … Continue reading.

Chicken Harvest

Meat chickens in their run.

Last week I helped with a chicken harvest for the first time. My parents-in-law had raised twenty eight birds to maturity on their property in Lac St. Anne County.

The chickens were killed with an axe to the neck, severing the head.

After a couple minutes of twitching the bodies were held by the feet and dipped in steaming water to loosen the feathers. We had two “turkey fryer” propane burners heating 5 gallon pots of water to 150°F. The chickens were dunked a few times, just until the wing and tail feathers pulled out easily, which took less than 60 seconds. If done properly this helps the feathers release easily in the plucking machine, without cooking any of the … Continue reading.

French Fries

Homemade French fries

It’s been something of a personal crusade of mine to get more people deep-frying at home (see this post, and this class).  Even though I consider French fries the single most important fried food in western cooking, I rarely make them at home.  The main reason is that when working with a standard pot it takes several batches to fry enough potatoes to feed my family.  While I don’t mind frying half a chicken and putting it in the oven while the second half is fried, the six batches required for fries is a bit tedious. With that said, when I’m feeling ambitious this is how I make fries at home.

What potatoes to use.  While you can … Continue reading.

Kosher Pickles

I had heard of kosher pickles many, many times in my life, but always assumed that they were just pickles that were, well, kosher, as in approved for consumption in Jewish dietary law. Turns out that is not the case, and kosher pickles are actually a particular style of pickle, one that is naturally fermented like those described in this post on lacto-pickles. If you are familiar with sauerkraut you are familiar with lactic acid fermentation. Anyways kosher pickles are the real-deal accompaniment to deli sandwiches like smoked meat or pastrami.

If you grew up on Bick’s, kosher pickles will seem strange. They have no sugar, in fact no sweetness at all besides whatever natural sweetness might be … Continue reading.

Apple Johnny

Apple johnny: cake baked in apple sauce.

Apple Johnny is a cake from eastern Canada that is baked in apple sauce. This is the third traditional cake from that region I’ve come across that is baked in a sauce or syrup.  I think that’s enough to classify this as a family of cakes.  I am going to call them drop cakes, because you make a batter and drop it into some manner of delicious sauce or liquid.  Not a traditional term by any means but there it is.

Anyways, the most famous drop cake is pouding chômeur, which is a traditional Quebecois cake baked in maple syrup.  When I mentioned this to a friend who grew up in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, she said that they … Continue reading.

Subsistence Meatballs

A bowl of subsistence meatballs!

There is surely a more flattering name for these, but they definitely need to be distinguished from normal meatballs like these ones. There is a long tradition of naming dishes that are especially for “hard times”, but in my grandmother’s cookbook those names are cute and subtle (Make-Do cake, for instance, or WWI cake, which alludes to rationing). For now I’m rolling with Subsistence Meatballs.

Anyways, this is trick for making sure your meat stretches as far as possible. My original recipe is below, but the general technique I learned from a chef in Bologna. The gist is that meat is carefully taken from the bones that have been used to make stock, finely shredded, and then mixed with … Continue reading.

Hot Takes on Kombucha

Hot Take #1: You don’t need a SCOBY to make kombucha.

Okay I’ll clarify right off the bat: if by “SCOBY” we simply mean “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”, then yes, of course you need a SCOBY to make kombucha. If by “SCOBY” we mean the infamous, gelatinous raft that floats on top of the liquid, then no, you emphatically do not need a SCOBY to make kombucha.

As with “mother of vinegar”, the term SCOBY is confusing. In both vinegar and kombucha production, the micro-organisms at work form a raft that floats on the surface of the base liquid that is being fermented. In vinegar production most online sources call this raft the “mother of vinegar”, and in … Continue reading.

The personal website of Edmonton chef Allan Suddaby