One fateful Thanksgiving I treated my turkey as if it were a leg of pork: I pickled it in brine, then smoked it on the barbecue.
The result was possibly the tenderest, juiciest turkey I have ever eaten, but few around the table even recognized it as poultry. With the rosy colour and distinct piquancy created by the curing salt, along with the smoky aroma and the moist flesh, the final product was a dead ringer for ham. My guests actually referred to it as “Ham-urkey.”
There were other issues, besides guest perception. The gentle heat of the smoker (225°F) didn’t promote the delicious, delicious browning reactions that give us crisp, golden skin. Once the turkey was done smoking, I … Continue reading.
If you consult a North American resource on smoking meat, you’re likely find something like the following:
The first rule of smoking meat: use hardwood. Apple, hickory, maple, oak, pear, cherry, whatever you please, but do not use soft wood, and especially not evergreens. They are extremely resinous, and not only do they produce harsh, turpentine flavours in the meat, they are also poisonous!
These comments are discouraging to someone who lives where the prairies meet the boreal forest. Of course there are hardwood trees in Edmonton, but they’re not nearly as common as, say, poplars and spruce. There’s a spruce tree in my front yard that, if left to its own devices, will someday eat my house. There’s a … Continue reading.
The boar’s head in hand bear I,
Bedeck’d with bays and rosemary.
And I pray you my masters, be merry
Quot estis in convivio (As many as are in the feast)
Has it ever taken you years to understand the lyrics to a certain song?
I grew up listening to a carol that I thought was in a different language. While a few lines are in Latin, the rest is in plain English. Even so, I only deciphered the meaning of the song last year. The carol is The Boar’s Head, and it refers to the English custom, dating back to Anglo-Saxon times, of serving a boar’s head at Christmastime. The head was placed on a silver … Continue reading.
I like to make pâté around Christmas. This year I wanted to try a terrine with an inlay. Inlays are usually pieces of lean mean, like a pork tenderloin or duck breast, that are set in the middle of a terrine, surrounded by forcemeat, so that each slice of the terrine has a cross-section of the lean meat. At left you can see a rosy pork tenderloin cooked to medium.
Winter is a reflective season, and nowhere is this more true than with food, as many of the things we eat in December were by necessity harvested in September, or earlier. The special significance this pâté has to the past year is the garnish studding the forcemeat: morels. This was … Continue reading.
My mom has prepared a yule log cake every Christmas I can remember. I have no idea how this tradition came to my family, as it is extremely French (“bûche de noël”), and we are not.
The cake is a simple sponge. Whole eggs are beaten thoroughly, sugar is added, then a bit of water, and finally flour and cocoa are folded in. The batter is runny, and forms a shallow, uniform, fine-textured cake after baking.
The interior icing is a buttercream made by whipping room-temperature butter into Swiss meringue. Swiss meringue is a mixture of whipped egg whites and simple syrup cooked to soft ball stage.
The exterior frosting is icing sugar beaten into lard, which makes the colour … Continue reading.
I don’t cook rice very often, but I used to work at a restaurant that let me take home large amounts of leftover rice, and over the years I have developed a taste for rice pudding. My favourite version is made with a blend of brown and wild rice (which adds a satisfying chew to the dish), and dried saskatoons.
Lately I’ve been wondering if I could make a similar dish with a starch that is more common in my kitchen. Take that fifty pound bag of wheat berries in my closet, for instance. The one that I keep threatening to grind into flour if it doesn’t make itself more useful.
I was wary of trying to adapt wheat to … Continue reading.
This is a dish that confused me for some time. “Minced” means broken up (it’s actually related to the word “minute,” as in exceedingly small). The British use the word “minced” in places we might use the word “ground,” so when I started hearing about mincemeat pies, I assumed they were meat pies.
Then certain people (Lisa, Alton Brown) tried to explain to me that there was no meat in mincemeat pies at all, just dried fruit.
Just as I started grappling with the idea of a meatless mincemeat, I found one of my grandma’s recipes which seemed to combine the aforementioned concepts. The ingredients:
- beef chuck
- dried currants
- sultana raisins
- citron (I believe this refers to
… Continue reading.
The waiting is the hardest part.
-Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
I used to revile fruitcake, but in recent years a description by Jeffrey Steingarten has made me more receptive to the dish.
…full of dark, saturated medieval tastes and colors… aged for a year and then set aflame at the very last minute, carefully spooned out like the treasure it is…
I became mildly interested in the idea of aging baked goods, but I still regarded fruitcake as a gaudy curiosity. Then I came across fruitcake in the memoirs of a woman who grew up during the depression in Northern Ontario, called On Turnips, Teas, and Threshing Bees. Her description of fruitcake, and the lengths her family … Continue reading.
Lisa had a great method for making a stained glass effect on gingerbread houses, so we decided to make a church.
Our gingerbread is this standard recipe. This was my first time making gingerbread, and also my first time realizing that most of the tastes I associate with gingerbread are actually from the molasses.
For the stained glass, we bought hard candies and crushed them to make coloured sugars. After the gingerbread was baked off, we set the cookies on parchment, then filled the window-holes with the coloured sugar. After baking for a few minutes, the sugar melts, and once it cools it resembles glass.
Just as the windows come out of the oven, the melted sugar can be … Continue reading.
What makes beer “local”? Is it simply that it’s brewed in Edmonton? Do the grains and hops have to be from Alberta? Do the water and yeast? Could it be that the origin of the ingredients is only one part of the equation? What about how we brew and bitter our grains?
In modern practice, beer is made of grains that are malted, roasted, mashed, bittered with hops, fermented, and carbonated. Which of these processes are necessary, and which are a matter of cultural preference?
Strictly speaking, malting isn’t required, though something must be done to break down the cell walls of the grains, and to convert some of the starches to sugars. Malting prompts the germ of the … Continue reading.