Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!
–Address to a Haggis, Robert Burns
Haggis: unquestionably the king of the Scots kitchen. Rarely eaten, much maligned, completely misunderstood.
Haggis is made of a sheep’s pluck, which is a tidy term for the lungs, heart, and liver. Traditionally these parts would be boiled, ground, mixed with oats and onions, then stuffed into a cleansed sheep’s stomach, making what is essentially a large, round sausage.
Sheep are rarely brought to maturity in North America, so all the offal I used was from a lamb. Lamb bits are smaller and milder in flavour than sheep bits.
Most of the ingredients are easier to obtain than you might … Continue reading.
Some would think this is the inside of my compost bin, but it’s actually the inside of my stockpot: roasted lamb bones and vegetables, as well as all the darkly caramelized bits scraped from the bottom of the roasting tray. These flavours formed the soul of the Burns Supper, as the resulting stock was used not only in the soup, but also in the haggis and the clapshot. They were the mellow, earthy foundation of the entire meal.
Making a pot of stock the night before a large meal has become a very fond tradition. The house fills with the aroma first of roasting bones, then of the simmering stock, while excitement for the coming meal slowly accrues.
Some specifics … Continue reading.
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.
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.
When dry-curing, mold is inevitable, yet there’s little detailed information available to guide the beginner. I don’t know for sure why this is, but I have some theories:
- mold is so variant and hard to describe,
- mold-discussions might disgust customers, and
- mold is a mystery of the charcutiers’ cult.
The general rule in charcuterie is that smooth, hard, white mold is “good.” I don’t think it affects the flavour of the meat in any way, but it discourages the growth of “bad” mold, that is, mold that is pathogenic or that somehow compromises the meat. Any type of fuzzy mold is said to be bad.
Luckily, undesirable mold can simply be cut away; it doesn’t taint the entire batch of … Continue reading.
Step One: Acquire Grouse
A friend’s father, Mr. McLarney, hunts game birds with his English pointer. I had never, not once, paused to consider the signficance of common canine descriptors like pointer, setter, and retriever, until Mr. McLarney’s hunts were explained to me. The dog walks a ways in front of him, and when it comes upon a bird it stops and “points”: it aims its snout at the prey. Mr. McLarney moves within range and readies his gun, then makes a call to the pointer. At the signal, the dog scares the bird into flight, so that Mr. McLarney can pull it from the sky with his shotgun.
Mr. McLarney trained his pointer in his backyard with a … Continue reading.
Liver’s robust flavour is perfect in dumplings, that humble but satisfying dish that was once made with left-over bread, milk, and eggs. I was able to pick up some buffalo liver from First Nature Farms last week.
First I cut the liver into pieces and seared them on high heat. I set the liver aside, sweated onions in the same pan, then deglazed with vinegar and water.
For moisture and body, I added leftover bread heels soaked in milk. I used eggs to bind the mixture, dried bread to tune the consistency, and finsihed with salt, pepper, and thyme.
The ingredients were then forced through the hand-cranked meat grinder above, at left, which used to belong to my grandmother. This … Continue reading.