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.

Hawaiian Poke

Poke and seaweed salad from Suisan Fish Market in Hilo, Hawaii.

The first time I ate poke was one of the most blissful moments of my entire life.  It was at a nondescript concession on the highway just south of Captain Cook, on the big island.  We ordered at a window.  The menu board actually said “Ahi Special”, not poke.   We sat on plastic chairs on a covered patio that looked onto the ocean, and I ate my sticky white rice, fresh avocado, and marinated tuna.  That was a truly special moment, but we had many other great poke experiences later that trip, notably at Da Poke Shack in Kona and the Suisan Fish Market in Hilo.  Marinated fish and rice.  So simple.  So good.  I have a special room … Continue reading.

Schnitzel

Pork schnitzel with parsley potatoes, cranberry, and lemon.

Subtitle: The Subtle Art of Hitting Meat with a Hammer

Long before I knew anything about European cuisine, I was familiar with the term Wiener Schnitzel.  Well, sort of.  My mom baked us frozen “Wiener schnitzel” from M & M Meat Shop every once in a while.  But I didn’t know that Wiener means “from Wien”, or that Wien is the actual name of the city English-speakers call Vienna.  I also didn’t know that “schnitzel” is related to the word schnitte, which means “slice.”  Wiener Schnitzel is a piece of veal, traditionally from the leg, pounded out with a mallet, breaded, and fried.

I love veal, but I almost never have it in my house.  It’s hard to come … Continue reading.

Sour Cherry Barbecue Sauce

Pork ribs glazed with sour cherry barbecue sauce.

Sour cherries, being sour, are best cooked with sugar, so their most obvious applications are pies, pastries, compotes, and the like.  This is a problem because sour cherry trees are prolific, and a man can only eat so much pie.  Over the years we have struck upon other winning preparations for the efficient preservation and consumption of sour cherries, notably drinks like rum pot and cherry liqueur.  But to really showcase the fruit’s versatility we’ve been eager for ways to use them in savoury meat dishes.  Enter sour cherry barbecue sauce.

For most of my grown-up life my house barbecue sauce has been the Carolina-style recipe in Ruhlman and Polcyn’s Charcuterie.  It is what I call a “pantry … Continue reading.

Homemade Frankfurters

Homemade frankfurters with potato salad and mustard.

In Vienna these links are called Frankfurter Würstl, named for the city Frankfurt am Main in Germany. In most of the rest of the world (including Frankfurt) they are called Wieners, which means “Viennese.” Go figure. Whatever you call them they are the ancestor of the North American hot dog.

The old world version is usually 100% pork in delicate lamb casings, lightly smoked. North American hot dogs can be pork, beef, or a combination of the two, usually in synthetic casings.

I link mine extra long, so they barely fit on a dinner plate.

To emulate the very fine texture of the commercial varieties I grind twice through a 3/16″ plate, and then do a lengthy mixing phase, roughly … Continue reading.

Three Meals in Piemonte

Photo by Lisa Zieminek

I’ve always felt that whether you’re in Edmonton or Manhattan or Red Deer there will be good food and there will be bad food.  No matter where I’ve travelled I’ve had great meals and abhorrent meals, often in the same day.

Of course, I haven’t travelled everywhere, but this idea has been corroborated by several writers, even regarding Paris.  Jeffrey Steingarten acknowledges that most baguettes, even in Paris, are shit.[1]  George Orwell went so far as to say that his time in Paris “destroyed one of my illusions, namely, the idea that Frenchmen know good food when they see it.”[2]

In other words you can’t look at one city or region and say unequivocally, … Continue reading.

Pepperoni Sticks

Pepperoni sticks are a great introduction to air-drying cured meat at home. The process is very quick and very forgiving: even if you don’t have a whiz-bang curing chamber with perfect temperature and humidity control, you can probably make these pepperoni sticks at home and be very pleased with the result. And if for some reason you are worried that the whole process has gone sideways, just hot-smoke them or cook them and they will still be delicious. This is one of the recipes we make in my More Charcuterie at Home class, which is all about curing and air-drying meats.

These are meant to emulate the pepperoni sticks you get at gas station convenience stores. The recipe was developed … Continue reading.

Mead Vinegar

My food heroes are those who can generalize food concepts for me. I’ve mentioned Ruhlman’s book Ratio about a hundred times on this site. Some other examples. I love the flavour of preserved lemons and I’ve made them a few times, but then I saw Mojojo Pickles makes preserved lime. This completely changed how I saw my preserved lemon recipe. Instead of one recipe that can preserve one ingredient, I now see it as a generalized process for preserving citrus. ​​​Or Kevin recognizing that blanching is not just for endives, but a great agricultural technique to use on other bitter greens like our local dandelions. This type of thinking drives so much of modern food, whether it’s David Chang … Continue reading.

Matzo Ball Soup

Matzo ball soup and Reuben sandwich at June's Delicatessen in Edmonton.
Photo: Justin Benson

I did not grow up eating matzo ball soup; it was completely unknown to me and my family. In fact it was so foreign that the first several times I heard mention of it I assumed it was “mozza ball soup”, which I guess would be some kind of Italian-American soup containing mozzarella cheese. This is emphatically not the case.

Matzo balls are a kind of dumpling. Matzo ball soup is usually a chicken soup with matzo balls in it.

It turns out this classic Jewish preparation is much more familiar to me than I ever would have suspected. While the most common term in North America is matzo ball, the true Yiddish word for the dumpling … Continue reading.

Schmaltz

A jar of homemade chicken schmaltz.

Schmaltz is the Yiddish word for rendered fat, or grease. It is taken from the German Schmalz.[1] I wrote about how to render pork fat here, and the two preparations Grammelschmalz[2] and Schmalzfleisch. While schmaltz can technically refer to rendered fat from any animal, obviously in the context of Jewish cooking we aren’t talking about pork fat. While goose fat was common in Europe, the Jewish emigrants arriving in North America found chicken fat much more readily available, and this remains the default schmaltz in Jewish communities in the new world.

There is quite a different ratio of fat to lean in a chicken than a hog. It is easy to cut away large slabs … Continue reading.

The personal website of Edmonton chef Allan Suddaby