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.

Pancetta

Originally published May 31, 2010! Holy smokes. Re-published today to include more info and some nicer photos.

Pancetta is Italian for “little belly.”  The term refers to pork belly that has been cured and at least partly air-dried.  Unlike North American bacon it is usually not smoked.  It is a very important ingredient and foundational flavour in many Italian cuisines.

While North American bacon tends to use a simple salt and sugar cure, Italian pancetta is often redolent with flavours like juniper, nutmeg, and herbs.

Plus it is made in three distinct shapes.  Pancetta tesa is a flat slab of pork belly, like bacon.  Pancetta arrotolata has the belly rolled over the long axis, giving the sliced meat … Continue reading.

Pot Dumplings

Pot dumplings cooked in a chicken stew.

One time I was at my parents’ house on Boxing Day, and I used their Christmas leftovers to make a turkey pot pie.  I shredded the turkey leg meat, combined it with mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, and  gravy, then baked the mixture in a pie crust.

When we sat down for supper my dad said that his mom used to make “pot pie”, but that it wasn’t a pie.

“A pot pie that wasn’t a pie?  What was it then?”

He thought for quite a while before saying, “It was chicken with dumplings.”  He couldn’t tell me much more, except that the dumplings were roundish.

At this point I was pretty sure he was confused.

I more or less forgot … Continue reading.

Japanese Plums – Prunus salicina – in Edmonton

The best time to plant a plum tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.

-“Chinese proverb” (probably not though…)

A ripe Japanese plum variety called Ivanovka, growing in Edmonton.
Photo by Lisa Zieminek

We have two Japanese plum trees in our yard. The cultivar names are confusingly but unmistakably Slavic: Ivanovka and Ptitsin #3.[1] The trees were purchased as cuttings from the University of Saskatchewan, but the varieties were first developed at the Morden Research Station in Manitoba and first released in 1939.[2] We chose these specific varieties for their cold-heartiness, fruit quality, and pollination requirements.

For most of our other fruit trees we didn’t have to give much thought to pollination. Our sour cherries, for instance, are all self-pollinating. And while apples must … Continue reading.

Pan Bread

Pan bread, fresh from the oven.

I’ve mentioned many times in many different places that Michael Ruhlman’s book Ratio changed my life. The ratio given for bread in that book is 5:3 flour to water, which represents a hydration rate of 60%.

It’s not a huge change, but I’ve started using 3:2 (67% hydration) for many of my workhorse bread recipes, notably pizza dough (which I’ve already posted here), pita dough (which I hope to post shortly), and a standby I’m calling pan bread. I find that this ratio, when kneaded properly, makes super-tacky but workable dough that ultimately yields a much better crumb.

In the spirit of Ratio, I love to tailor the flavours in this pan bread to fit how it will … Continue reading.

Sausage Gravy

Buttermilk biscuits covered with sausage gravy and young kale.

Sausage gravy ladled over biscuits is a classic comfort dish of the American south.  While you can certainly use fresh, raw sausage in the preparation, it is also a good trick up your sleeve to deal with cooked sausages leftover from a brunch or barbecue. 

Leftover sausages are often dry and a touch mealy.  Just as you might flake leftover fish and mix it with mayonnaise, or shred leftover roast beef and heat it in barbecue sauce, coating leftover sausages in gravy reintroduces moisture.

One detail: to develop depth of flavour it’s a good idea to brown the crumbled sausage so that a good fond develops in the bottom of the pan.  Once the butter and onions are added, use … Continue reading.

Seeded Brown Bread

Homemade seeded brown bread.

I wanted to develop a bread that I would feel good about eating every morning. For me that means using only whole wheat flour, no white flour at all, and lots of added whole grains and seeds. The result was this brown bread recipe.

This recipe is adapted from the Whole-Wheat Bread recipe in one of my favourite books on bread, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Full disclosure: it is a bit of an ordeal. To coax flavour from the whole wheat flour and make a moist, tender loaf, this recipe employs a soaker and a poolish to create a rather wet, sticky dough that can be difficult to work with and requires very long fermentation and proofing times. It … Continue reading.

Ham Sausage Recipe

Homemade ham sausage.

This is definitely the most asked-about sausage style in my sausage-making classes. It is a hugely popular style in Alberta thanks to producers like Stawnichy’s. It goes by a confusing plethora of names – ham sausage, Ukrainian sausage, Mundare sausage[1], and for many people this is simply “kielbasa” even though that is a much, much broader family. So to clarify, the sausage I’m talking about in this post has the following characteristics:

  • the interior is the rosy colour of ham (ie. it contains curing salt)
  • the interior of the sausage is typically studded with larger chunks of ham-like lean pork
  • the sausage is smoked and can be served hot or cold

I believe this style almost … Continue reading.

The personal website of Edmonton chef Allan Suddaby