Headcheese

I remember Gramp butchering a pig once and there were a lot of people around. This was in the wintertime and there was a big steel barrel full of water that had a huge bonfire under it to heat the water. They killed the pig and then heaved it in the barrel and pulled it out again and all the guys started scraping it with knives. I later learned they were shaving the bristles off it and that the hot water made the job easier. I remember Granny then made headcheese.

-Marvin Streich, in The Streich Family

A pig's head from Nature's Green AcresThe above quote is from a family history that my mom wrote. Marvin, her eldest cousin, penned several pages of his earliest memories … Continue reading.

The War

When I was little, to me there were two essential facts about my grandparents: they lived on a farm, and they fought in “the war,” that is, WWII. Even though they never spoke to me about the war, it was central to my understanding of who they were. Possibly it was more important to my understanding of them then it was to their own. I’m sure that Grandpa thought of himself as a husband, father, grandfather, deacon, and train-enthusiast before a soldier. Yet, there was a collection of old service photographs on top of the piano, unmoved, for decades. The shrine-like placement of the pictures told me that those years affected my grandparents profoundly, and that there was some sadness … Continue reading.

Thanksgiving Leftovers

I try to cook such that we are not inundated and overwhelmed by Thanksgiving leftovers.  I like to have a few turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce on the days immediately after the feast, but beyond that I grow weary of leftovers.  Following are some go-to preparations to use up Thanksgiving leftovers.

Turkey and Wild Rice Soup

Leftover turkey and wild rice soupToday I used the rest of my turkey giblets, as well as some other Thanksgiving leftovers.

I simmered the turkey neck, heart, and bones with onion, carrots, celery, thyme, white wine, and water to make stock. The neck gave a lot of body to the stock. A lot. When I chilled some extra stock it solidified to a thick pudding. To the rest of … Continue reading.

Blood Terrine

This blood terrine is based on a recipe from Fergus Henderson’s book The Whole Beast. The procedure and recipe are almost identical to those for blood sausage:

  • sweat onions, garlic, and spices in butter;
  • add blood and heat to thicken;
  • add cornmeal in a steady stream, stirring constantly to prevent clumping;
  • heat the mixture until it thickens;
  • add diced backfat;

the only difference being that the mixture is cooked in a loaf pan in a water bath instead of casings.

This cake set beautifully. It was tender, but held up to slicing. This experiment reinforces my theory that there was too much moisture in the other blood sausages. (The cornmeal in the cake was cooked directly in the blood, … Continue reading.

Blood Sausage

Blood sausage is, as I have written before, pretty much what you would expect: pig’s blood and fat, seasoned and stuffed into casings. The sausages are almost always flavoured with onions, and often contain a starch like oats or cornmeal or rice.

I have only come across blood sausage twice in Edmonton. My first taste was at Charcutaria Micaelense on 118 Avenue, but they have since stopped making their own and instead carry an inferior commercial substitute. More recently I have tried the blood sausage at Old Country Meats.

There are a few reasons we don’t see it very often here. First: our timorous approach to eating. Second (and closely related to the first…): the hassle of obtaining pig’s … Continue reading.

Civet – Stew Thickened with Blood

Civet of elk with morelsThis week I had the opportunity to cook with pig’s blood. There’s actually more classical applications for blood than you may think.

Fresh blood has a beautiful colour, similar to red wine, but with an opalescent sheen. When heated, the blood turns burgundy, then brown, and eventually black. It coagulates somewhere around 75°C, which makes it ideal for thickening liquids.

Civet: A Gateway Dish

If you’re at all squeamish about cooking with blood, this is probably a good dish to start with.

The two things that make a civet a civet are: one, that game is marinated in wine which is later used to braise the meat; and two, that the braising liquid is thickened with blood and used as … Continue reading.

Pig Skin Sausages

When butchers break down a side of pork, they are after the several lean cuts of meat, the bones that can be used in stock or sold as dog treats, and the large pile of trim that can be ground into sausage meat. The only parts that typically go to waste are the head, the glands (particularly prevalent in the jowls, but also in the hind legs), and the skin.

Progressive (or retrogressive?) eaters don’t have a problem with pig head, and the glands represent a very small amount of waste, maybe 100 g on a side of pork. That leaves the skin. While it can be put into a broth or cassoulet, there happens to be a much … Continue reading.

CSA v. Farmers’ Market v. Supermarket: The Numbers

Cucumbers and peppers, about to become relishWe’ve finally crunched the numbers: we weighed every gram of food we received from our CSA share at Tipi Creek, then found prices for equivalent goods from a farmers’ market and a grocery store.

The results surprised me. I expected that the grocery store would be by far the cheapest, and that the CSA would be only slightly cheaper than the farmers’ market. In reality, the grocery store was marginally cheaper than the CSA, while the farmers’ market was much, much more expensive. The final costs were:

  • CSA Cost: $600
  • Farmers’ Market Cost: $1044.73
  • Grocery Store Cost: $510.76

I was shocked to see how close the CSA and grocery store prices ended up. Obviously I always knew the farmers’ … Continue reading.

Caragana

The seed pod of a caragana shrubCaragana has a reputation similar to that of poplar trees, verging on “weed” status. The growth has a spiny appearance that most find unattractive. The plants sucker, and produce exploding pods that throw seeds everywhere. Plus they require lots of trimming just to stay presentable.

Caragana is native to places like (go figure…) Siberia, and was brought to the Canadian west in the 1880s.[1] It is extremely drought-resistant and was used extensively in farmhouse shelterbelts. I would guess that it’s the second most common hedge in Edmonton, after cotoneaster, though you are much more likely to see it in older communities like Garneau than, say, Terwilliger. It also grows wild in the Edmonton river valley.

In the early summer, … Continue reading.

Harvest Day at Tipi Creek CSA 2010

A cabbage-headed scarecrow at Tipi Creek FarmThis past Saturday was the last harvest day at Tipi Creek CSA. All the remaining vegetables were picked and divided amongst the shareholders.

As one of our farmers put it, this was a mushroom year, and a cold crop year: we got lots of moisture, but very little heat. Hence the plentiful, but mostly green, squash. The last few weeks of overcast drizzle stalled two of the corn varieties, and the fall spinach. Other crops, notably cabbage and broccoli, flourished in the cold. Risk is mitigated by crop diversity.

Here are some photos and notes from the harvest day.
Potatoes

With the potato foliage long killed off, a potato digger is dragged over the rows. The digger lifts masses of … Continue reading.

The personal website of Edmonton chef Allan Suddaby