My Breakfast Sandwich

I used to love hitting Tims in the morning for breakfast, and my go to choice was a bagel belt and coffee. This is a breakfast sandwich with egg, cheese, bacon or sausage, lettuce and tomato.

For those of you who are not in Canada, ‘Tims’ stands for Tim Hortons – a fast food chain that was started in the ‘60s by a famous retired hockey player (how Canadian, eh?) and is now the main fast food joint across Canada. What’s good about it is that every Tims has exactly the same menu and it tastes exactly the same no matter where you are in the 8,000km stretch that is Canada. What’s bad about it … is that same consistency. Each store is run like a mini factory, the employees needing to meet quota deadlines on their performance all to get minimum wage. It can be a pretty awful place to work. I still don’t know if Canadian tastes influence Tim’s menu choice, or vice versa. Its a chicken and egg thing.

A while ago I was determined to be able to better the Bagel Belt at home, and it wasn’t that hard to do. If you have read some of my other posts, you know I always have some sourdough on the go, which means a bag of dough ready to be made into a loaf at any time its needed. So without further explanation, here’s one of my go to at home breakfasts.

If you are a baker and have a bag of dough ready to be made into bread, shape about 140g piece of dough into a bun slightly bigger than a ramekin, and throw some sesame seeds – or whatever you like/have. Or, you can use a burger bun, pita, a bagel or an English muffin. Whatever you have on hand.

 

And cook it dry in a cast iron frying pan at a medium heat, covered. Flip it every minute or so. Its ready when it starts turning brown.

 

Cut up a few pieces of bacon into a ramekin

And toss them in the microwave, covered for 30 seconds

Make your coffee….

Add a raw egg to the partly cooked bacon and stir….

Add some cheese on top

 

And throw it back in the microwave for 1 minute….

 

Prepare your sandwich….

 

And… Brekky!

Beer trub bread

Brewers out there – this blog is for you!

I know that your friends and family are ooing and aaaawwwing at your brewhouse accomplishments. This blog will show you how to get them ooing and aaaawwwing over a great loaf of bread from your beer trub.

For readers who are not beer makers, trub is the ‘gunk’ that forms at the bottom of a beer fermentation vessel. Once the yeast has been active, and has fermented the beer, it drops out and falls to the bottom. The trub is highly bitter as it also picks up the taste of the hops and other bittering agents. But perhaps you are a bread baker who knows a beer brewer. Get some of that trub – its a unique baking experience.

Perhaps the most important aspect to master is the bitterness of the trub. A little is nice – but too much can kill it.

There are also many recipes out there for a beer bread in which beer is substituted in whole or in part for the water. This is also not like that. In this, the beer trub provides both the rise and the flavour.

So lets get started. The whole process takes between 6 and 24 hours, depending on the temperatures you ferment at. Its a great project to do on brew day when you have to wait around and monitor things. This recipe will make one 950g loaf.

Ingredients

  • Beer trub – about 100g. The fresher the better. Use what you have from your last batch that has been refrigerated.
  • Flour: about 700g total. Flour also imparts flavour. For this beer I would go with whole grain high protein flours – whole wheat, red fife, rye, spelt, kamut. Some all purpose white flour can be used, but that is not what beer bread is all about.
  • Water – less than a litre. It must not have chemicals in it.
  • Salt – 12g
  • Various seeds and toppings of your choice.

Directions

  1. Get the starter happening

In a 500ml or 1l mason jar combine 100g trub, 60g flour and 100ml of water (no chemicals in it though, they will kill the yeasts). Mix thoroughly and leave for a few hours. If your trub is fresh (less than a month old and has been refrigerated) place the mason jar in a bowl as it may very well overflow. (Check the ceiling photo. This one blew its top!) Leave the starter until it gets really active. This should take approximately 4 hours at room temperature.

Beer trub, flour and water= your starter

Beer trub has some really active yeast!

It twisted the top off … and BOOM!

2. The Bulk Rise

Now is the time to mix in the rest of the ingredients and let that trub yeast get refreshed and go to work! Combine the following dry ingredients:

  • 545g of flour. This can be your choice. Just as in beer making the grains you use determines the flavour, so it is true in bread making. Since trub has those hoppy beery qualities in abundance, my suggestion would be to try heavier whole grain flours: whole wheat, rye, red fife. Some white all purpose flour is fine too. (note the similarities to your grain bills?)

    Dry ingredients for the bulk rise
  • 12g salt
  • 25g DME (for you non brewers this is dry malt extract) or another sugar.

Now mix in the wet ingredients:

  • 285g of water. This could be other liquids, though I would not suggest beer, as there is plenty if beeriness in the trub.
  • 109g of starter: the trub/flour/water you just refreshed

  • Plus water and starter

Mix it all thoroughly together, turn it out on a counter and knead (wet your hands with water, don’t add more flour) until everything is nicely combined. If it gets a little sticky, wet your hands

at the start of the bulk rise

End of the bulk rise

some more.

Place your bulk rise in a bowl and cover with a very damp towel. This can be left at room temperature for about 4 hours or until it is doubled in size. You can also stick it in the fridge overnight.

3. Proofing

For this super simple first go at it, I’m advising you use a typical loaf pan.

STRETCH AND FOLD (S&F)

STRETCH AND FOLD: TAKE A CORNER OF YOUR DOUGH, PULL IT OUT AND FOLD IT OVER THE REST OF THE DOUGH. REPEAT A FEW TIMES UNTIL THE DOUGH GETS STIFF.

S&F: stretch and fold over

THE TASTE TEST

At this point I would taste it to see where it is at for bitterness. I don’t usually do this for bread, but with the hoppiness in the trub, you might want to. Heat up a frying pan (cast iron is best), flatten out a small piece of dough you have pinched off, and put it dry into your pan at a medium heat. It will rise and get brown. Turn it a couple of times. After a couple of minutes it will be ready. Taste it. If you like what you have then go for it. If you feel it is too bitter, add some sweetener – honey, maple syrup, DME. Repeat the process (if you like).

SHAPING AND PROOFING

Now that the basic taste of the bread is where you want it, shape it more or less into a shape that will nicely fit in your pan. You can add other things: cereals, seeds, cornmeal – whatever your brewer’s heart desires. Sprinkle your additives on or roll the dough in them.

To place the bread in its pan, tear off enough parchment paper to hold the loaf. I advise parchment paper as it makes the loaf super easy to extract.

If you are baking it right away, leave it for about an hour at room temperature. If you want to wait overnight or a similar longish period, put it in the fridge for 8-24 hours at this point. Just make sure it is covered with a damp cloth.

Shaped into a loaf, you can add seeds etc. on the crust if you like.

4. Baking

Turn your oven to 450F. When it reaches cooking temperature, score the loaf: using a sharp knife cut a slash from one end to the other. The blade should be at an angle and not go in more than a few cm/1/4”.

Just before it goes in, slash from one end to the other.

At this point you can also brush on a variety of crust caremelizing liquids – either water, oil or egg white.

Bake as follows: You will be using 3 different temperatures.

You proofed it at room temperature You proofed it in the fridge
12 minutes at 450F/230C 16 minutes at 450F/230C
12 minutes at 425F/218C 16 minutes at 425F/218C
12 minutes at 400F/205C 16 minutes at 400F/205C

If you are unsure if it is ready, test it with an instant read thermometer (you are a brewer, you will have one of these!). It should be at an internal temperature of between 190F (88C) – 205F(95C).

Once out of the oven let it cool off for about 15 minutes – then dig in. You will find it pairs so excellently with the beer you brew!

Further discussion….

ADJUSTING THE RECIPE

What is presented here is a precise recipe yielding a 950 or so gram loaf. You can easily adjust it using my handy bread calculator spreadsheet.

The highlighted cells can be changed by the user, however the other cells are all formulas and the cells are protected. The two key cells are B6 and B8.

In B6 you control the ratio of flour to starter. Making regular sourdough, I typically have this set for a 3:1 recipe. For trub starters, I suggest it be set to 5 or 6 – a higher 5:1 ratio.

B8 is the amount of trub starter to use. Remember that the trub starter is what resulted from initially combining trub with water and flour. In this recipe, you will have trub starter left over. Put it in the fridge and you can use it a day or two later. You can also refresh it with the following ratios of flour and water: 1 part trub starter, 1 part water, 60% of the starter weight in flour. If you wanted to be adventurous you could even use it to get your next brew going! What you are doing is using flour instead of wort to refresh and strengthen the yeast.

B7 is the hydration – what is presented is a fairly dry 60% hydration loaf. You could nudge this up, but if you are trying it for the first time, just leave it as it is.

Where next?

If you loved doing this you will want to do it some more. You can! You can keep refreshing your starter using equal amounts of the old starter and fresh water, with 60% of the starter weight in flour. The hoppiness will dissipate the more flour refreshing you do until you will eventually have your own strain of sourdough starter.

If you want to explore even further, check out my blog on sourdough here:

More sourdough related posts

Making sourdough easy and ‘just in time’

More fun with Sourdough: Party Bites

Fun stuff to do with sourdough

Backwoods Sourdough

As well as the following bread resources here:

Facebook groups

https://www.facebook.com/groups/perfectsourdough/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/360136781918/

Plus some other cool sites

NWSD2

https://breadtopia.com

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/

https://food52.com/blog/10044-dan-leader-s-4-hour-baguette#comments

https://food52.com/blog/10557-8-rules-for-altering-baking-recipes?utm_source=FOOD52+Subscribers+List&utm_campaign=03bb5226cf-Digest_Edit_Only_6_15_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_191568346e-03bb5226cf-19271481&mc_cid=03bb5226cf&mc_eid=3a9f42af79

Whole Wheat Croissants

https://www.shipton-mill.com/baking/recipes/sourdough-croissants.htm#comment-837

March 12 2019: A postscript to this blog: I’ve noticed this blog has received more attention than any of my other (frankly) more useful bread blogs. What’s up with that? I’m genuinely curious.

Please let me know how you found it & what intrigued you about it!

The Silver Palate Carrot Cake

The Silver Palate Carrot Cake

Mostly, This blog is about that classic American dessert, the carrot cake. But mainly also about the new, and the old, of treasured recipes, and their place in a time of ‘lets google dinner’.

Its also about scaling recipes so they fit your tummy and fridge a little better by using spreadsheets and your own data.

Back in the 1980’s when I first really ‘settled down’ – in one city (Toronto) for an extended period and also married life, those first few cookbooks really got me through it in style. The ones I probably relied on most of all were Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso’s Silver Palate Cookbook, and Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood cookbook. I still go back to those recipes, though I do so now through my recipe spreadsheet where I also keep all my annotations, conversions to weight, and scaled recipe formulas.

The other day, a friend’s birthday nearly escaped us, but it was a great excuse to do a belated B dy cake – her ask? Carrot cake. So of course I turned to my Silver Palate recipe.

The Silver Palate began as a great idea by two enterprising chefs way back in the late ‘70’s. still going strong, 40 some years later. They have built themselves into a formidable condiment maker with outlets across the USA. Their website very generously has many of their favorite recipes going back those 40 some years to their original cookbook. Even the carrot cake recipe that is featured here is included. The cookbook became a classic and was reprinted in a special 25th anniversay edition in 2007.

Older recipes

I put a lot of faith in older recipes and in spite of the ease and allure of the internet, I’ll still go back to them. They are still valid, even if they can’t be easily searched, even if they are only in a few peoples’ minds. They are part of our heritage, and for that reason, should always be checked out, recorded, and become part of one’s personal culinary toolbox. I do have an issue too with people always heading to their computer to find a recipe. Inevitably one is driven to the same massive cooking sites. When enough do it, those recipes begin to define that dish, even if its not necessarily – or even likely – ‘the best’.

Scaling a recipe

The original recipe calls for 4 eggs. When I think of the description in the original book, everything else can be easily parsed down, but it is a little difficult to do half an egg. So in this scaling you essentially decide the size of the cake by inputting the number of eggs you will use. I haven’t really changed it. I will admit that I prefer less sugar, and this is reflected in my version. However, I do offer this significance: I’ve scaled the recipe.

Here is the link to the google sheet so you can scale your own recipe.

Here is a scaled recipe for 2 eggs, This will give you 1 9” springform pan cake or 2 5” cakes. I’ve also made it with weighted ingredients. The original recipe is further down.

Wet ingredients

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

2. tsp vanilla extract

130. g oil

Dry ingredients

200 g all purpose flour

200g sugar

.5 tsp salt

2. tsp baking soda

2. tsp cinamon

Batter additions

.8 cups chopped walnuts

.8 cups coconut

320 g shredded, cooked carrots (the original recipe calls for cooked pureed carrots. I prefer the texture of grated carrots. )

170 g finely chopped pineapple. PLease use a fresh pineapple. It will make a world of difference.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

112 g cream cheese

45 g butter (room temp)

140 g icing sugar

.5 tsp vanilla

2 tsp lemon juice

INSTRUCTIONS

Make the cake the day before, or early in the morning to allow to cool down

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Prepare pans. 1 egg will require a small 5-6″ springform pan while 4 eggs will require 2 9″ springform pans. line with parchment paper
  3. Combine dry ingredients
  4. Add wet: oil, eggs, vanilla. Beat well
  5. Fold in walnuts, coconut, carrots, pineapple
  6. Pour batter into pans & bake 50 minutes, if baking the large recipe. If making a smaller recipe, do a knife check after 35 minutes.
  7. Cool on cake rack for 3 hours, or leave overnight.
  8. Assembly: see below
  9. Frost top and sides with cream cheese frosting

FROSTING RECIPE

  1. Cream cheese and butter
  2. Slowly add sugar until fully incorporated
  3. Chill both the cake and icing before applying the icing

Assembly

This is perhaps the most difficult part of making it, especially if you do the full recipe. My apologies too for not having any helpful photos. I was too taken up in the moment.

The cake you are dealing with (the 4 egg version) is a large moist cake that can easily come apart. With all that cooked carrot, there is not a lot to hold it all together. It’s likely going to be on parchment paper and the parchment paper is going to be wet and can easily come apart.

  1. Ideally you want to choose a flat plate with short sides like a quiche plate. The bottom layer is a little more forgiving because if it breaks, you can put it back together. Then you get some practice for the more fragile second layer.
  2. Remove the springform side and push it gently off the springform base.
  3. Extract the parchment paper. I gently used an icing knife.
  4. Put a fresh layer of parchment paper on top of the top layer, still in the springform pan.
  5. Place the springform base of the first cake (now available to you) on top of the parchment paper. (the side of the springform is still on it)
  6. Remove the springform side, the bottom and the parchment paper that to this point had been on the bottom. It will now be resting on a clean parchment paper on its base
  7. Apply a generous layer of icing to the bottom layer.
  8. Gently ease the top layer in place on top of the bottom, iced layer.
  9. Ice the rest of the cake.

 

The Original recipe

This is directly copied and pasted from

http://silverpalate.com/recipe/store-favorites/carrot-cake

And here is what it looks after consulting it for 35 years

 

Ingredients:

Butter, for greasing the pan

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3 cups sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 ½ cups corn oil

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cup shelled walnuts, chopped

1 ½ cup shredded coconut

1 1/3 cup pureed cooked carrots

¾ cup drained crushed pineapple

Cream cheese frosting (recipe follows)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease two 9-inch springform pans.

2. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Fold in the walnuts, coconut, carrots and pineapple.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Set on the center rack of the oven and bake until the edges have pulled away from the sides and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 minutes.

4. Cool on a cake rack for 3 hours. Fill and frost the cake with the cream cheese frosting.

My finished product. What I make usually tastes delicious, but I’ve never been successful at dessert presentation. This one is no exception.

 

Stuffed squash

This recipe is a quite spontaneous creation made from what was around. The chevre and butter makes it rich and creamy, while the toasted nuts provide a wonderful texture, crunch, making a great counterpoint to the sweetness of the squash and the creaminess of the cheese.

Ingredients

  • butternut squash with the most of the neck cut off

Filling

  • 125 G chevre
  • half a red pepper diced
  • a small onion diced
  • 2 tbs toasted sunflower seeds
  • 1 tbs toasted flax seeds
  • ½ tsp teaspoon pepper
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tsp each of cinnamon, sage, thyme, smoked paprika
  • 1tbs maple syrup
  • 50g unsalted butter
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Roast stuffed squash mise en scene

Instructions

Oven to 350F

  1. Cut off the narrow section of a butternut squash and use it for other recipes.
  2. Cut a circular cone(wider at the top) down to the seed core of the squash.
  3. Using a knife and a spoon scrape out what you can of the seeds.
  4. Combine and thoroughly mix the stuffing ingredients
  5. Stuff the filling into the butternut squash pushing everything down as far as you can.
  6. Plug the hole with the squash cone plug and place it in a oven ready dish of a suitable size
  7. Bake for 1 hour, or until the internal temperature reaches 200F.

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DIY Mayo

So you’re stuck at home in this covid-19 age. You look in the fridge because you want to make a sandwich. “Where’s the F&^#ing MAYO!” you curse. Someone else has eaten it! More curses, especially since you don’t want to go to a store to only buy mayonnaise because you might have to wait for a while to get in.

So here’s the fix.

Make your own! This is actually really really easy. All you need is water, vinegar, lemon, salt, egg, and oil. Most importantly, though, you need an immersion blenderand the 2 cup container that it came with. The immersion blender makes it simple. Anything else – for example whisking or a stand mixer just won’t work as well. Here’s how!

This recipe is from Michael Ruhlman’s amazing and wonderful book, Ratio. If you had to buy only one cookbook in these strange times, it would be this. (The business of using an immersion blender is mine.)

Ingredients for 1 500ml jar of DIY Mayo

Mayo Mise en scene

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp salt (but taste at end)
  • 2 tsp water
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp white vinegar
  • 1.5 + cups grapeseed (or light low flavour) oil (I would prepare 2 cups and stop when you feel it is the right consistency) While other oils can be used, whatever flavor the oil has will be prominent in the mayonaise. This is a condiment where you want the lemon to be the predominant flavor. Grapeseed oil is wonderfully mild, light and almost flavorless.

Method

  1. Separate yolks and drop them into the immersion blender container & whisk

  1. Add in the water, juice, vinegar and salt & whisk for about 30 seconds. At each stage you want everything to be fully blended.
  2. While blending with the immersion blender, add the oil slowly, but not too slowly, as shown in the video clip.
  3. There is a certain goldilocks point where it appears to be perfect. While you can likely add a little more oil, do so only a little at a time, as you do not want the mayo to break.

This makes basic mayo, straight up. You can mess around with it to your heart’s content: mustard, garlic, pepper, herbs….. Though I usually prefer to mix the tiniest batch of these specialties to suit whatever I’m otherwise doing.

 

Making sourdough starter: the one day cheat

There’s been a lot of interest in breadmaking these days, and many people who would like to make sourdough tend to meet an initial barrier: the starter. Search it on the internet and sites say it takes 5-8 days. This blog explains a cheat that can take you from beginning your starter to first loaf in a day. 

Ready? 

Here’s what you do:

Mix ½  cup of filtered water (or 125g) add ½ cup (75 g) of organic whole-wheat and ¼ teaspoon of dry yeast. Mix thoroughly in a 1 litre glass jar put the lid on and leave for 6 to 8 hours at room temperature.

After the 6 to 8 hours it should have risen and bubbled. If not, leave it until it has. But it will. Add 200 grams of water (same weight as your first mix)  and  120 g of organic whole-wheat flour. Leave another 6-8 hours at room temperature.

At this point you should have about 500 grams of active starter that you can begin to use to make your own sourdough!

It won’t quite be sourdough at this point because the lactic acid bacteria won’t have had a chance to develop, and the yeast will still be derivative of the packaged yeast. But you can bake a very successful loaf with it. To do this, check out my blog on making sourdough.

A further note on this: At the same time I did this yeast cheat, I set up another starter with the same flour and water, but no yeast. In other words the usual process for beginning a starter. To my amazement, it too had begun to bubble away only 24 hours later. It too would need to go through the microbial processes needed to establish a true SD culture, but there would be nothing stopping you from using this to make a loaf of bread in the meantime, even though the LABs aren’t developed yet.

The ‘true’ starter all bubbly after 24 hours.

April 16 postscript

The starter made succesful loaves, but as predicted, the lactic acid bacteria (LABs) was not present and so I could not call it a true sourdough starter. It would more correctly be called a sponge.

After the initial bulk rise was prepared (April 8), I kept some of it aside in the fridge of course, fridge proofed it on the 15th, and baked it cold on the 16th. It had the beginnings of a sourdough tang, so the LABs were beginning to develop. The loaf splayed out a bit, what I would expect of a fridge conditioned bulk rise after a week.

This starter was refreshed today, 8 days later. We’ll see what happens. My prediction is that it will be able to be called sourdough.

So what does it all mean? 

  • Even though the first day loaf isn’t a true sourdough, it will still make a great loaf
  • The starter will become a true SD starter in about the same amount of time that  all the other SD starter recipes suggest.
  • Yeast is a lot more responsive and fast to develop than LABs.
  • You can get on with eating homemade bread right away, even while waiting for that starter to mature.
  • If you totally mess up a starter, a new one can be just around the corner.

The boiling of dough

An exploration of dumplings, pierogi, gnocchi and kloss

For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by the marvelous chemistry that happens when flour and water are combined, then heated. That kernel of a seed, a tightly packed by nature collection of proteins, starches, enzymes, yeasts all ground to a powder, awaiting the magical addition of water to awaken those magical transformative properties have done more than any other food source to nourish us over the centuries.

Other than pasta, I had not done more to investigate the magical transformations that happen when a dough is boiled, until recently.

I think my first investigation came when, wondering what to do for dinner one night, I wondered simply, “What happens when I make a basic dough (water and flour at 60% hydration, 2% salt) and then boil it? The results were, to say the least, mixed. They were not so terrible that they wound up as dog food.

In February I came across Aho’s blog on sweet potato dumplings and they were wonderfully popular around our dinner table. This led me to wonder what else was out there.

What follows are the recipes I’ve tried along this journey over the past 6 weeks. Each is pretty much the same as the websites they have come from. What I am surprised at is really how easy they all are. In some cases I’ve made some adjustments that – for me anyway – make the recipe achievable. Although most of the recipes are copied (and cited), I have made changes to suit my own process. After each I have made some notes about improving them too.

SWEET COTTAGE CHEESE DUMPLINGS (PIEROGI LENIWE)

142 Sweet Cottage Cheese Dumplings (Pierogi Leniwe)

What I really appreciate about Aho’s site is her dedication to Polish cuisine. She presents some wonderful recipes – mostly from her family, and that is always special. In this day and age when people jump on the internet to find a recipe, by default, digging into one’s own family history of recipes is an important act of social continuity and also rebellion.

Ingredients

  • 300g cottage cheese (or quark)
  • 1 egg
  • 2tbsp potato starch or corn starch (I used corn starch. I’ve come to understand that when one sees ‘potato starch’ in a European recipe, the Canadian substitute is corn starch)
  • 1/2 cup (all purpose) flour
  • pinch of salt
  • My ingredient add ons:
    • Flour – see note below – 200g
    • Salt: More than a pinch. 2% of the weight of everything else.

Method

  1. Add cottage cheese to a bowl and work with a fork to smooth it out. Add an egg, pinch of salt, and mix everything well. I used an immersion blender to really smooth it out.
  2. Add flour & starch and mix. Move it onto a floured pastry board and knead into a smooth ball. Don’t overwork it, though.
  3. If the dough appears too loose, add a little bit more flour and quickly knead again. My cottage cheese is quite watery, so I opted to use 180g of flour – giving a 60% hydration more or less. The salt addition would then be (180+300)*2% or 12grams.
  4. Put a pot filled 3/4 with cold water on to boil. Cover with a lid. Since you are adding salt in the dough, the water does not need to be salted as one would with pasta.
  5. Divide the dough into 4 pieces, and make a ball out of each.
  6. Roll each of the balls with your hands until it lengthens and becomes a thick rope. Cut diagonally into small pieces.
  7. Drop the dumplings into the boiling water, a few at a time: you want the water to still keep on a boil. Once they rise to the top, let them boil for additional 1-2 minutes before removing them with a slotted spoon.
  8. Serve with melted butter. To make the dessert variation, add some sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

My notes:

I like how this dish can serve a double purpose as a main carb/protein dish or a dessert. Or how about a two course salad and dessert combo! The dumplings are more or less balanced for carbs and protein, and a significant salad would round out the veggies.

The cottage cheese is going to be a huge variable hydration-wise. My sense is that what was cottage cheese in the original recipe is much firmer, much dryer than what I have access too. My solution to this is to prepare some additional flour that will need to be added in order to get the right malleable consistency – like pasta dough – about 60%. The amount of additional flour needed is going to vary according to the wetness of the cheese you use. My recommendation is to keep flour on hand that you use to adjust for hydration. To find the right amount for you, weigh the starting dough first, tare your scale and find out how much of the flour/salt mix you actually need in addition. In my case I needed a total of 200g of flour to yield the right dough feel.

Salt: The recipe calls for a pinch. It needs a lot more. My suggestion is to weigh the dough at the end of its kneading, add 2% the weight of the dough in salt, and knead it in.

Pierogies

I’ve come back to The Spruce Eats website a number of times – it seems to have just what I am looking for. I love the simplicity of the dough: water, egg, flour, salt.

https://www.thespruceeats.com/how-to-make-pierogi-1137226

Ingredients for the dough

  • 2 large eggs (room-temperature, beaten)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 5g
  • 1/3 cup water (or more as needed, lukewarm) 100g
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (or more as needed) 300g

Ingredients for the filling

You can use whatever you like! What I used for this batch – it was a sautee: zucini, red pepper, mushroom, green onion, onion, butter, salt, thyme, oregano, basil. Oh – and not shown here, cream cheese.

Method

  1. Whisk the eggs, salt, and water together
  2. Add in flour
  3. Knead
  4. Refrigerate an hour
  5. Roll out
  6. Cut in 3″ rounds (a wide mouth mason jar lid works perfectly)
  7. Prepare filling. In this case I sauteed them.
  8. Fill each, roll over, crimp
  9. Boil or fry.

My notes

So straight forward! There are however 2 things to watch out for:

  • The thickness of the dough
  • The amount of filling to put in each.

This is a situation where there is a goldilocks point to try and hit. Too thick and the pierogies are heavier and doughier. Too thin and they break apart when you prepare them or when you boil them. With the filling, about a rounded teaspoon per pierogi is about right. Too much and you can’t close them, too little and its dough -heavy.

The filling can be anything you like. You can go cheesy, vegetables (sauteed chopped onions/garlic/pepper/zuccini, eggplant…. ) and or meat or any combination. Its a great way to repurpose that leftover casserole from the night before.

What I don’t understand is the difference between these and ravioli, unless its that ravioli is a traditional pasta formulation of durum flour and eggs – no water, no salt (only in the boiling water)

Gnocchi

Since I had done dumplings and pierogi, I thought the next should be gnocchi. I was aware these are potato based, but had always wondered about them falling apart as potato does not have sufficient glue to stand up to a boil. Not an issue, though – particularly if you use All Purpose Flour.

https://tasty.co/recipe/easy-homemade-potato-gnocchi

Ingredients

  • 4 medium russet potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for the water
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (190 g), extra to dust
  • 2 tablespoons butter, for pan frying
  • sage leaf

Method

  1. Add the potatoes to a large pot of cool salted water. Bring the water to a boil and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until a fork can easily pierce a potato. Drain the potatoes and set aside until cool enough to handle but still warm.
  2. Using a peeler or your fingers, remove the skin from the potatoes. In a medium bowl, mash the potatoes until all lumps are gone. Add the salt and pepper and mix well. Make a well in the center of the potatoes and crack an egg into it. Whisk the eggs briefly. Then, using your hands, gently mix it into the potatoes until evenly distributed.
  3. Put 1 cup of flour onto a clean surface and turn out the potato dough onto it, keeping the remaining ½ cup close by in case you need it. Working quickly and carefully, knead the dough, only incorporating as much flour as you need along the way until the dough loses stickiness and becomes more solid. You will use most of the remaining flour, but if you don’t that’s OK. Slice the dough into 4 parts. Roll out 1 part into a long rope, about 1 inch wide, cutting in half and working with 1 half at a time if the rope is becoming too long. Slice the rope into ½-inch squares and set aside on a lightly floured surface. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  4. If desired, place a fork on your work surface and slide each gnocchi square from the base of the fork prongs to the top so they make a decorative shape.
  5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the gnocchi in batches, stirring gently once or twice to ensure they are not sticking. Boil until they float to the surface; after another 15-30 seconds in the water, remove.
  6. In a pan over medium heat, melt butter and add the sage. Add the gnocchi and toss until lightly golden.

Klos & Blaukraut

Anthony was a young German who was briefly in our lives for about 10 months last year. An old soul, and an adventurous one too. If he had his way, he would be outside all the time. He is what we would probably call in Canada an RPN or support worker. Not that he was dedicated to this career, It was simply a means for him to make enough money to travel. And travel he did! His bike was the conveyance of choice, and when we met him he had been to Nepal, Palestine, throughout Europe, and a few other places besides. Often when he visited us (here in Toronto) he would do a meal with us. That is – a recipe he wanted to try. I did my best to jot them all down. Most of them I have – including this: Blaukraut (cabbage) with (mushroom) sauce and klos (German gnocchi). He said it was a recipe that makes him feel like home.

Blaukraut

Ingredients

  • 100g onion (a small onion) diced but not too finely
  • 100g granny smith apple (or one that has a sharper taste) cut into thin julienned slices
  • 1 tbs oil. Also goose fat can be used. This will make it shinier
  • 400g red cabbage, coarsely grated (the ‘coarsely’ is important. I prefer it cut thinly with a sharp knife.)
  • 25g apple cider vinegar
  • 40g red wine
  • 20g honey (about a tablespoon)
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 3 bay leaves (whole)
  • 1tsp salt – @ 8g

Instructions

  1. Chop and prepare the apple and onion
  2. Saute the onion and apple in oil
  3. Grate the cabbage and combine with vinegar
  4. Combine the cabbage/vinegar, onion/apple mix and all other ingredients in a pot and gently simmer. Add the wine last, adding a bit at a time until you like the taste. Check on how done the cabbage is. It will gradually get softer, so stop the cooking when the texture is the way you wish.

Klos

Ingredients

  • 800g russet potatoes (200g/serving)
  • 200g All purpose flour. Anthony’s recipe calls for potato flour, but I find it does not bind it all together as the heavy gluten hit of all purpose flour.
  • Salt. Make the salt 1.5% of the weight of flour + potatoes (approximately 15g) in order to achieve the correct saltiness overall.

Method

  1. Boil the potatoes in their skins. They should be cooked through but not falling apart. We had a long discussion about the correct kinds of potatoes. His German said they were ‘blue potatoes’, and we finally figured out that his blue potatoes were what we know in Ontario as Russets.
  2. Mash the potatoes before mixing in the flour. You could add a little butter in it too.
  3. Combine with salt and flour
  4. Knead the mix until it can form into solid round golf ball size balls
  5. Cool the balls – 30 minutes
  6. Heat a large pot of salted water until boiling & place the balls in a collander (outside the pot)
  7. Turn off the heat and gently place the collander with the balls in the hot water.
  8. They should rise and float. If they do not- the potato is beginning to come away – remove them.
  9. Once they are heated through – about 5 minutes – gently remove them from the colander and serve

Notes:

  • I’m also thinking this could be fried – or treated as gnocchi. In fact this ratio makes an easier to work gnocchi.

Mushroom Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs oil – sunflower or olive
  • 200g mushrooms
  • 100g onions
  • 1 clove garlic
  • salt to taste
  • 500ml whipping cream (35%)
  • pepper – to taste
  • oregano – to taste
  • Nutmeg – to taste

Method

  1. lightly saute onions in oil. cover and cook until translucent
  2. add sliced garlic and continue to sautee
  3. slice and add the mushrooms, continue to cook gently for a couple of minutes
  4. add cream, turn to medium, and stir to reduce the cream
  5. add salt, oregano and pepper to taste

Assembly

  • reheat blaukraut
  • serve blaukraut, klos and mushroom sauce side by side on a plate.

Wild Onion jelly

Wild Onion Red Wine Jelly

Who knew at this point last year we would be dealing with a global pandemic that keeps us holed up in our homes, socially isolating, life irrevocably on pause. Nature, however, continues on her merry way. For those of you who happen to be self isolating near some woods with an annual crop of wild onions, or ramps, this blog is for you.

Every spring – for a couple of months in May, wild onions come up. They are truly a unique and wonderful harbinger of spring, offering up their earthly delights and strong flavors that speak of a distinct musty terroir. It is neither garlic nor onion, but a little of both and then some .

Allium Tricoccum is widely available over much of Eastern North America, and along with trout lilies one of the first spring plants to emerge.

Wild onions – or ramps as they are called in the USA – are a plant that seems to attract its own habits and mythologies. One person I picked with this year only wanted the leaves & gave me all his bulbs. Another went to pick only the most succulent young leaves. Still others just want the bulbs. So important are these onions there are even Ramp festivals and annual events.

The onions propagate in a couple of ways – they will divide as all good alliums do, and this is perhaps the easiest method. They also flower, though this will take time as noted in this article. What’s important for the picker is to only take a few, and only take them from prolific patches. At that, its best to leave a site for a couple of years to allow it to grow back in. I’ve found that a long handled garden shovel with a narrow blade works best to cleanly cut through to below the roots allowing one to cleanly extract a small bunch.

Over the years I have tried various means to treat and eat them, from fermenting to fresh.

Jessica Reed in the Guardian provides us with seven great other ideas to do with them. I’ll add fermenting to the list, and last year I tried to make a jelly from them. That’s what this blog is all about.

Last year I made a successful hot garlic wine jelly. I asked the advice of a Jeannette from the Acadian Shamrock Farm as she is THE expert on garlic preserves. She suggested a bulb of garlic per bottle of wine. I combined this with Pomona’s white wine jelly recipe to make a successful hot garlic jelly recipe:

1 750ml bottles of white wine

1 chopped jalapeno – to taste

3/4 cup garlic

3 tbs lemon juice

2 tsp calcium water

1 cup sugar

2 tsp pectin powder

Figuring out a recipe for the wild onions was a bit more challenging. I initially tried a variation on the recipe above, making a small quantity with white wine and with red also. I was particularly struck by the influence of red wine on the earthy taste of the wild onions. Somehow the wine brought out its quite distinctive taste. I also wanted to notch up that sense of terroir, so instead of sugar, I opted for dark, rich maple syrup as the main sweetener. I also had to work in as little honey as I could to mix in the pectin powder. Somehow the pectin does not blend easily with the maple syrup, but honey is an ideal medium for it.

Thus inspired, back I went to forage some more wild onions for a bigger batch.

I also wanted to be able to scale the recipe. In scaling recipes, one identifies the weight of one ingredient that you don’t have control over and factor the weight of all the other ingredients to this one variable. For example, buying 2 baskets of strawberries for jam will give a unique weight that is not the same as another 2 baskets. In this case, the weight of the wild onions is that variable, and so in the resulting mini spreadsheet you input ONLY the weight of the wild onions, and the other measures will fall into place. As in all my cooking, I weigh ingredients in grams – it ensures consistency and precision in a way volume measures can’t.

For my pectin, I always use Pomona’s Pectin because it is the only pectin that enables low sugar recipes. Not only does this give you healthier preserves, but you can eat them guilt free! You can use other pectins, and I would base the quantity on how much pectin would be needed to set an acidic juice, like wine, following their method.

In this batch, my 2nd attempt – the one where I was going to make A LOT, failed! I couldn’t believe it. It posed a problem too, as the sweetner/pectin is added after the boil, and you need the pectin to be mixed with the sweetner so it does not all clump together at the bottom of the pot. After a bit of math and some help from Pomona’s, I reset it and it worked out well. This process had me quite carefully calculating and scaling the pectin needed, and I am pretty sure about it now.

So…. Here is the recipe!

The actual recipe is on a mini google spreadsheet that you can enter your own information (the weight of onions) and it will return what else you need. If you are using an android phone to view this, you will need to have the Google Sheets app installed.

Prepping the onions

Wild onions inevitably come with a lot of clayish soil attached to the roots, and there’s a couple tricks to getting it off, leaving you with clean onions:

  • Work outside
  • Take a bunch and shake as much earth as you can off.
  • With 3 fingers grab the mid point of the stem of an individual onion and pull down, taking off the outer layer. Once at the base of the onion pinch off the root, either with your fingernails or scissors
  • Cleaned up as much as you can without water, wash them in a big tub of water
  • Spin out with a salad spinner

Here is what would be needed if you went out and picked 1 kilo of wild onions:

Ingredients

1000 g wild onions

3 chopped jalapeno – to taste

2310 ml red wine

10 tbs lemon juice

28 ml calcium water

2.2 cups dark maple syrup

3/4 cup honey

38 g pectin powder

This recipe makes 27 125ml jars

Directions (once you have picked them)

  1. Thoroughly wash the wild onions outside as described above. 1) remove as much soil as possible 2) holding each onion by the leaves pull down the bulb with the other hand, pinching off the bottom of the root with the root hairs 3) wash & rinse them.
  2. Roughly chop then pulse chop onions in food processor, but not until they are pureed.
  3. Wash jars, lids, and bands.
  4. Place jars in canner, fill canner 2/3 full with water, bring to a boil.
  5. Put lids in a colander and place in the canning bath. Keep them in the hot water until they are ready to be filled.
  6. Measure wine, wild onions, jalapenos, lemon juice into a pot and bring to a low boil for 10 minutes. Taste for the hotness as you go along.
  7. Meanwhile combine the pectin with the honey in a separate bowl and ensure it is thoroughly mixed in.
  8. Combine the honey/pectin with the maple syrup, ensuring it is thoroughly mixed. It’s important to mix in the maple syrup after the honey/pectin has been mixed.
  9. Taste the wine mix for heat.
  10. Strain the wine mix through a strainer into a new pot, leaving a pure liquid.
  11. Bring back to boil, add the calcium water, until boiling starts
  12. Turn off the heat, add the maple syrup/honey pectin. Heat again until it boils, then take off heat. Do a final taste, this time for maple syrup.
  13. Set out the jars to be filled, and fill them.
  14. Boil in waterbath for 10 minutes.

Tools needed

  • Bin to wash onions
  • weigh scale
  • Large bowl for onions
  • 3 pots
  • Wooden spoon
  • 2 colanders (1 to strain the onions, 1 to heat the mason jar lids)
  • Bowl for maple syrup
  • Bowl for honey
  • 27 125ml jars (or equivalent in 250ml jars)
  • Canning pot & lid
  • Canning funnel
  • Canning tongs
  • Oven mitts

This jelly would be great as an accompaniment to

  • Strong cheeses & deli meats
  • Blackened or spiced fish
  • Chicken
  • Lamb

Kombucha marinated steak

This blog is about using kombucha as a marinade. This is something I’ve tried quite a number of times but what makes this different is the sequence. Previously what I have done is to thaw the steak in the morning. Once thawed – I would cure it for about an hour. After that I’d pour kombucha over it until it was ready for the bbq (or whatever one wants to do with it.) It was decent, but there were a couple of problems. For one, you had to be around during the day. Also the cure was wiped out when the kombucha was added. Finally, neither the cure time nor the marinating time were very long.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to switch things up. I switched the order. The result makes it a lot easier, achieves greater tenderness and frees one up during the day. What I did:

  • In the morning, take the steak out of the freezer and pour the kombucha over the frozen steak. Leave it out all day. This means that it’s marinating and tenderizing in the kombucha all day long. (kombucha being quite acidic is going to break down some of cells and tenderize the steak.)
  • At the beginning of my dinner prep I take the steak out of the kombucha marinade.
  • Weigh it and add the cure: The Goldilocks amount of salt for a cure is 1.5%. So on a 500 gram steak that would be 7.5g of salt. For the rest of the Cure I work in the same amount of sugar, then garlic, pepper, whatever your heart desires. Some of my go-to’s include sage, thyme, garlic, smoked paprika.
  • Leave it curing while you go and prepare the other stuff you have to put together for dinner. By the time that the table is set & your BBQ turned on, and as people are called to the table, you cook your steak the same way as you normally would.
  • you are rewarded with a wonderful tender flavorful steak … but that’s not all!
  • The marinade can become an amazing gravy that takes on the flavor of your kombucha. Chances are you’ll have used about 300-400ml of marinade. Either a roux or cornstarch works to make a great sauce. Taste to add whatever else you feel it needs. You could even add some beer or wine.

There it is. Kombucha marinated steak.

Get Smoking!

That wonderful, alluring yet ephemeral scent of hickory. Until recently, I’d only had it in restaurants… until a couple of months ago.

That’s when my son and his girlfriend brought a Bradley smoker into my life. He’s been onto me about smoking for a couple of years – wanting to buy me an EGG for my birthday. I firmly resisted, not because I wouldn’t have welcomed one, but because over the next few years our lives are going to be in planned turmoil, our worldly goods decreased or in storage as we await our domestic phoenix to arise from the flames of a house demolition and complete rebuild, complete with an industrial style kitchen for all of my experimenting.

A couple of years ago, his girlfriend bought her dad this same Bradley smoker. Her parents however, are downsizing, selling home, moving to condo. Its the story in Toronto in our demographic, and I imagine across the country. Two variations here: downsize, condo & travel (them) or downsize from 2 places to one dream home (us). For the four of us there are no two ways about it. We are incredibly fortunate to have been able to have professional careers, our health and pensions at the end of it all. The upshot concerning the smoker is that it has been bequeathed to me, since I’ve still got, and will continue to have, a house.

While I was excited to have this new culinary toy at my disposal, I also figured there had to be regret on Jeff’s part. He’s really loved smoking and has gained a lot of expertise in the brief time he has done it. Since he was not going to be selling his house for a number of months, I suggested he may want it back. No – he insisted – it was mine now. So I asked him if he’d like to work on a smoking project with me – SURE! I was headed north that weekend to Grey County wherein lie some of the best meats in the land – what would he like? “Duck please! 2 of them.” My son was interested in us doing a brisket, and I was interested in ham and fish.

That’s how the project got rolling, and here is what we did in the end:

  • Gravlax
  • Maple glazed and Peking Duck
  • Montreal Smoked beef
  • Ham
  • Smoked old cheddar
  • Smoked pate

I’ve tried to faithfully capture all we did in these recipes – with some success, though I imagine that with time, there may be some adjustments.

It was a 3 day affair – actually more as Jeff did a ton of prep work researching and pulling together the brining and curing ingredients. On day 1 we set to brining and curing it all. On day 4, we smoked the fish, duck and organ meats and on day 7 the brisket, ham & cheese.

I have to say the tastes were pretty amazing – an intense flavor and smokiness, yet each creation carried its own unique taste. I look forward to us doing this again – once we dwindle the supply from this round.

Understanding smokers

First of all I had to understand what a smoker does. This particular Bradley smokers has a large chamber about the size of a bar fridge. At the bottom of the chamber the smoker pellets are delivered to the middle of the box, and when they get to their last position they are heated to a point near combustion. They smoke, and after 20 minutes are pushed off into a bowl of water below, and a new pellet slides into place. There’s also a heater in the chamber, should you wish to both cook and smoke your food. Cold smoking is what happens when you do not turn on the heater. At the top of the chamber there is a vent. The more you open it the more the smoke exits, the less smoke in the chamber, and vice versa. There is, according to Jeff, a goldilocks point. Too much smoke for too long can make it bitter. When the heater is used, you have hot smoking and the purpose is to both smoke and cook the meat. In cold smoking you are only smoking, not cooking it.

Understanding brining, curing and smoking

Bacteria live on all fresh foods, meat or vegetable. Some bacteria are good bacteria, such as lactic acid bacteria. Other bacteria are pathogenic, and will produce toxic enzymes. But all bacteria require water in order to live and develop. Salt is such an extraordinary preservative because it will extract the water the bacteria require in order to live. It also lowers the PH which encourages lactic acid bacteria to develop and is hostile to pathogenic bacteria. I’ll refer you to the History and Science of Curing Foods article for a more authoritative description. The flavor (beyond the salt) comes from additions of flavoring ingredients such as garlic, pepper, herbs and spices that are added to the cure or brine.

The https://smokingmeatgeeks.com/ describes what happens in the smoking process quite well. When the smoke hits the meat, it breaks up, and the nitrogen in it (which is acidic), connects with the myoglobin in meat, pulling it into the meat, giving that smokey flavour. Check out their page on the science of it all. There’s also has a really useful chart pairing hardwoods with meats. Again like salt, the natural development of an acidic environment will not support pathogenic bacteria. Also check out Dan Jablows’s column on smoking and making bacon.

The recipes

Smoked Gravlax

Our first effort was to make gravlax. This is fish that is essentially pickled in its own brine.

The salt extracts water from the salmon through osmosis, preventing bacteria from developing, and imparting the taste of the rest of the cure you are applying. The following article – though almost 100 years old, is quite authoritative and clear on how it all happens. https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Principles_Involved_in_the_Preservation_of_Fish_by_Salt

There are a number of recipe approaches to gravalax, and they all feature essentially the same process: a base ratio of 2:1 salt:sugar.

https://www.bradleysmoker.com/recipe/smoked-gravlax/

https://www.marthastewart.com/998603/cured-salmon-michael-ruhlman

https://www.thespruceeats.com/simple-homemade-gravlax-recipe-2216618

https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/20432456/posts/15393

Ingredients

These are slightly different than either the Bradley recipe, or the Rhulman. We used a 1.5kg filleted fresh salmon (use 2 fillets)

The cure

  • 45 ml (3 tbs coarse salt)
  • 25ml (1.5 tbs) maple sugar (Sugar made from maple syrup)
  • 15ml (1 tbsp) coarse ground pepper
  • fresh dill
  • For the smoker we used 2-4 apple wood pellets

Method

The cure

  1. Leave skin on salmon and cut fish in half. We used 2 filets.
  2. place one half of the salmon skin side down, in a ceramic dish with sides
  3. Rub very well with rub mix
  4. spread a good covering of dill
  5. Rub second half of salmon with salt pepper mixture
  6. Place second side on top of first side skin side up (so the final layering is cure>>salmon>>cure>>salmon>>cure)
  7. Wrap it with foil, wax paper or parchment paper, place it in a food grade plastic tub, weigh it down – bricks are fine, cover and refrigerate.
  8. Refrigerate for 24- 48 hours turning twice a day. Be sure to baste with its own brining liquid as it accumulates

After curing

  1. Thoroughly rinse the brine off the fish.
  2. Remove fish and scrape away dill and seasonings. At this point it can be eaten – you’ve made a form of sushi or lox.
  3. Pat dry and air dry for one hour

Cold Smoking

  1. place cured salmon skin side down on oiled racks
  2. cold smoke 30-60 minutes with the vents wide open
  3. Remove from smoker and refrigerate until needed.

Serving: Slice very thin on an angle and serve with a garnish with dill and parsley.

Duck

Jeff was very quick to note that he wanted two ducks. He clearly had a plan in mind. With the ducks, we brined them which meant submerging them in a 5% brine bath for a few days. In this case we did an apple cider based brine and a Peking-based brine. While the recipes are here, I can say we definitely were not slaves to them, adding flavoring ingredients with some abandon. I cannot guarantee that what is here is what actually went in. As with curing, additions of flavors impart themselves to the meat in the brining process. Check out Krissie Mason’s article on brining. Exactly the same processes are at play as in curing.

Apple Cider Maple smoked duck

Our recipe was derived from The Spruce Eats Turkey Apple Brine recipe. What is below is – more or less – what we did. We used whiskey soaked smoker pellets for these guys – somewhere between 6-8 of them.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups kosher salt
  • 1 cup maple sugar (This is a sugar that is a by product of maple syrup production. Imagine brown sugar that tastes like maple syrup. You can substitute maple syrup or brown sugar)
  • 3 litres apple cider
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 1 tbs roughly ground peppercorns
  • 1 medium duck

Method

Brining

  1. Remove the sweetmeats. (these we cured then cold smoked – see the pate recipe later.)
  2. Combine all ingredients in a non reactive container. Ensure there is enough brine to completely cover the duck. Refrigerate for 3-4 days
  3. Thoroughly rinse all the brine off the duck, and pat it dry.

Smoking

  1. For the duck we hot smoked them – cooking them as they are being smoked. Get the smoker to about 220F. Work to hold an oven temperature of between 180-220F 82-104C. The vents were open about half way.
  2. Insert a meat thermometer in the deepest part of the breast. Place the duck in the smoker, breast side down, for 1.5-2 hours.
  3. Turn it over and continue smoking. The internal temperature needs to reach 160F/71C.
  4. Once out of the oven, let it rest.
  5. In our case we cut the duck in half and took our halves.

And after?

After carefully separating all the meat, I made an amazing soup (with carrot and onion to help) from all those smokey bones!

Peking Duck

Ingredients

The Brine

  • 1 cup tamari or Soya sauce
  • 6 whole star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ¾ cup salt
  • 2 cups honey
  • 1 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 litres water
  • 100g chopped fresh ginger

Method

Brining

  1. Remove giblets from duck and reserve for other uses (as noted above)
  2. Combine all ingredients in the brining container

  1. Pour in enough water to mix
  2. Place the duck in the brining container and fill with water so no part of the duck is showing.
  3. Refrigerate for 4 days

Smoking (the same directions as above).

  1. Get the smoker to about 220F. Work to hold an oven temperature of between 180-220F 82-104C. The vents should be open about half way.
  2. Remove duck from the brine and pat very dry, both inside and out.
  3. Optional – sprinkle with baking powder.
  4. Insert a meat thermometer in the deepest part of the breast. Place the duck in the smoker, breast side down, for 1.5-2 hours.
  5. Turn it over and continue smoking. The internal temperature needs to reach 160F/71C.
  6. Once out of the oven, let it rest.

Montreal Smoked Meat

Before heading north to buy our meat, I asked my son what he would like us to consider smoking. Without hesitation, he said “Beef brisket”. From there, Jeff sussed out a recipe (and gathered the ingredients for Montreal smoked meat:

https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/02/montreal-smoked-meat-recipe.html

This recipe calls for both a cure and a rub. The cure is applied for 4-7 days, then it is washed off. The brisket is patted dry and then a rub is applied for the smoking. I don’t believe we made any significant alterations to this recipe.

Ingredients

For the Cure

1 cup Kosher salt

3 tablespoons ground black pepper

3 tablespoons ground coriander

1 tablespoons pink curing salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon ground bay leaf

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 whole brisket, around 12-14 pounds, fat cap trimmed to ⅛-inch

For the rub

3 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper

1 tablespoons ground coriander

1 tablespoons paprika

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 teaspoon dill weed

1 teaspoon ground mustard

1 teaspoon celery seed

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2-3 fist-size chunks of medium smoking wood, such as oak or hickory

Type of fire: Indirect

Grill heat: Low

Method

The cure

  1. To make the cure, in a small bowl mix together salt, pink salt, black pepper, coriander, sugar, bay leaf, and cloves.
  2. Coat entire brisket with the cure and place in an extra-large resealable plastic bag. Place in the coldest part of the refrigerator and cure for 4-7 days, flipping brisket twice a day. We went 7 days.

  1. Remove the brisket from bag and wash as much cure off as possible under cold running water. Place brisket in a large container and fill with water and let soak for 2 hours, replacing water every 30 minutes.
  2. Remove from water and pat dry with paper towels.

The rub & the smoke

  1. Mix together black pepper, coriander, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dill weed, mustard, celery seed, and crushed red papper in a small bowl. Coat entire brisket with the rub.
  2. Fire up smoker to 225°F. When it is nicely smoking, place brisket in, fat side up, and smoke until an instant read thermometer registers 165 degrees when inserted into thickest part of the brisket. This will take about 6 hours.
  3. Transfer brisket to cutting board and let cool.
  4. Thin slice
  5. Slice and serve – Bon Appetit

Smoked Ham

When I bought the ham, I had a visual idea of what I wanted, and when I asked for it at the market (DeJong farms), Anita held up a massive leg  – I had not described it well. Once I told her what I was going to do with it, she found an ideal slab of shoulder for me. The curing and smoking process was identical as for the brisket. 

If my memory serves me (it may not and we were moving along pretty quickly) I think we did a basic cure from Smoking Food: A Beginner’s Guide by Chris Dubs and Dave Heberle

Ingredients

  • 4-6 lb slab of pork shoulder
  • 2 lbs/ 1 kilo salt
  • 1 tablespoons pink curing salt 
  • 1 lb maple sugar
  • 2 tbs black pepper, roughly crushed
  • 5 crushed cloves
  • 3 crushed bay leaves 

The process is the same as the smoked brisket

Method

The cure

  1. To make the cure, in a small bowl mix together salt, pink salt, black pepper, sugar, bay leaf, and cloves. 
  2. Coat entire ham with the cure and place in an extra-large resealable plastic bag. Place in the coldest part of the refrigerator and cure for 4-7 days, flipping it twice a day. As this was done concurrently with the brisket, we went 7 days.

The rub & the smoke

  1. Rinse the cure from the ham.
  2. Fire up smoker to 225°F. When it is nicely smoking, place ham in the smoker, and smoke until an instant read thermometer registers 175 degrees when inserted into thickest part of the ham. This will take about 6 hours.
  3. Transfer brisket to cutting board and let cool. 
  4. Thin slice & enjoy

Smoked Pate

This is not fois grasse – but it’s all yours, and it will be delicious.

For quite a while I’ve tried to do something with the sweetmeats that come with birds. The key to success was taking an idea from my Haggis experiments: make the ratio of sweetmeats to flesh 1:1. This cuts some of the dryness and texture of the liver. Since all of the duck was being smoked, I used some chicken meat I had for this purpose. In this recipe there is the added layer of smoking.

Ingredients

Note: Weigh the meat, onions, garlic and butter. This will enable the correct amount of salt.

  • Sweetmeats that come with your bird – usually liver, heart,
  • A more or less equal amount of flesh scraped from the carcass. Since the duck was being smoked, I used some chicken meat I had for this purpose.
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • Salt – 1.5% the weight of all ingredients – in this case 8g
  • 1 tbs sage*
  • 2 tsp thyme*
  • 1 tsp mustard*

* these can be varied/substituted as you wish

Method

The cure

The day before, the sweetmeats and chicken meat were cured in what remained of the fish cure.

The Smoke

  1. Since we were dealing with small parts that could easily fall through the grating of the smoker, Jeff suggested some aluminum foil with small perforations to allow the smoke through.
  2. Rinse the cure off the meat, pat dry, place on the perforated aluminum foil racks
  3. Cold smoke for about 2 hours.

The Sautee

  1. Sautee onions and garlic in butter

  1. After the onions have softened, add salt, pepper and herbs.
  2. Cook covered over a low heat for about 30 minutes, letting the onions caramelize a bit
  3. Add the meat and continue simmering, covered, on a low heat for about an hour.
  4. Remove from heat, cool a bit, and puree.
  5. Once pureed, adjust for taste. It will be a little runny, but will firm up once chilled. Other than making your salt 1.5% of the weight, other quantities are left to your best culinary judgement.

At the point of serving, interesting variations can be tried in addition to the basic pate: adding bbq sauce, ketchup, or even mayo will give you a wonderful one-off dip.

And finally – the cheese

This was really simple. I took a block of old Canadian cheddar, and cold smoked it for 2 hours. Yield: Yummy smoked cheddar!

So what’s next?

I don’t know quite yet. We’ve a lot of meat to thoroughly enjoy, bit by bit. I’ve already repeated the gravalox a couple of times with whitefish – the salmon don’t seem to be biting these days. I think Jeff still has his sights set on a goose. Now that would be fun. I also know that one of my market vendors occasionally has a line in on pheasant – so that would be interesting too. I’d like to read more of what Michael Rhulman has to say on the topic more, and also David Wolfman. When summer comes around and fresh peppers are available, I definitely want to smoke those to make smoked red pepper chutney.

Its been a real pleasure digging into smoking. I so appreciated working with Jeff – such an experienced beast in the kitchen. It always helps to have a great teacher to work with.