Tradition

Hello my far-flung friends! How was your Thanksgiving? Here in Edmonton, the family and I had a traditional meal yesterday. That tradition, however, was not ours, and not Thanksgiving. We made a Danish Christmas meal. This is something we were planning to do last year at Christmas time but it got put off for various reasons and didn’t happen until now.

This is where the inspiration came from: The Time-Life Cooking of Scandinavia book, published in 1968. If you want the recipes, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding this book (or any of the Time-Life cookbooks) in just about any thrift store in the land.

The centrepiece of the meal is roast goose – something I’ve long wanted to try. The Bro-in-law has made goose before and knew what to do. He pricked the skin all over before roasting to allow the grease to stream freely. Goose is very fatty – there was a lot of grease in the roasting pan, which my sister poured off into a container to throw out. Doing some reading today, I discovered that goose fat is “culinary white gold” (for things like roasting potatoes), so I phoned her to see if it could be saved. Luckily it was still in the fridge – another victory for procrastination.

Goose is delicious – it’s all dark meat, which I love. The crispy skin was heavenly (and much coveted by my parents).

The bird was stuffed with apples, prunes and onions – all of which gets thrown out because it becomes drenched in grease. It’s there to impart flavour and moisture. Apples and prunes are part of the meal though.

Poached apple halves with prunes soaked in sherry (should be port, but sherry’s what I had in my cupboard).

Brunede kartofler (caramelized potatoes). You brought this to a party at my house once, Truly Scrumptious. Yours were better. For some reason the caramel didn’t adhere to the potatoes, so it was more like potatoes in toffee gravy. We’ll have to compare notes.

Also, peeling all those little spuds, while not difficult (the skins can mostly be pulled off with fingertips), sure is tedious.

The rødkaal (braised red cabbage) was much more successful. Even my sister (who’s unable to eat raw cabbage) loved it. Here’s the recipe:

Rødkaal

1 medium head red cabbage (2 to 2 1/2 lbs.)
4 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup red currant jelly
2 tbsp. grated apple

Wash the head of cabbage under cold running water, remove the tough outer leaves, and cut the cabbage in half from top to bottom. Lay the flat sides down on the chopping board, cut away the core and slice the cabbage very finely. There should be approximately 9 cups of shredded cabbage when you finish.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Combine the butter, sugar, salt, water and vinegar in a heavy stainless steel or enameled 4 to 5 quart casserole. When it comes to a boil and the butter has melted, add the shredded cabbage and toss thoroughly with two wooden spoons or forks. Bring to a boil again, cover tightly and place in the centre of the oven to braise for 2 hours. There is little danger that the cabbage will dry out during the cooking, but it is a good idea to check on the liquid level occasionally. Add a little water if it seems necessary.

About 10 minutes before the cabbage is finished, stir in the jelly and grated apple, replace the cover and complete the cooking.

The piquant taste of red cabbage will improve if, after it has cooled, it is allowed to rest for a day in the refrigerator and then reheated either on top of the stove or in a 325 degree oven. In any case, serve hot, as an accompaniment to a stuffed loin of pork or goose to complete the traditional Danish Christmas dinner.

Dessert was something more traditionally Canadian:

While the guys made dinner, the ladies had a cat nap.

And what did you have for Thanksgiving?

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Christmas Booty

It’s a good thing Christmas only comes once a year because I don’t think my stomach could handle any more. Over the break we ate: lamb, prime rib, turkey, ham, chinese food, big breakfasts and my weight in treats. One of the nice things about Christmas is I generally get cookbooks and utensils for presents. I thought you might want to see what I got.

For cookbooks I got:

Recommended by you and I have to say I LOVE this book. Not only does it tell you how to cook everything, but what to look for when buying items and how to store them.

This one was from my best friend. It is based on Ocean Wise, a program from Vancouver that educates people on eating sustainable seafood.

My new favourite super food. Quinoa is so easy to cook and so versitile.

My sister got me this book. It is also a BC book and I haven’t tried any of the recipes, but they all look delicious.

I wanted this book for Christmas, but no one got it for me. Then we saw it at Winners the other day for half price. I took this as a sign that God wanted me to have it and bought it for myself. The photographs are amazing.

That’s all for the cookbooks. Now on to the cookware.

I always complain about how cookie cutters bend too easily and how they aren’t made like they used to be. My sister bought me these industrial strength cutters at Lee Valley. Guess I will have to find something else to complain about.

I also really want to bake more bread this year, so I asked for a digital kitchen scale. I hope between that and the mixer I got for my birthday I will be able to make awesome bread.

The gift I liked best were the bread pans from my mom. They are they ones she has had for years (more like decades) and they are seasoned to perfection. If I can’t make awesome bread in these I will have to hang my head in shame.

Besides the loaf pans this was my favourite gift. I have been asking for this for the past 5 years and I finally got one. I am going to braise short ribs in it tonight. Can’t wait.

 

Posted by king crabby

Second Hand Italian

One of the cookbooks I picked up at the Anglican Church Rummage Sale in the fall was an Italian Cookbook from the Australian Women’s Weekly Collection.

Since it was a softcover magazine type book they only charged me 25 cents. You might have thought I would’ve been super happy with a steal like that, but it felt a little bit like I was stealing from church. I almost felt like leaving a twoonie somewhere in the church… almost. So I decided to make an Italian meal a few weeks ago. I chose to make veal parmesan. I didn’t have any veal so I used pork. I pounded the meat and dipped it in a egg wash. I lightly fried the meat and it smelled so good.

Then I smothered the fried meat in homemade tomato sauce and cheese. Mmmm…. fried…. cheese… and no I didn’t put bacon on top, but I thought about it.

I then baked it to golden perfection.

I served it over fresh pasta from the market and topped it with fresh basil.

It was really good, except the sauce was a bit sweet. The recipe called for sugar and next time I would half the amount I put in. The recipe took a long time to make so I made an appetizer. I decided to make calamari because I had some squid tubes in the freezer. Do you know that squid is really cheap? It costs about a dollar a tube at Billingsgate.

I remember watching Nigella’s show one Saturday and she had a quick and easy calamari recipe. On tv it looked beautiful and crunchy. I found the recipe online and everything seemed to be working.

However, when I pulled the squid from the fryer, most of the batter had fallen off. Do you know why this might have happened? I served it anyways with a lemon, garlic and basil dipping sauce. I’m never one to let seafood go to waste.

It tasted good, but it was missing that crunchy outside. Next time I won’t use her recipe, but I will make pork parmesan again.

Posted by King Crabby

Date Night: Rummage and Bauernschmaus

Thrifting and eating, two of my favorite activities, were made all the more pleasurable on Friday by being in the company of my favorite perma-date (that’s you, King Crabby).

The Anglican church in our neighborhood had their semi-annual rummage sale. We lined up about 40 minutes before the doors opened. This sale is very popular and I’ve never been this close to the front of the line before. We were even in front of Book Guy who shows up at every church basement sale and buys books by the boxful.

I don’t have any pictures from inside, because I was, you know, too busy trying to find treasure. I totally got elbowed out of the record section by some old dudes. Old folks at rummages sales are really pushy, don’t you find? I guess I’m just not cutthroat enough for church basement bargain action.

All I bought was some baking – a half dozen pumpkin bran muffins for 3 bucks, and a pie plate full of jack-o-lantern cookies, also 3 bucks.

Here you are in my kitchen with your purchases: A nice, newish looking suitcase with wheels and everything for 4 bucks! It came in handy for carting home all the cookbooks and magazines you bought. I know you paid a quarter each for the magazines – how much were the books?

Betty Crocker’s New Good and Easy Cook Book, first published in 1962. Apparently in the 60s people needed to consult cookbooks to prepare packaged breakfast cereal.

For supper we went to the Bauernschmaus Restaurant (6796-99th Street), a German/Austrian restaurant that’s been around for as long as I can remember (though this is the first time I’ve been).

I don’t know if you’re aware that our Old Strathcona neighbourhood used to used to be the German part of town back in the day. I think there was a lot of German immigration after WWII (or did it happen earlier? I’m no historian). There used to be lots of German stores at one time – bakeries, butchers, restaurants and so on. Studio 82 cinema on Whyte Ave. used to show German movies weekly. The K & K Foodliner is an enduring remnant of this period (as is my German-born neighbour across the street who’s lived in the same house for more than 50 years).

Anyway, on to the meal.

I started with a large Leberknödelsuppe (beef liver dumpling soup). The substantial liver dumplings were meaty and delicious and the broth was mild and pleasant but not particularly flavorful.

My Bauernschmaus Farmer’s Feast plate was a pork lover’s delight – it came with a slice of smoked pork loin, a slice of roast pork loin and a (brautwurst?) sausage. I’ve been trying to eat more sauerkraut since I learned of its amazing health benefits, but this night I opted for rotkohl (red cabbage) instead. Dinners come with a salad and choice of starch: buttered potatoes, a dumpling, Viennese pasta or French fries. I had the Viennese pasta (sort of like German spätzle) which was light and buttery.

Your Wiener schnitzel and dumpling. The schnitzel had nicely seasoned breading and wasn’t at all greasy. The dumpling was made from bread rather than dough, which I’ve never seen before. It was very good – like a savory bread pudding.

Desserts are all made on the premises. I loved my Sacher torte. It was dense and moist and very chocolaty. I think it deviated from the traditional apricot filling with raspberry or strawberry jam under the chocolate icing.

I believe you were equally satisfied with your pumpkin cheesecake,

and the extra helping of whipped cream our server brought.

The service was old-worldly slow (especially the long wait between getting our menus and having our order taken), so it was a good thing we were in the best of possible company. Thanks for the lovely evening.

Posted by Jean Poutine

Lard

What does King Crabby do when she gets a terrible cold? Nothing. Well that is not true. I sit on the couch, watch bad tv and read my cookbooks. I started re-reading Fat by Jennifer McLagan.

Growing up we always rendered lard from pork back fat (for frying) and leaf fat (for baking) and since I was going to be home all long weekend on the couch there was no better time to make lard. I special ordered 10lbs of back fat from Irving Meats. It cost only 50 cents a pound.

First you remove all the excess meat. Then you cut the fat into cubes. Then you place it in a roasting pan and add some water to the pan.

Then you place it in a 250 degree oven for 6 to 12 hours depending on how much fat you have and how large your pan is. This batch took closer to 12 hours. Every hour or so you have to stir the fat.

When the fat starts to break up and turn a golden colour you strain the fat.

You can then pour the strained liquid into jars. You can also return the solids to the oven to render more fat.

When you pour the lard into the jars it will be a clear, slightly yellow liquid. Allow it to cool completely before you put lids on the jars. When it cools it will turn white. The 10lbs of back fat made four jars of lard. That means it only cost me $1.25 a jar. The little jar is for you Jean. The lard will keep in the fridge for months and in the freezer even longer.

On Monday when I was feeling better I picked apples with Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton. It is an organization that pairs people who want fruit, but don’t have any fruit trees and plants with people who have fruit trees and plants, but don’t want to harvest the fruit. Generally a third of the fruit goes to the pickers, one third goes to the owners and another third goes to the food bank. We picked 100lbs in two hours. So I took home almost 20 pounds of apples for free. They told me they are always in need of pickers. So if you want free fruit look them up. They are also having a pie making get together on Sunday. Everyone gets to take home one pie and the rest go to charity. I think this is an amazing group and I plan on picking more fruit next summer.

Posted by King Crabby

Rebar… ridiculous

Jean, have you ever met my friend M? She has been living in Africa for the past two years and is returning home tomorrow – she’ll be staying at my place tomorrow night. I am very excited to see her, but there’s just one thing – she’s a vegetarian. I thought I would make her some black bean soup from the only vegetarian cookbook I own – Rebar. I assumed it would involve combining a bunch of vegetables and simmering. I was wrong… so wrong!

After reading through the ingredients for the soup, I realized I had them all except some peppers and what they call “rebarbeque sauce”. Oh no… the dreaded Recipe Within A Recipe. Of course from that recipe I was missing allspice berries, dark beer and chipotle peppers. I want to point out that I thought I had every spice one could buy in Edmonton. I have a full spice rack and many ziploc bags of spices.

I went to Superstore hoping they might have all these ingredients. They had the regular peppers, but nothing else. Their liquor store didn’t even have the beer I needed. So off to 34th Ave. I went to try to find some allspice berries.

I went to the Spice Centre because they always have the spices I’m looking for. I have yet to figure out how they organize their spices so I spent my usual 20 minutes looking for the allspice berries. When I was about to give up (or actually ask for help), I found them. This is what they look like:

After the Spice Centre, I went to Argyll Foods (corner of 99th St. and Argyll Rd.), which is a little convenience store that specializes in Latino products. They had the chipotles and an amazing assortment of Latino candy (next time we need a sugar fix we should go). I found the beer at Liquor Depot. After what seemed like hours, the soup was ready. I was too tired to take photos during the cooking.

Since my friend isn’t here until tomorrow, and I like meat, I added grilled halibut to my soup. I also added some chopped tomatoes and cilantro as a garnish. The soup was smoky, spicy and hearty. I liked how it tasted, but I wouldn’t make this soup again due to the long prep and cooking time.

On a side note: When I was at the Spice Centre I overheard the owner talking to another customer about flour – I could tell he LOVED the product. I went over and saw this:

Sun Prairie is located in Nanton, Alberta. The owner told me a naturopath recommended the flour to his wife 15 years ago as the healthiest flour available in Alberta. Back then they would drive to Nanton to buy it for themselves. Now they carry it in their store and insist it is the best flour around. I plan on using it to make many delicious loaves of bread.

Posted by King Crabby

Rhubarb

I harvested my first crop of rhubarb this weekend. This is when rhubarb is at its best – early in the season when the stalks are ripe but before they get too big and woody

…and before the hobos steal it (you laugh, but I used to have three plants – now I only have two).

Do you have any rhubarb recipes you like, KC? I’m always on the lookout for new ways to use rhubarb even though I have this cookbook:

It’s not a bad book, but I’m dismayed that many of the cake recipes call for cake mix.

Last night I made a simple crisp

and this morning, as you know, I made some wonderfully light rhubarb muffins.

Here’s the best recipe I know for rhubarb – I don’t think you’ll find it in a book:

  1. Be really young, like 8 or 4 years old
  2. Pull a stalk of rhubarb from the garden
  3. Dip the end in the sugarbowl
  4. Eat the sugar-coated end
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4
  6. Don’t let mom catch you

Posted by Jean Poutine