January 2010


Food: Home Cookin'24 Jan 2010 09:38 am

I have to admit, I’ve always been cautious when it comes to sausage. I mean, I love it, but I can only eat so much. Perhaps this is because I can’t stop thinking about all the bad that comes with the good. It’s salty, it’s full of fat, it’s often smoked which isn’t that good for you either. There are nitrates and preservatives…and it’s so filling! Despite all these negatives, I am Ukrainian, so I grew up around rings of garlicky kielbasa and do enjoy dried sausages when hiking.

But: I am no sausage addict.

Mike has been discussing wanting to make sausage for some time. We have a lot of extra bits of deer meat from the bucks he shot this fall perfect for making into sausage. There are places in town that will make sausage for you out of game meat, so we considered dropping it off there and coming back to collect the links later. But, the more reading Mike did, the more interested he was in developing his own recipe, and in smoking his own meats. I have to admit when he said “I am going to make sausage” I envisioned this classic scene from Seinfeld:

So, we went to get a Bradley digital smoker a few weeks ago, and it’s been non-stop meat at the house since. Ribs, chicken and yes: sausage. We purchased the smoker at BBQ Country.

bbq country

BBQ country is a pretty great place. In addition to many BBQ models, there is a wide selection of BBQ tools, wood chips, sauces, rubs… anything the avid BBQer needs.

bradley digital smoker

The smoker is about the size of a bar fridge, and is happy living on our condo patio. It doesn’t make all that much smoke, but it really billows out when you open the door. It’s completely automated, with a special loader for wood chip “pucks”, a timer and a bunch of other settings I am completely unaware of. Mike is the smokemaster.

bbq country

bbq country

bbq country

In addition to the smoker, we also needed a few other specialty items, such as:

  • pork back fat (to add to the lean venison)
  • sausage casing
  • sausage press
  • meat grinder
  • smoke sticks
  • spices
  • measuring equipment: thermometers, scales and tape measures

Most of these items were purchased at CTR Refrigeration & Food Supply in Edmonton (10456 170 Street). The meat grinder we already had, but a few stops at the butcher and Home Depot and things were completely set up. And that is where I took my leave from the process and the men took over.

sausage press animation

There were two days of sausage making, with a knackwurst and hunter sausage being the final products. Here, Mike and Evan are trying to get the first sausage coil going. Things went pretty smoothly over all, with a few bursts and air pockets, but nothing too out of hand. I do know our kitchen is probably  too small for three tall men to be making sausage in, though.

I can’t speak much to the steps, but seems having the right grind on the meat and keeping the meat and equipment very cold (pre-grinding and during pressing) seemed helpful, and that there was a lot of cutting of meat, and double grinding of meat.

s06

I think that hog casings were used. They come packed in salt, for sterilization and preservation, so you have to soak them and rinse them thoroughly before using them.

venison sausage

venison sausage

venison sausage

venison sausage

venison sausage

Before the sausages smoke, they must hang overnight to develop a pellicle. This is a sticky surface for the smoke to stick to.

venison sausage

Then, they smoke.

venison sausage

After a few hours (depending on flavour desired) the hot sausages are plunged in an ice bath to stop the cooking.

venison sausage
Oh god, so good. Paprika laden venison knackwurst with braised red cabbage and bacon, and tarragon potatoes.

The sausage is unlike anything I’ve ever had. It’s got a crispy snap when you bite into it, and the inside is at once juicy and substantial. The venison is a great flavour, and any dryness is tempered by the pork fat. The smoke adds depth, and the spices are strong, but not overwhelming. This is no supermarket sausage. It’s not even deli sausage.

I guess you could now call me a bonafide sausage lover, since I can not stop thinking about it.

Food: Edmonton11 Jan 2010 04:04 pm

tony's pretzel

People have long argued over what kind of pizza is better: thin crust or deep dish. I’m of the opinion that the best is thin crust, which is why I love Edmonton-based Tony’s Pizza Palace. I try not to eat it too often, but probably average once a month. While they do fantastic pizzas, the pasta that comes out of the kitchen is rustic and satisfying. But best of all: the Italian pretzel.

For $7.95, this is no wimpy snack. I wouldn’t even characterize it as an appetizer, since if you ate even a quarter of it with a salad or soup, it would be a full blown meal. When I want something crispy, chewy, salty and spicy, this is what I crave.

Tony’s crust is what keeps me going back, and this takes that dough, twists and swirls it, tops it with garlic, spices, anchovies and olive oil and bakes it. God, it is good. I’m fantasizing now as I write about it.

IMG_6973

Food: Edmonton10 Jan 2010 06:19 pm

bulk barn edmonton

bulk barn edmonton

I know, I know. I’m late to the party on this one. But I have spent most of December either locked down because of the cold or because the video game Fallout 3 is ruling my life, and I have been sitting on this post. But I’ll tell you right now, if you enjoy baking or just like having access to a huge selection of products, get your ass over to Bulk Barn now.

Many of you who are well-versed in Edmonton’s food are well aware of Bulk Barn and its opening in town. It is a Ontario-based chain that opened their first franchise in Edmonton in late November. My mom had just been singing the praises of the store on her trip through Lethbridge enroute to Montana in September and how good it was when she was in Thunder Bay. Well it is finally here.

So what makes it different than the already good bulk sections of Save On Foods and Superstore? For one, the selection. There are thousands of products here. They may not all be in rotation at the same point, as some products are seasonal, but there is a huge cross section of items. Second: everything is fresh, well stocked, and clean. Also, the items can be measured so that there is little waste when you use them, stopping products you use only a few times a year from going stale.  Lastly, the prices are amazing.

Don’t think the items are limited to just flour and spices, either. There are wet products, pet products, natural foods and supplements as well as specialty cake pans for rent, and baking tools.

As a baker, I went nuts buying specialty flour and ingredients. I also picked up a friend’s favourite hard to find snack: chocolate dipped jujubes, and mailed them to her in Calgary.  Ibought items for snacking on, for sharing at the office… and for eating in the car ride home.

bulk barn edmonton

Pet products, ranging from bird seed to dog food and hamster munchies. No crickets for MY pets though.

bulk barn edmonton

The wet bar features nut butters.

bulk barn edmonton

Nifty machine for corn syrup. This is where most of my ingredients for marshmallows came from. I was surprisingly accurate in measuring out the products, so there was little waste: something I was really happy about.

bulk barn edmonton

Pipette bag tips for icing and decorating.

bulk barn edmonton

Cake pans were a mere $1.99 a day (with deposit) and if you could think of it, they had it. (Well, mostly…)

bulk barn edmonton

Clean clean clean! It should also be mentioned there were a lot of bags, pencils and twist ties. No struggling with broken or missing pens. As a bonus, for those of you who do not like writing down numbers on tiny tags with tiny pencils, the staff will look up SKU codes at the checkout. You’ll save time if you do it yourself, though.

bulk barn edmonton

Of course, a huge selection of candy, including over 40 Christmas products for the season. These jawbreakers were the size of ping-pong balls.

bulk barn edmonton

bulk barn edmonton

Many MANY spices here.

bulk barn edmonton

Rainbow of sprinkles, and other baking decorations.

bulk barn edmonton

The best was that they had take-home directions for many products, such as buttermilk power and soya milk powder.

bulk barn edmonton

Nuts on sale. Ranging from regular dry roasted to specially flavoured and smoked.

bulk barn edmonton

More cooler wet bar products. Kind of industrial looking, but clean.

bulk barn edmonton

The offerings of just one aisle. I love that “health food” is down the same aisle as candy and chocolate.

bulk barn edmonton

Many gluten-free and restricted diet products here. A god send for those of you who find it hard to get these products, or if you find them pricey.

So, Bulk Barn is basically amazing. I can only describe it as turning up the volume on bulk foods. Take your average product, such as yogurt covered raisins and multiply it: suddenly there are yogurt covered cherries, blueberries and cranberries. You buy how much you need, they offer discounts to students and seniors, and you get coupons when you check out for use on future visits. I highly recommend the honey mustard pretzels by the way.

Other Edmonton food bloggers have long ago written about this place, including Chris over at Eating is the Hard Part.

Bulk Barn
2077 98 Street
(In South Edmonton Common, near Superstore and Bed Bath & Beyond)
(780) 461-4454

Food: Edmonton09 Jan 2010 07:16 pm

The Bothy is the new darling on the Edmonton food scene. I’ve been waiting a while for this place to open. The promise of charcuterie got me drooling! Seems it has filled a gap in the Edmonton market as the place has been packed on both visits I have paid.

We left for the restaurant late, knowing the kitchen was open until 10:30. It’s nice to have a late night dining option that isn’t fried Sysco food.

the bothy, edmonton

The location is odd, but not crazy. It is Edmonton, after all. It’s near a few clothing stores, a car dealership and wine store in a strip mall off Calgary Trail south. It seems to fit for the restaurant, as it is narrow and long, featuring a prominent glossy bar. It was shockingly humid in the restaurant that first visit; it must have something to do with the wine. It was nice to be very warm on a cold evening, though.

They feature a long living wine list and many kinds (90+) of whisky. While they did not have champagne by the glass when I first visited, they do now, including a decadent offering from Krug. They also pour two and five ounce glasses of wine from the Enomatic machine. Maybe this will be the place to finally learn about wine.

the bothy, edmonton
We started with a three item charcuterie platter. Many of the items are sourced in Alberta, but I was disappointed to see there were no Valbella products. Most products come via shops I already frequent, like the Italian Centre or Paddys Cheese, so this wasn’t as mind blowing as I had hoped. I’d love to see some housemade sausages or pâté find their way onto the menu.

Here: roquefort, smoked cheddar and pork rillettes. It came with some tiny dabs of condiments, some pesto on token greens and some very crusty, half cut bread. I found it hard to tear off pieces from the loaf, which sent crumbs skittering across the table.

the bothy, edmonton
Bread crumbs all over the table! They remained the entire meal, too. Oh well, it’s a casual joint.

the bothy, edmonton
In contrast to the long wine menu, the food menu is short. But, they know their strengths. They were sold out of haggis, so that left salad or housemade savoury pies. We followed up the charcuterie board with the pies. I got the outstanding tomato infused Provencal pie with creamy mashed potatoes.

the bothy, edmonton
The pastry was flaky and delicious, and definitely homemade.

the bothy, edmonton
Mike got steak and mushroom, with the soup of the day: tomato-bacon. It was the real standout at the meal. It was thick as tomato sauce, but rich and smoky in flavour. Very filling and satisfying.

I tried the salad on the next visit, which I can only describe as puzzling. It was spicy arugula with shavings of parm cheese and a very mild, lightly applied lemon vinaigrette. That’s it. Greens and cheese. For $11. So I can’t say I recommend their salads. There was definitely something lacking.

the bothy, edmonton
There was a lot of “mall art” in the space. Weird paintings featuring wine…and Marilyn Monroe. This one hadn’t made it up yet though. It was hiding in the wine room.
the bothy, edmonton

As we were preparing to leave, a familiar face from work stumbled in, my friend and fellow blogger Ben Gelinas. He and his friends got there after the kitchen closed, but ordered some whisky, including cracking this Glenfarclas 1979 which Andrew is holding. It runs $69 a serving. The bottle is a cool $1700.

Service was all over the map. Know that it can be incredibly busy, and it may take a while to get your order in. Chef Kevin Ostapek came out to greet us, and two of the three servers were on the ball..the third seemed to spend every spare minute fighting with the restaurant POS system.

Oh, and a word on the name. It is a reference to small shelter found in the wild areas of Scotland, meant to protect people against the elements or provide a restful refuge, if needed. I hope to find myself in need of refuge soon…

The Bothy
5482 Calgary Trail
780.761.1761
closed Mondays

Crafts etc and Food and Food: Home Cookin'07 Jan 2010 06:11 pm

marshmallows

My make-at-home, oven-friendly S’more kit. Based on an idea from Twig and Thistle.

So perhaps the title of this post is a bit misleading. I knew what I was getting into by making marshmallows. Candy thermometers, sticky messes and experimentation. But somehow, it still turned into a nightmare.

Oh sure, everyone says they are easy. Those people are highly talented in the kitchen though: people like Martha Stewart and the bloggers behind Smitten Kitchen and Whisk. Even with an anxious approach, I still screwed up.

My intention was to put together adorable little S’more packages as New Years gifts. I can’t take credit for the idea, it originated here, at Twig and Thistle. The main difference was that I was going to make my own marshmallows. I really regret not making my own graham crackers as well, but: next year!

The most challenging part of this was finding a trustworthy candy thermometer and the right packaging for the kit. I ended up ordering a bundle of clear acrylic boxes from a wedding favour supply company in Vancouver called Wedding Things. A company called Uline, as well as Etsy and eBay were both options, but they either sold in HUGE amounts or shipping was a bit higher than I liked, so I went with a company close to home.

The first recipe I tried was from Smitten Kitchen. I liked it as it included egg whites, which is not a common component of most marshmallow recipes. I was hoping they would make springy, less saccharine marshmallows. I bought most of my ingredients from Bulk Barn (more on that later) and made them with my mom’s KitchenAid mixer. It’s an important tool for making marshmallows, as a hand mixer may just not have enough power. But some people reported success, so give it a try.

marshmallows

marshmallows

Uh-oh. This doesn’t look right. It foamed up like a science experiment, too.

My first error: using a pot that was too large. I anticipated a huge mess, so I used a huge pot to contain the sugar syrup. This allowed the sugar mix to have large changes in temperature, and I think in the end what got me was that my thermometer didn’t get a good read, and I was anxious for the mix to hit the magic temperature of 240F. One second it was clear and bubbly…and an instant later: golden brown and smelling of burnt sugar.

I put my mix into the gelatin in my KitchenAid mixer, and mixed. Then: problems. The candy syrup had hit the candy temperature, and was starting to solidify. It got stuck in the marshmallow mix, to the whisk and embedded itself in the mix.

This is what I liked to call marshmallow amber.

marshmallows

marshmallows

Much like real amber, right? Just missing the prehistoric insect.

1206707446gcEry1D

The hard chunks were embedded in nearly every marshmallow, stuck to the KitchenAid mixer whisk and pretty much ruined my first batch…and nearly killed the KitchenAid. It was overheating like you wouldn’t believe, as the candy wrapped itself around the whisk and slowed the motor considerably.

marshmallows

While the flavour was good: kind of caramel tinged, the texture and colour were horrible, and there were still hidden chunks of candy hidden inside. Bad news.

So, I remade the marshmallows, using a new recipe. This time, no egg whites, and I relied on a more scientific Alton Brown recipe. He laid it down in terms my science background could understand. Oh: I also did not let the candy mixture get too hot, stopping at 235F. I added a half teaspoon more of vanilla, and used clear vanilla so it kept the marshmallows snow-white.

marshmallows


The second batch went much better. Here, cutting them. Some people use scissors, or a pizza cutter.

marshmallows


Giving the marshmallows a corn starch/icing sugar bath.
marshmallows


The first batch is on the right, the second on the left. They are puffier as I used smaller pans to make them thicker, and didn’t over heat the syrup this time. They were a bit sweeter because there was more corn syrup in them, but the texture was wonderful.

marshmallows
marshmallows
Packaged up, tied with bakers twine and…marshmallows

Given instructions and a best before date.
marshmallows

My recipe cards were some silly tissue paper fires. I think a grade two student may be more skilled with glue than I am.

So my tips:

  • Use a medium sized, Teflon coated pot.
  • Get a thermometer you trust, and pull the syrup off the stove at, or just below 240F.
  • Coat your stiff spatula in spray oil or wet it first before scraping the marshmallow out of the mixer bowl.
  • RESIST the urge to scrape everything out of the bowl. This is where things get really sticky. It may go against your nature of “getting the last drop”, but it will be easier.
  • Use a mix of corn starch and icing sugar to roll the slightly sticky mallows in.

I will be trying lavender marshmallows soon, much like the ones I was too full to try from The Bison in Banff.

Some other marshmallow posts: