Canning Cabbage Part 2 – Sauerkraut

A full three quarters of a mightily dense cabbage head remains in the fridge so my Mason jar odyssey continues. First came the Korean kimchee, then the Mexican curtido and now I’m going to finish off this great green beast by hacking it up, salting and fermenting it as a classic Northern European sauerkraut.

Now what we in America refer to with the blanket term of “sauerkraut” actually is part of a great Germanic-Scandanavian tradition of fermenting vegetables to keep during hard times thought to have originated in the Eurasian Steppes and spread by marauding tribes such as the Huns, Tartars and Mongols. Nowadays the name is synonymous with Germany, its culture and culinary traditions. (more…)

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Beautiful Things : Notes From the NVICA Charcuterie Workshop

My father told me once that there are three things in life that we must do: Work hard, be honest and make beautiful things” With these words John Van Der Lieck plunged his hands into a dark, shimmering paste of pork liver to the reverent, nodding ascent of a roomful of chefs.

We were in the spacious commercial kitchen of North Island College’s Culinary Arts department for the NVICA Charcuterie Workshop; a two-day journey through the world of salting, curing, pressing and preserving meats. There were twenty or so of us foodservice pros gathered around John as he guided us from whole hog (literally!) to finished product and every critical step in between. (more…)

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Sesame-Pickled Burdock Root

New ingredients are like amphetamines for kitchen creativity. From the moment I get home from a farmer’s market or an afternoon of foraging or hell, just back from a regular ‘ol grocery shopping run I’m jacked up! What is this crazy looking-stuff? Where did it come from? How do I process it and what can I do with all the bits? My mind is vibrating in a million different directions at once!

Last week I got a hold of some burdock root at the market in Courtenay and had just such a moment. These rough-looking tubers looked more like something dug out of a cat box than anything I’d serve for dinner, but The lady I bought ‘em from was insistent that they were a delicious spring delicacy! So yeah, I got ‘em home, mind ablaze and immediately starting hunting through my cookbooks for more info. (more…)

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Duck Prosciutto

My two greatest culinary passions are a) methods of preserving food- the simpler and more flavourful the better – and b) duck! The former being a tether to the distant past when salting and fermenting meant survival for crafty cooks and the latter being the tastiest damn animal know to man.

Now I know I’ve already done a ton of duck recipes, including the great-granddaddy of all preserved duck dishes: confit du canard, but bear with me one more time ‘cause this one’s a keeper. It’s a technique for preserving breasts that results in a semi-cured, dense and beautifully salty-sweet taste reminiscent of prosciutto de parma.  It’s dead-easy and a great entry-level way to get into more serious charcuterie. (more…)

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Pickled Red Cabbage

Pickled Red Cabbage 5Walking around the local Megalomart produce section in the depths of a rainy West coast winter is a real lesson in our dependency on other places for our food. Yeah, I’d love to eat strawberries, tomatoes and mangos all year long, but the costs (financially and environmentally) of supporting the industrial mega-greenhouses of Mexico, Argentina and China outweigh my base cravings.

So I obsessively scan the “Product Of…” signs, hoping to hit something Canadian, or better yet, from our own backyard. Drives my wife freakin crazy!

These local eats are often hardier root veggies, or tough fibrous greens that look a bit scrubby next to piles of supermodel red peppers and dragonfruits. The kind of tubers, berries and brassica that need a little bit more processing to be as tender and sexy as the subtropical stuff. (more…)

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