9/18/12

YOU NEED A "PORK-IN-THE-BUTT"
 
 
A dear grandmother we know of was famous for her traditional Quebecoise pork spread. She said, "Guerton". Some spell it "Cretons".

But, in the translation to English, dear grandmother referred to the main ingredient as, "Pork in the Butt." Granny! We'll give grandma a pass; not sure whether she was aware of the raunchy reference. French was her mother tongue.

Below is the original hand written recipe. Grandmother was born in Quebec in 1886; French was her first, and preferred, language.

Here is the recipe as given by Emiril Lagasse.
 
Ingredients:

•1 1/4 lbs ground pork
•3/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
•1 teaspoon minced garlic
•1 teaspoon salt
•3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
•1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
•1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
•1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
•1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
•3/4 cup whole milk
•1/4 cup fine breadcrumbs
 
Directions:
1. In a large saute pan, add the pork and cook until no longer pink, about 3 minutes.
2. Add the onions and garlic, and cook for 1 minute.
3. Add the salt, pepper, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and cook for 1 minute.
4. Add the milk and bread crumbs and cook for 3 minutes over medium heat, stirring to break up the meat.
5. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pork is very tender and most of the liquid is evaporated, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
6. Remove the lid and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and all the liquid is evaporated, about 10 to 15 minutes.
7. Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning, to taste.
8. Transfer to a decorative bowl or several smaller ramekins, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula.
9. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled and firm, at least 4 hours or overnight.
10. Serve with thinly sliced French bread or toasted French bread croutons.
 
Addendum:
 
Grandmother also covered the Guerton with a thin layer of home rendered lard. Some recipes add a small portion of ground lightly smoked bacon (recommended: Polish Cooked Bacon / Boczek Gotowany - Wedzony) to the meat mixture. Ground allspice is also an optional spicing. A Bay Leaf should do nicely. The Cinnamon and Ginger, we would hold down, or leave out. But, taste dictates. See what you like.

Here's another spicy dish. He's a dog, what do you expect?
 



Triumph The Insult Comic Dog - Quebec by ianreds

9/17/12

Refrigerator Pickles 101


By refrigerator pickles we are talking about any of a variety of vegetables that can be quickly processed in a vinegar based brine to be stored in the ice box. And, it's not called an ice box because it makes ice for you. Why, son, when I was a mere kitten, the ice was brought "to" the ice box. Literally. Put down your smart[ass]phone and look it up. Or, look it up on it, you smart-ass.

I kid. Moving on ...

You can make refrigerator pickles using cucumbers whole or sliced, cauliflower florets, beets, zucchini, turnip bits, peppers, watermelon rind, even tomatoes and okra. These things can also be put up for long term shelf storage, but that's another topic; there you have the considerations that need to be taken into account owing to the extra heating/cooking step in the canning process.

Hey! This is really importando!:

If you search around you will no doubt see that there are several different treatments on the amount of vinegar. Without further (or any) ado, here is Cooky Cat's unfailingly excellent and superior vinegar brine formula:

Vinegar Brine Preparation

2 parts water
1 part vinegar
1 tsp. salt per quart

That ratio gives enough vinegar to do the pickling and enough spark on the palate. Of course, tastes vary, so adjust to your liking.

Type of Vinegar

There's white wine vinegar which will do the trick almost always. Then, apple cider vinegar. It brings an extra flavor dimension, and you just have to decide when it fits. Pickled beets and pickled watermelon rinds take cider vinegar well.

Then there's the quality of the vinegar itself. That's up to you. If you get into this thing big time you can experiment with different sources and types. Bragg makes an excellent organic raw apple cider vinegar, but it might be too expensive for large and frequent batches. Let's not become vinegar snobs. (As we have with olive oils, coffees, chocolates, and salts. How many types of tamari do you have on hand? Miso?) Keep your eye on the pickle is Cooky Cat's advice.

Let's Get To It

Brine Cooking #1 . . .

The thing about refrigerator pickles is that you bring the brine solution to a boil combined with whatever spicings and flavorings you will incorporate. Then you add the vegetable(s) of your choosing to that boiling liquid and bring it back to a boil, simmer to done tender/crisp. How long you leave it to cook in the brine depends on the vegetable itself. Cauliflower, carrots, beets, turnips and watermelon rind need more time than such like cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, okra, or tomatoes.

Brine Cooking #2 . . .

Alternatively, you could par-boil the vegetables in salted water to get them to the level of doneness. Then, add the boiled brine to the vegetables. On reflection this seems to be the more foolproof way to do it. But, Cooky Cat cooks to please himself. So should you. (On the theory that what pleases the cook will please the others.)

How Much Brine? . . .

The Cooky Cat method is to prepack the vegetables into the selected container(s), fill with water, then measure the volume of liquid. There you have the amount of brine you should prepare. And, a little extra more since the veggies will shrink a bit when heated/cooked.

Preparing the Vegetables . . .

The general rule: cut into bite sized pieces. With zucchini we like a thinnish slice. Cucumbers, the world is your oyster on those: whole; halved; spears; plain slices; crinkle cut slices; dices large, medium, small; and a fine dice for a relish. Beets: sliced, halved, quartered, diced, julienne. Peppers: whole, halved, slivered, sliced.

Spicing/Flavoring . . .

Rule #1: Taste the brine and adjust as you want. Let your own taste preferences guide you.

Here are some of the basics:

In general it seems to up the flavor if you add a teaspoon or so of salt per quart of water.

If you want it sweet, sugar, at least 2 tablespoons per quart of brine; or more to taste, or for something that you want to be "sweet", like watermelon rinds or some recipes for cucumbers (e.g., "Bread and Butter Pickles" and sweet Asian recipes).

Alternates to plain sugar (we only use cane sugar, beet sugar has an off taste to us) give them a try. Maybe it's from driving past a sugar beet processing plant in Nebraska once upon a time. Pheww! But branch out if you are going to be putting yourself in a pickle frequently. Just don't experiment in the beginning. K-I-S-S: Keep-It-Simple-Stupid*. Get some facility with the process, then consider options. *(Not that you're stupid; it's an expression.)

With Cauliflower you can make it plain with vinegar or sweet with some sugar. You can add turmeric for a nice yellow color. Also, yellow mustard seeds and/or mustard powder. On all those extras, though, easy does it. The cauliflower is a great pickle all by itself. Turmeric goes a long way. You don't want folks to take a bite and say "Turmeric!" Or, "Mustard!"

Beets: Cider vinegar seems to be called for here. Spice with whole cloves and cinnamon. Some Star anise might be nice to try. Black peppercorns and allspice berries. Sliced onions too.

Pickled Turnips (the tender white kind) are great. In the Mid-East the name is Lift; we say "lif-it". Add a few slices of raw red beet root to give your turnip pickle for a vibrant pink color. De rigueur.

Cucumber Pickles: Not recommended, but if you are going to use the usual supermarket variety be sure to peel the skin. That type has appeal, but not the peel; please. Be sure to get as small and firm as you can find. Also, best to cut them up into smaller pieces. Spice as you would for brine cured pickles: yellow mustard seeds, coriander seeds, peppercorns, whole allspice berries. A little whole clove, fresh garlic, or hot pepper seeds if you want.

"Bread and Butter" them up, sweetened with sugar, adding turmeric for a nice yellow color.

If you get small Gherkins, Kirby's, or Cornichons you can also go really sweet with a whole bunch of sugar. Again, the level is to your taste.

Zucchini: Thin slice zucchini along with a small portion of sweet onion. Pickle sour style or sweeten as for bread and butter pickles. Optionals: yellow mustard seeds and/or mustard, turmeric. If you have a garden you probably know the thing about how if you grow zucchini "You know who your friends are" . . . Zucchini has a tendency to be rather abundant. Surpluses going to friends and neighbors, again and again. If you want to make friends, give the zucchini pickles.

Watermelon Rinds: Leave a very little pink showing and, of course, trim the skin and down a bit to get past that tough outer rind. Make a very sweet brine flavored with cloves and cinnamon and cook the rinds until done. There are recipes online that make this into a 3-step multiple day thing. Just simmer them in the sweet brine until crisp/tender and put in a jar. Let cool and store in the refrigerator. In two days, enjoy. K-I-S-S.

Peppers: If there's a place here for the green bell pepper, it's probably in some kind of relish. Otherwise, were talking about every other pepper other than those belly bomb green bells.

Small peppers can be pickled whole. Larger, cut them up. If you are preparing large thick fleshed colored peppers, best to deseed and cut in half at least, or quartered, slivered, cross-sliced thin.

Thin flesh peppers tend to be tough skinned, so cut them in thin slices crosswise. Maybe try simmering in brine longer for a more tender whole thin flesh pepper.

As for whether to leave the seeds or not. You choose. Only, as we said, with the large thick fleshed kinds the seeds and the pulp take away aesthetically. Remove.

Last Words . . .

We know this is not anywhere near the total picture. You either have the experience to fill in, or the Internet is at your finger tips. Just we offer the priceless Cooky Cat hard earned by experience knowledge to light your path. So you shouldn't get into a real pickle. OK?

Inspired by our Dear Friend David D. Wronski ...





9/16/12

Dill Pickles 101


If you are one of the legion of Cooky Cat followers, you know that he is spot on, but not so much with the detailed in's and out's. This piece is about pickles and how to get into one yourself without too much muss or fuss. And, even trying to keep it to the bare basics, we wound up with a bit of verbiage. It's not tricky or complicated, just a few points to follow strictly.

Pickles and pickling is a broad subject. If you want the chapter and verse, we recommend The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. It just might be the bible of pickles, and all fermented things.

But, you got some Kirby pickles from the green grocer or farmers market and you want some dills. And, soon. So here it is.

Brine Cured Dill Pickles

Small fresh cucumbers (Quantity of your choosing, a dozen is a good start.)

Select smallish cucumbers. Kirby's (aka gherkins) are the gold standard. We've also had success with the Persian type and Cornichons. Freshness is key. Select plumpers with unblemished skins, nothing shriveled. On that let's not quibble.

Brine water (Ratio of 2.0 Tablespoons non-iodized salt to 1 quart water, non-chlorinated)

REPEAT: Non-Iodized salt (Kosher is good) and no chlorine in the water. That means no tap water. Or, if using tap water, it must be boiled first to remove the chlorine.

For the brine 2.0 T level salt per quart of water. We got the proportion from an interpretation of Mr. Arthur Scwartz's definitive recipe. Just to be sure it's non-iodized: Pickling salt or Kosher. Regular table salt won't work.


The water should be room temperature, pure, and un-chlorinated. Bottled spring water or tap water boiled (the boiling removes the chlorine from tap water).

You don't need to boil the spring water to dissolve the salt. Or, boil a little to dissolve the salt. Heat up the whole bunch and you end up waiting for it to get back down to room temperature. We're guessing the usual recipe instructions to boil the brine has more to do with being sure the Chlorine is dissipated when using tap water.

So, you ask, how much brine do I need? How should we know? You figure it out. OK, here's how. Load the cleaned cucumbers into your clean container. Fill with water. Then measure the liquid volume. That's that. Proceed to add the salt at the 1 quart water to 2.0 T salt ratio. Yes, you have to remove the fresh pickles from the container; but, it's a pretty slick trick don't you think?

Spices/flavorings (Recommended: Fresh dill [in flower is best, available mid/late summer if you can find it]. Yellow mustard seeds, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, whole allspice berries, bay leaf. Optionals: Garlic, whole cloves (just a few), hot pepper pods.)

Assembly

We prefer to cure our pickles in one batch. For that a large 2.5 quart glass jar will hold about 18-24 very small pickles nicely. Divvy them among several jars if you want; but, big is better. Or, invest in a clay crock and get all Martha (Stewart) up in there. A crock is great especially if you are making mass quantities. And, if you are making pickles often. Otherwise, it's a dust catcher. Or, a crock, if you will.

We pack first some dill and the spices, then a layer of pickles standing on end, more dill, more pickles, then some more dill. It'll be dillicious.

You want the pickles to be completely submerged in the brine. We pack the brining jar tight so the pickles don't float. But a small something like a dish or a plastic bag with some brine water will make a decent weight to keep those critters in the brine.

Taking the Cure

Here's a key factor to keep in mind: "Time & Temperature." Fermentation takes place in time; how fast, however, depends on the temperature. If you go on to actually prepare your own brine fermented pickles, pay attention to the progress. Higher temperature, faster brining. 

In the summer weather it seems to take only a 1 to 2 for our pickles to reach the "half sour" stage; kind of a 50/50 fresh/brined level. (Great with a pastrami or corned beef on rye and a cold Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray Tonic*.)

You decide how sour you like your pickles. Probably no more than 3-5 days at room temperature should be more than enough. Then put them in the fridge. They will continue to sour in the cold, but more slowly.

Lately we are leaving the pickles only one day at room temperature. Then, into the refrigerator. They will continue to ferment, but slowly; keeping that half sour freshness.

We transfer the pickles as their numbers decrease into smaller and smaller jars. That saves refrigerator space and gets the big boy jar ready for next week's batch of pickles. This summer season we've been in the weekly pickle now for three months.

Don't Forget

And, don't toss out the brine. Cube some cooked potatoes and add to a good chicken stock with minced onion/shallot sautéed in butter, shredded carrots and shredded dill pickles. Add 1 cup of brine to 4 cups of stock (more, to taste). Stir in lots of chopped fresh dill. Thicken with a slurry of flour and water. Season to taste; careful, the brine is salty. Polish Dill Pickle Soup. Really excellent. For sure. You likey.

When we serve pickles, we serve a bunch. "For the money" is a delicatessen term for a lot. Which, of course, you gotta pay for. Usually you will get a complementary single slice of a half sour or a full sour dill pickle with your Pastrami or Corned Beef on Rye sandwich. 

"For the money" let's them know you want a boat load. And, like we said, you'll pay. The Cooky Cat recommended proper amount.

__________________________________


Question #15
When you bring home a new jar of Sesame Tahini what is the first thing to do?

Answer:

Turn it upside down and leave it there for a while to let what settled down to the bottom work itself loose.

Background:

Getting that Sesame Tahini back to a uniform consistency is the first order of business to make it usable. The stuff settles into a thick paste at the bottom of the jar as it makes the journey from the mill in Beirut to your humble abode in Bensenhurst.

Too many times this Cat has opened a jar of Sesame Tahini and found himself wrassling with a wooden spoon trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to reconstitute the paste into a homogeneity. Once, even emptied the entire jar into a food processor. It worked fine, just a lot of lost product. And, a mess to clean up.

So, friend, from now on, turn it over!

Deep Background:

Mr. Schwartz is up in years and wants to treat himself to a grand vacation. (This is a Jewish joke.) So in preparation he goes to Dr. Berger for a complete check up. Dr. Boiger, I vant the works. So I should go on my holiday in Miami with peace of mind. Dr. Berger performs every test known to science. Mr. Schwartz, we gave you the whole kitchen sink of tests and you should be pleased to know you are 100%, a poifect specimen. Go to Miami and have a good time. Mozeltov! Only a few moments after dear old Mr. Schwartz leaves the office, the nurse runs frantic into Dr. Berger's office screaming, Dr. Berger! Dr. Berger! That Mr. Schwartz dropped dead with a heart attack right outside your office door! What should we do? Dr. Berger thinks it over and rubs his chin a bit then says, Vell, foist you toyn him around, so he looks like he's coming in.

9/8/12

Nothing Like Jersey Tomatoes
Nothing Like . . .

"Jersey Tomatoes"

9/6/12

Practical kitchen magic . . .


We had the idea that sticking a clove in an onion in a stew or soup was some kind of mysterious culinary alchemy.

Then the discovery it was just so you don't lose the clove.