Comment to this blog post on who/what is your favourite local producer/grower for a chance to win the goodies in the pic above!
Contest time! (*Note: this contest was posted on my Facebook page but you can participate without it - see below for details.)
I started Elgin Harvest as a creative outlet for my food fantasies and also to serve as an example and encouragement to fellow food lovers that we have some incredibly delicious foods grown & produced right here in our own backyard. My view on food tends to be swayed from my professional chef training, but it is more influenced as a community member than anything else; I want my neighbours to be able to make a living at providing wholesome, delectable, fresh, and safe food for me and my family.
2013 has been a roller coaster of a year for Elgin Harvest and throughout it all there has always been support from my friends and followers - and I thank you all for sending me the encouragement to proceed on in a meat & potato world.
As another way of giving thanks, I will be running a contest until 12 noon on December 8 where you will have a chance to win one jar of dried tomatoes preserved in olive oil, one jar of beer brined pickled jalapenos, and one jar containing a 4-ounce round of Cabecou cheese marinated in spices and olive oil. Just to sweeten the pot, the winner will also receive a cotton tote bag and apron from Elgin Harvest.
So, what do you have to do to win this locally delicious prize pack?
1. Make a comment below stating which independent local food grower or producer in your community is your favourite (doesn't have to be from Elgin County but does have to be close to YOU)
For pretend bonus points: Share this post with your friends using the icons below.
Contest only open to residents of Canada.
The title of this post is Homage de Fromage but it could just as easily be called The Big Cheese.
I say big because it's a big deal to me. It's something I have always wanted to do and with a how-to book, the internet, and grocery store milk the magical transformation from goat to chèvre has me hooked on curds. Although I had made "30-minute mozzarella-style cheese" several times before (which always took a lot longer than 30 minutes), I had never made a real cheese, using live cheese cultures until just a few months ago. Since then the world of cheese has awakened my inner dairy-goddess and my biggest wish is to have a milking goat in the backyard (and steady employment, but I digress).
The process or making cheese is rather simple: heat milk, add a culture and/or enzymes to coagulate and acidify the milk, cut to form curds and whey (the solids and the liquid, respectively), drain off the whey, add salt, mold into a shape (if desired), age (if desired), and eat.
The many different cheeses of the world come from the infinite variables that can be altered. Cow's milk will have a different taste and fat content than sheep's milk. The cow's milk will taste different in the spring than in the fall and will also vary from what the cow ate. Different cultures, ripening times, curd size, aging time, humidity levels, temperature, and the hands that made the cheese will also alter the outcome. Coat it in wax, inject it with a mold, layer it with ash, rub it with grappa...the possibilities are endless. One thing will always stay consistent - the cheese will be influenced from where it was made.
As I stated above, the taste of the milk will reflect what the animal ate, but what the animal eats depends on where it is located and how it is raised. In studies such as viticulture (grape growing and wine making), there is a term called terroir. Terroir basically means "sense of the land" and is a word used to generally describe the regional and local qualities that make an area (or vineyard) unique. Climate, soil make-up, and location can differ lands across the world and across the farm, and those differences can affect what is grown or raised on that land. Cheese prepared from milk obtained from a specific animal or region will be influenced by the terroir.
For example, if I had a goat here in my backyard in little Aylmer, and I prepared cheese with milk I obtained from that goat, my cheese would taste different from the cheese you made with milk you obtained from your goat raised in your backyard way up north in Bancroft.
What else affects the taste of cheese? The skill, craftmanship, palate, knowledge, and touch of the artisan who prepared it.
I'm just a newbie to the hobby, but I can easily say making cheese is a fascinating and rewarding process and compliments my love of preservation and fermentation.
Cabécou: this is a goat's milk cheese developed by an American cheese maker based on a traditional French version. Cabécou means "little goat" and refers to the small discs. It's a mild ripened cheese that is marinated in olive oil and spices. Believe me, after the cheese is gone, the olive oil is just as delicious for dipping bread in.
Goat's Milk Feta: I like feta cheese so I thought I'd try to make some. The compressed firm blocks - tangy, salty, creamy, crumbled with spinach - have always mystified me on how they are prepared. It's a fairly simple process with a short ripening time... but the saltiness...ugh. I tried it after 2 weeks and found it too salty. I halved the brine and added plain spring water to dilute the salt a wee bit and will taste the results tomorrow evening.
O'Banon: This recipe was based on the style of the French cheese Banon. Creamy & mild goat's milk cheese drained into small disks. The disks are then ripened in alcohol-soaked leaves for 3 weeks. In my attempt, the cheese is wrapped in Ontario Brandy soaked maple leaves harvested from the tree in the front yard. Tomorrow night (Nov. 16, 2013) will be the official unwrapping and tasting.
Jack Cheese: Fashioned after Monteray Jack cheese. It's thought this cheese style was developed by a man in Monteray, CA, who was influenced by Franciscan monks who traveled through Mexico. The desired outcome is a creamy, mild, firm cheese without a thick rind. Aging time is anywhere from 2-6 weeks. As of today it's only been a week. I'll keep you posted. The loonie is in the picture to demonstrate the size of the compressed cheese. 2 gallons of cow's milk was used to make size.
More cheese talk: I'll be heading to Toronto this weekend to help out another local producer, Crossroad Cheese, at the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo. Crossroad's has a booth at the show and I will be sharing my love of their sheep's milk gouda with other food lovers. I'm looking forward to having my cheeks hurt at the end of the day from all the smiling and talking.
Sunday's mission was to prepare dessert without leaving the house to purchase any extra ingredients. Basically it was clean the pantry & freezer day.
Pastry dough, whipping cream, and frozen bananas are staples in the kitchen, but I surprised myself by having sliced hazelnuts on hand. Whip it all together with the addition of Frangelico (hazelnut liquor) and it's a dessert worthy of snug waistbands. At least that's what I'm telling myself.
November is a transitioning month: the clock's have fallen back into standard time, the pumpkins have been tossed to the curb (unless you have a compost pile in your backyard where you like to play pumpkin roulette in the summer), and it is absolutely too early to turn on any Christmas lights (do you hear me, Shedden?? It's too early!) even if it does get dark at 5:00 pm.
In the meantime, we keep the furnace off as long as possible, put the lawn furniture away, harvest any green tomatoes brave enough to attempt a shot at turning red on the vine, and we get cozy.
Some of us get hungry, too.
This recipe for Chestnut & Chocolate Semifreddo is available in the Holiday issue of Relish Elgin magazine. You can pick up a copy (or three) at many local establishments or view it online through their website at RelishElgin.ca
I bought a book. I bought a bag of flour.
I didn't buy a big enough bag of flour.
In the past months I've been tinkering away at a few projects. First, it's harvest season and I've been putting up as much as time permits. Along with fermenting and pickling, Joy from Empire Valley Farms has lent me her food dehydrator and it has been filled several times with tomatoes, chile peppers (I'm trying to make my own chile powder/paprika), and even strawberries.
Second set of projects include cheese making. I can tell you right now unless you own a cow or a goat it isn't any less expensive to make your own versus buying from a cheesemonger or grocery store. What is different is the sense of satisfaction of knowing you made it yourself.
Third project: sourdough bread. I know how to make it awesome, I'm just trying how to figure out how to make it more than one loaf at a time awesome without having to purchase a ten thousand dollar deck oven with steam injection. Follow me...
Brandied Pumpkin Pies $10 (will not be as shown)
I don't know where September went. But I do know this weekend I will be selling my wares at Howe Family Farm Market. If you're looking for creamy pumpkin pies prepared with warming spices, real cream, Howe's very own pie pumpkins, and handmade flaky pastry -
the corner of highway #45 (John Wise Line) and Rogers Side Road is where I'll be. 9-inch pumpkin ($10), apple crumble ($15), & pecan pies ($15) will be available. Open Saturday, October 12 from 9-6 and Sunday, October 13 from 11-?? or until I'm sold out!
Fermented Five Pepper Relish - the relish in the smaller jar was fermented several weeks ago. The relish in the large jar was just prepared a few hours before the photo.
With so many hot peppers filling tables at the markets I can't help but pick more up each week. The Aylmer Sales Barn is always a great place to source bushels of peppers from sweet bells and shephards to the blackish-purple poblanos and red crimson hots. A few farmers and home gardeners are also trying their hands at growing different varieties of chilis and the variations are all welcome in my larder because just about every global cuisine utilizes heat and spiciness in some way - with flavours and aromas from more than just green jalapeños.
After all the salsa, stuffed peppers, pickled peppers, drying, plastic gloves, can't-fall-asleep-because-my-hands-are-on-fire, chili-steeped vodka, and especially the 'how hot is it?' game, it's nice to play with a recipe that uses a large amount of chilis with only minimal work required. Fermented hot pepper relish has quickly become my new favourite go-to condiment.
Encompassing everything I like in a rustic sauce (salty, fresh, fruity, spicy, smoky & tangy), the relish is a great accompaniment to chicken, sausages, burgers, steak, perogies, nachos, eggs, or spread on a sandwich. Because it is fermented for just a couple of days, the relish retains the fresh vegetal flavours at the same time it matures and ripens.
Liège Waffles with Grilled Peaches & Blackberries
I think I'm an empathetic person. Not like the HONY guy, but I get the feeling that sometimes people share with me things that they don't necessarily share with others. I'm okay with that. Sometimes venting, expressing, just saying the words out loud, seeing them typed on a screen or scribbled on a scrap piece of paper is monumental in sorting out what step we take next. Life can be complicated, things don't always go according to plan - sometimes we just need someone to listen.
I hear you. I understand what you are saying. I can't fix your problem, but I'm listening.
Do you like peaches? Here, have a Liège waffle.
Quiche - prebaked
The summer abounds with inspirational flavours in every field and planter. Corn is especially prevalent and it always looks too good to just buy one or two cobs. My eyes are often bigger than my stomach and it's very easy to overload on ears at the farmgate. The trouble with having too much fresh corn - the longer it's been off the stalk the starchier it will taste.
Just like a few other sweet vegetables (especially asparagus and peas), the sugars in the vegetables immediately begin to convert to starches as soon as they are harvested. If you aren't going to consume the corn within a day or two, the taste difference is quite noticeable in the remaining cobs. The way I get around this sugars-to-staches conversion is to cook all my corn at once. Any leftover cobs I don't eat I use a serrated knife to remove the kernals from the cob (in a bowl) then store in the fridge to use over the next several days or store in plastic bags the freezer. I'll be thankful for the freezer-corn when the annual Great January Food Depression starts to rear its ugly head and the markets are shut down.
Plenty of foods can pair with corn and there are just as many dishes to use it in. We're lucky enough to have a local supplier of shiitake mushrooms south of town and they are a perfect match for yellow corn. Serve corn on salads, make a quick relish to use on sandwiches, or add it to a pot of grilled tomato soup. Herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and sage also are great seasonings along with good ol' fashioned salt & pepper. Smoke from the bbq, bacon or sausage is a personal favourite combo with corn. Cream, butter, olive oil, bacon fat help carry corns flavour across all your taste buds and blue cheese - let's just say it's an earthy, creamy, sharp reminder that fermentation & cheesemaking are lost arts worthy of revival and should be celebrated. Possibly at every meal.
Challah Bread - Recipe
Makes 2 loaves
1 3/4 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon salt
8 cups all-purpose flour
Poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling
Put water, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a mixer, and mix with a spoon. Add two of the eggs, and the oil, and mix. Using the dough hook, add flour 2 cups at a time, and salt, and mix.
Put dough on a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic. Grease a large bowl with oil, and leave dough in bowl, covered, for at least one hour or until doubled in size.
Punch dough down, knead again on a floured board. Take half the dough and cut into six even pieces, and roll out each piece into a roll about 14 inches long.
Arrange rolls side by side on the board, pinched together at the top, and braid: Move the furthest roll on the right over 2 rolls, then move the 2nd furthest on the left all the way to the far right. Move the furthest roll on the left over 2 rolls, then move the 2nd furthest on the right all the way to the far left. Repeat until the whole loaf is braided. Then either tuck the ends underneath, or twist into a circle to make a round challah. Repeat with the remaining dough to make a second loaf.
Place on parchment paper or silpat on a cookie sheet. Brush loaves with the remaining egg and sprinkle with seeds. Let loaves rise for 30 minutes, then put in a 350°F oven and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown and shiny. Allow to rest 20 minutes before slicing.