Category Archives: Food

Basil Pesto

Basil is easy to grow, and each plant produces a lot. There’s only such much fresh basil you can use at any one time. So make pesto with basilthat abundance.

On its own, it’s a light sauce for pasta or a topping for baked potatoes. Joy of Cooking says use 2 tablespoons per portion and mix with equal amount of butter. I toss pasta with maybe half that amount and no butter.

Use it as a seasoning for soups, stews or other types of sauces. Remember though it has an oily texture and pungent flavour, so best to start with a small amount and taste before adding more.

Here is how I make it – based on the recipe in Joy of Cooking (1997 ed.) with one big change. I use a blender instead of a mortar and pestle. I can’t pesto ingredientscompare the two directly since I’m not adept enough at using a mortar and pestle to have ever successfully made it that way. However, mine made with a blender tastes as good as pesto I have bought or had in restaurants.

Pesto ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan or Sardinia cheese
  • 3/4 cup olive oil

My Method

unsticking-blenderI put everything in the blender and use the lowest setting. Toggling the switch on and off helps keep it from jamming. If the ingredients do block the mechanism, turn it off and poke around inside to stir things up. I use a chopstick. It helps to do that anyway so that ingredients blend evenly.

It makes enough to fill a small (227 g) cream cheese container with enough left over for a fettuccine meal.

Joy of Cooking Method

Joy of Cooking says put basil leaves in mortar and pound with pestle. Add garlic and pine nuts and pound.

pesto in containerAdd cheese, until the mixture forms a thick purée. Very slowly add olive oil, stirring constantly, until it’s the consistency of creamed butter.

Put a thin film of olive oil over the top. Cover and refrigerate or freeze.

Parsley may be substituted, but of course the flavour is very different. (It’s really good too. Make it the same way, with the same quantities.)

 

Dill Pickles

I’ve always liked dill pickles, but I didn’t like homemade ones. They handwritten dill pickles recipe photo d stewartjust didn’t have the crunch that Bick’s and any store-bought ones had. Then I tried dills that Helen Erskine made. She and her husband Sam were my parents’ neighbours and friends in Belmont. I guess my shock showed because Helen asked me ‘what is it, dear?’ It’s good, that’s what it is!

So good that even though I was a teenager and had never canned pickles in my life, nor had any intention of doing so, I wrote down her recipe. Miraculously, I never lost that scrap of paper.

It was a long time before I started making pickles. Even longer before I felt confident to try dill pickles. I didn’t want to ruin my memory of Mrs. Erskine’s perfect pickles. I saw, when actually using the recipe, that there were key things that I had not written down. But I figured them out. So below is my amended recipe.

Helen Erskine’s Award-Worthy Dill Pickles

4 qts (8 lbs / 3.6 kg) pickling cucumbers
1 pint (2 cups / 480 ml) white vinegar
3 qts (12 cups / 2.85 ltrs) water
1/2 cup (120 ml / 113 g) coarse salt
sprigs and heads of dill – a couple per jar
garlic cloves – one large for each jar

cucumbers-garlic-dill-photo-d-stewart1. Wash cucumbers well. Remove any stems without cutting into the cucumber itself.

2. Sterilize 6-7 clean quart/litre jars in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Put snap lids in the canner (or in a separate small pan of boiling water) for the last five minutes.

3. Start preparing the pickle brine (#4). As it heats, your jars should be done. So you can begin packing the clean jars with dill and cucumbers (#5).

4. Put water, vinegar and garlic in large stainless steel or enamel pot and bring to a boil. Add salt. Bring to a rolling boil. (You can instead put a garlic clove in each jar. If you don’t like garlic dill pickles, just leave it out.)

filling-jars-photo-d-stewart5. When jars are sterilized, remove one (carefully, with jar tongs). Put a couple sprigs of dill in it, then pack cucumbers in tightly but without crushing them. Repeat with remaining jars.

6. Scoop the garlic out of the brine and discard. Then ladle brine into the jars. A jar funnel helps keep the rim of your jars clean. Fill to 1/4″ from the top of the jar. Wipe rim with a clean wet cloth and put snap lid and screw cap on. Repeat until all the brine is in all the jars of cucumbers.

You can either a) pack all the jars with cucumbers then fill and cap or b) pack, fill and cap one jar then another. With the batch pictured here, I did (b).

With luck, your amounts of cucumbers and brine will match. If not, you’ve either got cucumbers left over for something else or brine you can keep if you’re going to do more pickling soon. If I need a little more brine to fill a jar, I quickly heat up a small amount of vinegar, water and salt. Then I mark that jar with a different coloured cap or make a small scratch on the lid. When I label them, I mark it as ‘use first’.

jars-in-canner-photo-d-stewart7. Make sure the screw caps are finger tight and put the jars back in the canner. Bring the water back to the boil. The water should come about one inch over the top of your jars. Let them boil for 10 minutes.

8. Carefully remove and put on a rack to cool. You’ll hear the snap lids pop soon. That tells you your seal is good. (On my handwritten recipe, shown here, overflowing the jar with brine and turning upside down is what you do with the old style glass lid sealing jars, not the metal snap lids.)

dill-pickles-photo-d-stewart9. When they’ve cooled, take the screw lids off.  Wipe the jars, especially around the top, with warm wet cloth or paper towel. You can put the rings back on, or not as long as the seal is good. Date them and put in a dark, cool place for 6 weeks.

Bread and Butter Pickles

Bread and butter pickles you buy in the store are thinly sliced bread and butter pickles photo d stewartrounds of cucumber only. But most of the recipes for them include sliced onion and sometimes chopped green pepper. I like them the way they come from the store, but I like making my own. So I adapted a good recipe I found online. I make them exactly as below, except I leave out the onion and increase the cucumber. It makes about 6 pint jars.

Recipe (Diana Rattray, thespruce.com)

  • Four Five lbs pickling cucumbers
  • 1 large onion, quartered, sliced abt. 1/4″ thickness
  • 1/3 cup kosher (coarse) salt
  • 3 cups cider vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp mustard seed
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes – optional

slicing-cucumber-photo-d-stewartWash cucumbers and cut off ends. Slice crosswise into 1/8″ slices. Toss in a large bowl with salt and onion; cover with 4-6 cups of ice cubes. Cover and let stand 4 hours or refrigerate overnight.

Boiling water bath:  Wash jars thoroughly and heat water in a small saucepan; put the lids in the saucepan and bring almost to the boil; lower heat to very low to keep the lids hot.

Making pickles: Drain cucumbers in a large colander and rinse with cold water.

pickles-in-pot-photo-d-stewartIn a large, nonreactive [stainless steel, glass, enamel] pot over medium heat, combine the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Add the drained cucumbers and bring to a boil.

With a slotted spoon, loosely pack the pickles into prepared jars. Ladle the liquid into jars, dividing evenly. With a clean damp cloth, wipe away any drips around the rims of the jars, and then cover with 2-piece jar lid and screw ring. A lid lifter comes in handy to get the bottling-pickles-photo-d-stewartflat lids out of the water, or you could use tongs. Adjust the screw on rings firmly but do not over-tighten.

Place filled jars in the prepared boiling water bath, adding more hot water as needed to bring the water up to about 1 inch above the jars. Bring the water to a boil. Cover and continue boiling for 10 minutes.

Lift the jars out of the water and place on a rack to cool. For best flavor development, store the pickles in a cool, dark place for at least 3 to 4 weeks.

A mandolin slicer (second pic) is great for cutting cucumbers.  My hints & hacks page has more on this wonderful tool. For these pickles, you can use small and large cukes. I’ve used regular field cucumbers and they worked fine. If you like long slices rather than rounds, cut the cukes lengthwise.

Fruit Crumble

baked fruit crumbleFruit Crumble is one of the easiest desserts to make – and very, very delicious. The one I made today is fresh rhubarb and frozen black cherries. The recipe comes from the Joy of Cooking.

Preheat oven to 375° F (190° C). 8 or 9 inch baking dish. 6 servings.

4 cups of prepared fruit

rhubarb and cherries in baking dishChop rhubarb into 1/2 to 1″ (1-2 cm.) lengths. Sugar it lightly. I used about 1 tsp for 2 cups of chopped rhubarb.

The cherries I used were already pitted. If not, you have to pit them.

(Sprinkle with 2 tbsp lemon juice or kirsch if you like)

Mix crumble topping in a bowl

crumble mixtureCombine ingredients below in a bowl. Work it together like pastry with a pastry blender or fingertips (I used a fork). Work it lightly so the mixture doesn’t get oily.

1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C packed brown sugar
1/4 C butter (soft)
1/2 tsp salt – if butter is unsalted

crumble on fruit ready to bakeSpread crumble mix over fruit in baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes.

Serve hot or cold with ice cream, sweet cream (whipped or not) or sour cream.

You can also use other fruit, alone or in combination – strawberries, apples, peaches. For apples, you might want to add 1 tsp cinnamon to your crumble mixture.

Pineapple Pizza

The other night, my husband said he was going to make pizza. What pizza on plate photo d stewartkind, he asked. Pineapple and ham, I said without hesitation. They’re small, he said, so anything else? Pepperoni and pineapple. That’s what Sam Panopoulos likes.

We had a can of pineapple rings and ham slices. No pepperoni but nice salami. And black olives. Jim said one of the best pizzas he ever had was a Hawaiian with black olives.

Hawaiian pizza

  • Store-bought pizza crusts (these are 9″ flatbreads)
  • then pizza sauce from a can,
  • shredded mozzarella, and
  • toppings – pineapple chunks, ham pieces (or sliced salami or pepperoni), sliced black olives
  • bake about 20 minutes at 375°Fpineapple pizzas photo d stewart

Thank you, Mr. Panopoulos, they were delicious.

Sam Panopoulos is the inventor of the Hawaiian pizza. Since 1982 he has lived in London, Ontario where he owned the Family Circle Restaurant on Wellington Street. Its website says it’s family-owned, his family, I assume.

satellite restaurant chatham ont tripadvisor.caBefore that, he ran the Satellite restaurant in Chatham, Ontario. There, in 1962, he came up with the idea of pineapple chunks on pizza. He liked it and, while not an immediate hit with his customers, he kept ham and pineapple pizza on offer. Eventually it took off and now is a standard item in pizza places.

Mr. Panopoulos told CBC’s As It Happens that he is retired now and doesn’t even make pizza for himself. He likes Dr. Oetker’s frozen pizzas. A great testimony for them, and I agree with him.

Pineapple Tweets

Hawaiian pizza and Mr. Panopoulos were in the news last week. It started with a furor over a tweet by a political leader. For once, not Donald Trump. Rather the President of Iceland, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson.

President Jóhannesson put it out there for the world that he did not like pineapple on pizza. That if he had the power, he would ban pineapple on pizza. But he doesn’t have the power. And that’s a good thing. “I would not want to hold this position if I could pass laws forbidding that which I don’t like. I would not want to live in such a country. For pizzas, I recommend seafood.”

Seafood on pizza? Ok, that’s weird. I thought his tweet was perhaps allegorical. A small reminder to, oh maybe Donald Trump, that personal opinion shouldn’t be the basis for policy making. But evidently it came from a classroom Q & A about pizza preferences. Sometimes a topping is just a topping. But I still think it’s a good allegory.

While googling, I came across a Guardian article from March 2015. The Pizzeria Boccalino in Lausanne, Switzerland politicized their pizzas by naming them after world leaders and celebrities. The Barack Obama included pineapple. What would be on a Donald J. Trump pizza, I wonder.

Update: Sadly, Mr. Panopoulos died June 8, 2017 in London ON. He will be greatly missed but his legacy, in his family and his pizza, will live on.

Apple Jelly

Making apple jelly is like making any other fruit jelly except you don’t need to add pectin. Apples have loads of pectin. When I started making jams and jellies and was much more conscientious about not apples-photo-d-stewartadding additives, I added a few apples to any fruit for the pectin. Then I got lazy and started using commercial pectin.

But in this year’s apple jelly making, I found a recipe that reminded me that you don’t need to add pectin to pectin-filled apples. And it’s easy. Basically, just add sugar and lemon juice to the apple juice and boil until it gels. (My notes are added.)

Apple Jelly (Mick Telkamp, HGTV)

Yield: About 6 half-pints (I got 4)

5 pounds apples (about 16 cups chopped)
6 cups water (to extract 5 cups apple juice)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
4 cups sugar (I used 3 cups)

apples-cooking-photo-d-stewartWash and chop apples into small pieces, including skin and cores, and place in a large pot.

Add 6 cups of water to the pot and bring to boil over high heat.

Reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes until apples are soft.

Pour into jelly bag or cheesecloth-lined colander over a bowl to separate juice. Allow to drain without pressing or forcing juice from the apples for the clearest jelly. (Leave several hours or overnight)

apple-jelly-froth-photo-d-stewartCombine 5 cups apple juice, lemon juice and sugar in a pot and bring to boil over high heat.

Continue to boil until a temperature of 220 degrees F is reached. (25-30 mins)

Test jelly by dipping in a cold spoon. If the jelly drips from the gel-test-photo-d-stewartspoon in a sheet, jelly is ready. If not, allow to cook a little longer and test again. (Watch it and you’ll see the colour deepen. Also when stirring, the resistance on the spoon increases slightly.)

Once the jelly thickens, transfer it into sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.

Cap with lids and bands and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes to seal.

Apple jelly will store in a cool location up to a year without loss of texture or flavor.apple jelly photo d stewart

Lessons learned

A couple of lessons I learned in my first two times using this recipe. First, when you’re near the gelling point, check it every minute or so. I let it cook another five minutes after seeing it was almost gelling. Too long. I got one jar of jelly solid enough to make gummy bears.

Second, keep stirring. And use a pot with high sides. In my second batch, I left it unattended for a minute too long. I had it in a Dutch oven that I thought was plenty big enough. And it was – as long as I kept stirring the froth down. But left alone, it started frothing higher and higher. I couldn’t get it stirred down fast enough. A huge mess on the stove.

Learn from my mistakes and you’ll have delicious jelly, easily made.

See also my making apple juice. It’s exactly the same except you don’t gel the juice.

Apple Juice

apple-tree-photo-d-stewartIt’s been a good year for our apple trees. They grow near the house, in the fields and woods. More apples than the deer can eat. Different kinds – red, yellow, crab and not. Why couldn’t I make apple juice, I wondered. Cook and strain, just like I did for rhubarb juice. I googled and, yep, you can.

Apple Juice

apple-bins-photo-d-stewartI halved the small apples and quartered large ones. Smaller pieces cook faster and it also lets you better see parts that are bad or wormy. I didn’t peel them or cut the cores out.

Put cut apples in a large pot and add water. After some trial and error, I found about a third as much water as apples gave the right strength of juice. So for 16 cups of cut-up apples, add 5-6 cups water.

apples-cooking-photo-d-stewartCook until apples are soft, about 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the quantity and the apples.

Line a sieve or colander (plastic, enamel or stainless steel) with 3-4 layers of cheesecloth, dampen it. Then sit it in a bowl or pot that fits so that there is clearance for the liquid to drain. Have two more containers nearby – you’ll likely need them in the next step.

Carefully pour the liquid and apples into the strainer. Your bowl will soon fill because the juice will drain through quickly. Move the colander over to your spare bowl with one hand and, with the other hand, pour the juice into another bowl or jug.

straining-apples-photo-d-stewartKeep doing that until all the apples and liquid are in the colander. Leave that to drain. Take another colander or sieve, put cheesecloth in it and strain the juice several more times from one bowl to the other. You’ll see a bit of apple pulp in the bottom. Rinse the cheesecloth, and repeat.

If your apples are sweet enough to eat, I doubt you’ll need to add sugar. Taste the juice while it’s still hot to see. Be careful, add only a bit at a time.

You can freeze it in plastic bottles or can it in sealing jars. You can likely make it as a concentrate by using less water.

Is it worth it?

apple juice photo d stewartIf you have the apples anyway, it’s worth doing. But if I had to buy them, I don’t think I would. The juice is a bit cloudy. Maybe a finer mesh sieve or a jelly bag. Maybe a juicer. But that’s just aesthetics. The juice tastes good.

See also my Apple Jelly. Or see how to make Rhubarb Juice and Rhubarb Jelly. It’s the same process, just with or without gelling or added pectin.

Rhubarb Juice

glass of rhubarb juiceLast summer, looking at my still flourishing rhubarb patch, a friend said “We used to make pies and jam and then made the rest into rhubarb juice.” Really? This had never crossed my mind. Just cook it down a bit and strain it, she said. So I did. It’s wonderful, like pink lemonade only better.

Cut then cook in stainless steel

Cut washed rhubarb stalks into 1″ pieces and put them in a large stainless steel stock pot. I did 16 cups of chopped rhubarb at a time.

rhubarb-in-potI added water to more than cover the rhubarb and cooked it on medium heat until it softened, about 30 mins. Then I added sugar, 2 cups to start. The amount depends on how sweet you want the juice. Cook the rhubarb another 20 mins until completely soft. Taste the juice and add more sugar if you like. I added about another half cup. Add sugar when the juice is hot so it will dissolve.

While it cooked, I lined a big colander with 3 layers of cheesecloth, overhanging the edges. Use stainless steel, plastic or enamel. Rhubarb will discolour, and be discoloured by, some metals.

Drain in stainless steel or plastic

rhubarb-in-cheeseclothPut the colander on the rim of a deep pot or bowl, so it has clearance to drain. Carefully pour the rhubarb and water in it. Let sit until fully drained. Skim foam off the top of the juice.

Bottle

juice-bottlePour the juice into clean bottles. I used 1.89 litre plastic store-bought juice bottles and filled about two and a half per batch.

It freezes well. Don’t fill the bottle right to the top so it has room to expand. You can also bottle the juice in sealer-lid jars. Here is how to do that. This recipe is for a concentrate. You add water when you want to drink it. Some recipes call for zest (grated rind) of lemon or orange, added while the rhubarb is cooking.

Roast Guinea Fowl

Hi Dorothy, from time to time I´m going through your web site. You are doing a great job to cover all fields and sharing with other people. I also checked the part with the recipes and decided that one is missing, so listen:

Roast Guinea Fowl with Vegetables and Rice

roast guinea fowl Gesell-photosYou need:

for the meat –
* two guinea fowls, each ca. 1 to 1.2 kg
* fresh garlic
* groundnut [peanut] oil
* beer
* salt
* pepper
* curry powder
* red sweet pepper powder

for the vegetables –
* potatoes
* sweet potatoes
Tilda rice Ghana Gesell-photos* carrots
* zucchini
* tomatoes
and what else you like

for the rice –
* 400 grams basmati (Tilda if possible)
* 720 ml water (180ml per 100 grams rice)
* salt
* two big spoons butter

for the joy –
5 to 7 friends to be invited for the dinner

How to prepare:

guinea fowl over veges-Gesell-photosTake a mortar and grind salt and plenty garlic until you get a smooth paste to an amount of 50 to 60 grams and apply it to the chicks.

Mix the spices with the groundnut oil and the beer. You will need it to pour on the chicks while they are roasting.

Set the chicks on the rack which fits in the oven and you need an oven veggies-in-roaster-Gesell-photospan to set below the rack and fill it with all the vegetables I have written and more if you like. Soft vegetables like zucchini can be added later because they are done faster.

To prevent the vegetables from burning, pour groundnut oil on the oven pan before you set the vegetables in.

guinea-fowl-veges-in-oven-Gesell-photosWhen every thing is set, you start the oven at 160°C [320˚F]. It might be necessary to rise the temperature up to 180°C. One has to watch. Don’t forget to pour the spices, mixed with beer and oil, over the chicks as they are cooking. After 70 to 90 minutes everything should be ready.

[ds – great oven design! In ovens with racks attached to the walls, you need to pull out both racks at once to baste – carefully, with oven mitts. Or maybe put the birds on a separate rack on top of a deep roasting pan?] 

Rice:

To prepare the rice you melt the butter in a pot and fry the washed rice until it is glassy.

frying-rice-Gesell-photosBoil the water with salt in a different pot and pour it over the rice while it’s still on the hot stove.

adding water to rice Gesell-photosLet it boil for one minute on high temperature and stir it around. Then lower the temperature to the lowest point, take a cover that fits the pot exactly and close it.

rice cooking Gesell-photosLet it simmer for 18 minutes and don’t open the cover before the 18 minutes are over.

Now you can serve your guests and remember the guinea fowls of Tamale. Greetings from Germany.

Yours, Helmut

roast guinea fowl dinner Gesell-photos

My friend Helmut and I met years ago when we both lived in Tamale in Northern Ghana. I think the first guinea fowl I ever ate was made this way, at his house there, made by him or the cook he learned it from. Helmut sent me the recipe last month, then cooked it at home in Germany and Helmeted_guinea_fowl-steve-2007-wikicommonsdocumented the process. Danke schön, Conny, the photos are great.

I asked about substituting chicken since it’s easier to get here. Needs to be dark meat, he said. Guinea fowl of New Brunswick, beware!

Macaroni and Cheese

This stove-top macaroni and cheese recipe is the best ever. I’ve made it a lot of different ways, and love this one. It is easy and consistently good.

stove-top macaroni and cheese cookingMakes 4 main-course servings or 6-8 side-dish servings (If you really like mac & cheese, you’ll want this amount for two people so you can have seconds)

Ingredients

2 large eggs
1 12-oz (341 ml) can evaporated milk
¼ tsp (1 ml) Tabasco sauce
2 tsp (10 ml) salt
¼ tsp (1 ml) ground black pepper
1 tsp (5 ml) dry mustard, dissolved in 1 tsp (5 ml) water
½ lb (225 g) elbow macaroni
4 tbsp (50 ml) unsalted butter
12 oz (350 g) Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, grated (bat 3 c/750 ml). Use sharp or mild cheddar, as desired
Toasted bread crumbs or crumbled saltine crackers* (optional, to me)

1. Mix eggs, 1 cup (250 ml) evaporated milk, Tabasco sauce, ½ tsp (2ml) salt, pepper and dry mustard in a small bowl and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat 2 qt (2 L) water to boil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven. Add remaining 1½ tsp (7 ml) salt and the macaroni; cook until almost tender but still a little firm to the bite.

3. Drain and return the macaroni to the pan over low heat, add butter and toss to melt.

4. Pour the egg mixture over the buttered noodles along with three-quarters of the cheese; stir until thoroughly combined and cheese starts to melt.

5. Gradually add remaining evaporated milk and cheese, stirring constantly, until mixture is hot and creamy, about 5 minutes.

6. Serve immediately, topped with toasted bread crumbs or crumbled crackers.

Macaroni and Cheese Styles

macaroni and cheese served with peasI got this recipe several years ago from a London Free Press AP article written by Tommy C. Simmons. He says about the different ways of making mac & cheese:

“There are two styles of macaroni and cheese. One combines macaroni with a cheese-flavoured white sauce… The other is layered macaroni and cheese topped with a milk or milk-and-egg mixture that forms a custard when the combination is baked.

The food staff at Cook’s Illustrated magazine found a third style of macaroni and cheese preparation, which they credited to John Thorne’s Simple Cooking cookbook. [This recipe.] The recipe testers at Cook’s Illustrated described Thorne’s recipe and their adaptations in the January-February 1997 issue and rated it the best macaroni and cheese recipe they tested.”

Reading a Kirkus review of Simple Cooking, John Thorne’s books sound worth reading as much for his commentary on food and foodie trends as for the cookery information and recipes.