I accidentally made Jigg’s dinner for St. Patrick’s Day. First time ever. Husband comes home with groceries: “look what I found, beef 50% off.” Beef in brine, the package said. What’s that?
It was pieces, so didn’t look like corned beef. Big pieces, so not like salt beef I’d seen before. And it was not in a pail. Too bad, because a pail would probably the only thing we were going to get from this ‘bargain’!
No cooking directions on the package. Tony’s Meats website had the package of beef in brine, alongside pails of salt beef. No recipes, but at least I knew they were two different things. Googling introduced me to a whole world of brining meat. But precious little on what to do with it once it’s brined.
From what I read, I figured out a tactic. It worked, so here’s my surprisingly easy sort-of Jigg’s dinner.
Beef in Brine Jigg’s Dinner
Take beef out of the package and put in a bowl of cold water. Soak it, changing the water a couple of times. I did it for 10 minutes. You could soak it longer, but that worked fine.
Rinse beef and put in a large pot. (Leave the fat on. It will largely cook away.) Cover with water or water and beer. Recipes called for a bottle of dark beer. I used Alpine lager.
Bring to the boiling point and let simmer an hour. Skim off froth as needed.
Add chunks of potatoes, carrots and onions. Turnip too, but I didn’t have any. Simmer for half an hour.
Add chunks of cabbage and let simmer another half hour. I added no seasonings – certainly no salt! And that’s it.
Put the meat on a platter to slice (across the grain). Scoop the vegetables into a big bowl. And serve. Mustard or mustard pickle goes really well with it.
I froze the liquid for use as beef stock. But remember, it’s already salty.
I’m happy that I have finally cooked salt beef. It’s a cooking hurdle that I never would have taken on if I’d known that’s what I was doing! So I’ll try it again. And next time, I’ll make pease pudding with it. Then it would be a real Newfoundland Jigg’s dinner.
In The Birthday Lunch, Laverne makes asparagus and Stilton soup and Coquille St. Jacques for her sister. How delicious!
Cream soup makes a warm and hearty winter meal or cool and light for summer. Comfort food always. With warm bread or salad, it’s a meal in itself. Or, as Laverne did, it’s great with another course. I don’t think I’d pair two creamy dishes, though, lovely as both these are. She served them with a dry white wine – that would work.
For a cream soup, stick with one or two main ingredients so that the flavour is true. Asparagus and cheese, mushroom, potato and ham. Unless you have little bits of a lot of different vegetables that you want to get rid of. Then you can call it cream of vegetable soup. In the photo is my cream of zucchini soup topped with slivered green onion.
How to make Cream Soup
(4 servings, adjust accordingly)
Melt 1 tbsp butter or margarine in heavy-bottomed pot. Sauté 2-3 tbsp finely chopped onion, and garlic if you wish.
Add 1-2 cup chopped vegetables. Sauté a couple minutes until they soften. Remove and set aside. For cream of chicken, include chopped chicken pieces in that amount. Make sure the chicken cooks thoroughly.
Melt a bit more butter or margarine in your pot, then add 2 tbsp flour and stir briskly to mix. Cook this roux a couple minutes, stirring constantly, until it bubbles and thickens.
Slowly add 2-3 C milk, turn down heat and stir frequently to avoid lumps and keep it from boiling. Cook until it starts thickening.
Add grated cheese (1/4-1/3 cup) if you want a more robust soup. Sour cream can be added to give more body and a lovely piquant taste.
Put the veggies and meat back in the pot. Mix well and heat through.
Use an immersion blender, or pour soup into blender, and puree. Make it as smooth or chunky as you wish. Put back in pot and add some finely chopped vegetables to give texture, if you wish. Reheat over low to medium temperature.
A dollop of sour cream on top is good. Also sprinkle with chopped parsley, green onion, chives or cilantro, croutons or bacon bits, whichever complements the flavour. Serve hot or cold, depending on the soup.
My mother-in-law made us a book of family recipes. One is her mother’s recipe for cream cheese, olives and nuts sandwich spread.
That looks good, I’d think every time I saw the recipe, must make that. But I did so only recently. Oh, l regret those wasted years!
* My second time making it, I also added plain yoghurt, about half the amount of mayonnaise. It made it creamier with a little tangy taste. I didn’t add olive juice, as in Heloise’s recipe below. That may give the softer texture I was looking for.
Crushed walnuts or pecans are best. I only had sliced almonds first time I made it. My husband said it’s good but doesn’t taste like grandma’s. Second time, with walnuts, he pronounced it as good as hers.
Googling cream cheese and olive spread
I googled it to see if anyone other than grandma Elizabeth had ever made this. Have they! Apparently, it’s part of Christmas and Thanksgiving and all special events in the United States, especially in the South. It’s good for everyday sandwiches but also can be dressed up as fancy as you like. In tea sandwiches, little pinwheels, on toast points, stuffed in or on vegetables.
I leave the last word on cream cheese and olive spread to Heloise, of Heloise’s Hints. She explains its joys and versatility ever so well. Thanks, Chipmunknits, for posting this treasure. Tap to enlarge so you can read it. I especially like the story of the neighbour hiding her container of it in the back of the fridge so her kids don’t find it.
Here is a recipe for Swiss steak as made by Elizabeth (McDonald) Smock, and written down by her daughter Marji Stewart. That’s Elizabeth’s grandson who is cooking the Swiss steak in these pictures. The notes in brackets in the recipe are Marji’s.
Elizabeth’s Swiss Steak
I large round steak, bone removed
flour, salt, pepper, spices as desired
Place steak on floured breadboard (I take it outside with newspapers under board to catch flying flour.)
Beat steak with mallet or edge of small saucer until very tender.
Work in salt and pepper.
(When your wrist is about to fall off it probably is tender!)
Cut meat in 4-6 pieces
Brown in hot oil on both sides, then remove, but leave oil in pan. (I use an electric frying pan.)
Have on hand:
1 can beef broth
1 cup water
1/4 – 1/2 cup cooked tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
Add steak back to pan with about 1/4 cup or less of the hot oil.
Cover with chopped onion.
Add liquids a small amount at a time.
Simmer about 3 hours.
About 45 minutes prior to serving, add 3-4 potatoes and 4 peeled carrots.
You don’t want soup but a tasty gravy to develop. Keep temperature low enough to simmer, not boil. Add more liquid ingredients to taste.
Bought a juicer. A Cuisinart, on sale. More precisely, it’s a juice extractor. Fruit or vegetables go in, spin around while little blades separate the pulp from the juice.
First to go in is rhubarb. Here’s how it worked out for me. The quantities I give are for the pitcher on my juicer, which holds 32 ounces (4 cups or .95 L).
Prepare the rhubarb, set the juicer speed
Wash about 18 rhubarb stalks and chop into 4-5″ lengths (10-12 cm). The juicer manual didn’t include rhubarb in its speed settings guide. So I chose the 2nd fastest, same as what’s recommended for pears or celery. I figured they were close to the consistency of rhubarb.
Feed the tube
Feed the rhubarb pieces into the juicer tube a few at a time. My juice container holds 32 ounces. In this picture, it’s too full. See the darker liquid and foamy stuff above the band near the top? You don’t want that in your juice. A barrier inside the pitcher holds back most of it but it still leaches into the spout. I skimmed off as much as I could, trying not to mix it into the juice below. That’s easier to do if the jug fills only to the top mark.
Strain the juice
Pour the juice from the pitcher into a measuring cup. Leave the lid on the pitcher – it also helps block the foamy stuff. And, although it’s hard to co-ordinate your hands, it helps a lot if you also use a cheesecloth-lined sieve for this initial pouring. Keep the flow as even as possible and watch it as you near the bottom. Stop pouring when you start to see the cloudy, green residue enter the flow. Throw that out.
Next pour the juice into another bowl or pitcher through a cheesecloth-lined sieve. Rinse the cheesecloth and container to remove residue and foam. Then filter the juice back and forth between pitchers a few times to strain out as much foam and residue as you can.
Add water and sweeten
Measure the amount of juice and heat the same amount of water. For 4 cups water, I add 1/2 cup sugar. Stir until it dissolves. Pour into the pitcher of rhubarb juice and mix well.
Taste it. Add a bit of sugar or water if needed. If you can’t fix it without losing flavour, make more juice and mix the two to correct the proportions. A splash of lemon juice brightens the taste, if needed.
Put a funnel in your juice bottle and pour your juice in. You can line the funnel with a bit of cheesecloth if you want to do one more filtration.
The juice will foam up in the bottle. If you’re using a flexible container, gently squeeze it to make the juice move up the neck. The foam will rise so you can scoop it off. Be careful to not squeeze too hard. It can pop up and you’ll have juice all over the counter. I know; it happened.
One juicer load of rhubarb made one 1.89 L bottle of rhubarb juice.
Is a juicer easier?
I don’t know if the juicer is any easier or better than making juice by draining cooked rhubarb through a sieve (here’s how to do that). You get a completely raw product using the juicer. But you also get the weird green foam, which you don’t get by cooking and sieving.
You go from picking your rhubarb to having a finished bottle of juice more quickly using the juicer because you don’t have to stop and wait for gravity to act. But the quantity you can make at one time is limited by what the jug holds. One bottle rather than the usual two I make using sieved juice. However, both methods result in equally good tasting juice.
This baked asparagus and cheese casserole is my mother-in-law’s recipe. It was one of her potluck favourites because it travels well and easily warms up in a microwave. And if it can’t be warmed up, it still tastes good.
2 tbsp butter or margarine
1 1/2 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
2/3 cup grated cheese (your choice; I used extra old cheddar)
1 lb fresh asparagus or 2 cans asparagus tips
optional: sliced or slivered almonds,
– thin strips of red pepper,
– crushed Ritz crackers or cornflakes
Chop washed asparagus into 2-3 inch pieces. Use 2/3 to 3/4 of stalk, leaving woody ends. Microwave pieces about 1 1/2 minutes, or steam on stovetop for 3 minutes, to partially cook them. Distribute evenly in a low greased casserole dish (I use an 8 x 8″ one).
Make white sauce by melting butter in small saucepan, add flour, stirring in well. Turn heat down and continue to stir for about 2 minutes until roux bubbles and thickens. Slowly add milk, stirring often to prevent lumps. When it starts to thicken, add cheese slowly and stir until smooth. Turn off heat.
Combine in casserole
Pour cheese sauce evenly over asparagus in casserole dish. Top with crunchy bits and red pepper if you wish. I added all of them here: a small handful of crushed cornflakes, red pepper strips and sliced almonds.
Bake at 350° for 25-30 mins, until bubbly. Serves 2 as main dish or 4 as side. You can double the recipe, using a larger dish.
Asparagus needs nothing extra to make it glorious. But baked in a cheese sauce adds flavours and textures that make it a meal all on its own. If you want it vegan, replace the dairy with soy products.
Keurig coffee – wonderful. The K-cup – not so much. Concern about the plastic coffee pods started almost as soon as the Keurig coffee maker came on the market. Each one is very small. But add up one household’s consumption, then another’s, in a week, a month. Doesn’t take long to have a mountain of them.
Coffee pod manufacturers responded. You can now buy many types of pods packaged various ways. They are recyclable and compostable, in part or whole. But you have to read the box, and the pods.
The plastic casing is the problem. That casing seals in the coffee, thereby keeping it fresh. Many were not made of recyclable plastic. Some still aren’t. Recycling services that I know of accept only numbers 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 plastics. So those marked No. 6, like Tim Horton’s, still go in the garbage. And pods without a number – who knows? Again, garbage.
An increasing number now are marked No. 5. So recyclable. But, despite what the box says, not with coffee grounds still in them. You have to separate the plastic from the coffee and filter bag.
How to separate coffee pods
1. Hook your fingernail in the little hole in the foil cover and pull it off.
2. Squeeze pod upside-down over compost container to loosen coffee
3. Dig your finger into pod and pull out as much coffee as you can
4. Holding pod in one hand, grab a bit of netting with thumb and forefinger of other hand and pull until it rips. Then pull all the way around until the coffee and netting are detached from the plastic pod.
5. Rinse plastic pod well and try to pull off leftover netting.
It’s not easy, but you get better at it with practice. And sometimes, when you see you’ve grabbed a non-recyclable pod, you say a fervent hallelujah as you toss it! I found a tool that separates the pods (see Amazon box below). Might be easier on the fingers.
These are much easier to deal with. A ring and filter made of plant-based materials and paper lid, the whole thing will compost as is – eventually. But they still come to you in packaging. Either individually wrapped in plastic or grouped in a foil bag. The foil bags say “rinse and reuse”. But I haven’t figured out anything to reuse even one for.
My preferred choice so far is the individually wrapped compostable pod. Jumping Bean, from Newfoundland (available on Amazon.ca and excellent coffee!) The plastic wrapper probably isn’t recyclable but at least it’s little.
Obviously, reusable is best. Soon after buying our Keurig, and realizing the amount of garbage produced by the pods, I bought a refillable pod. What a misery! You must replace one whole mechanism with the other, so it’s not easy to switch back and forth. My refillable one went to the back of the drawer where it sits in silent witness to the traffic in easier, but wasteful, coffee pods.
There are refillable pods available that look easier to use (see Amazon link below). Maybe I’ll try again!
A can of tuna and presto, you’ve got fish cakes. Quick and easy, they make a simple or dressed up dinner or lunch. Tuna, bread crumbs, an egg, and onion. That’s all you need.
Tuna + breadcrumbs = fish cakes
Open a 170 gram tin of tuna and drain the liquid. (Pour it into your cat or dog bowl and they’ll love you forever.) Put it in a medium size bowl and flake it with a fork. Add:
finely chopped onion (maybe 1-2 tbsp),
1 cup breadcrumbs,
1 beaten egg,
salt and pepper and whatever herbs or spices you like. Basil or rosemary works. Parsley flakes or finely chopped fresh. Cumin.
Mix everything well.
Heat a frying pan with a bit of oil in it at medium-high heat. Take a handful of tuna mixture in your hands and shape it into a small patty. Put it in the frying pan and repeat. You’ll get probably 5 patties.
Fry the patties a few minutes on one side then carefully with a spatula turn them over and let the other side cook. Both sides should be browned and a bit crispy.
Alternatives and serving
You can also use canned salmon or crab meat. Also salt cod, smoked salmon or fresh fish. (With salmon, I pull off the skin and larger bones and give them and the liquid to the cats and dog. It’s messy to pick out but I don’t like it and they do.)
Fresh fish must be cooked first. Just put the fillet in a frying pan and lightly fry it while flaking it at the same time. Leftover mashed potatoes works instead of bread crumbs as the filler. Or cracker crumbs.
You can add celery, olives, green or red pepper too, just finely dice everything so the pieces don’t make your patties too lumpy.
Serve your fish cakes with, well, anything. These ones are with steamed broccoli and penne with pesto. But they also go well with rice or any kind of potatoes, salad, potato or pasta salad. If you want twice as many patties, just double the ingredients.
One thing I thank a long ago boyfriend for is introducing me to ratatouille. He used the Joy of Cooking recipe, but added ground beef and cumin. That radically changes it from the vegetable casserole in the Joy. Both are equally, but differently, delicious. The Joy describes it as looking “like a very successful Braque still-life” (Rombauer & Becker). So here is the original recipe with changes in italics and strikethroughs.
Joy‘s Eggplant Casserole or Ratatouille Provençale
Peel, slice and salt* 1 medium eggplant (2 1/2 cups diced)
*To get of excess moisture: slice eggplant cross-wise, about 3/4-1 inch thick. Lay slices on paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Leave about 10 minutes, then turn over and salt the other side. Let sit another 10 minutes. Rinse, pat dry, then dice. (I do not peel the eggplant.)
Put in a deep skillet 1/4-1/3 olive oil
Sauté until golden:
3/4 cup thinly sliced onions
2 cloves garlic(pressed or minced)
Add 1 lb (1/2 k) lean ground beef and brown. Pour off excess grease.
1/2 cup whole pitted black olives
4 julienned green (and/or red) peppers, seeds and membrane removed
3 cups zucchini in 1/2 inch slices(about 3 medium)
2 cups skinned, seeded, quartered tomatoes(or whole, fresh or cooked)
Add drained eggplant. Sprinkle the mixture with olive oil.
Add 1/2 tsp oregano or 2 tsp chopped fresh basil(Joy says optional, I say either or both, fresh or dried.)
Add 2-3 tsp ground cumin, more or less, to taste.
Simmer covered over very low heat about 45 mins. Uncover and continue to heat 15 mins. longer to reduce the amount of liquid. Add salt and a grating of fresh pepper.
While it’s cooking, make steamed rice. Serve hot – on a bed of rice – or cold with cultured sour cream.
Newfoundland Mi'kmaq, family history, Coronation Street, etc.