The word 'heirloom' has overtaken 'organic' as THE trendy term in food circles. It originally applied to fruits and vegetables whose seeds were collected, preserved and passed down through generations. Personally, I thought of it as a synonym for 'charge even more money for ugly fruits'. But the term did capture some of my interest. (When the seed companies start selling 'heirloom' plants, you know the trend is on its way out.)
Instead, the trend shifted to recipes. Jams, jellies, pickles - virtually any recipe you could get from your mom or grandma - were labelled as 'heirloom' recipes. Well, if the Virtual Gourmand is nothing else, it is authentic. And I'm going to share 3 true heirloom recipes that have been passed down to, and enjoyed by, five generations of my family (maybe six, if my distant cousins have started families of their own).
Let me give you some background on the origin of these recipes. My paternal Great-Grandmother, Elsie Iola Zook Workman, was a fantastic cook. Her parents moved on covered wagons to Illinois, following the railroad west after the Civil War. There is a picture in my father's study of her as an infant in front of a sod house built by her parents. She supported six children as a single, divorced mother through the Great Depression and beyond - initially, as a cook in a popular local diner. And once she stepped down from that position, she became the cook in residence at the Theta Xi Fraternity Chapter at the University of Illinois. When Elsie finally retired, she took up running a boarding house near the college campus until her health began to fail (while she was living with her youngest daughter - my grandmother - until her death at the age of 94).
Lately, I have begun a culinary journey into the world of charcuterie. This term is derived from the French words for "flesh" (chair) and "cooked" (cuit). It dates from the 15th Century, and was applied to shops that sold pork products. The definition has expanded to include meats other than pork, and also applies to patés and terrines as well as sausages of virtually any type. I don't expect to teach you how to make a fancy goose liver pate or a seafood terrine (I doubt you would even be interested in that), but every man loves sausages, and I can show you some very basic methods and recipes for some of my favorites.
Be it on Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter, ham represents a traditional holiday feast dish. Any decently sized ham will serve a lot of people at the holiday table without breaking the bank. Plus, ham usually tends to be on sale just before holidays.
The commercially processed hams that we enjoy today bear little resemblance to the hams of old. Of course, there are relatively few family farms that raise pigs for slaughter for those families’ own consumption, and then prepare the hams using recipes and techniques passed down from one generation to another. Today, the retail market for ham has multiplied many times from what it was in the past, and consumer demand for ham is a now year-round phenomenon.
Contrary to what you might think, barbecue is not the only thing I use my smoker to make. In fact, a smoker is a versatile tool that can smoke everything from poultry to cheese. I've even seen smoked butter, if you can believe that.
Similarly, gumbo is a highly versatile dish that can serve 4, 40 or 400. It can be made from virtually any meat. If I had to guess, I'd say gumbo was the foundation for that old Cajun saw, "If it moves, we can cook it. If we can cook it, we can eat it." Beyond a few simple ingredients, gumbo is a dish that can be customized in more ways than you can count.
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: This article was originally published April 2011 in the CW Magazine. With the recent cold weather, it is the ideal time to try this technique if you like. In fact, BigJohn and I put 30 pounds of pork shoulder into cure just last weekend.
I don't think there's another more universally loved food in America than bacon. You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone (even among those who are forbidden by religious or dietary practices) who won't admit to liking bacon. There's just something about the salty-smoky-unctuously fatty taste of bacon that is unique among flavors.
A few months ago, I decided I was going to try to make some artisinal bacon. Christmas was on the way, and I wanted to (and always like to, as a matter of fact) make unique food products for friends and family as gifts for the holiday season. Who wouldn't like to get a package with a vacuum-sealed bag loaded with yummy bacon? I sure would.
By now (if only from the number of articles I’ve written on the subject), I’m sure you’re aware that I am not just a casual fan of barbecue. Barbecue is probably my favorite food group, and would likely play a part in my last meal should I ever face the misfortune of being on Death Row.
Even though I have all manner of specialized equipment that I use to barbecue, this doesn’t mean that you have to spend untold dollars on such specialized equipment to achieve the same results. In fact, a humble grill can turn out fantastic baby back ribs. And you won’t have to spend the whole afternoon tending a fire, either.
Monday October 6, 2014
I want to be clear about something. I don't like barbecue. I LOVE barbecue!
Smoky. Spicy. Saucy and tangy and sweet. Pork, chicken or beef. From the grill or from the smoker. I love it all.
My wife, the Nurse, swears my blood type is barbecue sauce. Barbecue is the one food I never tire of, and the one thing you can always find in my home.
Whether it's a dry-rubbed brisket, a batch of mustard-sauced chicken quarters, a pulled pork shoulder or several racks of ribs - if there isn't any in my icebox, then check my grill. I grill or smoke three times a week, no matter what the weather. Six inches of snow and winds 'blowing' the temp to below zero? Fire up the Weber or the smoker!
For me, barbecue is like sex. Even if it is awful, it's still pretty good.
Pork prices, while on the upswing (due to the Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus or PEDV for short, increased costs of feed and the weakened dollar), have been moderate of late. Knowing that pork is going to become increasingly expensive and therefore a lesser part of our future diet, I've been indulging in it this summer while it is still affordable. Consequently, I found myself last week with three racks of baby back (also known as loin back) ribs in my fridge that needed to be used.
I'm one of those people who generally hate squash. Crookneck, zucchini, spaghetti – to me they are all disgusting. Cool weather like we’ve been experiencing this past winter all across the country puts people in the mood for soups, chillies and stews. And I have found a recipe for a butternut squash soup that is hearty, filling and will tempt the palate of even the most vehement squash hater.
I have two girls and a boy attending college. And at various times, they all request this soup. They say they hate squash, too. The fact that the soup is very easy to make on a weeknight only adds to its appeal for the home cook.
Yes, you read the title right.
“But,” you ask, “How can this seafood dish, which doesn't involve any fire at all, be called barbecue?”
Let’s go back a ways to Pascal's Manale Restaurant in New Orleans. (It's still there today). A visitor from Chicago, who was a close family friend of the owners, raved about a buttery shrimp recipe he’d tasted back in his home city. The chef at Pascal’s Manale went back into the kitchen to try his hand at replicating the recipe, and came up with something he named Barbecue Shrimp. Barbecue Shrimp has been a popular dish at the New Orleans establishment ever since.