The Commie Pickling Experiment

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in which Matt is asked to complete an assignment with respect to pickling vegetables and tasting the outcome.

Gentlemen, ladies:

I write this post to you under duress: a trying time this has been for our great nation. A time in which the Communist threat is ever present. We must not yield. We must not be complacent. Friends, I ask for your support in our fight against the Reds.

This was support I was ready to give when my esteemed colleague, Senator Joseph McCarthy suggested that there be convened a subcommittee within the House Committee on Un-American Activities (“HUAC”, though HCU-AA would be more accurate). The newly created subcommittee I refer to, however, is the House Subcommittee on Un-American Food Production Activities (HSUFPA).

Senator Joseph McCarthy smiles his American smile the day that the first convenes HSUFPA.

Senator Joseph McCarthy smiles his American smile the day that HSUFPA is convened.

At HSUFPA we’ve been working tirelessly to expose the Commie food threat, a threat that targets

YOU AT HOME!

YOUR CHILDREN IN SCHOOL CAFETERIAS!!

YOUR LOVED ONES EVERYWHERE!!!

Recent intelligence has made us aware that pickling is the latest plan of attack, being cooked up by the Soviets. They would pickle our American vegetables in their brine just as soon as they would pickle
YOU AT HOME!
YOUR CHILDREN IN SCHOOL!!
YOUR LOVED ONES EVERYWHERE!!

Pickling, you see, comes easily to the Communist. Their leader, Lenin, was pickled.  His body can be seen even to this VERY DAY.

A vivacious Senator Joe McCarthy emerges from a large vat of brine, part of his daily anti-Communist workout. Go, America, go!

A vivacious Senator Joe McCarthy emerges from a large vat of brine, part of his daily anti-Communist workout. Go, America, go!

Our intelligence suggests that the first Communist pickling to attack America may be in the form of PICKLED TOMATOES AND YELLOW PEPPER. Heaven help us.

I was asked by HSUFPA to create this RED recipe in a secure, undisclosed environment so we can better understand it. The recipe itself was taken from the dossier of a brave American spy, code name “Pretty Prudent“. The method we believe will be used is the addition of watered down VINEGAR to raw vegetables, in this case tomatoes and yellow pepper. The yellow pepper is an addition not found in the recipe. Better safe than sorry.

Senator Joseph McCarthy reads over the declassified recipe.

Senator Joseph McCarthy reads over the declassified recipe.

The recipe explicitly allows for some modifications, and so I took the liberty of including these. After reducing the recipe so that it would produce only one jar of pickled items, I increased amount of black peppercorns slightly and increased the amount of coriander seed significantly. When all the ingredients were laid out in the secure, undisclosed location, the results were as follows (the layout of the tomatoes is a typical Communist affront to American virility):

These are the ingredients used in the RED recipe.

These are the ingredients used in the RED recipe.

I then heated up the brine and poured it into a NORTH AMERICAN MADE jar, which already held the raw vegetables. Finally, I had another person put the cap on. I could have done this alone but I did not.

no lid


These are the ingredients of the RED recipe with no lid on.

lid on

The team at HSUFPA puts a lid on it. Literally. Metaphorically. American-ly.

SENSORY EVALUATION

Please do not be alarmed. Congress has initiated a scientific exploration of the compounds found in these RED RECIPES. Early tests show that the production of specially engineered capsules can render the Soviet food threat harmless.

Senator Joseph McCarthy is able to eat Soviet foodstuffs in limited quantities while taking a test-version of an American health capsule.

Senator Joseph McCarthy is able to eat Soviet foodstuffs in limited quantities while taking a test-version of an American health capsule.

The following are the originally laboratory notes on the pickled tomatoes and peppers:

– Jar stuffed with uniformly cut yellow peppers and two red tomatoes. Tomatoes bulge out, splitting skin. Effect of poking holes in them and letting too much brine seep in?? Should have reduced hole-poking.

– Brine: pale yellow colour: effect of apple cider vinegar. Yellow peppers don’t have appealing colour against yellow brine. Try red pepper?

– Overwhelming smell of salted tomato and hint of apple smell too. This is reasonable.

– Tomato skin is loose and slides off soft tomato body. Not holding up well. Drooping on the plate, a bit like shot cowboy on last night’s “Gunsmoke”. Skin is tasteless and hard to chew. Tomato flesh has slightly too salty taste, but the coriander has pierced it vibrantly. Could stand more pepper, I’d warrant.

– Yellow peppers maintain colour well, though they have gone soft. A crisper pepper would be more appealing and therefore more dangerous to American consumers. Of course we won’t want our countrymen to become entranced with this Soviet foodery.

– Yellow peppeafsddddddddddddddddd

[note: I’ll be taking over. My colleague seems not to have taken enough of the anti-Communist capsules. He is convulsing on the floor.]

At any rate, the yellow peppers have a mellow aftertaste that contrasts with the sharpness of their acidic content. They took a lot of acid in them, boy did they ever… Yes, the yellow peppers are a bit soft. It may have lost some of its crunch when the brine was poured over them. It was likely too warm to preserve the integrity of the pepper. Conversely the pepper could have been chilled more. There is a little more apple flavour to the pepper but not as much coriander. Again, the peppercorns are weak.

Lab report ends.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

This, my fellow countrymen, concludes the report on pickling from the House Subcommittee on Un-American Food Production Activities. We are of the opinion that the Reds may try to bolster their weaponized foodery by first chilling their peppers, cooling down the brine before adding it, or even changing the colour of the pepper so that it will stand out against the yellowish brine colour.

But know, dear ones, that whensoever food is pickled, wherever a tomato is grown, we shall stand firm.

And we shall defeat the Communist aggressor.

God bless you all.

FURTHER DOCUMENTATION

http://www.countryliving.com/cooking/about-food/sterilizing-canning-jars
http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/canning-jars-pop-cooling-27102.html
http://prudentbaby.com/2012/09/entertaining-food/how-to-pickle-tomatoes-a-yummy-recipe-to-preserve-tomatoes/

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Hunting. Fig Hunting.

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Some have said that “when we rescue…fruit, we also save our memories and our souls”. This intro hook was borrowed from an episode of David Suzuki’s “The Nature of Things” that was titled “Fruit Hunters”.

I, too, have become a fruit hunter. I cannot say that it was a path I chose. Nor will I say the path chose me. Yet, I find myself shrouded in darkness with my steel and my faith as my only company. Also music. I listen to Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. That, I suppose, keeps me company. So, the music, the steel, and my faith. And again I hunt. Oh, how I hunt.

Catch the Rainbow. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-rQxI3-xSeg It sounds like “Taste the Rainbow”, the slogan for Skittles. Skittles do not belong to a fruit group, as a nutrition test recently asked. Hence, I connect the music to the fruit. It’s always about the fruit.

The ripest hunting comes when the prey least expects it. My prey is housed in a jail so large that it does not know it. The jail is St. Lawrence Market, whose first permanent version was constructed in 1803. I learn this from http://www.stlawrencemarket.com/history The website helps me hunt the fruit. I chose this building for its rich municipal history and for its proximity to the school that has taught me how to hunt fruit.

In 1845, City Council began meeting in the St. Lawrence market building. Even then, sunburnt and jowly people jostled for “SUBWAYS, SUBWAYS, SUBWAYS”. The building had been built of brick and yet, it burned down in 1849. Fast forward to 2014. I am hunting fruit.

St. Lawrence Market, jail to my fig prey.

I was quiet in my fruit hunting. I selected a solitary fruit. A fruit not bound to others. A fruit whose weakness I could prey upon, and separate it from its confreres. I chose a single fig. A single, waxy green and brown fig. The only reason that guided my choice was this: I recently had a fig balsamic vinegar. It was delicious. I wanted to taste the fig itself, and I had never had it before.

A hunter must know his prey. The following two paragraphs include information provided to me by the California Rare Fruit Growers at http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/fig.html

They seek to preserve rare fruit, but I seek to hunt.

Figs, my prey, are known in English as “figs”. A singular fig is called a “fig”. In French: “Figue”, in German “Feige”, in Italian “Fico”. Spanish was left behind. A fig is “Higo” is Spanish.

The fig was first grown in western Asia, and figs have been found at Mediterranean archeological sites dating more than 7,000 years ago. The fig is related to Cluster Fig and the Sycomore Fig.  The Encylopedia of Life classifies the fig in Family Moraceae, truly a noble lineage. To non-Latinists, this is the mulberry family.  http://eol.org/pages/60627/overview

At St. Lawrence Market, figs were sold at $1.29 CAD each. But what is the growing season, you ask? I shall tell you: September to March, and fig pollination is carried out by wasps. http://eol.org/pages/60627/overview But we can grow figs all year round, which is necessary to maintain the health of wasp species that pollinate the fig.

Figs are best suited to dry, warm climates, like the Mediterranean, (http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/fig.html) which, as a bonus, means “centre of the Earth”. The figs are centre of the universe, however.

The fig itself has green-brown skin that is quite smooth. There is some stickiness to it as well, and a dull waxy sheen. Its camouflage was insufficient for the likes of me. Its flesh: chewy. Its seeds: crunchy. My teeth are strong.

When my strong teeth break into a fig, what do I taste? Notes of raisin with honey or slightly burnt sugar.  Its smell is a milder form of these flavours, combined with slightly under-ripe banana.

No one needs to cook this fruit. It submits to the tooth readily when handled with an assured grip.

This guy can eat figs without cooking them. You can too.

But if I HAD to cook it for some reason, I would find a way. Because of the softness of the fig texture I would recommend either cooking it at low temperatures for a relatively longer period of time (to soften it or give it a glaze without having the structure break down too much) or cook it at a high temperature for a very short period of time, searing some lines into it for visual appear, and bringing out its natural sweetness through caramelization of its sugars.

As an example of low temperature cooking, poach the fig in spiced syrup. An open-ended recipe (but one that allows for some trial and error) is found under “fig compote” at the bottom of: http://www.finecooking.com/articles/in-season-fresh-summer-figs.aspx

But to cook a recipe, you must first hunt the fruit.
In the words of Commander Bill Adama, “Good hunting.”

The Spice Girls: A Culinary Backstory and Other Clickbait

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In the mid-1990s, the Spice Girls swept the hearts of children around the world.  Less known is the fact that they formed in a kitchen in London, under the touring name of “Bouquet Garni”.

Although the girls eventually doffed their culinary-inspired nicknames for more marketable ones, Gerri Halliwell’s remained: “Ginger Spice”.

But this is not the only story of culinary experiences influencing the development of music. Note the famous American composer, Samuel Barber (1910 – 1981). Barber, who was based in New York City, made ends meet by bussing tables at the Bar and Grill Room of Maxl’s. Barber’s magnum opus, “Adagio for Strings” was based on a few notes that Barber hummed to himself as he heard a call for “al dente on the string beans”. 

Finally, many people are unaware that Canadian rock gods, Rush,  also have a culinary connection. Guitarist Alex Lifeson, owns a bar in Toronto, and early experiments with a red bruschetta dish led to this hit from “Moving Pictures”.

Flavour, Taste and Sensory Evaluation

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The new food that I tried was a Castello Danish blue cheese, and I included it in a double baked potato, whose recipe I received on the weekend.

Blue cheese has a bad rap, of course. Its smell is too pungent. The taste is too much like a soppy, wet athletic sock. The ripples of distinctive blue mold in the cheese are… MOLD, which is gross. The list goes on.

I enjoyed the cheese, but only in small portions. This is also how I enjoy novelty music from the 1950s and Rex Murphy. It (the cheese) had a mellow saltiness and astringency, that seemed to increase as the portion lingered on my tongue. The cheese had a hint of sweetness, but only at the very beginning.

The smell was less impressive, and was restricted to a salty and musky odour, combined with what I can only label “mold”. The semi-soft cheese was pliable, and would not crumble well when I tried to combine it with the double baked potato mixture.

The blue is, of course, the unique and identifying aspect of the cheese in many people’s eyes. Up close, though, it’s a fairly unappetizing sight: hairy and flaky blue, caked onto indentations within the offwhite cheese.

Beyond its appearance, the musky nature of the cheese stands apart from many other cheeses that I’ve had. Its soft texture clearly lends itself to pureed salads dressings.

One thing that I learned–though on reflection, it should not have surprised me–was the manner in which my taste experience changed when I combined the cheese with the double baked potato.

The potato recipe called for baked whole russets, which were then cut open, scooped out, and mashed with crumbled blue cheese, butter, sour cream, and caramelized onion. The mixture was then portioned into the russet skins, and baked again.

The sweetness of the onions, once they had caramelized, accented the hint of sweetness in the blue cheese (the hint that had been close to imperceptible when I tasted it on its own). The astringent nature of the cheese was masked when combined with these other ingredients, and made the blue cheese far more appealing. I would certainly eat it again.

My youngest brother, who “hates blue cheese” was good enough to try the potatoes, and expressed his approval. My other brother, however, did not enjoy the dish even though he enjoys blue cheese on its own.

The wonder of combining and cooking ingredients, ladies and gentlemen! I’m interested to further investigate the effects of multiple ingredients on one’s perception of the component parts.

In future, I may try an experiment like this with flavours that I enjoy less (salty, ocean-based flavours). For example, I remember walking the shores of the Bay of Fundy, disgusted with the smell of the abandoned dulse (seaweed) littering the sandy floor. But that’s for next time.

My culinary autobiography

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Hello internet people!

My name is Matt Cohen, and I’ll be here (in your computer screen) documenting my culinary experiences. In fact, you can see me now, smiling to the left of this text.

I am interested in becoming a Chef because I take pleasure in producing for others enjoyable and delicious experiences. While I have been able to do this in the home, I would like to be able to do it on a larger scale.

I do not currently work, nor have I ever worked, in the culinary industry. My experience has been solely amateur. I had the opportunity once to cook for a summer camp, but I turned it down to spend time at a friend’s cottage.  And, lo, there were sunburns…

I cannot yet determine a comprehensive personal philosophy of cooking. I don’t think that I cook in a particularly self-aware fashion but what I can identify is this:
– When cooking at home I would rather let a recipe inspire and serve my needs than cook to a recipe’s specifications.
– I enjoy blending foods and ingredients from disparate regions and cultures, all in the name of producing tasty and even interesting (!) food.

Throughout this experience, I hope:
– to gain a concrete understanding of how and why we cook for one another; and
– to receive suggestions and comments from colleagues that can help shape a well-considered approach to cooking.