11 Days of Feastmas – Apple Pie (and Sewing Buttons)

Erin Bried is one cool cat.  We met her through Twitter and have traded several messages over the past few months as she blogs, tweets and published a great looking book – How to Sew a Button.

Erin is on a mission – to have us remember, learn and share the advice of our Grandmothers.  Her book ties 100 different how-to articles based on the work of real Grandmothers and modern experts.  There is advice on folding fitted sheets, mending clothing and, of course, cooking.

Erin has inspired me to try our first pie for Christmas – apple pie is in the plans (to be paired with our infused vodka and Christmas Cheddar). She has put a great video together to help people learn.  I really like the advice that “all pie is good pie.”  Let’s turn it over to our expert to learn from her:

11 Days of Feastmas – The coming of Cheeses

Last night was one of the biggest night of my year.  I got to visit with Byron (whom Dana jokes is my cheese boyfriend) and we planned the cheese trays for the holiday season – if you missed the tips on buying holiday cheese you can see why I do this here.

Buying cheese for the holidays is about an hours worth of work – sometimes longer.  I find a quiet night to head to the St Lawrence Market and time the visit for the day when most of the Holiday shipment arrives – I need a quiet night so that I can get some quality time with my cheese man.

The conversation is two way and we brainstorm, trade ideas, stories and laughter.  We start with what’s rare, then we go to seasonal and we follow it by planning pairings with food and the many preserves we have made specifically to be matched with cheese.  It’s an awesome tour of the world according to lactose!

It is important that you trust your cheese dude – and that you like him.  I have known Byron for 4 years – he know Dana and my parents.  I have met one of his kids and know the stories of his family.  I genuinely care about him and am excited to see him and love our time together.  If you don’t have a cheese dude you know by name I highly recommend you consider this as a resolution for the New Year.  11 Days of Feastmas – The coming of Cheeses December

So what did we pick?  Here is a preview (pictures will be added after Christmas as we unwrap them):

Vacherin Mont D’Or (we raved on it here).  It is lord of the smelly.  This cheese comes in a wooden box and is essentially hermetically sealed.  Once open you remove a top skin off it to reveal the cheese which is pretty much a liquid.  You put the entire thing in the oven and pass it around with bread.  We are going to cover ours in wine this year before warming.  When I got there he was already out of this once a year cheese – he had 3 pieces stowed away for 3 customers and we were one of them.  If you want a similar (and unbelievably stinky experience), try Epoisses.

Fourme D’Ambert.  A classic French blue cheese that is made from cows milk (more info here).  It is one of France’s oldest cheeses and is protected by the AOC (Appellation d’origine controlle) which, similar to champagne, prohibits imitators from knocking it off.  Although many websites seem to list this as being 50% fat, the one I purchased is 24%.  I have already punched holes in it and filled it with a 10 year old Tawny port (as you may recall we were planning to do this with Stilton).

11 Days of Feastmas – The coming of Cheeses December

Stilton Colston Bass. This is a seasonal cheese – once a year is when it shows up.  We decided to marinate the blue cheese and try this as-is because of its rarity.  We will eat the blue cheese and this as a pairing with a glass of the port on the side.

Black Truffle Moliterno.  A pecorino cheese is created and aged in Sardinia (Italy) before it is drilled with holes that are filled with black truffle paste.  It’s a decadent and divine taste – we carefully select one with lots of truffle.

Christmas Cheddar.  English White Cheddar that is made once per year.  It will last for months in the fridge if we don’t eat it all.  This will be paired with pickled garlic and some of our sweeter preserves.  If you’ve only had commercial cheddar from large factories, you don’t know how awesome this great cheese can be.

Petit Basque.  Aged for two months this French cheese arrived on the cheese scene 12 years ago. It is similar to Spanish Manchego though milder.  This is to be paired with a 25-year old vinegar (such as the DiNigris here).

Chaource Lincet (AOC).  A gift from our cheese man.  This is all about the jams we will serve it with – and fresh slices of pear.

There will be a few more standards sneaking into the fridge in the next week – brie, chevre and beemster for pairing with preserves.  The list above with be the heart of the feast that we will pick on for days over the Holidays (all of it will sit on the counter for 2-4 hours before consuming) and will be a highlight of the season for us.  By the time January 4th rolls around we will not want to see cheese for a while and we will partake in a last, desperate attempt at consuming all of it and will eat the most unbelievable macaroni and cheese of the year.

11 Days of Feastmas – Chestnuts roasting…

I had the thrill of traveling France and Italy over the Holidays in the early part of this decade.  I spent almost a month exploring this part of Europe (my first time “overseas”) and eating my way through the old world.

I started the trip in Firenze (Florence) and remember the first night I spent there vividly.  Small market streets had ceilings of white lights draped between buildings guiding our way through wet winter streets.  Many were dressed like they were forging through the bitter arctic – I remember feeling warm as the temperature was well over freezing.  Perspective is a funny thing. [Read more...]

11 Days of Feastmas – Raising the BAR on stuffing

Turkey is a traditional feast for us on the Holidays.  One of my favourite parts of the meal is the stuffing – ours is a combination of bread that we cube and dry for a few days, sausage meat and a few other tasties.  It could be a meal in its own right.

My first tip for stuffing is yet another low-effort and wait task.  By the time our family descends on our home banquet they will be sharing food that we have easily prepared in weeks and months leading up to the meal.  All of this preparation actually excites me as I go – it does not feel like a chore. [Read more...]

11 Days of Feastmas – Marinating Cheese

This is a last minute addition to the Holiday feasts – a new friend at work shared a holiday tradition he holds dear with me yesterday and it simply sounded so good that we had to give it a whirl.

  • Get yourself a piece of Stilton cheese
  • Poke holes in it with a skewer.  Do not poke all the way through.
  • Pour port onto the surface until it is absorbed.  Continue to do so until the cheese will take no more (he says he puts up to 2 ounces in a fairly typical piece).  You are not trying to have the cheese swimming in port – you are trying to drown it from the inside.
  • Place in fridge and wait a week. [Read more...]

Cheap Tuesday Gourmet – Pigs Trotters and Local Fare

This post is a love-it or hate-it kind of affair.  I didn’t know where I fell so I had to try it.

Many of the worlds best restaurants are pushing for sustainable eating and nose-to-tail eating (something many give credit it Fergus Henderson in the UK for bringing to fine dining).

Cheap Tuesday Gourmet   Pigs Trotters and Local Fare Pork Offal December Cooking Recipes Cheap Tuesday Gourmet

[Read more...]

11 Days of Feastmas – Infusing Vodka with Apples and Pears

I have wanted to infuse vodka with fruit for Christmas for years – and never got around to it.  Now that I have started the process I feel silly for not doing it sooner – it was all of 10 minutes work.

11 Days of Feastmas   Infusing Vodka with Apples and Pears Vodka Preserving Recipes Pear December Apple 11 Tastes of Feastmas 11 days of feastmas [Read more...]

11 Days of Feastmas – Midday snack – Duck Prosciutto

I technically started cooking our Christmas dinner on October 28th with the Lemon Confit project.  The rinds from those lemons will form a key part of our stuffing and I love that there has been a long process of curing to transform groceries into something we cannot readily purchase.  I love the romance of it all…

There will be many ingredients served over the Holidays that are simply not at the market.  Harvest fresh preserves, infused booze, homemade bread, samples of moose (and maybe deer).  Many of these things simply take time to transform from ordinary to extraordinary and while much of our bounty was prepared months ago there is still time for you to create your own specialty items for the end of the month.  Today and tomorrow’s post will present two such options.

11 Days of Feastmas   Midday snack   Duck Prosciutto Salt Preserving Recipes Duck December 11 Tastes of Feastmas 11 days of feastmas [Read more...]

11 Days of Feastmas – Day 1 – Roasted Garlic is a Secret Weapon

A few days before the family arrives I will roast 3-4 whole bulbs of garlic (if not more).

Garlic is local, seasonal , healthy and I love it.

11 Days of Feastmas   Day 1   Roasted Garlic is a Secret Weapon Garlic December Cooking Recipes 11 Tastes of Feastmas 11 days of feastmas

[Read more...]

11 Days of Feastmas

The cold has swept across Toronto this week.  We have had our first snow, storm and tough driving.  What felt like an eternal fall has instantly turned a new leaf and is a bitter winter.  It must be Holiday season!

Christmas, Hanukkah, Chinese New Year, Ashura, the Julian New Year and more are all significant occasions marked in the next 6 weeks by many people.  Some are celebrations of faith and others are simply a time to celebrate with friends and family.  December means Christmas to me and it’s one of my most favourite times of year!

Between tomorrow and December 26th we will share some of our Holiday traditions (including some new ones) for you to consider.  Most will be small tips on little twists/ tricks that we do to make our Holiday meals extra special.  We’ll talk about food that can get the entire family involved as well as food that is for adults only.  We’ll share our tasty tricks and traditions that are (for the most part) easily adaptable into existing recipes and plans.

There will be raisins, cranberries, homemade duck Prosciutto, infused booze, an ingredient I keep on hand to bail out any last-minute holiday meal and, of course,  chestnuts.  Boxing Day will feature a special post dedicated to making better stocks with leftovers.

In the meantime, if you’re looking to get a start on Holiday tips, take a peak back at our post on how to make your own Turkey gravy from scratch.  Despite what the commercials say, it really is far better (and is more affordable) than the packaged stuff.  You could also give slow roasted cherry tomatoes a try – unbelievable tomato taste that can be prepped in advance and promotes packaged winter tomatoes from afar to a star on the table.

11 Days of Feastmas December 11 Tastes of Feastmas 11 days of feastmas

Cheap Tuesday Gourmet will continue on Tuesdays (we even have a special recipe planned for the 29th which could easily be made for New Years) and plans for a whole series of posts related to preserving for the first half of January.