From October 2011

Downtown pub “Hops” into new local flavours

My latest column from the Print Edition of Peterborough This Week.

Brewmaster, Doug Warren and hops grower, Jay Schiller, show a before and after shot of the Wet Hop Ale brewing process.

 

Downtown pub “Hops” into new local flavours

Being a food writer can be a lot of hard work.

Deadlines loom. There is constant pressure to publish in order to keep a roof over your head. And people feel compelled to have you try their latest culinary creations and handcrafted beverages.

Why only last week I had to spend an afternoon in the basement brewery of the Olde Stone Brewing Company, sipping microbrew beers in order to report on the latest small-batch options available to Peterborough diners.

After a very thorough sampling I’m happy to report that the current seasonal offerings of the Olde Stone will meet – and perhaps exceed – the expectations of local beer aficionados.

It’s a tough life, I tell you. But someone has to eat and drink for a living.

It should come as no surprise that the Olde Stone’s new seasonal beers are exceptional. Brewmaster Doug Warren has been creating fine brews at the pub for the past five years – he’s been designing craft beers for 25 years in total. Before setting up shop at the Olde Stone, he honed his skills making beer for such well-renowned microbreweries as the Kawartha Lakes Brewing Company, Mill Street Brewery, and the Churchkey Brewing Company.

Warren’s regular house line-up ranges from an India Pale Ale to a Bitter to a Stout. My personal favourite is his Red Fife Wheat beer. All of these brews are popular with the pub’s diverse clientele, with discriminating local beer appreciators making the Olde Stone a regular stop and tourists flocking to the establishment on the merit of its strong reputation.

While the roster of regular house beers remains the same year-round, Warren’s limited edition seasonal beverages tend to reflect the tastes of the season.

And this autumn he has tried to keep these tastes as local as possible.

He’s serving up an “Olde Stone Pumpkin Ale” – flavoured with several varieties of pumpkin from Martin’s Fruits and Vegetable Farm in Campbellford. He has also created a “Wet Hop Ale” made with hops grown at Slow Acres Organics – a farm just south of Peterborough.

“I try to use as many local ingredients as possible,” said Warren as I explored his brewery. “But this is not always possible when you have limited local options.”

Staff at the Olde Stone serve me up a pint of Wet Hops.

 

 

The Wet Hop Ale is particularly notable in its use of local ingredients. Hops, you see, are not traditionally grown in Peterborough – at least they haven’t been in quite a while.

According to Jay Schiller of Slow Acres, the crop has only recently been re-introduced to the area.

“It’s been around 100 years since hops have been grown commercially in this part of Ontario,” he told me as I sipped the results of his agricultural experiments. “The climate here isn’t all that great for older varieties of the plant.”

Farmers, however, have been carefully breeding varieties that respond well to various climates.

“It takes quite a while to naturally produce new varieties,” he explained.

“It takes generations of plants to bring about the changes needed to adapt to growing conditions.”

“Naturally” is a word that carries great importance for Schiller. After all, being an organic grower means that he takes particular care in producing the most natural crops possible. He is careful to stress the difference between breeding new varieties through persistent selection and genetically modifying plants.

“Traditional breeding of crop plants has been standard practice for thousands of years – really, since people first started farming. And it is a technique that is a perfect fit for people who have concerns about the science of genetic modification.”

As a person who values naturally-produced, local, seasonal ingredients – and one who also values great beer – I’m excited that one of only a handful of Southern Ontario hops growers has set his sights on producing for local breweries.

It has made for a great beer drinking option.

The “Wet Hop” has a delicate hoppiness – much less so than you would normally get with traditional dried hops. Both the flavour and aroma have a floral quality. There is a notable malt taste. It is a dark amber beer that maintains its slight foamy head for the duration of the glass.

The “Pumpkin Ale” is a somewhat conventional ale that contains hints of both pumpkin and spice – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. But these flavours compliment rather than dominate the beer. It tastes like autumn in Ontario.

The Olde Stone Brewing Company has been serving up quality beer and pub food from their downtown location for the past 15 years. Their autumn seasonal beers should be available for most of October. You can find them on George Street in downtown Peterborough.

Slow Acres Organics is a 100-acre diversified organic farm just south of Peterborough. The farm is in the ‘transition’ phase from 30-plus years of conventional farming with an expectation of official organic certification coming in the next couple of years. Owners Jay and Heidi will be producing heirloom and other certified organic vegetables this coming season. They’ll also be selling organic eggs. Look for their products next year.

Because I am showcasing local beers this week, I don’t have a recipe for this column. But be sure to check out the Farm to Table blog at www.mykawartha.com<http://www.mykawartha.com>for many local, seasonal recipes and tips.

In the meantime, I plan on sampling these local brewing endeavors heartily – until the Olde Stone’s batches of “Wet Hop” and “Pumpkin Ale” run out later this month.

I’ll do so for journalistic purposes only, I can assure you.

I’ll take one – or several – for the team.

Wheat Board: Makeover or Takeover? Questions in the Wake of Government Decision

There’s been a startling lack of deep, focused food security and agricultural economic questions being asked about the Conservative Government’s decision to scrap the Canadian Wheat Board. At least there has been in the media. Farmers may be asking these questions amongst themselves, but I haven’t seen any of our large media sources musing aloud about food safety for Canadians or economic equality for farmers.

Before I start introducing questions myself, I’ll start by saying this: The Canadian Wheat Board is a problematic organization.

Yes, it ensures a market, set price, and guaranteed ports for our Prairie wheat and barley farmers. And, if you believe Wheat Board Chair (and farmer), Allen Oberg, it has the support of 62 percent of wheat growers and 51 percent of barley growers.

But as it guarantees a market, it also limits what farmers can do with their own crops. Farmers don’t get to choose a market. They don’t get to set prices. Under Wheat Board regulations, they don’t have the opportunity to make much of a decision about what happens to their product.

Small farmers, specialty farmers, organic farmers have often railed against the Wheat Board, claiming that their ability to earn as much as they can for their grain is severely limited.

Of course, these same farmers may, in some years, benefit from the insurance that being part of a collective ensures. Droughts, floods, and economic upheaval are unpredictable that way.

Whether or not the Wheat Board works is not really my point, however – though I will agree that, in its current state, it needs substantial change. I am more concerned about how the Wheat Board is being dismantled than why.

And the how concerns me. Greatly.

Let’s look at what the Conservative Government has proposed: not the abrupt end of the Board, but, rather, an interesting – and hardly subtle – restructuring. Gone will be the 10 farmer-elected directors. Remaining? The 5 government-appointed positions. These government seats will continue to operate for another 5 years, building a business model for a new Board (based on volunteer farmer buy-in) and entertaining offers for privatization.

They’re not proposing to eliminate the Board as much as take it over.

Sure, this Government-run Board will allow farmers to set their own prices and find their own markets. That seems like a good option for some growers. But they will also be responsible for setting up a privatized new Board that will see many, many farmers making the decision to continue with a large-scale producer marketing system.

Say what you will about the current Wheat Board, but they have successfully fended off market domination by multinational grain handling organizations such as Viterra or Cargill. And they have refused the introduction of Monsanto’s Round-Up Ready Wheat in our fields.

These are the decisions of farmers. They are the decisions of representatives elected by farmers. They are decisions that have helped protect the way that wheat is grown in Canada and the food that ends up on our tables.

But there will no longer be any farmers in control of the future of the Wheat Board. No longer farmers influencing the critical decisions that will affect all farms and farmers in Western Canada. There will be no one affiliated with the fields making decisions on the grains that feed us. Not any time soon, at least.

Just representatives of the Federal Government.

So, what happens when a company such as Viterra pitches a proposal to act as a privatized producer-marketing operator for grain growers? A defacto Wheat Board? What happens if they want to flood export ports with the grain of their farmers? Or set a price that severely undercuts other growers?

What happens if Monsanto sets its sights on Western Canada?

Actually, scrap that. They’ve had their sights set on the Western Canadian Wheat crop for a long, long time.

The question is, what happens when Monsanto starts approaching farmers to use their seed?

Bad Things. Terrible things. Scary things.

Monsanto has a horrible history, you see. They don’t casually introduce their seed to a few farms and hope for the best. They take over the crops of entire countries. They make it illegal to save seed. They chase down farmers who have had Monsanto seed blow into their fields. They choke out anyone who is not growing their product. They treat opposing farms like weeds. Monsanto is most efficient at eliminating weeds.

What happens when Monsanto works with a private multinational such as Viterra or Cargill? What happens when all of this lobbying power and economic promise approaches this new farmer-removed Wheat Board?

I don’t have the answer to these questions. Neither do many people in the media. Not for certain.

But there are definitely suspicions.

The current Government of Canada has a rich history of responding positively to socially, economically, and environmentally catastrophic proposals that have short-term economic gain.

Any group that thinks the Tar Sands a responsible means of expanding our economy should not be responsible for the food that feeds both Canadians and people around the world. Any government that refuses to take climate change, air pollution, water conservation, green energy, any form of environmental responsibility seriously should not have their hands on the world’s breadbasket.

Not even for the short term.

I’m not going to claim to be an expert in building producer protection or producer marketing systems. I’m not an agricultural economist, so I’m not going to offer a replacement model for easing a transition from Wheat Board to whatever comes next.

What I will say is that the process needs the voices of farmers. And there needs to be safeguards put in place so that a massive shifting of power, decision, and economic equality doesn’t occur across the plains of Canada.

I don’t see any of that happening in this current Federal Government proposal.

And I don’t see the right questions being asked.

“Jus” The Perfect Prime Rib Sandwich? Absolutely!

There are few things I enjoy more than a Prime Rib roast beef dinner.

Such as, er… well… leftover Prime Rib. In sandwich form. With onions. Horseradish. Au jus.

Au what, you ask?

Au jus. French for “in it’s own juices.”

Pub folks will know the word “jus,” even if they don’t know what it means. Almost any pub of merit, you see, will have some kind of beef/jus combo – whether it be a Friday or Saturday Prime Rib special or a Roast Beef Dip with fries.

Jus is the rich, aromatic sauce that comes on the side of these dishes. Not quite a gravy and yet more than mere drippings, jus adds extra depth and moisture to beef-based menu items.

It is also the best thing you can possibly do to a roast beef sandwich.

Hence my love of leftovers.

Here, my friends, is the secret to the perfect roast beef sandwich. Including instructions on making your own jus.

I’m not going to take you through the roasting process for the meat. If there are any requests for tips on cooking a good roast, I shall address them in a different blog.

What I will stress, however, is making sure you include several onions – chopped into quarters – in the roasting pan. These onions will make an excellent sweet, juicy addition to your sandwich.

Another additional tip? I work some of my own cracked pepper rub into the outside of my Prime Rib roast before putting it in the oven. I find it makes the beef juices taste even that much better – and the outside crackling of the beef to be sublime.

I’m not going give you my exact recipe for this rub – it’s a well-guarded secret – but I can give instructions on making one of your own. See below for details.

When you cook your roast, be sure to keep it on the rare side. I tend to pull mine out of the oven when the internal temperature reads 120 degrees on the meat thermometer. The roast will continue to cook for a bit as it cools from the outside. The meat usually ends up being medium rare by the time I carve it. For nice juicy roast beef sandwiches, you want a nice juicy roast. Overcooking will dry it.

While you may be tempted to make sandwiches with your freshly cooked roast, I do recommend you enjoy a traditional Prime Rib meal first. Save the sandwiches for the next day. After all, you don’t get a roast this good very often.

We order a half-cow at a time here, which means we usually get either one large or two small Prime Rib Roasts – in other words, there isn’t a lot of Prime Rib in the mix. And if you are buying this cut alone, you’ll be spending quite a bit. You’re looking at the most expensive roast there is. Make yourself a lovely table and respect the beef. This time of year, there are no shortage of really good carrots, potatoes, and root veggies. Light some candles. Don’t skimp on the wine.

The next night, however… Bring on the buns!

By sandwich time, you’ll have all of the ingredients you need for these hand-held feastlings: beef, onions (from your roasting pan), horseradish (recipe to follow), and jus (recipe to follow). I prefer a white bun with a bit of crust to it. Krista makes a ciabatta style bun that is perfect for beef.

There are no hard and fast rules for sandwich assembly. Mine starts off with a smear of horseradish, followed by a significant pile of warm beef (thinly sliced), then some of the roast onion, another smear of horseradish and… well, nothing else.

Once you dip into the jus you’ll have all the flavour you need. I dip once per bite.

Sandwich perfection.

And probably a good enough excuse for anther bottle of red. Please see the bottom or the post for wine pairing suggestions.

Now, onto the recipes. You could very well make this recipe 100% local by making the horseradish yourself using locally grown horseradish tuber and apple cider vinegar from Prince Edward County. There is no shortage of local beef, as well as all other ingredients. Even if you use a jarred horseradish, you’re doing pretty well on the local front.

Horseradish
Horseradish root (keep your eyes peeled at market for this fall crop)
Cider vinegar – Campbell’s Orchards in Prince Edward County offers sells some of their own.
A pinch of salt.

This couldn’t get more simple. Wash, peel, and roughly chop the horseradish. Purée in food processor. Add just enough vinegar to form a damp paste. Add a bit of salt to taste. Warning, this will be stronger that your store-bought varieties. Some people add a bit of sugar to balance the vinegar.

Coriander Black Pepper Rub
2 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp mixed whole peppercorns
3 tsp dried time leaves (or 3 tbsp fresh)
3 tsp dried rosemary leaves (or 3 tbsp fresh)
1 tbsp coarse salt.

Toast the coriander seeds and peppercorns over medium heat until good and aromatic. Use a mortar and pestle or food processor to break mixture up into coarse pieces. Mix in other ingredients.

Roast Beef Coriander Black Pepper Jus
5-7 rib Prime Rib Roast
1/3 cup of roughly chopped carrot
1/3 cup of roughly chopped celery
2/3 cup of roughly chopped onions
500 ml beef stock (we make our own when we can, but will buy “Kitchen Basics” for its lack of MSG)
A generous pinch of your Coriander Black Pepper Rub blend
(note: all the vegetables will be available at the Saturday Market from local growers)

You will have cooked the roast right on the roasting pan – rather than on a rack – in order to have it brown to the pan. Once you remove the hot roast and onions, add your mirepoix (the carrot, celery and onion) and cook over med-high heat. Cook until the vegetables are browned and the moisture has been absorbed or evaporated. Pour off any excess fat – but not the browned drippings! Add your spice blend. Deglaze the pan with roughly half of your stock. Be sure to scrape up as much of the drippings as you can. Pour into a small saucepot with the remainder of the stock. Simmer until it reduces by roughly a third. Strain through a fine mesh china cap lined with cheesecloth.

Serve sandwiches while the beef is warm and the jus hot.

Wine pairing by Wilton Wine Consulting
Wine Tastings – Wine Dinners – Celler Consultation
magnuspim@yahoo.com

You’ve asked me for the best Prince Edward County wine to serve with Prime Rib, and that’s a tough one. There are a few options, but with not quite local grapes. Karlo Estates ’08 Merlot or their ’10 Petit Verdot would do their trick. Mind you, both are made with Niagara fruit. For a “pure” County wine, Stanner’s Cab Franc 09 showed very well with Prime Rib recently. Enjoy!”

Food Dehydration: The “Other” Type of Food Preservation

Throughout the summer and autumn seasons, the Farm to Table pantry has undergone a radical change. Where April and May offered up nearly empty shelves and freezers, the kitchen is now packed tightly with food.

While the local growing season may be coming to a close, the local eating season never ends.

That’s because Krista and I spent quite a bit of time getting ready for the long, cold winter.

Spring had us making various jams, pickling garlic scapes, stewing rhubarb, and dehydrating strawberries. Mid-summer found us making pickles and preserves, freezing basil pesto cubes, and dehydrating various types of veggies. Fall was a time for blanching and freezing corn, canning bushels of tomatoes, and dehydrating late garden vegetables such as kale and hot peppers.

As a result, we’ll have tasty local foods that will last most of the winter months.

There are a number of ways that you can go about preserving food. We try to make use of a few of them in order to allow for the best variety of preserved foods.

Canning is one option, and my wife Krista and I put away a pantry full of jams, jellies, pickles, sauces, salsas, and more every year.

You can also freeze food. We have two freezers full of local fruits, veggies and meats and look forward to treats such as local corn in March.

And then there is dehydrating – probably the least recognized of all food preservation practices, and yet one that should appeal particularly to parents.

Dehydrating, you see, preserves food without any vitamin and nutrient loss – which is usually not the case with canning and freezing processes.

Not thought of dehydrating before? Here’s a quick primer:

There are three main ways to dehydrate at home: with a food dehydrator, using your oven, or using the power of the sun.

Countertop food dehydrators are fairly inexpensive. Small units run for just over $100 and are simple tools to use.

Essentially, dehydrators are boxes with low-powered heating elements and fans to keep warm air flowing over drying food. They take no special training or skills to use.

Another option is to home dehydrate using your oven. As you need to keep drying temperatures between 110 and 130 degrees Celsius (around 150 degrees for meats), you will want to use a few careful options to keep the food from cooking rather than drying.

If you have a gas oven, the heat from your pilot light will be sufficient for drying. If you have an electric oven, you will want to set your oven on the “warming” setting and prop the door open an inch or two. You may also want to place a fan in front of the slightly open door, or turn on your interior oven fan in order to promote air flow.

You will be using your warm oven for lengthy periods – around 4 hours for something like apple slices, and up to 8-10 hours for tomatoes. As a result, you’ll be using quite a bit of energy. For this reason, I don’t tend to recommend using the oven for most dehydrating jobs. It is, however, a great way to experiment before committing to buying a dehydrator of your own.

While you can oven dehydrate on your usual baking pans. I’d suggest lining your baking pan with parchment paper to prevent sticking.

Many people who start by using their oven will eventually move on to countertop dryers for ease and convenience. Once you are hooked on dried foods, you’ll never turn back.

You can also try solar dehydrating. There are plenty of inexpensive solar dehydrators out there. And there are also a number of plans available for do-it-yourself dryers made everything from cardboard and plastic film wrap to wood and glass. My friends Tom and Myra – who are as industrious and clever a couple as you’re likely to find – built their own dehydrator this past summer. I went to their place a few weeks ago to check it out.

Tom – who took the lead in the design process – promises that he’ll explain some of the science behind his creation to me next year, as he works out the kinks.

While he has already had some good success in drying apple slices, next year will be the first year for a full season of drying.

I’ll be there to report on his successes. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I’ll turn to Krista to offer up some useful tips on getting foods ready for dehydrating. After all, she is the one who does much of the preserving in our kitchen.

Krista’s tips for drying:

· Cut off any bruised/soft sections of fruit or vegetables.

· Cut food into slices of uniform thickness – a ¼ inch is usually the norm for most foods.

· Spray discolouring foods (such as apples and peaches) with lemon juice (from a spray bottle) to maintain colour in the dried product.

· Leave a bit of space around drying food portions to allow for air flow – no overlapping.

· When making fruit leather, spread a puree of your favourite fruits, evenly until around 1/8 of an inch thick in the centre – very slightly thicker at the edges.

· Let food dry completely before storing to avoid moisture build-up from the cooling process.

· Dehydrate food until leathery or slightly crisp (apples and fruits turn leathery, while veggie chips will crispen up) in order to ensure better storage.

· Store dehydrated food in an airtight bag or container. If kept in a dark, dry cool space, they should last for a number of months – different foods will last for different amounts of time, but a good rule of thumb is to use any summer foods by the end of the following winter. Try to remove as much air as possible from your bags/containers for optimum freshness.

· Keep your counters, drying racks, and kitchen utensils clean – as with any food preparation, you want to avoid contaminants.