Monday, June 16, 2008

Newspaper Column - HOT MUSTARD FISH

Published in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, 16 June 2008.

Hot enough for you? How I long to hear those words. When I’m asked, Hot enough for you? I never say yes. I love the heat and soak it up as if I’m stoking my fires for the long winter ahead. No matter how hot it gets, it’s not hot enough for me. Until recently.

Just the other day, I had to admit it was hot enough. Of course, I was not speaking of the weather because that has definitely not been hot enough. I was referring to the Droolin’ Devil Mustard Gourmet Habanero Hot Sauce that was slathered all over my hamburger. I have always been a fan of mustard, so it stands to reason I would be a fan of hot mustard, too – within reason. At 1,500 Scoville Units, this mustard hot sauce is mild, relatively speaking, which is just hot enough for my palate. But what makes it extra special is that it is – from start to finish – a local food. The mustard is grown here, the sauce is made here and it’s sold right around the corner from my house in City Park. It doesn’t get more local than that.

The mustard hot sauce is the culinary creation of Craig Lowenberg, a hot sauce aficionado who moved his business from Calgary to Saskatoon just in time to catch the wave of the economic boom. His other creations include Uncle Big’s Serial Killer Hot Sauce which, at one million Scoville Units, is the hottest hot sauce made in Canada. You might say, it’s a hot commodity in a hot economy.

“The trend is that nothing’s hot enough anymore,” says Craig, who grew up at Grenfell, near Regina.

He and his wife Lorein moved to Saskatoon in summer 2006 to escape the fast pace of Calgary, where they couldn’t afford the high price of retail space. They wanted to live and raise a family in the friendlier pace of Saskatoon. It was a good move. Their daughter was born last fall and sales of their hot sauces have jumped nearly 300%.

“It gives you more of a chance to focus on what makes you happy,” says Craig. “Since we’ve been back, the new hot sauce recipes we’ve created won three international awards.”

One of their hottest items (in terms of sales) is a green hot sauce commemorating the Saskatchewan Roughriders – it’s a big seller in Alberta, too. In fact, sales in Alberta have increased since he moved here because he has more time to focus on that side of his business. “I always thought at one point I would retire back to Saskatchewan, but I didn’t think it would be thirty years sooner,” he says, “I’m really glad we moved when we did.”

So am I. Small processors like the Lowenbergs are critical to Saskatchewan’s future as a food producing province – one that not only grows the raw product but also processes it into foods we can eat. Too often, raw foods produced here are shipped to another province for processing, and then shipped back to our grocery stores with nary a hint that they originated here.
No wonder it’s so hard to find the label “Made in Saskatchewan” on the grocery shelf. The Saskatchewan Food Processors Association has more 50 members producing hundreds of food products (listed at and sold at the Saskatchewan Made Marketplace). There are many more small food processors who aren’t members of the SFPA who sell at farmers’ markets and local stores.

I love to hunt down these locally-made products and, when I find something I like, I become a loyal customer. So, the next time someone asks if it’s hot enough for me, I’ll tell them that Saskatchewan’s food economy is just heating up.

Hot Mustard Fish
Slather fish fillets (Saskatchewan fish, of course) with Droolin' Devil Mustard Gourmet Habanero Hot Sauce. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Press course fresh bread crumbs onto both sides of the fish. Generously butter the bottom of a baking dish. Place fillets in the baking dish. Dab the top of the fillets with butter. Bake at 350F for about 15 minutes, until the fish is flakey and cooked. Baking time varies depending on the thickness of the fish, so keep an eye on it.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Down comes the house - PORK RAGOUT WITH FENNEL SEEDS

Rosie's house came down yesterday. In honour of our old friend, I cooked a Czech dinner (Rosie was of Czech ancestry and it was her first language, eventhough she was born in Saskatchewan.) Now that we have a big hole in the ground we can start building our new house.

For years I'm been bugging John to redo my kitchen. He builds gorgeous kitchens for "clients," an elite group of people of which I am not a member. But all that nagging has paid off. Not only do I get a new kitchen, I get a whole new house!

Pork Ragout with Fennel Seeds
(Adapted for local ingredients from The Cooking of Vienna’s Empire, Time-Life Books)

2 lbs. pork cut into cubes
3 tbsp butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 1/2 cups meat stock
1 cup thinly sliced morel mushrooms

Sprinkle the pork with salt and pepper. Melt the butter on medium heat, add the onions and sauté until soft. Stir in the pork and lightly brown. Sprinkle with the flour and fennel seeds and stir together well. Cook on low heat for several minutes, stirring to prevent the pork from sticking. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Turn to low, add the mushrooms, cover and simmer 1 hour. Adjust seasoning as needed. Serve on buttered noodles.