Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Baked Beans gobble up leftover Sausage

If you flip back a few posts, you'll see we had a sausage extravaganza on the weekend. And that means leftover sausage. My husband woke up the next morning with baked beans on his lips. Well, not literally, but he was planting the request firmly in the kitchen side of my brain.

(pictured: ready for the oven.)

So baked beans it was.

I always start with dry beans. We have a pint sized slow cooker that's just right for cooking small amounts of beans. So in went 1.5 cups of beans, 1/4 onion, 1 big carrot (in pieces) and a bay leaf. Cover with water and 4-5 hours later, it's soft beans. (OK, I did this twice cause I wanted a big batch.)

Meanwhile, sauté some chopped bacon (4-5 slices) and onion (1/2) until cooked.

Mix the cooked beans (and any remaining water) with:
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
several grinds of pepper
the cooked bacon-onion melange
oodles of sliced leftover sausage
water not quite to cover

Pour into a bean pot (or two small bean pots) and bake covered at 325F for 1.5 hours. Take off the lid. If the beans are too runny, bake longer, until you have achieved the richness and thickness and flavourfulness that screams "EAT ME".

Then eat me, er, them.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Prairie Kitchens - Yakhnit 'Adas

Who were the first farmers to grow lentils and chickpeas on the Saskatchewan plains? The Arab pioneers.

In 1923, Jiryas Sallum, left his village in Syria with the dream of farming in Saskatchewan. A year later, he was joined by his wife Shams and their two sons. They homesteaded south of Swift Current in an area where several other friends and relatives had already settled. Shams kept a large garden and did her best, with some improvisation, to prepare the familiar foods of the old country. This included yogurt, burghul, lentils, chickpeas, flat breads and honey desserts. They ate very well – and very different – compared to their European neighbours.

One of their sons, Habeeb, recalled how self-conscious he was of their strange foods. As a schoolboy, he longed for an ordinary bologna sandwich on white bread. But years later, he credits his family's good health through the Dirty Thirties with the ancient, healthy foods of his ancestors as prepared by his mom.

Today, Saskatchewan farmers have discovered lentils and chickpeas. Canada is now a leading supplier to the world. Perhaps it should be no surprise as wheat originates from the same place – Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Palestine. Wheat was the first "settler" from the Arab lands.

Habeeb published his memories and his mom's recipes in a charming cookbook called Arab Cooking on a Saskatchewan Homestead. Yakhnit 'Adas is a pioneer recipe every bit as much as perogies and Shepherd's pie.

Yakhnit 'Adas
(Lentil and Meat Stew)
1/4 cup butter
1/2 lb beef or lamb in 1/2 inch cubes
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small hot pepper, finely chopped
1 cup lentils
5 cups water
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the meat and sauté for 5 min. Add onions, garlic and hot pepper. Cook 10 min. Add remaining ingredients, cover and simmer over medium heat until the lentils and potatoes are cooked, stirring occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours. Add more water if needed. Serve hot.

Do you have prairie recipe with a story? Send me a comment. Follow at

This column first published in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Saskatchewan Sausage Extravganza

We do sausage very well in Saskatchewan, and yesterday we even made our own - a fennel laced Italian sausage. Altogether, we grilled about 10 different Saskatchewan-made sausages. We bought some beer and invited some friends. Now, I'd call that a party!!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Soup as Medicine

Why does a good brothy soup make my nose run? Even when I don't have a cold? It feels so therapeutic, cleansing, healthy.

If I did have a head cold, I'd want a bowl of this soup. It's an old Polish recipe that can be made entirely with Saskatchewan ingredients. Tip: I often use Kissel sauerkraut, made at Lumsden and sold in the produce section of bigger grocery stores.

This soup is particularly suited to using leftover meat of any sort.

1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 loose cup dried mushrooms (I used chanterelle)
1/4 cup canola oil (or drippings from a roast)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 lb bacon, chopped
4 cooked farmer's sausages, sliced (I used leftover bratwurst and pork roast)
10 frozen tomatoes, thawed (I used fresh - it's that time of year)
1/2 medium cabbage head, shaved
1/2 lb sauerkraut
2 tbsp plum jam (or other thick jam)

Pour the boiling water over the mushrooms and leave to soften.

Heat the oil in a stew pot. Cook the onions and garlic until soft. Stir in the paprika, salt and pepper. Add the bacon and garlic. When the bacon and onions are fully cooked, add the meat, tomatoes, cabbage, sauerkraut, mushrooms and mushroom water. Add enough cold water to just about cover the contents of the pot. Place the lid and simmer for several hours, until the cabbage is meltingly cooked. Stir in plum jam and cook until melted.

Like all soups and stews, bigos gets better every time you cool and reheat it, so plan to eat it over a few days. Or as long as your cold lasts.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Prairie Kitchens - Swedish Meatballs

In 1905, Olaf and Anna Nilson left Sweden for a new life in western Canada. From Montreal, they rode the train across the country to Melfort, Sask. Don't imagine an upholstered sleeping car – they travelled in a cattle car with no seats!

They took a homestead near Kinistino. At first, they lived in an abandoned sod house. The roof leaked and the floor was bare earth. Their first cow died. The nearest store was more than five miles' walk, where they exchanged their extra butter and eggs for groceries.

Other than a few staples such as flour and baking soda, they produced all their own food. They stored vegetables in a root cellar (so they wouldn't freeze in winter) and canned meat in sealer jars (so it would keep in summer). Meat consisted of their own chickens, pigs and cattle. The Nilson family history notes, "Mother stated many times that, if money had been available, they would have returned to Sweden." Well, they stayed.

Many of their favourite Swedish foods, such as shrimp and herring, were rare on the Canadians plains, but one dish that did travel well was Swedish meatballs. This recipe was given to me by Olaf and Anna's granddaughter, Joan Thompson of Saskatoon, who got the recipe from her mother, Myrtle. In the 2006 Canadian census, 33,000 people in Saskatchewan claimed Swedish ancestry. No doubt, many of them are still fond of Swedish meatballs.

Swedish Meatballs
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 small potato, peeled and grated
1 small onion, grated
1/2 tst salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp cream
1 egg
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
2 tbsp butter or oil

Mix everything but the last ingredient. Stir vigorously until the meat is smooth and fluffy (I used an electric mixer). With damp hands, form into small balls. Heat butter or oil in a skillet. Fry the meatballs, turning to brown all sides. Shaking the skillet helps to keep the meatballs round.

Depending on the size of the skillet, it may be cooked in two batches. Add additional butter/oil if needed. Serve with lingonberry sauce (aka low bush cranberry jelly), boiled potatoes and cooked vegetables.

Lingonberry Sauce
In Saskatchewan, lingonberries are known as low bush cranberries. They grow wild in the parkland and north of the province.

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup frozen low-bush cranberries
1 tbsp fresh-squeezed orange juice

Heat sugar and water in a saucepan to a bubbling simmer, stirring occasionally. When the sugar is dissolved, add the berries and orange juice. Simmer. As the berries heat, they will pop and release their juices. You can help by pressing them with a fork. Boil lightly until it is jammy, but not too jammy, as it will thicken further as it cools.

Do you have a prairie recipe with a story? Send me a comment. Follow at

This column first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Prairie Kitchens - German Coleslaw

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, a special day on the prairies since the first pioneers settled down. However, in those early days, they couldn't agree on the date.

In 1879, parliament set Thanksgiving on Nov. 6, but it was not universally observed. Pioneers of British heritage were more likely to celebrate their traditional Home Harvest festival on the final day of harvest. Pioneers from the United States were more accustomed to celebrating American Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November.

Then, in 1918, parliament declared a new holiday on Nov. 11 to mark the end of the First World War. Since there couldn't be two holidays within a week, the two were combined. Veterans weren't happy to share their solemn day of remembrance with a harvest celebration. So, in 1931, the two holidays were separated. However, it was not until 1957 that parliament officially set Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October.

This posed a problem for some prairie families, according to What's to Eat: Entrees in Canadian Food History. The issue was this: the Thanksgiving turkey, which was raised on the farm, was not yet sufficiently plump enough for dinner. For that reason, many families had a ham or a roast instead. The turkey lived to see another dinner – possibly Christmas.

Whenever the day, Thanksgiving included vegetables fresh from the garden, like this cabbage salad. This dish is better the second day, so make it ahead.

German Coleslaw
4-5 cups shredded cabbage
4 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp celery seed

Combine cabbage and onions in a bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the oil and return to boil. Stir in celery seed. Pour the mixture onto the cabbage and toss well. Refrigerate until dinnertime.

Do you have prairie recipe with a story? Sent me a comment. Follow me on

This column first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Pretzels for Oktoberfest

We were invited to a German Oktoberfest dinner, so I decided to make pretzels as my contribution to the meal. Pretzels fall into a category of bread making that involves boiling before baking. Why? I have not yet investigated the science behind it, but I can attest it makes a smooth chewy bread. Think bagels. With salt.

I used the technique found on this website. Note however, I did not put beer in the dough (as called for in the recipe) but may try that next time. Also next time, I will roll the dough even thinner, as it puffed up quite a bit in boiling. Hugely delicious!

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

It's that canning time of year!

Canning is a heck of a lot of work. Washing, peeling, chopping, boiling, stirring, straining, pouring, sealing, water bathing and labelling. Not to mention picking! But oh, the rewards of opening a jar during a cold prairie winter and discovering a taste of summer.

Over the years, I have canned the bounty of Saskatchewan from cucumbers (aka pickles) to black currant jam. Corn salsa to chokecherry syrup. Rhubarb to honeyed pears. However, one of my favourite items preserved in a jar is also the most unlikely: lemons.

A friend grew the lemons in his greenhouse near Saskatoon. I preserved them in a Moroccan style with plenty of course salt (yes, Saskatchewan salt). This method of preserving breaks down the lemon peel, which is then used (not the juice) in Moroccan recipes. It adds an exotic touch to Saskatchewan ingredients such as lamb and chickpea stew or couscous with roasted squash.

Preserved Lemons
5-6 lemons, preferably organic
1/4 cup rock salt (un-iodized)
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves
6-8 coriander seeds
3-4 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf

Cut the lemons in half. Then, cut them ALMOST into quarters, in other words don’t slice all the way through.

Press one section of lemon into the bottom of the jar, releasing the juice. Sprinkle with salt. Press a few more slices on top, sprinkling with salt as you go along. Put the cinnamon, cloves, coriander, peppercorns and bay leaf into the jar. Continue pressing in lemon sections, releasing the juice and sprinkling with salt, until all the lemons are in the jar.

The lemons should be completely covered with lemon juice. If they are not covered, add some extra juice or water. Secure the lid and refrigerate, shaking now and then. Allow the lemons to marinate at least one month before using. If you want to be super simple, you can skip the spices and just use the salt.

Follow the Canadian Food Experience Project in which participants across the country share stories of our unique food experiences.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Prairie Kitchens - Harvest Cakes

The harvest is almost over, but that would not have been the case 100 years ago. Many pioneers did not have the manpower to harvest their own fields and they could not afford a threshing machine. Instead, they had to hire a threshing crew and wait their turn. It was not unusual to be harvesting well into October and even November. 

A threshing crew consisted of fifteen or more men who cut the grain, gathered it into sheaves and hauled it by wagon to the threshing machine. The demand for extra help at harvest was so great that shipping companies and rail lines lowered their fares so that British men could come to Canada to work. For instance, 12,000 Brits came for the harvest of 1923, of which 80 percent did not go home, according to the Saskatchewan GenWeb Project online.

It was noisy, dusty, heavy work. No doubt, they worked up huge appetites for which they were fed three solid meals a day, plus coffee breaks, by the farm women.

This recipe for Harvest Cakes was included in the Pion-Era Cookbook No. 2 published in 1967. It was submitted by M. Purdy of Saskatoon, no doubt of British heritage, who notes, "This recipe was my great grandmother's. They were made for the mid-morning and mid-afternoon lunches for the harvesters, served with coffee."

The brief instructions say "make a soft dough as for biscuits" and "bake in a quick oven." I have revised it to take out the guesswork. If you're not feeding a crowd, you can halve the recipe.

Harvest Cakes
4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup raisins
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Stir in sugar. Cut the shortening (hard butter, margarine or lard) into small chunks and mix into the flour with a pastry blender and your fingers. Rub the shortening into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Stir in the raisins.

Pour in the buttermilk, stirring briskly with a fork to combine. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead briefly, about 30 seconds. Roll the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch and cut with a round cookie cutter. Bake on a cookie sheet at 375F until lightly brown, 12-15 minutes.

Do you have a prairie recipe with a story? Send me a comment. Follow at

This column first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.