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Posts from the ‘Foodstuffs’ Category

Foodstuff: Alligator Meat

Alligator Meat 1

I have eaten Alligator meat many times. The first time was at a roadside stand just outside ‘Gator World’ (I think it was called) in Florida about twenty years ago and, since then, all my other experiences have been in restaurants, most of which, as best as I recall, were of the ‘Cajun variety. Alligator meat has yet to appear in local stores but I was recently in Rankin Inlet over on the eastern shores of Hudson’s Bay and I came across a half-dozen packages in the freezer section of a nearby supermarket. Luckily, my hotel room had a fridge with a freezer and I was able to grab a couple to bring home with me… Read more

Bothwell Brand® Maple Smoked Cheddar

Bothwell Brand Maple Smoked Cheddar

I have been seeing quite a few different varieties of Cheese from this Manitoba based manufacturer recently. I haven’t, as yet, seen Gruyere or Emmental on local shelves, which is a pity, as it is the cheese I most commonly buy for snacking, but this type looked interesting.

I was rather suspecting that the ‘Maple Smoked’ quality of the product would be an artificial flavour. However, the ingredients list states ‘Natural Wood Smoke’, and while this is not conclusive (Liquid Smoke is made using the oils from smoke and could be an additive here), it is possible that the cheese is actually smoked. In any event, the very clear aroma one gets on opening the package is, not exactly maple smoke, but rather the richness of bacon… sweet, maple smoked bacon.

The texture is very nice and creamy and the normal bite of aged cheddar is apparent. It is also dominated by the same very rich bacon quality as in the aroma. Thus far, other than eating it cold, I have only had it melted over rounds of ham sausage and garnished with caramelized onion, but I think it would be a great burger cheese. Indeed, one could almost have a bacon cheeseburger without using bacon. I wasn’t expecting a great deal from this product, to be honest, but I have to say that it is worth a try…

Foodstuff: Eel Sauce

Eel Sauce 1

Eel Sauce is a Japanese preparation sometimes known as ‘Nitsume’ or ‘Kabayaki Sauce’. While it is quite commonly used as a glaze for grilled eel dishes (indeed, the ‘Unagi’ on the bottle label means the freshwater eel commonly appearing on sushi menus), the name arises because it was traditionally made by making a stock by boiling eels and reducing it to a syrupy consistence. Nowadays, sugar, Mirin, sake and soy sauce are all commonly used in the basic recipe and Dashi often replaces eel stock.

I often think of Eel Sauce as being the Japanese equivalent of Chinese Oyster Sauce and the two can be used almost interchangeably. Indeed, the taste is very similar, although, some varieties, especially those made with Dashi, have a slightly smoky taste that goes very well with grilled foods… Read more

Foodstuff: Preserved Radish

Preserved Radish 1

The radish in this particular case is the large variety most commonly known by the Japanese name Daikon. This very versatile vegetable is preserved by a variety of different techniques all across Asia, especially by lactic acid fermentation, but the most basic method is by salt curing the flesh to dehydrate it and prevent microbial spoilage. The Chinese were probably the first to treat the vegetable this way but the technique is widely used elsewhere, especially in Korea and Thailand. Indeed, the product pictured above is of Thai manufacture… Read more

Foodstuff: Horseradish Root

Horseradish Root 1

This rather gnarly looking object is not a withered old tree branch, but rather is the root vegetable that is the source of that sharp, pungent white condiment usually only encountered in jars purchased at the supermarket. Most people are well familiar with the commercial product as an especially good accompaniment to roast beef, but it does have other uses as well. It is sometimes used in ‘Bloody Mary’ concoctions, it works well as a sandwich spread for all sorts of creations (and not just those using cold beef), and it is very commonly used to provide the sharp bite of the standard seafood cocktail sauce. Quite a few Cole-slaw sauces also use it too. The purchased varieties are fine to use, as long as you don’t let them age too long, but there are some benefits to using the fresh article that are also worth investigating… Read more

Casa Italia® Salami Cacciatore

casa-italia-salami-cacciatore-1

I love trying new things that appear in food shops and I was intrigued by this particular variety of Salami because of the descriptive name ‘Cacciatore’. In particular, I wondered if there was some connection to the traditional Italian dish ‘Chicken Cacciatore’.

As it happens, despite the Italian brand name and logo, the sausage appears to be manufactured in Canada. Moreover, it is made from pork, not chicken, and while it is actually pretty good, I have to conclude the ‘Cacciatore’ connection is entirely fanciful… Read more

Foodstuff: Lamb Sausage

lamb-sausage-1

In the last few months, the availability and variety of lamb products has expanded tremendously up here on Baffin Island. Lamb has never traditionally been a widely popular meat in Canada and I attribute the new increased demand to signal a shift in the demographic. There has been a Mosque here in Iqaluit for about a year now and, since I haven’t noticed any sudden influx of Australians or Greeks of late, I rather think that the noticeably increased numbers of immigrants from the Middle East has brought about this welcome change.

Anyway, in addition to some other lamb products, there is a new line of packaged items produced under the name LÄM, a registered trademark of the ‘Canadian Lamb Producers Co-operative’. The website for the cooperative lists their products as being Burgers, Sausages, Kabobs and Meatballs, and, thus far, I have seen the first three of these available locally. I mean to try the Burgers and Kabobs in due course but, today, I am going to try out the Sausage… Read more

Foodstuff: Canary Melon

canary-melon-1

For as long as I can remember, the type of melons routinely available in my local stores have been Cantaloupe, Honeydew, and Watermelon, with other varieties only sporadically appearing (and then only just briefly). Just recently, I saw plastic covered trays of sliced melon at my supermarket and I assumed they were Honeydew until I saw the label, which identified them as ‘Canary Melon’ slices. It was only then that I looked around and saw the fruit you see pictured above.  The sticker on each fruit specified ‘Juan Canary’ and I took this to be a brand name until I learned that it is simply an alternate appellation… I gather you can call them just ‘Canaries’, or else ‘Juan Canaries’, if you want (assuming, I suppose, you have been properly introduced first).

Anyway, the fruits are cultivated in Korea, Japan, Morocco and, Mexico, and I gather that they are related to both the Honeydew and the Winter Melon, which is used extensively in Chinese cookery. The flesh looks superficially like Honeydew but it has a softer texture, a little bit like a pear. The aroma, even before slicing is very sweet and pleasant and it actually made my whole kitchen smell wonderful in the twelve hours or so it was sitting on the counter.

When I finally did cut in to it, there was a considerable amount of juice and the taste was every bit as sweet as the smell. It was, I have to say, most reminiscent of Honeydew, but there was also a very noticeable additional component that is a little hard to describe. It was a finishing note that had a somewhat flowery, aromatic quality to it… something like the acetone-sweetness you get with bananas ripening in a bag. There was also a faint woody highlight in places (again aromatic, like cedar), and the whole effect was very nice indeed. I prefer the texture of cantaloupe and honeydew, to be honest, but this variety makes for a pleasant change.

Foodstuff: Beef Shank

beef-shank-01

Beef shanks haven’t traditionally been popular cuts in western cookery and one only infrequently sees them in supermarkets. The cut, sometimes called the ‘shin’ when taken from the front leg, is quite sinewy and shot through with tendons so it commonly ends up getting ground up for burger meat. This is a little unfortunate, really, as the meat can be very flavorful. If you get an opportunity to try it in Chinese restaurants, you will see why many Asians prize the meat for its collagen rich texture.

Here you can see some shin meat that I came across at my local marker recently. The display cases were only offering pre-cut ‘Shank-Steaks’ for sale but the butcher was quite happy to prepare me a longer section, which you can see in the above picture. Although foreshortened, the larger piece (which I shall henceforth simply call ‘the shank’), is about 8 inches long and weighs in at just over 3 pounds. I was very happy to be able to buy the two different types of cut as it will allow me to make a few different meals, and show you how this underused cut can be prepared… Read more

Foodstuff: Cheshire Cheese

Cheshire Cheese 1

When I posted my Ploughman’s Lunch recently, I mentioned that the cheese I used was a nice Cheshire Cheese. It occurred to me after the fact that said cheese deserves a bit more of a mention, particularly as it is not especially well known here in Canada. This is a bit surprising really because, in Britain, whence it hails, it is very nearly as popular as Cheddar cheese. Cheshire Cheese originates in the English county of Cheshire but is nowadays made farther afield. Like Cheddar, it is made in a ‘White’ form (actually an off-white, really), and also a ‘Red’ form, where Annatto Seeds are used to dye the product a deep orange color. Traditionally, there was also a blue-veined variety (a la Stilton, for example), and, while this almost disappeared for a long time, it is apparently making something of a comeback.

By the way, the variety I recently discovered in my local supermarket is a product of Coombe Castle™ , whose logo I have added to the picture above. I can’t speak with vast experience on all the different versions of Cheshire Cheeses, but I can say that this particular product is broadly representative of the class as best as I can distinguish.

Cheshire Cheese is generally classed as a ‘crumbly’ cheese but, while this is generally true, it will vary in ‘crumbliness’ depending on the manufacturer. The cheese you see above has a texture that is not terribly dissimilar to a typical cheddar except that, rather than cut cleanly, will flake and crumble slightly under the knife blade… not to the same degree as, say, a dry Feta, for example, but in a way that is noticeable in the mouth-feel. Some describe Cheshire as being a bit like a mild Cheddar but I really don’t see that at all (not the least because both cheese types vary from mild to strong, dependent on aging and the like). Cheddar tends to be a little sharper, with more of a lactic acid ‘bite’, in my experience, while Cheshire is distinguished by more of a pungent quality that is slightly reminiscent of ‘blue’ cheeses (albeit much more delicately).

Anyway, Cheshire Cheese is well worth the try if you haven’t done so already. It is not quite as versatile as a generic Cheddar, I find,  (most varieties don’t melt quite as nicely, for example), but it is nicely rounded without any of the ‘extreme’ notes that might put off all but the most ardent cheese lovers. It will always make a great addition to a cheese board…

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