Join us for one of our BIG SAMPLE DAYS Saturday, December 12, 2015.
Come taste some great holiday entertaining ideas & a variety of cheeses.
Scotts Lemon Curd & Campbell’s Shortbreads are a great “made in England” taste combination. Or try Bella Casara ricotta cheese spread on an oat biscuit made by Nairn’s of Scotland topped off with one of our special preserves. Nairn’s Oat Crackers also make a great base for strong cheeses served at wine and cheese gatherings.
We have EXCEPTIONAL entertaining ideas here at The European Pantry! We also still have chocolate letters!
There’s a chill wind blowing outside. Time to pull out a mug and fill it with your favourite coffee! I am a latte girl myself so dipping biscotti might be a bit of sweet over kill…but I love the scene in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” where Judi Dench explains the perfect technique of dunking one’s biscuit in a hot drink. You need to dip just long enough to soften your cookie but not so long that the cookie falls into the drink. My good friend Jane in Somerset told me of the morning she didn’t pull her digestive out of her coffee quick enough and it sank as a sodden lump to the bottom of her cup. Her husband offered to switch cups….That’s love!
But I am enjoying my favourite joe in a new birthday mug and these great biscotti are a perfect bit of sweet to dip in and out in just that perfect “Exotic Marigold” way. Did The European Pantry really need to add another cookie to our current selection of over 30? Yes, Tuscan biscotti are too good to pass up. These Cantuccini Almond cookies made by Dolciaria Gadeschi in Corte De’ Frati near Milan, Italy are perfect dunkers. Loaded with almonds and just the right about of sweetness to dip in your espresso and pull out at that right moment to enjoy. Thankfully we don’t have to go to Italy to get them…they are here for us to enjoy in Welland!
Fall seems like the time that everyone starts cooking and baking again. Maybe it’s the cool nights that just beg for the oven to be turned on. Or perhaps walking through all the wonderful produce at your local farmers market, like the Welland Farmers Market next door to our store, makes you want to want to roll up your sleeves and put something up for the cold winter nights. If you are really fortunate like me, you will have a tree laden with ripe fruit that is wishes to be glorified in some special recipe.
I am enjoying an amazing apple harvest this year. Last year with its late spring frost, I got a total of 2 apples on our tree. This year the tree is loaded with apples. I estimate at least double its usual output of 1 bushel. We have already been enjoying apple sauce and crumble from the my cullings. Anything that has flaws, has been pecked by a bird or has fallen is ending up in a pot or a tin. We have a wonderful cold storage so the more perfect specimens will keep well into the new year. Provided that I don’t have any unwelcome little B&B guests. I have already dispatched 4 of them. Eying my wealth of apples I did a walk around on my day off to find out where these pesky little creatures were getting in. I found some loose mortar and stone around one basement window. I have never outgrown my childhood enjoyment of playing with mud so I spent a pleasant hour repairing those spots with some mortar. The way back into the house is past the apple tree. I couldn’t help myself…before I knew it I was stuffing apples into the bib and pockets of my overalls….enough for a large strudel and some apple cake.
I must admit I cheated a bit on the strudel by using phyllo pastry we sell in our store. But I was quite proud of my results…albeit a Dutch-Canadian woman’s interpretation of a Hungarian specialty…and posted pictures on the Hungarian food Facebook page I am a member of. That led to a long discussion about the origin of strudel…it made its way to Austria via Hungary who were bequeathed the mysteries of strudel dough making by invading Ottoman Turks. I was also treated to many wonderful hints about making strudel dough so I can go the whole way next time and start totally from scratch. With all those apples I shall sometime soon since I have never been one to walk away from a challenge. The one thing no one offered was a recipe for the dough. I found one on line…click here if you want to discover the mysteries of homemade dough yourself …Otherwise you can cheat like I did and buy phyllo.
Strudel isn’t the only fall treat that has been intriguing me. A few weeks back a customer asked me to get some nice aged provolone because she would be preserving stuffed cherry peppers. Most Provolone you will find in stores is mild, soft and reminiscent of Mozzarella. I found her a wonderful Provolone Torpido Auricchio aged about a year. It is made by an Italian family in Wisconsin. I think the mild Provolone in the cooler is probably is feeling very mediocre right now…although I told it that it still makes a wonderful pizza or grilled cheese. Of course,my curiosity was tweaked and I had to find out how she was making these stuffed peppers… here is the recipe I found: Marinated Stuffed Cherry Peppers.
Then if all this wasn’t exciting enough, I had another customer come in to buy Gorgonzola for…wow…Pumpkin Ravioli with Gorgonzola sauce. This recipe uses wonton wrappers to make the ravioli. I think my customer makes hers totally from scratch but, hey, if we can cheat with ready made phyllo pastry, we can cheat with wonton wrappers. When the smells waft from your kitchen window, your neighbours won’t know any better!
Ripe, luscious fruit. Summer at its best! This morning I discovered my strawberries need to be eaten today. So I pulled out my favourite flavouring for strawberries and peaches: DeRuijter “Gestampte Muisjes” This powdered sugar with a touch of ground anise accents the fruit’s natural flavour and brings out the juices. I just sliced my fruit, sprinkled a bit of this flavoured sugar, stirred, covered and put it in the fridge for dessert tonight.
Simple. Delicious. Or dress it up by serving on angel food cake and adding whipped cream.
Zacharie Cloutier is the ancestor of probably more Quebecois Canadians than any other man. He and his wife Xainte immigrated from the Perche province, France in 1634. They founded one of the foremost families in Quebec. By 1800, the Cloutier descendants numbered close to 11,000.Today it might be impossible to count them but they include Marie-Chantal Houde (pictured on right) one of the principals of Fromagerie Nouvelle France. Their sheep’s milk firm pressed cheese is named for this forefather. Fromagerie Nouvelle France is part of a growing number of farm cheese producers.
This washed rind cheese is semi-cooked. Ripened from 4-6 months the paste has a buttery caramel flavour with the rich tones associated with a sheep’s milk cheese. It is best paired with a moderately full bodied red wine with strong dark berry undertones but balanced with mild acidity. Try Cattail Creek Cabernet Merlot. The black raspberry, cassis and Damson plum aromas of this wine will evoke summery days picking blackberries in wind blown brambles. Its refined tannins and spicy vanilla finish will balance well with Zacharie Cloutier’s richness. Serve with some toasted pecans and crusty white bread. As you nibble note the distinct zigzag design on the outside rind of the cheese.
Every Saturday we offer several cheeses for our customers to taste. This week you can sample Mont Jacob from Fromagerie Blackburn in Quebec. The Blackburn family began farming in Jonquière in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec about 80 years and four generations ago. More recently they began making cheese including the award winning Mont Jacob.
Being a washed rind cheese, the aroma is strong and the rind of any such cheese is an acquired taste. Cut into the cheese and you will discover the paste’s rich buttery flavour. The finish is soft with no bitter edge.
The recommended pairing for Mont Jacob is a dry white wine. Here in Niagara we suggest Creekside Sauvignon Blanc. A glass of this wine’s white grapefruit, granny smith apple flavours and light tropical notes of pineapple and star fruit will be an excellent foil to the richness of the cheese. Try it and tell us what you think!
Thanks to some birds years ago, our garden has a patch of wild raspberries. We also let mint grow wild among the other plants.
Being able to just go into the yard and forage for fresh produce is an inexpensive luxury at this time of year. Mint and blackberries might not seem like a logical pairing but the freshness of the mint coupled with the heady tartness of the berries is a winning combination. We binge on french vanilla ice cream and berries during these short weeks as long as the berries last. Tonight I sprinkled the ice cream with small nips of mint. I think my guy thought it strange to find green leaf flecks in his frozen dessert but there weren’t any complaints.
The berry season will soon be past but we can enjoy this flavour pairing during the rest of the year. A drizzle of Hungarian Piroska fruit syrup and some store bought mint will bring the summer sun at any time of year.