Mont Jacob weds Niagara

IMG_2659Every 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.

IMG_4135 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!

Wild Twist of Taste

IMG_3986Thanks to some birds years ago, our garden has a patch of wild raspberries. We also let mint grow wild among the other plants.

IMG_3990Being 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. IMG_3994  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.

IMG_3999 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.SAM_1970

Jewels of Summer

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Berries are the jewels of summer!  I was leaving work the other day and realized…after I had locked the door and didn’t want to go back inside…that my currants in the back yard were ripe. So my hat came off to make a handy bowl conjuring up memories of impromptu berry picking when I was a child.

The tartness of many berries make them an excellent addition to sweeter desserts. Strands of currants will beautifully garnish a cake. On one such creation I also added a few mint leaves which pleasantly surprised  us by giving the frosting hints of mint.  All it needed then was a bit of dark chocolate….

When it’s hot, who wants to bake so this time I used my berries to make a trifle. Custard, some left over pound cake,  whipped cream or frozen whipped topping plus the berries…and you have a quick attractive dessert.  If I haven’t baked pound cake I will use one of Kuchenmeister pound cakes that we sell here at the Pantry. They are available in a number of flavours; each can add something special to your dessert

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When I make custard, I only heat up about half the required milk.  Some is reserved for mixing the custard powder but I leave more on the side to whisk in once the pudding starts to thicken.  I also whisk in some 10% coffee cream for a richer flavour. It preps faster this way and I can control the thickness of the pudding by adding milk until it is just right.

The instructions for Koopman’s Custard mix are very easy to follow. Two cups of milk  will give you about 4 servings.  To that I add 2-3 slices of the pound cake and about a cup or more of whipped cream.  All you need is about a half cup of berries.  Any type will do. If they are sweeter you can increase the amount but it is better not to over do it with particularly tart berries.

Start assembling your dessert before the custard has time to cool and set. After spooning in a bit of custard on the bottom a clear bowl or into 4 tall glasses crumble some pound cake in pieces. (The larger your dessert, the larger the pieces of cake can be. Otherwise an inch square is about right.) Spoon a bit of custard on top of the pieces of cake. Then drop your berries into the custard. Dollop some whipped cream then repeat your layers again starting with another layer of pound cake. Garnish with extra berries on top.  You can serve it immediately or chill it first.

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Feta Fun

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We have fun trying different tastes here at the European Pantry. Today, we offered customers a chance to compare two different ways of using feta.  We started with “kajmak” style feta. This is a smooth creamy feta that is very amenable to making spreads with. First, we added pesto for an antipasto option. We served this on whole wheat Paris toasts but this spread can hold its own on any savoury cracker that brings its own flavour to the table, too. Next, we mixed wild lingonberries to the feta. The tart berries compliment the salty tones of the feta but offer a totally different taste experience than the pesto option. We served this with Nairn’s roughly milled Scottish oat crackers. But it would be great on a bagel!  Of course, you don’t need to add anything to feta which is a versatile cheese with so many uses…you can find both the creamy “kajmak” style or a Balkan style crumbly feta here at the European Pantry.

IMG_3900“KEEPER OF THE KEYS” HINT: Your jar of pesto will keep in your fridge longer it you scrape the pesto down off the sides with a spoon and then pour a thin layer of olive oil to cover. The olive oil will congeal in the fridge and seal off the pesto.  The oil will also take on the pesto flavour and can be used to season a salad or can be brushed on bread.  Just remember to add more oil as you use some.

Dip into luxurious flavour!

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Blended in the UK these dipping olive oils from International Collection will add flavour and pizazz to your all your gatherings.  Three flavours to experience:

  • garlic and chili
  • balsamic vinegar with Italian herbs
  • basil and sundried tomato

Backyard chefs will want to try International Collection flavoured olive oils.  Imagine Blood Orange infused olive oil drizzled over grilled chicken breast. My mouth is watering!

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Or make your own mixtures with imported Italian Balsamic Vinegar.  Monari Federzoni has been crafting their vinegars since 1912.

It Was a Blue Kind of Day

IMG_2710Nothing sad about it.  I enjoyed packaging Extra Creamy Danish Blue Cheese today. Castello has been making cheese since 1893 and you can taste the tradition in their Creamy Danish Blue. Even the crumbs left over from packaging spread on Wasa thin rosemary and sea salt crisp bread make for a luxurious snack…but then Wasa has been doing their thing since 1919. Not as long as Castello but they definitely have ironed out any wrinkles, too. Oh did I say I was working today? Sounds more like I have been on a tasting holiday!

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It’s our job to help you enjoy your cheese.  So we try to give you help pairing our great cheeses with foods and beverages.  Last Sunday I enjoyed little dollops of Delice de Bourgoyne spread on fresh cherries. So simple and yet so lux. To find some great pairings for Danish Blue Click here.

You don’t have to plan a party to relish these simple pleasures. Pick lunch size pieces of cheese from our lunch basket. You can also pick up small servings of  meats and olives.

Chocolate on bread…!

IMG_3417It has been said that getting to eat chocolate sprinkles on bread is one of the reasons why Dutch children are so happy. Of course, the Dutch are not the only people who have figured out that chocolate and bread are a great combination.  The Danish make thin chocolate slices to eat on bread called palaegschokolade.  And don’t forget Nutella and its variations.

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DeRuijter hagelslag are probably the best chocolate sprinkles available at least here in Canada…definitely in Welland.  They are also great on ice cream, yoghurt or cakes. Those crunchy cake sprinkles like the ones that Tim Hortons puts on doughnuts are just pure candy.  Dutch hagelslag is real chocolate; it melts on your toast and in your mouth.  Once you have had the real thing you will never go back to those cheap imitations

Did you know that hagelslag means hail storm?  After the winter we have had in Welland, it’s nice to know that there are some types of storms that are only pure pleasure. Of course, some of us don’t even want to bother with the bread! IMG_3416I wish this little one lived closer to Welland so I could enjoy watching her pick her sprinkles off and put them directly into her mouth every day!

For more about chocolate sprinkles check out this link:   http://sweets.seriouseats.com/2011/12/eating-sprinkles-the-dutch-way-hagelslag-on-bread.html