Thursday, February 17, 2011

Split Pea and Ham Soup with Cheese Biscuits

Split Pea and Ham Soup

My dearly beloved Aunt is an excellent cook and has this rich soup as a family offering. The meat that has as its base is one pork hocks that is smoked. Its lovely smoked aroma come through along with a tiny dash of sherry. She finds that these cheese biscuits are a perfect accompaniment to a hearty winter meal.

1 smoked pork hocks

12 cups water

4 cups chicken broth

1 large onion minced

2 cups diced celery

6 cloves garlic diced

1 cup grated carrots

1/2 cup sherry

1 bag of split peas (450 gr.)

2 tbsp chopped fresh dill

2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

pepper to taste

Boil the pork hocks in water for approximately 2 hours. Put the hocks and the broth in the refrigerator overnight to allow the fat to solidify. Remove the fat and return to the cooking process adding chicken broth and the balance of the ingredients until the soup is thick. Just before heating to serve, add the sherry, heat and it is ready to serve.

Cheese Biscuits

The fluffy biscuits have diced squares of cheddar cheese to flavour the biscuits in a delicate way.

2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour

21/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

1/4 cup cold unsalted butter

3/4 cup cream

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill

1 cup of old cheddar cheese cut into small squares

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut into the flour the cold butter with fingers until the flour becomes the texture of peas. Add the dill and finely quickly add the cream until it is a dry dough. Transfer to a floured surface, knead for a ‘scant half minute’, roll out flat and cut into rectangular squares approximately 6” x 12”. Stuff each of these rectangles into muffin tins while adding 3-4 squares of cheddar cheese. Bake at 450 degrees F. for 10-12 minutes. Serve warm with Split Pea and Ham Soup.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Liqueurs Made at Home Are Deceptively Easy

Fruit Liqueur

At this time of year, cranberries are a lively and accessible fruit to use during this month and an easy first step to making your own liqueurs at home to enjoy them throughout the year. Try diced pears for a ‘Poire William’. Strawberries and raspberries make a delicate liqueur as well.The simplicity of these methods reminds me that this tradition of fruit flavoured cordials, wines and brandies have a long history in early Ontario and Quebec.

In the Ottawa Valley where I spent my formative years as a teenager, my close friend’s parents kept a 'cellar' (kept at a cool temperature) filled with fruits, wines, dried meats, and herbs suspended from the rafters. There were jars filled with what seemed to be strange and exotics things that lay in wait for opening. Upon reflection, this family hunted, fished, and picked fruits and berries in season while still being able to ‘set aside’ the abundance that the land provided. That knowledge probably came from their French, Celtic and Native roots that thrive still in the ‘valley’ not a stone's throw from the nation’s capital.

1 storage jar

2 cups chopped fruit

1 cup vodka or equivalent 40% alcohol

1 tbsp brandy (optional)

1/2 granulated sugar

Place the chopped fruit in a clean 1 litre jar. Stir in alcohol. Marinate for 2-3 weeks in a cool dark place. After the marinating is complete, remove the fruit using a fine cheesecloth. Reserve the fruit for ‘another use’. Add sugar and mix the liquid and the sugar until the granules have dissolved. Pour into sterilized bottles, cork, label and store in a cool place. Wait one week before serving. Taste and serve in small fancy glasses.


1 storage jar

4 lemons

11/2 cupsvodka or equivalent 40% alcohol

3/4 cups granulated sugar

Peel the skin and rind from the lemons and follow the same process as fruit liqueur above. After 2 weeks, stir in sugar and let the sugar dissolve slowly for one week or longer, shaking it daily to permit the sugar to dissolve. Pour into sterilized bottles, cork, label and store in a cool place.

Coffee Liqueur

1 storage jar1/2 freshly brewed expresso coffee

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup vodka or equivalent 40% alcohol

1/3 cup brandy or rum (optional)

Place the hot coffee and sugar in a storage jar and blend well. Stir in alcohol. Pour into sterilized bottles, cork, label and store in a cool place.