Eastern Promises

I'm going to PEI to visit our family cottage in less than a week and I'm really looking forward to it. The cellphone reception is poor or null and the landscape is picturesque and billboardless, but the experience of being there is always very healing.
In celebration of this voyage, I bring you a never-before-published-online and rather ancient Island recipe for moonshine. The source is unknown, but the writer certainly has a sense of humour.
If this were not a blog (and I were in elementary school),  I would have handwritten the recipe and browned the paper in the oven. 

(Old family recipe)
1 gallon molasses
2 yeast (dry or cake)
5 lbs white sugar
8 gallons water

The Brew
Heat water to 100 degrees F and place in a 10 gallon crock or wooden container. Add molasses and sugar. Stir until they are completely mixed. Prepare the following in advance: 2 yeast with 3 tbsp of sugar in 1 pint of water (body temperature.) Maintain at this temperature for about 3 hours.
When molasses, sugar and water solution reach body temperature, add prepared yeast. Container should be wrapped with quilts, blankets or any other insulating material and out of sight of thirsty neighbours, mounties and the like. In high traffic it is best to place 10 gallon container in a straw-lined hole in the woods. Place an old storm window over the container to keep woodland creatures out and use the sun as a heat booster. Using neighbours' woods will help cut down on your exposure to government agents.
At this point, it is only necessary to check the brew once a day to ensure it is a "rolling work." You will detect the pleasant odours of things to come. Drinking the solution at this point will result in a rather  severe headache.
While the brew is working (10-14 days) prepare the can, plug, worm and tub.

1 8 gallon cream can (be sure it doesn't leak)
1 piece green juniper 6 1/2 inches long, tapered to fit can neck, drill 1/4 inch hole through for plug
1 bed sheet, torn into 2 inch wide strips
1 wash tub
15 feet 1/4 inch copper tubing (known as "the worm")
quantity of ice or cold water
quantity of flour and water paste
As soon as it stops working you must proceed to the final stage of operation.

Running the Shine
This phase is traditionally carried out late at night. Before running the shine or assembling the equipment, tack blankets over all windows and doors must be locked. This simulates a "nobody home" situation.
To proceed, clean the can and fill it with half the brew. Dip and fully saturate the strips of sheet into the flour paste and wrap this around the juniper plug and the top of the can. Be extra sure the plug is tight. Wrap further strips of saturated sheet around plug and top of can.
Uncoil 4 feet at one end of copper tube and 2 feet at other end. Starting 4 inches in from 4 foot end, wrap paste strips tapering away from end. Press this end into into 1/4 inch hole in juniper plug. Wrap extra paste strips around the tube and tie down the top of the can. The coiled section of tube must be submerged in a washtub filled with coolant and kept under constant watch throughout the entire operation.
Coolant should never feel warm to the touch. Slowly heat the can, allowing heat to reach the dough-encrusted top. This provides the necessary sealing. Once the heating has started, it is advisable to blow into the end of the worm to be sure it is free from obstructions. Failing to do so can result in the entire apparatus exploding. This whole process should be done, if possible, in the neighbours' woods or backshed to ensure you don't get in trouble with the revenuers! 
Try to pick a night they are not home- to cause as little fuss as possible.
Place a mason jar under the end of the worm. Heat slowly until fluid (moonshine) appears in the mason jar. At this point, check all the dough encrusted areas for proper sealing. Leaks can be detected by passing a match around the sealed area. Adding more sheet and paste will reseal any leaks.
Discard the first couple of ounces of shine. Keep the heat even so that the shine comes in short bursts. Continually check the colour and stop running once you see the shine go from clear to blue tinted fluid. Repeat for other half of the brew.
Shine can be consumed immediately!!! Purists prefer to wait for a few hours before drinking!!!
- Anonymous

Move Over Ketchup, French Fries Have a New (old) Friend

Today's guest entry comes from the charming and talented, Mark Tubis, one of my dear communications friends. Tubis is the Director of Communications at Neighborhood Greetings, alongside business partner and girlfriend, Alissa Rubin.

The following entry stemmed from a jolly conversation at a pub where Tubis posited some controversial condiment statements.

I write this, not as an adventurous foodie who lives to be ‘in the know’ for every new taste combination (although I do enjoy new tastes), but rather as someone who bores easily. I’ve never been one for the same cereal every morning or even a loyal customer to any local restaurant that boasts an impeccable Poulet Frangelico.

No. I don’t have the mental stamina to be that gastronomically repetitious, except when it comes to one food combination that, after all these years, has remained a favourite: Potatoes and sour cream - Or, more specifically, any type of french fry with a hearty dollop of the white stuff.

No knock on ketchup, but with sour cream, you have a common food that perfectly elevates the hot, somewhat rough and starchy feel of the traditional potato fry. The smooth, cooling and tart taste combines perfectly with a dash of hot cayenne or paprika and a sprinkle of salt for a gourmet-worthy dip. The key is fresh sour cream that’s newly opened and on the firmer side.

Both potatoes and sour cream have had a bad wrap with suspect nutritional benefits. In moderation, both actually offer some return on your eating investment. Sour cream is low in carbs and has good levels of both protein and calcium, while potatoes are packed with vitamins C & B complex, as well as antioxidants and minerals like potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc.

Men’s Health puts it best on the misconception of a sour cream diet:
Consider that a serving of sour cream is 2 tablespoons. That provides just 52 calories—half the amount that's in a single tablespoon of mayonnaise—and less saturated fat than you'd get from drinking a 12-ounce glass of 2 percent reduced-fat milk.

More importantly, sour cream is a close relative of butter, which means you're eating natural animal fat, not dangerous trans fat. And besides, full-fat tastes far better than the light or fat-free products, which also have added carbohydrates.
While sour cream with baked potatoes or potato latkes are nothing new, it always surprises me when people are taken aback over the french fry version. Baked or fried, this will be a staple of mine for years to come.

 - Mark Tubis, Director of Communication, Neighbourhood Greetings

In the spirit of simplicity

You may have noticed that my recent posts have included very simple recipes (banana-only ice cream, oysters on the BBQ, etc.) To continue along this trend, I thought I'd share Mark Bittman's revelation about corn.

Sometimes a recipe can completely transform with a simple change in method to impart new flavours and textures to old favourites. Bittman's discovery with corn is that one can achieve the same outdoor, grilled-on-the-barbie flavour and rich caramel colour by sautéing shucked corn with a generous amount of butter.

Have you ever tried sautéing an ear of corn? What's your favourite way to enjoy seasonal corn?

Hierarchy of Food Needs

Something to ponder...

Ellyn Satter's Hierarchy of Food Needs (via Sociological Images, where you can download her complete paper)

A little bi-valve love & a simple recipe

With all my eating changes of late, I’ve experienced a heightened awareness towards food. I feel like my rainbow now has more colours and complexity. I’ve widened my food spectrum by eating more wholesome stuff and the sweet is now so much sweeter!

I appreciate the richness of animal protein with greater intensity. (I suppose next to another green smoothie, the butteryness of salmon seems that much more decadent.)

Enter shellfish. Oh, how I pine for thee. I am actually counting down the days until I visit Prince Edward Island. I can taste the shellfish already!

Shellfish have found themselves to be the subject of much mainstream media discussion recently due to reports about the red tide along our Atlantic and Pacific coastlines (the proliferation of algae involving toxic or otherwise harmful phytoplankton.) These kinds of concerns coupled with that whole BP mess, make a rather compelling case for farmed seafood where we can control the environment in which our little friends grow.

A few facts about shellfish:

  • Shellfish contain many of the same nutrients as other healthful fish: protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin B12 and lots of omega-3 fatty acids
  •  They are sustainable when farmed instead of plucked from the wild
  • Contrary to urban myth, shellfish are among the safest foods you can eat, since they’re subject to strict food safety standards. Mussels, clams, scallops and oysters are farmed in pristine Canadian waters and pass stringent testing before arriving at your local grocery store or fish monger. (For more information about this sort of stuff, visit the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance website)
  • Shellfish are also ‘net creators’ of fish habitat, meaning sea life thrives wherever they’re farmed. Environmentalists consider most shellfish to be ‘super green’, since their food is naturally abundant
BBQ Oysters Recipe

6 – 12 farm-fresh oysters per person.
Cooking (check out this video)

Toss oysters (in the shell) directly on the grill
Cook on a low ‘easy’ heat. When the juice starts to bubble from between the shells they’re done!

Use tongs to remove the oysters from the bar-b-q, and a regular kitchen knife to open the shells. You’ll notice a seductive aroma. Serve with garlic butter, hot sauce or salsa, or give black bean sauce a try.

Recipe compliments of Fanny Bay Oysters, BC

If you're interested in more info, watch this video! Honestly, I don't think you could ask for an easier recipe!

Hyper-local: roof-to-table

On Friday, Nightline did a little piece on a restaurant in Manhattan called, Bell Book & Candle. Chef John Mooney claims it will be the first “rooftop-to-table” restaurant in the US. Using hydroponic technology, Mooney manages to grow lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, legumes, melons, and other fresh herbs. He also claims that the rooftop garden will generate enough produce to supply the 80-seat restaurant every night for ten years.


I’ve visited delicious restaurants like Langdon Hall before, where there is a large garden on site. That’s been a rare and precious dining experience.

What is particularly exciting and precedent-setting about this rooftop initiative is its implications for deliciously fresh produce in urban environments. It doesn’t get much more urban than downtown Manhattan!

Watch the video tour from Nightline below:

Essiac Teas

My blog has been a little quiet lately as I've been participating in the Elimination Diet, as per my kind Naturopath's instructions. I could write a whole post about what that entails, but, suffice to say: you remove a bunch of stuff from your diet for a few weeks and then reintroduce the foods and assess how your body responds. 

I'm not eating any gluten, lactose, soy, processed foods, sugar or flour. There are also a bunch of fruits and vegetables that you are not supposed to eat like eggplant, tomatoes, corn, strawberries and melon. I'm not as worried about 'accidentally' eating the contraband produce, but I've been really good about the gluten, lactose, soy and processed foods so far. I'm interested to see how my body reacts when I bring them all back one by one.

In my lonely and aimless wandering of the natural food section, I've been discovering and rediscovering all sorts of good food products: apple butter, Prana sesame snaps, seaweed and brown rice pastas.

One item that recently caught my eye was Essiac tea with it's steep price tag ($35-$40) and ancient label.

Further research revealed that this ancient brew is used to boost the immune system with it's special blend of herbs and spices. A lot of information seemed geared particularly towards cancer-fighting properties. As I scoured forums, I found a surprising number of posts that preached genuine cancer- curing benefits.

All this was a revelation to me, as I'd only discovered Essiac tea very recently. It seems strange that there might be some very positive immune system benefits for people who are sick, and yet the tea remains relatively obscure.

Have you ever tried Essiac teas? Are you familiar with claimes about the tea's anti-cancer properties?