Home Made Jerk Seasoning!

jerk_seasoning_16x9At last, I’ve come to embrace the challenge, to make my own homemade jerk seasoning and let the results speak for themselves. As anyone familiar with my site here knows, at times I like to talk about food. I’m pretty DIY when it comes to good recipes, and enjoy making certain foods that promote comfort, are healthy, and go well with beer. And as I’ve come to compile a pretty a long list of spice-compatible beers over the years, I thought it was about time I tried to make my favorite spicy sauce!

For anyone who’s tried making the sauce, jerk seasoning/sauce/spice presents a bit of a challenge. It consists of several ingredients, the exact combination of which are subject to interpretation since it, like the region which spawned it (the Caribbean) is a very diverse place. Nevertheless, the basic premise remains pretty consistent from place to place and household to household. What all agree upon is the fact that anything bearing the name “jerk” is hot, peppery, and multilayered.

jerk_dinnerThe basic rub/spice comes down to scotch bonnet peppers (aka. habanero) and peppercorns, and the calls for the addition of spices which revolves around the holy trinity of allspice (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves). You’ve also got your share of onions, garlic, and ginger which, in the case of a rub, would be powdered but need to be fresh if you’re making a sauce or marinade. This not only adds more layers of flavor, but a degree of consistency to it all. The final ingredients which finish the transformation of the spice into a sauce are rum (another Caribbean product of extreme and historical importance) and vinegar.

In my case, I used pale ale and balsamic vinegar, since rum and malt were not available. This did not heavily alter the taste from what I was anticipating, but for purists, I’m thinking only rum and malt vinegar will do here. And of course, only true habaneros should suffice for spice. No chillies, no jalapenos, no substitutes of any kind. Half of making jerk seasoning is measuring out the heat, and with habanero/scotch bonnets, a little goes a LONG way!

The following list was used by me, and the proportions were not exact, hence why I don’t list specific quantities. Best to just experiment until you get the color, consistency, and taste you want. So using the following template, combine the following ingredients in a bowl and grind well.

bay leaves
black pepper

malt vinegar

sea salt
habanero/scotch bonnet peppers (any more than two and your an adventurous SOB!)

Once finely ground, the resulting sauce should be a deep brown color, speckled from the ground pepper, and should smell strong and acidic. The taste should be spicy (obviously), and boast a fair degree of pepper, onion, garlic and be just slightly sweet, and the allspice should also be noticeable. If not, try tweaking the ingredients. Whatever is overpowering it, balance it out with more of the rest.

When finished, use as a rub, marinade, or cooking sauce, slather conservatively on your food, and let it bring out the taste! Remember, moderation is key here. Proper jerk is HOT, so not much should be needed to really made your food sing!

voltage-stout-sliderAnd of course, beer pairing is essential when dealing with this food. And in this case, keeping things geographically and culturally appropriate, I would recommend either a nice, clean lager or a smooth stout, preferably a St. Amboise Oatmeal, a Hoyne’s Voltage Espresso Stout, or a Brooklyn’s Black or Rogue Chocolate Stout. Nothing too overpowering, as you want smoothness to go with your spice.

This weekend, I will be making a third go at producing this sauce and using it as a marinade for a large roast. Paired with a dark beer and some roasted veggies, I know that dinner will be most enjoyable! I recommend you try this recipe out for yourselves since its an inexpensive way to turn your food into a real experience. Until next time, good luck and good eating!

Comfort Banana Pancakes!

SONY DSCThere are few things more appealing and comforting than a good breakfast! Especially when it consists of a stack of fluffy, chewy, delicious pancakes. And after tinkering with the recipe for some time, I think I’ve finally found the proper balance of basic ingredients.

And so here they are, my recipe for Comfort Banana Pancakes! Naturally, bananas are a good addition to any breakfast food. But when they are softened and added directly into the ingredients, in the form of banana bread, muffins, or this particular recipe, the result is a food that has consistency, is nutritious, and where the addition of the bananas natural starches provide an extra layer of flavor that seems at once dense but light. And of course, they are versatile, going well with all kinds of condiments!

250 ml flour
1 banana (frozen and then thawed)
175 ml milk
30 ml melted butter
1 egg
10 ml baking powder
7 ml sugar
5 ml all spice
2 ml salt

nutellaCombine all ingredients into a bowl and whisk until consistent and smooth. Heat frying pan and grease with vegetable oil or cooking spray. Spoon a good-sized helping into pan and flip as needed. And when it’s time to serve, they can be enjoyed any number of ways. My favorite toppings include butter and maple syrup, Yoghurt and maple syrup, and Nutella and yoghurt. Feel free to sub your own repertoire of toppings, you really can’t miss!
Until next time, stay warm and well fed my friends!

Happy Wassail 2013 Everybody!

Sea-Cider-In what is fast becoming an annual family tradition, my wife and I were sure to head over the Sea Cider Farm And Cider House this weekend for the Winter Wassail! For those who don’t know, this is the ancient English tradition of reigning in another year and another successful apple harvest with plenty of food, cider, and good cheer! And as a burgeoning purveyor of excellent apple cider, the Sea Cidery marks this festival by opening their doors to the public to learn about the tradition, and share in a few rounds!

This consists of warm, mulled, and spices cider, combined with finger foods that are provided by local catering companies. And of course, there are plenty of cider samples to be tried, which will include some of their more popular regular items, and an annual Wassail cider made with apples, star anise, cinnamon, cardamom, mint, and orange zest. Tours are also held so people can learn a bit about operations around the cidery, a Mummer’s Play is performed by members of the local English country dance troupe, and people are able to take part in the ancient festival of placing cider-infused bread on the apple trees to ensure an good harvest for next year.

1850 wassailThis was our third time there and I can tell you from personal experience, the occasion does not disappoint! In fact, it is the one time of year that I break from my usual trend of sampling beer and dedicate myself to exclusively to English and European style ciders, which like beer have a long and rich history. And this year, we treated ourselves to several samples of Pippin, Rumrunner, and I was sure to grab myself a bottle of the Pommeau Normandy style strong cider before we left.

As for food, we were delighted by one of the catering companies ample supply of miniature pies. For sup, they had a chicken, apple, bacon and thyme pie which was absolutely delicious! For those who are nutritionally minded and/or vegetarian/vegan, they had a vegetable curry pie which consisted of veggies, apple, yams, and curry sauce. And for desert, traditional apple pie, where the only thing missing was a dollop of vanilla ice cream!

At the other table, they were serving a lamb stew, which we refused to partake of since my wife spent much of her childhood raising sheepies. And I, well, just haven’t been able to eat lamb since I learned that they were in fact baby sheep and some of the cutest creatures on Earth! But they did have a lovely spread of bread pudding muffins with cream cheese ice cream that was scrum-diddly-umptious!

Looking forward to next year. Hopefully, we can actually ride our bikes there and not have to worry about “overdoing it”! Kudos to you Sea Cider, and keep doing what you do best!


Mushroom Jerk Chicken and Mash

mushroomsI’ve been thinking, it’s been awhile since I did a post on the subject of comfort food. But with the winter beer season upon us, this was to be expected! Yes, I am just making excuses, so here is what I decided to come back with. My favorite Mushroom Jerk Chicken!

To be fair, this particular dish is not my own creation. It was inspired by Anita Zacker – hey Anita! – who floated me the recipe during a conversation about the merits of jerk chicken. It was she who just how awesome this dish could be when combined with mushroom gravy.

After attempting it for myself, I was blown away and immediately moved to put my own twist on it. Just the way I am, it seems, always trying to put my stamp on things! However, this came with the addition of my own garlic mash to the recipe, plus some spinach or mixed greens. And from this combination, a recurring favorite was born!

Zacker/Williams Mushroom Jerk Chicken and Mash:
jerk_seasoning_16x94 white mushrooms
2 boneless chicken breast
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 clove garlic
4 large red skinned potatoes
1 bunch spinach or mixed greensjerk seasoning or sauce
sour cream

Chop garlic and mushrooms, slice chicken, combine in a frying pan, cook until chicken begins to brown. Add jerk seasoning and mushroom soup, stir until soup is liquified, lower heat and simmer. In a separate pot, heat water to a boil, add chopped potatoes and boil until thoroughly cooked. Remove from heat, add sour cream and chopped garlic, mash thoroughly. Layer plate with spinach greens and scoops of mashed potatoes, add chicken with gravy on top and serve.

Beer Pairing:
parallel49_labelsGiven the nature of this food, combining spice, cream, and salty mushroom gravy together in one package, a beer that is relatively light and clean, but still packs a hoppy bite would seem well suited. As such, I would recommend a good pale ale to go with this food.

Given that I have sampled many good ones in my time, I am somewhat torn as to which I would favor for pairing with this food. However, I think that Parallel 49 Gypsy Tears Ruby Ale or Lighthouse Tasman Ale. Either are very enjoyable beers and would be well suited to tackling the various flavors of this food.

Comfort Bangers and Mash!

Thanks to the lingering cold I’ve picked up, and a cold and rainy front that just won’t seem to quit, I’ve been quite inspired to experiment with comfort food lately. Yes, my wife and I have experimented with a few of our favorite recipes of late, and even found the time to tweak a few time-honored traditional ones. The following falls into the latter category, being an international twist on a British favorite. I had a chance to test drive the recipe recently, and believe me when I tell you it came out hearty and delicious, which was quite comforting!

Dutch-Style Bangers and Mash:
Otherwise known as Boerenkoolstamppot, this dish is very similar to the British variant, except that the potatoes are fortified with vegetables. I should take this opportunity to give a shout out to our friend Berdine, the lady who taught us that! To prepare, first get your hands on some appropriately large and tasty sausages. I prefer either Mennonite or Chorizo, but that’s just me. And of course, you could always go authentic and try actual British bangers, but in this case, you may want more than just a few, as they tend to be smaller in size.

4 large red-skinned potatoes
1 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 bunch chard
2-4 links of sausage (depending on the size)

Place sausages in a pan with sliced onions and add water. Cook until sausages and onions are full cooked and softened, and keep the liquid for jus. Then boil water in a large pot and add diced potatoes. Cook until softened but not ready, then add chopped chard and garlic (Kale will also do in a pinch). Drain, and add butter and sour cream until desired consistency is achieved. Serve on a plate, add sausages on top, and drizzle jus on top.

Beer Pairing:
Due to the relatively mild but hearty nature of this food, I would recommend something strong and sharp to accent the taste. As such, I would recommend a good stiff IPA, of which numerous examples come to mind. However, I feel the need to venture outside my country of birth on this one and award the top pairing spot to Dogfish Head’s own 90 Minute IPA, a beer which Esquire magazine described as being “perhaps the best IPA in America.”

If none are available, the following beers will certainly do: Red Racer IPA, Hoyne Devil’s Dream, or Rogue Yellow Snow. Pour into a tall glass, and trust the hoppy brew to wash down all those spuds and sausage! The floral and citrusy kick ought to go well with the sausage and onion flavored jus as well.

Thank you and happy eating/drinking! Winter’s right around the corner, so expect something appropriate for a winter ale! Stay tuned…

Comfort Burgers!

Well, its no secret that it’s getting colder outside. And unless culinary traditions from all over the world have lied to me, the most time-honored remedy to this problem is hot food and stiff drink! And so I’m back with more recommendations for comfort food, and this one comes from one of my favorite places in the whole entire world. The backyard grill!

Williams’ Onion and Garlic Beef Burger:
1 onion, finely chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon teriyaki sauce
1 bunch leaf lettuce
1 beefsteak tomato
1 red onion
, sliced

Combine ingredients in a bowl, mix until consistent, then start grabbing handfuls and shape them into patties. Depending on your preference, you should get three large-sized burgers, or four regular ones. Place on the grill and flip regularly, cook until lightly charred.

Beer Pairing:
As far as burgers go, you can’t miss with a good hoppy ale. In my experience, hops accompany grilled meat quite well, especially when it’s not delicately spiced. And burgers are all about rustic taste and appeal, so the beer that comes with should be of similar character.

Hence why I would recommend either a good stiff Pale or a solid IPA. And when it comes to Pales, I gotta go with an old favorite – McAuslan’s St. Ambroise Pale Ale! Not only does it have a deliciously hoppy bite, its got the perfect balance of citrus and floral notes to accompany the bite of onions, garlic and garnish that are characteristic of burgers.

Good eats, good drinking, and see you next time! Hoping to find a food that pares well with a winter ale, because Halleluiah, those beers are arriving in store as we speak!

Comfort Paella!

Here is a dish that is appropriate for summer eating, since it was borne of a nation that is used to its fair share of heat! However, I also find that it is perfectly suited to cold, wet weather, the kind of stuff folks here in Canada are certainly used to. And considering that this dish is spicey, rich and brothy, and pack a lot of meat and seafood into a sticky rice base, the kind of food that really sticks your ribs, you’d think someone who was used to freezing their asses off would have invented it.

Matt’s “Pileup” Paella:
I began making this dish roughly five years ago, coinciding with my darling bride and mine’s trip to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago. After determining that we had not eaten any genuine paella, largely because of the hours pilgrims keep and the fact that restaurants don’t serve their real menu until late in the evening (by which time pilgrims are sound asleep), I decided to learn the recipe and make some myself. The exercise was so popular that my wife and I insist on repeating it whenever possible! Talk about a hot, satisfying dish to chase away the cold and the rain!

1 Clove garlic, chopped
1 Spanish onion, chopped
1 Red pepper, chopped
4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
2 Cups chicken stock
2 Cups water
1 Cup white wine
1 Cup brown rice
1 Chorizo sausage, sliced
1 Breast chicken, sliced
12 Large shelled prawns

1 Cup peas

Combine garlic, onions, pepper and tomatoes in a deep frying dish with Chorizo, chicken and prawns. Stir until garlic, onions, pepper and tomatoes soften and meat and prawns are lightly cooked. Add chicken stock and water, stir thoroughly and add wine. Let sit until liquid comes to a boil and add peas. Let simmer until rice is cooked, stir regularly to prevent sticking. Add crushed chilies or cayenne powder to spice. Traditional recipes generally involve mussels and saffron. In the former case, my wife doesn’t like them, so I avoid their use. As for Saffron, never used it. That spice don’t come cheap, you know!

Beer Pairing:
Now this is a tough one! It’s not that beer doesn’t go well with Paella, it’s really just that it is more well suited to wine, particularly a dry one. However, when looking for a beer to go with this dish, one should steer towards something light and subtle. So, once again, I would go with something in the Lager/Pilsner variety, or possibly a nice light wheat. In this regard, I would suggest either a Wellington Arkell Best Bitter, a Philips Analogue 78 Kolsch, Erdinger Weisbier, or Hoyne’s Summer Haze Honey Hefe.

Comfort Perogies!

Yesterday, my wife and I sat down to a dinner of perogies for the first time in awhile. And they were scrum-diddly-umptious! And it reminded me of my commitment to share ideas for comfort food and the beers that accompany them! So please consider a plate of cheese and potato perogies, paired with a light lager or pilsner as my next recommendation.

Now I’m not one for making perogies from scratch, but I plan to soon enough. In the meantime, a bag of frozen will do. However, if you should happen to have a Polish or Ukrainian grocer in your neighborhood that offers you the hand-made option, get on it! In the meantime, all you have to worry about is garnish preparation. And that’s where things can get creative!

Williams’ not-so-hand-made Perogies:
Of course, its common knowledge that perogies can be prepared any number of ways. Personally, I like my mine well cooked on the outside, but still soft and supple enough to cut with a fork. After some trial and error, I’ve found the boil first, fry second method works best. The boiling ensures that the skin and innards are cooked through, and frying them with the garnish gives them a slightly crispy, smoky, salty flavor.

1 pack perogies
4 strips of bacon

1 yellow or white onion
1 bunch green onions
small amount of butter

Slice bacon strips and add them to the pan, adding chopped onions once enough fat is present to cook them in. Stir well to prevent sticking, add perogies once the onions are soft. Add butter, and then stir regularly to prevent from sticking. Add green onions last and continue to stir. Remove from heat once all perogies are a nice, golden brown, the onions are soft and a little browned themselves and the bacon is nice and crispy. Serve with plenty of sour cream and dill!

As I said earlier, the best pairing for this dish seems to be a nice lager or pilsner. Perogies have a multilayered flavor that ranges from the subtle (cheese, potatoes) to the strong and zesty (onions, dill, sour cream and bacon). As a result, I feel a light beer that will not overwhelm the palate or compete with the flavor would be best. For this, I would highly recommend Hoyne’s Hoyner Pilsner or Creemore’s Premium Lager or Cameron’s Lager.

I say Hoyne’s first because it just happened to be what I was drinking at the time. And it was a per-diddly-erfect accompaniment!

Comfort Chili

As part of the fall season, I thought I might share some culinary ideas, specifically with regards to comfort food. For those of us who live in the more temperate regions of the planet, where Autumn is known to bring cold winds, darker days, and plenty of moisture that chills your bones, this is an essential area of knowledge!

And to start this list off right, I have decided to share the Williams’ family recipe for chili. I can’t tell you how many winters this food has gotten me through. Not only is it a warm, delicious meal that will stick to your bones and beat out the cold weather, it is also downright delicious, even when reheated. Yep, in addition to being awesome, it also keeps well and will continue to please for many servings.

Williams’ Signature Chili:
Now this is comfort food! For years my mother has been making what I still consider to be the best damn chili in the world. And though others cannot endorse this ruling, mainly out of loyalty to their own mothers and kin, they still admit that it’s damn good chili! And variations on the recipe are possible, but I generally make it a point not to stray. My wife insists that I add corn, carrots and potatoes to the mix, to which I reply in the resoundingly negative. Why? Because this isn’t stew! Veggies beyond beans, onions and garlic have no place in chili. You may disagree…

Anyhoo, here is the breakdown for a single pot. Adjust amounts based on how many you intend to serve, as this can be expected to provide multiple servings for at least two hungry people. For those with smaller appetites, I expect at least four people could eat from this and go back for some seconds. Enjoy!

1 can of beans (red kidney)
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can tomato paste (sub soup if you’re so inclined)
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minded
1 lb lean ground beef
sprinkle chili powder to taste

Combine garlic, onions, beef and chili powder in a large soup pot with a small amount of vegetable oil Cook until meat is browned and garlic and onions are softened. Add beans and tomatoes (including the liquid from the can), then add tomato paste/soup. Stir frequently and add chili powder to taste, and consider adding Sriracha sauce, chili flakes or Tabasco to add heat. Serve with buttered, crusty bread to sop up the liquid, and be prepared for a major case of ITIS!

Beer Pairing:
And of course, how could I, the GCBS, consider this recipe complete if I did not mention some fitting beers to accompany it? Well, beer and chili aren’t exactly a match made in heaven, I’ll admit. But when it comes to the various flavor and textures of this food, I would have to recommend a beer that goes down clean, or provides a smooth tawny stimulation. What’s more, hot food usually demands a beer that is either best served cold and which is crisp and refreshing, and/or something that has gentle malts and doesn’t contain too much in the way of hops. Otherwise, your tongue will be a battleground of competing flavors and stimuli, which won’t work out too well in the end.

Hence, I would have to recommend either a good clean lager or a nice smooth stout. A brown ale can do in a pinch as well, provided its not heavily hopped and nice and tawny. My personal favorites would be Naramata Nut Brown Ale, St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, or VIB Iron Plow Marzen. In short, a fall beer for a fall dish! Again, these are merely suggestions, and the culinary world is built on experimentation. If you’ve got variations on this recipe and the pairing, please feel free to share them with me. And please let me know if the following recipe and pairing suggestions works out for you!

Until next time, keep warm, stay dry, and never go to bed hungry or thirsty! Winter is just around the corner…

Aventinus, Found At Last!

Rejoice, beer snobs, for this is great new indeed! After years of fruitless searching, trying in vain to find a supplier of beer that carried the venerated Schneider und Sohn Aventinus Heffeweizen Doppelbock, I was about ready to give up. Be it a private liquor store or the province-run BCL, again and again I was told that they either did not carry this product, that it was not something I was likely to find in BC, or they just looked at me blankly like they didn’t have the slightest idea what I was talking about.

But after six years of searching and waiting, I finally found someone who came through! And would you believe it, it was a restaurant of all places! Yes, the good folks at The Rathskeller Schnitzel House here in beautiful Victoria BC that were able to procure a shipment of this premium Bavarian beer. And good on them, since this is something that beer drinkers all across the province should be getting their hands on. A dark, double-fermented, bock-style wheat beer that boasts smooth, rich malts and a fruity, spicy palate with hints of chocolate and bananas, this beer remains one of the best I have ever had! The only one to do better no longer exists, so I guess that makes this beer my number one favorite 😉

I can remember fondly being introduced to this beer roughly a decade ago. It was my first time walking into Vineyard Bistro, located in the heart of the Bytown Market in Ottawa. Unfamiliar to the territory and still only a beer snobblet, I asked the barkeep for something tall, dark, German and strong, emphasizing that I was talking about beer. He immediately handed me a bottle of this and a tall, fluted glass. It took me a few samplings to appreciate the taste of the bock-style wheat, but once I acquired it, I was hooked!

Since that time, I never miss an opportunity to pick up an Aventinus whenever I find myself in Ottawa or anywhere in Ontario. You can’t imagine how crestfallen I was when I first moved to BC and found that it simply didn’t exist here, a fact which still makes no sense to me. Schneider-Weisse, the more well-known wheat beer that is brewed by the same brewery, is readily available in BCL liquor stores. So is their Eisbock for that matter. That seem right to you?

So… expect a full and complete review to be coming just as soon as I can get out to the Haus and pick me up a case! Though I have raved long about the virtues of Aventinus, I don’t think I’ve ever described it any real detail (not the four point breakdown at any rate). And if you get a chance, get out to Rathskeller and ask them for a bottle. You won’t be sorry 🙂