It's finally Spring in Edmonton, and we've been going on adventures.
It's hard to believe we've been living here long enough to see three seasons. The fourth, I'm told, is especially nice. But for now, we're enjoying the warmish days Spring is bringing us, and going a bit further afield than we have all winter.
A picnic in the river valley - with a melange of food gathered from home and the market - makes the day feel special.
Walking by the river with friends is also a nice way to spend the afternoon.
(I know, it looks really grey still. But I promise you it’s warm and pleasant! Things are starting to turn green.)
I also finally went to this bakery. But they were all out of bread, so we will have to go back.
One Saturday we made a quick stop - right before they closed - at the wonderful Paddy's Cheese Shop. I had heard so much about this place, and I wished we could buy one of everything. Instead we got a small (oh god it's expensive) chunk of Applewood smoked cheddar, one of our favourites. We discovered it on our honeymoon in Denmark last year, along with Sage cheddar. We bought them both from a wonderful man at a large cheese cart in Kerteminde.
I have also bought a lot of books recently, which I haven't done in a long time. The library here is right near our apartment, and so full of almost everything I want, that I just haven't seen the need to spend money on books. But we stumbled upon the amazing bargain shelf at this shop (brand-new books for $3.99? Whaaaat??), and explored this one as well. As a result, I have lots of books added to my reading list.
Right now I'm still working my way through My Life in France by Julia Child. It's all about when she first discovered food, and France, and started learning how to cook. It's a great read, and makes her seem very human and ordinary. It also makes me want to pick up a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking - her landmark first book. I've never read any of her cookbooks before.
I haven't been making a lot of time for myself to cook and bake lately, and I want to change that. (I have been dreaming of cakes and cookies ... a few days ago I finally made a new batch of granola.) We have been eating through our stockpile in the freezer instead. And J made a delicious birthday dinner for his brother: braised pork with apples, roasted vegetables, market salad, and chocolate cake.
So to make sure this post has at least a modicum of food in it, here is J's recipe for his absolutely amazing braised pork. This meal, along with braised bison, have made me so happy that I'm eating meat again. It comes out meltingly tender with a sauce so delicious that I think I could bottle and sell it.
I know it is Spring, but you can still enjoy this now. Or if you must, save it until next winter. It's worth it.
Braised Pork with Apples
Adapted from Chef At Home by Michael Smith
You can use pork shoulder or leg for this recipe. It's best to find a cut that is rather tough. These are cheaper anyway. We usually buy ours from First Nature Farms at the market. As for what else goes in the pot, it is up to you. Braising is a great way to experiment with flavours since it’s a very simple technique. J does it a little differently each time, and then afterwards, we puree the liquid and freeze it to use again the next time. I think this is the key – the flavour intensifies, and each time you add another layer to make it even more rich and aromatic.
A splash of vegetable oil
One or two pieces of pork (~2 pounds total)
2 or 3 sliced onions
4 apples, cored and cut into large chunks
A few cupfuls of applesauce or apple juice
A couple of chopped carrots
Half a bottle of white wine
A few heaping teaspoonfuls of mustard
2 or 3 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
Choose a pot where your meat fits snugly, without too much extra room. Heat the pot on medium-high heat, and splash in some vegetable oil until it covers the bottom. Make sure the meat is dry, then add it to the pot. Brown the meat on all sides until it is dark, but not burnt. When it is evenly brown, take it out of the pot and set it aside for a few minutes. Leave all the lovely browning juices in the pot, and add the onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are nicely browned, about 15 minutes. If the bottom of the pot starts to brown too much, add a splash of water and turn the heat down a notch.
Return the meat to the pot and add all of the other ingredients. (The liquid should be almost covering the meat, but not quite.) Bring it to a simmer, then cut a piece of parchment paper the size of the pot. Cover with the parchment paper and a tightly-fitting lid. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting that will maintain a simmer. Cook slowly until the meat is very tender, at least 2 hours.
If you don’t have enough apples, you can add some extra sauce or juice, or vice versa. You could add other vegetables if you wanted too.