Sunday, 20 April 2014

Peas Pudding, a Newfoundland Favorite

Many in Newfoundland call their Sunday Dinner "Jiggs Dinner". I've never found out if I spell it right, but no one has corrected me :)

I get a surprising number of readers that are looking for a traditional Newfoundland dressing recipe so I thought that those searching for a recipe from "back home" might be making a full jiggs. There are probably many variations out there, but I follow what the mother-in-law does and get no complaints around here ;)

A Newfoundland Sunday Dinner is usually comprised of salt meat, boiled with split yellow peas in a bag, turnip, cabbage, carrot and potato. We always have ours with either a roast turkey stuffed with dressing, or a roast chicken with the dressing baked separately. A turkey is really too much if it is just us, so I do a chicken to avoid wasting (or eating leftovers for a week!)

The first thing I do is soak the salt meat (I do this the morning of the big meal). This is a matter of preference (and NOTE: this meal is definitely not part of a low-sodium diet!) Those that prefer the salt might not rinse (too salty for me) and those wishing to reduce salt content would change the water completely as many times as they like. Personally, I do one rinse. It is a salty meal but one that we don't have often.

This picture is from last year in my old house.
I intended to do this post back then
 and am only finally writing it now!

While the meat soaks I prepare the yellow split peas by sorting them and looking for any stones or lentils that don't belong.

I have a peas pudding bag that I purchased at Sobey's last year. I have also made my own bags from a clean pillow case. If you make your own bag you must be sure that tiny threads do not make their way into your peas, or into the boiling pot of meat. I did several passes with my sewing machine on a straight stitch and also a zig zag stitch and clipped the material very close to avoid bits of material coming off.

I put about 1 cup of yellow split peas into the bag and tie the bag shut with kitchen string, leaving 1 or 2 inches room for the peas to expand/fill with water. If they are packed in too tight they take longer to cook and may not get enough water circulating to soften entirely (a mistake that I have made). As well, you must tie the bag to the handle of your stock pot so that it does not scorch (also a mistake that I have made). Make sure that the bag is off the bottom of the pan (see below) but is low enough in the pot to be submerged in the boiling water.

I put the salt meat in the pot with fresh water and set it to boiling with the peas. I try to have it boil 4 hours but have gotten away with less. You must continually top-up the water level so that the peas are submerged, and I give it a little stir initially to check that the meat didn't stick down (you guessed it, I've done that too!).

The meat and peas will boil approximately 3 hours before adding vegetables to the stock pot. I add turnip first (cut into chunks about 2" x 3"). I then let the water return to a boil for 15-20 minutes before adding the cabbage (cut into quarters, core intact to hold it together). I add carrots, cut in half, after the water has returned to a boil for 15 minutes. If I am boiling the potatoes in the same pot I add them at the same time, but quite often I boil them separately and just turn that pot on at the same time. Generally, I begin adding vegetables about an hour and a half before I plan to eat.

Once the boiling is complete, remove vegetables into a serving bowl. To prepare the peas pudding for the table, I cut the string tying the bag to the pot and carefully snip the string that has kept the bag shut. I later rinse the bag for reuse, so I'm careful not to put a hole in the bag when I snip the string. Dump the bag into a dish and mash any peas that aren't already mushy. I whip them up with a fork, adding approximately one tablespoon of butter per cup of peas pudding.

This picture taken with my phone does not do peas pudding any justice. It is a thick, creamy pudding (think split pea soup) seasoned with the salt and flavor of the beef over several hours of boiling. We love it and I hope you give it a try!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Fish Pond: The Dig

Last fall, I was fortunate to have my dad show up one day with a tractor. All the topsoil that had been stripped away in order to dig our basement and haul in the house was in a big pile at the south end of my yard. We had already rented a bobcat to do some landscaping and had done some sloping and leveling. However, the dirt was in a pile and winter approached.

If you knew my dad, you would know that taking a day to go landscape a yard would be considered "a day off" when there are too many other farm chores to be done. It was a surprise, and an honour, to see a tractor whistle past my kitchen window one morning (just a guess, but I think it has a bit to do with the two little helpers that he adores).

The house is on a hill and try as we might we ended up with a low spot on the south-facing slope. Luckily, the low spot was in the perfect place for a fish pond. In the last two weeks we had a few days of nice weather, so my boys and I have been busy with the ground work for a pond. In our first day of digging, we stripped the topsoil down to clay, except for a few places that were still frozen.

Those rocks spent the winter in that spot.
The ground was still completely frozen
 beneath them, while I was able to
 dig down to clay almost everywhere else.

child favourite!
The pond is deeper than these photos show. It got too cold and windy and I haven't made it back there to take a more recent picture. I'm excited to get back at it and show more pictures as we do the rock work, install the liner and (yay!) plant some pretty things. For now, it is snowing and miserable so we have turned our attention back to indoor projects.

hugging...not fighting...I had to get a picture

I intend to plant one of the shrubs that I recently ordered beside the pond, along with reed grass and ostriche plume astilbe. I also have a peony ordered--one of my favorite flowers. I'm looking forward to it warming up. Every day that we spend outside seems like a dream. Before I know it, it is time for lunch and a nap for the little one while 4 year old and I return outside to do more. We have explored the yard, played in the mud, checked on our trees and had all kinds of adventures. I can only hope that the 4 year old will remember this summer working in the yard and the part he played in digging the pond. Did you help in the garden as a kid, or do you have little helpers in your garden now?

Monday, 14 April 2014

One Year Hence...

A year ago, we made the hour long drive from where we used to live to our new acreage site. This was the road in:

April 14, 2013

And this was the main road, looking south:

April 14, 2013
Today, one year later, the kids and I walked our usual route and took these pictures. The main road looking south, one year later:

And (below) the road leaving our acreage, today.

It is amazing to see the difference in snow levels from one year to the next. When I think of all the work that had yet to be done, one year ago, I hardly believe we did it and that we are happily residing in our new house. We still have a lot of work to do but it is not as daunting as the list we had last year! It helps that we aren't still under several feet of snow. How is the spring thaw where you are? Are you still under snow?

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Growing Older

It seems as though something profound should be said on a birthday--as though this one day in a series of days older should impart some new wisdom. But nope. No real wisdom here.

 As I grow older I spend more time thinking about what is truly important to me, and less time trying to impress others. I can be hopelessly self-conscious, to the point of not trying things for fear of failure. Looking back on my twenties I see most of my decisions as tentative, non-committed and superficial. I knew who I wanted to be but was afraid to try. But days turn into years and young people around me become ill and I have begun to feel some urgency in life. If I don't learn it now, I may never know it; if we don't plant it, it shan't grow, and so on. I want to be, today, the woman that my boys will remember in the future. And so it goes.

As I get older I am more comfortable in my own skin. I have stopped trying to be what I am not. I choose to focus my energy on what interests me and more and more I retreat from relationships that require me to be anything but authentic. When I feel pressure or when I become uncomfortable with a decision before me, I recall one of the most important and life-changing things I have read in years. It is a brief blog post from Zen Presence  and if I may be so bold, I'll break it down into what it has meant for me:

Whenever I am faced with feeling uncertain, fearing judgement, or lacking confidence, I ask myself if I seek meaning in my life or do I seek the approval of others? This immediately breaks the situation down into two clear paths. Down one path I see an image that someone else approves of but that does not fit me and does not make me happy, and that I can not long sustain. It makes me feel anxious and that I can not measure up for long. Down the other, I see enrichment; I see truth, authenticity, purpose. When I seek meaningful things and experiences I see artifice fall away and I am relieved. Asking myself this one question "approval or meaning?" cuts to the heart of the matter, setting aside the many details that often cause unnecessary stress and sleepless nights. I feel like I am doing better at this than I used to but I remind myself continually to try again. Like I say to my son, we will try again tomorrow. We can do better if we keep trying. It is true. That is what I have learned in 37 years. To keep on trying.

Friday, 4 April 2014

The Sun'll Come Out (Tomorrow)

It is a slow spring a comin'. Painfully slow. Painfully grey and...cold. But the weather network assures me that brighter days are ahead. They can't be wrong, can they? I'm trying to distract myself today in hopes that tomorrow we might enjoy being outside.

My quest for the perfect homemade loaf continues. I've enjoyed browsing my granny's old recipe books on the search. Some handy hints and quotes therein have made me smile:

To A New Husband

Remember this my darling
I fully realize
You loved your mother's cooking
Her Christmas cakes and pies

But when comparing efforts
Restrain your family pride
You did not have to eat the flops
She cooked when just a bride.

Husband, you reading this? Not hard to tell the book was published in the '70s. There were other hints from a 1908 cookbook that sounded downright dangerous: "For a cold in the head sniff powdered borax up the nose" (Yikes!) and interesting: "Do not approach contagious diseases with an empty stomach, nor sit between the sick and the fire, because the heat attracts the vapor". Food for thought.

In the meantime, I think I've found a winner. 

Five Grain Health Bread  
submitted to the Hillmond and District Cookbook (1976) by Tillie Hoegl

1 package granular yeast
1/2 cup honey
3 cups lukewarm water
1/3 cup shortening

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups dark rye flour
1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 cup quick oats
1Tbsp salt
3/4 cup skim milk powder
2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour

plus 3 cups more all-purpose flour to make a firm dough.

In a very large bowl soak yeast, honey and shortening in the warm water for 10-15 mins while measuring remaining ingredients. Add to yeast mixture in order given: wheat and rye flours, cornmeal, oats, salt, white flour, skim milk powder. Stir 50 times. Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size (about 2 hours). 

Sprinkle kneading board with 1 1/2 cups of the remaining white flour, punch down dough and turn dough onto surface. Knead flour into dough--before you are done you will have added remaining white flour to make a dough firm enough to handle. Now knead it 250 times, calling in your helpers to knead. Shape into a 2 foot roll, cut in half and shape into two loaves and place in well buttered loaf pans. Let rise about 1" above rim of pans. Bake at approximately 400F for 20 mins, then reduce to 350F and bake about 40 minutes longer, until crust is dark gold and crisp. 

When I rewrote the recipe to share here I realized that I left out the salt altogether, did not add white flour to initial mixture ( instead kneading all of it in after it rose). I baked it for 20 minutes at 400F but only left it in for 15 at 350F. It was quite dark and sounded hollow when tapped. Looks like it turned out, either way, and we are off now to sample with butter and jam.

Do you have any recipe books that were handed down?