Quick Christmas Gifts

It’s coming fast! Christmas is not my favourite time of the year, to be honest. There are so many expectations, disappointments, and frustrations and it drives me crazy every year. This year, I’ve decided not to allow anything to get to me. I have no expectations for a perfect Christmas. If I don’t get any gifts, oh well. I really don’t need anything. If recipients of the gifts I give don’t like my choice? Oh well, at least  they’ve received something. Dinner’s not perfect? Oh well, at least there’s food on the table.

One thing always makes me happy, though. I really enjoy giving friends and co-workers hand made, or home cooked gifts. Now that my daughter has food issues, I’ve been even more aware that there are more and more people “out there” with similar issues. One of my co-workers is gluten intolerant. I have a family member with diabetes, and others in my family have other food allergies or sensitivities. It makes food gift-giving a little more challenging but I’m up for it.

This week, our work place is having an informal get together at a local restaurant. I was trying to find something I could give each co-worker that all of them could enjoy when I came across a post about finishing salt. So, just what is finishing salt?

One website I came across described it this way: “Finishing salts add a healthy and delicious burst of color, flavor and texture to any dish including cocktails and desserts. Just a simple sprinkle can take your culinary creation from drab to fab!” That pretty much sums it up. I went hunting and, oh my, talk about a rabbit hole!

finishing-salt

So far, I’ve made Sriracha Lime salt, Smoky Maple Bacon salt, Bloody Mary salt, and Umami Mushroom salt. How do you use finishing salts? Well, a sprinkle of Smoky Maple Bacon salt on a cracker with goat cheese is amazing. Sriracha Lime salt sprinkled over my scrambled eggs? Oh yeah! Bloody Mary salt on a steak? Why not? Sprinkle some Umami Mushroom salt on your popcorn. Mix and match. Sprinkle some finishing salt over vegetables or potatoes or … or… instead of flaky salt on your hand crafted chocolates, why not sprinkle a flavoured finishing salt. Can you imagine a bit of Bacon salt on chocolate? I’m making my mouth water.

For gift giving, I’ll be putting the salt into small mason jars (125 ml), with a label outlining how to use finishing salts. I’ve also made a couple of batches of Rum Spiced Pecans; each co-worker will be getting a jar of finishing salt and a gift bag of the pecans. Unfortunately, our work get together is the same evening as my grandson’s Christmas program. I think my grandson is more important, don’t you?

Want to try making your own finishing salt? Here are a couple of recipes to get you started. I’ll be over here, thinking about other flavour combinations.

Sriracha Lime Salt

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. Sriracha Sauce
  • Lime zest to taste

Make sure the lime zest is dried before adding it to the salt. Mix all ingredients. The mixture will be moist so allow it to dry for a day or two, stirring occasionally to break up any chunks.

Bloody Mary Salt

  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup tomato powder
  • 1/4 tsp. Tabasco sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. Celery seed, crushed

Mix all ingredients well. Mixture may be somewhat moist so allow it to dry for 24-48 hours, stirring occasionally to break up any chunks.

Umami Mushroom Salt

  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. soy sauce (I used Tamari as it’s gluten free)
  • 2-3 dashes liquid smoke
  • dried mushrooms of your choice (I used a blend of dried morels, porcini, and portobello)

Pulverize the dried mushrooms, either in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Blend all ingredients and stir until well mixed. If necessary, allow the salt to dry overnight.

Smoky Maple Bacon Salt

  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 3 strips of bacon, well cooked and well drained (they need to be crispy)
  • 2-3 dashes liquid smoke
  • 1 Tbsp. pure maple syrup

Cook or bake the bacon until well cooked. Allow to cool on paper towels after squeezing as much of the fat out of it as possible. Once cooled, pulverize the bacon using a spice grinder.

Mix all the ingredients and stir until well mixed. Allow the salt to dry as it will be moist. This one is best stored in the refrigerator and used with a couple of weeks… if it lasts that long.

 

Pulled Pork

As I wrote in my last post, this recipe is a marriage of two recipes, both found on the Food Network. The method for brining came from Alton Brown and the bulk of the recipe was from a light cooking website; I can’t remember precisely where I found it. Suffice it to say that I’ve changed it somewhat and we keep coming back to it. That makes it a winner in my book!

No pictures in this post as all the meat (2 pork roasts worth) is in the freezer until Saturday. I will post pictures when I have them. As we say in Dutch… eet smakelijk!  (Which is the same as bon appetit!)

Ev’s Pulled Pork

[printable version]

Brine:

  • 8 oz (or 3/4 cup) molasses
  • 12 oz pickling salt
  • 2 quarts water (or enough to cover the meat)
  • 5-8 lb Boston butt (or pork shoulder roast)

Combine molasses, pickling salt and water in a large pot. Stir, or heat, until the salt has dissolved. Add the pork, making sure it is completely submerged. If necessary, place a plate on the roast to help keep it sumberged. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator a minimum of 8 hours; 12 hours is ideal, but I’ve left it for up to 24 hours. Reserve about 1 cup of the brine for the cooking sauce.

Sauce:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, diced (or 1 large onion)
  • 1 tsp chili powder (or to taste – you can always add more, you can’t take it out)
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 12 oz beer, preferably lager (1 can or bottle)
  • 2 cups canned tomatoes, chopped coarsely
  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup of the brining liquid, plus 1 tbsp molasses
  • 1/2 tsp liquid smoke

Preheat the oven to 300ºF

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add diced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized and very soft, about 20 minutes.

Increase the heat to medium-high; add chili powder, cumin, coriander, paprika and cayenne and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the remaining ingredients. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sauce  s slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the pork, spooning the sauce over it. Cover the pan, transfer to the oven and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Turn the pork over and bake, covered, for another 1 1/2 hours. Uncover and bake until a fork inserted into the meat turns easily, 1-2 hours  more, basting occasionally with the sauce.

Transfer the pork to a large bowl and cover with foil. When ready to serve, reheat the sauce, remove the bone from the roast if there is one, and pull the pork apart into shreds with two forks (or your hands; that works, too – just make sure you wash them first). Serve over lightly toasted or warmed buns. Serve with coleslaw.

To reheat the meat, preheat the oven to 300ºF. Place the meat in a baking dish and heat until it’s warmed through. The sauce may be incorporated into the meat or kept separate and spooned over the meat when serving but should be served hot.