I Want a Dutch Oven Cookbook!

I Want a Dutch Oven Cookbook! - Purchase your very own Dutch Oven Cookbook from Nimbus Publising

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Nova Scotia Comfort Food

Hodge Podge – Old Lunenburg Dishes, Pg. 13 – Evelyn V.B. Ritcey (Mrs. C.D. Ritcey)

A recent trip to the Dartmouth Farmers’ Market inspired our next test recipe. New vegetables are plentiful in August in Nova Scotia – and the market was chock full of bright, fresh new vegetables straight from the garden to market – they don’t get any fresher than this. The Dartmouth Farmers’ Market is held every Saturday from 7 am to 1 pm at Alderney landing on the Dartmouth Waterfront. A small market in comparison to its big sister on the other side of the Harbor – but with the new Halifax Seaport Market currently under siege by most Halifax residents – this market is a welcome respite from the crazy crowds, and really has everything you could want - from fresh fruits and veggies, homemade breads, organic meats and lots more!

Hodge Podge, a traditional Maritime Recipe, is a vegetable stew made with fresh new vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, peas and green and wax beans. There are many varying opinions (some quite strong) as to how hodge podge is to be prepared. One thing that is for sure when it comes to hodge podge is that it is steeped in maritime tradition, quite possibly developed by some of Nova Scotia‘s first settlers (or original foodies) to take advantage of the land’s abundant harvest. Those who like this recipe – usually LOVE IT! It is pure Nova Scotia comfort food at its best! Meat is rarely added and considered by some to be blasphemy! The Dutch Oven cookbook does include an alternate hodge podge recipe from Francis Himmelman (Mrs. H.D.), Pg. 50, that includes lamb. If you like lamb and don’t have a problem with bastardizing hodge podge – go for it. However, there is only room for one hodge podge recipe in The Dutch Oven Diaries – the right one!

As mentioned above – there are many opinions as to how this recipe is to be prepared. For the purposes of this post – it was prepared the way that Peter remembers it being prepared growing up (Jan never had Hodge Podge – I know right?). One step that is consistent with every hodge podge recipe is that new vegetables are boiled until tender. Enough water should be added to a pot to cover vegetables – lightly salted (1Tbs. coarse salt seems to work well). The quantity of vegetables used is really dictated by the amount of hodge podge you want to prepare. The timelines for cooking the veggies are pretty vague in this recipe – we recommend adding the potatoes and carrots first (boil 10 min.), then add beans (boil 10 more min.), then add peas (boil for 5-10 min.).

The sauce is really where the real debate begins. The Dutch Oven recipe recommends beginning by sautéing finely diced salt pork (until crisp) – we didn’t have any salt pork, but bacon works fine (may add a slightly more smokey flavor). Obviously if you want to make this recipe completely vegetarian you would omit this step all together. This recipe includes a small note at the end – “omit onion” – not sure what that is all about, perhaps, Evelyn wasn’t a fan of onions, in any case – Peter remembers onions in his hodge podge – so onions there will be (one finely chopped) – sautéed in bacon grease. Once onions are lightly browned and tender, one cup of cream is added, and salt and pepper to taste. The recipe also notes to add one cup of liquid to the sauce (no mention of what this mystery liquid is to be) – you could reserve some water from the boiled veggies if you want to thin out your sauce a bit, however we found we didn’t need to add any additional liquid. There was one other glaring omition in this recipe – BUTTAH!!– do Paula Deen proud and add a couple of tablespoons of butter to this sauce. Once the sauce is heated through – add it to veggies and serve! One more tip - make lots – hodge podge is even better the next day!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sure Bet!

Grape Sherbet – Desserts – pg. 214, Christabel Cantelope (Mrs. D. C.)

The Dutch Oven doesn’t contain a lot of cool Summer recipes, but there are a few. It’s been a beautiful Summer in Nova Scotia this year and August has been no exception. To beat the Summer heat we whipped up this cool Summer treat compliments of Mrs. Christabel Cantelope (they just don’t make handles like this anymore – a lost art really).

Having never made sherbet before, we were fairly skeptical about this one. First of all, Grape isn’t a flavor you hear much about anymore, you just can’t help associate Grape with things like Crush and Hubba Bubba- right? Secondly the freezing method seemed a little questionable as there is no ice cream machine used in this recipe’s preparation – just a good old fashion freezer (Mrs. Cantelope suggests an electric refrigerator - great tip Mrs. C., we almost used our ice box for this one).

Sherbet almost always contains fruit and differs from a sorbet in that it contains dairy, but is usually lighter than ice cream (ice cream normally contains at least 10% milk fat and often eggs). This recipe uses a combination of milk and cream. The only other ingredients in this recipe are sugar and grape juice. Super simple!

A few tips if you decide to tackle this one. The recipe only calls for two cups of liquid so you best double it to ensure there is plenty of sherbet to share. Be sure to stir your milk/cream and sugar thoroughly ensuring that all the sugar is dissolved (about 5 minutes). A metal loaf pan works well as a container to freeze the mixture in (leaving lots of surface area to scoop the sherbet). It’s important to remember to stir the mixture about every hour while it is freezing, this will ensure a nice creamy consistency (3 times over 3 hours using a small whisk). We then left the sherbet to freeze overnight.

The result was a delicious sweet and refreshing dessert. This recipe was super simple to pull together. With such little effort, it was surprising how creamy and smooth the sherbet was – we kind of expected it to be like a block of ice. Its consistency was much the same as ice cream. This one will be a “sure bet” with kiddies and adults, and one of the great things about this recipe is its versatility - you could easily replace the grape juice with any flavor juice…the possibilities are endless…

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Grunt or Buckle It?

Blueberry Grunt – Pg. 28 – Old Lunenburg Dishes – Beulah Thurlow (Mrs. James)

Blueberry Buckle – Pg. 234 – Just Desserts - Edith B. Morash (Mrs. J.B.)

What do you do with YOUR blueberries? Today we will tackle the great debate – do you grunt it or buckle it?

What better time to test these two popular Dutch oven recipes than now - during Nova Scotia’s wild blueberry season. Jan’s mamma (aka Mamma Mia) graciously offered to pick some up at the Thursday morning Lunenburg Farmers’ Market. We chose to go with the small wild blueberries as opposed to the larger, plump cultivated berries, as overwhelmingly recommended by many local blueberry enthusiasts.

So Lunenburg legend goes…blueberry grunt is to be made on one of the first cool evenings in August. A Lunenburg original, this dish consists of dumplings that are steamed in the juice of the blueberries. It is widely debated - Is this a meal or a dessert? Perhaps it’s the dessert that eats like a meal. The sweet stewed blueberries suggest it’s a dessert, while the heavy dumplings fill you up like a meal. I guess that leaves us with a second debate – do you eat it with a fork or a spoon?!

There is NO question when it comes to blueberry buckle – with its simple white cake base, a layer of blueberries and its sweet streusel-like crumb topping – this recipe is a dessert! Often served with whipped cream, it is the perfect simple summer dessert. (Although if you get a buckle craving in the middle of Winter, frozen blueberries will work fine in this recipe).

Both these recipes were surprisingly simple to make - few ingredients and quick preparation time. For the most part, these recipes were easy to follow, with a few exceptions – par for the course when cooking from the Dutch Oven…

A few tips regarding the Grunt…this recipe begins by boiling your blueberries in water and sugar – the recipe notes – “until there is plenty of juice” – we found 5-10 minutes is sufficient. The dumpling (biscuit dough) instructions were a little vague and didn’t specify the amount of milk to use – we found that ¾ Cup was the right amount. As with any biscuit recipe it is important not to overwork the dough – just a helpful hint to anyone without a lot of biscuit making skills – the ingredients should be gently combined, and the dough should remain somewhat sticky. As this recipe is cooked on the stovetop, we chose to use
a cast iron dutch oven pot (medium size), but just about any type of cooking pot would do. The blueberries should be reduced to a simmer before adding the dumplings; once the dumplings are added, the pot should be covered “closely” (tight) – and left to simmer for 15 minutes – NO PEEKING! – lifting the lid may result in dumplings tough enough to bounce off the wall!

Blueberry Grunt

1 quart blueberries
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar (or more to taste)

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
3/4 cup milk

Boil berries, water and sugar in a saucepan unil there is plenty of juice (5-10 mins). Sift dry ingredients together, cut in 1 tbsp of butter with knife, then add milk until dough forms. Drop by tbsp into the bluberries, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Onto the buckle…the first question was – what type of baking dish to use. The recipe suggests an 8x8 pan – it does not specify the type (glass, metal). We opted to try two different types. A modern day 9” square spring-form pan and an old-school 50s style 7x9 Pyrex dish handed down to Jan from her great great aunt Gladdie – this pan may very well have seen its fair share of buckle action in its day. We also opted to line our baking pans with parchment paper – a modern day tip from our good friendMartha (don’t be a hater).
Although the recipe does not specify – like any cake batter recipe – your shortening and sugar should be creamed first, then mixed with the egg, followed by your dry ingredients alternated with your liquid (milk) – dry, wet, dry, wet. As far as the crumb topping goes…we found the pastry cutter worked great to cut the butter into the sugar/flour mixture to blend. The recipe also didn’t specify to use white sugar or brown sugar – so we tried both. We recommend brown - and believe this is likely what is intended. The recipe instructions say to bake “until the blueberries are done” – come on Edith, how do you know when a blueberry is done?? 45 minutes seems to be the appropriate time (@325 instead of 350 as suggested by Peter’s mamma). Pans – metal vs. Pyrex – we found the Pyrex pan was the best bet – perfectly baked, not overly brown, nice height on the cake layer. The 9” square metal pan was too large, so the cake layer was too thin and the cake was much more brown. Just a couple of personal modifications we made during a third run through of this recipe – we mixed it up Paula Deen style and swapped the shortening for butter and doubled the streusel crumb topping – oh yeah!

Blueberry Buckle


1 Pint(2 cups) blueberries

1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup milk
pinch salt

Crumb Mixture:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 butter


Combine cake ingredients and spread in baking pan. Spread blueberries over batter. Sprinkle with crumb mixture. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 mins.

Overall these recipes were simple in execution. Both make great desserts and are the perfect recipes to take advantage of blueberry season. Although the Blueberry Grunt is a coveted traditional Lunenburg recipe – our sweet tooths naturally gravitate toward the blueberry buckle. This leaves us with the answer to this great debate – we Buckle it!