Category Archives: Recipes

On The Sandwich Board: Egg Salad Sandwich

Egg Salad Sandwich
Egg Salad Sandwich

One of my all-time favorite sandwiches is egg salad. It’s also one variety of sandwich that, when I take a plate of sandwiches somewhere, is sure to go first.  The filling can, of course, be made very simply with nothing more than hard boiled eggs, salad dressing or mayonnaise, and some celery and onion, if desired.  I like to jazz up my egg salad filling a bit by adding some ingredients that give an additional flavor boost to the sandwich – prepared mustard, sweet pickle relish, lemon juice, fresh herbs, and just a smidgen of a fine quality white truffle oil.  Add some fresh lettuce and place this filling in a good quality roll or between slices of your favorite bread for a decadent lunch.  I take my lunch to work and it’s always a special treat day when I take the time to prepare an egg salad sandwich and pack it with some fresh veggies and fruit!

And, don’t forget the pickles!  Crunchy bread and butter pickles go great with an egg salad sandwich.

The eggs for the filling can be either diced or mashed according to personal preference.  Dicing the eggs results in a more rustic looking sandwich like the one shown in the photo below.

Egg Salad Sandwich
Egg Salad Sandwich

However, if I am making egg salad sandwiches for an afternoon tea, then I mash the eggs with a fork or small potato masher as it makes a  creamier filling that stays neatly in place between the bread slices as shown below.

Egg Salad Tea Sandwiches
Egg Salad Tea Sandwiches

Either bought or homemade salad dressing or mayonnaise can be used in this sandwich filling.  Sometimes, I add a little of each. I recommend starting with a tablespoon (or even slightly less) of the salad dressing or mayonnaise and then adding small amounts as necessary to achieve the desired consistency of the salad filling.

Egg Salad Sandwich

Ingredients:

2 hard-boiled eggs, diced
¼ cup celery, finely diced
1 tbsp red onion, finely chopped
1 tsp prepared mustard
1½ tsp sweet pickle relish
1 – 2 tbsp salad dressing or mayonnaise
½ tsp lemon juice
1½ tsp chives, chopped
1½ tsp fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
¼ tsp. fresh dill, chopped (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ tsp. white truffle oil

4 slices of bread of choice or 2 rolls
Lettuce
Paprika (optional)

Method:

Place eggs in medium-sized saucepan. Cover with enough water that the eggs are completely covered by at least 1” of water. Bring to a full boil. As soon as the water is at a full boil, remove saucepan from heat and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 12 minutes. Drain the hot water and rinse eggs under cold water to stop the cooking process. Let eggs sit in a saucepan of cold water for 4-5 minutes then peel and dice (or mash) them.

Place eggs in bowl and add all remaining ingredients. When adding the salad dressing or mayonnaise, start with 1 tbsp and add more until mixture is of desired consistency. Stir well to combine ingredients.

Butter bread slices or roll halves. Place lettuce on bottom halves of each sandwich or roll. Top the lettuce with the egg filling, dividing equally between the two sandwiches or rolls. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired. Place remaining roll tops or bread slices over filling and slice as desired.

Yield: 2 sandwiches or rolls

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Egg Salad Sandwich
Egg Salad Sandwich

Egg Salad Sandwich

Yield: 2 sandwiches or rolls

A flavorful egg salad sandwich perfect for any occasion that calls for a sandwich!

Ingredients

  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, diced
  • ¼ cup celery, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp prepared mustard
  • 1½ tsp sweet pickle relish
  • 1 - 2 tbsp salad dressing or mayonnaise
  • ½ tsp lemon juice
  • 1½ tsp chives, chopped
  • 1½ tsp fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
  • ¼ tsp. fresh dill, chopped (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ½ tsp. white truffle oil
  • 4 slices of bread of choice or 2 rolls
  • Lettuce
  • Paprika (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place eggs in medium-sized saucepan. Cover with enough water that the eggs are completely covered by at least 1” of water. Bring to a full boil. As soon as the water is at a full boil, remove saucepan from heat and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 12 minutes. Drain the hot water and rinse eggs under cold water to stop the cooking process. Let eggs sit in a saucepan of cold water for 4-5 minutes then peel and dice (or mash) them.
  2. Place eggs in bowl and add all remaining ingredients. When adding the salad dressing or mayonnaise, start with 1 tbsp and add more until mixture is of desired consistency. Stir well to combine ingredients.
  3. Butter bread slices or roll halves. Place lettuce on bottom halves of each sandwich or roll. Top the lettuce with the egg filling, dividing equally between the two sandwiches or rolls. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired. Place remaining roll tops or bread slices over filling and slice as desired.
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Homemade Salad Dressing

Homemade Salad Dressing

Homemade salad dressing is simple to make and is a tasty addition to many salads and sandwiches. It’s also a more economical alternative to commercial varieties on the grocery store shelves. Additionally, if you find yourself in need of salad dressing and are not near a supermarket, you can quickly whip up a batch of homemade salad dressing so long as you have eggs, sugar, milk, vinegar, dry mustard, and flour.

Originally, my mother always cooked the salad dressing in a double boiler on the stove. When microwaves came on to the scene, it became easier and quicker than ever to cook salad dressing so the microwave is what I use today.

Because of all the different kinds of microwaves and their power levels, it is difficult for me to say exactly how long to cook the salad dressing. However, for starters, it will need at least 2-3 minutes just to heat the ingredients and then I suggest cooking the salad dressing and stirring it at 1 to 1½ minute intervals until it reaches the desired consistency and thickness which should be about the same as any commercial variety available.

It is important to stir the salad dressing as it cooks to prevent lumps from forming and to ensure that the ingredients stay mixed while it cooks. Be patient and expect this to take a few minutes.

The recipe I use has been in the family for many years and it is a basic recipe with little seasoning. I prefer to use the basic recipe and then, if I want it more seasoned, I take a bit of the salad dressing and add some additional seasonings for use in a particular recipe.

This is the salad dressing I use in potato salad and sandwiches. It is particularly good in lobster sandwiches and rolls! In fact, some claim that, if you don’t have the homemade dressing, it’s just not a good lobster sandwich or roll!

Homemade Salad Dressing
Homemade Salad Dressing
Homemade Salad Dressing

Ingredients:

2 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp dry mustard
¼ tsp salt
1 cup whole milk
¾ cup white vinegar
1 tbsp butter

Method:

In microwave-safe bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a whisk. Add the sugar, continuing to whisk mixture until smooth.

In separate small bowl, combine flour, mustard, and salt. Whisk dry ingredients into egg-sugar mixture until incorporated and smooth.

Slowly whisk in the milk and then the vinegar.

Cook on high for 2 minutes in the microwave, then stir mixture. Return mixture to the microwave and cook until thickened to desired consistency, stirring mixture at 1 – 1½ minute intervals. Be patient. This will take several minutes.

Lastly, stir in the butter. Pour mixture into glass jar. Let cool slightly for about a half hour or so then cover and store in refrigerator.

Yield: 2+ cups

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Homemade Salad Dressing

Yield: 2+ cups

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp dry mustard
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ¾ cup white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp butter

Instructions

  1. In microwave-safe bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a whisk. Add the sugar, continuing to whisk mixture until smooth.
  2. In separate small bowl, combine flour, mustard, and salt. Whisk dry ingredients into egg-sugar mixture until incorporated and smooth.
  3. Slowly whisk in the milk and then the vinegar.
  4. Cook on high for 2 minutes in the microwave, then stir mixture. Return mixture to the microwave and cook until thickened to desired consistency, stirring mixture at 1 - 1½ minute intervals. Be patient. This will take several minutes.
  5. Lastly, stir in the butter. Pour mixture into glass jar. Let cool slightly for about a half hour or so then cover and store in refrigerator.
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Homemade Salad Dressing
Homemade Salad Dressing

Harvest Quiche

Harvest Quiche
Harvest Quiche

My newly-created recipe combines several wonderful flavors to create this tasty quiche – sausage meat, leeks, mushrooms, Roma tomatoes, and a mixture of cheeses. While this savory quiche can, of course, be made year-round, it is especially good in the fall when the tomatoes are fresh off the vine and leeks and mushrooms are locally harvested.

Harvest Quiche
Harvest Quiche

This quiche is a little bit time-consuming to make but the end result is so worth it!  But, first, here are some of my tips for quiche-making.

There are three key elements to a good savory quiche:  1) A tender, flaky pie crust; 2) The right combination of flavorful, fresh ingredients; 3) A custard filling that holds the ingredients together so that each slice of the quiche holds its own when cut and does not fall apart and spread all over the plate.

First, I recommend par-baking the pie shell.  This helps to keep the crust flaky and prevents it from becoming soggy when an egg mixture filling is added.  Time the preparation of this quiche so that the par-baked shell comes out of the oven when the filling is ready to be added.  Allowing the pie shell to cool first may result in a tougher crust than if the filling is added to the warm shell and the quiche immediately placed in the oven.  Either an unbaked frozen pie shell or one made from your own favorite pastry recipe will work fine for this recipe.  Adding a layer of shredded cheese on top of the par-baked pie shell before adding the other ingredients and custard filling also helps act as a barrier to prevent moisture from the filling soaking into the pie shell as the quiche bakes.

Second, use a good combination of flavorful ingredients that are as fresh as you can get them.  Part of the issue with some quiches is that the filling is simply too moist and this can come as a result of a couple of reasons – either the wrong amounts of eggs and/or milk used or ingredients that, themselves, are too wet and have not been drained enough.  Because this quiche recipe uses ingredients that already have significant moisture content in them (mushrooms, leeks, sausage, and tomato), it is important to drain the cooked sausage meat well and to blot the cooked mushrooms and leeks with paper towel before adding them to the quiche.

In fact, in addition to draining the cooked sausage meat, I often blot the cooked meat in this way, too.  It does make a difference.

The other recommendation I have is to use a “meaty” tomato, such as the Roma/plum tomato variety, as it is tends to be less watery than some other varieties of tomatoes.  It’s also important to keep the ratio of ingredients in proportion and to curb the urge to, say, add more sausage meat, mushrooms, leeks, or tomatoes than the recipe calls for as this will add more moisture to the quiche which may make it difficult for it to stay together when cut. It will also make a heavier quiche and the light, custard filling part of the quiche will be lost.

Quiches may be eaten warm or cold.  It’s important to let the quiche rest for at least 20 minutes when it comes out of the oven.  This allows it to set so that, when it is cut, each piece stays intact when plated and the rest of the quiche stays together without the filling running all over the pie plate before the next slice is cut. A quiche should not be sloppy.

Harvest Quiche
Harvest Quiche

Any combination of hard cheese can be used in this recipe so long as it can be shredded and equals 1 1/2 cups total.  Cheddar cheese is pretty much a standard addition to most of my quiche recipes. In addition, I also like to buy a bag of already-shredded mixed cheese such as mozzarella, provolone, gouda, and parmesan to add to the quiche. This is a quick way to get shredded cheese and is the most economical way to get a mixture of cheeses for a recipe.

It’s a good idea to place the pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet as this catches any drips should they occur and it also makes it easier to transfer the quiche to and from the oven.

This quiche is a great brunch dish and I also use it as a main entrée alongside a green salad and paired with a good white wine such as Rossignol’s Little Sands White Wine produced right here on Prince Edward Island.

DSC_0559

Because quiches can be eaten warm, at room temperature, or cold, I often add quiche slices to a picnic basket, especially if I’m preparing a savory picnic.

Harvest Quiche
Harvest Quiche
Harvest Quiche

Ingredients:

1 – 9” pie shell, chilled for 30 minutes before par-baking

½ tbsp butter
1½ tsp vegetable oil
2 small leeks (about 1 cup sliced), white and light green parts only
4 oz. button mushrooms, thinly sliced

1-2 tsp vegetable oil
4 oz. sweet Italian or sun-dried tomato sausage meat, removed from casing

2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup whole milk or blend
1 tsp liquid chicken bouillon
1 tsp. dried basil
¼ tsp garlic salt
Pinch pepper

1½ cups shredded cheese (any mix of cheddar, mozzarella, provolone, gouda, and/or parmesan)
1 medium-sized Roma tomato, thinly sliced
2-3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
Fresh basil leaves and parley for garnish (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 375°F. Lay a piece of parchment paper over the unbaked chilled pie shell and add a layer of ceramic pie weights or dried baking beans to keep the pastry from puffing up while it bakes. Bake the pastry for about 12-13 minutes then remove the parchment paper and pie weights and return pastry to oven to bake for 5 minutes longer.

The pie crust should not be cooled before adding the filling so, while pastry is baking, prepare the filling. In small frypan over medium high heat, melt the butter and vegetable oil. Add the sliced leeks and mushrooms. Sauté, stirring constantly, until leeks are golden brown and mushrooms tender (about 3-5 minutes). Remove from heat and transfer leeks and mushrooms to paper towel. Blot dry to remove excess moisture. Set aside.

In clean frypan over medium high heat, add 1-2 tsp. cooking oil. Add the sausage meat and scramble-fry until browned. Remove from heat, drain well, and set meat aside.

In small bowl, beat the eggs lightly. Whisk in the milk or blend and the liquid chicken bouillon. Add the dried basil, garlic salt, and pepper.

To assemble quiche:

Reduce oven heat to 350°F.

Place pie plate with warm partially-baked shell on rimmed baking sheet.

Line the pastry shell with half of the cheese mixture. Distribute the sausage meat over the cheese. Next, add the layer of leek and mushrooms followed by the remaining cheese mixture. Lay a layer of the tomato slices over the cheese. Lastly, pour the milk mixture over the quiche ingredients and sprinkle with 2-3 tbsp of grated parmesan cheese. Add some fresh basil leaves to top of quiche along with a sprinkle of chopped parsley, if desired.

Transfer quiche to oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until knife inserted into center of quiche comes out clean. Remove from oven and let quiche stand on wire rack for at least 20 minutes before cutting and serving. May be served warm, at room temperature, or cold.

Yield: Apx. 6-8 servings.

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Harvest Quiche

Yield: Apx. 6-8 servings

A savory quiche that combines the wonderful flavours of sausage meat, leeks, mushrooms, tomato, and cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 - 9” pie shell, chilled for 30 minutes before par-baking
  • ½ tbsp butter
  • 1½ tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 small leeks (about 1 cup sliced), white and light green parts only
  • 4 oz. button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 4 oz. sweet Italian or sun-dried tomato sausage meat, removed from casing
  • 2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup whole milk or blend
  • 1 tsp liquid chicken bouillon
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • ¼ tsp garlic salt
  • Pinch pepper
  • 1½ cups shredded cheese (any mix of cheddar, mozzarella, provolone, gouda, and/or parmesan)
  • 1 medium-sized Roma tomato, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves and parley for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lay a piece of parchment paper over the unbaked chilled pie shell and add a layer of ceramic pie weights or dried baking beans to keep the pastry from puffing up while it bakes. Bake the pastry for about 12-13 minutes then remove the parchment paper and pie weights and return pastry to oven to bake for 5 minutes longer.
  2. The pie crust should not be cooled before adding the filling so, while pastry is baking, prepare the filling. In small frypan over medium high heat, melt the butter and vegetable oil. Add the sliced leeks and mushrooms. Sauté, stirring constantly, until leeks are golden brown and mushrooms tender (about 3-5 minutes). Remove from heat and transfer leeks and mushrooms to paper towel. Blot dry to remove excess moisture. Set aside.
  3. In clean frypan over medium high heat, add 1-2 tsp. cooking oil. Add the sausage meat and scramble-fry until browned. Remove from heat, drain well, and set meat aside.
  4. In small bowl, beat the eggs lightly. Whisk in the milk or blend and the liquid chicken bouillon. Add the dried basil, garlic salt, and pepper.
  5. To assemble quiche:
  6. Reduce oven heat to 350°F.
  7. Place pie plate with warm partially-baked shell on rimmed baking sheet.
  8. Line the pastry shell with half of the cheese mixture. Distribute the sausage meat over the cheese. Next, add the layer of leek and mushrooms followed by the remaining cheese mixture. Lay a layer of the tomato slices over the cheese. Lastly, pour the milk mixture over the quiche ingredients and sprinkle with 2-3 tbsp of grated parmesan cheese. Add some fresh basil leaves to top of quiche along with a sprinkle of chopped parsley, if desired.
  9. Transfer quiche to oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until knife inserted into center of quiche comes out clean. Remove from oven and let quiche stand on wire rack for at least 20 minutes before cutting and serving. May be served warm, at room temperature, or cold.
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Harvest Quiche
Harvest Quiche

Mock Cherry Pie

Mock Cherry Pie
Mock Cherry Pie

I’m not sure of the origins of Mock Cherry Pie but my grandmother made a version of this delight when I was a small child.  Sometimes called cranberry pie, it’s not an altogether common pie (at least in my circles) these days but it is very tasty and colorful with its deep ruby red color. It lends itself well to a lattice top crust but is often made with a standard full top crust.

Mock Cherry Pie
Mock Cherry Pie

Either fresh or frozen cranberries can be used for this filling.  I like to coarsely chop up most of the cranberries for the filling but leave some whole to give texture to the filling. The idea behind chopping the cranberries in half is that it quickly releases the juice from the berries in the cooking process.  But, don’t get crazy and chop them too finely as the pie won’t have texture if the berries are ground up too fine. Adding the raisins to the filling enhances flavour complexity and also makes the filling more substantial.  The sweetness of the raisins counters the tartness of the cranberries.

The cranberries I am using in this filling came from Mikita Farms in Farmington, near Souris in the eastern part of Prince Edward Island. To my knowledge, this is the only cranberry producer that wet harvests the berries on the Island.  To see photos I took in 2014 of the wet harvesting of cranberries, click here.

Corralling the Cranberries
Corralling the Cranberries

Cranberries freeze really well so I keep a large bag of cranberries in my freezer for use year-round. This time of the year, many farm markets will have bags of these tasty berries available so don’t hesitate to pick up a bag and store them in the freezer for later use.

Fresh PEI Cranberries Charlottetown, PEI
Fresh PEI Cranberries

The key to making the filling for this pie is to get it thickened so that it does not run when the pie is cut.  It takes a little patience but is worth the effort.  It’s important to cool down the filling before putting it in the unbaked pie shell as, otherwise, it will break down the fat in the pastry causing it to be a soggy crust.  About 30-40 minutes of cooling time will be just right. Remember to stir the filling as it cools as this will help it to cool faster and also aid in its thickening.

Mock Cherry Pie
Mock Cherry Pie

This is a lovely rich dessert, perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas. A scoop of high quality vanilla ice cream goes particularly well with Mock Cherry Pie.  The wine I have selected to pair with this dessert for my Thanksgiving dinner this year comes from Benjamin Bridge Vineyards in Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia.  I discovered this wine through the 2015 PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival for which Benjamin Bridge was this year’s wine sponsor.  Benjamin Bridge wines were served at the signature culinary events during the month-long festival in September.  My wine selection is Nova 7. This is the perfect wine to pair with this dessert because it has a hint of sweetness to compliment the tartness of cranberries and a beautiful pale blush color. I think I will seriously have to go on a field trip and pay this winery a visit!

Mock Cherry Pie Paired with Benjamin Bridge's Nova 7 Wine
Mock Cherry Pie Paired with Benjamin Bridge’s Nova 7 Wine

Mock Cherry Pie

Ingredients:

Pastry for 9” double pie crust

2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 cup sultana raisins
½ cup boiling water

1 cup sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
Pinch salt
1/3 cup cold water

1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp almond flavouring
1 tbsp Cointreau
1 tsp finely grated orange rind
1 tbsp butter

Method:

Chop 1 1/3 cups cranberries in half. Leave remaining 2/3 cup whole.

In medium-sized saucepan, combine the cranberries, raisins, and boiling water. Cook over high heat to the boiling point. Reduce heat to medium and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In small bowl, combine the sugar and cornstarch with 1/3 cup cold water. Whisk until smooth. Add 1-2 tbsp of the hot mixture to temper the sugar-cornstarch mixture (don’t worry if a few cranberries get scooped up, too) and pour it into the hot cranberry-raisin mixture. Stir well.

Cook over medium heat, stirring often to prevent scorching, until thickened – about 11-13 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, almond flavouring, Cointreau, grated orange rind, and butter. Stir well. Let cool for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat oven to 400°. Prepare pastry for bottom crust and roll to desired thickness. Transfer pastry to a greased 9” pie plate. Trim pastry.

Pour cooled filling into crust.

Roll out pastry for top crust. If desired, cut into strips for lattice top.

Dampen edges of bottom pie crust.

Place top crust (or, alternatively, lattice strips) over filling, gently pressing the outside edges to seal to bottom crust.

Using kitchen shears, trim excess pastry.

Crimp pastry edges or press together with the tines of a fork. If using complete top crust, cut vents in pastry to allow steam to escape as the pie cooks (omit this step if using a lattice top since there are obviously already lots of spaces for the steam to escape).

Place pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in the lower third of the oven for 10 minutes at 400° then reduce heat to 375° and bake for 45-50 minutes longer or until the crust is lightly browned and juices start to bubble from the filling.

Transfer pie to a wire rack and let cool completely before cutting and serving.

Yield: 8 servings

Mock Cherry Pie

Yield: 1 - 9" pie, apx. 8 servings

A rich and flavourful pie that combines cranberries and raisins with a hint of orange flavour.

Ingredients

  • Pastry for 9” double pie crust
  • 2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup sultana raisins
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp almond flavouring
  • 1 tbsp Cointreau
  • 1 tsp finely grated orange rind
  • 1 tbsp butter

Instructions

  1. Chop 1 1/3 cups cranberries in half. Leave remaining 2/3 cup whole.
  2. In medium-sized saucepan, combine the cranberries, raisins, and boiling water. Cook over high heat to the boiling point. Reduce heat to medium and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. In small bowl, combine the sugar and cornstarch with 1/3 cup cold water. Whisk until smooth. Add 1-2 tbsp of the hot mixture to temper the sugar-cornstarch mixture and pour it into the hot cranberry-raisin mixture. Stir well. Cook over medium heat, stirring often to prevent scorching, until thickened – about 11-13 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, almond flavouring, Cointreau, grated orange rind, and butter. Stir well. Let cool for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Preheat oven to 400°. Prepare pastry for bottom crust and roll to desired thickness. Transfer pastry to a greased 9” pie plate. Trim pastry. Pour cooled filling into crust.
  5. Roll out pastry for top crust. If desired, cut into strips for lattice top. Dampen edges of bottom pie crust and place top crust (or, alternatively, lattice strips) over filling, gently pressing the outside edges to seal to bottom crust. Trim excess pastry. Crimp pastry edges or press together with the tines of a fork. If using complete top crust, cut vents in pastry to allow steam to escape as the pie cooks (omit this step if using a lattice top since there are obviously already lots of spaces for the steam to escape).
  6. Place pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in the lower third of the oven for 10 minutes at 400° then reduce heat to 375° and bake for 45-50 minutes longer or until the crust is lightly browned and juices start to bubble from the filling.
  7. Transfer pie to a wire rack and let cool completely before cutting and serving.
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DSC_0824

Bread and Butter Pickles

 

One of my very favorite kinds of pickles are the traditional sweet Bread and Butter Pickles.  If I didn’t limit myself, I could sit down and eat an entire bottle of these pickles! They are especially good with sandwiches and burgers.

Bread and Butter Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These pickles are not hard to make but, like most pickled products, they are a bit time-consuming and, sometimes, finding the right ingredients can be a bit of a challenge.  The first challenge is to get the  cucumbers that are suitably-sized for bread and butter pickles.

Small Pickling Cucumbers
Small Pickling Cucumbers

These are small cucumbers (but bigger than those used to make dill pickles), about 6-7 inches long and only about 1 1/2″ to 2″ wide.  You don’t want to use large field cucumbers because they have too many seeds, meaning they will fall apart as opposed to holding their shape when sliced. As well, large slices of pickled cucumbers are not attractive to serve alongside a sandwich or burger.

To make quality pickles, fresh produce is needed.  I recommend using cucumbers that have not been picked any longer than 24 hours.  Cucumbers that have been picked for days start to get soft and “punky” and are not good for pickling because they have already started to deteriorate and lose their freshness. As well, the skin on the cucumbers will be very tough.

Ask for “bread and butter pickling cucumbers” at your local farm stand or market and the sellers should know what you mean. Be sure to ask when they were picked and check to make sure the cucumbers are firm to the touch. I bought mine at Balderston’s Farm Market in Stratford, PEI, and the big bin of the cucumbers had just been brought in from the field and were being bagged up while I was at the stand.

Give the cucumbers a good wash and then dry them off.

Trim and discard the cucumber ends but leave the peeling on for these pickles. Not only does the peeling give color and texture but it helps to hold the cucumber slices intact.

DSC00389 (1)

If you have a mandolin, it will make slicing the cucumbers easier and you will have uniformly-sized slices of cucumbers. I suggest cutting the cucumbers into either 3/16″ or 1/4″ thick slices, depending on how thin or thick you like pickle slices.  The 1/4″ thickness will help the pickles retain their shape the best.

I recommend using the small silver-skinned onions (often referred to as “pickling onions”) for these pickles because, when sliced, they will be about the same size in diameter as the cucumbers. I find these onions are somewhat stronger in flavour than the standard garden variety of onions.

Silver-skinned Onions
Silver-skinned Onions

Even if you don’t like onions, they really are needed to give these pickles flavour.

Use firm, blemish-free peppers – 1 red and 1 green – for this recipe and dice them up.

The green pepper contributes to the flavour and the red pepper adds a splash of color to the pickles (as well as taste).

Be sure to use pickling (coarse) salt, never table salt, for the soaking of these pickles. You should be able to find this salt in the same grocery aisle as regular table salt or at your bulk food store where it may be labeled as either “pickling” or “coarse” salt.

Coarse/Pickling Salt
Coarse/Pickling Salt

Once all the vegetables are cut up, place them in a large bowl or pot.

Sprinkle the vegetables with the pickling salt.

Give the vegetables a good stir to mix in the salt.

For the brine, you will need a total of about 5-6 dozen large ice cubes.  Completely cover the vegetables with a layer of ice cubes.  As these melt, they combine with the salt to make the brine in which the vegetables will soak for three hours at room temperature.  Make sure you have additional ice cubes to add to the vegetables as cubes melt. The key is to keep the vegetables ice cold as this will help the cucumbers retain their crispness.

Once the ice cubes melt, the vegetables will start to float in the water if they are not weighted down so I suggest placing another lightweight plastic bowl directly on top of the vegetables and ice cubes and weighting it down with a couple of frozen freezer packs which will also help to keep the vegetables cold. Be sure to cover this top bowl to keep the cold trapped inside.

DSC00523 (1)

After the vegetables have soaked for three hours at room temperature, drain them in one to two large colanders and discard any ice cubes that may still remain.

Give the vegetables a quick short rinse of fresh cold water. This will remove any salt residue that may remain. Don’t over-do the rinsing – just a quick rinse-off is all that is needed.

Drain the vegetables really well, letting them sit for at least 20 minutes or so.  If too much water is left in the vegetables, it will dilute the syrup and make for watery pickles. As they are draining, I often will scoop up a handful or two of the vegetables and move them around in the colander and then gently shake the colander to release any trapped water.

For any pickling, I recommend using vinegar that is specially labelled for pickling – it will usually have 7% acidity, making it stronger than table vinegar which will help to preserve the pickles longer.

Pickling Vinegar
Pickling Vinegar

The syrup is easy to make. There is no need to bundle up all the spices into a cheesecloth sachet for the syrup as it is perfectly fine to have the spices loose in the pickle jars. Just remove and discard the cinnamon stick before bottling the pickles. To make the syrup, simply combine all the syrup ingredients in a large stock pot and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.

Once the syrup has reached the boiling point, add the drained vegetables.

Bring the mixture back to the boiling point, occasionally stirring the vegetables. Once it reaches the boiling point, remove the pot from the heat.  All this process aims to do is to heat the vegetables and they should not be cooked until they are soft – these pickles are meant to be crispy. Overcooking will make them soft and punky.

Some use the sanitizing cycle on their dishwashers to sterilize the jars. I’m still using the old traditional method of sterilizing the jars in hot water. The jars must be hot when they are filled with the vegetables.

Sterilizing Jars
Sterilizing Jars

Use a slotted spoon to gather up the vegetables and place them in the hot sterilized jars. A wide-mouthed funnel is useful for this process. Fill the jars, leaving about 1″ headroom in each.

Pour the hot syrup into the jars and over the vegetables, leaving about 1/2″ headroom in each bottle. Remove any air bubbles that may appear in the jars by inserting knife into each bottle and gently moving vegetables to allow liquid to fill any pockets of air that may have formed.

Wipe the tops of the jars with a clean, damp cloth to remove any syrup.  Seal immediately with heated lids. Screw on jar bands just until resistance is met.

Process filled jars in hot water bath according to canner manufacturer’s directions for the proper time for your local altitude.

Cool jars completely and listen for the “ping/pop” sound that will tell you that the jar is sealed.  This may happen quickly or it can take several hours. The lids should also have an inward dent in the center of their tops if they have sealed to the jars properly. If a lid has not made the “popping/pinging” sound and is not dented inward, store the jar in the refrigerator and use it first.

Store the jars in a cool, dark area.

How many jars of pickles you get from this batch will be determined by how tightly or loosely you pack the cucumbers into the jars. This will also dictate how much syrup is used, too.

Bread and Butter Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles

Ingredients:

6 – 6½ lbs small pickling cucumbers, peeling on, sliced either 3/16”  or 1/4″ thick
4 cups silver-skinned onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
½ cup pickling salt
5-6 dozen ice cubes

Syrup:
5 cups white sugar
1 tsp tumeric
1 tbsp mustard seed
1 tsp celery seed
3 cups pickling white vinegar
½ cinnamon stick

Method:

Wash the cucumbers and trim and discard their ends. Slice the cucumbers either 3/16″ or 1/4″ thick, depending on the desired thickness of the pickle slices. Slice onions and dice the peppers. Combine the sliced cucumbers, onions, and peppers in a large bowl. Sprinkle pickling salt over vegetables. Stir mixture with a large wooden spoon to distribute the pickling salt. Completely cover mixture with a layer of ice cubes. Place a large bowl over the vegetables and weigh it down with a weight (a couple of freezer ice packs work well) to keep the vegetables soaking in the brine. Let sit at room temperature for 3 hours, adding more ice cubes as they melt to ensure vegetables are kept cold.

Drain vegetables into 1-2 large colanders and rinse with cold water to remove any salt residue. Drain again for several minutes.

In large stock pot, combine all of the syrup ingredients. Bring the syrup to the boiling point over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Add the vegetables. Bring the mixture just to the boiling point, stirring occasionally. Remove pot from heat.

Using a slotted spoon, fill hot sterilized jars with the vegetables leaving 1” headroom in each bottle. Pour hot syrup into the bottles, leaving ½” headroom in each bottle. Remove any air bubbles that may appear in the jars by inserting knife into each bottle and gently moving vegetables to allow liquid to fill any pockets of air that may have formed.

With clean, damp cloth, wipe clean each jar rim. Seal immediately with heated lids. Screw on jar bands just until resistance is met.

Process filled jars in hot water bath according to canner manufacturer’s directions for the proper time for your local altitude.

Store jars in cool dark area.

Yield: Apx. 7-9 pint bottles

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Bread and Butter Pickles

Yield: 7-9 pint bottles

Ingredients

  • 6 – 6½ lbs small pickling cucumbers, peeling on, sliced either 3/16” or 1/4" thick
  • 4 cups silver-skinned onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • ½ cup pickling salt
  • 5-6 dozen ice cubes
  • Syrup:
  • 5 cups white sugar
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tbsp mustard seed
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • 3 cups pickling white vinegar
  • ½ cinnamon stick

Instructions

  1. Wash the cucumbers and trim and discard their ends. Slice the cucumbers either 3/16" or 1/4" thick, depending on the desired thickness of the pickle slices. Slice onions and dice the peppers. Combine the sliced cucumbers, onions, and peppers in a large bowl. Sprinkle pickling salt over vegetables. Stir mixture with a large wooden spoon to distribute the pickling salt. Completely cover mixture with a layer of ice cubes. Place a large bowl over the vegetables and weigh it down with a weight (a couple of freezer ice packs work well) to keep the vegetables soaking in the brine. Let sit at room temperature for 3 hours, adding more ice cubes as they melt to ensure vegetables are kept cold.
  2. Drain vegetables into 1-2 large colanders and rinse with cold water to remove any salt residue. Drain again for several minutes.
  3. In large stock pot, combine all of the syrup ingredients. Bring the syrup to the boiling point over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Add the vegetables. Bring the mixture just to the boiling point, stirring occasionally. Remove pot from heat.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, fill hot sterilized jars with the vegetables leaving 1” headroom in each bottle. Pour hot syrup into the bottles, leaving ½” headroom in each bottle. Remove any air bubbles that may appear in the jars by inserting knife into each bottle and gently moving vegetables to allow liquid to fill any pockets of air that may have formed. Seal jars with sterilized lids and metal screw bands. Store in refrigerator or in cold storage room. For longer storage, or if storing outside a cold/refrigerated environment, process the pickle jars in a hot water bath following the canner manufacturer's directions.
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Bread and Butter Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles

Visit to Beamish Organic Apple Orchard and Deep Roots Distillery

Today, I’m taking you on a tour with me to Beamish Organic Apple Orchard and Deep Roots Distillery in Warren Grove, PEI. Owner, Mike Beamish, has been growing apples since 1990 when he started with 200 trees on his hobby farm near Charlottetown.

Mike Beamish Checking on his Apple Crop
Mike Beamish Checking on his Apple Crop

Mike’s goal was always to grow apples organically although he did initially grow them using conventional methods in the early years because it was difficult to find non-chemical controls for some pests. Once more research was done and non-chemical controls were available to growers, Beamish transitioned his orchard to be organic in 2003 following the standard three-year period to be certified organic. During the three-year period, no chemical applications can be used. Beamish is certified under Atlantic Certified Organics (ACO), a certification body which is accredited with the Canadian federal government. This body enforces the national organic standards such as buffer zone requirements from surrounding farms using conventional farming methods and it provides a list of approved substances that can be used in organic farming. The orchard is subject to annual audits by the ACO to ensure only approved substances and organic farming practices are used. Certified organic farmers are required to keep records of any products or substances used and the farmers must be re-certified each year.

Beamish Organic Apple Orchard, Warren Grove, PEI
Beamish Organic Apple Orchard, Warren Grove, PEI

Growing apples organically does come with its challenges since farmers don’t have access to the traditional chemical treatments non-organic apple growers can use. Beamish says the biggest challenges are dealing with pests such as bugs and rodents, disease in the trees and apples, and ensuring soil nutrition. Any products applied to the ground or trees must be certified organic products only. He counters these challenges by buying and applying organic compost around the trees, installing little ground fences around each tree to deter rodents, and hanging certified organic products in the trees to fend off pests such as moths, apple fruit flies, and railroad worms.

At one point, the Beamish Orchard had 800 apple trees; however, Island winters can be harsh and, in 1999, the orchard cut back to 500 trees in its U-pick orchard. The orchard currently has about 300 apple-producing trees. Beamish grows four varieties of apples – Red Free, Novamac, Liberty, and Freedom. The biggest seller are the Red Free, an early variety ready in mid-September.

The Red Free variety is particularly good for cooking as these apples  keep their shape and, because they are non-acidic, there is no need for a lot of sugar.

Red Free Apples
Red Free Apples

This year (2015) will mark the first year that the Beamish Orchard will not operate as a U-pick. They will still have apples for sale at the farm but, because they have reduced the number of trees in the orchard, there will not be enough apples to operate a U-pick. In addition, Beamish has also created another usage of his apple crop as he has started a distillery.

Deep Roots Distillery, Warren Grove, PEI
Deep Roots Distillery, Warren Grove, PEI

When Beamish retired three years ago from Holland College, he was looking for a retirement activity. Since he already had a ready supply of apples, he began making sweet apple cider and selling it at the Farmers Market in Charlottetown. His interest in distilling grew so he pursued a course hosted by the Bio-Food-Tech Centre in Charlottetown that focused on the science of distilling. In addition, he received some technical assistance from the New Brunswick Community College in Grand Falls. In June, 2014, Beamish obtained his license to distill and it wasn’t long before he began producing liquor, using local raw products whenever possible.

Mike Beamish at his Warren Grove, PEI, Distillery - "Deep Roots"
Mike Beamish at his Warren Grove, PEI, Distillery – “Deep Roots”

Today, Beamish has four products on the market: Island Tide (a cane-sugar spirit), Blueberry Eau de Vie, Maple Liqueur, and his newest, Camerise Haskap Liqueur.

Deeproots Distillery Products
Deeproots Distillery Products

Beamish says the Island Tide liquor moonshine, with an alcohol content of 45%, is a cross between rum and vodka and would be best suited for martinis and mojitas. Historically, much of the moonshine made in PEI was made from cane-sugar. However, with more modern distilling techniques, it is somewhat smoother than what some folks may remember!

Mike Beamish says the Blueberry Eau de Vie does not have a strong blueberry taste but rather has the essence of blueberry. It has 45% alcohol content and is best served as an after dinner beverage over ice or in a fruit-based cocktail.

The Maple Liqueur is made from New Brunswick maple syrup and, with 25% alcohol, is stronger than most liqueurs. It is also suitable as an after dinner drink or served over vanilla ice cream or in baking.

The Camerise Haskap Liqueur is a new product from the distillery and has just been released this summer.

This liqueur, with 26.5% alcohol, is made with haskap berries which come from Phyto Cultures Inc. in nearby Clyde River. This liqueur is developed using a method by which the alcohol is infused with the whole haskap berries which sit in the alcohol for four months before being crushed. The Camerise Haskap Liqueur also is an after dinner drink and is meant to be served straight over ice.

Producing liquor is government-regulated and the products have to be analyzed by a certified lab in the same way as any big brand liquors.

Boxes of product ready for shipping
Boxes of product ready for shipping

The products are labelled under the Deep Roots Distillery label and can be purchased at the Charlottetown Farmers Market and at the Distillery located at 2100 North York River Road, Route 248, in Warren Grove just outside Charlottetown. You can also find them on the shelves of many local liquor stores on the Island.

Deep Roots Distillery, Warren Grove, PEI
Sales Outlet at Deep Roots Distillery, Warren Grove, PEI

Tours of the apple orchards and the distillery are available for a nominal fee and Mike welcomes visitors to learn more about his organic apple orchard and new distillery. For more information, and hours of operation, visit the websites for Beamish Organic Apple Orchard and Deep Root Distillery.

Apple-Maple Bread Pudding
Apple-Maple Bread Pudding

As is my standard practice when I visit a local food producer, I develop a recipe using the producer’s product(s). In my Apple-Maple Bread Pudding with Maple Sauce, I have used the Red Free apples from the Beamish Orchard along with the Deep Roots Distillery Maple Liqueur.

Red Free Apples
Red Free Apples

The Red Free apples are great in this recipe because they keep their shape and don’t go to “mush” or a sauce-like consistency in the pudding which would make it too soggy. The key is to sauté the apples enough that they are softened before adding them to the pudding batter. Adding some maple liqueur as the apples sauté provides additional flavour.

It’s a matter of opinion as to whether a bread pudding should be baked in a hot water bath or not. I have made bread puddings both in a water bath and without and, to be frank, don’t see any appreciable difference in quality of the baked pudding. So, for this recipe, I did not use the hot water bath baking method and the pudding was lovely and moist.

Apple-Maple Bread Pudding
Apple-Maple Bread Pudding
Apple-Maple Bread Pudding

Ingredients:

1 – 1 lb loaf French bread
3 cups whole milk
1 cup less 1½ tbsp Blend/cream (10%)

2½ cups thinly sliced baking apples (about 3 medium-sized apples)
½ tbsp butter
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp maple liqueur

3 extra-large eggs
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
3 tbsp melted butter
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
Pinch cardamom
¾ cup raisins soaked in 1½ tbsp maple liqueur

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Grease or line 9”x13” pan with greased tin foil.

In large bowl, break the French bread into small pieces, crusts and all.

Pour the milk and blend (cream) over the bread.

Cover and let sit for 30 minutes then handcrush mixture until well blended.

Meanwhile, peel, core, and thinly slice the apples.

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add the apples and sauté for about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with brown sugar and sauté apples for another minute. Remove pan from heat and add liqueur. Return to heat and sauté the apples for 5-7 minutes, or until they are softened and a golden color.

In medium-sized bowl, beat the eggs well. Add the sugar and beat again. Beat in the maple syrup, melted butter, and vanilla. Add the spices and stir well. Pour over bread-milk mixture in large bowl and mix well.

Lastly, gently fold in the sautéd apples along with the raisins.

Pour mixture into prepared pan. Smooth batter evenly in pan.

Bake for about 55-60 minutes or until it springs back to a light touch and/or a cake tester (or knife) inserted into 2-3 places in the pudding comes out clean.

Remove pudding from oven and transfer pudding pan to a cooling rack to rest for 20 minutes. Slice into 12 pieces and serve warm with maple sauce (recipe below), crème anglaise, or ice cream.

Yield: 12 servings

Maple Sauce

Ingredients:

1 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
dash of salt
2 cups boiling water
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp maple liqueur
2 tsp vanilla
¼ cup butter

Method:

In saucepan, mix the brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt together well. Add the boiling water, maple syrup, maple liqueur, and vanilla together. Mix well. Add butter. Cook until sauce boils and reaches desired consistency. Serve hot over Apple-Maple Bread Pudding.

Yield: Apx. 2½ cups

Maple Sauce on Apple-Maple Bread Pudding
Maple Sauce on Apple-Maple Bread Pudding

 

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Apple-Maple Bread Pudding with Maple Sauce

Yield: 12 servings

Apple and maple flavours combine to make a delectable bread pudding

Ingredients

  • Pudding:
  • 1 – 1 lb loaf French bread
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup less 1½ tbsp Blend/cream (10%)
  • 2½ cups thinly sliced baking apples (about 3 medium-sized apples)
  • ½ tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp maple liqueur
  • 3 extra large eggs
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • Pinch cardamom
  • ¾ cup raisins soaked in 1½ tbsp maple liqueur
  • Sauce:
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • dash of salt
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp maple liqueur
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ cup butter

Instructions

  1. Assemble ingredients.
  2. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  3. Grease or line 9”x13” pan with greased tin foil.
  4. In large bowl, break the French bread into small pieces, crusts and all. Pour the milk and blend (cream) over the bread. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes then handcrush mixture until well blended.
  5. Meanwhile, peel, core, and thinly slice the apples. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add the apples and sauté for about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with brown sugar and sauté apples for another minute. Remove pan from heat and add liqueur. Return to heat and sauté the apples for 5-7 minutes, or until they are softened and a golden color.
  6. In medium-sized bowl, beat the eggs well. Add the sugar and beat again. Beat in the maple syrup, melted butter, and vanilla. Add the spices and stir well. Pour over bread-milk mixture in the large bowl and mix well.
  7. Lastly, gently fold in the sautéed apples along with the raisins. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Smooth batter evenly in pan.
  8. Bake for about 55-60 minutes or until it springs back to a light touch and/or a cake tester (or knife) inserted into 2-3 places in the pudding comes out clean.
  9. Remove pudding from oven and transfer pudding pan to a cooling rack to rest for 20 minutes. Slice into 12 pieces and serve warm with maple sauce, crème anglaise, or ice cream.
  10. To make the maple sauce, combine the brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in saucepan. Add the boiling water, maple syrup, maple liqueur, and vanilla together. Mix well. Add butter. Cook until sauce boils and reaches desired consistency. Serve hot over Apple-Maple Bread Pudding.
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Apple-Maple Bread Pudding with Maple Sauce
Apple-Maple Bread Pudding with Maple Sauce

 

A Visit to the Barnyard Organics Farm in Freetown, PEI

I recently paid a visit to the Bernard family at Barnyard Organics in Freetown, PEI. Sally and Mark Bernard operate one of the largest (if not the biggest) organic farms on the Island and Sally and her daughter, Lucy, were my tour guides.

Sally and Lucy Bernard from Barnyard Organics
Sally and Lucy Bernard from Barnyard Organics

Sally (who grew up on a farm in New Brunswick) and Mark (from an Island farming family) met at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College (NSAC) in Truro, Nova Scotia. Sally has an English degree from Mount Alison as well as a Plant Science Diploma from NSAC while Mark holds an Agricultural Business Diploma with a minor in Plant Science. In 2003, while still in college, Mark knew he wanted to pursue organic farming. His father had recently retired from farming so Mark began the groundwork for preparing the first 50 acres on his family’s farm to be taken out of conventional farming practices. The Bernards officially became certified organic farmers in 2006 and, since 2010, they have 550 organic acres on their farm and also rent additional acreage near Kensington.

Barnyard Organics, the name of the farm, is certified under Atlantic Certified Organics (ACO), a certification body which is accredited with the Canadian federal government. This body enforces the national organic standards such as buffer zone requirements from surrounding farms using conventional farming methods and it provides a list of approved substances that can be used in organic farming. As such, the farm is required to keep records of any products or substances used. In order to remain certified organic, the Bernards are subject to yearly inspections from ACO.

The main focus of the farm is on growing grains that include soybean, barley, wheat, oats, field peas, buckwheat, and clover. More than half of the grains are sold to small-scale organic producers in the Maritimes as a complete mixed animal feed. The remaining half goes to Speerville Flour Mill in New Brunswick and to brokers in Quebec and Ontario. Of note, 35-40 acres of the farm are dedicated to growing wheat specifically for bread. In fact, a nearby neighbour, Coral Wood, uses wheat from Barnyard Organics in her Whole Grain Bakery.

The Whole Grain Bakery Bread made with Grain Grown on Barnyard Organics Farm
The Whole Grain Bakery Bread made with Wheat Grown on Barnyard Organics Farm in Freetown, PEI

In addition, the Bernards also have both meat birds and about 150 laying hens.

The meat birds are raised on a portable pasture system which means the shelters they live in are moved each day so the birds always have fresh grass to nibble on.

The laying hens are completely free range so they have unfettered roaming privileges in a field nearest the farm buildings. They then take up winter residence inside a barn.

These are their summer condos!

This is where the flock hangs out when they are not out roaming about the field.

 

And, this is what is found on the other side of the “condos”.

Baby chicks on the farm!

Both meat and laying birds are raised on organic grains grown on the farm so the Bernards know exactly what their fowl are fed and customers can be assured the chickens and eggs are organic and of the highest quality.

About 90% of their meat birds and eggs are direct marketed to customers through CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares. This is a program whereby consumers (sometimes referred to as shareholders) invest in their food system by paying, the producer, upfront, for a season of fresh farm products. In exchange, the producer agrees to employ good farming practices to ensure a food supply and commits to sharing the resulting farm produce with those shareholders. This method of farming gives the farmer operating capital to buy supplies and run the farm and, in turn, CSA customers get quality fresh produce – in this case, fresh organic chickens and eggs from the Bernards.

Barnyard Organics currently has 100 CSA members and delivers to customers every two weeks in both Charlottetown and Summerside, alternating week about. Sally packages her fresh chickens and eggs, loads up her trolley fitted with refrigeration, and heads off with her deliveries.

Through the CSA market method, Sally gets to know her customers directly and they get to meet with the producer of their food and have the opportunity to put money directly into the producer’s hands with no middle parties. In addition, this customer-producer interaction provides the opportunity for customers to know where their food comes from and learn how it is produced. For the producer, this method allows for face-to-face feedback on products.

The remaining 10% of the farm’s products are sold to customers who regularly drop by the farm to pick up their farm-fresh eggs and chickens from the large cooler the family installed on the farm.

Barnyard Organics also has a small provincially-inspected processing plant where they process approximately 60 chickens a week, ready for distribution to their customers.

Farming organically is not without its challenges. For example, the Bernards don’t use chemical treatments that conventional farmers do so they can’t buy just any kind of fertilizer for their fields. Instead, they use mussel shell waste as well as manure from a nearby dairy farm; however, the manure needs to first be composted before being spread on the fields because it is not organic.

The farm also has its own grain dryer and soybean roaster which are needed because the Bernards can’t take their product to any local commercial dryers or roasters because of potential cross-contamination with non-organic grains.

Sally says their greatest satisfaction comes from knowing they have healthy soil on their farm to produce healthy food. The Bernards practice healthy crop rotation and focus on feeding the soil, not taking from it and depleting its goodness.

Lucy Bernard
Lucy Bernard

In particular, Sally derives great satisfaction from seeing their children interact with farm life. Because she home schools the children, they are exposed each and every day to experiential learning on the farm. Even 7-year old Lucy is already involved with organic farming. She takes the livers and hearts of the processed chickens, dehydrates them, and sells them for organic dog food. Lucy is also helping with the chicken business on the farm, too, and happily moves about the field of hens.

Sally jokes that Lucy could give the tour of the farm as well as she can and says their children are so acclimatized to farm life that they don’t even know that not everyone knows what life on a farm is like.

This summer Sally started a “Rent-A-Chicken” project that was so popular, she ended up with a waiting list. Essentially, the initiative allowed people to have a couple of chickens in their own backyards from June until October, enjoy the eggs, and then return the chickens to the Bernards in the fall without having to worry about what to do with the birds in the winter. The Bernards delivered, to renters, a small, portable chicken coop, two laying hens, feed and grit, food and water dishes, and a guide for raising hens.

Sally Showing one of the Portable Chicken Coops that are part of her "Rent-A-Chicken" Package
Sally showing one of the portable chicken coops that are part of her “Rent-A-Chicken” Package

Ideally, each hen could be expected to lay six eggs a week so renters have a dozen fresh organic eggs every week.

In the fall, the Bernards will pick up the birds and take them back to the farm. Cost for the package for the 2015 season was around $300. Feedback has been very positive and, in fact, some folks have already asked that the birds be banded so they can have the same ones back next year!

To find out, from a renter’s perspective, what the chicken rental experience was like, I met with Shirley Gallant who had two birds rented from the Bernards this summer.

As soon as she heard of the opportunity, Shirley knew it was for her as she had had a few hens in her backyard some years ago but wintering them was a problem for her. Because the Bernards will collect the two hens in the fall, Shirley has been able to have the hens for the summer and enjoy their eggs with no worries about what to do with the hens over the winter. The two hens happily roam around Shirley’s yard during the day and then retire to their coop for the night.  For Shirley, the experience has been very positive and she says she would do it again because “the hens are fun to have around” and she has fresh eggs for her organic diet.

Shirley Gallant with one of her rented chickens from Barnyard Organics
Shirley Gallant with one of her rented chickens from Barnyard Organics

Barnyard Organics farm does offer tours but the Bernards appreciate advance reservations as this is a busy working farm and family. For more information on Barnyard Organics, visit their website.

As is my standard practice when I visit a local food producer, I like to create a recipe using and featuring one of their products. I have chosen to use the brown eggs to make devilled eggs.  These eggs have gorgeous vibrant yellow yolks so they make colorful devilled eggs.

Devilled Egg
Devilled Egg
The Bistro’s Devilled Eggs

Ingredients:

5 hard-boiled eggs, cooled, peeled, and sliced in half lengthwise
2 – 2½ tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp sour cream
½ tsp prepared mustard
1½ tsp onion, minced
¾ tbsp sweet pickle relish
2 tsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Pinch garlic powder
½ tsp fresh dill, chopped fine
¾ tsp fresh parsley, chopped
Pinch cayenne
Salt and pepper, to taste

Paprika
Fresh parsley, chopped
Sprigs of fresh herbs (optional)
Method:

Gently scoop out egg yolks and place in small bowl. Set egg whites aside.

Mash egg yolks with fork. Add all remaining ingredients. Mix well.

Fill egg white cavities with the devilled egg mixture using either a pastry bag fitted with a large decorative tip (I use a Wilton 6B tip) or, alternatively, use a spoon.

Refrigerate devilled eggs at least 1 hour before serving. At time of serving, sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and/or paprika. Garnish each with a small sprig of a fresh herb, if desired.

Yield: 10 servings (1 devilled egg each)

Devilled Eggs
Devilled Eggs
Devilled Eggs
Devilled Eggs

 

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Devilled Eggs
Devilled Eggs

 

Devilled Eggs

Yield: 10 servings (1 devilled egg per serving)

Ingredients

  • 5 hard-boiled eggs, cooled, peeled, and sliced in half lengthwise
  • 2 – 2½ tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp sour cream
  • ½ tsp prepared mustard
  • 1½ tsp onion, minced
  • ¾ tbsp sweet pickle relish
  • 2 tsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • Pinch garlic powder
  • ½ tsp fresh dill, chopped fine
  • ¾ tsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Paprika
  • Fresh parsley, chopped
  • Sprigs of fresh herbs (optional)

Instructions

  1. Gently scoop out egg yolks and place in small bowl. Set egg whites aside.
  2. Mash egg yolks with fork. Add all remaining ingredients. Mix well.
  3. Fill egg white cavities with the devilled egg mixture using either a pastry bag fitted with a large decorative tip (I use a Wilton 6B tip) or, alternatively, use a spoon.
  4. Refrigerate devilled eggs at least 1 hour before serving. At time of serving, sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and/or paprika. Garnish each with a small sprig of a fresh herb, if desired.
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http://myislandbistrokitchen.com/2015/09/21/a-visit-to-the-barnyard-organics-farm-in-freetown-pei/

A Visit to Barnyard Organics, Freetown, PEI
A Visit to Barnyard Organics, Freetown, PEI