Monday, April 18, 2011

Hello? Spring?

The weather lately would make for some lovely days - if it was February!  Seriously, it snowed yesterday.  Hard enough that we couldn't leave a parking lot yesterday because it was snowing so hard we couldn't see well enough to back out safely.  Later we had "thunder-snow."  Today a friend posted on Facebook that she was sitting in her car, snow falling around her, listening to someone mow their lawn while a 70 year old man rode by in shorts on a bike.  Yep, that's the kind of weather we're getting.  I snagged this Facebook status from a friend... 
███████████████░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░ 44% DONE.
Install delayed ... please wait.
Installation failed. Please try again. 404 error: Season not found. Season "Spring" cannot be located. The season you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable. Please try again.

Pretty much sums it up.

We still have so much to do outside.  We put in some shrubs last year (well, the inlaws transplanted them from their yard) that heaved and need to be replanted.  The planting of them necessitated the moving of one of our square foot garden boxes, which needs a bit of repair and a new home.  And we need to build another.  The raspberries are mostly pruned, but not fully yet.  I have cool weather seeds to get in the ground.  I fear that we're going to see all of this cold, wet weather give way to insta-Summer and we won't get a decent Spring at all.  Heck, it's Easter next week and you'd think that it being this late would guarantee nice enough weather for an outdoor egg hunt like we did last year when it was earlier.  But no.  There is rain in the forecast.  Again.  It's only 2C right now, and it's 10:30am!

Speaking of gardening, if it doesn't warm up in time we're going to have a hostile takeover of the kitchen on our hands.  The 4 cucumber seeds we planted are a couple of inches high already.  I've been watching them and I think they're plotting to strangle my Thai basil in a competition for windowsill dominance.  If they reach my fragile little pepper sprouts I fear the worst. 

Not that I've ever had luck with red peppers.  We bought 4 plants last year and they grew well and even turned red.  But they weren't the bell peppers the labels claimed.  They were some sort of thick skinned, horribly seed filled little round cherry peppers.  And for all that, they weren't even hot.  Or tasty.  Or useful for anything.  I've never been able to grow proper red peppers.  This time around I was given some seeds for a variety called Jimmy Nardello (I believe).  They are apparently an Italian pepper.  Guess the name gives that away.  I'm looking forward to trying them, if they actually ripen rather than rotting between the green and red stage.

Little Mister has requested soy beans again.  I need to get more seeds.  I can't find ours from last year.  Ditto my radish seeds, beet seeds and green beans.  We have mice in the garage.  I fear the worst.

It's snowing.  Un-freakin believable.  The Robins look confused.

Gotta run.  Little Miss just asked for a "big stick of celery, with leaves."  There's a veggie I won't grow again.  Did it once and got the most incredibly bitter (non-lettuce) vegetable I've ever tasted.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Barbecue sauce by halves

It's a glorious Spring day today.  After being surprised by snow a couple of weeks ago, 10C with the odd peek of sun is most welcome.  It wasn't that I was surprised that we got snow in mid-March; this is Southern Ontario after all.  It was how long it stuck around that surprised me.  There are still a few small patches of it in the yard!

Now that (I've declared) Spring is here, my thoughts turn naturally to... grilling and barbecue.  Of course.  Not that we don't use the grill in the winter, but now we start using it way more often.  It's right off the kitchen, just outside the back door, for maximum convenience.  And what has fired my flame kissed cooking fever today?  Burgers?  Not this time.  Steak?  Always, but not today.  Today it's ribs.  I found some on sale yesterday.  Big, meaty side ribs.  I bought two racks, had them split in two between the bones, seasoned them with an all purpose rub that I had made a while back for another pork application and popped them into the fridge overnight.

The rub is a simple blend of Kosher salt, brown sugar and various spices.  For pork I almost always use allspice.  Then there's garlic, onion, smoked paprika, a little ancho powder, fresh ground black pepper, dry mustard and cumin.  And maybe chili powder.  I forget.  It's balanced, flavourful, but not too complex or spicy (Little Mister doesn't care for spicy food yet).  I don't know that I ever make it the same way twice, as I tend to not really measure.

What I did measure was the ingredients for the sauce.  I took a look at a book by barbecue guru Steven Raichlen and found a simple ketchup based recipe for a Jack Daniel's sauce.  I don't have any J.D right now, but I do have dark rum.  So I used that, substituted molasses for the dark brown sugar, omitted the Worcestershire sauce (because I'm out of it), and of course, added allspice and a few other things to echo the flavours in the rub.  And the halves of this blog title?  Take a look at the recipe... 

1/2 C dark rum
1/2 C cider vinegar
1/2 C ketchup
1/2 C molasses
1/2 T dried onion flakes
1/2 t allspice
1/2 t granulated garlic
1/2 t liquid smoke (optional)
salt to taste

Combine everything in a saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer until reduced by... you guessed it - HALF.  It will keep for a few months in the fridge.

It's not bad.  If I had the time and ingredients I would have maybe tried something a bit more complex, but for a simple sauce I quite like it.  It's not too sweet, not too tangy and not overwhelmingly tomatoey either (is that a word?)  It's not as spicy as I'd like, but again, deferring to the palates of the children it's just fine.  I think I'll be playing with it as the year goes on, changing the alcohol or the sweetener (whiskey maple maybe, or a nice strong beer and local honey) and the spices.  I love how versatile barbecue sauces are.  A little change here, a tweak there and suddenly you've got a whole new creation.