All Posts By

Dan Corbett

Pierogies

By Fresh Ideas No Comments

You may have noticed we’ve had pierogies (hot or cold) intermittently.  Liz and Gord are from Thunder Bay.  There is a high population of Ukrainian and Polish people in Thunder Bay and they grew up with ready-available pierogies.  My father grew up in Sydney and his family sponsored an immigrating Ukrainian family in the ‘50’s and 60’s.  He had access to good Ukrainian Cabbage Rolls and Pierogies and loves them, so we had them periodically, growing up, when we could get ‘the home-made ones’.

            A few years ago, one of the kids was going on a trip to Quebec, for school, and needed to do fundraising.  Fortunately, his grandfather (Chef Gordie) was visiting and showed him how to make home-made pierogies.  They used a hand-crank pasta roller and got a recipe from some Ukrainian contacts in Thunder Bay.  It’s a very simple dough with a potatoe-cheddar mixture.

            Pierogies can be made with a selection of fillings.  Examples include meat, cheese, sauerkraut, fruit, and a variety of vegetables, but those might be ‘a little outside the box’ for people’s taste around here.  We can’t take that risk, so we’ll stick with the ‘traditional’ potatoe-cheese ones.  They are amazing compared to the ‘mass-produced’ grocery store product.  We use a quality cheese and the dough is very ‘light’ or tender. 

Pierogie-making is a labour of love.  In communities with high populations of Ukrainian or Polish people, the elderly get together on weekends and make PILES of pierogies.  Their time is ‘donated’, it’s a social activity, and often the supplies are paid-for by the church (where they are working) and the revenue goes back to the church.  It’s really labour intensive.  I did the business calculation on what it would cost to produce pierogies.  In reality, we would make about 10 cents a dozen if we paid for labour.   I looked into a ‘pierogie-making machine’ and the compromise is that is: in order to use the machine (to increase production and ‘reduce’ labour cost) the dough has to be far more tough and thick, which ruins the perogie.  That’s why grocery-store pierogies are like cardboard.

Chef Gord likes making pierogies and wants to spread the love of fresh, real pierogies.  For now, he’s not charging us for his time, and he sees that pierogies are ‘profitable’ when not paying for labour.  We are the only commercial kitchen in Cumberland county that sells fresh pierogies.  And that’s entirely thanks to Gord.  I suggest you ‘get ‘em while you can’ because once the summer hits we’ll be so busy in the kitchen and enjoying our off-time that we won’t be making them.  Hope you’re enjoying them.

Local Donair Meat?

By Fresh Ideas One Comment

Donair – First Try

            We had a lot of suggestions to make Donair meat.  I’m not a huge fan, honestly because it’s usually greasy, served with a lot of onion, a really sweet sauce, and on a thick pita.  They were great when I was 20, on Pizza Corner in Halifax, but I grew out of them.

First Try at Locally made Donair Meat. All high-quality meat.

            But, at your suggestion we found a recipe, talked with some really knowledgeable people and got started.  Here is what the first-try looked like.  As mentioned in another post:  Looking for product testers.

We made a batch of about 10 lbs. Keep an eye on our page or give us a call to see how we are for inventory. In testing the first batch I can tell you it tastes great. The flavour of the meat itself is more subtle than I remember. I think that when I think of donair meat I immediately think of Donair Flavour which is heavy to onions and the sweet sauce that goes with it! I am refining the meat texture and I’m going to make the sauce before I put the product out there for feedback.

If it sells we will continue to make it, but I get the sense people want Donairs, rather than Donair-Meat. There are many places around that sell Donairs, so I’m sure we don’t want to compete in that market. Always interested in your feedback… Why would we need another place to get Donairs in Amherst?

Add a Microwave?

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The Microwave:

Another Fantastic Suggestion:  The microwave.  We don’t have a microwave in our kitchen because there is a potential to ruin perfectly good food with the microwave.  We’ve given out heating instructions to ‘heat in a pan’, but let’s be serious for a second:  A lot of our meal combos get microwaved and they’re still fantastic.

Great suggestion. We’re thinking a microwave may be helpful to you.

So, what we’re thinking is that we’ll buy a microwave and put it in our customer service area.  Customers can buy the combos (cold) and microwave it themselves in our microwave.  I know it seems strange, but, for tax-reasons, it’s important that we’re selling a cold meal combo.  That’s how we can sell a full meal-combo for $12.50 taxes included.  It’s considered a grocery.  The problem with microwaves is that they only heat the water-component of your food.  In many cases the ‘active water’ can be evaporated in the microwaving process, leaving foods dry when they should be moist, such as Mac and Cheese.  The way we’ll get around that will be to experiment with an ‘extra sauce’ option.  The item will be microwaved with a side-sauce, and then the side-sauce mixed-in by the customer.  That way the food items will be hot and not lose flavour or moisture due to the microwaving process.  Thoughts?

Product Testers Needed!

By Fresh Ideas 4 Comments

Product Testers Needed

We asked for suggestions for items that you wish we made.  150 responses!  Thank you.  The top three are Tacos, Burrito Bowls, and Donair meat.

We have not chosen a winner yet, but those are certainly three competitive, great options.  We want this to be stuff that you help develop, because you love it, and it’s sincerely yours. We want it to be ‘the one and only’, or the thing that you want to serve people when they come to visit, because it’s yours. It will be the quality you want with mind-blowing flavour. We want to make life better by making better stuff for the people who care. That’s you!

I think I wrote in another article to tell you that we had suggestions of everything from Deep-Fried stuff to Pizza.  We don’t have a deep fryer and we don’t anticipate getting one anytime soon, but thank you for your suggestion.  There are so many pizza-places in Amherst and Area that we don’t want to be a part of that market.  Though we think pizza made with our meat products would be amazing, we’ll leave that to the experts.  Paizano’s Pizza in Springhill has expressed interest in trying a pizza with our meats and we’re thankful for that.  We also believe they sell the highest quality Pizza in Cumberland county and would be proud to partner with them.

Wild Blueberry Barbeque Sauce with Back Ribs. More on that story soon.

So, we’re going to need product testers to see if we got it ‘right’.  We aim to please, and you’re the consumer, so we want it to hit all the right points for you…  As we do ‘product development’ we’ll be in touch to see if you’re interested in being a tester. Send us a note (by email) to let us know you want to be involved.

Dan and Elizabeth

The ‘New Item’ Contest

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We put up a contest (on Facebook, because we have 2800 Followers who might tell us what they like) in which we ask people to complete this sentence:

I wish D&E’s Premium Smoked Meats made ____________________________.

So Far, in the lead we have Burrito Bowls, Tacos, and Donair Meat.

We’ve had a lot of great suggestions and we’re learning a lot from the people on Facebook. That said, it’s a great example of ‘Facebook Followers’.

…’You could win a meal for 4 if we chose your item and select your name’

2800 Followers, 150 or so responses (so far). I bet it will top-out today at under 200 comments. People seem to want to see ‘what’s going on?’ but don’t want to participate. OR – They don’t actually see our stuff because Facebook Throttles the Feed.

So, The inside track for our subscribers. We don’t have a deep fryer and we don’t anticipate having one. That’s not our thing.

Sugar is not our friend, so It’s unlikely we’re going to start making chocolate-dipped anything.

Jerky is very expensive to make and although someone must be paying $7.50/100g (That’s $34/lb) at convenience stores (or they would stop carying it), we can’t imagine someone paying $34/lb for anything here. Lots of people scoff (in a ‘your prices are too high’ way) when we tell them cooked Beef Tenderloin is $25/lb.

If you submit your suggestions through email, we will enter you into the contest. Info@smokedmeat.co

Beef Gravy

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I just made the beefiest Gravy I’ve ever had. It was made with Brisket drippings, with the fat removed. I didn’t add any spices. I added a bit of bone-broth and corn starch to thicken.

The beefiest Gravy I ever had.

We also made some fresh salt n pepper sausages. Makes me think ‘Bangers and Mash’.

Liquid Smoke?

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One of our best customers came in this week and asked ‘what kind of wood do you smoke with?’ – Our response: ‘Maple or Apple’.  He then told us that a Nurse at the Amherst Hospital told his father that there is no REAL Smoked Meats in Amherst.  ‘They all use Liquid Smoke’. 

First and foremost, I am flattered the gentleman and his nurse were talking about smoked food in their small-talk.  That’s Awesome! And that we were a part of that discussion, even better.  But, that’s simply not true.  Then my protective side came into my head and said ‘you better set the record straight’. 

We use a Commercial Smoker that is loaded with wood (logs) in the fire-box.  The operator sets the temperature, cook-time, and holding temperature, and then presses ‘Start’.  A thermostat tells the propane pilot to raise the temperature.  The flame comes on like a Tiger Torch igniting the wood and raising the temperature of the cook-chamber to the set cooking temperature.  Once the desired temperature is achieved, the thermostat tells the propane to shut down.  The wood (logs) are left smouldering in the fire-box with smoke filling the cook-chamber.  When the temperature falls below the set-temperature by 5 degrees, the propane comes back on until the temperature comes up.  That is how we maintain our desired cook-temperature and smoke our foods without having to tend a fire for 12-hours at a time.

This is a New Southern Pride MLR-150. That’s the fire-box at the back.

We use a Southern Pride MLR-150 Commercial Smoker.  It has a rotisserie in it so that food cooks and smokes evenly.  Without a rotisserie the operator must rotate the food several times in the cooking process in order to account for temperature gradients/smoke density differences (e.g. top to bottom) in the cooking chamber.  Commercial Smokers like ours (there are other types) have a heavily insulated Cooking Chamber to make them highly efficient and maintain an even cooking temperature with less influence on or from Ambient Temperature.

Because of this question, I looked into liquid smoke.  Here is a great article from ‘The Spruce Eats’ that we thought you might enjoy.  https://www.thespruceeats.com/liquid-smoke-overview-335486

We don’t use liquid smoke in anything at our kitchen.  We use Smoked Chicken, Beef or Pork Bones to make a smoky Bone broth packed with flavour, and that is sometimes used to infuse a smoky-taste into some of our liquid-based foods such as baked beans or cheese sauce.   

Bone Broth – What is it? How do WE use it?

By Fresh Ideas One Comment

Feb 15. Bone Broth

            This could be several articles or a really long one.  Experts would need to be consulted regarding Gut Health and other health benefits.  I will keep it short by focusing on the culinary aspects of bone-broth and our experience.  We make our own ‘Bone Broth’ about once or twice a week, depending on consumption and availability of bones.

            We use Chicken and Pork Bones from the products we smoke in the kitchen.  Our Beef Bones come from the Butcher Shop down the road.  We smoke them before we use them.

We use approximately 3 lb bones/gallon of water for chicken and 7 lb bones/gallon water for beef as suggested by (https://www.foodrenegade.com/why-your-bone-broth-doesnt-gel/).

            Imagine you’ve boiled carrots or broccoli and the water changes color slightly.  That’s the Carotene (from Carrots) and Chlorophyll (from broccoli).  If you tasted the water, it might have a subtle carrot or broccoli flavour. In a typical week we use: Bell Peppers, Carrots, String Beans, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Spring Mix (lettuces), Romaine Lettuce, Spinach, Parsley, Rosemary, Thyme, a couple types of Mushroom, Red Onion, Yellow Onion, Shallots, Cucumber, Zucchini, Butternut Squash, Spagetti Squash, Lemons…etc (I might be missing a few but that’s the bulk of it).  They all have Flavour!  Mix them together, BIG Flavour! 

All of our vegetable cuttings are collected on a daily basis.  If the cuttings are of the type that would mold, they are frozen.  If they are the drier-type, they are stored in our meat fridge.  After all the bones are smoked, the giant stock-pot is filled 1/3 with bones and 2/3 with veg-cuttings.  Crispy cold water is added (enough to cover the veg), and on the stove we go. 

The mixture is boiled for about 30-45 minutes, and then transferred over to the ‘cook and hold’ oven where it will simmer (around 195 degrees) for 4-days.  After the 4 days the ‘mixture’ is strained to remove the bones and vegetable cuttings.  This liquid is part fat and part Bone Broth.  We place it in the blast chiller (to cool it quickly) and wait about a half-hour.  When removed from the blast-chiller, the fat has hardened on the surface and most fine floating particles have settled.  The fat is removed and the liquid is decanted into another bowl.

The remaining liquid is packed with smoky bone-flavour, and the flavours of all the vegetables that simmered in the solution for 4-days.  That’s the flavour part.  Texture-wise, the bone broth has a viscosity to it.  Sometimes it’s gelatinous.  That’s the collagen from the bones, joints, and cartilage.  Our understanding is that collagen is what repairs damaged tissue in the body, hence some of the health benefits of bone broth.  The other side of the health benefit is that in addition to adding flavour, the nutrients from all the cuttings are also in the liquid.

We use Bone Broth to impart extra flavour, viscosity, and smokiness into our liquid products such as cheese sauce, gravy, soup, and baked beans.

For more information on the difference between ‘Bone Broth’ and ‘Stock’ check out this link: https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/difference-stock-broth-bone-broth-article

Hope you enjoyed. See you soon.

What was Supper Like at Your House Growing Up?

By Fresh Ideas No Comments

What
was Supper like at your House, Growing Up?

            Both parents worked.  My brother and I had separate hobbies, but
our schedule was similar.  I’m not sure
if that was built-in by our parents or how that evolved but the evening went as
follows:  When we got home from school
there would be a note on the kitchen table…

Wood
pile,

Do
a load of Laundry,

Supper
is in the fridge- In the oven at 350 for 45 minutes

Clean
up after yourselves

Homework

Have a lovely day. 🙂

Supper was something Mom put together a lot of
the times.  Often it would be a ‘casserole’
(Rice/Potatoes/Noodle) with vegetables in it and some sort of sauce, maybe
meat.  Sometimes it was Home-made Mac ‘n Cheese.  Sometimes it would be a full ‘meat ‘n
potatoes’ dinner in a ‘casserole dish’ (Say chicken, Potatoes, Beans, Peas, Carrots)
that we would heat-up.  It was one way of
making sure we had real-food.

            I didn’t realize it, of course, that
mom was cooking during the day in order to make this easier for us in the
evening.  She was mass-cooking a few
meals at a time (I assume) and freezing them so that if she didn’t have time,
she would take one out during the day, let it thaw, and then we’d cook it for
supper.  She was making-time during her ‘off-time’
to be sure we had real food.  Thanks Mom.  We would heat supper, have the dishes put in
the dishwasher and anything left-over put in the fridge by the time she got
home (6:00 pm if I recall correctly) and then carry on with our evening.

          On top of running around to grocery shop, pay bills, clean the house, and bake (there were always muffins in the freezer for our lunches and usually some sort of sweets on the counter), she was meal-prepping.  It worked out nicely for us and in our understanding, she enjoyed it.  That’s a lot to do in your time off when you’re on shift-work.  We appreciated it then, even though we weren’t spending our time thinking about what she was doing while we were in school.  Now that we are on the other end, we can certainly identify with the busy schedule involved in planning around kids.

          We started mass-cooking for the kids (2-boys) when they were in elementary school.  By instinct, we thought it was the way to go.  Real food, rather than pre-packaged food, is cheaper, healthier, and therapeutic.  We started with Pasta-Bakes and Casseroles.  As the boys became more independent (and reliant on microwaves) we’ve been filling the fridge with packages of pre-cooked (Safe) food for them to assemble their own plates in their own way.)  ‘Safe’ refers to food (proteins) that have already been cooked to a safe temperature.  They’ll add a side noodle or rice or something (if it’s convenient for them, or just eat a WHOLE box of crackers.

          We recognize how much work that is (Prepping and Cooking the food).  What we’re try do with our business is make this easier for you, and healthier for your kids, you, and potentially your parents.  For example, having cooked proteins and sides in your fridge for people to heat-up takes far less time than the prepping, cooking, proper cooling…etc involved in one-family mass cooking.  Our thought was ‘What if we mass-cook for 20 or 40 families?’

          People value their ‘off-time’ more these days than in the past.  Perhaps this is in recognition of high-stress levels, mental health, and ‘self-care’.  It’s a ‘quality of life’ value that we appreciate and relate to.  It’s one of the reasons the Maritime Provinces (as a whole) stand-out for ‘quality of life’ and we think that is a characteristic to be proud of.

           We’d like to help you, your kids, and maybe your parents have time to enjoy their off-time.  That’s why we opened.  People can and (at least in our opinion) should have access to safe, healthy, delicious food even if they have a busy schedule, or if they cannot safely cook for themselves.  Come see us if you’d like to give this a try.  Maybe tell a friend when they talk about how busy they are.

 

Repeat Customers

By Fresh Ideas No Comments

Repeat Customers

            We’re doing really well with repeat customers.  People that have tried our foods are coming back and we love it.  We’re getting feedback and using it to develop our business to be what you want it to be.  This includes catered meals, Meal-Prep-Service, and regular weekly service Monday-Saturday.

            People who have tried our food tell others and/or suggest (when they have an office function) ‘Hey’ D&E’s does Catering. You’ll love it.  Care to give them a try?’ And when they eventually do, they love it.  Many people who try our foods at Catered Events come into the shop within days in order to pick-up some food that was served at their event.  This has happened with everything from small sweets to Mac ‘n Cheese to Fancy Bacon-Wrapped Beef Tenderloin.  We serve the same food during the week as do to our catering clients.  And now we’re getting a lot of return customers to cater seasonal events.  Thank you for trying us out and continuing to support us.

            Our Meal-Prep-Service is spreading.   Word is travelling fast, thanks to you, and the convenience of the service.  This option seems to appeal to people interested in Simple. Honest. Delicious. Food (of course) but from a diversity of backgrounds.  Ordering 3-meals at a time, sometimes 6 (for a couple) and having your work-shift lunches ready is simple and convenient.  Catered events really help this.   We believe this occurs because a group of people try the food together, usually reinforcing a desire to eat better quality food.  Individuals  then follow-up with a visit to our kitchen to feed the family the same type of food they tried at work.

            Through your groups (Offices, Sports Teams, Committees, Home-Parties) we are helping you change food culture here, in Cumberland County.  We are proud to be a part of it, but it’s you who are making the decisions to eat better, expect quality food, and then bring some home to your family or tell a friend.  Thank you.

There also seems to be a solid consistent movement toward trying something other than pizza, sandwiches, and ‘Off-The-Shelf’ pre-made soups.  That’s awesome!  Proof that you expect more!  Using a work-event to test our products is a great idea because you know you’ll be well-fed and, generally, you’ve already paid for it, meaning the event was going to be catered anyway, so why not try something new.