27 January, 2012

Grote & Weigel Out of Business

For over 120 years, Grote & Weigel has been making sausages, hams, smoked turkeys, and hot dogs in Connecticut, under their own brand and as private label products for various companies in New England.

No longer.  The business is closed and all the Grote & Weigel product that will ever be made is out in the retail pipeline right now - when it's sold out, it's gone forever.  The building and all the meat processing equipment are to be sold at auction in February, bringing a century of Connecticut food tradition to a close.

19 January, 2012

Gevalia Coffee

For years, Gevalia Coffee has only been sold in the US via mail order. Old farts like me will probably remember their magazine ads back in the pre-internet days, but Gevalia also used direct mail and television ads before shifting gears to sell online.

And now, Gevalia (which has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kraft since the early 70's) can be found in your local supermarket.

This is new turf for Gevalia, and they're working hard to get the word out. Earlier this week, Kraft sent us a sample of Gevalia for review - a 12-ounce bag of Traditional Roast. We couldn't wait to try it out, because Maryanne and I are both big coffee drinkers, and we enjoy it every step of the way - from the sound and smell of opening a new package, to the fragrant anticipation of the percolator bubbling in the kitchen, to the rich coffee flavor and aroma of a freshly-poured steaming mug of ambrosial joe. And although we've had a wide variety of different brews from ordinary to exotic, neither of us had ever tried Gevalia before.

We were not disappointed.

The very first whiff when we opened the bag hinted at the caffeinated joys to follow. The aroma was smooth and nutty, with hints of earthiness and chocolate.  We loaded our favorite coffee maker - a vintage 12-cup Universal percolator dating from the mid-1950's - and fired it up. Delicious javaliness tickled our noses as the percolator sang it's brewsong, and when the percolator's red pilot light came on (indicating the coffee was ready!) we poured it forth.

Ahhh.  Awesome.

Gevalia totally delivers on it's promise of smooth, rich, perfect coffee.  The flavor was completely coffee, without any harsh acidity or unpleasant, excessive bitterness. Maryanne and I were impressed, and we're actually looking forward to picking up another bag at the grocery store.

17 January, 2012

Fishy Delights 45: Swedish Fish

So, what do you think of when someone says "Swedish Fish"? Those chewy little red candies, right?

Not this time. No, this time I'm talking real fish - pickled fish, actually - from Sweden, thanks to the food section at the local IKEA.

Behold three different varieties of pickled herring as found at IKEA.  Each jar contains a variety of preserved herring, and while they all share some basic ingredients (wine or vinegar and of course herring) they all have their own flavor profile.

Sill Inlagd - Herring pickled in vinegar, with onions and carrots. There seems to be a bit of sugar and peppercorns in here as well. Very pleasant flavor, strongly reminiscent of American pickled herring. Not sure what the carrot is there for, though, since it doesn't add any flavor to the mixture. Maybe you're supposed to eat the carrot, too.  

Sill Lok - A lot like Sill Inlagd, but without carrots, and the pickling liquid is red - that muddy kind of red that you get when red onions are used. But the onions actually look white, so maybe color is from wine vinegar.

Sill Matjes - Herring pickled with wine vinegar, dill, and spices. It's got a very unique flavor profile - the spices are along the lines of nutmeg and clove, and even though I've had matjes spread and tinned matjes herring before, it still took me by surprise like it did on the earlier occasions. (I guess I just don't associate those particular spices with fish.) This is probably my least favorite variety - I think that matjes is an acquired taste, and I just haven't acquired it yet.

And speaking of acquired tastes, there's one other thing about the IKEA Swedish fish that takes some getting used to, and that's the texture.

Take a look at the picture to the left: That is American pickled herring, sold most often in jars as "Herring in Wine Sauce." It's pickled with sliced onion and a little bit of white wine is added to the brine to improve the flavor. I love that stuff. I'm the only one in the house who likes it (besides the dogs) and I buy big jars of it so I can just dig in and grab a few chunks for a snack just about any time I want. I've been eating pickled herring since I was a kid. You'd think the IKEA varieties would be right up my alley, right?

No! Not at all!  You see, American pickled herring is slightly cooked - not fully, mind you, otherwise it would fall apart into a disgusting mass in the jar - but just enough to put a little translucency into the fish and firm up the texture a bit.  The IKEA pickled herring is just absolutely raw.

Oh, man, I can hardly stand it.  There is something about the texture of raw fish that just makes me gag. That's why I don't go to sushi places more often - too much rawness.  So, while American slightly-cooked pickled herring is one of my favorite snacks, I can't really say the same thing for IKEA pickled herring. A bit or two is all I can stand. And that's really too bad, because the flavor is really awesome.

So I guess this is a mixed review. If you can get past that raw fish texture - and I know that it doesn't bother everyone the way it does me - it's well worth it to have a jar or two in the fridge for snacking purposes. As for me, though, I'll keep taking little bites now and then to see if I can break through my aversion, but for now it's just not my thing.

09 January, 2012

What's Up With Welch's Grape Jelly?

I saw an ad for Welch's Grape Jelly the other day, starring their happy spokesman Alton Brown.  

At the end of the ad, Alton mentions that Welch's Grape Jelly contains no high-fructose corn syrup. That was delicious news to my ears, because I read labels and one of the things that puts a product on my "Do Not Buy" list is the inclusion of HFCS - and I haven't bought Welch's jams or jellies in a long time.

But when I checked out the labels at the grocery store, I found that apparently, nothing has changed. All of the Welch's jams and jellies, regardless of packaging (large or small jar, ridiculous squeeze tube, and so on) show that Welch's is still using corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup, and not a bit of cane sugar.

So, what's up, Alton? Is this a transitional period where sugar-sweetened jelly is on the way but the last of the HFCS syrup still hangs around? Or is someone just blowing smoke up our ass?

Check out the Welch's in your supermarkets, and let me know in the comments if you find the no-HFCS version there.

08 January, 2012

A Great Deal at IKEA

Soft, absorbent cotton kitchen towels from IKEA, in a herringbone weave. These things are awesome - I usually have one over my shoulder when I'm cooking, ready for instant use. They launder up pretty well, too, and when they're finally too stained and beat up for me to feel OK about them in the kitchen, they go to the rag bin for "terminal duties" (mopping up dog barf, cleaning car parts - you know, stuff that leaves rags so filthy that they've just got to get thrown out.)

Best thing about these tough little moppines?  They're 79 cents apiece - cheap enough that you really don't mind making them work hard in the kitchen. Whenever we trek down to New Haven on an IKEA run, I pick up at least ten of them.

Out Of The Can: Shop Rite Corned Beef Hash

Here we go again, with yet another can of hash.  Like the last, this one is also a store brand: Shop Rite Corned Beef Hash.  And also like the last, notice the stunning lack of extraneous fat.

That's not saying this stuff was perfectly lean, because it wasn't: As it cooked, about a tablespoon of fat melted out, which we spooned off after cooking.  But overall, I have to say that Shop Rite hash has a decent flavor and texture and is quite a bit less expensive than the leading national brands.

01 January, 2012

Pillsbury Simply Rustic French Bread / Salami Bread

If you've ever had any of the various Pillsbury "bread" doughs, you've probably noticed that they all taste pretty much the same. Dinner rolls, crescent rolls, "Italian" bread, Rustic French bread, biscuits, you name it - Pillsbury does some pretty amazing things with textures (varying the flakiness of the rolls and making some of the breads denser than others, for example) but when you get right down to it and taste it, the basic flavor is identical right across the line.

So you can probably imagine that I didn't have very high expectations for Pillsbury Rustic French Bread. I don't care what the advertising says or how attractive the picture on the package is. It's still going to taste like something out of a bursting paper tube.  And I was right. Totally unimpressive - you can get the same effect from not separating a bunch of dinner rolls and baking them in one long cylinder. Not "rustic" at all, and certainly not "French."

And therefore, for my second tube of Rustic French Bread, I thought I'd try something different. I make salami, pepperoni, and sausage breads all the time (using genuine yeast bread from a fairly standard yeast bread recipe) and somehow I got it into my head that maybe the rather "meh" Pillsbury Rustic French Bread could be made better by going beyond the usual.

I started out by removing the Pillsbury dough from the tube and spreading it out on a work surface.  I found that Simply dough is every bit as sticky as non-Simply Pillsbury stuff, so I spread it out on a sheet of baking parchment.

With the dough spread out, I added a single layer of Genoa salami. and then rolled the dough up into a loaf with the salami spiraled in the middle.

Here's the dough, all rolled up with a few slashes cut into it for venting.  I transferred the loaf onto a baking sheet and put it into the oven.

And here's the final product, out of the oven all nicely browned and looking totally nommable.

You know what it tasted like? Cheap and crappy Pillsbury dough with salami inside. It was really lousy.

I dunno. Pillsbury's quick breads certainly have their place - I enjoy the dinner rolls and "biscuits" occasionally. But I guess I'm just less than enthusiastic about using Pillsbury breads for stuff like "rustic French bread" or pizza dough.