What’s in your Rumtopf?

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In our new mini-summer-series, we’re asking “What’s in your Rumtopf?”. A rumtopf, for those not in the know, is a straight forward summer-fruit preserve consisting of fruit, sugar and overproof rum. It’s an old tradition, with origins in Germany and naturally, variations abound. There are versions that use brown sugar and dark rum for added notes of treacle and caramel, where some opt for gin or brandy in place of rum to suit personal spirit preference. Almost any combination of fruit will work and indeed no combination at all—no one is going to balk at a rumtopf made up solely of sour cherries and brandy though maybe just don’t call it a rumtopf.

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Our rumtopf, apart from not using a proper rumtopf crock, will be retaining its rumtopf purity with a mixture of fruit as it comes into season, white granulated sugar, and overproof white rum. The proportion to keep in mind is that you’ll be adding half the weight of whatever fruit you add with sugar (500g of strawberries = 250g sugar). Top each addition with just enough spirit to cover. As another fruit comes along, add it in and repeat with sugar and rum. Make sure to wash and sterilize your rumtopf vessel before beginning.

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By the end of it, what you’re left with is some boozy preserved fruit in a homemade cordial. Preserving in alcohol may be the easiest method but it’s also one of the slowest, meaning this rumtopf won’t be ready until Christmastime, at which point the fruit can be eaten alongside cake or on top of ice cream and the cordial mixed into a cocktail or sipped straight up.

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So, what’s in our rumtopf this week?
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Jurassic Park (Hold on to Your Butts)

Last week Jen and I filled out a questionnaire for the Food Bloggers of Canada so they could feature us on their weekly Featured Member Blog series. It was fun talking about ourselves and our current thoughts on Crustcrumbs. One of the questions asked was “How did you decide on a name for your blog?” and though we answered truthfully, we did leave out many of the ideas from one of our brainstorming sessions. I was so hooked on the idea of coming up with a word or phrase that didn’t mean anything and didn’t really relate to food, I suggested jokingly, knowing Jen’s love for the movie Jurassic Park, we call the blog “Hold on to Your Butts”, in honour of everyone’s favourite Samuel L. Jackson line. Thankfully we didn’t go with that name but we did decide that come June, to mark the anniversary of the 1993 theatrical release, we’d do an homage to Jurassic Park.

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There’s plenty of eating that takes place in the film that goes beyond dinosaurs chomping down on terrified park guests. In a park that has “spared no expense” to provide its visitors with a spectacular experience there are several scenes where food helps to highlight the over-the-top extravagance the park has to offer. We see plates of Chilean seabass set down after a grisly velociraptor feeding scene, some ordinary pie topped with Newman’s own shaving cream, tub after tub of melting ice cream, exotic fruit and vegetable platters, a dessert table worthy of any 90s cruise ship, and of course, a shaky spoonful of lime Jell-O.

After much discussion we decided to recreate the dessert table because it would mean we could do some extra Jell-O eating shots after we were finished with the hard part. We knew one of the major details for adding depth to the shoot had to be the dinosaur mural that wraps around the dining room in the movie. Who else but Jen and I could have someone waiting in the wings that’s willing to paint us a dinosaur mural? Thankfully, our new semi-regular Crustcrumbs props contributor, Justine, was surprisingly into the idea and ready to help.
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The fun part of concocting this shoot was making up what type of desserts are in the screen grab—like creating some Jurassic Park foodie-fan fiction. We know from the dialogue that most of the park staff has deserted the island because of a tropical storm and judging by the melting ice cream and imperfect desserts left standing on the table, the pastry chef was first to board the boat. Initially, I counted five desserts and the tropical resort-style setting led me to believe that on that table in front of Timmy was a myriad of island flavours made for North American tastebuds. I determined that there must have been a Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Petals, an Apple Flan, a Coconut Mousse Tart with Toasted Meringue, a White Chocolate and Pear Cake with Strawberry Glaze, and a Banana Soufflé with Raspberries. Too late in the game, I checked my old VHS tape to re-watch the scene and found in the full screen version another dessert—what looks like a Mixed Fruit Tart. I asked Jen to check her Blu-ray and DVD versions but both are widescreen with that lonely dessert cut off at the bottom, leaving it to remain a special treat to anyone that watches the full screen version of the movie.140609 Barrie 0166
It seems this is the kind of thing we do in our spare time. The planning, crafting and shooting of it felt so ridiculous—in the best way—because here we are as a adults, spending our days off from our real jobs, making elaborate setups of food scenes from movies we liked growing up. Even better, we’re both able to file this under experience for our real jobs. I recently read a Vice article about that author’s obsession with watching Martin Scorsese’s Casino over and over for the clothes. The author speaks with the costume designer, Rita Ryack, and she said something I feel can also be true of food styling and photography, which is, “Costume design really has nothing to do with fashion. It’s creating a character; it’s storytelling.” I think Crustcrumbs is about telling a story through what we’re eating. Whether it’s something ordinary like Cottage Cheese Pie or something more elaborate like a sugary feast after a night spent being chased by a bunch of genetically cloned dinosaurs, the food helps to define whatever character we decide we want to act out that day. It may look at times like Crustcrumbs is having an identity crisis but that’s what makes it interesting for us, so you’d better “hold on to your butts”.

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Jen acting her butt off in her Jurassic Park wig.

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John refused to wear the wig.

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Dexter the studio puppy is a better actor than both of us.

70s Week: Terrific Women Make Cottage Cheese Pie

We hardly ever indulged in sweets back in 1974. We didn’t need the sugar since we could just as easily get our fix from one of the sweet liqueurs being passed around the lunch table. That’s probably one of the reasons this pie doesn’t taste very good. When a person doesn’t like desserts, they aren’t likely to make good ones.

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All is not lost for this pie though. What it lacks in flavour, it makes up for in thrifty convenience, which is the only thing that mattered when entertaining with Linda and Joy. The other huge benefit to making this pie is that the whole thing can be made in the Osterizer blender because it’s the only one with innovative blend settings, such as stir, crush, and blend, all at varying speeds, carefully labeled so you know which one to use and when. The settings make all the difference and those other unsophisticated blenders out there on the market can’t compare. I’m looking at you, Vitamix. That’s right, using an Osterizer blender will mean this pie comes out luxuriously smooth, so smooth in fact that’s where we found this next collection of photos of the Terrific Women, in Roberta Flack’s super-smooth album, Killing Me Softly.

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Cottage cheese—along with the ground ham Joy favoured and Linda’s flavour extender cooking-crutch—was a real Terrific Women stand-by. It was a powerhouse of the kitchen, excellent in savoury jell-o molds, cheesy lasagnas, and of course mixed into Joy’s famous canned salmon salad. When they weren’t cooking with it, they would often make beauty masks from it, mixing in a little bit of French dressing, which would stain their skin to give them a subtle orange glow, making it look like they’d spent the entire day at the beach.

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This week has been an absolute blast and we’re sad to have it end. We’re both so grateful to Linda and Joy, as well as the amazing camera operator and film editor Tristan Gough, and producer of Terrific Women, Laura Pharo. Tristan and Laura worked behind-the-scenes like me and Jen but often went far and beyond the call of duty—as you can imagine, working with Linda and Joy took some special handling.

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As you’ll see in the clip below, shooting didn’t always go as planned and when things went awry, Linda and Joy had a tendency to get frazzled. Often after one of their spells, Laura would sit with Joy and macramé an animal to calm her down, while Tristan applied a booze bandage to Linda’s attitude. This would occur often enough that Jen and I could go off on long breaks to the nearest roller rink mid-day for an hours-worth of funky tunes and chill skating. We got so good at it that we won the Toronto Roller Skating Championships of ’76!

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We hope you’ve enjoyed all the little snippets and glimpses into our past lives! 40 years in the business has given us a plethora of stories to tell so once our stomachs settle from all this superb grub, maybe we’ll revisit some of our other odd jobs we’ve taken on. Now let’s give 70s Week the send-off it’s deserves with this Cottage Cheese Pie!

Cottage Cheese Pie

2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 egg yolks
1 envelope unflavoured gelatine
1/4 cup hot milk
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups creamed cottage cheese
1 prepared graham cracker crumb crust
1 small can of mandarin oranges, to garnish

Combine the lemon juice, egg yolks, and gelatine into a blender. Cover and process at the “stir” setting a few seconds, then remove the feeder cap and gradually pour in the hot milk and sugar. Replace the cap and process for about 1 minute until the gelatine is fully dissolved. Stop the blender and add the cottage cheese. Return the lid and push the “blend” button, processing until smooth and well blended. Pour into prepared crust and chill until set. Garnish with slices of canned mandarins.

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70s Week: Terrific Women Make Pepperoni Salad

Pass the pepperoni. I’m eating salad here! I feel like we’ve lost our way with salads. They’ve become so over-simplified under the guise of showing off the best of the ingredients at hand—it’s really disappointing. Where’s the French, Catalina (okay those might be the same thing), Thousand Island, and un-ironic Ranch? Surely it’s time we started adding raw egg yolks to our dressing for creamy, heavy coatings to cover-up the refreshing and crisp icebergs and garden vegetables the greengrocer likes to stock. Who has ever gotten fat by eating a plateful of Pepperoni Salad on the daily?

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Obviously it’s a subject we feel strongly about, which is probably why we found this next photo set hidden in Jen’s Fleetwood Mac album sleeve. Get us on the subject of light-weight salads and it’s like Stevie Nicks flipping out at the end of “Rhiannon”.

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It’s clear from these photos how close Linda and Joy were outside the show—a regular Mary Richards and Rhoda Morgenstern. They shared everything with each other from advice on the best military school to send Joy’s unborn baby, to tips on making macramé plant hangers, and the pleasures of having an ample Italian sausage every now and then. They both really loved this salad.

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For the time, these flavours were really pushing the boundaries of the foreign food aisle at the local Dominion supermarket but that’s what made Linda and Joy’s cooking so special—they weren’t afraid to take risks. Linda, the trailblazer that she was, stole inspiration, as well as the innocence of a few busboys, from her neighbourhood pizzeria. When she first started making this salad it was just a few slices of leftover pizza cut up over a big bowl of iceberg lettuce to make it more nutritious.

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The salad kind of evolved from there. One night when Linda was serving this at one of her “parties”, she had been bunged up for nearly two weeks, which her doctor attributed to her restrictive diet, consisting mainly of whisky and cigarettes. He recommended she try adding garbanzo beans to a salad for some dietary fibre. Though she was reluctant to try it, she loved the word “garbanzo” so picked up a can and added them to the party’s salad that night. Everyone loved the new twist and Joy then took it upon herself to tinker with the recipe on her own, replacing the pizza slices with pizza toppings.

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This is what made Linda and Joy’s friendship last so long. They could relate over anything and found life lessons in the most ordinary circumstances, whether it was sausages, constipation, or a mix of both.

Pepperoni Salad

1 head of iceberg lettuce, torn
2 roma tomatoes, sliced
1 cup mozzarella cheese, cubed
19 oz can garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 cup pepperoni, thinly sliced
1/4 cup green onions, sliced
1/2 cup Italian dressing
salt and pepper to taste

Toss in a parquet bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

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70s Week: Terrific Women Make Pineapple-Ham Spread

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We still can’t believe it’s been 40 years since we first met! It doesn’t feel so long ago when we were packing Jen’s Oldsmobile—she liked her cars like she liked her dogs: white with red interior—filling the entire back seat with grocery bags crammed full of canned pineapple and curly parsley before heading over to the studio. That’s actually how we rediscovered the photos that go along with this sweet and salty spread.

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We were thinking back on that time when Linda was absolutely obsessed with Dolly Parton’s Jolene album, specifically the title track. She would get so passionate every time CHUM played it on the radio, reaching over from the back seat, in amongst the groceries, to blare it over the car speakers—I think it would stir up some rather raw memories of her first husband. It became a real distraction as Jen tried to manoeuvre the car down Yonge street one day, and caused her to crash into a stop sign narrowly missing our tiny, perfect mayor, David Crombie. To make a short story long, it was this Dolly Parton album that the photos for this episode were found in.

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The Terrific Women loved using ground ham in their recipes. It was one of those secret ingredients Joy liked to pull out of her back pocket to add a little heft and richness to her cooking. If she wasn’t satisfied that a casserole or salad was meaty enough she would sprinkle on a little ground ham, marvelling at the chewy pink rubble bits as they passed through her fingers. Most of the time we could find ground ham packed in a plastic tube at the butcher counter but occasionally would have to resort to picking up a few ham steaks and grinding them ourselves in the Cuisinart. It was horribly inconvenient but the steaks often came with a lovely lemon raisin sauce packet, which could be used for other things, like an ice cream topping or mixed in with a little mayonnaise for a quick and exotic condiment for hotdogs.

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Make your best “mayonnaise face”, ladies!

Linda and Joy always served party sandwiches when they entertained because it gave Joy a chance to show off her cookie cutter collection. She had shapes for every occasion; angels for Christmas, babies for New Years, cherubs for Valentine’s Day, etcetera. Actually, most of her shapes were of babies but she used a piggy cookie cutter exclusively for these sandwiches.

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There are two important steps to making this recipe successfully. First make sure the canned pineapple is thoroughly drained as any excess moisture will make the spread runny. I find the best way to do this is to use a clean sports sock so the tiny bits of pineapple can’t escape as you squeeze the juice out. Save the juice for a later use, perhaps to mix with some vodka for a Jackhammer before your guests arrive. The second important step is to make sure you use a lot of butter before sandwiching in the spread. The butter will act as a moisture-proof barrier, meaning the sandwiches will never go soggy, so they can sit out all night as the party goes on.

Pineapple-Ham Spread

1 cup fully-cooked ham, ground
8 1/2 oz can crushed pineapple, drained
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/2 cup salted butter, at room temperature
12 slices white bread

Mix ham, pineapple, mayonnaise, brown sugar, and mustard in a bowl. Spread 12 slices of bread generously with butter on one side. Spread 6 slices of the buttered bread with pineapple-ham spread and top with a piece of buttered bread, giving you six sandwiches. Use a cookie cutter to cut out fun shapes like a pig or pineapple.

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