Monday, October 16, 2006

Jiggs Dinner

Newfoundland's Fare

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, know that my husband is from Newfoundland. He was born in St. John's. His family migrated to Ontario in the early '60s. My Mother-in-law goes back to Newfoundland at least once a year, sometimes twice.

RennyBa inspired this little recipe piece, because of the wonderful lamb dish he created to show us Norwegian fare.

Before you see the recipe it is important to know the culture behind this recipe. If you live on an ocean island, or by the sea, your land may have a recipe similar to this.

On the Island of Newfoundland, the terraine is rugged, and has very little topsoil. The summers are lovely, and busy for the fishermen, and the farmers that eek out a living from the land growing cabbage, carrots, parsnip, potatoes, and turnip. The winters are hard. The north winds bring in heavy snow and icy temperatures, and the south wind brings in rain to flood out the snow.

Eventhough the weather is rough, the people of Newfoundland are the most social folk in Canada. Their motto is "Always have a pot to boil on the stove, and have a drop of tea, for visitors.
And visit they do. It is part of daily life in Ne
wfoundland, that folks drop by unannounced to visit their friends, check on them to see if they are doing well, and to share social hellos and well wishes.
It seems like an intrusion to mainlanders' life, but it is an important part of living on the island where isolation could destroy a man.

The community watches out for everyone. The social calls are so everyone can check to see if their neighbour or relative is well, and to see if they need any help.
Newfoundland is not a rich Province. It has the highest unemployement rate. This is because the jobs for the Newfoundlander are seasonal, and in winter there is not much work for those without a secondary trade to fishing or farming.

Eventhough money is scarce, these people have been able to create dishes that would feed alot of people with a smitten of food, and to create as much nutritional balance for each day as possible.

One of the most famous meals of Newfoundland is Jiggs Dinner (or salt beef dinner)
It is a simple meal. It is made with cured Navel Beef, potatoes, turnip, cabbage, parsnip, onions, and carrots.
And for a special treat there is what they call a pudding with raisins for the top of the pot. This is similar to a British Dumpling.
On a cold winter's day a pot would be on boil on the wood stove with Jiggs Dinner in it, so all that travelled by could get a taste of the fare.
A Jiggs dinner could feed a family of 8 and guests no problem. With leftovers for the next day. Because of the nature of the meat, this dinner can sit out over night if there is no refridgeration.
No refridgeration! You say. This is the 21st Century!
Remember the Island means isolation. Isolated communities could have many power-outs in stormy weather.

What is the origin of this meal? It is a meal that would be cooked on the boats out at sea. The meat is Navel Beef. Belly and Rib beef cured in salt brine. So it cannot go bad. All the vegetables can store well for long periods of time. And the raisin pudding is a biscuit batter, or bread batter added to the top of the boil.
All these things store well on a ship and basically require fresh water and if possible an egg. Well ships use dried egg, and that would do just fine.
The ships also use a bread called hard tack. The Newfoundlanders refer to it is hard bread. In Canada the only place to make Hard Bread is in Newfoundland, at the Purity factory. It is a bread that is like a dried cake. It is soaked in the liquid of the boil-up to soften it, and it will be soft enough to eat then.
It is like a dense crouton. This bread is the only type of bread that would keep on the boats. I didn't include the hard bread in this meal. Just because I made the pudding instead.

If you are one to watch how much fat you eat, and are worried about cholesterol, then you should not eat this. This is a treat meal for us, because of this fact. I only make it 3x a year here in Ontario.
This meal was made for people who walk alot and do hard labour daily. Folks who work off their meals. A harty food for a harty hard working people.

Now for the Recipe:

Jiggs Dinner

First of all you need a bucket of Salt Meat.

At this point it doesn't look too appetizing. Fatty meat like corned beef in a bucket of bloody salt brine.

Rince the beef well several times to reduce the salt

See now the liquid is clear.

I chop up the meat and put it in a pot with some onions and water and I boil it
It is one of those guestimation time things. Basically you want the meat to look cooked and the fat to not look dense any more. And at this point there is a choice to make about the boil-up liquid. If the meat is still quite salty you can pour off the salty liquid in the pot and add fresh water to it. This is a matter of taste. Some like it salty, some don't. But this is the time to decide. I rinced mine several times and soaked the meat in the cold water to take off the salt. So I poured of half the boil-up water and added some fresh.

Remove the meat from the pot and cut off any bone or fat that you can.
Replace the cleaned up meat back into the boil-up pot of water.

Time to add potatoes.
Peel large potatoes and add them to the water in large pieces.

Peel some large carrots and cut them up in large pieces and add them to the boil-up

Next add some turnip to the mix. I would choose parsnip over turnip, but for some reason we have no parsnip in our town yet.
(Parsnip looks like a white carrot. It has a gingery flavour)

Cut the turnip in large chunks, like the potatoe. You can tell the difference between the turnip and the potatoe, because the turnip will turn yellow after it is cooked.

Now for the cabbage. If you have a big cauldron you can cook all the cabbage and turnip and carrots, but I have just using a Dutch Oven, so I will use some of the Cabbage. I cut it into large chunks. These chunks will loosen in the pot.

Now I will make the pudding. I used bisquick for my pudding. It is a ready-made teabiscuit batter. I added an egg and water to the mix.

The special part is the small handfull of raisins

Some people make their puddin in a linen bag on the top of their pot. Some just drop the dumpling right on top of the water without a barrier.
I use baker's parchment for my pudding.
I cut off a large piece and lay it over the top of my boiling pot. Now my pot element is set to 4. Which is below simmer. So the pot won't boil over in the end.

I pour my thick batter on top of the parchment, then I cover it with the lid of the Dutch Oven pot.

After 30 min everything in done.

Off comes the pudding

To reveal the Jiggs Dinner below

With a slotted spoon I carefully remove and separate the potatoes, veggies, and meat from the pot

The pudding is like dense cake with a few raisins

A meal with a dessert treat all in one pot!

The salty/fatty boil-up liquid is called LICKER. Some people drizzel this over their potatoes and vegetables. Some people soak hard bread in it to get the flavour. Our family does not eat the LICKER.
The LICKER may be saved for the next day to create a soup, or to cook up some peas pudding. Ahh Peas Pudding......
That recipe is for another day!
Look for the next issue of Newfounland Fare to contain Peas Pudding and Codfish cakes.


charles ravndal said...

Wow! I love how you put the details of preparation. It looks a bit intimidating at first but lovely on the finish product!

RheLynn said...

Very nice description! The stew (except for the meat part) sounds a lot like what Mr.J makes - except he adds a rutabaga and an onion along with the potatoes, parsnip and carrots.

J said...

Thanks for such an informative post. I love learning things about plaes I've never been.

Mother of Invention said...

Great post; description and background! I don't know any Newfoundlanders but have heard all about their friendliness. I'd like to go there some day. I didn't know about those Purity hard bread and I think I've seen them in Zehrs and Sobies. You sure sound like a great cook and I'm sure your husband appreciates you making his favourite dishes from his home!

Teena said...

It's been years and years and years since I've had Jigg's Dinner. I'm from Nova Scotia and we used to have it a lot when I was a kid.

I spent two weeks in Fort McMurray, AB, in 1999 (for work). There are a lot of Newfies there. We went to a restaurant that had it as their Sunday special ... but it was sold out :( I came soooo close!!

Invite me over the next time you make it!

Teena said...

Re Buddy, do you check them out when they go to Stage West every May? They sell out!

Lynn said...

We check out Buddy Wassisname when they come to Keswick, Ontario. They play the Stephen Leacock Theatre there. My friend Laurie knew the boys in real life. She grew up in Gander.
Funny bunch of guys! It is really the Newfounland jokester kinda music. The best of all is the fiddle music. And Teena, I have not forgotten about the button accordian!

Candy Minx said...

Lyn,, ,this was really awesome! I am going to make sure my sis sees this one. I linked this to my blog, it's a great set of instuctions and insight into a very special part of the world. I am fascinated by recipes born from so many restrictions, like from on a ship. The dessert on top of the meal is so excellent. Way to go with this post! Cool! And I am so curious to ty this dish.

Candy Minx said...

oopss, sorry! I dropped an "n" I meant LYNN!

mister anchovy said...

excellent post, thanks

Lynn said...

Well I am honoured Mr Anchovy. If you say thanks then I know for sure I got it right! Hail The Rock!

Gardenia said...

Wow. Wonderful pictoral and word chronical. And looks yummy. Reminds me of my gram, she could make a rutabaga and parsnip into a gourmet meal. Your recipe actually sound pretty yummy, and looks yummy.

RennyBA said...

Now I realize that this post has slipped my attention - sorry!

What a wonderful post, a great read and with so illustrative pictures. I just love to see the similarity and difference from the Norwegian kitchen.

Thanks for pluging me too!

Anonymous said...

while the recipe seems intimidating it is easy by your step to step method

Newfoundland Kitchen Garden said...

looks like good quality salt prepared a great meal..

Darrell said...

This post is great, thanks so much for the step-by-step. My question is this: I just bought 2 pails of navel beef to make Jigg's dinner but there's no word on how to store it. Am I right in assuming that, if sealed, you can store it just in the cupboard? Also, when does this stuff expire? I'm thinking it might be good to keep a bucket for emergencies, etc.