Blog Archive

Monday, November 19, 2012

Charles Poirier Sugar Cane Syrup Maker




Charles Poirier's 

Pure Sugar Cane Syrup

I met Charles Porier last year when Roxanne Breaux gave Diane and I a bottle of his syrup as a gift.  He was only making the syrup for friends and family.  He had produced only about 36 - 12 oz. bottles last year with no intention of making any to sell.  I asked Diane to find out where he lived and how I could get in touch with him.  After tasting the syrup I called Charles to ask him to make more so that other people would have the chance to taste his light, pure and wonderful syrup.  I suggested to Charles that if he would grow enough sugar cane to produce 10 cases of syrup, I would purchase it all.  This is the reason for my blog, finding people that produce delicious Southern products and Charles is certainly one of them.

Now I am the one giving it to family and friends and hopefully you will see Poirier's syrup in stores one day.

 Charles tending his sugar cane patch


Charles is growing three varieties of sugar cane this year, an HOCP 000950 a POJ 290 (Product of Java) Purple Variety and the Ribbon or Stripped variety to find out which produce the best tasting
syrup. 
Charles Poirier and daughter Kelcia crushing  cane for  juice



Old 1800's Sugar Mill Charles found that was used to test the juice's  brix (sugar content)
This small mill was used when they received a load of cane to find out the sugar level before it was sent to the big mill for crushing.  

Crushing Sugar Cane to produce juice


Pure Sugar Cane Juice




 Pure Juice in cooking pot
Cooked for 6 to 7 hours slowly


Skimming impurities to keep the syrup light and clear.

Normally it takes about 125 stalks of cane to produce 15 gallons of juice like show above.  After slowly cooking the juice down for 6 to 7 hours the yield  is about 3 gallons of syrup. 

One of the treats of making homemade sugar cane syrup, an ice cold glass of the pure cane juice.

Finished Product

This is a two day process, the can is cut the evening before and the crushing starts at sun up.  The juice is cooked for about 6 to 7 hours to the consistency of maple syrup.  This syrup is light enough to be put on pancakes or biscuits.   

Charles is in the process of building a Sugar House for next year's production and hopes to produce enough to sell locally.  Everyone should have the chance to try home cooked syrup, cooked the old fashion way... Slowly. 

 I was so excited to see someone revive the process that most sugar cane farmers preformed on their farms in the 18th and 19th century.  Most of the sweets in the deep South were made with this syrup in those days and as a child I can remember tasting candy that was a result of cooking the syrup too long.  

There is a very fine commercial sugar cane syrup producer in South Louisiana and available in stores but to taste this light honey colored syrup is a real treat for me.

Below is the recipe for Syrup Cake or Gateau De Sirop made with Steen's cane syrup.  Charles' syrup could be substituted and would produce a little milder tasting cake.

GATEAU DE SIROP

Servings 10

(Syrup Cake) or Masse Pain (as it is often called) Steen's Recipe
Note: This cake contains no sugar


1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ginger
1-1/2 Steen's cane syrup
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 egg,beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 cups sifted flour
1-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup hot water


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch square pan a 13 ½ x 8 ½ inch pan or muffin pan(s).

Combine oil, syrup, and beaten egg. Stir until well blended. Mix and re-sift dry ingredients except soda. Add dry ingredients to the oil, syrup, and egg mixture alternately with the hot water in which the soda has been dissolved. Begin and end with flour mixture.




Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Gerald Wayne Lemoine's Annual Boucherie


The Meaning of Living in Avoyelles Parish 


Gerald Wayne Lemoine

Gerald Wayne called me in February and invited me to his annual boucherie and couchon du lait held at his home in Bordelonville, LA in Avoyelles Parish.  .  Avoyelles is Louisiana's  cultural center for roasting whole suckling pigs.  Everyone in the area has at one time roasted a pig or help in the process and most families preform this ritual on a regular basis.

When I arrived I had no idea what to expect, I only knew that  if Gerald Wayne was having a party it would be something I shouldn't miss.
Suckling Pig Roasting  with Pecan Wood


The array of food all done from the pig was overwhelming.  Boudin, cracklings, backbone stew, barbecued pork steaks, and a hole roasted pig.  If that wasn't enough, Gerald Wayne fried about 30 chickens as appetizers.

Cracklings 

Barbecued Chicken and Pork Steaks


Pork Backbone Stew

Checking temperature of boudin

If this wasn't enough, there was an enormous table filled with potato salad, rice dressing, pickled eggs and cucumbers, cold slaw and so many more sides that I can't recall them all.  With that they were making fresh cinnamon rolls all day long.

                  
Gerald Wayne's Legendary Cinnamon Rolls

On any given day you can find Gerald making these for someone.  It could be for a fundraiser or feeding children at  his petting zoo and most recently at his annual fundraiser in Avoyelles Parish Jail for female prisoners before the school year starts so that the incarcerated women can help buy school supplies for their children that have been left with relatives or friends to raise while they do their time.


 
 Guest taking care of business while enjoying this fabulous meal.                                                                                     



       Taking Care of Business with the 2 step                                                                                

                                                                            

                                                                    Fais Do Do                            

Gerald Wayne and I have become good friends over the years and  calls from him come from time to time. It always excites me to hear his voice and it is usually to invite me to one of his outrageous  parties or fundraisers.  Everyone should have the opportunity to attend at least one of Gerald Wayne Lemoine's legendary parties during their lifetime.  I only hope that I will get the chance to attend and enjoy many more.

                     Check out Southern Foodways Alliance's Short Film
                                                By Joe York
                                                     

"To Live and Die in Avoyelles Parish"


When Gerald Wayne Calls, I Come Hungry

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Louisiana Blue Crabs


 Lake Pontchartrain Blue Crabs
 
 Greg with ice chest of crabs
 
Picking out the Big Males
 
 Greg showing off our crabs

 
 Blue Crab 9" Tip to Tip


Last week I had to make a trip to South Louisiana to check on product we were buying and to find out the latest on British Petroleum's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

I can always count on Greg Nick when I call and say I need help and today was a day that I would be spending 20 or so hours on the road alone, traveling the Louisiana coast.  He immediately  volunteered to help and when passing through Lafayette I picked him up.  We always make the best out of our trips together and traveling with him  is never going to be monotonous or boring and today was no exception. 

We were going to see our oyster fisherman, shrimp buyers and crabbers today and knew that somewhere along the way we would find some of Louisiana's  finest seafood for Greg to take back home to Peggy, Greg's wife.

On this trip we picked up a number of wonderful Louisiana delicacies and Anthony Liuzza's,  Liuzza Farms, produced some of them.  Our first stop was to pick up Liuzza's Creole tomato's and the famous Louisiana  strawberries at a favorite produce stand along the way.  Liuzza Farms are considered one of the premiere local farmers in  Louisiana and located in Tickfaw, LA.  Greg's favorite tomato's are the Liuzza Creole and I agree with him.

Next we went to visit a crabber friend of mine to talk to some of his friends about frogging for me this summer when the season opens.  Louisiana has some of the tastiest and tenderest frogs I have  eaten.  I want to introduce these frog legs to  some of our chefs in Texas  and in turn have their customers find out what they have been missing.

While we were there, crabbers were coming in from Lake Pontchartrain with some of the prettiest crabs I had seen this month.  Seeing these beauties, we could not pass picking up a couple of dozen.  A crab feast was in the making and with these giants you did not need more than three crabs per person.  Most of the crabs were  9 inches across from tip to tip, which I consider giant.

Greg and I both love boiled crabs and the way he cooks them is my favorite way.   He is of the old school New Orleans style, boiling then soaking.   He seasons the water to the taste he likes then adds the crabs, back side up.  After they are cooked he allows them to soak in the liquid that they were boiled in while adding a bag of ice to the boiling pot.  This change in temperature allows the crab to suck in the seasoned water, seasoning the blue crab's succulent sweet meat throughout.  He is one of the best crab cooks I know and could not wait to have him throw these beauties in his boiling pot.
 

We had a great trip that day, seeing crabbers, oyster-men, shrimpers and farmers but the highlight of this day was  not the wonderful bounty that we were able to find throughout South Louisiana, it was the quality time I got to spend with Greg, one of my oldest and most trusted friends.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mansura Cochon de Lait

"Pit Boss"  Gerald Wayne Lemoine
 

Cochon de Lait 
Cords of Pecan and Oak wood for the all night cook
Whole Hogs hanging in the Barbecue Barn

Gerald Wayne  with his pig sticker sampling the homemade links

Hogs and Shoulders hanging in the Barbecue Barn

Last week while in Grand Isle, Louisiana I noticed on my calendar that the Mansura Cochon de Lait was coming up on Mother's Day weekend.  I had missed it last year and made a note to make sure I made time to make the drive to Avoyelles Parish in East Central Louisiana.  

Everyone from Avoyelles Parish  knows how to have a Cochon de Lait (Suckling-Pig) and people in that neck of the woods have one of the largest and best pig roast in the state.  

Avoyelles Parish is  where the Red, Atchafalaya and Mississippi Rivers meet  which produce some of the most beautiful and one of the largest area of swamp land in Louisiana.  

I wanted to arrive in Mansura at around 4:00 p.m. to watch the "Pit Crew" light the fires and hang the whole hogs in the cochon de lait roasting barn, built just for roasting pigs.  I arrived at around 6:00 p.m. to meet legendary cook and "Pit Boss" Gerald Wayne Lamoine. 

The first thing that I noticed was Gerald Wayne all in black, wearing a large black western hat and  sporting a  45 caliber automatic  on his hip.  I immediately thought surely he must be the Sheriff or a Deputy and later found out that he was neither.  

Gerald Wayne told me that " I grew up working livestock in the swamps of Avoyelles and when I was seven years old my Uncle gave me a hat, a sidearm,  put him on a horse and told me to  round up these animals."
"I  never take this gun off, I spent eleven years in the Army as a Ranger and when I came home saw no reason to go anywhere without it."

Yes, I would call Gerald Wayne a man's man!

After hearing that story I immediately made plans to meet Gerald Wayne in Bourdelonville, his home town, and spend a Saturday with him at his farm.  He told me they make butter, cheese and milk about 60 gallons of milk a day from his animals.  I also want to talk to him about doing a cochon de lait for me but not quite as big as the one he was doing today.

Gerald Wayne is legendary in these parts for his cooking and baking, cochon de lait and cinnamon rolls are his specialty, and  in fact the next day  was going to do a benefit pancake breakfast, serving crawfish etouffee on top of them instead of syrup.  Gerald Wayne is the go-to man when wanting to throw a big party and today he was in his glory.  

Getting back to why I was in Mansura, "The Cochon de Lait".   I found out that they were cooking about 4,000 pounds of pork and and were going to serve a pork dinner for Mother's Day lunch between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. the next day.  The proceeds were to benefit the Mansura volunteer fire department.   

The hogs were split open from the stomach and laid flat between two pieces of heavy wire tied together and hung to roast rib side first.   Exposed to a roaring fire comprised of piles of oak and pecan wood,  these hogs were turned after about two and a half hours.  After turning the skin side facing the fire they were moved a foot or so back so not to cook the  skin side too fast.  The hogs began to drip after about  3 hours and the "Pit Boss" slowed the fire and slowly let them cook  for twelve more  hours turning every couple of hours throughout the rest of the night.  

Originally, long before the Civil War, cooking was done outside with an open fire so that the pigs  could be tended and watched while working in the fields.  

Gerald Wayne explained to me that the cochon de lait was done out of necessity in the early days.  A sow (female) can start having babies after about eight months old and can produce  8 to 12 and many times as much as 20 piglets in four months and can have babies twice a year.  He said that a sow could only feed so many piglets a day and the suckling pigs that could not get enough milk had to be killed and cooked so that the mother would have enough milk to feed the remaining piglets.   That is how the  cochon de lait was born, making the hog responsible for many great parties in Louisiana.  He told me that before refrigeration having cochon de laits were a common occurrence,  you could always find someone having a pig roast.  Today the cochon de lait is reserved for special occasions or outdoor parties.

I would recommend a trip next year to Mansura and the Cochon de Lait Festival .  Make a weekend out of it and tour the beautiful and scenic roads through this beautiful  parish.  I  put it on my calendar for next year, but will be going very soon to spend a day with Gerald Wayne Lamoine to see the real Avoyelles and hopefully find someone having a cochon de lait in their yard.





Friday, April 30, 2010

Breton Island Salts



 
6' Gulf Oyster from Breton Island, LA

Large "Breton Island Salt"


Brandy of Reef Restaurant with "Breton Island Salt"

1/2 Dozen Breton Island Oysters


Bryan Caswell - Reef Restaurant

 One of the advantages of my job is finding and having the opportunity to try many  wonderful and interesting food products whether it be crabs, crawfish, shrimp, oysters or whatever fin-fish is in season.  Today happen to be oysters, which in fact is one of my favorite foods.  I  never turn down a chance to eat oysters.


Last week  fourth generation oyster farmer John Tesvich, with Port Sulphur Fisheries Co., called me and said "a couple of weeks ago I put out 600 oysters in 12 cages off of Breton Island to begin testing salt-water relaying as a treatment for cleansing and enhancing Gulf oysters.  We harvested the oysters yesterday, after a 15 day soak, and I was impressed how the oysters looked and tasted."


John sent me 3 boxes of his Breton Island Salts to test.  I was having a lunch meeting the day they came in with Chef Bryan Caswell, author and food critic Robb Walsh and Dr. Jeff Savell from the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University and figured who better to help taste these Breton Island Salts than these guys.


These were beautiful thick shelled mature oysters that were plump and both salty and sweet at the same time.
The taste got better as I chewed and after eating  left a wonderful taste at the back of my tongue.  These oysters if given the chance could rival any that I  have eaten and would be a prize for any oyster bar anywhere to serve on the half-shell.  We checked the salinity with a refractometor that showed the salt level of 45 parts per thousand.  I think that oysters with a salinity of between 35 ppt and 45 ppt taste best.


Here were some of the comments from some of our tasting panel:  

Dr. Jeff Sabell "Wow, they can't get better than this!"

Robb Walsh  "Your Breton Island Salts are phenomenal!  Love the jumbo size, sweetness and the high salt!"

Bryan Caswell "I would like to echo Robb's remarks, your Breton Island Salts are one of  the sweetest, briniest I've ever experienced.  Jim gave us a box to test out on our oyster-loving clientele and the response has been phenomenal.  It makes me beam with pride to serve a Gulf oyster of that caliber.  My only question is how can I get more?" 

I have been a proponent for many years of the oyster men pulling out their best tasting oysters from their best reefs and trying to market them with specific names as the East and West Coast oyster dealers have been doing.  Every oyster man has his favorite reef and oysters and the time has come for them to separate them on the boat before they are mixed with the sacks going to the shucking shops.

  People now more than ever are wanting to eat local products and know where their foods come from.  With the renaissance of the oyster bar it just makes sense  for our fishermen to harvest their best tasting half shell oysters, name the reef they come from and market them at a price they deserve.  After all we have some of the best tasting oysters in the world and everyone in the United States should have the chance to eat a Breton Island Salt, Diamond Reef, Galveston Point or Apalachicola oyster.  

I personally feel that the offshore suspension relay system if approved by the FDA would be great for the Gulf Coast oyster and may give them the chance  to be enjoyed again in all the oyster bars across America as they once were. 


A study was done by Miles L. Motes and Angelo Depaola some years ago titled  "Offshore Suspension Relaying To Reduce Levels of Vibrio vulnificus in Oysters" (Crassostrea virginica)  ( This was the process that John Tesvich used to treat these oysters.)


Their findings were the following "Relaying of oysters into high-salinity offshore waters during the warm months reduces V. vulnificus to levels typically observed during January and February, two months in which food-born V. vulnificus illness has never been reported.  Thus, offshore relaying is a relatively simple process that the shellfish industry may employ to reduce V. vulnificus  levels in raw Gulf Coast oysters.  

Give Gulf oysters a chance!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Karanchos Tacos Al Pastor

Parking lot at Karanchos
 Karanchos Kitchen

Trompo Tacos Al Pastor

 Tacos al pastor

 Grilling Whole Chickens
Saturday and Sundays outside pit

Grilled Chicken Dinner


Having been in the restaurant and wholesale seafood business for over 40 years  has given me the opportunity to experience so many fine and interesting  places.   I have so many wonderful food and restaurant memories but I am always looking for the next place that excites me.  Tonight Karanchos was one of those places.

Diane and I decided to have supper at Karanchos on Sheldon road last night and the minute we drove up we both looked at each other and knew that we had come to the right place. 

The place has two trailers for kitchens and the dining room is located on top of a concrete parking lot with tables, umbrellas and an open metal covered area with ceiling fans.  There are planters all around with agave plants  and  queen palms planted out front giving the place a very comfortable feeling.  The employees were wearing bright orange uniform shirts and were accommodating, helpful and friendly.  They even let me go into the kitchen to take pictures of the trumpo al pastor.   I asked to take photos of them grilling and seasoning the chickens and was invited into the trailer to capture images of their wonderful grilled chicken.

We ordered tacos al pastor, a whole grilled chicken, charro beans, grilled onions, jalapenos, sliced avocados and tomatoes, sat back and enjoyed the festive atmosphere.
All the food arrived at once, tacos were freshly carved off of the trompo (spinning top), crispy ends, chickens were hot off the pit, crispy and juicy .  We filled our corn tortillas with all the trimmings and added a fresh squeeze of lime juice and hot sauce.  As we both bit into our first taco al pastor we glanced at each other with our eyes sparkling, mouths full, bobbing our heads up and down thinking yes, yes, we have hit taco gold.  

The grilled chicken was just as good, smokey from the charcoal succulent and crispy.  This chicken I thought to myself  is better than I could ever do at home and I think of myself as a pretty decent home grill man.  

I started this blog so that I could journal my favorite food finds and memorable meals with family and friends and this was indeed one of the remarkable ones.  Eating at a taco stand you always run the risk of being unimpressed, last night left me very impressed and longing to return.

I want to thank Jay Roscoe @gunsandtacos (twitter account) for his guidance and you would do yourself a favor by going to his blog at  www.gunsandtacos.com   









Friday, March 12, 2010

Cookin' With Velma Duhon


Cookin' Crab Stew with Velma in Grand Isle, LA
Velma cooking her famous crab stew

Charlene and Velma
Diane and Velma making potato salad

Velma enjoying her crab stew!

Velma's 90th Birthday Party
December 20, 2009

I first met Velma when my brother Jeff married Charlene, Velma was Charleen's mother.

There are people you meet in life that you have an instant connection to, Velma Duhon was one of those people. Velma was 30 years my senior but that was never a barrier to our friendship. I liked her the minute I met her and from that day it was always a treat for Diane and I when Velma was around.

She was one of my oyster eating buddies and I could not think of her without thinking of oysters. Velma loved them so much that she would often get up in the middle of the night, go to the refrigerator, pull out a few oysters, mix up a little sauce and enjoy a midnight snack. She would regularly eat raw oysters for breakfast and if she would have had a regular supply, I have no doubt, would have eaten them daily.

Did I say that Velma loved oysters?

Velma was also a great cook and in her later years I had several opportunities to cook with her. She would always let you know what she was hungry for and the conversation would go something like this.

"A crab stew would sure be good today. Do you think you can find some crabs? How are the oysters running, are they salty? I bet you can find some crabs, I really feel like cooking a stew. We should eat a few dozen oysters while that stew is cooking".

Velma also loved sweets, but was diabetic. She loved Diane's Italian cream cake and on one occasion I was explaining to her that Diane could use splenda instead of sugar like she does for me. She quickly instructed me to mind my own business and told me to let Diane make her cake the way Diane likes to make it. I knew it right after I said it, that was none of my business and who was I trying to suggest anything but the real thing!

Velma Duhon had her 90th birthday on December 20 last year and on Friday, February 26th this year was admitted into the hospital with double pneumonia.

Velma died in her sleep on Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at the young age of 90.

Velma, I think Diane and I will go out this afternoon and will each eat a dozen oysters for you. The next time we are in Grand Isle, Jeff, Charlene, Diane and I will cook a big crab stew, eat a nice slice of cake and think of you.

We loved you so much Velma and will miss you dearly.











































Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Louisiana Bow Fin Caviar AKA (Choupique Caviar)



John Burke with Cajun Caviar Company



Bow Fin (Choupique)

Choupique or Bow Fin Caviar



Louisiana Caviar with Grand Isle Oyster


Diane trying John's Louisiana Bow Fin Caviar

The week between Christmas and New Years Diane and I went to visit John Burke, owner and founder of Louisiana Caviar Co. We went to John's home on St. Charles Avenue, in New Orleans, to meet him and try his famous Choupique caviar. While we were there tasting this Louisiana delicacy, John introduced us to his newest product, Ghost Pepper Caviar.
This caviar is processed the same way as his traditional product with the addition of a small amount of Bhut Jolokia peppers (Ghost Pepper) . Diane and I thought that the caviar with the addition of this Northeastern Indian pepper was a wonderful new addition to his line. We both agreed that we preferred the spicy pop this new caviar gave to our taste buds. We left John's house with a 5 ounce jar to help us ring in the new year and twenty seven more for our Louisiana Foods customers.

The Bhut Jolokia pepper gives this caviar a very unique taste and after the first bite you can't help but want another and another of this fabulous Louisiana caviar .


We ate the caviar on blinis, toast points and oysters and came to the conclusion that there was no better way to enjoy caviar than to pile it up and eat it off of the back of our hands.

So I say dispense with the formalities, caviar never tasted better than eaten alone without anything to dilute it's wonderful taste.


Caviar off the back of our hand
Capt. Wilbert Collins eating his first caviar aboard the the oyster boat "Capt. Wilbert"