There is frost on the garden and the Brussels Sprouts love it.
The word is they sweeten up after being kissed by the cold. All I know is they seem very healthy and it’s gone down to 25F. I grew seven plants this year and they have done quite well!
Who really grew up liking Brussels Sprouts? The sprouts I had as a child were likely purchased frozen then boiled. In defense of my Mother, that is perhaps the only way to get them back in the 1970’s supermarket. I sure didn’t like those mushy bitter little balls of yuck. Even coated in butter I didn’t like them. It could take an entire meal to choke down one little sprout.
It seems their bitterness turns off most children (interestingly science has posited children don’t like bitter food as perhaps an evolutionary survival tool as bitterness can signal toxicity), but that the bitterness can be partially overcome by pairing bitter foods with something sweet. I guess the moral of the story is – don’t force the children to eat something they don’t like, they may come around as they get a bit older. No need to traumatize them!
Fortunately as I got older I started to like them, and then as an adult I had fresh ones. It was a revelation! They may be roasted, grilled, sauteed, blanched and finished in bacon drippings (my favorite). Topped with balsamic, candied walnuts (note the sweet counter-balancing the bitter) they make a great side dish to autumn meals.
Today dawned cold so a gentle braise seemed appropriate. They don’t need constant attention just occasional oversight as they slowly become tender.
As always this is flexible. Swap out the Canadian bacon for smoked ham, pancetta would also be nice. The point is to add a little fat and smokey flavor. By the way, use vegetable stock and omit the pork and butter and it’ll still be delicious (and vegan)!
Other options would be add diced shallots at the start with the sprouts, replace the apples with pears, you could finish with a splash of cider vinegar, or perhaps a slight drizzle of real maple syrup. Use your imagination!
Braised Brussels Sprouts with Apple and Canadian Bacon
1 Tablespoon (15 ml) butter
30-40 Brussels Sprouts cleaned and halved lengthwise
pinch of salt
1-2 (250-500 ml) cups of diced Canadian bacon
1/2 cup – 1 cup of broth (125-250 ml) – use vegetable or chicken – if you have pork broth ’cause you’re down on the farm… Use that!
2 Apples peeled cored and rough chopped – use some that have some body that will keep a little texture during the cooking process, if they melt it’ll still taste good.
salt and pepper to taste
- Heat heavy skillet over medium heat
- Add oil and the butter
- Add sprouts, toss to coat with fat
- Add pinch of salt
- Add Canadian bacon
- Cook over medium heat until sprouts start to caramelize or brown a little bit about 5 minutes
- Reduce heat to medium low
- Add 1/2 cup of broth and the apples
- Bring to a simmer – if you cover it the pan it’ll come up faster but you have to be more attentive so as not to overcook the sprouts.
- Add more broth if needed.
- Simmer slowly until sprouts can be pierced with a fork, cooked past crisp but far before completely soft – about 10 minutes.
Taste test and adjust seasonings as desired.
Until next time, Eat Well & Keep Digging!