Monday, December 21, 2009

Snowshoe Building Videos

I recently came across this series of videos taken during a snowshoe building workshop. The video was filmed in Stanley Mission (near where I paddle and where I hope to head off on a snowshoe trip later this winter) and the language used throughout is most likely Cree. An interesting look at building simple snowshoes (of the same type as mine) using only hand tools. These folks start right from the log and go through the whole frame building process. Despite any language barriers, the videos are very interesting and sufficient to figure out how to build the frames (more or less), but the lacing would require a much more in depth look for me to understand it.

The whole website is interesting, showing numerous aspects of Dene and Cree culture, including language and crafts such as birchbark basket making.

Link to the videos at the Gift of Language and Culture web site here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

An Experience In Bacon

A couple of months ago I posted my discovery of something called a "Bacon Explosion". A couple of weeks ago I finally was able to make my version of the recipe as my contribution to the put-luck supper at a Grey Cup party.

A "Bacon Explosion" is a meat creation comprised of bacon and sausage meat, where the sausage meat is surrounded in a woven wrap of bacon and the bacon and sausage rolled together. The meat is then smoked and slow cooked. There are as many variations on this theme as there are folks that have made it, with various fillings used, and a variety of spices or sauces. Further, the type and degree of smoke can also be varied.

For my version I decided to use a filling of bacon, onions, red peppers and mushrooms, using inspiration provided by Dunkin'.

For my sausage meat I originally bought some frozen plastic wrapped breakfast sausage meat at the local Sobey's grocery store. They only had one 500g package though, and I needed 2 kg. So, I also bought some mild Italian sausage in casings from Superstore. After cooking up a bit of the meat from Sobey's, I'm glad they didn't have more of it as I found it to be very salty & very fatty. The Italian sausage, thankfully, was neither. Below, the sausage meat has been stripped from it's casings and the first few slices of bacon fried up and chopped for use in the filling:

Some nice, healthy vegetables for the filling:

I should have taken a couple pictures prior to this next step. The bacon was laid out in a mat and woven together as per the instructions at the BBQ Addicts web site. On that woven bacon I sprinkled some rub that I had on hand. On top of the bacon I laid the sausage meat, forming the meat into a thin layer. The meat was not formed as one thin sheet and laid on top, but rather pressed into place piece by piece. I think that approach led to the cooked product not holding together well. I should have rolled it out into a layer, then somehow transferred it into place. The next layer was the chopped bacon and cooked vegetables.

The filling was seasoned with more of the rub and a generous amount of President's Choice Chipotle BBQ sauce (really decent stuff, by the way).

I should have had a photographer present during the rolling process. I rolled up the stack of layers, trying to keep everything as tight as possible.Getting the thing to roll up and keeping all the filling inside was easier said than done, but the next one should go better (not that this one went badly).

Below, I'm adding more of the rub seasoning:

A couple of hours in advance of the Grey Cup game, I brought the smoker over to Rob's place and set up in the back yard. A tarp was set up to protect the smoker from the wind, and a thin blanket wrapped around the smoker to help get the temperature up in the cool weather. The meat was smoked with maple wood at about 225°F.

After 4 hours of smoking, the Bacon Explosion is ready to come out at half-time.

Ready to eat:

Below, a picture of me slicing up my contribution to the potluck supper:

The creation was very tasty. In fact, we were so busy eating that no one could take a picture of us enjoying it. It was not as fatty as I might have expected. Slow cooking at those temperatures (200 - 250 F) melted a lot of the fat out of the meat. It did shrink a certain amount and firmed up. In the future, I'll try to make sure it is rolled tighter and that sausage meat is better consolidated so that it holds together better during the slicing.
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Monday, December 07, 2009

Paul Quarrington

Author, screenwriter, and folk/blues musician, Paul Quarrington is dying of cancer. Quarrington's book, Fishing With My Old Guy is one of my favourites and I've enjoyed several of his other books as well, such as Whale Music and King Leary. I have thought that someday I'd like to spend time fishing with Paul Quarrington and David Carpenter, both literary fishermen (and not ones of the large-boat catch-your-limit-fast sort). Today over lunch I read his latest article for the National Post, the second instalment in his "Cancer Diary". Quarrington continues to be a very gifted person and this article is another fine example. He struggles to remain with us for a while longer, and for that we should be thankful.

January 21st, 2010 Update: Paul Quarrington's journey with cancer ended today. To quote from
His brave battle ended on January 21, 2010.  He passed peacefully at home in Toronto in the early hours surrounded by friends and family. It is comforting to know that he didn’t suffer; he was calm and quiet holding hands with those who were closest to him.

Contributions to the Quarrington Arts Society are being accepted in his honour; visit

Rules of Winter Cycling

It was -31°C with a -40°C windchill (9 km/hr head wind) this morning. It took me an hour to get the kids to school and the sitter, then in to work. Never mind the amount of time it took to get suited up this morning (and to figure out my 'system' anew this year). I guess my winter cycling season is officially here.

Three Golden Rules of Winter Cycling:
  1. No Whining
  2. No Whining
  3. No Whining

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Ray Mears, Northern Wilderness

I've been aware of Ray Mears for a while now, having heard of him described as Britain's version of Les Stroud, Survivorman. However, I'd never seen any of his videos and after having seen the abomination that is Bear Grylls, another person that gets compared to Stroud, I really didn't care to look much further. However, the Ray Mears documentaries for the BBC were recently recommended to me, and it was mentioned that an episode was filmed in nearby Prince Albert National Park. Well, today I found that video on YouTube (in 6 parts), which I believe is the first in a series.

I am embedding the video here, but if you have the bandwidth, watch it full screen in the highest quality. The full video is about 60 minutes long, but is broken up into 10 minutes segments for YouTube. To see all of the video clips in order, go to the playlist found here. The clips played automatically for me, one after another in order. The production and videography is excellent. The interest, information, and entertainment value are also very high, in my opinion. The focus, at least in this first episode, is not so much on skills or wilderness techniques described, but on the ecology of the boreal forest.

I watched the "Forgotten Forest" episode this afternoon (somewhat accidentally - I didn't mean to watch the whole thing). This evening I watched it again with my wife, at least the 2/3 until she fell asleep, it being past her bedtime. The Forgotten Forest episode was filmed in Prince Albert National Park (PANP), my familiar trekking and paddling grounds. I was able to recognise some of the places shown in the film, just this summer swimming and playing on the beach where he had the small fire with the jack pine cones in the film (I'm about 70% certain on his location). It is great that the park was shown in fall and winter, the seasons I like best in the park. I've been to Grey Owl's cabin on Ajawaan Lake about 6 or 7 times, by foot, snowshoe, canoe & kayak. This summer I brought my kids up to the cabin. It was also very interesting to see him putting into practice the use of the Black River sled, the Snowtrekker tent, and small wood stove. Also, the jacket Mears is wearing is not a parka as it may first appear, but an uninsulated shell cotton anorak, much like that made by Empire Canvas Works. A cotton shell would be breathable, shed the snow, and not tear or burn as readily as gore-tex or synthetic material shells (which work poorly in freezing temperatures).

It's interesting to learn a few more things about my own back yard from a Brit. Ray Mears conveys a great deal of respect and a sense of awe towards something that most folks around here take very much for granted.

The ecologist that is featured during this episode is J. David Henry. His cold-weather clothing looks like something from a MEC catalogue, circa 1986, but obviously it's still working for him after 20+ years. (As an aside, I wonder how much of their current product line will still be in use after another 20 or more years?) His mitts look very much like my MEC over-mitts, but in flashier colours. Henry co-authored a chapter in the book Endangered Spaces titled "Misunderstanding the Prairies." The biography of Henry in my copy of the book, published in 1989, describes Henry as a biology professor in Regina and as a key player in the revision of the National Parks Act and the establishment of Grasslands National Park.

The woman teaching the birch bark biting was Sally Milne a Cree elder from La Ronge. You can find out more about her here:

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

13th Man

It's either laugh or cry. I'm still leaning toward the latter. Perhaps some day I'll be able to see the humour.

Oh, what could have been...