Nonna Knows Best

For this blog, we were given the task of trying to cook a new meat that we had never worked with before. I really didn’t want to stick to your regular beef or chicken, so I decided to cook game meat instead. I asked around to see if anyone in the family had any game lying around. Turned out, my Nonna Marsha had some moose in her freezer from last year. She decided that she would finally teach me how she makes her spezzatino.


Spezzatino is an Italian stew; it usually has potatoes in it, but we decided to keep it plain, in order to let the moose really shine through. We got the meat from one of my Nonna’s friends: it likely came from either the shoulder or the rump. Moose is a lean meat, so we cooked it low and slow.


Nonna’s recipe called for: two carrots, one celery stalk, one onion, two cloves of garlic, all in the mini chopper. With the vegetables prepped, throw all the ingredients into your pot, with three tablespoons of oil. Once browned, add half a cup of pureed tomatoes and half a cup of white wine. When all is simmering, add two bay leaves and two sprigs of rosemary. (Make sure to tie the rosemary into a bundle so that you don’t lose leaves.) Reduce the simmer, leaving it with the lid on for an hour, or until the meat is tender with a fork. Serve with a side of polenta and a slice of friulano cheese. If you don’t have moose available, deer or beef can be substituted.

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I chose this dish because, for all intents and purposes, I was raised on it. When making this dish, you should make a point of embracing your inner Nonna and have a glass of wine at the same time.





As my sister and I were growing up, we often saw large amounts of fruits or vegetables being prepared to be made into jams, jellies, antipasti (vegetables in oil), or giardiniere (pickled vegetables). Restocking our cantina became a weekend event whenever our supply was running low.


When the opportunity arose to pickle or preserve something, I wandered into the cantina to look for something we hadn’t had in a long time. I settled on Grape Jelly, reminded of my mom and her best friends making it in years past. Something as simple as concord grapes can be made entirely versatile. The trick: having fresh grapes. (And in my case, having a family friend that grows them by the tonne.)


My mom and her friend took their time tweaking recipes to arrive at the perfect jelly. You need:

  • 4 cups of grape juiceJam (10)
  • 7 cups of sugar
  • 1 tsp of butter
  • 1 pouch of certo pectin

Because the grapes I was working with were as fresh as can be, I washed them twice, and made sure to remove any that were deformed or unripe. Then, you start to juice. The easiest way to do it is to put the grapes in a pot, crank the heat, and use a potato masher to squish the grapes. The fragrant smells the grapes emit at this point in the process are amazing.
Jam (8)

Once you’ve accumulated enough juice, you need to separate the juice from the skins. What I recommend using is a Jelly Bag: a filter that you can stretch across a juice jug, that separates the juice from the waste.

Once you’ve got 4 cups of juice, you want to add the sugar and butter into a pot and wait for the sugar to dissolve. Don’t add the pectin just yet; that’s the final step. While you’re waiting, you want to preheat your oven to 200°C. Set your jars to heat up, having the lips in a small pot of boiling water to warm up the seals. Once your mixture has come to a rolling boil, stir in the content of the pectin pouch. Keep the mixture at a rolling boil, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Then, remove it from the heat and skim the remaining foam off the top.

Jam (5)

Though the jarring process is very easy, I recommend getting someone to help you, for the sole reason that you work a lot faster with double the hands. You want to ladle the jelly into the hot jars, leaving ¼” or .5cm headspace. Cover the jar with the hot lids and screw the rings on: not too tight, just snug. Once a few jars have been completed, you find yourself with an impromptu concert, as the lids of the jars begin to pop, signalling that a seal has formed and you’ve successfully jarred your jelly.

Jam (4)

Best of Both Worlds

Hello again whoever is reading this out there. This week we were told to perform a sensory evaluation. For everyone who doesn’t know what that is, it’s when we try something that we have never had before and describe the five sense. We do however go into more detail in taste.

Since I got this assignment I couldn’t really think of a “new” food that I have never tasted before. I didn’t want to pretend that I never had Parmigiano Reggiano so I could have the perfect sensory evaluation. And I didn’t really have the “balls” to go out and try bull’s testicles. I started working at William Sonoma recently and one day while working I found something called Mulling Spice. I read further into it and found out that you could use it not only to make apple cider but also to make Mulled Wine. So I thought I’d give it a shot and make mulled wine for my sensory evaluation. I chose a Ruffino Chianti which is a medium-bodied and fruity profiled wine. I tried it and found it to be sweet and dry. It was a perfect balance in my opinion, and I would suggest that if you are moving from white to red wines try this one first. After tasting the wine I followed the recipe on the back of the mulling spice but adjusted it to suggestions from people who have tried making it already.

Infusing the Wine

Infusing the Wine

Mulled Ruffino Chianti

  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 5 tbsp of mulling spice

While simmering these ingredients you could really smell the fruitiness of the wine coming through. Closer to the end of the simmering process you could really smell the cinnamon, orange rind, allspice and clove. After 20 mins of simmering I was finally able to taste what I had been smelling. The best way to describe it was imagine drinking apple cider and red wine together. Since I chose such a fruity based wine it was just like drinking apple cider. You got the really earthy flavours from the cinnamon, allspice and clove. While you got the fruitness of the wine still there as well as slight hints of orange. I can say that this is an honest balance between the wine and the spice that come together to make something extremely enjoyable in warmer climates. I wonder if it would have a different flavour if served cold…too bad their was none left to try it.

Final Product

Final Product

To sum up this sensory evaluation I learned that by combining two things that I enjoy separately you can make something extremely enjoyable. I like wine like any Italian and I really like the spices found in the mulling spice. Who knew that combining the two flavour profiles you would elevate them to make an earthy and fruity blend? I know there are probably people out there that know this basic principle but for someone who loves to cook and is learning new things you start wondering if you could us these spices elsewhere. I already use my palate in trying to identify what is in dishes and figuring out how I can make it at home. What I want to take back from this week is how to perfect my palate in order to become better a determining flavours as well as a flavour profile.