Roasting Garlic

Garlic is one of the best herbs going – it adds so much flavour and aroma – and yet never seems used enough.

It has great health benefits and is especially good for heart smart diets (okay, not when used in buttery garlic bread).  I am half Ukrainian and the joke on my Mom’s side is often that it’s garlic that makes the women of the family live into their 90’s and sometimes early 100’s.

One of the best ways to eat garlic is to roast it – this makes the garlic a nutty sweet flavour and avoids the odour that many find unpleasant that comes from chopping it.

I bought a very cute garlic roaster – you’ll see why I say it’s cute in a moment.

When you roast garlic, you can add other spices. Usually, I use a blackened Cajun spice like for the Green St. Patrick’s Day Dinner – but this time, I decided on just using garden herbs.

lemon thyme, sage, savoury, rosemary, chive in olive oil

I picked herbs out of the pots in the back, gave them a quick rinse and into the olive oil. For a moment, I totally forgot what I was doing, and almost added Herb’s Crushed Garlic that I keep on hand for quick cooking. When I do herb rubs, I always add garlic. D’oh.

mortar and pestle grinding for goodness

Grinding all the herbs into the oil to release their herby goodness.

Prepping the garlic

Pour the herb oil into the pan and add more olive oil. Cut off the tops of three bulbs and place cut side down in the oil.  I also added a shallot for more flavour.

Under the pan, there’s a terra cotta ring that was soaked in water – you’ll see it later.

three bulbs and a shallot

close lid (isn't it cute) push button

So, it takes 27 mins to roast the garlic, so, let’s head out to the garden.

another pinks plant

dusty miller surrounded by pansies & backed by the bleeding heart

My dusty miller turns into a huge bush by the end of summer – I’ve had three for several years, but so far, this is the only one that’s come back.

pink tulip still in bloom

the backyard fancy columbine

Let’s head back to see the roasted garlic.

open and breath deep

I remove the garlic bulbs and place them cut side down on a plate so the oil that’s been drawn up with drip out.

I leave the oil and herbs to cool – and the bulbs because they are too hot to touch.

cooling the bulbs - there's the moisture ring

roasted garlic cloves

I didn’t want to touch my camera during the squeeze process – but basically, I hold the bottom of the bulb and squeeze like it’s a round toothpaste tube and the cloves slide out easily.

You can also pull the bulb apart and use the back of a spoon to put pressure on the uncut end so the clove pops right out.

pour the cool oil and cloves into an air tight glass jar

You can either use the seasoned oil in cooking or the garlic or both.

I ate two cloves before  I could put it in the fridge – it last up to 5 days in the fridge – so you can roast garlic on Sunday and use it all week in your cooking!


The back deck project

Project Weekend One

Now that the front yard is taking shape – okay, except for some weeding and planting the seedlings we’ve been sprouting – it’s time to make the back patio and deck our spring and summer oasis.

the furniture clutter under the overhang

Normally, this area is not like this – In the far left corner you can see the last remaining wall of the garden shed, where the furniture and non-electrical yard tools were kept.

When the windstorm knocked this shed down – and this is not a product we’re every buying again – wood sheds or nothing – we had to get everything out before the total collapse – and it ended up in a heap here.

But, since the weather is getting nicer – we’re setting out the deck furniture.

We have more than last year, as the folks next door moved out to a smaller place and we bought a set of living room type outdoor furniture from them.

So, we have an outside kitchen, living room and dining room. If we had more bushes in the yard, there’d be a bathroom too and we could live in the yard!

Here’s the reverse view of the upper and lower decks:

covered in pots and pots of plants

The wire fence is a portable dog kennel – stretched out to keep the dogs off the deck – they like to eat the potting soil.

In the blue barrel foreground is our new fig tree, there’s strawberries in the pale rectangle containers on the railing, 4 kinds of blueberries, a pink Aspen hydrangea in the far front corner, honeysuckle outside the railing, a kiwi inside with the wood lattice, and many herbs usually 2 to 3 kinds of rosemary, oregano, basil, thyme, and winter & summer savory are the staples. A few other herbs like catnip which is supposed to repel ants, but is also fun for the cats and last year I added lemongrass.

Lemongrass has a strong citronella scent and it’s supposed to be good to discourage wasps – and it’s nice to break off some stalks, wrap it around chicken or pork and BBQ for a Vietnamese flavoured dish.

Hops on the side yard

We also got these containers and lattices from the folks who moved – they are hops. I don’t think that they ever made beer from them, but they are an attractive vine plant that adds some privacy and greenness.

This is also our morning glory problem area – I sprayed it with the salt and picking vinegar to get the vines dying and then we ripped it all out down to the roots that we could reach – I’ll be adding more vinegar this weekend and hopefully the wretched stuff won’t be back next year.

Project Weekend Two

the tidy up begins

We’ve decided how to lay out the planters on the deck and have started to shift things around.

Instead of the 6 hanging baskets on the inside, we’ve moved them entirely to the front rail alternating in and out.

We’re going to have the hops on the outside and the clematis climbers on the inside of the side railing. The Alpine Hydrangea stays in the side front corner, surrounded by the blueberries. The hanging baskets on the inside have herbs and the outside ones have wave petunias – which finally arrived and we bought 16 – half for the front window boxes and half for here – they are danglers so hopefully the goldens won’t eat them.

the alternating hanging baskets

from the outside

You can just see the goldens checking out their slightly reduced yard size – we moved the small iron fence that stopping them running down the side yard in morning glory land to just even with the deck so they don’t eat the dirt from the hops.

arty or documenting clutter?

fuzzy clematis starting to flower

honeysuckle starting to bud - soon the humming birds arrive

loaded for blueberries

And I really can’t wait for our first back yard fruit salad of blueberries, strawberries, cherries and the blackberries that peek over the fence from the back fence neighbour’s yard!

BBQ Smoked Turkey

BBQ a turkey.

My most ambitious BBQing ever – and we didn’t even do a practice run first.

We were cooking an 8.5 kilo bird, just under 20 lbs – and it’s not recommended to BBQ a bird bigger than that – you need about 25 mins at 250 degrees to cook the bird fully and much more than 7 hours and you’ve got a smokey turkey jerky.


We started the turkey the day before in a delicious brine solution from Hazelwood Herb Farm – make sure the bird is totally covered in the brine solution for max absorption!

spices, lovely spices

For the thanksgiving dinner, we used the regular turkey brine mix – and I dunno what was in it but it sure smelled like Christmas – very allspice, sage and cranberrish! – on a recent trip back, we bought 2 more of the same standard brine, plus the Tex-Mex mix. Can’t wait to BBQ again.

Update Dec 7: We did a second turkey with the Tex-Mex blend and it’ excellent! We also added a shot of espresso to the brine solution.

We bought a new container to do the brine – followed the directions on the mix package and made sure that the water fully covered the turkey.

When removing the turkey from the brine, we gave it a very good rinse to remove all excess salt.


I started the fires at 10:30 in the morning – a using a java firestarter (compress coffee grind log) burning Tennessee Oak charwood (aka lump charcoal made from oak, no coal & no chemicals) and a soaked cherry wood log from my Mom’s tree – cut down last year.


You get sooty handling the charwood, but the flavour is sooo worth it.

I got the fire roaring and then closed the dampers to maintain the heat.

The turkey cooked between 275 and 300 from about 10:30 to 5:30 – I add more fuel every 30 mins to half hour – I probably used about 10 lbs of charwood and 5 cherry wood logs of about 18 inches each.

I didn’t measure, but picked fresh herbs from the back garden – 2 kinds of rosemary, spicy basil, summer savory, 2 kinds of sage, 2 kinds of thyme and garlic put it in the chopper with vegetable oil and butter to make a thick green smooth paste.  We put it outside, and next time, it’ll go under the skin.

Dec 7 Update: To late to have fresh herbs, so we put a garlic butter under the skin – and it was certainly crispier – it also didn’t blacken the bird – which I guess was really the herbs we’d left on top – so definitely,  butter and seasonings under the skin. We also put an onion and a cut up lemon in the cavity – more flavour!

Smoke Dogs

Puppies in the smoke country – where the flavour is.


We also put a pan under the turkey to catch the drippings and filled it with water. This allowed the drippings to not dry out and adds steam to keep the bird moist.

We did accidentally let the pan boil dry – but I think this really enhanced the drippings with an undertone of deep smoke – we monitored the pan through a peep hole and added water twice during cooking.

You really don’t want to open the lid to let too much smoke and heat escape.


At 4:30 we opened the lid to test and to baste. The first baste was melted butter, minced garlic and parsley.

Dec 7 Update: We basted the Dec Tex-Mex brined bird with the seasoned Hazelwood Herb Farm paprika and lime-chipotle butters  – super yummy!

Here you can see a tiny snip from the breast and inner thigh – look at that pink smoke ring!

bird of flavour

Here’s the turkey just before we took it off the grill. I had placed it on a BBQ roast rack, over the pan for water.

Here, it’s so cooked and tender that the legs are drooping – I had to pull them off before lifting the turkey, because they were about to fall off on their own.


Once inside, tenting it critical to letting the meat have a rest and the juices to settle.

Sorry, once the tent was removed, there was just carnage and no time for photos.

As excellent as the turkey was, the gravy made from the drippings was totally mind blowing.

I have never wanted to bath in anything that wasn’t water as badly as this gravy.

BBQ sublime

I am a big BBQ buff – I BBQ all year round in all weather.

As a teen, I used my parent’s hibatchi and cooked over coal – I had chicken parts to an art – 45 mins with a quarter turn every 5 mins.

Later, I got into propane and like how it was faster compared to coal over an open BBQ.

Last summer, we bought a new propane BBQ and a new coal BBQ – with a cover and all the bells and whistles.

This year I got back into coal – and the flavour was so much more intense, less chemically and very smokey – I was thrilled to discover I could get a pink smoke ring just under the surface of the pork tenderloin.

I also made some amazing chicken with just salt and pepper and wrapped with lemon grass.

But, reading my various BBQ books, I kept seeing the Pitmasters refer to charwood – not coal or charcoal – but wood that had been turned into charred bits.

I found a BBQ shop that would order some in for me – Tennessee Oak Charwood.

To say that there was a difference is the biggest understatement I could make.

Right from the start, the smoke from the charwood was mild and even pleasant to breath – no acrid harshness like with coal briquettes – especially the ones presoaked with lighter fluid.

I did chicken that had been marinated in coconut milk and herbed pork chops – fresh from the backyard 2 kinds of rosemary, 2 basils, oregano, thyme, summer savory and a good heaping of Herb’s Crushed Garlic all crushed in the mortar with olive oil.

Propane BBQ is tasty – especially if you use a smoke box to add some smoke flavor – coal BBQing with wet wood chips on top is 10 times better – but Charwood beats it all.

The smoke flavour didn’t overwhelm the meat and seasonings, it added a very silky texture and flavour – and the charwood lasted longer than coal – I didn’t have to add additional pieces to ensure the meat was fully cooked.

I only wish there had been room on the grill to do the veggies.

The last time we grilled over coal, we did a pan of small potatoes, yams, beets, orange and yellow bell peppers with a light dusting of balsamic vinegar and olive oil and it was another mind blowing taste experience.