from what i remember, in my house, foods did not come out of cans or boxes, for the most part, and going out to restaurants was really only a special occasions thing. i mean, who knew if the cooks had washed their hands properly or the food was fresh [not my words but take a guess who]. i think the mentality was, why pay someone to cook food you could cook yourself? that, however, did change later.
a strange part of north america for my parents, initially, was that people went to grocery stores once a week, as opposed to daily, and that everything was in boxes or packages, all items came from one single store and nothing was in metric [at the time]. after all, meats came from the butcher where people could actually see & decide on what pieces they wanted and how it was to be cut or ground. having "issues" with freshness, my mother ground her own beef. vegetables, in their minds, still had to have signs of
how i remember weekends spent being shlepped to markets when all i wanted was to stay home and watch tv like everyone else in the world. stay home? ha! none of my protesting and foot stomping did the trick. the house would have burned down. robbers could have kidnapped me. there could have been an earthquake. [did i say i was 15? only joking]. i can still vividly remember being 5 or 6 and kicking around the sawdust that covered the floors in the marketplace we would visit and all the noise and smells.
one thing i came to appreciate only later, even though i ate it as a kid and hated it, was pumpernickel bread and herring — the most jewish of fish beside the gefilte. STOP! before continuing, it has to be explained that pumpernickel à la canadian and american is not the same as "the real" kind. i believe the words used by my parents in a foreign language to each other were, "what the h*ll is this?" when they tell the story about the guy at the grocery store who handed them their first loaf of pumpernickel bread here. after
i don't think they went back to that store.
the following is a great article about the true way that pumpernickel is made in germany, and has been for hundreds of years, in very long moulds and the manner in which it is baked. this is an interesting pictorial lesson of someone who experimented in detail trying to recreate the real deal. mine, below, is a good alternative when you can't make it the authentic way.
easy european-style pumpernickel
this recipe results in a close approximation of a typical european pumpernickel bread. using no yeast, it relies on the process of fermentation to leaven it and takes a few days to "ripen" before it can be sliced and eaten. true pumpernickel bread gets its almost black colour from the maillard reaction causing the sugars to caramelize over a period of 24 to 36 hours of "steam baking". my recipe only cooks for 4 hours at low heat and then another 30 - 45 minutes at a higher one. it is therefore helped along by a bit of colouring by using high quality cocoa powder. for the purist, this is cheating and considered heresy. also used is bulgur wheat to add texture. a coarse grind is recommended but you can get away with using medium grind.
i make these in two very small loaf pans which measure [l] 6" x [w] 3 1/4" x [h] 2". they are the perfect size for hors d'oeuvres or small appetizers served along side a nice wine. you can make this pumpernickel bigger as a single loaf in a standard small loaf pan.
2 c rye flour
1/3 c coarse bulgur
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 c water
2 tsp oil
2 tbsp dark cocoa
1 tbsp molasses
mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl.
measure out the water, molasses and oil.
add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir well.
grease 2 small loaf pans or one standard sized one (small loaf) and place the batter in them/it.
place the loaf/loaves in a ziploc bag and seal it. put it in an oven with the pilot light on and let this ferment undisturbed for 24 hours. it must ferment this long, no shortcuts allowed. this is to help the loaves rise and to sour them somewhat. you will notice that the loaves have indeed risen without any yeast and will appear darker (compare above and belows photos).
after the rising time, carefully grease two pieces of parchment paper with oil and place these loosely on top of the loaves. cut them to size beforehand, measuring first. then take tin foil and double wrap the loaves tightly. if you don't place a barrier of parchment paper the acidity of the dough will react with the foil and cause little holes in the tin.
set these aside and preheat the oven to 225 F.
take a pyrex and fill it 3/4 full with boiling water. place a rack on top of it and then the loaves on the rack. let this steam bake for 4 to 5 hours. you shouldn't need to add water but check every few hours. add more if needed.
after 4 to 5 hours, remove the loaves but leave the rack and pyrex. raise the oven heat to 325F.
remove the foil and parchment from the loaves and replace the loaves now again (check the water) and bake for another 30 - 45 minutes. the tops should be hard.
after 45 minutes you will notice that the loaves will have shrunk. this is a good sign.
remove the loaves from the oven and let cool completely. when they are cold, wrap them twice or three times in plastic very tightly. let these age in a cool place for at least 2 days. they will improve with age.
carefully slice the loaves extremely thinly and enjoy with the garnishes you like. it is very good with fresh butter and sea salt.
the small ones are the perfect size for hor d'oeuvres.
topped with toasted sesame seeds are a great combination.