Our baby Brussels have the intense flavor of their larger cousins but without any of the cabbagy bitterness that turns so many people off from this nutritional powerhouse. We could start harvesting them in August but we keep our patience and wait until a frost has settled over the field. Like the grapes from a fine ice wine, this is when we know our baby Brussels are ready to be harvested.
The freezing temperatures encourage their sugar levels to rise, bringing out their very best virtues and leaving the bitterness behind. We harvest the stalks that are as thick as a grown man's arm with a machete and bring our bounty into the barn where we have a little more warmth and light to do the meticulous finger work of removing them from the stalk. Because they are small, the unfurled outer leaves don't have to be peeled away like they do on larger sprouts. Our baby Brussels are ready to go just as they are, small and perfect with spotless flesh and splendidly silky leaves.
As for flavor pairings, I still swear by the simple compliment of bacon but truly, there are endless ingredients that are ideally suited for our baby Brussels. Apples play well with their natural sweetness, burned or blackened foods work beautifully when the sprouts are also charred because the Maillard reaction brings out their unique flavors and aromas. Bacon with sprouts will always have a place in my heart but other fats like chorizo, benne seed oil or pumpkin seed oil are also wonderfully suited. For a fun and unexpected twist, freeze the small leaves and sprinkle them over a combination of funky Roquefort, orange marmalade and Madras curry oil.
However you serve them, one thing is certain, our baby Brussels will get anyone over their aversion to sprouts. Like an ice wine, they are meant to be slowly savored with their appealingly sweet flavor and crunchy-tender texture, these babies get me through the fall and ride me through the entirety of a chilly Ohio winter.