About halfway up to our friends Matt & Kaylea’s cottage last Friday we got a text from Matt telling us to meet them in Norland. Turns out he’d forgotten his key to the cottage, so we were to meet them at the Riverside Inn and wait for a backup key to arrive via family. So we did…and in so doing stumbled upon the theme for the weekend.

We entered the inn around 5pm on a Friday, and found it completely empty. Not a soul in the place except wait staff. We asked for a table, thinking we’d have our pick. The hostess asked if we had a reservation. Kaylea replied that, “No, we’re just freeballin’ it.” Matt and I looked at each other…uh, what now?

FREEBALLIN’ [free-bawl-in]
1. Usually used to refer to males who are without underwear.
2. The act of not wearing underwear.

We were pretty sure she didn’t mean to use that term. And it turned out that no, indeed she didn’t…she thought it indicated that we were winging it, no real plans, just having fun. In any case, the server understood and Matt and I had a giggle and we each had a pint of Cameron’s and then got down to the business of retrieving the key and making our way to the cottage. But freeballin’ had become the mantra.

We got to the cottage (after almost hitting a wild turkey on the highway) and realized very quickly that, unlike last summer, there would be no swimming. No canoeing. No watching a gorgeous sunset from the dock.

The shitty spring we’ve been having meant that we’d be spending our cottage time indoors. Luckily, we had provisions.

Like, say an Ontario rainbow trout with asparagus and smashed potatoes (prepped by Matt), and a bottle of Semillon-Sauv Blanc. That was the nice, light setup for the main event of the evening. Like last summer when we brought a 2001 Closson Chase chardonnay (which I’d won at auction) to the cottage, we brought two wines for a side-by-side comparison: a 1999 Thirty Bench cabernet franc (won at the same auction) and a bottle of the recently-released 2010 vintage.

That cab franc is pretty much my favourite red wine full stop, but I’d never tried anything older than 2007. And while the 2010 is just as good, the 1999 was something else entirely. A little less muscular than the newer vintage, but so much more refined. Tremendous stuff. I managed to start a whole twitter debate about who the winemaker was, finally receiving the correct answer right around the time that we emptied the bottle and noticed his name written on the label. Oops. The night gets a little fuzzy after that. I remember Matt saying “We are good at drinking.” I remember Nellie saying, “Matthew, NO.” And I remember them not being related. I also remember an epic struggle with an overzealous smoke detector at 4am.

The next morning we chugged some coffee and scarfed peameal sandwiches shlepped from St. Lawrence Market the day before and did a quick supply run into town (which was suffering from the same flooding that’s been plaguing the rest of cottage country, though not as severely.). There we picked up a De Souza meritage and a Côtes du Rhône and a mini-keg of Lake of Bays Crosswind, as well as 14 pounds of pork shoulder from the local butcher and a few more groceries. There were sightings of dazzling rubber boots, a ferocious pickup truck, and an awe-inspiring mullet, each more spectacular than the last. Nellie, in dire need of Vitamin Water, felt bad about making Kaylea drive to three different stores to find some. Not to worry, Kaylea said, we’re just freeballin’ it. In fact, she freeballed a traffic light just for good measure.

Back at the cottage, the weather turned even less pleasant as snow squalls hit.

No spring day, this: it was well below freezing outside. There was nothing for it but to bundle up, build a fire, and make some delicious food. First: maple doughnuts. And by “maple” I mean that there was Dickinson Brothers maple in the dough, in the cream filling, and dusted on top.

Around the same time, Matt was busy teaching me how to make sausage. I was less than adept at this, but enjoyed the hell out of it. The first step was to chunk up half of that pork shoulder and add seasoning…

…the run it through a grinder…

…then bind it with water and skim milk powder…

…and then stuff it into the casings and twist it into links.

Et voila: breakfast sausage with Dickinson maple sugar and sage. The recipe came partly from Matt’s brain, a tiny bit from the sugar woods of Nova Scotia, and a lot from this book, our bible for the weekend:

After a quick visit to a nearby maple farm to pick up a few things (and talk a little shop) we got back to the cottage and re-commenced into the culinary activities. Next up was a second round of sausage-making for the lads and a sparkling wine tasting for the ladies.

That’s right: it was colder outside than it was in the fridge. Happy spring! Anyway, we all did a blind tasting of these — turns out I know the difference between Ontario wine regions, but not the difference between Ontario and France — paired with a bunch of cheese and meat we’d brought from the market the day before.

Finally, after a much tougher process for the Texas Canadian hot links (a second grind was needed, and the addition of some maple syrup and sparkling Ontario white called for a name change) Matt took them to the smoker.

We sampled a bit, and declared it a success.


We packaged up the sausages and grilled steaks for dinner to go with the reds we’d picked up earlier in the day. There was talk of playing debit card monopoly, but after a stroll down to the lake and back I just fell asleep on the couch. Matt took up a position on the other couch not long after, having heaved the (depleted) Crosswind keg onto the lawn. Hey, we’d worked hard that day, we deserved an early beddy-bye time. Anyway, it’s not like there was a set agenda. Freeballin’, remember?

The next morning we sampled the fruits of our labours, in the form of breakfast sausage. Mission? Accomplished, with deliciousness. We laid around as long as we could, but eventually had to pack up and go. Nellie didn’t do so well on the way home, but we made it back to T.O. with a fully-fueled rental car and about 20 minutes to spare.

We may not have gotten the weather we’d hoped for, but the food and fun more than made up for it. There were shapeless neon hats and snowman scarves and games of fetch. There was bird watching and data tethering and biomass burning. Most impressively there was handmade sausage and maple-y doughnuts and outstanding wine, but more importantly there were good friends and warm fires and hilarious videos, and all of those adjectives were totally interchangeable.

Freeballin’: better with friends.

3 thoughts on “Freeballin’

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