It was the cookbook title that caught our attention. More Than Poutine, Favourite Foods from My Home and Native Land. Wow, not only references to poutine, a favourite, but a quote from our national anthem.
This book is Canadian for sure, but the question is, did the cookbook live up to our expectations. As food and travel writers and cookbook authors we put on a lot of miles, tasting and testing regional foods all across North America.
Cookbook author, Marie Porter, a Canadian who has lived out of the country for 11 years, knows that expats crave the foods of home. Often we Canadians don’t realize how exclusive some of our recipes are, until we travel. Those Canadians living “away” are Marie’s intended audience but her recipes also suit those at home who would like to create dishes such as Montreal Style Bagels and real Canadian bacon. In her conversational narrative and recipe descriptions Marie acknowledges the diversity of regional Canadian cuisine. Quebec, Manitoba, and Newfoundland and Labrador, weigh heavily as sources for the recipes.
Organized by food categories of Breakfast & Brunch, Appetizers & Sides, Snack Foods, Main Dishes, Jiggs Dinner, Beverages & Condiments, and Desserts, the recipes have an emphasis on comfort food. The recipe methods are chatty, as though Marie has us in her kitchen and she is anxious to share every helpful hint so that we get it right. The book is loaded with photos.
We made the Montreal Style Bagels. There was one ingredient in the recipe that we could not find easily – malt extract powder – so we eliminated it and the recipe still worked perfectly. Our rustic, hand hewn bagels looked just like the photo in the book. Their flavour and texture were amazing. Would we make them again? You bet!
Peameal Bacon is a prime example of a Canadian food that is impossible to find outside the country. American restaurants serve what they describe as “Canadian bacon” but really it is ham whereas real Canadian bacon is brined pork loin. When coated with cornmeal it becomes peameal bacon.
The Peameal bacon recipe in More Than Poutine, Favourite Foods from My Home and Native Land also has an ingredient that not everyone will have readily available. Prague powder #1 cure is a curing salt, also known as pink salt. Unlike the malt extract powder we eliminated from the Montreal Style Bagels, this ingredient is essential to the Peameal.
1 Pork loin 4 lbs 2 kg
Cold water, divided 12 cups 3 L
Maple Syrup 1 cup 250 ml
Pickling salt ½ cup 125 ml
Prague powder #1 cure 2 Tbsp 30 ml
Mustard seeds 2 Tbsp 30 ml
Black peppercorns 2 tsp 10 ml
Garlic cloves, pressed 4 4
Whole cloves 3 3
Bay leaves 2 2
Lemon, sliced into wedges 1 1
Cut pork loin into 2 approximately equal sized chunks (crosswise, NOT lengthwise!) Trim most of the visible fat, if you’d like. Some people don’t bother, but I don’t like the extra fat on mine. Set to chill until ready to use.
Measure 4 cups of water into a large pot, add remaining ingredients, aside from pork and rest of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add remaining water, stir to combine. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Place one chunk of pork loin in each of 2 gallon sized freezer bags. I like to manually divide the lemon wedges and bay leaves equally between the two bags before pouring half of the brine into each bag. Push out most of the air, seal the bags, and put them in the fridge – I put both bags into a 9 x 12 cake pan, just in case of leakage, etc.
Allow the pork to brine for 5 whole days, turning once daily to ensure the pork loins are completely submerged.
After 5 days, discard brine, and rinse pork loins with cold water. Use paper towels to pat dry.
Pour a generous amount of yellow cornmeal onto a plate large enough to accommodate the chunk of pork loin. Roll loin in the cornmeal, pressing to form a uniform crust.
Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, chill for at least an hour before slicing and frying/grilling…if you can handle the wait – we usually let impatience get the better of us.
Did More Than Poutine, Favourite Foods from My Home and Native Land live up to our expectations?Absolutely. Dishes known around the world to be “Canadian” are included. Some every day Canadian restaurant experiences are included as well. Where else would we have found the recipe for Rotisserie Chicken Sauce, a sauce so close to Swiss Chalet’s signature “used-to-dislike-but now-we-love” chicken dipping sauce?