Cross Canada Cooks: New Brunswick
A beautiful old-fashioned lighthouse stands guard in Saint Andrews Credits: A beautiful old-fashioned lighthouse stands guard in Saint Andrews
Cross Canada Cooks: New Brunswick
Area: Land and freshwater area total 72,908 square kilometres; it’s Canada’s third-smallest province.
Location: The largest of the three Maritime provinces, New Brunswick is bordered on the north by Quebec, on the east by the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Northumberland Strait, on the southeast corner by Nova Scotia, on the south by the Bay of Fundy and on the west by Maine in the United States.
Capital City: Fredericton
Largest City: Saint John
History: One of the four original Canadian provinces, New Brunswick entered Confederation on July 1, 1867.
Main Industries: Services, manufacturing, construction, forestry, mining and agriculture
Local & tasty: Fiddleheads
If New Brunswick had a provincial vegetable, it would be the fiddlehead. In fact, Tide Head, N.B., located on the south bank of the Restigouche River in the north of the province, is known as the Fiddlehead Capital of the World.
Fiddleheads are the young, unfurled frond of any fern. But the ones prized by foodies are the edible fiddleheads of the ostrich fern. These are found in great abundance on the shores of rivers and streams throughout New Brunswick in April and May.
Fiddleheads are a rich part of New Brunswick food culture and are used in soups, quiches, stews, salads and even desserts. Their taste is best described as a cross between asparagus, green beans and broccoli. In spring, look for them in farmer's markets throughout the province.
For the adventurous, it's fun to harvest fiddleheads in the wild. Look for tightly coiled heads poking only 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) out of the ground. (The taller a fiddlehead gets, the more bitter it becomes.) Clean thoroughly with a soft brush to remove the brown scales before cooking.
The fronds only remain furled for about two weeks, so the season is fleeting. Fortunately, these prized vegetables freeze well for enjoyment year-round. To freeze, remove the brown scales and wash thoroughly, then boil in a small amount of water, in batches, for two minutes. Drain and let cool. Pack in resealable freezer bags and freeze for up to one year.
– Rheanna Kish
Page 1 of 5 -- Learn more about the Acadians of New Brunswick and traditional Acadian cuisine on page 2
The Acadians: People with a taste for living
The expulsion of the Acadians, the French colonists who refused to sign an unconditional oath of allegiance to the British, from Eastern Canada between 1755 and 1762 is a sombre chapter in our country's history. These proud, hardworking emigrés lived on the land they called l'Acadie, which included Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, as well as part of Quebec. They were adept at farming marshlands, and devised a system of dikes to reclaim land from the sea.
The French-speaking Acadian communities were tight-knit and rich in culture. After the debacle with the British, an estimated 11,500 Acadians were expelled from their land in what is known as Le Grand Dérangement. Hundreds were killed, countless others died from disease, and communities were torn apart. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow immortalized the period in his epic poem "Evangeline."
Many displaced Acadians settled in Louisiana, creating today's thriving Cajun culture. But, for thousands of Acadians, the ties to "their land" were strong and they gradually returned to Canada, most to New Brunswick.
The Acadians are also lauded for their cuisine. Signature dishes include chicken fricot (a.k.a. chicken soup), rappie pie (pâte a la rapure), poutine rapée (mashed potatoes with meat; not to be confused with the Quebec fries-and-gravy poutine), clam pie, meat pie (a must-have on Christmas Eve) and salted fish. Root vegetables and game meats -- partridge, hare and deer -- are common. Desserts usually include molasses and maple syrup.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the Acadians for their contributions to the culture and cuisine of this country. But they also deserve thanks for their most precious gift of all: their return to Canada.
-- Doug O’Neill
Page 2 of 5 -- Learn more about the Bay of Fundy, plus how to crack famed New Brunswick lobsters on page 3
The Bay of Fundy
The Bay of Fundy is an important food source for all creatures -- great and small -- in New Brunswick. Humans, of course, enjoy the bounty of lobster, scallops, mussels, salmon and other fresh fish from this 270-kilometre-long ocean bay, which is home to the highest tides in the world. Migrating sandpipers, on the other hand, come for the mud shrimp, and whales (at least eight species pass through during the summer months) like to nosh on a buffet of krill, squid, herring, pollock and mackerel plucked from the waters.
– Doug O’Neill
What is tomalley?
When you crack open a cooked lobster, you'll find a soft green paste in the centre. This is the tomalley, the organ that serves as both the liver and pancreas of a lobster. Tomalley is a delicacy many people eat straight up, but it's also often added to lobster pâté and stock due to the rich, savoury flavour it imparts.
Tomalley safety first
As with all kinds of liver, eating tomalley in moderation is generally quite safe. However, like with all seafood, water pollution is a consideration when eating lobster -- particularly the tomalley, which can contain concentrated forms of any toxins that may be in the water. If you're not sure where your lobster is from, or if you have concerns about shellfish contamination, avoid the tomalley and concentrate on the juicy lobster meat around it.
How to crack a lobster
If you're not already an expert at disassembling a cooked lobster, here's our method for getting the most meat out of the shell.
1. Twist off claws at joint at body; separate into claw and arm sections. Break off smaller part of each claw and remove meat with lobster pick or nut pick. Using lobster cracker or nutcracker, crack larger part of each claw at widest part; lift out meat. Crack each arm; pick out meat.
2. Twist tail piece from body to separate. Bend tail backward and break off flippers; pick out meat from flippers. Using kitchen shears or steak knife, cut through shell along underside of tail to expose meat. With fingers or fork, pry meat from shell. Remove and discard vein (if any) along top of tail.
3. Holding legs and inner section of body, pull off back shell. Remove and, if desired, eat red coral (if any) and green tomalley. Insert thumbs into inner body and pry apart to halve lengthwise; extract meat. Break off legs; suck out juice and meat.
Page 3 of 5 -- Discover New Brunswick's farmer's markets and special oyster species on page 4
New Brunswick's farmer's markets
New Brunswick boasts some of Canada's best farmer's markets. Three markets across the province stand out as must-see destinations for food and market lovers.
1. Fredericton Boyce Farmers Market -- This weekly market in New Brunswick's capital city has operated since 1951. From 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday, you can browse the stalls for local fruits and vegetables, meats, cheeses, eggs, fish and seafood, and baked goods. The food court offers plenty of tasty prepared foods, and there’s a fun selection of arts and crafts from local artisans. For more information, visit frederictonfarmersmarket.ca.
2. Saint John City Market -- Located in the centre of Saint John, the City Market is the oldest running farmer's market in Canada. It features a wide range of both local and international food stands: There are butchers, bakers, cheese shops, delis, fruit and vegetable stands and, of course, loads of seafood sellers. Organic baked goods, a tea room and the only Korean restaurant in Saint John are just a few of the experiences unique to the market, making it a must-see foodie destination. The market is open year-round from Monday to Saturday. For more information, check out sjcitymarket.ca/index.html.
3. Marché Moncton Market -- With more than 130 vendors in this historic downtown Moncton market, no food craving or culinary desire need be left unsatisfied. In addition to the usual market suspects (fruit and vegetable stands, butchers, delis, fishmongers, bakeries and cheese shops), the Moncton Market boasts an impressive food court that serves everything from traditional favourites to ethnic delights. The market is open year-round from Monday to Saturday. For more details, check out marchemonctonmarket.ca.
For a complete list of all farmer’s markets in New Brunswick, visit Tourism New Brunswick.
– Rheanna Kish
The New Brunswick oyster
The delicate briny-sweet flavour of the oyster has always captivated food lovers. There is certainly something mysterious and alluring about its purported aphrodisiac qualities. Luckily for Canadians, the sandy coastline of New Brunswick is home to some of the country’s best wild and cultivated oysters -- and they're available year-round.
New Brunswick oysters are harvested using a variety of sustainable techniques, both seasonally in the wild and on oyster farms. It can take from two to seven years to grow them from "seed" (the name for a teeny tiny oyster) to harvest-size (about 3 inches/8 cm long). Size is what makes New Brunswick oysters unique. They are generally smaller than Pacific or European varieties, which means a more-delicate flavour with wider appeal to oyster eaters.
New Brunswick oysters are the Crassostrea virginica species, also known as Atlantic or American oysters. But each growing region or harvesting area names the oysters based on location; these are the names to look for in restaurants, fish shops or grocery stores. Some of the best in the province include Laméque, Peacock Cove, La St. Simon, Village Bays, Caraquet and Beausoleil.
How to select, prepare and enjoy fresh New Brunswick oysters:
• Choosing: Eat live oysters that are as fresh as possible. Look for a reputable fishmonger who sells choice-grade oysters and has high turnover. Fresh oysters have closed shells and a clean, briny smell (like the sea).
• Storing: Refrigerate live oysters upside down on a baking sheet covered by a damp towel for up to one week. If your fishmonger has seaweed, place it over the oysters to retain moisture and keep their flavour fresh and lively.
• Cleaning: Just before shucking, scrub the shells with a stiff brush.
• Shucking: Using a folded towel, hold oyster flat side up and insert oyster knife (never a sharp knife) into the small opening near the hinge; twist to open. Once the hinge gives, slide the knife along the bottom shell to sever the muscle. Remove the top shell and pick out any grit or pieces of broken shell. Wipe the knife clean between each oyster.
– Rheanna Kish
Page 4 of 5 -- Discover New Brunswick's Acadian culture tours and amazing food festivals on page 5
Where to get a taste of Acadian culture:
• Festival Acadien de Caraquet
What it is: This two-week festival, which takes place each August, is the biggest Acadian celebration in New Brunswick. The roster includes cabaret shows, belles soirées (pop, classical and jazz nights), méchant partys (madcap parties), Acadian poetry, fireworks and the blessing of the fleet.
Must check out: Tintamarre, a long-standing Acadian tradition of wandering through villages making as much noise as possible with improvised instruments. For info: festivalacadien.ca/en.
• Acadian coastal drive
What it is: Lighthouses, centuries-old fishing villages and a first-hand taste of Acadian history are yours as you drive along the eastern shoreline of New Brunswick from Charlo, near Dalhousie, south to Point de Bute, near Sackville.
Must get out of the car at: Chaleur Bay, for a dip in the warm saltwater. For directions: Just follow the scenic-drive symbols.
• Village Historique Acadien
What it is: This recreated historic village in Caraquet, N.B., chronicles Acadian culture as far back as the 1700s.
Must check out: The musical dinner theatre presented in the restored Hôtel Château Albert. For info: vhanb.ca
• La Table des Ancêtres
What it is: This popular eatery, located in the Village Historique Acadien in Caraquet, serves up traditional 18th- and 19th-century Acadian cooking: chicken fricot, poutine rapée, soupe aux pois, dried codfish and more.
Must try: Pets-de-soeur (cinnamon rolls). For info: vhanb.ca
What it is: This food and wine festival (held each May and June) pairs world wines with the cuisine and hospitality of the Acadian Peninsula.
Must check out: The closing night concert at Carrefour de la Mer in Caraquet
For info: festivin.ca
– Doug O’Neill
New Brunswick's food festivals
Throughout the summer, there are plenty of festivals dedicated to New Brunswick's glorious seafood in all its various forms. Other months feature a smattering of beer and wine festivals, as well as some that celebrate the province’s local speciality foods. Here are a few events worth checking out.
• Maple Sugar Festival, Riverview, N.B., March 31 and April 1
• Wine & Food Fest, Fredericton, N.B.
• Atlantic Beer Festival, Moncton, last Saturday in May
• Salmon Festival, Campbellton, N.B.
• Scallop Festival, Richibucto, N.B., July 16 to 22
• Shediac Lobster Festival, Shediac, NB.
• Oyster Festival, Maisonette, N.B.
• World Wine and Food Expo, Moncton,
– Rheanna Kish
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