Cross Canada Cooks: Northwest Territories
©iStockphoto.com/Ryerson Clark Credits: ©iStockphoto.com/Ryerson Clark
Cross Canada Cooks: Northwest Territories
Area: 1,346,106 sq km
Location: The Northwest Territories is bordered by the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Ocean to the north, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan to the south, and is sandwiched between the Yukon (on the west) and Nunavut (on the east).
Capital and Largest City: Yellowknife
History: Entered confederation on July 15, 1870
Main Industries: Mining, tourism, services
Birch Syrup: A unique taste of the North
There are many local and traditional foods of the Northwest Territories, but few are available unless you're willing to hunt or gather them yourself.
Small business partners Mike Mitchell, Craig Scott and Dwayne Wohlgemuth of Arctic Harvest are looking to change that.
Last spring, the three located a healthy stand of birch trees just outside Yellowknife. After receiving permission to work and harvest on traditional land from the Yellowknife Dene, they set to tapping about 350 of the trees. After a bustling April and May, they had bottled 45 gallons of birch syrup to sell under their Sapsucker label.
Birch syrup is currently taking the foodie world by storm. Darker in colour and with a more intense flavour than maple syrup, birch syrup can be used in many culinary applications. It works equally well as a standard pancake or waffle topper, as it does as a glaze for fish or game meats.
Birch syrup is more work-intensive to produce than maple syrup: Between 80 and 100 gallons of sap, is needed to produce one gallon of birch syrup, compared to the 40 litres of maple sap needed to make an equal amount of maple syrup.
There are four varieties of birch syrup available under the Sapsucker label -- early, late, mix and table. The early is the lightest and finest, made from the first sap of the season. Late is the strongest and darkest syrup, made with the last sap of the season. The mix is blended with maple syrup, while the table syrup is fortified with organic cane sugar.
Sapsucker Birch Syrup, as well as other Arctic Harvest products, are currently available at visitor centres in Yellowknife.
Page 1 of 5 -- Discover the many varieties of cold water fish avaliable in the Northwest Territories on page 2
Fish of the Northwest Territories
The cold, clear waters of the Northwest Territories offer some of the best sport fishing in Canada -- perhaps the world. Whether it's lake fishing, fly-fishing in rivers or fishing for Arctic cod in the sea, the Northwest Territories have it all. Here are a few of the best catches in the Northwest Territories.
Arctic Char -- This fish, a member of the salmon family, is found in rivers, lakes and along the coast of the northern part of the Northwest Territories. The flesh ranges in colour from a bright red to pale pink depending on season and the diet of the fish.
While its flavour is more delicate than that of salmon, Arctic char can be substituted for salmon in most recipes. Best ways to cook Arctic char include roasting, baking, grilling, poaching and steaming.
Arctic Grayling -- A relatively small but gorgeous fish, grayling is a member of the whitefish family. It's found in abundance at the mouths of cold Northern rivers. Sometimes called bluefish, its firm flesh is prized for eating. Best ways to cook grayling include roasting, baking, broiling and grilling.
Great Northern Pike -- Favoured among anglers, these feisty fish put up a good fight. They are found in most lakes and rivers of mainland Northwest Territories. Northern pike are best enjoyed fresh from the lake, deep-fried, pan-fried or baked, preferably over an open fire!
Lake Trout -- The largest of the trout family, lake trout are caught in Great Bear and Great Slave lakes, as well as in many of the smaller lakes on the mainland and the Arctic islands. The flesh varies from ivory to deep pink depending on the diet of the fish, but fresh lake trout is delicious regardless of the flesh colour. Enjoy this fish pan-fried, baked, grilled, broiled, poached, steamed or smoked.
Pickerel -- Also known as walleye, pickerel are plentiful in the many rivers, lakes and tributaries of the Northwest Territories. The flesh is lean and white and is best enjoyed fresh from the lake. Enjoy this fish deep-fried, pan-fried, baked, broiled or grilled.
Lake Whitefish -- A member of both the trout and salmon family, whitefish are found throughout the Northwest Territories. Their delicately flavoured white flesh is a treat to enjoy. Whitefish can be deep-fried, pan-fried, baked, poached or steamed.
Page 2 of 5 -- Discover the food festivals and farmers markets of the Northwest Territories on page 3
Food festivals and farmers markets
National Aboriginal Day
Community feasts and events are held all around the Northwest Territories to celebrate National Aboriginal Day.
Ulukhaktok, June 16 and 17
Celebrate the return of the kingalik (king eider duck) with traditional events, such as tea-boiling, duck-plucking, fish-filleting.
Other events include family outings to greet the ducks, square dancing, traditional events and contests, seal skinning, traditional dress, and outdoor events including feasts, bike races, relay races and a scavenger hunt.
Saturday Fisherman's Wharf Market
Hay River, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday, from mid-June to mid-September
The Vale Island market is open for business weekly all summer. There, you'll find varieties of fresh fish and locally made food for sale, as well as arts and crafts.
Bastille Day Celebration
Yellowknife, July 14 to 16
The annual Bastille Day celebration at Le Frolic Bistro features live entertainment, the famous petanque tournament, a fantastic buffet, wine tasting and a cooking competition. For more information, call 867-756-8320.
Inuvik Fall Fair
The Inuvik Fall Fair is held at the Community Greenhouse and features games for all ages, face-painting, a gardening competition, and barbecued treats.
Wood Buffalo Frolics/Muffaloose Days
Fort Smith, mid-March
The Frolics is a weekend event with a community feast, dance, games, a hockey tournament and dog sled races. Most popular is the cabane a sucre -- the sugar shack -- where maple syrup is poured over snow for a scrumptious winter treat. For more information, call 867-872-3065.
56th Annual Muskrat Jamboree
Inuvik, late March
This Friday-to-Monday festival features several skill contests, including snowshoe races, dog sledding, tea boiling, bannock-making and log sawing. Find out more by calling 867-777-3642.
Long John Jamboree
Formally known as the Caribou Carnival, the Long John Jamboree will be held in Old Town, Yellowknife.
Page 3 of 5 -- Find out how fresh produce is grown in the Northwest Territories on page 4
Community gardens and greenhouses
Fresh produce can be expensive and sometimes scarce in the North, especially when transport from growing regions far to the south is involved. That's why an increasing number of communities in the Northwest Territories have turned to growing their own.
Following an initiative that started in 2009, the number of community gardens in the Northwest Territories has grown to over 25. Gardens can now be found scattered all across the vast territory, from Yellowknife and Hay River all the way north to Inuvik.
Making the most of the strong and long-lasting (daylight lasts up to 18 hours) sunshine in the summer months, all manner of vegetables are grown in these gardens, from ripe, bursting tomatoes to tender lettuces and hearty root vegetables.
Northern ingenuity plays a big role in these gardens, as well as community spirit. It's not uncommon to see small greenhouses fashioned from leftover or discarded construction materials, and old windows. In Inuvik, the community came together to turn a decommissioned hockey arena into a greenhouse.
Most community gardeners donate up a portion of their harvest to local outreach, support groups or shelters.
At the end of the season many gardeners gather together to learn about canning to preserve the harvest and, of course, to share a feast. What better way to celebrate tilling and toiling under the midnight sun?
Profile: Northern Fancy Meats
Newfoundland-born Terry Greene arrived in Yellowknife in the late 1970s. Taking some time off from working in a butcher shop in Edmonton, he travelled north on advice from a friend. He never returned south.
Northern Fancy Meats has been in business in Yellowknife since the early 1970s and is a cornerstone of the community in terms of food and meat. Since being at the helm of the business, Terry has studied with sausage masters and expanded his own knowledge of butchery, thereby increasing the wealth of food knowledge in Yellowknife and the surrounding area. Orders are shipped all across the territory and even into Nunavut.
Page 4 of 5 -- Find out more about Northern Fancy Meats on page 5
Part of what makes Northern Fancy Meats a favourite spot for shoppers is its plethora of grill- or oven-ready meats. The store's old-school meat fridges are stocked with gorgeous marinated, ready-to-cook products, from chicken cordon bleu and seafood-stuffed chicken breast, to housemade burger patties and marinated steaks, to homemade sausages. One of the most popular items is the marinated ribs.
In addition to the meat to grill or roast, shoppers can also choose from a variety of amazing homemade jerky, Polish sausage, pepperettes and other deli-style meats.
Various game meats, such as bison and musk ox, and a vast selection of wild fish, including Arctic Char, are also available, and hunters appreciate the territorially inspected plant in the back of the shop, where hunters can bring (or ship), their catch to be inspected and cut to order.
Great-tasting merchandise aside, the real secret behind the success of Northern Fancy Meats is Terry's enthusiasm for what he does. His eyes light up when he speaks about the services he offers, the new equipment he has or his plans to increase the shop's services.
Fresh vegetables, berries and just-caught fish are all signs of summer in the Northwest Territories and across Canada. Celebrate the harvest and the catch with this delicious menu for four. No pickerel? No problem. Substitute any freshwater fish of equal size, such as trout, whitefish, bass or pike. If you have them on hand, thinly sliced zucchini, sweet peppers and onions make delicious additions to the bean and potato packets.
Bean and Potato Packet
What better way to maximize your grill time (and skip doing extra dishes) than to cook a vegetable side dish while grilling the main course?
Pickerel with Cherry Tomato Relish
For a delicious treat, grill a whole pickerel and serve it with a colourful, lively summer relish. Salt and pepper are all that are needed to season this sweet-fleshed fish.
Blueberry Cinnamon Coffee Cake
Serve this cake to your sweetheart for a special breakfast. Or make individual Bundt cakes and tuck into lunch boxes for a treat. The cake can be wrapped and refrigerated for up to one week.
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