“There is no one more Canadian than a Canadian who no longer lives in Canada.”
I stole that quote. From a woman called Marie Porter. Marie is the author of a new recipe book called More Than Poutine. Favorite Foods from My Home and Native Land and, as you can probably guess, Marie Porter’s home and native land just happens to be Don Day’s home and native land.
I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re surprised but, yes, Canada does have a national cuisine. And, no, I wouldn’t dare to compare Canadian food with that of China, France, Mexico or Italy or, OK, almost any other country’s cuisines. But, if your tastebuds were tuned in the land of trees and rocks and lakes and rocks and trees, you can’t help but miss it when it’s gone. And, like Marie Porter’s book title suggests, there’s a lot more than poutine.
Marie provides us with about a hundred different recipes. Some, like lunar vapour ice cream, schmoo torte, and molasses coady, even an old foodie like Don Day has never heard of. Others like tourtière, Montreal style bagels, peameal bacon and donairs I have spent many Mexican months craving. But not any more. With Marie Porter’s recipes and a very talented wife, I see a lot more things Canadian in my Mexican future.
The grandkids are coming! The grandkids are coming!
Nine hungry people (some grandkids chose to bring a parent or two) invaded San Miguel de Allende this week. And those bundles of energy have slightly different…no make that significantly different…tastebuds than their grandparents. There’s one Canadian dish though that satisfies both old and new cravings. And should bring joy to almost anyone in the world, even if they don’t know the difference between the RCMP and the LCBO. I emailed Marie Porter to see if I could share her recipe for the treat and Marie said yes.
That treasured dish is maple walnut ice cream. If you’re from the United States, especially if you’re from the East, you’ve almost undoubtedly had it. It’s one of the 28 flavors you would find under those famous orange roofs (or are they rooves?). In fact, in an article I found in a 1948 issue of Life magazine, maple walnut was the sixth most popular flavor of HoJo’s 28.
If HoJo’s was still with us (I do miss their clam strips), I’d be surprised to see maple walnut on the list. For maple walnut, if made without cheating, has become one of the world’s most expensive flavors to create. In fact, what may be Canada’s largest ever heist didn’t involve an armored car, there wasn’t a bank, simply a warehouse with $18 million worth of maple syrup.
Up until about ten years ago, Canadians used to smuggle maple syrup into Mexico in their luggage, next to their chunky peanut butter.
These days in San Miguel de Allende maple syrup is easy to find but not easy to afford. I buy ours in plastic made to look like ceramic jugs at Supermercado La Comer where it’s 350 pesos a half-litre, the same price as…ouch…about two litres of Scotch.
Here’s Marie Porter’s recipe on how to take that syrup, mix it with another fairly expensive ingredient (94 pesos a bag at San Miguel’s Bonanza Supermercado), and end up with something that’s almost the perfect combination of cool, cream and crunch. To read what the grandkids thought of the batch that Grammie made, you’ll have to read to the end.
MAPLE WALNUT ICE CREAM. From More Than Poutine. Favorite Foods from My Home and Native Land.
Walnut pieces 1 1/4 cups 300 mL
Maple syrup 1 cup 250 mL
Heavy whipping cream 2 cups 500 mL
Milk 1 cup 250 mL
Large egg yolks 6 6 mL
Salt 1/2 teaspoon 2mL
In a dry nonstick saucepan, toast walnuts over medium heat until golden and fragrant. Allow to cool, chop. Set aside. (Note from Don Day: I have seen maple walnut ice cream recipes that use raw walnuts. This is a sin to nut aficionados. As in Marie’s recipe, the nuts must be toasted. This is, however not quite as easy as it sounds for the difference between golden and gone (as in burnt) is only a few seconds. Place them in a dry skillet at medium heat and stir constantly…yes, constantly…for about five minutes. As soon as you see the brain-shaped beauties start to turn golden and the aroma hits your olfactory cells, take them off the heat and pour them onto a cold plate. Make a bold attempt to resist the temptation to set a few aside, sprinkle with salt and eat immediately.)
In a large saucepan, boil maple syrup over medium heat – stirring frequently – for eight minutes. Add chopped walnuts, heavy cream, and milk; whisk well to combine. Bring mixture to a simmer, stirring well, and remove from heat. Allow to sit for one hour. (Note from Don Day’s Wife, aka Grammie: I find that many ice cream makers, including mine, don’t handle chunks very well so I found the recipe worked better by straining the walnuts out of the mixture and then adding them separately to the ice cream maker for the last couple of minutes of churning and freezing.)
In a large bowl, beat egg yolks and salt together until fluffy. Add to cooled maple mixture, whisking until smooth and combined – you don’t want any unblended chunks of egg mixture.
Cook mixture over medium high; heat just to the boiling point, whisking constantly. As the mixture begins to boil, remove from heat.
Transfer mixture to heat safe bowl. Allow to cool to room temperature before (Note from Don Day’s Wife: allowing grandchild to lick the spatula.) covering and transferring to the fridge. Chill overnight.
Prepare ice cream according to your ice cream maker’s instructions – depending on the size of your ice cream maker, you may need to do this in batches.
Transfer ice cream to an appropriate container. Cover and freeze for at least a few hours, to firm up.
And how good was Marie Porter’s maple walnut ice cream recipe?
I’ll leave that to nine-year-old grandson, Anderson, our gourmet-in-training: “This is the very best ice cream, Grammie, the very best ever.”
I was fortunate to get my hands on an advance copy of More Than Poutine. The official release date for the book is October 2. Orders are, however, already being accepted at http://www.celebrationgeneration.com/blog/shop/.