Fall is that time of year when we want to feel warmth and comfort. Those crisp, cool autumn days make me think of comfort foods, savoury red wines and evenings spent under a blanket. It’s also a time when our farmers’ markets abound with a colourful palette of late season vegetables reflective of the stunning orange, yellow and red vistas found across Atlantic Canada this time of year.
While I rarely credit myself with my décor tips, making a harvest table look of the season is as easy as heading outdoors and picking brightly coloured leaves to adorn the table. Cutting short branches of red hued leaves, add them to a vase and you have a centerpiece.
With Thanksgiving past, harvest dinners can incorporate flavours beyond the turkey and its classic sides. Personally, this time of year makes me think of roasts that fill the kitchen with scents of the season. It also gives me cause to return to classic flavours, especially desserts. There is something unifying about our favourite traditional dessert recipes.
Whether it’s a classic Acadian sugar pie, blueberry grunt or a Newfoundland partridgeberry pie, we all have our opinions on who makes the best version of our regional favourites. Invariably we can all agree, no matter which dessert we choose, it is never as good as grandma made. In the introduction to her recently released Grandma’s Cookies, Cakes, Pies and Sweets (Formac Publishing) Nova Scotian poet turned cookbook author Alice Burdick says “recipes handed down through a family are a form of time travel –you can imagine a great-great-grandmother tasting the very same flavours.” While I doubt my recipes will leave in eternity, I hope they inspire you to gather around the table with family and friends and enjoy the bounty of the season.
Harvest inspired wines
Winemakers throughout the Northern Hemisphere have collected their harvest of grapes and are now in the process of transforming them into stunning wine styles. While we should always support local, the harvest table for me is a time to embrace savoury reds and textured white wines from near and far. Here are five wine styles that deserve a place at your next harvest dinner party.
Barbera D’Alba and Barbera D’Asti
Once thought of as green and weedy, canopy management and longer hang times of this Piedmontese (Northern Italy) wine style has resulted in wines that possess rich fruity notes without sacrificing food loving acidity. Michele Chiarlo Barbara d’Asti Le Orme (NLC, Limited Quantity, $17.99 / Bishop’s Cellar (Nova Scotia), $20.00/ PEILCC, $17.99)
The perfumed, lighter and more approachable relative of Cabernet Sauvignon. At worst they can taste vegetal, but at best deliver blackberry fruit tones with herbal notes and notably more approachable than their cousin (in reality Cabernet Franc is a parent grape to Cabernet Sauvignon). Best are from the central Loire appellations such as Saumur and Chinon but look also to Ontario.
Cave Spring Niagara Peninsula Cabernet Franc (NLC, $21.79 / PEILCC, $22.99) Langlois Saumur Cabernet Franc (The Port by the NSLC, $24.79)
Barrel Fermented Whites
While Chardonnay might seem to have a near monopoly on the barrel-fermented white wine style, nothing could be further from the truth. The depth and richness of flavour fermenting and aging and oak is utilized by winemakers for endless varieties. I particularly enjoy those that retain freshness such as premium Bordeaux whites and Rioja Blanco. The latter can produce wines with a stunning balance of oxidative oak influences on the nose and fresh flavours on the palate.
Bodegas Montecillo Rioja Blanco (NSLC, $18.99) Chateau Carbonnieux (NLC, $39.99) Note: This wine, noted as the definition of the premium Bordeaux Blanc style, is currently on sale at the NLC, thus in limited quantity.
Roast Pork with Apple, Honey Glaze
3 lb pork loin
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp grain mustard
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup apple juice
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp cider vinegar
Directions: Preheat your oven at 325°F. Combine the garlic, 2 tablespoons mustard, rosemary and olive oil. Rub mixture over the pork and season with salt and pepper generously. Roast in a pan for 1 hour. While the pork in roasting combine the apple juice, honey, cider vinegar and remaining mustard in a pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Pour glaze over pork and continue roasting for another 15 minutes. The final internal temperature should be about 155 F. Let rest for 15 minutes before slicing. Spoon pan juices over freshly sliced pork to provide more moisture.
Smoky Cranberry Sauce
Makes 3-4 cups
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
4 cups cranberries
1 tbsp paprika
Directions: Combine water and sugar in a pot. Bring to a boil. When the sugar dissolves add the cranberries and return to a boil. Reduce heat to lower and simmer until cranberries have popped. Finish with the paprika and stir. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Pan Roasted Cauliflower with Pine Nuts
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large head cauliflower, florets removed
Pinch black pepper
3 tbsp pine nuts
¾ tsp chili flakes
1 lemon, juice, zest
1/4 Parmesan, grated
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
Directions: Add olive oil to a large pan and set over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower and toss, seasoning with salt and pepper. Continue to sauté for 10 minutes. When the cauliflower is golden brown add the pine nuts and chili flakes. Sauté for 1 to 2 more minutes. Finish with lemon juice and zest and toss to combine. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with Parmesan and parsley. Don’t discard the cauliflower stem. Dice the stem and use it for making a vegetable stock.
Newfoundland Patridgeberry Pie Recipe
By Nancy Brace (originally featured in Occasions Magazine)
Serves 8 to 12
4 cups mixed partridgeberries
2 cups sugar (add more sugar if needed to adjust for sourness of berries)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons cold water
½ cup butter (or margarine), at cool to room temperature
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
Directions: Place berries and sugar in a pot and cook until slightly thickened and all sugar has dissolved (approximately 1 hour). Cream butter and sugar. Add in water slowly. Combine the flour and baking powder and then add this to the creamed mixture all at once. Mix until dough forms a ball. Do not overwork the dough. Press dough into 8-inch pie pan. Save a small amount of dough for the top lattice of pie. Combine the cold water and cornstarch until all the cornstarch has dissolved. Add this into the berries in the pot while stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and then turn off the heat. Fill the shell with the jam mixture and put the lattice in place. Bake in oven preheated to 350 F until the dough on top is golden, about half an hour.
Harvest Desserts: a taste of the past Mahone Bay
Nova Scotia resident and author Alice Burdick’s recently released Grandma’s Cookies, Cakes, Pies and Sweets (Formac Publishing) is a compilation of traditional Nova Scotian dessert recipes originally published in 1967 by the Department of Agriculture and Marketing.
Burdick, a noted local poet, updated and edited the recipes to reflect currently available ingredients and standardize the recipe formats, which, according to Burdick included such terminology as “an eggs worth of butter and tea cup’s worth of some other ingredient”, and to fill in gaps in directions.
More importantly Burdick created the book to tell stories. She says “you can look at recipes like poems. They can be discreetly satisfying as they describe the stages from beginning to end.” They also tell stories of people, places, and time evoking visions of life from years past through the lens of available ingredients and techniques.
Part of Burdick’s own inspiration was her family recipes, which she says were luckily preserved in a family cookbook they titled The Cooking of Joy, named after her Grandma Joy. The use of molasses a link to our seafaring trading history or the preponderance of apples reflecting Nova Scotia’s once national dominance in apple cultivation.
Cinnamon Apple Gingerbread Recipe
by Alice Burdick, Grandma’s Cookies, Cakes, Pies and Sweets (Formac Publishing)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar (first amount)
3 apples, peeled, cored and quartered
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar (second amount)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup molasses 1
cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/3 cup buttermilk
Directions: Preheat oven to 325 F (170 C). Butter a 10-inch by 6 1/2-inch (25-cm by 17-cm) baking dish and set aside. In a large pot, bring the water to a boil over high heat, and then add the first amount of sugar. Boil for 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the apples and cook until almost tender, around 5 minutes. Pour the apples and syrup into the baking dish and let cool. In a bowl, cream the butter and second amount of sugar together well, until soft and fluffy. Add the egg and molasses and beat well. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Gently stir the dry mixture into the butter and sugar mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, stirring as little as possible to make a smooth batter. Pour the batter over the cooked apples in the pan. Bake for 50 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Mark DeWolf is a connoisseur of all things food and drink. He's a creative director with SaltWire and local fare is his specialty. You can subscribe to his Follow a Foodie newsletter here.