I had no idea, when I emailed Jennifer with the idea to have a Canada Day food blog event, that it would turn into such a popular event! I am so pleased that so many people are so passionate about the taste of their Canada. I am very much looking forward to seeing what Canada tastes like to everyone! Happy Canada Day all.
My Canada is the True North Strong and Free. It is the wild rice fields of the Northern lakes. It is the call of the loon on a summer night that never ends because the sun never goes down. It is the smell of a birch bark canoe and the cold and quiet early morning water it glides through.
It is water snakes, crayfish, wild blueberries and tiny wild strawberries. It is the feel of soft moss under my bare feet. The chatter of a squirrel. It is the smell of the smoke-tanned deer skin, decorated with beads. It is the fresh water smell of a just-caught fish and sand between my toes. It is the crackle of a campfire.
When I was small, we lived in the far North of Canada. First in the North West Territories, then in Lac LaRonge. My mum and dad taught school all over the North, both before and after my sister and I were born. After so many years living in the North, sometimes as one of the few non-aboriginal families in whatever place they were in, my mother and father learned what Canada meant to the first people.
When I was not even a year old we moved to Lac LaRonge so my parents could live their dream of running a fly-in fishing camp. My dad and Isaac, the camp guide, would take the men out fishing all day and my mum and the girls, Isaac's daughters, got up early and made bread and breakfast for the men.
My sister and I ran around the island, fell off the dock, almost drowned, got bit by Junebugs the size of small dogs, made forts out of sticks and moss and climbed trees. We ate berries straight off the bushes, still warm from the sunshine. We ate the bear and caribou and deer meat that our father hunted in winter. We learned to peel birch bark and make it into baskets. We learned to love the land and the water and the sky. The greatest gift my mum and dad gave to me and my sister was the gift of the true Canada. The Canada that the first people knew and still know. The Canada that feeds them with its gifts of berries and deer and fish. The Canada that feeds us all whether we realise it or not.
After my dad died and mum had to sell the fishing camp, she moved us down to Saskatoon to be closer to her family. It was hard for her so far up north with two small children on her own. It was equally hard for her to leave the North behind.
We never really did leave the North. Mum bought a cottage on Lac LaRonge, and we spent every summer of my childhood there. We'd collect wild blueberries, cranberries and goose berries. Mum would make pancakes and put our hand fulls of blueberries in. We'd make traditional Cree bannock over the campfire - the bread rich with a smoky taste of wood, lavished with butter and fresh berry jam. We'd eat fresh caught perch or trout, filleted and dusted lightly with pancake mix before being pan-fried. Some nights mum would send us out with foil-wrapped apples, cored and stuffed with brown sugar, to put in the glowing coals of the evening's fire.
My Canada tastes like smoky bannock, pan-fried perch, clear lake water, and berries, warm from the sun.
My Canada also tastes like my Ukrainian and Mennonite Grandmas' jams and pickles. Life on the prairies was hard, and cold. Settlers survived by canning and pickling and preserving food for the winter in any way that they could. Both Grandmas had enormous gardens and both canned and pickled furiously all summer, just like all the other prairie grandmas.
My Canada tastes like bannock and wild blueberry jam
For the Bannock:
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
- 1 cup water
Sift together dry ingredients and cut in butter the same as you would for pastry or baking powder biscuits. When mixture resembles crumbs, add in enough water to make a dough heavier than drop scones or biscuits, but lighter than rolled scones or biscuits. The dough should not be overly sticky. Separate dough into 2 balls. pat each ball out into an oval shape, about a half centimetre thick and drape each oval over the clean end of a long birch branch thick enough to support the weight of the dough. Cook the dough in a campfire by holding it near the glowing coals until the dough is puffy and cooked. If you're lazy, of if it looks like your dough might fall off the stick, you can lay it on top of a grill, or fashion a grid out of smaller birch branches, woven together.
Eat the bannock hot with butter and blueberry jam.
For the wild blueberry jam:
- 1 + 1/4 cups wild blueberries
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 + 3/4 cups sugar
- 1/ 2 envelope liquid pectin
Pick over fruit, removing any stems and leaves.
Put into a large heavy pot. Add lemon juice and sugar. Mix well. Heat over high, stirring, and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat; stir in pectin at once. Skim off foam, stir and skim off foam again.
Ladle into hot, sterilized jars and seal. This jam will keep for a month or so if finished like this. If you want the jam to keep for a longer time, I recommend you process the jam in the jars for at least ten minutes.
HAPPY CANADA DAY!