Cross Canada Cooks: Newfoundland and Labrador
By Rheanna Kish
Recipes by The Canadian Living Test Kitchen
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Celebrating the rich culinary heritage that Newfoundland and Labrador has to offer.
Area: 405,212 square kilometres
Location: The easternmost province in Canada is made up of Newfoundland, an island, and Labrador, which is part of the mainland. Newfoundland is at the mouth of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with the Atlantic Ocean on its northern, eastern and southern shores. Labrador is on the eastern tip of Canada with Quebec bordering it on the west and south. Newfoundland and Labrador are separated by the Strait of Belle Isle.
Capital and Largest City: St. John's
History: Newfoundland and Labrador is Canada's youngest province; it entered confederation on March 31, 1949.
Main industries: Energy, fishing, mining, forestry
The province of Newfoundland and Labrador teems with culinary traditions from the sea and the land. Celebrate Newfoundland in style with this casual yet elegant dinner party menu for eight that uses some of the best of what the province has to offer.
Profile: Rodrigues Winery
When the historic cottage hospital in Markland, N.L., closed, Dr. Hilary Rodrigues and his wife saw an opportunity.
They purchased the building, and did extreme renovations and, within five years, they were producing natural, sulphite-free blueberry wine made with traditional methods. The small batch of wine from their first attempt sold out within a week, and the family knew they were onto something good.
The company has since expanded; now it's capable of producing over 25,000 cases throughout the year.
The range of products has grown over the years to include a number of fruit wines -- cranberry, raspberry, black currant and strawberry, to name a few -- and a line of liqueurs, schnapps, brandies and vodka, all made using top-quality ingredients and state-of-the-art processing.
The winery was certified kosher in 1998, making it one of only three kosher wineries in Canada. It's open for tours and purchases year round; select wines are sold across Newfoundland and by some retailers in New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta.
And, as though wine-making wasn't enough, Rodrigues and his team have embarked on a new venture, Sedna Nutra. Sparked by worldwide research into the health benefits of berries, Sedna Nutra was created to address the growing market for nutraceuticals and natural food ingredients.
Using only locally grown, organic berries, Sedna Nutra produces a line of berry powder and berry-based energy bars and is soon expanding to carry juices and other berry-based natural food products. Look for these products in natural food stores across Canada.
Did you know?
While many of the fisheries across Newfoundland and Labrador are large-scale companies, the people of Fogo Island decided many years ago to take the state of the local fisheries into their own hands, forming the Fogo Island Co-operative Society in 1967.
The co-operative focused on building better and larger boats so the fishers could get farther out to sea to expand their catch, and it invested in processing plants. Now, 45 years later, the co-operative continues to thrive, supporting the local community of fishers and other fish-industry workers.
The fishers' diversified catch includes cod, caplin, herring, mackerel, crab, shrimp, turbot and sea cucumber, which they supply to local, national and international markets.
Newfoundland food lingo
Newfoundland English is rich with food terms that aren't found in any other dialects across the country. Newfoundland English dates back to about the 17th century; it originated with settlers from Europe.
The isolation of the island allowed the words (and accents) to remain strong and become a language unto itself. We looked to the Dictionary of Newfoundland English for definitions to some foodie words. These are just a few.
A cake or dessert bread made with flour, fat and molasses. It sometimes contains salt pork, raisins and spices.
Similar to the Newfoundland English phrase "mug up," but more often signifying a break from work on land or at sea with a cup of tea. There may or may not be a snack served.
Duff (or figgy duff)
A pudding, or dessert, made of flour and water boiled in a cloth bag. Suet and raisins can be added.
Only cod is referred to as fish; the rest are called by their proper names.
Fish and brewis
Salt cod, cooked with hard tack, a hard piece of bread or biscuit that is soaked until tender. Some folks like their fish and brewis with a drizzle of lassy.
A boiled dinner of salt beef, potatoes and other root vegetables.
A term meaning molasses or to spread with molasses. Lassy mogs are a favoured molasses cookie in Newfoundland.
A break from work with a cup or mug of tea. It can also refer to a snack between meals.
A boiled pudding of split green or yellow peas. Often a part of a special dinner or Jigg's dinner.
A meal or feast that's usually eaten at night.
Fatback pork cut into small pieces. They're often fried and served as a garnish for fish and brewis or other meals.
A home-brewed wine or drink made from crushed wild berries.
There are many spelling and name variations for this treat, such as damper dogs or damper devils. They are deep-fried or pan-fried bits of fresh bread dough. They can be enjoyed slathered with butter and molasses or served with scrunchins.
Island-style food storage
It's safe to say our ancestors knew a thing or two about storing food. Long before the days of refrigerators, freezers and supermarkets, there were root cellars -- holes dug into the sides of hills or into the ground that maintained an ideal environment to store food through cold winters and hot summers.
Newfoundland has a rich history of using root cellars, with some still existing on the island dating back nearly two centuries.
The reason a root cellar works is its perfect balance of temperature and humidity: It keeps the vegetables cool but frost-free during the winter months. In addition to storing vegetables, root cellars are also ideal places to store salted fish and meat, and preserves.
The town of Elliston, N.L., proudly claims to be the root cellar capital of the world. This old fishing village, with a population of about 300, boasts more than 130 documented root cellars.
The annual Roots, Rants and Roars Fall Festival gives the community a chance to celebrate its rich root cellar history with fresh-from-the-cellar food and great music.
In a time when food security, food safety and food storage constantly come into question, the root cellars of the past and other traditional means of preserving foods are always worth a second look.
Thoughts of farmer's markets often conjure up images of open-air stalls featuring a variety of vendors. However, farmer's markets tend to be a little different on the island.
While St. John's and Corner Brook, N.L., are home to weekly multi-vendor affairs, what you are most likely to find across the province are smaller single-farm stands in outlying rural communities.
These shops and markets feature the produce, meat, home-baked goodies and other local treats of either a single farm or a few farms from the surrounding area.
In addition, there are many roadside stands selling produce, meat, eggs and crafts. If travelling the roads of Newfoundland and Labrador, pull over when you see these stands or shops: You're likely to walk away with something delicious.
To get you started, here are a few of the popular markets across the province.
St. John's Farmers' Market -- St. John's, N.L.
Open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Saturday from June to December
Lester's Farm Market -- St. John's, N.L.
Open daily from May to December
West Coast Farmers Market -- Corner Brook, N.L.
Open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Saturday from July to October
Growdat Farms Inc. -- south of Heart's Content, N.L.
Open from late May to October
The Organic Farm -- Portugal Cove -- St. Phillip's, N.L.
Open Saturdays and Sundays, from June to November
Newfoundland and Labrador food festivals
Celebrating with good food is part of everyday life in Newfoundland and Labrador. From rollicking kitchen parties to hearty community suppers, there is a festival on the Rock or in Labrador for just about anything.
Here's a short list of a few festivals that take place throughout the summer and early fall. For more information about these and other festivals, check out the provincial tourism site.
Robinsons Great Crab Boil -- Robinsons, N.L.
Cow Head Lobster Festival -- Cow Head, N.L.
Exploits Valley Salmon Festival -- Grand-Falls Windsor, N.L.
La Scie Crab Festival -- La Scie, N.L.
Rhubarb Festival -- Hopedale, N.L.
St. George's Blueberry Festival -- St. George's, N.L.
Deer Lake Strawberry Festival -- Deer Lake, N.L.
Makkovik Trout Festival -- Makkovik, N.L.
Charlottetown Shrimp Festival -- Charlottetown, N.L.
Mary's Harbour Crab Festival -- Mary's Harbour, N.L.
Garnish Bakeapple Festival -- Garnish, N.L.
Roots, Rants and Roars Fall Festival -- Elliston, N.L.
Fogo Island Partridgeberry Harvest Festival -- Joe Batt's Arm, N.L.
The great St. John's restaurant boom
As in many great cities in Canada, the restaurant scene in St. John's, N.L., is really finding its legs. An eclectic mix of casual and upscale restaurants (and a handful of tried-and-true favourites) has burst onto the scene, making St. John's an exciting place to dine out.
Many chefs have returned to the city from training abroad and are proud to feature local dishes and ingredients in inspired ways. Here are some of our top picks.
Aqua -- Its slogan "by the sea, down to earth" truly sums up this restaurant. Aqua's casual setting combined with its exciting takes on classic dishes and innovative chef's specialties make this spot memorable.
Bacalao -- Offering unique takes on traditional Newfoundland favourites, Bacalao stands apart from other restaurants with its cultural pride and use of local ingredients. Don't miss its appetizer version of Jigg's dinner.
Bianca's -- A trusted favourite of the St. John's dining scene, Bianca's continues to delight diners.
Chinched Bistro -- A seasonally changing menu, many small plates to sample (including amazing house-made charcuterie and desserts), fresh local produce and delightful signature cocktails make Chinched a must-try in the city.
Raymonds -- Inspired by rustic and authentic Atlantic Canadian food, Raymonds takes diners on a culinary journey with each dish. Ingredients are sourced from local purveyors. The food and the setting rival any other high-end dining experience in the country.
The sweet taste of Newfoundland
It's hard to miss the sweetest thing in St. John's, N.L. It's the caramel-coloured three-story building on Duckworth Street with chocolate melting from its window ledges and eaves: the home of The Newfoundland Chocolate Company.
Step inside and the scent of chocolate nearly knocks you off your feet. And somewhere in the labyrinth of rooms, co-owner Brent Smith is beaming.
The shop began as a hobby Brent did in his basement and over the years has expanded dramatically to this new storefront and chocolate workshop. The reason for the company's success is obvious: handmade chocolates using the finest, purest ingredients.
There's no high-tech machinery here. Each and every chocolate is crafted (even packaged) by hand, so no two are exactly alike. Each boxed chocolate series is named after an inspiring location or part of Newfoundland's rich history, such as Quiet Cove, Explorer or Lighthouse.
Each chocolate within the series is named for a historical place or figure. The chocolates offer harmonious blends of white, milk and dark chocolate, and contain a dazzling array of roasted nuts and Newfoundland wild berries.
In addition to the fantastic boxed series, The Newfoundland Chocolate Company produces blended chocolate bars, single origin bars, divine truffles and many seasonal options.
The chocolates are available directly from the shop and at many locations across the province and the Maritimes. It's just another good reason to celebrate living on the rock -- or to visit!
Newfoundland beers and spirits
With its history of importing Jamaican rum and its cool, pure iceberg runoff, this province is home to some award-winning and internationally acclaimed beers and spirits. Here are a few to check out.
Iceberg -- Iceberg vodka is made from the waters of 12,000-year-old icebergs. In addition, the distillery produces gin, as well as silver and gold rums. Products are available across the country.
Crystal Head Vodka -- A side venture for Canadian funnyman Dan Aykroyd, Crystal Head vodka is distilled in St. John's, N.L., using iceberg water. It's packaged in a unique glass bottle that's shaped like a head -- and that definitely turns heads. This vodka is available across the country.
Newfoundland Screech -- Getting screeched-in is a Newfoundland tradition. This full-flavoured rum is available across the country.
Quidi Vidi Brewing -- Located in the heart of St. John's, N.L., in the historic fishing village of Quidi Vidi, this brewery, which has been in operation since 1996, produces six different beers, including a signature brew, Iceberg Beer. Quidi Vidi beers are available across Newfoundland.
Storm Brewing -- This craft brewery, located in Mount Pearl, N.L., makes four different brews, from a pale golden ale to a dark coffee porter. No pasteurization or additives mean clean-tasting, fresh beer every time. You'll find Storm beers at select retailers and pubs across Newfoundland.