Rustico Sheep Farm Produces Cheese and Yogurt

On PEI, there are a number of small-scale farmers who are producing artisan-quality food products. Produced on small-scale, it allows the producer to focus on quality and on producing products, or varieties of products, that larger-scale producers might not. I recently paid a visit to the Ferme Isle Saint-Jean in Rustico PEI.

Snack Time at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI
Snack Time at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI

Owned and operated by Deirdre and Gabriel Mercier, the new farmers bravely forged ahead in 2015 with dreams of becoming cheesemakers using sheep’s milk. When Deirdre’s family home and small hobby farm became available for sale, the couple decided the time was right to pursue their entrepreneurship dreams in Deirdre’s home community of Rustico. Gabriel attends to the day-to-day farm operations and the yogurt and cheese making while Deirdre looks after the farm’s bookkeeping.

Isle Saint-Jean Sheep Farm in Rustico, PEI
Ferme Isle Saint-Jean in Rustico, PEI

Currently, the Merciers are milking 104 sheep that produce, on average, between 1 – 1½ litres of milk each a day.  They have two breeds of sheep. The first, East Friesian dairy sheep, originate in northern Germany and are, according to Gabriel, the highest milk-producing sheep. The second breed, the Lacaune, are a dairying sheep breed originating in southern France. The Lacaunes produce less milk than the East Friesians but their milk has a higher fat and protein content.

Sheep Herd
Sheep at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean in Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy of Isle Saint-Jean Farm)

The farm’s new milking parlour allows for 24 sheep to be milked at once.

Sheep Milk Dairy Milking Parlour
Milking the Sheep at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean Sheep in Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy Ferm Isle Saint-Jean)

Gabriel is new to a career in farming having spent nearly 10 years in military service. He spent time on a work term on a farm in Quebec followed by a month working in a cheese plant – Nouvelle France Fromagerie – and has taken a course in cheesemaking in Quebec.

Currently, the farm is producing yogurt and cheese by transporting the milk to a cheese factory in Mont Carmel, PEI, where Gabriel goes to make the products. Some cheese is made in a facility in New Brunswick that has an aging room for the cheese, some of which takes time to ripen. In addition, the farm also has lamb sausages available which are made for them by Island Taylored Meats.

Cheese and Yogurt Produced by Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy of Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)
Cheese and Yogurt Produced by Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy of Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)

When asked what the biggest challenges are to sheep farming in PEI, Gabriel says operating costs, labour involved, and the long days and 24/7 commitment as the sheep are milked twice a day during lactation for the first 90 days after giving birth then once a day afterwards.

Baby Lambs at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)
Baby Lambs at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)

Particularly during lambing seasons, the days can be very long as the lambs start arriving in February when it is cold on PEI and so attention is required to ensure they quickly get their first drink and are kept warm.

Young Lambs at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)
Young Lambs at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)

I love the sentiment captured in the photo below of a mama with her baby lamb!

Mama Poses with her Baby Lamb at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean in Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)
Mama Poses with her Baby Lamb at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean in Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)

Despite the work and commitment, the Merciers find great satisfaction in sheep farming.  Gabriel says he has a passion for cheesemaking and enjoys taking a raw product and converting it into something else like yogurt and cheese. The other bonus is he gets to see more of his young family than he would if he worked off the farm.

The three cheeses presently made from the farm’s sheep milk are Alexis Doiron, Blue d’acadie, and Patrick Mercier.  The Alexis Doiron, a firm cheese that is not ripened or aged, is made by Gabriel at the plant in Mont Carmel. Gabriel classes this as a table cheese that he particularly likes grated on eggs.  He says this cheese is grillable and is very good barbequed because it doesn’t actually melt.  He also suggests it can be grated on pizza as well.

Grillable Alexis Doiron Cheese from Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI (Photo Courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)
Grillable Alexis Doiron Cheese from Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI (Photo Courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)

The Blue d’acadie is made in a federally-inspected plant with an aging room in New Brunswick.  It is a semi-firm ripened blue cheese that is suberb on burgers or steak, used in a sauce, or as an addition to a cheese tray.

The newest cheese, Patrick Mercier, is made with unpasteurized sheep’s milk and aged at least four months at the same plant in New Brunswick where the Blue d’acadie is made.

Gabriel produces 200 – 500ml jars of yogurt each week. This yogurt is 100% sheep’s milk plus culture and is available unflavored.  Add some pure maple syrup and toss some granola on top for a special treat or top it on your favorite cereal along with some fresh fruit.

Sheep Yogurt with Blueberries on top of Cereal (Photo courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)
Sheep Yogurt with Blueberries on top of Cereal (Photo courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)

What about all the wool on those sheep?  The sheep are sheered once a year, in November, which allows them to grow back a wool coat before the really cold weather strikes PEI.  The wool is transported to MacAusland’s Woolen Mills in Bloomfield, PEI, where it is turned into yarn and woven into blankets.

Sheep Shearing at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean in Rustico, PEI
Sheep Shearing at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean in Rustico, PEI (Photo Courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)

This past summer, the Merciers opened a retail shop on the farm where the cheeses, yogurt, and lamb sausages can be purchased at source and where customers can enjoy some samples of the yogurt and cheeses.  During the winter months, the shop is open by appointment only.

Gabriel Mercier in his Retail Shop at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI
Gabriel Mercier in his Retail Shop at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI

The farm’s products are currently available in several locations including Riverview Country Market, Kent Street Market, Brighton Clover Farm (all in Charlottetown), as well as at the Charlottetown Farmers Market , the Farmed Market and Craft Butchery and the Summerside Farmers Market, both in Summerside, and Gallant’s Country Market in Rustico. Several Island restaurants, including those in the Rustico area, are serving yogurt and cheeses from the farm as part of their menus.

A visit to Ferme Isle Saint-Jean in Rustico, PEI. Sheep dairy farm produces sheep cheese and yogurt.
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Homemade Beef Stock Recipe and Tips (or is it Beef Broth?)

Beef Stock/Broth
Homemade Beef Stock/Broth

Beef stock and beef broth are terms often used interchangeably. However, there is actually a difference between the two.  True beef stock is made principally with bones and water and little to no seasoning.  It typically simmers for hours on the stove. Beef stock is nutrient dense, protein rich, and a good source of minerals and gelatin. Traditional beef broth, on the other hand, is usually made mainly with meat (though some bones may be included) and it often has additional flavorings (from vegetables, herbs, and spices) added to it. Beef broth typically simmers for less time than a true beef stock and is, therefore, a lighter product.

It seems the theory is that stock, made from the bones, is more pure and versatile than broth.  This is because the unseasoned stock can be used in more dishes in which seasoning can then be added, unique to each dish as it is made.  I actually like the soup, sauce, or casserole base (i.e., the stock/broth) to already have some seasoning in it to start with and I don’t experience any issues with my already-seasoned stock/broth in any recipe I am making.  I like the extra flavour boost the seasoned stock/broth gives to dishes. So, regardless what it is technically called, what follows is my recipe for beef stock/broth (or a combination or modification thereof).  Plan to make this on a day when you will be home for the day as this stock/broth will take 6-8 hours to simmer slowly.

Beef Stock/Broth
Beef Stock/Broth

A good stock/broth is a handy staple to have on hand in the cook’s kitchen (or freezer).  Of course, if it is made as a broth with some seasonings, it can be used as a drink and is particularly useful in situations where one must follow a clear liquid diet. But, the stock/broth can be used as the base for soups, sauces, braised dishes, and gravies and it can also be used when called for in a host of recipes and other dishes. With a homemade stock/broth, you know what is in it, there are no preservatives, and the amount of salt can be controlled.  I find that a lot of commercially-made stocks and broths are way too salty for my taste.

So, about 5 pounds of meaty bones with marrow from the local butcher will be needed for my recipe. By “meaty bones”, I am referring to bones that still have some meat on them. In fact, I like to include a couple of bones that have a substantial amount of meat on them as this, in my opinion, deepens the flavour of the stock/broth. Marrow is the fatty gelatin-like matter found in the cavity of large bones.  If you tell your butcher you are making stock/broth, he or she will know what product you are looking for – i.e., beef bones with marrow – ribs, shanks, knuckle bones, and so forth. I call my butcher a couple of days in advance to ensure that the butcher shop will have the right product and amount set aside for me and I always ask that the meaty bones be cut into 2” – 3” thick chunks so they are easier to handle in both the roasting and simmering processes. The photo below shows a sampling of the bones/meat I typically use in my stock/broth.

Beef Bones for Stock/Broth
Beef Bones for Stock/Broth

I like lots of deep flavor and color in my beef stock/broth. One way to get this is to roast the meaty bones.  The roasting process will caramelize the meaty bones and this will yield a rich brown-colored stock/broth.  Roast the bones at a high temperature (450°F) for about 30 minutes then brush some tomato paste over them and return them to the oven to roast for about 30 minutes longer.

Because I like lots of flavour in my stock/broth, I add some aromatic and flavourful vegetables – carrots, leek, parsnips, onion, celery, mushrooms, and a hefty dose of garlic. There is no need to peel the vegetables (except for the rutabaga that often has a wax coating).  Just make sure they are very well washed.  You want all the flavour and colour you can get from the vegetables, some of which is contained in the skins/peelings which will later be discarded anyway once the stock/broth is cooked and strained.

Celery is a big flavour agent in this stock/broth and that’s why, in addition to the three stalks of celery called for in the recipe, the celery leaves and the base of the three stalks are used to intensify the flavour. Any kind of mushrooms can be used in the stock/broth. Portobellos would be my first choice because of their earthy flavour and deep colour which will contribute to the colour of the stock/broth. I have, however, made great stock with the simple white button mushrooms which, of course, are more economical than Portobellos. Toss the vegetables with olive oil and add them to the roaster during the last 30 minutes of the roasting bones. It’s important to ensure these don’t burn or char so keep an eye on them and turn the veggies, if necessary, as they roast.

Once the bones and veggies are roasted, transfer them to a large stock pot. Don’t discard all those lovely brown bits and scrapings left in the roasting pan!  Simply add a small amount of water to the pan (or you can use a bit of red wine, if you wish), place the roaster over medium heat, and scrape those bits up and transfer them to the stockpot, too.  There is a lot of valuable flavour in those scrapings, too good to lose.

Fresh herbs can, of course, be used in this recipe but I have given amounts for dried herbs because we don’t all have access to quality fresh herbs year-round.  Even though this stock will be strained, I still like to gather up all the herbs and spices into a bouquet garni because it corrals them and keeps the stock cleaner.  To make the bouquet garni, cut an 8” square of double layer of cheesecloth, place the herbs and spices in the center, gather up the cheesecloth, and tie it with string.  Add this lovely aromatic sachet to the stock pot.  As the stock/broth simmers, it will be infused by the herbs and spices. Add the cold water, vinegar, bay leaves, and sea salt.  The vinegar will draw the gelatin, nutrients, and minerals from the bones through the slow simmering process.  Because only a small amount of vinegar is used, it will not leave a negative taste to the stock/broth.

Beef Stock/Broth
Beef Stock/Broth

Bring the ingredients almost, but not quite, to the boiling point over medium-high heat.  It’s critical that this stock NEVER boil – that will make it cloudy and the look you’re aiming for is a translucent liquid. Reduce the heat to a low simmer.  The temperature of the liquid should reach and stay around the 200°F point. A candy thermometer is useful to verify the heat from time to time as the stock/broth simmers. If the temperature of the liquid dips below 200°F, simply increase the heat just a bit to bring the temperature back up to the simmering point. If it exceeds 200°F, drop the heat back. It’s okay if you see tiny bubbles forming but they should not break the surface of the liquid. The other tip to a translucent stock/broth is not to stir it as it is simmering. This will stir everything up and can cause clouding to occur, resulting in a murky stock/broth. While a cloudy broth will not affect its flavour, a translucent broth is more eye appealing.

As the mixture is simmering, you will notice some fat from the bones rising to the surface. Periodically take a large spoon and skim this fat away and discard it.  Don’t cover the stockpot while the stock/broth is simmering as it is more difficult to keep the liquid at the simmering point if it is covered. Also, some reduction of the liquid is required in order to achieve desired flavour. If you find that too much of the stock/broth is evaporating too quickly, reduce the heat and add a bit more cold water to ensure all the ingredients are submerged in the liquid. However, be cautious about adding too much water as it will dilute the flavour of the stock/broth.

Beef Stock/Broth
Beef Stock/Broth

Once the stock/broth has simmered for 6-8 hours, remove it from the heat and strain it.  To do this, line a large colander with a double layer of damp cheesecloth. Place the colander over a clean stock pot and pour the stock/broth into the colander.  Discard the bones, vegetables, and bouquet garni.  Place the stockpot containing the strained stock/broth in a large sink filled with ice water to cool it quickly.  Skim off any further solidified fat as the stock/broth cools. If you are super particular about having a totally clear stock/broth, free of all impurities, I recommend straining it twice through a colander lined with damp cheesecloth. The stock/broth in the photos in this posting were strained once. Some tiny impurities are visible. They don’t bother me but a second straining of the stock/broth would remove them. Place the strained stock in the refrigerator to chill completely then remove any remaining solidified fat.  For more intense flavored stock/broth, it can be placed back on the stove at medium-low heat and reduced to one-half, yielding a stronger, more concentrated flavour but there will obviously be less quantity.

So, apart from the necessity to use the right ingredients in the stock/broth, the three big tips I have for making a clear, high quality stock/broth are:  1) Don’t boil it; 2) Don’t stir it; and 3) Don’t cover it while it simmers.  Basically, put the ingredients in a large stockpot, get the liquid to the simmering point and let it do its thing.

Beef Stock/Broth
Beef Stock/Broth

This stock/broth will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days or it can be frozen, at this point, in containers of desired size.  I usually freeze and label mine in different quantities based on what recipe I intend using it in. I will often freeze some stock/broth in ice cube containers and use them for flavoring dishes, like rice or steamed vegetables, where smaller amounts may be needed.  So, regardless whether the ingredients and method used in this recipe are technically a “broth” or a “stock”, I use this tasty product in any recipe calling for either beef stock or beef broth.

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Homemade Beef Stock/Broth

 Ingredients:

5 lbs meaty beef bones with marrow (shank, ribs, knuckle bones)
Olive oil
1 – 5 oz/156ml can tomato paste

2 large carrots, unpeeled and halved, cut into 3” chunks
1 large leek, light and white parts only, halved
2 parsnips, unpeeled, cut into 2” chunks
1 large onion, unpeeled, halved
11 oz rutabaga, peeled, cut into ½” slices and halved
1 head garlic (containing apx. 9-10 cloves)
3 large celery ribs (with leaves and base of stalks included), cut into 3” chunks
6 oz mushrooms, halved

1 tbsp dried parsley
1½ tsp mixed peppercorns
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried basil
6 whole allspice
4 whole cloves

12 cups cold water
1½ tbsp cider vinegar
2 bay leaves
1½ tsp fine sea salt

Method:

Preheat oven to 450°F. Grease large roasting pan.  In large bowl, toss meaty bones with olive oil to lightly coat.  Place bones in roaster and roast for 30 minutes.

Place carrots, leek, parsnips, onion, rutabaga, garlic, celery, and mushrooms in a large bowl and add enough olive oil to lightly coat.

Remove bones from oven, turn, and brush them with tomato paste.  Add the olive-oil coated vegetables to the roasting pan and return the roaster to the oven.  Roast for another 30 minutes, turning the vegetables once or twice to ensure they do not burn.  Transfer roasted bones and vegetables to a large stockpot.  Add a small amount of water (or a bit of red wine) to roasting pan, place it over medium heat, and stir scrapings left from the roasting process.  Pour into stock pot with the bones and vegetables.

Using a small 8” square of double cheese cloth, gather the herbs and spices together in the center and tie up cheesecloth to make a bouquet garni.  Drop the sachet in to the stock pot. Add the cold water, vinegar, bay leaves, and sea salt.

Bring mixture to just below the boiling point over medium high heat. DO NOT BOIL. Reduce heat to a low simmer (liquid temperature should reach and remain around the 200°F point) and let stock simmer, uncovered, for 6-8 hours. If liquid evaporates too much and too quickly, reduce the heat and add a bit more water (e.g., 1 cup or so).  Periodically, skim the fat, as it forms, from the surface of the stock as it simmers. Do not stir mixture as it simmers as this may create a cloudy stock/broth.

Prepare a large colander with a double layer of damp cheesecloth.  Place colander over large clean stock pot and pour the stock/broth mixture into the colander to strain it.  Discard bones, vegetables, and bouquet garni.  Place stockpot containing the strained stock/broth in large sink filled with ice water to cool the stock quickly.  Remove and discard any solidified fat. Place strained stock in refrigerator to chill completely then remove any remaining solidified fat from the chilled stock/broth.

Use stock/broth immediately or store, covered, in refrigerator for up to 3 days.  Alternatively, pour stock/broth into containers of desired size and freeze for future use.

Yield:  Apx. 10 cups (depending on amount of evaporation and reduction that has occurred).

NOTE:  Strained stock/broth may be reheated over medium-low heat and reduced to one-half. This will yield a stronger flavored and more concentrated product but, naturally, there will be less quantity.

Straining the stock/broth twice through a cheesecloth-lined colander will yield a clearer broth, free of any impurities.

Homemade Beef Stock (or is it Beef Broth?)

Yield: Apx. 10 cups (depending on amount of evaporation and reduction that has occurred)

Roasted bones combined with long, slow simmering yield a deep, rich flavoured beef stock/broth that has a multitude of uses.

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs meaty beef bones with marrow (shank, ribs, knuckle bones)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 – 5 oz/156ml can tomato paste
  • 2 large carrots, unpeeled and halved, cut into 3” chunks
  • 1 large leek, light and white parts only, halved
  • 2 parsnips, unpeeled, cut into 2” chunks
  • 1 large onion, unpeeled, halved
  • 11 oz rutabaga, peeled, cut into ½” slices and halved
  • 1 head garlic (containing apx. 9-10 cloves)
  • 3 large celery ribs (with leaves and head of stalks included), cut into 3” chunks
  • 6 oz mushrooms, halved
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1½ tsp mixed peppercorns
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 6 whole allspice
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 12 cups cold water
  • 1½ tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1½ tsp fine sea salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Grease large roasting pan. In large bowl, toss meaty bones with olive oil to lightly coat. Place bones in roaster and roast for 30 minutes.
  2. Place carrots, leek, parsnips, onion, rutabaga, garlic, celery, and mushrooms in a large bowl and add enough olive oil to lightly coat.
  3. Remove bones from oven, turn, and brush them with tomato paste. Add the olive-oil coated vegetables to the roasting pan and return the roaster to the oven. Roast for another 30 minutes, turning the vegetables once or twice to ensure they do not burn. Transfer roasted bones and vegetables to a large stockpot. Add a small amount of water (or a bit of red wine) to roasting pan, place it over medium heat, and stir scrapings left from the roasting process. Pour into stock pot with the bones and vegetables.
  4. Using a small 8” square of double cheese cloth, gather the herbs and spices together and tie up cheesecloth to make a bouquet garni. Drop the sachet in to the stock pot. Add the cold water, vinegar, bay leaves, and sea salt.
  5. Bring mixture to just below the boiling point over medium high heat. DO NOT BOIL. Reduce heat to a low simmer (liquid temperature should reach and remain around the 200°F point) and let stock simmer, uncovered, for 6-8 hours. If liquid evaporates too much and too quickly, reduce the heat and add a bit more water (e.g., 1 cup or so). Periodically, skim the fat, as it forms, from the surface of the stock as it simmers. Do not stir mixture as it simmers as this may create a cloudy stock/broth.
  6. Prepare a large colander with a double layer of damp cheesecloth. Place colander over large clean stock pot and pour the stock/broth mixture into the colander to strain it. Discard bones, vegetables, and bouquet garni. Place stockpot containing the strained stock/broth in large sink filled with ice water to cool the stock quickly. Remove and discard any solidified fat. Place strained stock in refrigerator to chill completely then remove any remaining solidified fat from the chilled stock/broth.
  7. Use stock/broth immediately or store, covered, in refrigerator for up to 3 days. Alternatively, pour stock/broth into containers of desired size and freeze for future use.

Notes

Strained stock/broth may be reheated over medium-low heat and reduced to one-half. This will yield a stronger flavored and more concentrated product but, naturally, there will be less quantity.

Straining the stock/broth twice through cheesecloth-lined colanders will yield a clearer broth, free of any impurities.

Be sure to read the accompanying blog post to this recipe as it contains additional information and tips on making beef stock/broth.

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Beef Broth
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Rustic Apple Pie

Apple Pie
Rustic Apple Pie

There is something warm, inviting, and nostalgic about walking into a kitchen to the tantalizing scent of an apple pie baking.  In my opinion, one of the best desserts is homemade apple pie, especially when topped with a nice round scoop of high-quality vanilla ice cream!  Fall is a great time to make apple pies (and some extras for the freezer) because the apples are so fresh and there is a great selection. The house smells so divine while the apple pie bakes!

Apples
Apples

One of my favorite fall rituals is to go picking apples.  I love being out in the middle of an orchard on a crisp, sunny autumn day surrounded by trees heavy laden with gorgeous big apples.  Typically, we make the annual trek to Arlington Orchards, west of Summerside, to pick a supply of apples.  It’s fun to load up some apple baskets into one of the orchard’s little red flyer wagons and strike off through the orchards.  They have many different varieties of apples from which to choose.

The Apple Wagon
The Apple Wagon

I like making pastry and baking pies and have been doing so since I was about 11 years old.  I watched my mother and grandmother make pies and as soon as I could mix the dough and handle a rolling pin, I was off and running! And, apple pie just happens to be one of my favorites to make.

Not all apples are suitable for making pies.  Some (like MacIntosh variety) are just too soft and, essentially, become apple sauce while the pie cooks. Soft flesh apples that have no crunch when you bite into them are not suitable for pies. It is important to choose apples that have good structure – i.e., those that will cook well but, at the same time, hold their shape.  A slice of a good apple pie will reveal the apple slices still in tact and recognizable.

Apple Pie
Apple Pie

My favorite apples for pies are Cortlands, Spartans, Honeycrisps, Lobos, and Pippins. The one thing each of these apples has in common is crisp texture which makes them ideal choices for pies because they don’t break down in the baking process.  I also like to use more than one kind of apple in my pies because each brings its own flavor and characteristics and, in my opinion, a blend of different apple varieties with various degrees of sweetness, tartness, and juiciness will result in a pie with a great depth of flavor.  Cortlands are a bit tart and quite juicy and, of these five varieties, perhaps has the least crisp texture which means it will soften the most in the pie and that will help to bind the filling .  Honeycrisps have a sweet-tart flavor and are quite aromatic which gives the pie that lovely scent while it is baking.  Spartans are juicy and have an ideally balanced sweet-tart apple flavor. Lobos are a bit tangy and Pippins have juicy flesh, are very aromatic, and reveal a balance of sweetness and acidity.  A combination of any three of these apples will yield a tasty pie. Some apples of each variety can, of course, be used in the pie if you have them.

For this 9” pie, 3½ pounds of apples are needed. It may look like a lot but the apples will settle as the pie bakes and the pie looks more impressive if it has some depth to it.

Apple Pie Under Construction
Apple Pie Under Construction

I peel, core, and quarter the apples when preparing them for pies.  I then slice each quarter, horizontally, into slices about ¼” thick and toss them with a tablespoon of lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.

Apples Sliced for Pie
Apples Sliced for Pie

A perfect blend of spices is necessary to enhance the flavor of the pie.  I use cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. It is important that just the right amounts of spices be used because they are meant to enhance, not dominate or mask, the flavour of the apples.  Because apples are juicy, some thickening agent needs to be added to the pie – either all-purpose flour or cornstarch works for this. I like to use a blend of brown and granulated sugars in my pie.  I find the addition of brown sugar gives a deeper flavour and an enhanced color to the pie filling.

Apples mixed with spices for pie
Apples mixed with spices for pie

Mix the sugars, spices, a bit of salt, and the thickening agent (flour or cornstarch) together in a small bowl then toss the dry ingredients with the prepared apples to coat them.  Immediately transfer the apples to the pie plate fitted with the bottom crust pastry, ensuring that they are arranged so that any gaps are filled in.  Dot with some pieces of cold butter.

Once the top crust pastry has been placed over the apples, be sure to cut slits in the pastry to allow the steam to escape as the pie bakes. I also use the tines of a fork to prick the pie pastry in various places. It’s important that the steam have an escape valve as, otherwise, it may cause a soggy pie crust if it is trapped inside with the filling.

Venting the Apple Pie
Venting the Apple Pie

I don’t always brush an egg wash on the top crust of the pie but, for a more rustic looking pie, it does give a nice finish and appearance as it browns well.  If the pie browns too quickly before the apples are cooked, simply loosely tent a piece of tin foil over it.

I recommend placing the unbaked pie in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow the filling to settle and to chill the crust to prevent shrinkage during baking.

Fruit pies are known for bubbling out as they bake, even if they are well vented.  I think, so long as they aren’t too messy, some filling that has escaped to the top pie crust just makes the pie look like a good homemade pie and it really doesn’t bother me too much at all. However, the one thing I do not like is a messy oven to clean after the juices of a pie have boiled out. For this reason, I recommend placing the pie on a rimmed cookie sheet lined with tin foil.  If the pie does boil out, it’s on the disposable tin foil making clean-up easy.

Apple Pie Ready for the Oven
Apple Pie Ready for the Oven

For this pie, I pre-heat the oven to 425°F and bake the pie at this temperature for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 400°F for the remainder of the baking time.  Be patient. This pie will take at least 50 minutes (maybe a bit longer) to bake. To check for doneness, carefully insert a fork into the center slit of the pie – the apples should be fork tender, not baked to mush, but not too firm that they will taste somewhat raw in the pie.

Apple Pie
Rustic Apple Pie

What follows is the apple pie recipe I have been making for many, many years. I hope you enjoy it!

Apple Pie
Rustic Apple Pie

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Rustic Apple Pie

Ingredients:

3½ lbs apples, peeled, cored, and sliced ¼“ thick (any combination of Spartans, Cortlands, Pippins, Honeycrisps, Lobos)
1 tbsp lemon juice

Pastry for double crust 9” pie

2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
¼ cup all-purpose flour or cornstarch
1¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter, chopped into small pieces

1 large egg yolk + 1 tbsp milk
Apx. ½ tbsp granulated sugar

Method:

Prepare apples, place in large bowl, and toss gently with the lemon juice. Set aside.

Roll pastry for bottom crust to approximately 1/8” thickness.  Transfer to pie plate and trim pastry flush with edge of pie plate.

In small bowl, combine the flour or cornstarch, sugars, spices, and salt together.  Mix into prepared apples.

Arrange the sliced apples in the pie plate, taking care to ensure that any gaps are filled in.  Top with small pieces of butter.

Prepare pastry for the top crust in the same manner as for the bottom crust.  Brush edges of bottom crust along pie plate edge with a bit of water to moisten. Transfer pastry to the top of pie filling. Trim excess pastry from the pie plate edge.  Press the edge of the pastry all around the pie plate rim with tines of fork to adhere top crust to bottom crust.  Cut slits in top of pie pastry to allow steam to escape as pie bakes. For additional venting, prick the pie in several places with tines of a fork.

In small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolk and milk together.  With a pastry brush, lightly brush the pie with the egg-milk mixture.  Sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Place pie in refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow filling to settle and to chill pastry to reduce shrinkage while it bakes.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Transfer pie to oven. Bake at 425°F for 10 minutes then reduce heat to 400°F. Bake for another 40 minutes then test with fork inserted into slit in center of pie to determine if apples are cooked. Apples should be fork-tender when pie is done. If not done, return pie to oven and check every 5 minutes until apples are fork tender.  If pie browns too quickly before it is cooked, loosely tent pie with tin foil.  Remove pie from oven and transfer to cooling rack.

Yield:  1 – 9” pie (apx. 6 servings)

Rustic Apple Pie

Yield: 1 - 9" double-crusted pie

A classic apple pie made with a combination of sweet and tart apples and a perfect blend of spices.

Ingredients

  • 3½ lbs apples, peeled, cored, and sliced ¼“ thick (any combination of Spartans, Cortlands, Pippins, Honeycrisps, Lobos)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Pastry for double crust 9” pie
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour or cornstarch
  • 1¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp butter, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 large egg yolk + 1 tbsp milk
  • Apx. ½ tbsp granulated sugar

Instructions

  1. Prepare apples, place in large bowl, and toss gently with the lemon juice. Set aside.
  2. Roll pastry for bottom crust to approximately 1/8” thickness. Transfer to pie plate and trim pastry flush with edge of pie plate.
  3. In small bowl, combine the flour or cornstarch, sugars, spices, and salt together. Mix into prepared apples.
  4. Arrange the sliced apples in the pie plate, taking care to ensure that any gaps are filled in. Top with small pieces of butter.
  5. Prepare pastry for the top crust in the same manner as for the bottom crust. Brush edges of bottom crust along pie plate edge with a bit of water to moisten. Transfer pastry to the top of pie filling. Trim excess pastry from the pie plate edge. Press the edge of the pastry all around the pie plate rim with tines of fork to adhere top crust to bottom crust. Cut slits in top of pie pastry to allow steam to escape as pie bakes. For additional venting, prick the pie in several places with tines of a fork.
  6. In small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolk and milk together. With a pastry brush, lightly brush the pie with the egg-milk mixture. Sprinkle with granulated sugar.
  7. Place pie in refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow filling to settle and to chill pastry to reduce shrinkage while it bakes.
  8. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  9. Transfer pie to oven. Bake at 425°F for 10 minutes then reduce heat to 400°F. Bake for another 40 minutes then test with fork inserted into slit in center of pie to determine if apples are cooked. Apples should be fork-tender when pie is done. If not done, return pie to oven and check every 5 minutes until apples are fork tender. If pie browns too quickly before it is cooked, loosely tent pie with tin foil. Remove pie from oven and transfer to cooling rack.
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Classic Apple Pie made with a combination of sweet and tart apples and a perfect blend of spices

 

 

Classic apple pie made with a combination of sweet and tart apples and a perfect blend of spices
Classic apple pie made with a combination of sweet and tart apples and a perfect blend of spices
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Early Fall Bistro Style Dinner on the Front Verandah

Serving the Charcuterie-Cheese-Fruit Board Appetizer
Serving the Charcuterie-Cheese-Fruit Board Appetizer

Our fall this year has simply been fabulous. Uncharacteristically for the Island this time of the year, there have been days this fall where we were still able to dine on the front verandah and today was one of those days.  This will probably be the last “outdoors” dinner this fall. I thought you might like to take a little peek at the table.

Alfresco Dining on the Front Verandah
Alfresco Dining on the Front Verandah

Charcuterie, cheese, and fruit trays (or a combination of all three) are common for entertaining.  They are relatively quick and easy to prepare, plate well, are attractive and appetizing, and they are tasty, too.

Charcuterie, Cheese, and Fruit Starter Board
Charcuterie, Cheese, and Fruit Starter Board

These trays, or boards, can be used for a wide variety and style of events – entertaining friends at home, picnics, potlucks, and just about any kind of get-together.  You can check out a couple of picnics in which I have used combination charcuterie-cheese-fruit boards, ranging from the very simple version (click here) to the more elaborate (click here).

These kinds of boards can also be used as an appetizer or starter to a meal which is how I am using them today.  Sometimes, I’ll prepare a communal tray and set it in the middle of the table where it doubles as a centerpiece.  Other times, I’ll prepare individual boards for each guest as I have done here today.

Charcuterie, Cheese, and Fruit Boards Make Great Appetizers
Charcuterie, Cheese, and Fruit Boards Make Great Appetizers

Before I explain what is on the individual charcuterie-cheese-fruit boards, let’s construct the tablesetting design, starting with the blank canvas – the tablecloth.

Linens
Even though this table is set for a casual get-together on the front verandah, I’ve still opted to use my favorite blank canvas – the white tablecloth.  White is my “go-to” for many of my tablescapes because I like the look of clean, simple white table linen – it’s always in style and food and other elements in the setting look exceptionally good against a blank white canvas. I also think white linen lends an air of sophistication to any tablescape. The tablecloth I have used here is a vintage Irish linen cloth but any good quality white cloth or tablecloth will do…just make sure it is pressed, free of wrinkles, and doesn’t sport any stains that could suggest to guests that it has not been laundered since its last use.

White Table Linens Make the Elements of the Tablesetting Stand Out
White Table Linens Make the Elements of the Tablesetting Stand Out

I always recommend good quality dinner-size napkins be in the host’s or hostess’ linen drawer.  Just like white tablecloths, they go with anything and always look crisp and chic. I’ve kept their positioning very simple on this table, simply folding them and placing them, unobtrusively, under the forks.  This is intentional to maintain the casual ambiance of the table.

Centerpiece
I have owned the ikebana (seen in photograph below) handmade by PEI potter, Peter Jansons, of the Dunes Studio Gallery and Café in Brackley Beach for a very long time.  Peter is well-known for these ikebanas which he produces in various colors, sizes, and shapes.

Ikebana
Ikebana

Fitted with a floral frog, the ikebana is super easy to work with and an attractive contemporary-style floral arrangement is possible with any flowers and with little to no flower arranging abilities.

Contemporary Floral Design
Contemporary Floral Design

The flowers in this simple arrangement were gathered from our flower and herb beds, nothing too fussy.  There is no need to spend a fortune on flowers for centerpieces; sometimes, nothing more is needed than what can be found in one’s own backyard!

Fresh herbs, such as oregano, are great in casual floral arrangements
Fresh herbs, such as oregano, are great in casual floral arrangements

Dinnerware
For the main meal, I’m using my basic white dinnerware.  But, what I’m focusing on for this posting are the very basic, simple, small wooden breadboards for the starter course – the charcuterie/cheese boards.  Plates can, of course, be used for this part of the meal but, for presentation purposes, the wood boards lend a more casual, rustic, and interesting look to the table.  The boards I am using are inexpensive and are proportionally sized to fit within each placesetting space.

Small breadboards are ideal for individual-sized charcuterie boards
Small breadboards are ideal for individual-sized charcuterie boards

Flatware
I tend to prefer good quality basic flatware, not overdone with design.  Unless you wish to spend a lot on flatware and have multiple sets, choose a plain pattern that works equally well with casual and more formal tablesettings.

Glassware
I’ve mixed my antique water glasses with plain wine glasses.  The cut glass in the water glasses will give some sparkle to this outside tablesetting as the sun hits it.  The plain wine glasses are in keeping with the casual “bistro” style dining look I am using.  The plain wine glasses will also allow the color and clarity of the wine to show well.

Plain Wine Glasses Show Color and Clarity of Wine Best
Plain Wine Glasses Show Color and Clarity of Wine Best

Additional Accents
I have added a large water pitcher to the table. Apart from being functional, I like the design of the pitcher and it is in keeping with the casual dining look of this setting.

Starter Course
Starter Course

A box of locally-grown plums from Arlington Orchards rounds out the look of the tablesetting.  I like to include edible props in my tablescapes, especially when they are in season and are in keeping with the theme of the meal.

Plums
Plums

What’s on the Boards?
As mentioned earlier, I’ve opted to prepare separate boards for each guest in lieu of preparing one board and placing it in the middle of the table (which would also work).  The benefit of doing individual boards is that each board can be tailored to each guest’s personal food preferences or dietary needs.  For example, if one guest likes mild meats and another prefers spicier meats, their boards can be custom-prepared with that in mind.  Likewise, if someone has gluten-free requirements, there is less chance of cross-contamination if that individual’s board is prepared separately. A sign of a good host or hostess is one who is aware of guests’ dietary needs/preferences and accommodates them. This extra touch of thoughtfulness is always appreciated by guests, especially those with dietary restrictions.

Individually-prepared Charcuterie-Cheese-Fruit Boards
Individually-prepared Charcuterie-Cheese-Fruit Boards

I also think it makes each guest feel more special if they sit down at the table and have a lovely individual charcuterie/cheese board set in front of them.

Herb-infused Olive Oil
Herb-infused Olive Oil

We grow a lot of herbs and I make good use of them in multiple ways. Today, I have included them on the boards in these adorable small bottles of high quality dipping olive oil.  The herbs infuse the oil and they also add an element of interest to a simple little bottle of oil.  The small white dishes under the olive oil bottles are, of course, for the oil to allow for easy dipping of the bread.

Dill-infused Olive Oil
Dill-infused Olive Oil

I often make my baguettes in small individual sizes because they are perfect for these types of occasions.  In keeping with the rustic look, I’ve wrapped the small baguettes in pieces of jute tied with chives  and garnished with a fresh sprig of thyme. They dress up the boards!

Individual-sized Baguettes
Individual-sized Baguettes

I have opted to go with two nibbling cheeses – a good quality Havarti and a really interesting mosaic-patterned cheddar from  Ireland.  I always try to find at least one kind of unique cheese to include on my boards and this gourmet white cheddar cheese produced by Cahill’s Farm in Limerick certainly creates a statement on the board. This is a mild cheese made with Guinness-brewer porter and covered with a brown wax coating.

Cahill's Irish Porter Cheddar Cheese
Cahill’s Irish Porter Cheddar Cheese

The choice of meats for the board does not have to be exclusive.  Local delicatessens offer lots of options in this regard.  Generally, for these boards used as appetizers, include two to three kinds of meats.

Tasty Appetizer Board
Tasty Appetizer Board

Everything is in the details.  Adding a few almonds add variety, interest, color, and texture to the boards.

Colors and Textures of a Charcuterie Board
Colors and Textures of a Charcuterie Board

The black cherries contribute color and shape to the board and are a great way to finish off the starter course.

Black Cherries
Black Cherries

Wine
My wine selection for this course of the meal comes from Wheatley River, PEI.  A new meadery opened in PEI in summer 2017 and it produces several kinds of mead made with fermented honey.  You can click here to read my story on this new meadery.

Wildflower Mead from The Island Honey Wine Company in PEI
Wildflower Mead from The Island Honey Wine Company in PEI

I have chosen to pair the Island Honey Wine Company’s Wildflower Honey Mead with this starter course.

Wildflower Honey Mead
Wildflower Honey Mead

So, there you have it!  Stylish little boards that make a great starter course and are sure to be conversation pieces to the start of a leisurely bistro-style dinner. Bon Appétit!

Serving Appetizers
Serving Appetizers
Dinner on the Front Verandah

 

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An Acadian Lobster Feast

At the PEI Fall Flavours 2017 event, "Le Festin acadien avec homard"
At the PEI Fall Flavours 2017 event, “Le Festin acadien avec homard”

If there is one consolation to summer’s end on PEI, it’s the anticipation that September brings the annual PEI Fall Flavours Festival. The Island’s emerging culinary scene with all its fine foods is showcased each September in an array of culinary events that comprise the festival. What started out in 2008 as a small 10-day festival consisting of a few culinary events aiming to extend the Island’s short tourism season into September, the festival has grown into a full month-long feast extravaganza.

Potato Harvesting in PEI
Potato Harvesting in PEI

September is the perfect month for a PEI food festival as the produce is at its prime, potato harvesting is getting underway, and the fall lobster season is open in certain zones around the Island. We are lucky here in PEI – we have a wonderful array of fresh local foods from the land and sea and the festival is a great celebration of our love of local foods.  Culinary events are spread out in communities across the Island and each tends to highlight foods that come from a particular area and/or that are associated with a certain region’s culture.

The “Festin acadien avec homard” (or lobster feast) at Abram-Village, west of Summerside, is always the first PEI Fall Flavours Festival culinary event of the season and it signals a tasty month ahead. Tickets for this event sell out weeks in advance and it is one Fall Flavours event that is certain to draw a lot of Islanders to the Evangeline area. In some respects, it’s almost like a homecoming weekend as family members travel home to the Island’s Evangeline region for the annual Evangeline Agricultural Exhibition & Acadian Festival.  There is no better way to learn, first hand, about the culture of a region than to partake of the regional foods and entertainment.  “Le Festin acadien avec homard scores high points on both counts.

This year marked the second year that I attended this event – that’s testament to how much I enjoyed it the first time!  While the menu remained almost identical to the previous year, what changed was the entertainment and the headline celebrity chef who, in 2017, was Chef Danny Smiles, Chef de cuisine at Restaurant Le Bremner in Old Montreal. This was Chef Smiles’ debut at the PEI Fall Flavours Festival.

Chef Danny Smiles at the PEI Fall Flavours "Le Festin acadien avec homard" event 2017
Chef Danny Smiles at the PEI Fall Flavours “Le Festin acadien avec homard” event 2017

The lively musical entertainment was provided by Vishten, a trio of talented musicians (two from PEI and one from the Magdalen Islands).  Rooted in traditional music from the two east coast islands, their indie-folk style fuses Acadian and Celtic genres and motivates foot stomping and hand clapping.  The performers are multi instrumentalists and they easily transition between various musical instruments that include violin, guitar, accordian, and keyboard.  The trio tours and performs internationally and has five albums and more than 1000 performances to their credit.

Vishten entertaining at the PEI Fall Flavours "Le Festin acadien avec homard" event 2017
Vishten entertaining at the PEI Fall Flavours “Le Festin acadien avec homard” event 2017

The “Festin acadien avec homard” event has been running for several years and organizers have it well organized and they are very efficient in carrying it out.  MC Georges Arsenault is a very capable and effective Master of Ceremonies.

Georges Arsenault, Master of Ceremonies at the PEI Fall Flavours "Le Festin acadien avec homard" event 2017
Georges Arsenault, Master of Ceremonies at the PEI Fall Flavours “Le Festin acadien avec homard” event 2017

Georges had lots of fun in store for the evening that included a demonstration of different ways that lobster can be cracked and eaten.

Chef Danny Smiles Demonstrates How He Opens A Lobster
Chef Danny Smiles Demonstrates How He Opens A Lobster

Georges selected a young person from the audience who had never cracked open a lobster before, celebrity chef Danny Smiles, and Odette Gallant from the Evangeline area who has been cracking open lobster with her teeth all of her life – yes, her teeth!  I wondered how many sets of teeth she might have gone through because those lobster shells are hard!

Using Teeth to Crack Open a Lobster
Using Teeth to Crack Open a Lobster
Young Man Gets Some Professional Instruction from Chef Danny Smiles on How to Crack Open A Lobster
Young Man Gets Some Professional Instruction from Chef Danny Smiles on How to Crack Open A Lobster

Georges also had audience participation on stage as a member of Vishten taught Chef Danny and others how to step dance.

Stepdancing Lessons at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)
Stepdancing Lessons at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)

All of this entertainment took place in between courses of the meal.  Oh yes, the menu……

As this event took place in the region of the province that has a high concentration of the Island’s Acadian population, it is obvious that the evening’s menu would focus on Acadian fare along with lobster and potato salad since the region is known for its farming and fishing industries.

Serving up Steamed PEI Mussels at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)
Serving up Steamed PEI Mussels at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)

Like many PEI gatherings, the evening started off with steamed PEI mussels.  Patrons were then invited to sample three new soda flavors produced by Upstreet Craft Brewing in Charlottetown.

Sampling New Line of Sodas from Upstreet Craft Brewing of Charlottetown, PEI at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)
Sampling New Line of Sodas from Upstreet Craft Brewing of Charlottetown, PEI at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)

Known for their craft beer, making soda is a new venture for Upstreet.  The event proved to be a great opportunity for the brewery to showcase their new products – Strawberry Rhubarb Basil, Apple Ginger Elderflower, and Malt Spice Cola.

New Line of Sodas from Upstreet Craft Brewing of Charlottetown, PEI at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)
New Line of Sodas from Upstreet Craft Brewing of Charlottetown, PEI at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)

Dinner was served, family style, at long communal tables.  Servers, garbed in traditional Acadian dress, brought bowls or platters of food to both ends of the table and the food was then passed from one diner to the next with each person serving him or herself.

Serving Chicken Fricot at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)
Serving Chicken Fricot at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)

The first course was Chicken Fricot, a traditional Acadian broth stew made primarily of chicken, onion, and potato and seasoned with summer savory.

Chicken Fricot
Chicken Fricot

Every time I have a bowl of this stew, I’m always amazed at how tasty it is given that so few ingredients are in it.  I maintain it’s the summer savory herb that makes this dish.  Summer savory is used a lot on PEI and most Island cooks add it to their poultry dressing/stuffing.

Chicken Fricot
Chicken Fricot

This was followed by the second course comprised of Râpure and Acadian Meat Pie.

Acadian Meat Pie (left) and Rapure (right)
Acadian Meat Pie (left) and Rapure (right)

Some may know the grated potato dish, râpure as “rappie pie”, a name that stems from the French verb “râper” which means “to grate”. The grated potatoes are squeezed through cheesecloth to remove the liquid which is then replaced by adding broth (usually chicken) and baking it, casserole style, with onion, and cooked meat such as chicken or pork. The end result is a hearty and tasty dish.

Acadian Rapure
Acadian Rapure

The second course also included Acadian meat pie or, pâté, as it is sometimes called.

Acadian Meat Pie
Acadian Meat Pie

This is a very common dish in Acadian communities and is an integral part of Christmas Eve celebrations in many Acadian homes on PEI, though it is now commonly served at other times of the year as well.  Molasses is often drizzled on top of the meat pie to add a touch of sweetness to this savory dish.

Acadian Meat Pie with Molasses
Acadian Meat Pie with Molasses

Our server, Velma Durant, was very pleasant and most accommodating to me with my camera clicking away throughout the evening!

Server Arrives at Table with Platter of PEI Lobster (at the Le Festin acadien avec homard event, PEI Fall Flavours Festival 2017)
Server Arrives at Table with Platter of PEI Lobster (at the Le Festin acadien avec homard event, PEI Fall Flavours Festival 2017)

Then, of course, it was time for the pièce d’résistance – PEI lobster in the shell served with true, authentic homemade PEI potato salad – these folks know how to make a perfect potato salad!

PEI Lobster served with homemade Potato Salad (at the Le Festin acadien avec homard event, PEI Fall Flavours Festival 2017)
PEI Lobster served with homemade Potato Salad (at the Le Festin acadien avec homard event, PEI Fall Flavours Festival 2017)

It just would not be a PEI lobster feed without the potato salad!

PEI Potato Salad
PEI Potato Salad

French biscuits were on the table, too, with that good ADL butter!

French Biscuits
French Biscuits

And, for those who still had room, homemade apple pie polished off the evening’s menu.

Apple Pie
Apple Pie

One thing is for sure, no one would have gone away hungry after this mammoth meal!

For stories on other PEI Fall Flavours culinary events I’ve attended, click on the links below:

PEI Shellfish Festival (2012)
Farm Day in the City (2012)
Savour Victoria (2012)
Toes, Taps, and Taters (2013)
Lobster Party on the Beach (2013)
Applelicious (2013)
The Great Island Grilled Cheese Challenge (2013)
Feast of the Fathers (2014)
Lamb Luau at Crowbush Cove (2014)
Feast and Frolic Dinner (PEI International Shellfish Festival) (2014)
Beef and Blues (2014)
A Taste of New Glasgow (2015)
Beef ‘n Blues (2015)
Chef on Board (2015)
Cooking with Chefs Anna & Michael Olson in Brudenell, PEI (2015)
Le Festin acadien avec homard/Acadian Feast with Lobster (2016)
The Great Big Barbeque (2016)
Mussels on the Hill (2016)
Toes, Taps, & Taters (2017)
Taste of Georgetown (2017)
Taste of North Rustico – A Rustico Kitchen Party (2017)
Taste of Tyne Valley (2017)

PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event "Festin acadien avec homard"
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Autumn-themed Thanksgiving Tablesetting

Thanksgiving has a way of creeping up on me before I am ready for it!  The fall is such a busy season for me and there is always lots to do.

This year, I cooked the full turkey dinner. It’s a lot of work but nothing beats a home-cooked turkey dinner and the best part…..there are leftovers!

Roast Turkey
Roast Turkey

The color theme for my tablesetting was orange. The table linen is a soft white which really allows the charger plates and other elements of this tablesetting to stand out.

Thanksgiving Tablesetting
Thanksgiving Tablesetting

I found these lovely burnt orange charger plates with a leaf motif on them. I will use these right through the autumn season, not just for Thanksgiving dinner.

Charger Plates
Fall-themed Charger Plates

I have had the leaf-designed napkin rings for awhile and the pumpkin-themed napkins pair well with them.

Pumpkin-themed Napkins
Pumpkin-themed Napkins

The centerpiece is really nothing more than herbs from our garden and some leaves picked from nearby ditches. My mother has some bayberry bushes on her property so bay leaves form the base of the centerpiece. I also added some oregano and sage which both smell wonderful and then some bright yellow frothy dill for pops of color.  The centerpiece cost me nothing and only took very few minutes to pull together.

Nature's Centerpiece
Nature’s Centerpiece

I have added in some little votives wrapped in birch bark to keep the natural look flowing.

Votives
Candlelight

Some small pumpkin-shaped gourds tucked in around the centerpiece give an authentic Thanksgiving look to the table.

Autumnal Colors
Autumnal Colors
The Thanksgiving Tablesetting
The Thanksgiving Tablesetting

I tend to use a lot of heavier cut glass in autumn – the candlelight picks up the cuts in the glass and makes them quite enchanting.

Glassware
Glassware

The placesetting is quite simple.  I was setting a rather small table and, with the centerpiece, there was no extra room on the table. I wasn’t serving either a salad or soup course so there was no need for extra cutlery.  The dessert fork and spoon were brought to the table when the dinner plates were cleared and dessert served. If there is room, I often include them at the top of the plates but this setting didn’t permit the space.

Place Setting
Place Setting
Candlelight
Candlelight

I like to present the turkey, dressed, on a large platter.  Sometimes, I use it as the table centerpiece and, other times, I have it placed on a sideboard in the dining room.

The Thanksgiving Turkey
The Thanksgiving Turkey

To “dress” this turkey for dinner, I have opted to go with a seasonal red-green-yellow theme, choosing corn on the cob, cranberries, and  rosemary and bay leaves along with some whole chestnuts.

Turkey Styling
Turkey Styling
Turkey Dressed in Style for Dinner!
Turkey Dressed in Style for Dinner!

I mixed some finely chopped fresh herbs with melted butter and basted the turkey with this mixture – I like the black-specks on the turkey! I think it gives the bird some character!

Herb-Basted Roast Turkey
Herb-Basted Roast Turkey
Roast Turkey Dinner
Roast Turkey Dinner

It is not necessary, of course, to “dress” the turkey for table presentation.  The turkey can, instead, be carved in the kitchen out of sight of the guests and brought to the table.  I always like to see it nicely carved and presented on a meat platter.

Carved Turkey
Carved Turkey

Make the platter look more attractive by inserting a few fresh herbs, here and there, to fill in any open spaces and to give definition to the platter.

Plated Carved Turkey
Plated Carved Turkey

To view other Thanksgiving tablesettings from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the following links:

Thanksgiving Tablescape
Thanksgiving Tablesetting
Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Tablesetting
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A Taste of Tyne Valley, PEI

The month-long PEI Fall Flavours Festival, held annually each September, offers visitors the opportunity to delve into local culture in a unique and tasty way through attending culinary events at various locales across the Island. Originally started as a 10-day festival that could extend PEI’s short tourism season into September, the Festival has grown into a full month of a wide variety of culinary events for every taste.  A popular Festival with foodies, visitors travel great distances and several return each year especially for the Festival.  Now in its 10th year, the Festival puts local food at the forefront of the visitor experience and, in so doing, also builds and strengthens collaboration between food producers, chefs, restauranteurs, local communities and, more broadly, the Island tourism industry.

The PEI Fall Flavours introduced three new culinary events in 2017 – Taste of Georgetown, Taste of North Rustico, and Taste of Tyne Valley. With a view to getting visitors out in to the more rural areas of the province closer to the local food sources, visitors were drawn to experience the different regions of PEI and they also had the chance to connect more directly with food producers and local chefs.

Jeff Noye, Valley Pearl Oysters, Tyne Valley, PEI
Jeff Noye, Valley Pearl Oysters, Tyne Valley, PEI

A growing trend amongst the foodie tourist population is the interest in incorporating good local cuisine and culinary experiences into their travel adventures.  The evolution of food and drink festivals are a driving influence in the culinary tourism aspect of vacation travel. While products like PEI oysters, for example, are shipped all over the world where anyone can have access to them, those consumers will not have the full cultural experience that they can get from eating oysters at a PEI Fall Flavours event. Such events allow consumers to interact directly with the oyster grower who farms the product just up the road and who is the one actually shucking and presenting the oysters right before event attendees. And, of course, it goes without saying that the closer you taste the food to its origins, the fresher and better its taste and the more personal connection you have with the food.

For those who want to experience authentic local culture, there is no better way than to attend a culinary festival, like the PEI Fall Flavours Festival, where regional fare can be sampled and local hospitality and music enjoyed.  These three components are the essential ingredients of a true local food and culture experience of a place.

Island Blue Mussels at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Island Blue Mussels at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

This was none more evident than with the recent “Taste of Tyne Valley” culinary event.  This event was also a community-building activity for the Tyne Valley community, located about 20 minutes west of the City of Summerside.  Local food producers and the three restaurants in the heart of Tyne Valley worked collaboratively to provide event goers with an authentic food experience complemented by West Prince hospitality. When we speak of authenticity in terms of food, we are talking about a food trend that involves local fresh food that is simple, natural, and has roots and history in an area. So, when we think of the Tyne Valley and surrounding environs, in particular, we think of local foods with a long history in the area – foods such as oysters, mussels, beef, potatoes, and wild blueberries, all of which were included on the event’s menu.

Tyne Valley, PEI
Tyne Valley, PEI

Organizers report that 110 people attended the Tyne Valley event and, for the first time that I’ve attended a Fall Flavours event, I think the locals may have outnumbered the tourists! When a tablemate, a resident of Tyne Valley, was asked what the population was, she looked around then, with a smile, jokingly said “they’re all here tonight…, well, at least 80% of them”! There were certainly some off-Island visitors at the event, too, and they got to mix and mingle with the locals while enjoying some fine Island foods.

Site of "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Site of “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

The evening began with a gathering hour in a large tent where Valley Pearl Oysters served up steamed mussels and raw oysters.

Shucking Oysters at "Taste of Tyne Valley" Event 2017
Shucking Oysters at “Taste of Tyne Valley” Event 2017

The mussels were steamed just outside the tent and the oysters were shucked by the oyster growers as people passed through the line. The food just doesn’t get any fresher than that!

Damien Enman Prepares to Steam PEI Blue Mussels at "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Damien Enman Prepares to Steam PEI Blue Mussels at “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
PEI Oysters
PEI Oysters

Mussels and oysters are popular PEI foods so there was always a steady line-up for them.

Serving up Island Blue Mussels at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Serving up Island Blue Mussels at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Island Blue Mussels at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Island Blue Mussels at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

Because food and music are a common combo at PEI gatherings, local music also plays a part in virtually every Fall Flavours Festival event.  During the gathering hour in Tyne Valley, visitors were treated to music provided by local area musicians, Spencer Phillips and Ellen MacQuillan.

PEI Musicians, Spencer Phillips and Ellen MacQuillan, Entertain at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
PEI Musicians, Spencer Phillips and Ellen MacQuillan, Entertain at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

The format of this event was part roving feast and part sit-down table service meal.  The center of Tyne Valley has three restaurants, all located in close proximity to each other.  After enjoying the mussels and oysters, patrons took their appetizer “passports” and began the short stroll to the three participating restaurants – Backwoods Burger, Dillon’s, and Tyne Valley Tea and Company.

"Passport" to Appetizers at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
“Passport” to Appetizers at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

The benefit of involving three local restaurants and having event attendees visit each one to sample an appetizer is that it exposed the restaurants to visitors who, if visiting the area, might otherwise have chosen only one restaurant at which to dine. Diners could choose the order in which they visited the restaurants.

Backwoods Burger Restaurant, Tyne Valley, PEI
Backwoods Burger Restaurant, Tyne Valley, PEI
Backwoods Burger, Tyne Valley, PEI
Backwoods Burger, Tyne Valley, PEI

Backwoods Burger (which always reminds me of an English pub), pictured above,  served a slice of their delectable potato and bacon pie which was beautifully presented.

Potato and Bacon Pie from Backwoods Burger, Tyne Valley, PEI
Potato and Bacon Pie from Backwoods Burger, Tyne Valley, PEI

Layers of PEI potatoes are the main ingredient in this delectable pie.

Potato and Bacon Pie from Backwoods Burger, Tyne Valley, PEI
Potato and Bacon Pie from Backwoods Burger, Tyne Valley, PEI
Dillion's Convenience Store and Pizzaria, Tyne Valley, PEI
Dillon’s Convenience Store and Pizzaria, Tyne Valley, PEI

Dillon’s (seen in photo above), a local pizzeria, served the perennial favorite appetizer of bacon wrapped scallops which they served on a bed of greens.

Bacon-wrapped Scallops from Dillion's Pizzaria, Tyne Valley, PEI
Bacon-wrapped Scallops from Dillion’s Pizzaria, Tyne Valley, PEI

Dillon’s also served a choice of wine or punch with their appetizer.

Dillion's Pizzaria, Tyne Valley, PEI
Dillon’s Pizzaria, Tyne Valley, PEI
Dillon's Pizzaria, Tyne Valley, PEI
Dillon’s Pizzaria, Tyne Valley, PEI

The Tyne Valley Tea and Company, a small tea room that opened in 2016, served an Asian-inspired appetizer nestled in a Wonton dish.

Tyne Valley Tea and Company, Tyne Valley, PEI
Tyne Valley Tea and Company, Tyne Valley, PEI

This colorful appetizer featured carrots, garlic, and green onions with a cucumber sweet chili sauce, with many of the ingredients sourced locally from the gardens of the nearby Doctor’s Inn.

Aisan-inspired Appetizer from the Tyne Valley Tea and Company ("Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event)
Aisan-inspired Appetizer from the Tyne Valley Tea and Company (“Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event)

Once everyone had made their way back to the tent, dinner service began, family style, at the long communal tables.

At the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
At the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
At the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
At the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Party Favour - Silicon Tea Strainer (At the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event)
Party Favour – Silicon Tea Strainer (At the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event)

The main meal was prepared by guest Chef Jesse Vergen who is chef/co-owner of Saint John Alehouse and owner of Smoking Pig BBQ, both in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Jeff Noye, MC (left) introduces Guest Chef, Jesse Verden, at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Event MC Jeff Noye (left) introduces Guest Chef, Jesse Verden,(right) at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

A Top Chef Canada All Star, Chef Jesse is no stranger to culinary challenges and, as he puts it, curve ball competitions; in fact, he’ll tell you he thrives on them.  With no existing or mobile kitchen onsite from which to serve 110 meals, Chef Jesse, in his words, was “rocking it out” from the back door of the little pizzeria and convenience store next to the event location!  This is where I caught up with him putting the final touches on the main meal.

Chef Jesse Vergen at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Chef Jesse Vergen at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Chef Jesse Verden Prepares the Main Meal at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Chef Jesse Verden Prepares the Main Meal at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
At the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
At the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

Bowls of PEI rustic potato salad and heirloom tomato salad arrived at the table.

Potato Salad at "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Potato Salad at “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

 

Heirloom Tomato Salad at "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Heirloom Tomato Salad at “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

This was followed by large trays bearing the sliced brisket in the center surrounded by large clam shells filled with mushroom purée, butter-poached bar clams, and stout mayonnaise. These were broiled in the local pizzeria’s pizza oven and were, as Chef Jesse says, “a take on a classic Coquilles Saint Jacques but with a Tyne Valley twist”.

Beef Brisket
Beef Brisket

The brisket had been smoked slowly for 14 hours in a traditional barbeque pit with applewood and Chef Jesse says this long slow cooking process turned the meat into a melt-in-your mouth-like-butter texture.

Trays of Beef Brisket
Trays of Beef Brisket

Many hands make light work! Great motion and energy in the photo below!

Guest Chef, Jesse Verden, and Local Volunteers Prepare the Main Meal at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Guest Chef, Jesse Verden, and Local Volunteers Prepare the Main Meal at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

As dessert was arriving, the energetic Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys band took to the stage providing lively toe-tapping music.

Island Fiddler, Gordie MacKeeman Performing at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Island Fiddler, Gordie MacKeeman Performing at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

This award-winning band has toured extensively, nationally and internationally. Members of the band are Gordie MacKeeman, Peter Cann, Thomas Webb, and Jason Burbine.

Island Musicians Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys Band Performing at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Island Musicians Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys Band Performing at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

Dessert was prepared in the small kitchen of the Tyne Valley Tea and Company just across the road from the event location.  Served in the trendy mason jars, this tasty creation was a take on the traditional English Eton Mess dessert.

Blueberry Dessert at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Blueberry Dessert at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

The layered dessert featured Lennox Island blueberries, along with crumbled meringues and scones, all topped with Earl Grey-infused whipped cream. A small ginger cookie, shaped like a teapot, garnished the dessert.

There is no doubt this was a community-building event for the Tyne Valley area and the passion of the local people, restaurant owners, and others who participated, was evident.  Carol Rybinski, owner of the Tyne Valley Tea and Company says the PEI Fall Flavours concept was “right up our alley – locally-sourced dishes and a shared community experience”. 

…the PEI Fall Flavours concept was “right up our alley – locally-sourced dishes and a shared community experience” -Carol Rybinski 

Chef Jesse concurs, saying he was impressed with the event and community collaboration to pull it off.  He says he considers it an honour to have been asked to participate in the Tyne Valley event. One thing is certain – there was lots of fun and laughter to go along with all that fresh local food!

For the entire month of September, visitors to the PEI Fall Flavours Festival can take advantage of all that this amazing small Island on Canada’s east coast has to offer – sample locally-sourced fresh food prepared by talented chefs, listen to lively local music, mix and mingle with the locals, and discover beautiful vistas from one end of PEI to the other. If you’re a true foodie, there is no better time to visit PEI than in the month of September which is filled with dozens of different culinary events offering something for every taste.  PEI has earned a reputation for excellence in food production and is now seen as an authentic food destination. There is a reason why PEI is known as Canada’s Food Island and events like “Taste of Georgetown”, “Taste of North Rustico”, and “Taste of Tyne Valley” prove it.

To read stories about other PEI Fall Flavours events I have attended, click on the links below:

PEI Shellfish Festival (2012)
Farm Day in the City (2012)
Savour Victoria (2012)
Toes, Taps, and Taters (2013)
Lobster Party on the Beach (2013)
Applelicious (2013)
The Great Island Grilled Cheese Challenge (2013)
Feast of the Fathers (2014)
Lamb Luau at Crowbush Cove (2014)
Feast and Frolic Dinner (PEI International Shellfish Festival) (2014)
Beef and Blues (2014)
A Taste of New Glasgow (2015)
Beef ‘n Blues (2015)
Chef on Board (2015)
Cooking with Chefs Anna & Michael Olson in Brudenell, PEI (2015)
Le Festin acadien avec homard/Acadian Feast with Lobster (2016)
The Great Big Barbeque (2016)
Mussels on the Hill (2016)
Toes, Taps, & Taters (2017)
Taste of Georgetown (2017)
Taste of North Rustico – A Rustico Kitchen Party (2017)

Taste of Tyne Valley

Taste of Tyne Valley

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(Mostly) PEI and Maritime Food – Good Food for a Good Life!