Traditional French-Canadian Recipes 

Mother Caron, one of the seven foundresses of the Sisters of Providence, excelled in the culinary arts and taught cooking to the sisters and students.  In 1878 a collection of her recipes was published as “Various Directions Given by Reverend Mother Caron to Aid the Sisters in Being Good Cooks” and was commonly known as “Mother Caron’s Cookbook.”  The book was distributed throughout the sisters’ institutions and became well known outside the religious community.  It has been republished several times, the last edition in 1975.

As Mother Caron’s assistant from 1852 to 1856, Mother Joseph was probably influenced by her cooking although we know little of Mother Joseph’s own culinary skills.  At Providence Academy, Vancouver, Washington, an orphan boy named Charles Williams fondly recalled enjoying thin pancakes, or crepes, with Mother Joseph under the trees: “During the summer months, Mother Joseph would sometimes come over to the boys department and quietly announce that we could have pancakes out in the yard.  A fireplace large enough to hold more than one griddle would be built…. Then Mother Joseph would mix the batter and have it brought in the yard.  After all the children had taken their seats at the table the pancakes were ready and placed on the tables and of course you know how they disappeared.  In those days there was no rationing of food.  There was plenty of butter, sugar and molasses….  Mother would often come over and walk around the tables to see that no one was missed and sometimes help serve the pancakes to us children.”

Mother Caron included crepes in her cookbook, and perhaps Mother Joseph used this recipe for “pancakes under the trees.”

CREPES

For each pint of flour, use 1 pint of sour milk.  Mix 3 beaten eggs, 1 tablespoon butter with the mixture of 2 teaspoons of powdered soda and the flour.  Combine the two.  Spoon out on the stove in a low greased dripping pan.

 

Below are some other traditional French-Canadian recipes that Mother Joseph and the sisters probably enjoyed. We invite you to try them.

 

SOUPE (SOUP)

SOUPE AUX POIS (pea soup)

Pea soup was everyday fare for the people in eastern Canada and would have been enjoyed by the sisters. This traditional soup is found in Mother Caron’s Cookbook, 1878.

1 cup dried peas
¼ lb. salt pork
1 onion, cubed
 salt, pepper, parsley

Soak the peas in cold water about 12 hours. Drain and discard the water. Put the salt pork in a pan and cover with cold water, bring to a boil, pour off the water. In a pot, put the peas, 6 cups of cold water, the salt pork (in slices or cubes), and the onion. Let simmer about 2 hours. Salt the soup to taste only when the peas are almost cooked.

 

VIANDE (MEAT)

TOURTIERE (pork pie)

Tourtiere is a winter dish traditionally served at Christmas and New Year. While there are recipes with variations on the seasonings and spices, and different mixtures of pork, beef and veal, everyone agrees it is a favorite meat pie.

2 pounds ground medium-lean pork
2 medium size onions, diced
1 cup water
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 large potato, cooked and mashed
2 prepared pie crusts

Combine meat, onions, and water in a pan. Mix well.  Stir while bringing the mixture to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Spoon off excess grease.  Add mashed potato. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cool. Line pie plate with one crust. Add cooled mixture and cover with second crust as you would a regular pie. Make 3 one-inch openings in top crust to allow steam to escape. Bake at 400º until golden brown. Serve hot. The pie can be refrigerated or frozen for later use.

For variation with spices try adding:

½ tsp. savory, ¼ tsp. powdered celery, 1/8 tsp. ground cloves, ½ clove of garlic, sliced thin, -or-1 tsp. ground cloves, 1 ½ tsp. cinnamon, -or- tsp. ground allspice, ¼ tsp. ground cloves.

For variation with meat, replace one pound of the pork with one pound of ground beef or veal.

TOURTIERE (pork pie) – institutional-size

This recipe for pork pie includes the spices and a mix of pork, beef, and veal.  The chef at Providence Mount St. Vincent, Seattle prepared the conversion to institutional-size proportions. For several years it has been served in the cafeteria at The Mount for Mother Joseph’s birthday.

Adjusted number of servings: 250

30 9” pie crusts
15.5 pounds ground pork
7.8 pounds ground veal (or beef)
62 ounces water
15.5  cups chopped onion
16 pounds mashed potatoes
8 tsp. salt
4 tsp. allspice
2 tsp. cloves
2 tsp. black pepper
4  tsp. granulated garlic
32 ounces liquid eggs

Combine pork, veal or beef, and chopped onion.  Sauté over medium high heat until browned.  Add water and simmer for 30 minutes to soften the meat mixture.  Make mashed potatoes.  Add mashed potatoes and spices to meat mixture.  Slowly mix eggs into potato-meat mixture.  Fill pie shells and bake at 375º until golden brown.  (This recipe does not have a top crust like the previous recipe.)

RAGOÛT DE BOULETTES DE PORC (porkball stew)

Porkball stew was a simple, everyday fare for the people in eastern Canada and would have been enjoyed by the sisters. Many meat stews are found in Mother Caron’s Cookbook, 1878

2 lbs. lean ground pork
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. salt
½  tsp. pepper
1 egg
2 cups hot water or bouillon
Bread crumbs
Herbs for seasoning
Oil or fat to brown the pork balls
 
Bouillon:

¼  lb. pork bones
¼ tsp. salt
2  peppercorns
Small amount of vegetables like sliced carrot, onion, celery

Mix the meat with finely chopped onion, salt, pepper and herbs. Add the egg and several spoons of bread crumbs to hold the meat together when making the balls. Shape into balls.  Coat frying pan with oil to brown pork balls.  Remove excess grease. Add water or bouillon. Let simmer for 1 to 1½ hours. Thicken with flour to make gravy.

To make bouillon:

Place bones in small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and remove scum. Add salt, peppercorns, and vegetables. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Strain liquid and set aside. If necessary, add enough water to make two cups. Discard bones and vegetables.

 

DESSERT

Sucre à la crème is a rich caramel candy that is enjoyed any time of the year.  This dessert is found in Mother Caron’s Cookbook and is popular today in eastern Canada. The use of brown sugar and cream in these desserts reflects the abundance of sugar maple trees in eastern Canada and dairy cows on the farms. Here are two recipes – one for traditional cooking and the other with microwave instructions. The trick is in cooking the mixture to the right stage to solidify into a fudge-like candy. Don’t worry if you don’t succeed: if it is too thin, it is still great as a topping on ice cream or apples. Chopped hazelnuts or walnuts can be added to either recipe.


SUCRE À LA CRÈME  (sugar and cream)

1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup light whipping cream
1 tbsp. butter
½  tsp. vanilla

Combine ingredients in a cooking pan, stirring well. Cook on LOW approximately 25-30 minutes or until syrup forms a soft ball*. Let stand for 5 minutes. Stir until mixture thickens and is smooth. Pour into buttered Pyrex dish; cool and cut into small squares.

*To determine if soft ball stage has been reached, drop a small quantity of the syrup into chilled water to see if it forms a ball which does not disintegrate but flattens out when picked up with your fingers.


SUCRE À LA CRÈME (variation)

1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup light whipping cream
2 tbsp. butter

Combine ingredients in a microwave bowl. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes on HIGH. Stir twice while cooking; let stand for 5 minutes. Whip mixture in blender until smooth 3-5 minutes. Pour into buttered Pyrex dish and refrigerate until firm, approximately 1 hour. Cut into small squares.


SUGAR PIE

Sugar pie is another traditional dessert that has survived the test of time and is enjoyed by eastern Canadians today. It is much like sucre à la crème in a pie and tastes like the base for pecan pie.

2 cups brown sugar
1 tbsp. flour
1 cup light whipping cream
1 cup milk
1 tsp. butter
½  tsp. vanilla
1 prepared pie crust

Combine sugar and flour. Stir in butter, milk, cream, and vanilla. Simmer until it slightly thickens, mixing occasionally so it does not burn. Line pie plate with pastry. Pour mixture into pastry and bake at 350º for 30 to 40 minutes. Filling will be firm, like jelly, but may also have some liquid on top which will thicken as it cools. Makes one shallow-dish pie.