The harvesting season is officially over - big sigh of relief. Up until this recent hard freeze, believe it or not, there was still a trickle of mushrooms (mostly oyster varieties), and we just finished processing the sumac. Now, it looks like the snow is here to stay. So, apart from some pimbina (squashberry), there won’t be too much more picking until spring.
Our Jean Talon market stall is still open on the weekends in a reduced capacity, and will remain open as long as it is possible to be outside. Hats off to our market staff freezing their pants off, tough Jardins Sauvages stock or not.
All to say the pace has slowed down considerably, which means we can breathe a little now and take a day off here and there. No vacation yet however! We have transitioned into X-mas mode, with parties at La Table, and most importantly, into full on production to prepare for the X-mas markets (we participate in a few) for which we need a major supply of all our goodies. We will be at the Marché de Noel de l’Assomption from Dec.2nd to Dec. 23rd, , a widely popular, annual fair of artisans selling food and handicrafts 45 minutes outside Montreal.. www.marchedenoeldelassomption.ca Music, fire and festive village ambiance make this a highlight of the year for our team.
For me, it means a different kind of cooking, and one that I love. For a month, I get to focus on charcuterie (terrines, patés, sausage, foie gras, cured and smoked meats and fish), braised dishes sold sous vide (pintade aux chanterelles, stuffed and braised rabbit, venison stew, lamb couscous, cassoulet, etc.), soups and sauces, and my tourtières.. I also have to make sure we have all the JS products and preserves en masse (mustards, vinaigrettes, oils, tisane, dried mushrooms, etc), as well as mason jars aplenty of pickles, sauces, chutneys.. All the things people want for the holidays, either for gifts or to make it easy to whip up a gourmet meal for guests.
This year, I will be making my cassoulet with homemade bacon and ham, braised piglet, homemade duck-pork-venison sausage, duck confit. I’ve decided to ditch the classic lingot (or tarbais that I used last year) for lima beans. François loves lima beans, and although anyone French would have something to say, I have no bean snobbism; the more terroir the better. While François likes his cassoulet white; I like to add tomato (an annual fight of ours). I win. C’mon, you need something to cut through all that fat.
My tourtières this year will be made with piglet, venison, pintade, braised rabbit, duck confit, a bit of potato, and a lard-butter crust, giving the duck fat crust a rest. There is bound to be some sauvage in there too, maybe some wild ginger or crinkleroot, cattail pollen and sea parsley. No mushrooms though. Despite the touch of sauvage and braised/confit meats, I like to keep it in the traditional realm. Definitely gourmet and luscious, but it has to taste like tourtière. Besides, I’ll be making enough other mushroom treats – rillettes, sauces, several soups (the Champi-Thai is back!), mushroom candies, chocolates and caramels.
At la table, I will also be cooking up a storm. My holiday menu..
Fun, fun, fun.
I do love winter. It’s less about the bounty of fresh greens and pretty things, so much more about comfort and real cooking.. Not just braising, but the weather is right for making sausage, for smoking, for working puff pastry, for drying cured things in a closet. The cold brings appetite for hearty dishes that don’t inspire me in summer; now it’s the season for all those ‘manly’ soups and stews and labour intensive recipes I only feel like making at this time of year. Not being in the total juice all the time helps too. I can fathom making pasta dough, crackers and sausage on the same day because there isn’t 50lb of cattails/berries/mushrooms to process. I can return to making bread every day.
Even at home, we are eating lavishly, because François is cooking too. As soon as the season slows down, he takes to the stove, concocting his old family recipes (poulet au cari, ‘stew’ which is like a pot au feu, soupe aux poireaux, Bolognese..). It seems that as the temperature drops, we both get cooking more than ever. Looking at the contents of our fridge, I can’t help but think we should have teenage kids or more neighbours to help us eat all we feel the need to cook. Thankfully, there’s always staff meal.