The first Acadians to settle in Canada were mostly farmers, soldiers and craftspeople. Many came from rural areas of mid-west France and brought with them the agrarian and culinary traditions of their native France. Their diet resolved around the agricultural products that they brought with them from France and those introduced to them by the Amerindians such as, seasonal fruits of nature, fishing and hunting. During the Spring and Summer months, wild game and fish provided settlers with a steady source of protein, while the family gardens provided peas and a large variety of other vegetables.
Among the agricultural products that the Acadians adopted from the Amerindians were corn, beans, and squash, known to the Amerindians as”The Three Sisters”. These products were the result of the companion-planting of corn, beans and squash each beneficial to the other. The sturdy corn stalk gave the beans vine support; the beans produced nitrogen for the corn and the squash nines; shaded the grounds, keeping down weeds and conserving moisture in the soil. Not only did the Amerindians plant the Three Sisters crop together, but they believed that these vegetables were supposed to be eaten together. One dish that resulted in this concept was SUCCOTASH.
The Acadian farmers found the land in Acadia, protected by mountain ridges and suitable for growing wheat, buckwheat, corn, turnips, cabbage, potatoes and beans. They grew fruit such as pears, apples, plums, and cherries. They supplemented their diet with wild game such as moose, bear, rabbit, partridge, geese, ducks, teal, plover, pigeons and marsh birds and they fished for cod, salmon, shad, bass, eel, smelt and a variety of shell fish. Staples of the Acadian diet included herring, cod, potatoes, pork (mostly in the form of salt pork) and local grains made into pancakes (plogues), biscuits and bread.
During the months of August, the Acadians harvested wheat, barley and rye… and transported their grain to local mills for grinding. Although the Acadians raised a lot of cattle, sheep and pigs, they did not eat a lot of meat, especially veal or any other young animal. In Autumn, the most surplus livestock were allocated for trade, or sold outright. They slaughtered their animals only when they were no longer fit to use as work animals or able to provide them with milk, eggs, wool etc.. When they did, the choicer cuts of meat were sold, Some beef and pork was consumed immediately, but most of the meat salted for use during the approaching Winter.
The Acadians had an affinity for salt pork. Turnips and cabbages were staple of their Winter diet. The cabbages were allowed to remain in the snow-covered field until they were gathered in small amounts for immediate consumption. The turnips were harvested and stored in cellars.
A portion of the apple crop was made into cider. Alcohol was available (both imported and smuggled rum) and home-made wine and cider however, the beverage preferred by the Acadians, was spruce-sprout beer.
Like in other areas of French Canada, some of the recipes brought to Acadia from France generations ago, are still made exactly as they were in Europe. Others were adapted to the foods and the way of life in Acadia, resulting in a combination of true French cuisine, Acadian-French alterations and many dishes that were born in Acadia and had never been served in any other country.
Following the expulsion of the Acadians, those who escaped the deportation and those who returned and resettled mostly along the coastal areas, found themselves in a completely different environment that they had been accustomed… isolated culturally, the Acadians had to respond to new and different circumstances, forcing them to make the most of what they had. Unlike their forebears who had continued agrarian traditions brought from France, the resettled Acadians living by the sea, lost their agricultural and culinary traditions and put new ones in their place. By necessity, they learned to tap the rich resources of the sea. Over time, the struggle to put food on the table developed into a unique culinary tradition and imaginative response to the land and the sea.
Unlike the staples of the Acadian diet, the gaspereau and shad which served as important secondary sources of protein, required less cooking but higher temperatures. Hence, fish were usually fried in oil… probably bear oil (much to the chagrin of French travelers) because butter was practically unknown in Acadia.
On the whole, Acadian cooking was uncomplicated, keeping the number of ingredients to a minimum and the method of preparation simple. In fact, many dishes were a one-pot meal, such as FRICOTS and CHOWDERS. If there is one dish that could be called “typically Acadian”, it would be FRICOT, which is a soup containing potatoes and meat (usually chicken), fish and/or seafood. Although a fricot may vary from one region to another, to this day the dish will always have the same basic ingredients… meat and potatoes in a hearty broth, with dumplings called poutines or grand-pères. Fricots are rich in calories and, with fresh bread… “a meal in themselves”! Fricots and poutine rapéescontinue to be a central part of today’s Acadian cuisine, together with meat pies and paté à la rapures… followed by poutines a trous.
Ordinary meals did not usually include a dessert and the main meal was often followed by bread and molasses, or included pancakes and dumplings (called POUTINES).
The morning meal (breakfast) was usually the heartiest and was served after they had worked-up an appetite from the morning chores and would BOUDIN (blood pudding), CRETONS, GRILLADES and TOURTIERES (meat pies) as well as leftovers from the previous day’s meals. The three meals of the day were called déjeuner (breakfast), dîner (dinner) and souper (supper).
Age-old Acadian cooking techniques remained fundamentally unaltered throughout the late eighteenth century, despite radical changes in their diet. The Acadians utilized two main cooking techniques; boiling or frying in chaudrons (black cast-iron pots). Turnips and cabbages were cooked by boiling together into a “soupe de la Toussaint”, an extremely popular pre-expulsion delicacy during Winter months.
[ Recipe # 2 ]
Poutines Rapées are a mixture of raw grated potatoes, combined with cooked and mashed potatoes and then formed into a ball, stuffed with seasoned salt pork and then simmered in salted water. They are served with brown sugar or molasses (and I have seen them eaten with mustard).
1/2 pound of fatty, salted pork
4 potatoes, cooked, mashed and seasoned with salt and pepper
Soak the salted pork overnight to remove the excess salt. Cut into cubes. Grate the uncooked potatoes and extract the water from the grated potatoes by squeezing them in a cloth. Mix the grated dried potatoes with the mashed-seasoned potatoes. Add seasoning if necessary. Make a hole in the center of the potato ball with your thumb and add tablespoon of the cubed salted pork. Close the hole and roll the poutine in white flour and then gently lower them in a large pot filled with boiling salt water. Keep the water boiling and simmer the poutines for 2 to 3 hours. Serve hot with butter, salt and pepper, or as a dessert with sugar a molasses. Makes 6 poutines.
Potatoes had many uses in the kitchen of the early Acadian settlers. The residue squeezed from the grated pulp for dishes such as pâté à la râpure, became the starch for the family laundry. Potatoes were used to soathe headaches and to make yeast for bread; and small pieces made good corks for bottles. As a food, potatoes had no peer. During long winter evenings, slices were often cooked until brown over an open fire, as young folks today toast marshmallows. Grated raw potatoes, salted and cooked on the griddle, became potato pancakes.
The chicken fricot is an ancestor to our chicken and dumplings and can also be made with fish, rabbit, beef, pork, game or no meat at all. The original potato fricot was prepared by early Acadians when neither meat or fish was available and was given the tongue-in-cheek name’fricot à la belette’ (weasel fricot) and, according to folklore, if you ask an Acadian about the origin of the name, they will simply smile and say… “Parc-que la bedette a passé toute droute” (because the ‘weasel’ [meat] went right on by)!”
1/4 pound of diced salt pork (or, 3 tablespoons of butter or oil)
1 – 3 to 5 lbs. stewing hen (or chicken) cut into serving pieces
2 cups of diced onions
1/4 cup of white flour
2 quarts of boiling water
salt and pepper, to taste
5 cups diced potatoes
3 to 4 sliced carrots (optional)
Sauté the salt pork (or heat the butter or oil) in a large pot; then sauté the chicken pieces, until lightly browned. Remove the chicken and all but about 3 tablespoons of oil or fat. Sauté the diced onions until wilted and slightly golden. Do not burn the onions. Add the flour and let the mixture cook about 1 minute. Add the chicken and boiling water. Season to taste.
Simmer until chicken is tender. Add the diced potatoes and carrots and cook fricot for about 15 to 20 minutes longer. Serve hot or add the drop dumplings pate (or grand-pères); cover and steam the dumplings in the fricot for about 7 minutes longer.
Dumplings For Fricot
1 cup of white flower
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup cold water
Combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Add the water and mix lightly until blended. Drop by tablespoon size onto the simmering fricot and steam (tightly covered cover) for about 7 minutes.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 pound pickled pork, diced
1 pound smoked ham, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 pound smoked sausage, sliced
4 cups beef or chicken stock or hot water
2 cups rice
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
1. In large saucepan with lid, melt butter with oil.
2. Add onions and pork and saute until onions are soft.
3. Add ham, garlic, thyme and parsley and saute 5 minutes.
4, Add sausage and cook until browned.
5, Stir in stock and bring to boil.
6. Add rice, bay leaf and cayenne.
7. Return to boil and cover.
8. Simmer over very low heat 30 to 45 minutes, checking after 30 minutes to see if all liquid has been absorbed and rice is tender. If necessary, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup more water if liquid boils away before rice is cooked.
Acadian Corn Soup; Soupe au Blé D’Inde
3 cups diced potatoes
1-1/2 cups corn kernels
3 cups salted water
1 large onion
2 tsp. butter
2 cups milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp. butter
Boil the diced potatoes in the salted water for 15 minutes. If fresh corn is used, remove the kernels from the cob and cook the corn with the potatoes. Sauté the onion in butter. Add milk and heat the mixture until it is warm. Add the boiled potatoes and corn and the cooking liquid. Season to taste. Let the mixture stand a few minutes to allow the flavors to enhance, before serving.
Just before serving add 1 tbsp. of butter.
“Soupe de la Toussaint”
(All Saints Day Soup)
“Soupe De La Toussaint” was a meatless soup made with cabbage (often stolen from their neighbours garden, on Halloween), and is similar to Louisiana’s traditional vegetable soup, gumbo z’herbes, that is served on Good Friday.
2 quarts cold water
salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
1 small head of cabbage, shredded
2 cups chopped leeks, or green onions
2 cups diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
Boil the mixture for about 10 minutes and serve hot.
Note: A beef shank, or soup meat, is an optional addition to the dish. If you use the shank, boil it for about 30 minutes before adding the vegetables.
1 lb. crawfish tails
1/4 cup celery, chopped
2 cup onions, chopped
2 tbsp. bell pepper, chopped
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp. red pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 cloves garlic
6 tbsp butter
1. Saute vegetables until transparent. Add 1/8 cup of water and simmer for 15 minutes.
2. Add crawfish fat, cover and cook for 15 minutes on low.
3, Add crawfish tails, salt and peppers and cook for 15 minutes.
4. Add parsley and onion tops a few minutes before serving.
5. Serve over hot rice.
Chowder # 2
In pot # 1
6 cups cold water
1 cup chopped celery with stalks and leaves
3/4 cup chopped onion
1-1/2 tsp. salt
6 peppercorns, crushed
1 bay leaf
4 parsley stalks
1/2 tsp. thyme
4 oz raw shrimp in their shells
1-1/2 lbs. fresh cod, halibut or haddock
2 tbsp. butter, softened
2 tbsp. flour
Pot # 2 – Potatoes and vegetables
2 cups chopped potatoes 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 cups boiling water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup freshly shelled or frozen peas
1-cup sour cream
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh coriander or parsley.
To make a poaching liquid in pot # 1, combine the cold water, celery onion salt, peppercorns, bay leaf parsley and thyme in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add shrimp and cook until the shrimp are opaque and pink. Remove the shrimp. Peel and de-vein the shrimp and set aside. Add the fish in one piece to the poaching liquid and cook
about 5 minutes. The fish should flake. Remove fish with a slotted spoon and break into serving size chunks and set aside with the shrimp. Strain the stock and press the vegetables against the strained to remove all liquid. Return the stock to the saucepan.
Blend the flour and butter together and add to the stock, one spoon full at a time, blending the mixture with a whisk. Reheat and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Reserve over low heat, whisking periodically. Place the 2 cups of water, salt into pot #2 and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until the potatoes are tender. Add the celery and peas and cook for 5 minutes. Transfer the
contents of this pan to the thickened fish stock. Add the reserved fish and shrimp and heat through. Remove the chowder from the heat and stir in the sour cream. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Serve immediately in warmed shallow soup bowl, making sure there are enough shrimp and fish pieces in each bowl. Garnish with coriander. Makes 6 servings.
You can prepare both of the above Chowders and substitute chopped shrimp, scallops, cod, salmon or any firm white ocean fish, lump crabmeat or Louisiana crawfish.
Cajun Barbecue Shrimp
1 cup (2 sticks) margarine
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup chicken broth (canned is fine)
4 teaspoons finely minced garlic
5 whole bay leaves, torn into pieces
4 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed
1 teaspoons dried sweet basil
1 teaspoon Greek oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper
4 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 pounds whole fresh shrimp in the shell (with heads if possible)
1. In a heavy saute pan or saucepan melt the margarine, then add the oil and mix well. Add all the other ingredients except the shrimp and broth, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce begins to boil.
2. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently, then remove the pan from the heat and let it stand, uncovered, at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
3. Add the shrimp to the sauce, mix thoroughly, and put the pan back on the burner. Cook over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes, or just until the shrimp turn pink.
4. Add the broth, shaking the pan back and forth to mix. Preferably, place the pan into a preheated 450 degree F oven and bake for 10 minutes. Or simmer loosely covered on the stovetop for about 5 or 10 minutes.
5. Serve equal portions of shrimp with about 1/2 cup of the sauce ladled over each one. You will need bibs and lots of bread to sop up the sauce. Also, fingers are a necessary eating utensil.
(Roast chicken with potato stuffing)
Poultry was scarce in Acadia, so rabbit, which were plentiful, were sometimes roasted and stuffed with a bread stuffing or potato stuffing.
1 baking hen (or rabbit)
3 slices of dry stale bread
3 tbsp. butter
Salt and pepper
Boil the potatoes and mash. Sauté onion in the butter then add 3 slices of dry stale bread to mixture. Sauté the mixture, and then add potatoes, summer savory, salt and pepper. Moisten the stuffing if necessary. Stuff into chicken or rabbit and roast with potato stuffing at 375 degrees for 2 hours.
Mardi Gras King Cake
1 package yeast
1/4 cup warm water
6 teaspoons milk, scalded and cooled
4 cups flour (to 5 cups)
1/2 pound butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons melted butter
Small plastic doll (or bean)
Light corn syrup for topping
Granulated sugar for topping – green, yellow, purple
1. Dissolve yeast in warm water.
2. Add milk and about 1/2 cup of flour.
3. In a large bowl, blend butter, sugar, salt and eggs.
4. Add yeast dough and mix thoroughly.
5. Gradually, add 2 1/2 cups flour to make a medium dough.
6. Place in a greased bowl and brush with melted butter.
7. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise until double in volume, about 3 hours.
8. Use 1 cup or more flour to knead dough and roll into a 4 to 5 foot long rope.
9. Form into a oval on a 14 x 17-inch greased cookie sheet, connecting ends of the rope with a few drops of water.
10. Press the doll (or bean) into the dough from underneath.
11. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise until double in volume, about 1 hour.
12. Bake at 325 degrees F for 35 to 45 minutes or until lightly browned.
13. Brush top of cake with corn syrup and sprinkle with alternating bands of colored sugar.
King Cakes are traditionally made and eaten after New Years up until Ash Wednesday. A small baby figure is placed in each cake. The person who gets the baby has to provide the next King Cake.
St. John Valley ‘Ploye’ (Plogue) Recipe
1 cup of Buckwheat Flour
1 cup of ‘All Purpose’ Flour
2 teaspoons of Baking Powder
1 teaspoon of Salt
Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl, with 1 1/2 cup of cold water, until the consistency of cake batter. Add 1/2 cup of hot (not boiling) water and mix well to make a light batter. Spoon enough batter onto a very hot griddle, to make a 4 to 8 inch pancake. Serve withcreton… that’s _another_ story, butter, or molasses! My own personal favourite, is with maple syrup!
Ployes de Bockouite – Galettes de Sarrasin – Plogues au Sarrasin
Bayou Bread Pudding, with Hot Rum Sauce
1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple
8 ounces raisins
1 cup dark rum
30 ounces stale French bread
1 quart milk
6 ounces melted butter
3 large eggs
6 ounces evaporated milk
3 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
Hot Rum Sauce:
2 cups granulated sugar
8 ounces butter
2 large eggs
4 ounces dark rum
1. Place pineapple and raisins in a bowl. Add rum and set aside to marinate for 48 hours. Break up the bread and soak in the milk, then strain out excess liquid in a sieve and place the mushy bread in a mixing bowl. Drain the rum from the fruit and reserve liquid for making sauce. Add the fruit to the bread, together with melted butter.
2. In a separate bowl beat the eggs with the evaporated milk, vanilla and both sugars and add to the bread and fruit. Mix with a spoon until thoroughly blended. To cook: transfer the mixture to a well-greased 12 x 9-inch baking pan and bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes, then remove pan and stir well. Spread the pudding evenly and replace in the oven to bake for a further 40 to 45 minutes. Serve immediately with Hot Rum Sauce.
3. Combine sugar and butter in a double boiler. Beat eggs, add to the pan and whisk rapidly to produce a thick consistency. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool, then stir in rum and reserved marinade. Reheat before pouring over the pudding prior to serving.
Canadian Christmas Tourtière
- 2 lg. potatoes, peeled
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 1/4 tsp. ginger
- 1 recipe pastry
- 1/2 c. finely chopped onion
- 1/2 c. beef broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/8 tsp. cloves
Cut up potatoes and cook in boiling water foir 20 minutes. Drain, mash.
Brown the pork and drain-off excess fat. Stir-in the rest of the ingredients, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often. Discard bay leaf. Stir in potatoes. Allow mixture to cool.
Roll half the pastry into 12 inch circle. Line a 9 inch pie plate. Trim dough even woth rim. Fill with meat mixture. Roll-out remaining dough. Place on top of filing and make slits for steam to escape. Trim to 1/2 inch beyond rim. Seal; flute. Cut-out recorative shapes from dough scraps. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Makes 6 servings.
Louisiana Style Lil Smokies
5 slices bacon, diced
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup pineapple juice
3/4 cup catsup
3 tablespoons Tabasco brand green pepper sauce
1 1/2 packages Lil Smokies brand sausage, chopped
1. Fry bacon over medium heat until crisp and brown.
2. Add green bell pepper and onion. Cook until tender.
3. Stir in catsup, juice and green pepper sauce. Mix well.
4. Add smoked sausage to sauce and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Serve as is or over rice.
• 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
• 2 lbs boneless chicken
• 2 c peeled & cubed potatoes
• 1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie
• 2 c chicken broth
• 2 lbs pork tenderloin
• 1/4 lb sliced ham
• 1 tsp salt
• 4 onions, sliced
• 2 lbs flank steak
• Step #1 Cut chicken, & pork into 1 inch cubes, beef, & place this in a large bowl.
• Step #2 Stir in onions.
• Step #3 Cover, & put in the fridge overnight.
• Step #4 Arrange salt pork evenly in the bottom of a 3 quart casserole dish with a cover.
• Step #5 Layer with 1/3 of the meat mixture & 1/3 of the potatoes; season this with salt & pepper.
• Step #6 Roll out half of the pastry a little bit thicker than for a normal pie & arrange on the potato layer, cutting a small hole in the middle.
• Step #7 Repeat with 2 more layers of meat & potatoes seasoned with salt & pepper.
• Step #8 Cover with remaining pastry, & cut a small hole in the middle of that layer too.
• Step #9 Slowly add enough chicken stock through the hole until liquid appears.
• Step #10 Cover dish.
• Step #11 Bake at 400F degrees F (205 degrees C) for 45 mins, or until liquid simmers.
• Step #12 Reduce temperature to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C).
• Step #13 Bake for 5 to 6 hrs more, or until top crust is a rich golden brown.
• Step #14 Enjoy the Cipate Pie recipe.
I am very grateful to Dr. Don J. Landry who published “The Cuisine of Acadia” and gave me permission to reproduce some of its wonderful Acadian recipes on this page.