June 8, 2017
Some of the most famous 'Canadian' foods have their origins in La Belle Province. Poutine, tourtiere, and the country’s maple syrup industry all have their roots in Quebec. But the province also has a thriving beverage industry.
This month at Co-op we’re taking a tour of Canadian food and drink in honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary and looking at all-Canadian food and drink pairings. This time we’re exploring Quebec.
With Quebec’s history reaching back to France, you might think you’d find more wine here. But Quebec’s beverage industry is full of surprises. Cirka Gin Sauvage is a popular spirit that’s made in Montreal from 100% Quebec-grown corn and a blend of over 30 botanicals. With notes of coriander, lemon peel and juniper, the taste is bright and refreshing.
Serving Cirka Gin Sauvage with a splash of tonic and a squeeze of fresh lime juice would make a great Saturday afternoon cocktail, but gin also works amazingly well as a flavour element in steamed mussels. Because of Quebec’s proximity to the St .Lawrence seaway and thus the Atlantic Ocean, there’s a plethora of seafood available to Quebeckers, so it’s no surprise local libations and regional seafood goes hand in hand.
Cirka Gin Sauvage is made to optimize the unique flavours of Quebec. The distiller uses a customized pot still using a specialized “botanical basket” where warm vapours extract oils and essences which in turn infuses subtle flavours into the gin. It’s definitely worth a try if you’re curious about Quebec’s distilling industry.
One of the most popular and award winning beverages to come out of Quebec is La Fin du Monde beer ny Unibroue. Literally translated as "The End of the World,” the beer is a Belgian-style tripel named for European explorers' belief that they had reached the end of the world when they discovered America.
The golden amber brew is slightly cloudy and has a bit of a spicy flavour that makes it an excellent pairing with blue cheese, cheddar or parmesan, so if you're sampling some Quebec libations, laying out a cheese plate featuring some delicious Canadian and Quebec cheeses is a great way to taste the province. Fin du Monde is also a natural alongside other French-inspired dishes like quiche, light fresh fluffy omelettes and seafoods like salmon and trout.
Of course Fin du Monde also goes well with that very Quebec dish; poutine. With crispy fries, hot gravy and melty cheese curds, you’ll want a beer that cuts through some of the heaviness. Fin du Monde works particularly well with a poutine that’s even richer than the usual dish; think adding a hearty beef gravy and some duck confit. According to Co-op’s beer expert Melissa Rizzuto, it’s a dynamite pairing.
One of Canada’s most popular and recognizable flavours has to be maple, so it’s no surprise that someone’s found a way to incorporate it into whisky. Sortilège Prestige is a maple whisky where extra clear maple syrup (only available as soon as the spring thaw hits) is added to a 7-year-old Canadian whisky. The result is a smooth, slightly sweet, very aromatic drink that’s great on its own, or when used in baking. It’s a natural replacement for bourbon in a pecan pie, in eggnog at Christmas time or in custards. Or just add a splash to some after-dinner coffee or tea. The hint of sweetness and maple flavour is a subtle but delicate boost to drinks and sweets.
Considering Quebec’s maple syrup industry is among the largest in North America and it dates back to the 1500’s when explorer Jacques Cartier heard about “delicious and delicate sugar” flowing from trees, finding a way to use this liquid gold in a variety of new ways is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to food and beverage innovation in Quebec.
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