Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Cretons Recipe

How to Make Pork Pate

Cretons... It's not every day that you can brag of creating culinary genius from pork butt. In fact, the very mention of the cut may well relegate you to the ranks of the Sam's Club bulk bologna brigade.
But have no fear, as your days of passing over lower-class meats and wasting money on commercially-produced pate have come to an end (should you meet this challenge, of course). The simplicity of this recipe will keep you in fine table fare for a long time to come.
And yes, it freezes beautifully.

The History of Cretons
 
pork pate Creton Quebecois is pork pate- and when crafted with patience and attention to detail, you will have a spread that rivals, if not outright mimics, the finest fois gras flying in from the Dordogne. This recipe has its origins in the monasteries of the lower St. Lawrence river valley of Quebec, and then traveling south to the mill cities of New England in the waning years of the American industrial revolution. Traditionally, it is served over soda crackers, or as a sandwich spread.

"When made correctly, like those of Father Wright, at the Collège de Sainte-Anne de la Pocatière, of Mrs. Trudelle, of Charlebourg, they are delicious. The Laurentian cretons are of two varieties: those made from Leaf Fat, which are frugal and well known; and the cretons made from finely ground meat.

 
The cretons from Father Wright, for the priests' use only, had such a reputation for excellence among the students of the Collège de Sainte-Anne that, through their prowess, they would sometimes steal a bowl, to make it their delight - like a forbidden fruit - in secret. Sadly, these delicious cretons are no longer found, even in the refectory of the priests! Father Wright took the secret to his grave."

(Excerpts translated from an original French text by Marius Barbeau describing Cretons. CMC, Marius Barbeau fonds, circa 1940, B273/10/110a).
 
Preparation:

Purchase (or harvest) a 1 pound pork butt. If taken from the store, have your butcher grind it down- not once, but twice. Any self-respecting butcher will accommodate you in this endeavor. Do not out-think yourself by getting a leaner cut of meat. Not only would you be overpaying, but your fat content will dribble away into nothing so your pate becomes nothing more than a dry paste, suitable for spackle work and sidewalk repair. Pony up the $1.39 per pound and get to work.

creton If taken from the field- make sure you have a table grinder or a friend who might, as the meat needs to be ground twice. Twice, I tell you. Did I mention it needs to be ground twice?

This process does a couple of things. First, it masticates the pork so it will cook down easier into the consistency you want, and second, it works the excessive fat into the meat, making it more difficult to render out during cooking. You want this fat- think goose liver if your health-addled brain tells you otherwise.

Les Recipe Quebecois Creton
1 lb. Pork Butt, twice ground
1 med yellow onion, minced or grated
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 cup water
Mix all ingredients well in a medium pot, using your hands if necessary. Partly cover, and bring up to a simmer for 1 1/2 hours, or until most of liquid is evaporated. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching. Pour mixture into a cool bowl at room temperature, and cover with a dish towel. Stir vigorously after 1/2 hour to reconstitute any separated fat, and refrigerate until cold. Freeze in appealing shapes of useable portions.