With the Holiday season right around the corner, many of us (who are prone to this sort of thing) are up to our arms in cookie dough, gingerbread, shortbread and sweet and savoury puddings of all shapes and sizes. Guests will be dropping in at unexpected times, and it’s always nice to have something to serve them. Now is the perfect time to fall in love with lard.
Take cretons for example; this humble little French Canadian paté owes much of its unctuous deliciousness to lard.
Cretons (or creton) is a mild, smooth pork spread flavoured with onion and savoury spices like clove and allspice. Not necessarily a holiday thing, indeed it is served as a breakfast side at most diners in La Belle Province throughout the year, it is great on toast or crackers with a little mustard, and makes a great side with eggs. The spicing of cretons is similar to that of tourtière, another French Canadian favourite. If the pork is quite lean it may be enriched with pork fat (lard); fine breadcrumbs are added to the mix and it is cooked slowly with milk so that it turns out creamy, fatty and delicious. Maybe that is why it has a holiday appeal to it; it is a bit rich, and a bit of an indulgence. Anyway, a little lard is good for you, and it is, after all, the holidays.
Anyone who makes cretons will have a favourite version of it; the spicing is the key. Cloves, for sure, but maybe a little garlic with the onion, and perhaps a pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon. In the end, it’s what pleases your taste buds the most, and those of your guests. Here’s a recipe for a traditional cretons based on the one my Grandmaman used to make every year.
1 1/2 lbs regular ground pork
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 cup milk
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
Creton spice mix: 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground ginger, ½ teaspoon nutmeg
Fry the pork in a pan over medium heat, stirring gently to break it up. Add the onion and stir often making sure nothing sticks or burns. Add the milk, breadcrumbs and creton spice mix, stirring regularly for about five minutes. Lower heat and cover, cooking for another hour and a half. Check occasionally to make sure there is enough liquid, if it seems to be drying out lower the heat and add a little milk and lard. After an hour and a half remove lid and stir until the liquid has been absorbed and the water from the milk has evaporated; the creton will be smooth and creamy. Remove from heat and let cool a bit before transferring to a serving dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. A little fat cap will probably form on top, this is desirable. Serve at room temperature with toast and crackers and a good mustard.