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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Nova Scotia Comfort Food

Hodge Podge – Old Lunenburg Dishes, Pg. 13 – Evelyn V.B. Ritcey (Mrs. C.D. Ritcey)

A recent trip to the Dartmouth Farmers’ Market inspired our next test recipe. New vegetables are plentiful in August in Nova Scotia – and the market was chock full of bright, fresh new vegetables straight from the garden to market – they don’t get any fresher than this. The Dartmouth Farmers’ Market is held every Saturday from 7 am to 1 pm at Alderney landing on the Dartmouth Waterfront. A small market in comparison to its big sister on the other side of the Harbor – but with the new Halifax Seaport Market currently under siege by most Halifax residents – this market is a welcome respite from the crazy crowds, and really has everything you could want - from fresh fruits and veggies, homemade breads, organic meats and lots more!

Hodge Podge, a traditional Maritime Recipe, is a vegetable stew made with fresh new vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, peas and green and wax beans. There are many varying opinions (some quite strong) as to how hodge podge is to be prepared. One thing that is for sure when it comes to hodge podge is that it is steeped in maritime tradition, quite possibly developed by some of Nova Scotia‘s first settlers (or original foodies) to take advantage of the land’s abundant harvest. Those who like this recipe – usually LOVE IT! It is pure Nova Scotia comfort food at its best! Meat is rarely added and considered by some to be blasphemy! The Dutch Oven cookbook does include an alternate hodge podge recipe from Francis Himmelman (Mrs. H.D.), Pg. 50, that includes lamb. If you like lamb and don’t have a problem with bastardizing hodge podge – go for it. However, there is only room for one hodge podge recipe in The Dutch Oven Diaries – the right one!

As mentioned above – there are many opinions as to how this recipe is to be prepared. For the purposes of this post – it was prepared the way that Peter remembers it being prepared growing up (Jan never had Hodge Podge – I know right?). One step that is consistent with every hodge podge recipe is that new vegetables are boiled until tender. Enough water should be added to a pot to cover vegetables – lightly salted (1Tbs. coarse salt seems to work well). The quantity of vegetables used is really dictated by the amount of hodge podge you want to prepare. The timelines for cooking the veggies are pretty vague in this recipe – we recommend adding the potatoes and carrots first (boil 10 min.), then add beans (boil 10 more min.), then add peas (boil for 5-10 min.).

The sauce is really where the real debate begins. The Dutch Oven recipe recommends beginning by sautéing finely diced salt pork (until crisp) – we didn’t have any salt pork, but bacon works fine (may add a slightly more smokey flavor). Obviously if you want to make this recipe completely vegetarian you would omit this step all together. This recipe includes a small note at the end – “omit onion” – not sure what that is all about, perhaps, Evelyn wasn’t a fan of onions, in any case – Peter remembers onions in his hodge podge – so onions there will be (one finely chopped) – sautéed in bacon grease. Once onions are lightly browned and tender, one cup of cream is added, and salt and pepper to taste. The recipe also notes to add one cup of liquid to the sauce (no mention of what this mystery liquid is to be) – you could reserve some water from the boiled veggies if you want to thin out your sauce a bit, however we found we didn’t need to add any additional liquid. There was one other glaring omition in this recipe – BUTTAH!!– do Paula Deen proud and add a couple of tablespoons of butter to this sauce. Once the sauce is heated through – add it to veggies and serve! One more tip - make lots – hodge podge is even better the next day!

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