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Friday, 17 March 2017

A rapure frolic

One of my favourite things is learning about other cultures and traditions. This includes family recipes which are passed down for generations. Learning a new recipe and the stories behind it are wonderful ways to share our lives over a meal and learn about each other. 

We had a frolic which in Prince Edward Island denotes any occasion when people get together to work on a project. Women had frolics for knitting, crocheting, or quilting as examples. Men had frolics to cut wood or build a shed. Ours was to make rapure, a traditional Acadian dish. We had baked apples for dessert.

While she lived in Prince Edward Island, my mother-in-law, Sylvia, became friends with some Acadians. It was a pleasure for us to get to know this important part of our community. Their kindness and friendship helped Sylvia during the two years she lived on the island.

Our curiosity about Acadian customs and culture led us to the preparation and sharing of this Acadian meal. Four of us prepared the rapure and baked apples. It was both fun and delicious. My husband shared our completed meal as well.

Our friends were Angéle and Eleanor. Angéle is Acadian, raised in Mont Carmel, PEI. Eleanor's husband, Eldon, was Acadian too. Eleanor is from St. Augustine on the lower north shore of Québec. My mother-in-law, Sylvia, a fellow Newfoundlander, helped in the kitchen that day with her friends. 

 
                                                     Eleanor, Angéle and Sylvia

Acadians are descendants of the early French settlers to Canada. When the British gained control of what is now the Canadian Maritimes, they drove the Acadians out of their homes. Some island Acadians fled to the woods and hid, later re-establishing themselves in the Evangeline area of western PEI. These families have kept their language and culture alive and they are a vibrant part of our island home. Acadians have a proud heritage which we were eager to know.

 

Angéle's father was a fisherman who also grew vegetables and raised animals. Her mother raised the children and kept the house. She made rapure for her large family as a special meal. It is made with pork and grated potato, so it was labour intensive in the days before food processors. With ten children, you can imagine the amount of potato needed for the family and the grating was hard and time consuming work. The family loved the meal but it was not a common item on the menu.

                                               
                                                                Rapure

We used 10 pounds of Russet potatoes in this recipe. You must peel and boil at least five medium to large size potatoes in salted water. While the potatoes are boiling, peel and grate the remainder of the potatoes. Keep them in water to prevent the potatoes from darkening. Angéle says the best rapure is made with potatoes grated on a box grater. Today, a food processor hastens the work. Rinse the grated potato well and drain in a colander just before combining with the other ingredients. 

Meanwhile, cut a pork shoulder roast, about two to three pounds, into bite size cubes, trimming the fat. Saute the pork with one large chopped onion in oil. The meat and onion can be browned in the oven if you prefer.

When the potatoes are boiled, mash them and combine with the drained grated raw potato, pork, onion, salt and pepper to taste. Eleanor's mother-in-law also added summer savoury and coriander to the recipe, though Angéle's family did not. We added a pinch of savoury.

When ready to put the rapure in the oven, Angéle made the sign of the cross over the food saying, "St. Theresa and St. Martha, bless me that I may make a good rapure." Her mother always said this blessing and Angéle does the same blessing for bread.

Place in greased pan(s) large enough to hold the recipe. We used two pans. Cook on 400 degrees F for one hour, then reduce the heat to 350 for a second hour. Check that the rapure is browning during the second hour and increase the heat if it is not browning as you would like.

Cut the rapure into serving size pieces to plate and add molasses as you would to a pancake. The rapure is crispy on the outside and tasty, even without the molasses.

 

Angéle's mother used the fat from the pork as well, not wasting a bit of the roast. The flavour from the fat and its presence in the rapure changed it from the recipe we have today, using only lean meat. However, her Mom's recipe for that time provided needed calories for the hard working family. Today, we are concerned with cutting fat from our diets any way we can. 

For dessert, we had a traditional island recipe of baked apples. We washed and cored the apples and put some brown sugar in them as well as chopped dried cranberries. You can use raisins also. A tablespoon of butter over the top of each apple helps create a nice sauce. Cook on 350 degrees F until the apples are tender, about 70 minutes in our oven.

The two pans of rapure we made were different thicknesses. Some people prefer the rapure thin, with the crispiness going through the slice. Others prefer it thick with the crispiness on the top only. We made it both ways to see which we preferred.

Prince Edward Island is an ideal place for growing potatoes so the rapure was a great recipe for families who grew their own potatoes, enough to carry them through to the next year if they were lucky. Some had animals as well, as did Angéle's family, though the children were not happy to see their named pets on the dinner plate. Apples grow well on this island too and many families had the trees on their property. They were an important part of every family's diet and apple trees are plentiful to this day.

Like Newfoundlanders further east in the Atlantic Ocean, Acadians lived off the land and sea. We have so much in common in spite of the difference in our first language. Rapure will become part of our menu in the future and we will remember our friends and their traditions every time we make it.

30 comments:

  1. This is such an interesting post and photos. How very nice that you shared this experience together. Hard to imagine the preparation involved for such a large family without today's modern conveniences. Wishing you a lovely weekend.

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    1. I cannot imagine feeding such a large family every day, even today, Mildred.

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  2. What wonderful information, Marie. I never heard of Acadians, or rapper before today. Although I don't eat pork, I wonder if it might be possible to substitute some other animal and make this just to try it. Thank you for showing me the pictures as well. And Happy St. Patty's Day! :-)

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    1. You can use whatever meat you have, Jan. I think lamb would be delicious. Some Acadians moved south of the border and became the Cajuns.

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  3. I've never heard of "rapure" before, but it sounds delicious! So I've learned something new from you today. Also, the word "frolic" -- what a great word for getting together with friends to work!

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  4. Saved your Rapure recipe! Talked to my daughter-in-law about it, we thought we'd try it on a weekend when we can get together about 12 of us. Fascinating and sad history. In school when I was about 11 we read Longfellow's poem "Evangeline" and studied the story of the Acadian expulsion. Made me cry.

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    1. We liked the thinner one best, with the crispiness theoughout. People have different tastes however. Good luck.

      The French Acadian area here is called Evangeline, Celia.

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  5. What fun. It reminds me of all the women working in the kitchen, preparing a holiday meal, while the men drifted around, talking or dozing.

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    1. Women do enjoy their time working on projects, Joanne.

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  6. What a fascinating post. You have opened my eyes to people and a dish I was unaware of - thank you so much.

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    1. The story of the Acadians is told in a wonderful musical called Evangeline, EC.

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  7. Very nice that you were able to get this ethnic, old-time recipe! I can imagine people that had to work hard on their land needed that extra fat in the dish! Ten kids would certainly be a challenge to cook for! I like the baked apples idea...saves on calories to not have a crust. Andrea

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    1. There are apple trees along the trails on this island, Andrea. Ready food supply to those large family and so easy to bake.

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  8. These are the traditions that mark our years, Marie. Even now with Astrid, I make the Hungarian chicken paprikash from Bill's relatives, sometimes as a Christmas choice, because it's a time-consuming recipe to make and is such a treat. So I totally related to this post. I especially loved the "St. Theresa and St. Martha, bless me" part. HA! I'll have to remember to add it next time. :)

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    1. I love to learn about people's traditions. It is amazing to me how various cultures handle the same issues. It makes the world such an interesting place!

      I bet that recipe you make is delicious, Ginnie.

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  9. The ctrl-left would chastise you for cultural appropriation, being English and all. :)

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  10. Our friends were eager to share their culture and traditions and we were eager to learn. Such a positive experience! Political correctness is run amok these days!

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  11. I've always thought the sharing of cultures a wonderful thing Marie, it's what makes the world a very much more interesting and exciting place. Unfortunately I don't eat pork so the rapure is out for moi☺

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  12. I so agree, PDP. Such richness in the world because of how we are different, yet basically the same.

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  13. WoW!! how interesting, something i have never done. but i always feel awesome when i cook my aunts recipes (she was really my grandmother) she, and her recipes have always been very special to me!! i LOVE bakes apples, so simple but oh so sweet!!!

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  14. Love the apples too. Simple goodness for sure, Debbie!

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  15. Very interesting to learn about the Acadians! Lovely food indeed! Thanks for including the recipes and also photos. Lovely to see the friendship you all share and enjoy the differences! We can learn from that as well.

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  16. Angela, Acadians make up about 11% of the population of PEI. They are French speaking and have a rich heritage which we love to learn about.

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  17. It is wonderful reading about this dish and learning about the history behind it. It is so important that these traditions are not lost. Sarah x

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    1. I agree, Sarah. It is a wonderful history!

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  18. What an interesting post Marie. When we visited PEI for a family wedding years ago it was the first time to have potatoes fresh from a PEI garden and I couldn't get enough of them! They taste nothing like what ends up in Ontario and I was gifted some to bring home. It must be the soil that adds flavour?

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  19. The potatoes here are delicious, Judith. There is a great variety too.

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