At the end of April, after a halcyon week of blue skies and blazing sun, the weather in Whitehorse closed in. We had wind, we had snow, we had cold, bone-biting rain. The new grass just showing itself in the yard looked fed-up and dejected, as if it too were saying, “Come on, really?” The foraging season seemed to recede into the distance. As for the gardening season, the very idea of young rhubarb pushing its fists out of the soil was laughable.
Discouraged by this dismal prospect, I bundled up and set off around town to forage in supermarkets and small shops for local and locally available foodstuffs to bring home and play with. The first stop was Cultured Fine Cheese in the Horwood’s Mall for some Klondike Valley Creamery (KVC) cheeses. I had a cheese pie in mind; one I’d first tasted in Sweden years ago and recreated using Canadian cheddar in place of the beloved Swedish cheese, Västerbottonsost. Why not try a Yukon cheese this time round?
I was in luck—KVC’s Kerrsdale cheddar and The Dutchman were in stock and I scooped up 200 grams of each, along with pickled cherries and green olives stuffed with orange peel for accompaniment (Cheese pie pairs well with tart, briny flavours). It was a slow moment in the store so owner Larra Daley had time to chat, always a treat and an opportunity to tap into her vast knowledge of all things cheese.
Next stop was Wykes’ Your Independent Grocer in search of local flour. Yes, local flour, in the Yukon. Wykes’ dropped this bombshell in a Facebook post on April 13, and Tum Tum’s Black Gilt Meats followed suit on April 15, both welcoming Hinterland Flour Mills products to their shelves. Trevor and Marie Amiot, the farmers behind Hinterland, grow wheat and barley on their farm in the Yukon River Valley and mill the grains themselves. Their offerings range from barley and wheat flour to baking mixes to whole grain barley. I picked up a one-kilo bag of hard red spring wheat whole grain flour and am looking forward to lots of experiments in the coming weeks.
Next stop was the cooler section at Wykes’ where I dreamed for a moment of Yukon-made butter and cream—surely it’s just a matter of time—and picked up a dozen large brown Little Red Hen eggs from Mandalay Farm. From there it was home to the kitchen armed with a shopping bag filled with local and locally sourced foodstuffs. How satisfying.
Now, here’s the thing, local artisanal products can be pricey for lots of good reasons (a small local market, the expense of production) so if times are tight, just substitute brand-name all-purpose flour and cheddar cheese and I promise, the results will be different but just as delicious.
Market foraging tips: Look for Klondike Valley Cheese at Cultured Fine Cheese and Tum Tum’s Black Gilt Meats in Whitehorse and Bonton & Co in Dawson. Hinterland Flour Mills products can be found at Wykes’, Tum Tum’s and Takhini Gas in Whitehorse and will soon be available online. Little Red Hen Eggs are sold at several grocery stores in Whitehorse, Haines Junction, Atlin and Dawson; for a complete list visit Mandalay Farm’s Facebook page.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup Hinterland Hard Red Spring Wheat Whole Grain Flour
- ½ cup cold unsalted butter
- 1 to 2 tbsp cold water
- 3 large Little Red Hen or other local eggs
- 1 cup 35% cream or crème fraiche
- 2 cups grated Klondike Valley Creamery Kerrsdale cheese
- ½ cup finely diced Klondike Valley Creamery Dutchman cheese
- 1 tsp finely ground black pepper
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 425F.
- Whisk flours together. Cut butter into flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. If you’re using a food processor, pulse until the dough begins to stick to the bowl. Stir or pulse in water, adding the full amount only if the dough doesn’t clump together cohesively when you pinch it. Note that the dough will be crumbly even after the addition of water.
- Transfer the dough into a 10-inch flat-bottomed pie pan and press evenly into the bottom and up the sides. Prick the pastry with a fork and freeze for 10 minutes.
- Bake shell on the bottom rack of the oven for 5 minutes, move it to the middle rack and bake 5 minutes more. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.
- For the filling, whisk eggs until light and creamy. Fold in crème fraiche or whipping cream, cheeses and salt and pepper. Pour into the cooled tart shell.
- Bake for 20 minutes, until the centre is set and the top is golden brown. (Note: the filling will puff up considerably in the oven and then fall as it cools.)
- Cool on a rack before cutting and serving.