Setting Our Table Proudly!
So you want to Shop Like A Canadian. Me, too. For a whole lot of reasons. Local food is better for the planet and keeping our producers and processors in business and reviving the entire sector which, for a number of years, seemed to have been on life support. Besides, using local ingredients is actually a whole lot of fun.
It whets our culinary curiosity and defines who we are as Canadians. We are very proud of those culinary nationalists who care enough to risk being in the food business either as a grower, a processor or as a manufacturer. We are Putting Canada on the Menu!
Before beginning, we needed to find out about the rules around labeling. There are dozens, both at the Federal and Provincial levels. It’s like like sifting wheat from chaff to find out how to read them. But I think we’ve nailed it. Maybe not perfectly. But that’s where you come in. We look forward to your feedback.
Product of Canada is the one that holds the most weight! It’s grown and processed in Canada. This is why this list is such fun … and why it’s so important.
According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, a “Product of Canada” label means that all, or nearly all, of the food, processing and labour used to make the food is Canadian. These foods were
- grown or raised by Canadian farmers
- prepared and packaged by Canadian food companies.
Note that a food can still be labeled “Product of Canada” if it contains small amounts of imported food, such as spices, food additives, vitamins, and flavourings.
Made in Canada is where it could get confusing and unless you carry a magnifying glass to the grocery store, a few manufacturers would like to keep it that way. But it’s also where makers of gorgeous jams, for instance, cannot call what they create Product of Canada because the bulk of the preserve is sugar from outside the country. The chaff-sifting continued.
The words “Made in Canada from domestic and imported ingredients” on a food label mean that
- a Canadian company was involved in some of the preparation of the food and,
- it contains some food grown by Canadian farmers, and some food that’s been imported.
The words “Made in Canada from imported ingredients” on a food label means that
- a Canadian company was involved in some of the preparation of the food; and
the contents of the food were imported.
A Maple Leaf on the Label – This one really bugs me. It is often a decoration more than an origin stamp. Check the “Made in” status. This is what we call Canada-washing. Sure was a couple of years ago with the ketchup debacle and it’s still going on. Honey with maple leaves emblazoned imported from Asia spring to mind first.
Now what’s “Local” mean on a label? We think it’s pretty intuitive but the CFIA has had to adopt a policy, albeit interim, on Local Food Claims which recognizes “local” as food produced in the province or territory in which it is sold, or food sold across provincial borders within 50 km of the originating province or territory.
If you want to do some reading along with me, check out this link.
So here we go…some new, some tried and true…but ALL Canadian.
What to drink.
- Tap water
- Milk & Kefir
- Oat milk…a new and excellent entry into the beverage aisle and one worth watching. Made in Canada, by Canadians!
- Birch Water / Maple Water – the un-reduced sap from the trees.
- Westholme Canadian Tea – Vancouver Island – our first official tea ‘plantation in the Cowichan Valley
- Cherry juice from Dwarf Sour Cherries (a.k.a. Prairie Cherries™) developed over 70 years at the University of Saskatchewan’s fruit breeding programme
- Concentrated cherry juice from Cherry Lane Orchards in Niagara…great in cocktails. Cherry Lane also sells the old-fashioned harvest drink called Switchel made locally from their sour cherries.
- Apple cider – locally pressed Craft Beers – by Province (See the links below)
- Spirits – by Province (See more links below and check out BC Distilleries and Ontario where there’s been massive growth recently).
- Craft Ciders are coming on strong across Canada. The Ontario Craft Cider Association has a terrific map!
- Nova Scotia, the oldest apple growing region in Canada has delicious Craft Cider. Taste of Nova Scotia has a perfect overview.
- And of course, there’s British Columbia from the heritage apples of Salt Spring Island to the orchards of the Thompson Okanagan
- Sake – Osake Fraser Valley Junmai – Renaissance…from farm to glass. And with luck you’ll be able to buy some of their rice. Another first for Canada.
- VQA Wines / Wines of Nova Scotia – both appellation programmes showcase our best. Note that “Cellared in Canada” means that the wine from other countries is not from Canadian grapes and is merely bottled here.
- Maple liqueurs – there are a few distilled, mainly in Quebec, from this very Canadian ingredients…Sortilege is one of the originals but check out Domaine Kildare’s La Crème and Domaine Acer which distills maple sap and Deep Roots Distillery (PEI) that makes an east coast version of maple liqueur. Other distilleries, like the brand new Elora Distilling Company, sweeten their own vodka with local maple syrup.
- Bitters – best known are B.C.’s Bittered Sling & Ontario’s Dillons have seen an opportunity and are making mixologists across Canada very happy. Check out Free Pour Jenny’s handcrafted cocktail bitters and tonic syrups using homegrown and wild, foraged ingredients in Whitehorse, Yukon. Jenny even makes a Haskap berry shrub, the old fashioned, thirst-quenching drink of years gone by.
- Kombucha – fermented, slightly sparkling and laced with probiotics. Check out Live and Rise, both excellent Canadian brands. Summit Kombucha is a newer entry (2018) to our list from the Yukon where they’re bottling flavours like spruce tip and strawberry, both locally grown.
Beans and alternate proteins
- Yellow and green split peas
- Green lentils including small-seeded green, French green and beluga lentils (remember we wrote the book on growing lentils and pulses).
- Whole and Split Red Lentils
- White pea beans – navy bean, great northern beans, pinto and cranberry beans, cranberry beans, dark and light red kidney beans and elegant small red beans.
- Edamame…yes, there are Canadian grown edamame beans. MacKellar Farms near Alvinston, Ontario was the first to grow and commercialize this really delicious crop distributing from Nova Scotia to Alberta! Farmer Jason Persall grows and flash freezes them for the restaurant market.
- Chickpeas or “garbanzo beans” and chickpea (besan) flour
- Hemp hearts and hemp oil – check out Manitoba Harvest and Mettrum Originals in Ontario.
- Flax – milled or whole & flax oil — 99% of the flax sold in Canada in from our farms.
- Pearl and pot barley — barley’s not just for beer…it makes a killer risotto instead of rice and it tastes infinitely better.
- Farro (a.k.a. emmer wheat), an ancient grain along with other whole grains like khorasan, according to growers Fieldstone Organics, “one of the four foundational ancient wheats.” This creative grower also harvests einkorn the first wheat known to humankind.
- Prairie-grown sunflower & pumpkin seeds — these limited production seeds are sometimes difficult to find but are worth sussing out.
- Wild rice & wild rice flour – primarily from Saskatchewan and Northern Ontario.
- Quinoa both golden and black – Ontario (Katan Kitchens / Quinta Quinoa) Saskatchewan (Canadian Quinoa) and B.C (Fieldstone Organics). Flavour is boosted simply because they’re so fresh.
- Canola oil – Both the traditional that most restaurants use for deep frying and cold-pressed where we’d be remiss we didn’t give a shout out to two of the originals – Tony and Penny Marshall’s Highwood Crossing (Alberta) and Jason Persall’s Pristine Gourmet (Ontario) who also presses organic, Ontario soybeans and sunflowers for their oils.
- Hard to find pressed-to-order Sunflower oil – with the closure of the last sunflower pressing plant in Manitoba, we now rely on smaller processors like Maison Orphée from Quebec sells cold pressed canola and sunflower oils along with an array of mustards, Pristine Gourmet and Huron Sun. Davis Family Farm presses its oil in Caledon, ON.
- Camelina oil – Three Farmers — love this oil’s flavour…grassy and fresh! Maison Orphée from Quebec sells cold pressed canola and sunflower oils along with an array of mustards.
- Olive oil? Well, YES, there’s a small farm on Saltspring Island that is growing what is likely the rarest and most precious oil in the nation.
- Summer and barbecues so oftens = Canadian beef. But our beef is very regional! There’s Beef North in northern Ontario where hay is the major field crop. There’s fabulous beef from both Alberta and Saskatchewan (check out the Saskatchewan Snow Beef, a Holstein-Waygu cross) and Atlantic Beef from the Maritimes.
- Can’t forget Ontario Corn Fed beef, either. One of the most successful Ontario ranchers is YU Ranch which raises Texas Longhorns on carefully-managed grasslands near Tillsonburg.
- VG Meats, a farm to fork family operation also in Ontario, is well known for its incredible bacon and even has its own butcher store.
- Cloth-wrapped, Mennonite-style summer sausage found in many farmers markets and smaller grocery stores, especially in rural Canada.
- Pingue’s prosciutto – this Niagara-based company was a pioneer in artisan charcuterie in Ontario. Tagliere Salumeria (Caledon, Ontario) is a runner up for it’s cured meats and in Quebec, Les Cochons Tout Ronds was honoured in 2007 with the Culatello D’Oro award, granted by the Consortium of Culatello di Zibello in Italy for the first time in North America. This prize emphasizes the quality of their raw ham…and it is spectacular.
- In British Columbia, one processor stands out, Oyama Sausage Company founded 30 years ago in Oyama, B.C. Now located in the Granville Island Public Market, they make over 400 products throughout the year. And one must not forget the veterans of the Calgary sausage scene, Spolumbo’s .
- In Ontario, Meat & Poultry represents most of the meat processors/butchers in the Province.
- Ranch-raised bison (even in Northern Ontario) venison, quail, squab, pheasant.
- Local lamb – there’s great lamb from one coast to the other, some feasting on salt grasses; others bounding through vineyards trimming the grape vines.
- Wild game…Labrador hare, Newfoundland moose, Quebec seal…but, for much of Canada, wild game has to be from a northern neighbour’s freezer – rabbit, moose, caribou.
- Canadian Pork – check the labeling as there’s a good deal of cheap American pork on our market.
- Good Back Bacon – love the handmade products at local butcher shops.
- Poultry – Because chicken and turkey are ‘supply managed’ the chances are that most of it is Canadian. It must be labeled.
- Quail, squab, pheasant…even wild turkey if you’re lucky.
- Eggs – lots of them – virtually all eggs sold in Canada are from Canadian farmers. The array of choices is amazing.
- Foie Gras – Quebec-produced – these are three recommended producers… Rougie / Canard Goulu / Le Canardises
- Ducks – King Cole Ducks is a family run operation near Stouffville, Ontario, north of Toronto and makes an award winning duck/apple/white wine sausage
Fish and Shellfish
- Wild Pacific salmon (Chinook, coho, pink, chum, steelhead)
- Pacific halibut is sustainable with snowy white flesh
- Sablefish (a.k.a.Black Cod) – arguably the most delicious wild-caught fish in the Pacific
- Kokanee salmon – fish for these fabulous land locked salmon with a wonderful flavour in B.C.’s interior
- St Jean’s canned wild Pacific salmon from Nanaimo, B.C. Catch your own and have them process it or buy directly from this veteran cannery!
- Another new seafood canning venture is Scout Canning by Chef Charlotte Langley…mussels, lobster and rainbow trout in creative, almost ready to serve preparations
- Newfoundland fresh cod, cod cheeks & tongues
- Smoked & corned caplin – if you’re near St. John’s check out Bidgood’s the Newfoundland Grocery Store.
- Fresh weir-caught herring in New Brunswick and fabulous smoked herring – the best I’ve tasted is on Les Iles de la Madeleine at Le Fumoir D’Antan done in barns with strings of herring suspended above the fire.
- Smoked Mackerel and American eel – the tradition lives on at Willy Krauch’s Nova Scotian smoke-house
- Smoked farm-raised sturgeon
- Caviar – two producers – Northern Divine / Acadian Sturgeon
- Whitefish and Lake trout – we love it from the deep cold waters of Georgian Bay
- Arctic char – wild and farmed
- Lake Diefenbaker trout
- Lake Erie perch
- Pickerel (walleye / doré ) from our northern lakes
- Fresh or smoked albacore tuna
- ANYTHING recommended by Oceanwise!
- Snow crab from one coast…Dungeness crab from the other
- North Atlantic shrimp & west coast side-striped prawns
- Atlantic lobster
- Oysters – Fanny Bay, Raspberry Point, Colville Bay, Bras d’Or, Kushi, Qualicum…and so many others
- Honey Mussels & Salt Spring Island Mussels on the west coast and blue mussels on the east coast
- Cultured scallops
- Aqua-cultured shrimp from Planet Shrimp from Ontario
Dairy (there is so much!)
- Good Cream and Butter both sweet, salted and whey. Several new brands… Emerald Grasslands and Stirling Creamery which has Churn84, a European style product that richer than most. Thornloe in the Temiskaming Valley near New Liskeard. Kawartha Dairy, famous for its ice cream also produces butter.
- Ice Cream – Labeled with cute little Blue Cow
- Yogurt and sour cream
- Carnation Milk – many of us grew up on Carnation desserts!
- Eagle Brand Condensed Milk – so amazing for squares and baking!
Glass-bottled whole milk.
- Sheldon Creek Dairy is producing Canada’s only A2 milk for those with lactose intolerance. They also produce 45% heavy cream.
- Harmony Organic – 14 certified organic farms supply the milk.
- Near Creston, B.C. Kootenay Meadows also bottles their milk but also makes cheese from their herd of Jersey, Swedish Red, Guernsey Normande (a French cheese breed) and some Holstein.
Some of our Favorite Cheeses!
Once upon a time Canadian cheese meant cheddar. Things have changed! Here are some of our faves … but you likely have a few of your own, too.
- Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar Cheese from PEI – one of the finest in Canada
- Goudas…Old Growler, an aged Gouda from Nova Scotia, Sylvan Star Gouda from Alberta and Glasgow Glen from P.E.I.
- Dragon’s Breath blue from Upper Economy, Nova Scotia – almost mythical, sharp blue cheese enclosed in its signature black wax.
- Laliberté – Fromagerie du Presbytère may be one of Quebec’s delicious offerings but there are other cheesemakers searching out including Laiterie Charlevoix making one named 1608 from the milk of Canadienne cows, reportedly descendants of the animals transported by Samuel de Champlain. They also make Fleurmier, one of my personal faves!
- Gunn’s Hill cheeses – particularly Five Brothers and Glengarry Fine Cheese’s amazing Celtic Blue Reserve that was dubbed Best in Show in 2015 by the American Cheese Society.
- Maple Dale in Eastern Ontario…Especially their extra old cheddar. You’ll often see trucks parked outside as the drivers routinely stop in for a bag of fresh, made-that-morning cheese curds!
- Farmhouse Natural Cheeses in the Fraser Valley of B.C. Quark, crème fraîche and small batches of butter and some excellent blue cheeses produced with the milk of Guernsey and Brown Swiss cows!
- Halloom frying cheese, a relatively new cheese on the Canadian market and it’s terrific. Look for either Cedar or PC brands.
- At Quality Cheeses (Orangeville, Woodbridge) the Borgo family are pioneers in the local cheese-making industry – check out their buffalo-milk mozzarella, creamy, rich mascarpone and Bella Casara ricotta that was judged Best in Class at the World Cheese Championships.
- The production of both sheeps’ milk cheese and goats’ milk cheese are thriving across the nation. In fact, with few exceptions, it’s become a massive, artisan-led industry. Check out Fromagerie Au Fond Des Bois from New Brunswick (goat). Monforte (goat), River’s Edge (Ontario) and David Wood’s beautiful soft goats milk cheese from Salt Spring Island in B.C.
- Ewenity Dairy Cooperative (Ontario) has been on the forefront of ewes’ milk cheese-making for decades. A new player is All Sorts Acres with beautiful cream cheese (they also make gelato – try the seasonal rhubarb-maple).
For lots more, search here at Canadian Dairy Information website.
Salads and Preserving
- Apple Cider Vinegar – Reinhart’s unfiltered & unpasteurized! Filsinger’s Organic Cider Vinegar – Ayton, Ontario
- Authentically-made, barrel-aged Fruit (peach, raspberry, black currant, apple pie, blueberry) Vinegars from Canadian Vinegar Cellars in Prince Edward County.
- Venturi-Schulze Balsamic, Vancouver Island
- Boates apple-balsamic vinegar from Nova Scotia’s apple country.
- Spinnakers malt vinegar – Victoria, B.C.
- Verjus – Featherstone 12 Brix (Ontario) and Venturi-Schulze Estate-grown verjus (Cobble Hill, B.C.)
- Mustard – Canadian mustard seed is milled into dry mustard powder called “flour” at G.S. Dunn (c. 1867), the world’s largest mustard miller located in Hamilton; prepared mustards like Kozlik’s, Caplansky’s terrific array, Gravelbourg and don’t forget, you can make your own.
- Maple syrup, maple butter and maple sugar
- Honey – 100% Canadian – carefully watch the labeling because some, particularly no name varieties, are from off shore where agronomic practices are not nearly as rigorous and blending with other sugar syrups is common.
- Ice Wine Syrup – Vidal & Cabernet Franc … made from ice wine juice before fermentation.
- Birch Tree syrup from the north and Big Leaf maple syrup from B.C.
- Granulated Sugar – Rogers/Lantic refined from sugar beets.(The code on bottom begins with 22…ie. From Taber)
- Hazelnuts – Fraser Valley (Hazelmere Organic Farm) and Okanagan in particular but a new crop is being developed in Ontario specifically for Italian chocolate maker, Ferraro Rocher.
- Ontario-grown peanuts (OAC Garroy) and Ontario peanut butter!!!!
- Black walnuts, heart nuts AND pecans! Check out the nut butters! All Ontario-grown. Jewels Under the Kilt (Fergus, Ontario)
The Summer Harvest
Food Day Canada is at the height of the harvest, everywhere.
- New Potatoes – from coast to coast there’s not much better than a new potato, likely scrubbed and gently boiled with melted butter and a bit of salt
- Sweet corn
- Garlic !!!! Scapes and bulbs.
- Cucumbers – field and greenhouse
- Cultivated mushrooms (fresh and dried) – a massive variety! Check out Comox Valley Mushrooms…some of the nicest we’ve ever seen/tasted
- Wild mushrooms…from chanterelles and morels to king boletes and shaggy manes, Canada’s woods are full of some of the most delicious fungi on earth. British Columbia even has truffles….!
- Frozen cranberries and cranberry juice – Mikita Farms, P.E.I.
- Venosta dried cranberries, Quebec – sweetened with maple syrup!
- Wild and domesticated Blueberries
- Sweet, sweet ever-bearing Strawberries
- Haskap berries – Saskatchewan and PEI
- Prairie cherries – fresh or pitted & frozen sold primarily in Saskatchewan where they were developed by Dr. Bob Bors – the same researcher who pioneered the Haskap at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.
- Saskatoon berries = service berries
- Partridgeberries = lingonberries
- Bakeapples = cloud berries
- Niagara dried cherries (Cherry Lane Orchards)
- Black cherries (BC & Ontario) – Bing isn’t the only variety either.
- Rhubarb – in the back yard or frozen – shout out to “Our Compliments™
- Niagara peaches & nectarines and B.C. apricots – freeze them, can them, eat them with the juice dripping down your chin.
- Early apples for applesauce – we like the Transparent variety, old-fashioned and tart OR storage apples from the previous year
- Plums – Early yellow but if you’re lucky you’ll find some old-fashioned Damsons
- Buckets full of frozen Niagara sour cherries
- Quinces, an old-fashioned fruit that seems to be making a comeback (right) and if you’re lucky, someone in SW Ontario may share a pawpaw or two with you (left).
- Tomatoes (hot house) and field
- Sweet red, yellow, orange peppers (hot house)
- Sweet & hot peppers – field grown (Shepherd peppers) to cherry bombs and green Thai chilis
- Romaine, butter and leaf lettuces – in season!
- Kale – curly & dinosaur and Swiss Chard … love “rainbow”
- All the awesome brassicas….early cauliflower, cabbage, green and purple kohlrabi
- Fresh green, yellow, purple beans and fava beans AND finally, after all these years, Canadian-grown edamame
- Zucchini – green and yellow & their flowers and Beets of every colour and design from red to candy-cane
- Bouquets of new carrots … eat the tops, too.
- A brand new crop from Ontario… root ginger!
Dark Harbour dulse, Nova Scotia sea vegetables, PEI Irish moss and west coast seaweed like kelp, wakame, bladderwrack.
Our Amazing Grains!
Much of Canada’s story was built on farming and harvesting grains from the earliest planted in Newfoundland in 1534 to the current revival of heritage grains all across the country. We have built our reputation on the quality of Canadian flours including semolina (durum) which makes the finest pasta on earth.
- Canadian-made dry pastas – Catelli (1867), Primo (1956), and Italipasta
- Buckwheat flour – traditional in Quebec known as ‘sarrazin’.
- Robin Hood and Five Roses Flours – most of their products are Canadian
- Rogers roti flour (ap+bran) – whole grain flour
- Micro-milled flour – There are superb artisan millers all across the country…Arva Flour (Arva, Ontario – lovely local varieties); K2 Milling (Beeton, Ontario); Anita’s Milling (B.C.), Speerville (one of the veterans located in New Brunswick), R&J Milling, Riceton, SK; La Meunerie Milanaise Inc., Quebec. Oak Manor Farms: Rye, Flours, Barley, Spelt, Corn, Cornmeal, Millet, Flax
- Fleishmann’s Yeast – been made in Montreal for decades
- Oats….Quaker( large flake / quick / steel cut ) Rogers (huge array including steel cut) and Oak Manor Farms
- Zinda couscous, a made in Montreal product using our durum semolina. Comes in both fine & medium. Or buy durum semolina and make your own pasta…it’s easy and really delicious.
- Phyllo and kataifi pastry…this wonderful Middle Eastern pastry is usually produced for private labels by Produits de Pâtisserie Orientale.
Seasonings, Condiments and PICKLES!
- Salt – Windsor and Sifto are the originals (yes, there ARE salt mines in Canada – the remnants of ancient oceans) but Vancouver Island Sea Salt, Salt West Solar Sea Salt from Sooke and Newfoundland sea salt are great entries from a nation with the longest coastline on earth. One of the most interesting is a black garlic salt, fermented and blended in Nova Scotia (picture).
- Vancouver Island Salt Company is also producing the only Canadian Nigari, the product that is used to thicken tofu.
- Spices – fresh and dried…look for culinary lavender, coriander, fenugreek, Mt Scio Savoury.
- Fresh herbs by the bushel, especially in farmers markets or better still, from your garden.
- Canned tomatoes – Aylmer, Primo & Unico brands – whole tomatoes – some crushed as well. Read the labels!
- Lakeside Packers Pickles… Love the Bread and Butter and Dills. S.W. Ontario still supplies lots of cukes to U.S. makers which our major grocers buy back. Duh! Check out No Name and various private label brands…most are from India.
- Sunshine pickled asparagus using the variety, Guelph Millennium, that has put Canada into the forefront of asparagus breeding on earth.
- Ketchup, Primo or homemade — the earlier ketchup debate left out one component of the story. Both Primo and Unico are brands owned by Sun-Ripe Foods and are proudly using Canadian tomatoes.
- There’s lots of home grown popping corn around that’s local.
- If you’re buying potato chips try Lay’s, Old Dutch, Old Yorke – you must check out the frying medium as most commercial grade sunflower oil is not from Canada but the salt and the spuds sure are! SUPER impressed with Big City Chips from Moncton, New Brunswick.
Some terrific reference material!
Food Artisans of Alberta by Karen Anderson & Matilde Sanchez-Turri
Jennifer Cockrall-King’s Food Artisans of the Okanagan is worth searching out for any trip to that region.
Ontario’s Culinary Tourism Alliance is growing and, with luck, poised to do great things across Canada.
BC and Ontario Distilleries
http://winesofnovascotia.ca Includes the Tidal Bay appellation: To obtain the Tidal Bay designation, all wines must be made from specific grape varieties, include 100% Nova Scotia grown grapes, follow a strict set of standards and be approved every year by an independent blind tasting panel.
http://winecountryontario.ca A superb guide to all Ontario’s wine regions including 5 new emerging ones that are worth watching.
https://winebc.com An incredible listing wineries from the Gulf Island to the interior in a Province where within living memory five wineries started it all.
Our Fabulous Craft Beers
http://www.ontariocraftbrewers.com/ Over 276 members and 80 are in planning stages.
http://bccraftbeer.com / – Holy…there are nearly 186 members!
https://craftbeerquebec.ca/ – awkward website but really worth a visit
http://www.onbeer.org/prairie-beer/ – for the finest in all three Praire Provinces and NW Territories.