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Quebec City's German Christmas Market under a blanket of snowCute little wood huts decorated with lights, pine and fir. Snowflakes. Cobblestone streets and old buildings. Voices coming together in festive song. Warm aromas of Glühwein (hot mulled wine) and other traditional specialties. Christmas crafts, handmade gifts and artisan wares. Laughter. Happy people. The German Christmas market in Quebec City is the perfect prelude to the holiday season.

Cute Santa decorations made by members of the church to support Quebec City's less fortunateMy long-time friend, Susy, is one of the organizers of this Christmas market. It started three years ago when she and several other Germans and German-Canadians sought to recreate in Quebec City the beautiful Christmas markets common to many central European countries. The first year they attracted over 1000 people to their stands in a community centre (the expectation was 200).

Lights, laughter and traditional treats at Quebec City's German Christmas MarketOne of many happy shoppers at the German Christmas MarketEncouraged by this initial success and the apparent interest from the community, they created the Communauté Allemande Québec and started organizing the event for year two. They had wood huts built for the vendors and moved the market to the courtyard of the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, a beautiful location just across from the Château Frontenac. The second year attracted over 20,000 visitors.

Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus carved of wood

Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus carved of wood

Chocolate Santa moulds

Chocolate Santa moulds.

This year, the market was extended to two weekends (December 3, 4, 5, and 10, 11, 12). They also increased the number of vendors and added a series of Christmas concerts to the festivities. The numbers for year three look promising, proving that the marché de Noël allemand has become a popular event on Quebec City’s Christmas calendar. Needless to say, I’m proud of Susy’s achievements!

Selling pretzels and German sweets at the German Christmas Market

Yummy pretzels and traditional German baking.

German gingerbread

German gingerbread in pretty shapes and natural decorations.

Volunteering at the market allowed me to spend time with Susy, be a part of this great event and soak up the festive ambiance. Of course, I also enjoyed checking out the different foods being offered! In addition to the Glühwein, there were sausages, pretzels, German Christmas cookies, Nürnberger Lebkuchen (German gingerbread), baked apples, roasted chestnuts, crepes, Apfelbrot (a hearty bread with apples, hazelnuts and spices) and Stollen (a candied fruit and nut-filled buttery yeast bread). Yum!

Selling traditional German Lebkuchen (gingerbread)

These ladies were busy throughout the day and evening selling Lebkuchen, traditional German gingerbread.

Susy and me at the German Christmas Market

My friend Susy, one of the market's organizers, and me at the German Christmas Market's info booth.

I’ve learned there are European-style Christmas markets in quite a few towns in Quebec. However, the Communauté Allemande Québec‘s German Christmas market is extra special: an incomparable setting in Vieux-Quebec, an authentic German Christmas market atmosphere, and a delightful mix of craft and culture. It reminded me of Christmas markets I’ve visited in Europe.

Christmas market in Colmar, France

Christmas market in Colmar, France. It takes up the entire city!

On a different note, I have to add that while we were in Quebec City, we had an exceptional dinner at Le clocher penché, a little bistro in the Saint-Roch neighbourhood. The food was fresh, seasonal, and locally sourced. The service was professional and friendly. The ambiance was charming and upbeat.

Quebec City's Le clocher penché bistroTo start, I had homemade faisselle, a creamy yet light fresh cheese made of cow’s milk just firm enough to keep its shape – out.of.this.world – followed by melt-in-your-mouth pork cooked sous-vide for two days accompanied by a mix of wild rice, squash and bok choy which added tasty texture to the dish. Meanwhile, David had marrow bone as an appetizer, and, as a main course, delicately flavoured boudin noir on a sublime parsnip puree with lightly sauteed apples served with a salad of fennel and apple, a crunchy contrast to the boudin. Delicious!

Bar at Le clocher penché

The bar at Le clocher penché. Note the pictures hanging above the bar -- portraits of their local farmer-producer-suppliers.

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Carp Farmers Market

Carp Farmers Market

Local is the way to go!

Fresh garlic

Beautiful fresh garlic.

Garlic braid

Super long garlic braid at Acorn Creek Garden Farm stand. Value: almost $300!

Rolis Rolled Sausages

Roli's Rolled Sausages' Roland Wilhelm grilling his fresh sausages.

Roli's Rolled Sausages

Roli's Rolled Sausages are made with all local ingredients.

The Carp Farmers’ Market is one of my favourite markets. It has over 100 registered vendors ranging from vegetable and meat producers and specialty food makers to artisans and craftspeople. There are vendors I don’t find anywhere else like Dobson’s Grass Fed Beef, Pork of Yore, and The Girl with the Most Cake and favourites like Rainbow Heritage Farm and Take Charge Tea, who are at Carp on Saturdays and at Lansdowne on Sundays.

The market is busy. People come to stock up on fresh foods, to chat, to exchange tips and recipes, to eat. It’s a meeting place. A happy, healthy place. Truly what a market should be. On a festival day, it only gets better.

The Carp Garlic Festival is a two-day event that happens mid-August every year. There are more vendors and more people than a usual Saturday at the market. There’s garlic, lots of garlic, in many varieties, and products like garlic fudge and garlic scape pesto. There are food demos, garlic tasting events and garlic growing workshops. It’s fun!

Of course, I bought some Russian Red from Glasgow Garlic Farm to add to the Musik I already bought at Silver Spring Farm and the garlic I grew myself—this fall, I’m planning to plant even more garlic than last year! David honed in on The Elk Ranch‘s garlic summer sausage. Available exclusively during the garlic festival, the sausage has fine texture and delicate garlic flavour.

I also enjoyed a very tasty breakfast sausage from Roli’s Rolled Sausages. What a great discovery! He makes three kinds of pork sausage and beef sausage with Dobson’s grass-fed beef. The sausage was served on sweet potato flatbread with a very fresh tomato salsa. A great breakfast (and, I must admit, even better than the market’s “classic” Bacon on a Bun).

The Carp Farmers’ Market is a great outing any Saturday, but especially worth it on a festival weekend.

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This story starts two years ago. I was at the Carp Farmers’ Market talking Bonnie-Jean Stacey of Take Charge Tea about the fact that elderberries—she blends a tea with elderberries, rosehips, and more—are common in Europe, but seem lesser known here. She responded that Dobson Farm grows them.

That year, the elderberry season had already passed. I went back last summer and bought several boxes of the tiny dark berries. Then it dawned on me that if Mr. Dobson was selling the berries, he would also have elderflowers earlier in the season. I asked him if he would sell me some. He agreed.

Box of elderflowers from Dobson Farm

Box of elderflowers from Dobson Farm. I find these delicate flowers absolutely beautiful.

On Saturday, I picked up a box full of delicately beautiful and subtly perfumed elderflowers—and got way more than I needed to make the planned elderflower syrup. The culinary experimentation began: steeping, infusing, drying, frying, baking, and fermenting!

Right now I have elderflower fizz enjoying the heat on the porch, elderflower syrup steeping in the cool basement, elderflower vinegar infusing in the kitchen, and flowers drying on a tray. On Saturday, David and I made elderflower fritters. On Sunday, we had elderflower pancakes for breakfast. I ended the day baking some “elder power” muffins for our lunches this week.

I stored the elderflower heads in the box in the basement (cool spot). The flowers got more aromatic and became easier to remove from the stems (and started turning brown) with time. It takes a significant amount of flowers to gently flavour any kind of baking. Important to note is that only the flowers and berries can be eaten, and then they should be cooked, because they contain an alkaloid that is mildly poisonous.

Recipe: Elderflower Fritters

Elderflower fritters

This fritters were less crispy than I expected, but delicious nonetheless and something a little bit different.

12 – 16 elderflower “heads”
250 mL beer
250 g flour
25 g sugar
pinch salt
4 eggs, separated
zest of 1 lemon
oil for frying
icing sugar

Select fresh elderflower heads with open flowers (no brown ones). Shake them lightly to remove any unwanted bits/critters. Do not remove them from the stems.

Combine flour, sugar, salt, lemon zest, beer and egg yolks to make a smooth batter. Beat egg whites and fold gently into the batter. Add some (sparkling) water if it seems too thick.

Frying elderflower fritters

Dip the battered elderflower head "head down" into the oil and press down gently to make the individual branches spread.

Heat oil (160-180°C). I used a cast iron frying pan. Fry one elderflower head at a time. Holding the stem, dip the elderflower head into the batter. Spin lightly in the bowl to remove excess batter. Fry until golden. Using tongs flip to fry the other side. Remove from oil and place on a paper towel-lined plate.

Dust with icing sugar to serve.

kim

Recipe: Elder Power Muffins

Elder power muffins

The flowers add a aromatic floral note and the berries lend a little crunch and colour.

Wet:
1 egg
¾ cup milk
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup apple, coarsely grated (1 medium apple)
¾ cup elderberries, fresh or frozen

Dry:
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
pinch salt
1 cup elderflowers, removed from the stems

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line/grease 10-12 muffin cups.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt and elderflowers. Combine all wet ingredients, adding elderberries last (they will very quickly colour the other liquid ingredients). Pour wet ingredients into dry, and blend gently until flour mixture is just moistened.

Fill muffin cups. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and tester comes out clean.

Epilogue

It’s July 12. The elderflower fizz went flat. Will try again next year.

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