I want to go to Quebec again. When I mentioned this to Cornelius, he wasn’t too thrilled. Ten years ago, he rode is bike from Vancouver to Montreal and then lived there for 3 short months. He worked as a bike courier during the very cold winter months and lived in a cramped, roach-infested room. He doesn’t have very good memories of “La Belle Provence”…except for the meal he ate almost everynight after his courier shift was over which consisted of 4 steamies (hotdogs) and a cup of spruce beer from a fast food chain called “La Belle Provence”. Believe me when I say that I’ve got better memories than that of Quebec!
When I was little, we would visit at least once a year my grandparents in their hometown of Trois-Rivières or spend the summer months at their beach-front cottage at Lac au Sable. Going to visit my grandparents always felt a little strange as my dad would stay home in Ontario while we took the long train ride with my mom to visit her side of the family. My younger brother and I did not speak french very well and although I could understand what was being spoken, I was still quite shy to “parlez vous en francais” out loud. Everything seemed a bit louder in that cottage than in our quiet house in London, Ontario. There was more laughter and more singing and more drinking. Everyone seemed to be having a great time. But for me, going to the lake meant swimming, reading and eating pie. And, oh those pies!
It was at their cottage where I first tasted tartre au sucre. My grandmother would make 2 pies that I remember during the summer, framboise (raspberry) and tartre au sucre (sugar pie). For the raspberry pie, we would head out into the woods with large giant white buckets and start picking all the wild raspberries….some making it into the buckets and some making it into my mouth. Raspberries were my favorite fruit as a child and I loved my grand-maman’s raspberry pie. Nothing could top that feeling of biting into the warm pie and crunching the seeds between my teeth. But that was until I tried tartre au sucre. I never knew exactly how that pie came together or what was in it and since my mother never made it, it was a complete mystery to me. But when it arrived on my plate still warm from the oven, I couldn’t believe what I had been missing. Sweet, yet not overly so, it was creamy and rich and delicious.
This pie recipe wasn’t my grandmother’s recipe. My grandmother used real cream, of course, but this recipe still brought those memories flooding back. It’s an easy pie to make and not at all mysterious. It’s probably not as delicious as my grandmother’s pie, but that’s the stuff of memories anyway. Enjoy.
tarte au sucre
6 T all-purpose flour
2 c packed brown sugar
1 1/2 c evaporated milk
4 T butter
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla
1 unbaked pie shell
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a saucepan, combine flour and sugar. Turn heat to medium-high and stir in milk, butter, salt and vanilla. Stir constantly until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and pour into an unbaked pie shell.
3. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes or until the pie sets (it should still jiggle but not be liquid).