Monday, April 14, 2014

Prairie Kitchens - Oatmeal Scones & Cranberry Jam

A few months ago, this column featured a recipe for bannock, a simple bread that has been cooked in Saskatchewan since the fur trade. Today, its "sister" bread: scones. Both originate in Scotland, a country that's had a profound impact on the history of Saskatchewan.

The first Scots came in the 1700s with the fur trade. They married aboriginal women, their children and descendants being of mixed blood or Métis. Among them was James Isbister, the Métis leader who founded Prince Albert.

In the 1880s, many more Scots began arriving. At the time, it cost an average $163 for a family to travel from Scotland to the Canadian plains. Most were too poor to afford even that. They made the journey thanks to the benevolent support of Lady Emily Cathcart, who lent each family $500 to make a new start.

In the census of 2011, almost 20 percent of people in Saskatchewan claimed Scottish descent, and there are some 400 place names that start with the Scottish prefix Mac or Mc, according to historian Alan Anderson.

As a traditional recipe, there is little difference between bannock and scones. They have the same basic ingredients and were cooked as a large flat round, the primary difference being that scones were scored before being popped into the oven.

The most popular food among the Scots was oatmeal, eaten at any time of day in many forms – porridge, cookies, puddings, haggis, stuffing for turkey, coating for frying and these traditional oatmeal scones.

Oatmeal Scone
2 1/4 cups flour
2 cups oatmeal
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup shortening (butter or lard)
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1 cup sour milk or buttermilk
Extra milk for brushing
Sugar for sprinkling

Mix 2 cups flour, oatmeal, salt and baking soda. With a pastry blender and/or your fingers, cut in shortening until it resembles coarse sand. Toss in raisins.

Pour in sour milk or buttermilk and mix together with a fork.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead briefly, adding the remaining flour as needed to produce a dough that is not sticky. Press into a circle 1 inch thick.

Place on a baking sheet. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

With a knife, score the circle in quarters, then score each quarter in thirds to make 12 wedges. Bake at 400F for about 30 minutes, until nicely browned. Break apart on score lines. Enjoy with cranberry jam. Low bush cranberry grow in the forests of Saskatchewan so this jam was easy and economical to make. And still is!

Cranberry Jam
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup frozen low-bush cranberries
1 tbsp fresh-squeezed orange juice (optional)

Heat sugar and water in a saucepan to a bubbling simmer, stirring occasionally.

When the sugar is dissolved, add the berries and orange juice. Simmer. As the berries heat, they will pop and release their juices. You can help by pressing them with a fork or potato masher.

Boil lightly until it is jammy, but not too jammy, as it will thicken further as it cools.

(This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.)

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