When you think of France, Germany, Vietnam, Japan, Spain, and countless other countries you immediately think of foods associated with that place. Canada, however, sometimes struggles with its own culinary identity. Poutine and maple syrup?
Fact is, Canada has a wonderful bounty of game, seafood, and foragibles to lay claim to, and everyone from Anthony Bourdain to Michael Bonacini has said so. A new Canada 150 funded video project, called We Are the Best, by Ricardo Media (a communications outlet headed up by Chef Ricardo) will set out across the country profiling various distinctively Canadian foods.
Chef Ricardo will be in Newfoundland this week to spotlight two Newfoundland items for his series on Canadian Foods: snow crab from Quinlan Brothers Ltd in Bay de Verde, and Screech rum from Rock Spirits in St. John’s.
Quinlan Brothers Ltd: Snowcrab
Back in 2016, the Quinlan Brothers’ plant was burned badly in a Bay de Verte fire that resulted in a state of emergency and town evacuation. It looked like the end of their operation, and the loss of 700 jobs. But they vowed to rebuild and come back “bigger and better than ever.” And did.
They describe their snow crab as “sweet, succulent, and wild caught, harvested from the cold pristine waters of the North Atlantic in an MSC Certified Fishery. Our close proximity to the resource means more of our product can be landed directly at the wharf, shortening processing times and improving quality.”
Quinlan Brothers LTD was the first company to produce frozen brine crab sections for export to the US market in 1992, now the mainstay of the crab sector in Newfoundland. Since then, they’ve grown to be the largest processor of Canadian Snow Crab globally, processing almost five thousand tonnes of finished product annually.
Rock Spirits: Screech Rum
Rock Spirits make all kinds of spirits: Ragged Rock rum, Shiver Vodka, Old Sam, and more. But they’re best known for the classic, Newfoundland Screech. They have been in operation for over 65 years in Newfoundland, as the manufacturing division of Newfoundland & Labrador Liquor Corporation (who are the only remaining Canadian Liquor Board to have a manufacturing division: Rock Spirits).
Screech Rum is the #1 selling dark rum in Newfoundland. It’s an award-winning Jamaican rum, described as having “balanced aromas of golden sugar, molasses, and orange peel with well-developed taste of caramelized sugar, spices, ripe fruits, vanilla and oak.”
Traditionally, Screech was imported here from Jamaica — for over 200 years! Long before any Canadian liquor board was created, this Jamaican rum was a mainstay of the traditional Newfoundland kitchen. At this time, salt fish was being shipped to the West Indies in exchange for rum. According to history, this resulted in fish becoming the national dish for Jamaicans and rum becoming the traditional drink for Newfoundlanders.
As for its name, Screech, story goes it was a nameless whiskey until “a visiting American WWII serviceman downed the rum in one quick toss. His howls of distress caused a bystander to rush to his aid, roaring ‘What the cripes was that ungodly screech?'” From then on it became known as Screech.