For nearly two years, Sandra Jarry and her husband Emmanuel Langevin have been drawing from Quebec's pantry to prepare gourmet picnic baskets. While the pandemic has delayed the opening of their project La Famille—a "village buvette" in Sutton, in the Eastern Townships—their dream should finally come true in the new year. "Within five years, we're aiming for a menu that's 100% local," explains the chef, who sources her ingredients from about 30 local producers. While she is in the final preparations before the opening of her restaurant, she reveals some of the local ingredients she likes to use.

Cranberries (or lingonberries)

When turkey's on the table, cranberries are often never far! To surprise your guests, Sandra suggests replacing them with lingonberries, those red berries that grow in our forests. You can find lingonberry jams in many fine grocery stores. Since 2005, a religious community in Lac-Etchemin has been growing them: Les Airelles des Frères. Sandra does not hesitate to flavour her cocktails and water pitchers with these small berries. "It's always beautiful!" Cranberries and lingonberries are also delicious in the stuffing of a pork roast or as an accompaniment to game. 

Nordic shrimp

Another holiday classic: the famous shrimp ring! "Unfortunately, there are no large shrimps in Quebec," says Sandra. That's why she prefers our delicious Nordic shrimp, which are much more elegant in verrines.

Beets

Traditionally, a holiday table will always have some pickled beets! Sandra uses this root vegetable to add a festive touch to her trout gravlax. After brining the fish in sugar and salt, she marinated it in beet juice. "When sliced, it has a lovely red colour. You can serve it with crème fraîche and dill," she says.

Balsam Fir

Forgot the rosemary for your turkey? If you have an organic Christmas tree, just cut a branch (watch out for the decorations!) and finely chop the needles. Sandra uses this herb to flavour fish and meats like a leg of lamb, and even to garnish her cocktails. "We don't use a lot of it because it's very flavourful, but it's super good!"

Guinea fowl or pheasant

For a more intimate holiday dinner, Sandra suggests replacing the turkey with a wild bird (such as guinea fowl, pheasant or partridge) prepared as a crapaudine or stuffed into a ballottine. "It's more chic! There are plenty of breeders in Quebec and, at this time of year, you can find many of these birds in grocery stores," she says. 

Sweet clover

Sweet clover is essentially the boreal version of vanilla. "A small wild flower that grows on the side of the road, almost like a weed," explains Sandra. It is sold dried or as an essence in specialty stores. It is used to impart vanilla flavour to desserts, such as panna cotta or crème brûlée. It is also used as an ingredient in the limoncello from Distillerie 3 Lacs! "For a gift exchange, you can make a homemade caramel fudge flavoured with sweet clover, and maple syrup or honey instead of sugar," suggests Sandra. A 100% local delight!

Homemade caramel fudge

Preparation: 15 minutes | refrigeration: 2 hours
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Servings: 64 pieces approx.