The maple sap is flowing! In keeping with a long Quebec tradition, many will be visiting their favourite cabane à sucre (sugar shack) to celebrate the arrival of spring. In a convivial atmosphere, they will feast on copious amounts of hearty food such as pea soup, ham, fèves au lard (baked beans), scrambled eggs, sausages in maple syrup, pork rind, homemade chutneys, bread, and pancakes soaked in what else… maple syrup. For those who manage to leave enough room for dessert there is a variety of maple syrup laden treats to choose from the menu. The most common offerings are maple sugar pie, 'grand-pères a l'erable (dumplings swimming in hot maple syrup), pouding au chômeur (literally pudding of the unemployed or poor man's pudding), a basic upside down cake doused with maple syrup, and of course'tire sur la neige' (hot reduced syrup poured on snow which solidifies making the most amazing taffy like treat).
Although I did undertake a typical ‘cabane à sucre’ menu years ago, I've never attempted to replicate such a feast again knowing what a daunting task lay ahead. However, at this time of year I always have the urge to make fèves au lard. My recipe follows:
Fèves au Lard
1 pound dried navy beans soaked overnight
5 cups cold water
1/2 pound salted pork belly cut into 1" pieces
1 onion chopped
2 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup dark molasses
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
Strain and rinse the beans. Add the beans to a pot with 5 cups of water. Boil for thirty minutes. Transfer the beans and water to an ovenproof casserole. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover and bake in a 250ºF oven for 7-8 hours.