Creton: Highly addictive French Canadian meat spread.
Once you get a taste for it your pretty much hooked for life. Outside of Quebec you’re better off being a
zombie with no teeth or hands, your not gonna get any brains or Creton. So what to do? Make it of course.
In Quebec cuisine, cretons (sometimes gorton or corton, especially among New Englanders of French-Canadian origin) is a pork spread containing onions and spices. Due to its fatty texture and taste, it resembles
French rillettes. Cretons are usually served on toast as part of a traditional Quebec breakfast. Not to be confused with "fromage de tête" (tête fromagée in Quebec) or head cheese.
Creton was a comfort food that I grew up with after moving to a small town outside Montreal Quebec called St. Madeleine du Rigaud. All though Rigaud was a very small town, it had something that all cities in Quebec had, access to Poutine and one if its best kept secrets, Creton. Now the Poutine rage has already come and gone, but Creton I believe was overlooked. It’s one of those; very unattractive foods. Looks kinda like a grey beige mush that you spread on toast. But, you have to taste it to understand. Its flavour develops slowly over 8 hours, the milk breaking down the pork and onions, slowly absorbing the spices until the sum becomes greater than the individual parts.
It was a typical breakfast food, spread on toast and served up for workers on the go. Of course being and Anglophone (English speaker) we didn’t realize it was meant for breakfast, or toast for that matter. We
always spread it like pate or liverwurst on slices of fresh baguette. Creton is ground pork that is very slowly
cooked with onions and spices similar to what you would add to pumpkin pie. The weird part being the large
amount of milk added, in addition to using oatmeal at the end to act as a thickening agent. When I lived there, I never actually made Creton; I just bought it at the local deli counter. It would be comparable to making Heinz ketchup. Not that there is anything wrong with homemade ketchup, that’s an art form unto itself, but I’m talking trying to reproduce factory ketchup. It’s just not worth it when you can get it practically anywhere.
This however, is not the case outside of Quebec…
So if you think you’re really a foodie, you’re not until you’ve had this. So go spice some ground pork, the other ingredients you probably already have. While you’re there, buy lots of ground pork. It’s often on sale this time of the year and creton preserves very well in the freezer. This dish may have along cooking time, but total hand on time is maybe 45 minutes. That includes storing in the freezer, not bad.
Speaking of storing in the freezer, this is an often overlooked means of preserving foods. And it lends well to dishes such as this, which is why its been eaten in Quebec for over 400 years, yup 400 plus. So when the world is pursing whatever trendy food du-jour, its nice to have some comfort food like this. Yes, its no spicy kimchi of today, or tack raspberry coulis of the 80-90's, buts its honest. Creton, With a face only a mother could love, you gotta try it.
Step 1: Ingredients
- 5 lbs. of ground pork
- 1 small onion per lb. of pork chopped (I used 3 medium large
ones, judgment call)
- 1 cup of milk per lb. of ground pork (so 5 cups of milk – I used
- ½ cup of lard or shortening
- 1 ½ cups of oatmeal
- 10 cloves
- 1 tablespoon each of allspice, pepper, dry mustard
- 2 tablespoons of salt ( I used coarse, doesn’t really
- 1 pinch of fresh nutmeg
Step 2: Chop
This is a nice easy step, if you haven’t already chop our onions. A simple medium dice is fine.
After 8 hours your will not see any onions so no need to strive for perfection here.
Step 3: Add
To a very large pan, or a large heavy pot add your shortening/lard and melt under medium heat.
Add your chopped onion and Sautee for a minute, just to bring them up to temperature. Do not try to brown them or even bring them to a translucent stage.
Step 4: Break It Up
Add your ground pork, breaking it up as you go. I recommend breaking up one pack of pork at a time. Remember to always stir from the bottom.
Once its all broken up add your milk. You do not have to have all the pork browned at this point. 8 hours of cooking will make all pink go away…
Hope you picked a very large pan, mine is huge and it barely fit.
Step 5: Spice It
Now we add the spices, unceremoniously dump it all in and stir. Take another moment to try and break up any large clumps of pork, I find using a potatoe masher very efficient with this much meat.
Step 6: Simmer
For the first 7.5 hours simmer with a lid on it. Stirring it once, every couple of hours is just fine.
For the last 30 minutes, take off the lid. This to drive off a bit more moisture, but it will still have a fair bit of liquid in it. Look at the pictures.
Step 7: Thicken, With Oatmeal?
This is a little weird.
Use oatmeal as your thickening agent.
I have had creton mad with bread crumbs and it’s just not the same. Maybe it’s a Quebec thing, I don’t know, but
they add oatmeal to the “True” Tortiere filling(Tortiere is Quebec meat pie)
Anyway, add 1 ½ cups of oatmeal. I used Quaker brand “quick” oats.
Stir in to the pork mixture and turn off the heat. Allow to sit for 20 minutes and give it another stir.
Step 8: Pour & Chill
Use this time to prepare your pan. I used a large glass pyrex baking dish. The kind you would use to make brownies in, maybe a lasagna. Either way it doesn’t really matter. This is your vessel to chill the creton in.
For ease of removal after, I line the dish with a sheet of parchment paper.
Before pouring the creton, give it one good last stir to incorporate the fats back in to the mixture. Sorry. I never said this was health food. Think Pate Fois gras without having to torture a goose!
Now pour the creton into the middle of pan. Spread out to the edges and try to level it off smooth with a knife. Press a layer of saran wrap or parchment paper onto the surface of the creton. This will allow you to smooth the surface further.
Now put it in the fridge for at least 12 hours and up to several days. No touching!
Step 9: Flip, Chop & Store
Remove the top layer of parchment or saran wrap and invert it onto a cutting board.
Peel off the parchment liner slowly Cut the creton into blocks.
Mine were a little bigger than a business card in diameter and height. This just seems like a friendly amount…
Put each block in a zip lock style freezer bag
For true ghetto-style vacuum storage get out your straw…
Slice the straw into the bag on one far side and using your mouth, suck out the air. As the bag deflates slowly withdraw the straw, simultaneously sealing the zip lock bag.
Freeze for up to 3 months.
The heavy fat content allows for such a long storage in the freezer. Defrost overnight in the fridge when ready to eat.