Homemade “Cretons” Spread
Québec’s unique traditional meat spread, an essential element for a Sugar Shack-style brunch!
« Cretons » is a pork base pâté generally served on toasted bread with breakfast. This forcemeat-style spread is typically French Canadian and there is no English word for it. “Toasts with creton please » my friend Valérie asked as a breakfast order in a Tim Horton café in the west of Canada (where English is spoken by the majority) when we were young backpackers. The lady at the counter did not understand even though my friend was making great effort to pronounce « crutown » with the best accent possible. But the thing was, and still probably is, cretons are only served in the Tims* that are located in the Québec province. Cretons are on the menu in restaurants serving breakfast, and in Sugar Shack venue brunches. Various home-style brands with different flavours and meats are available in supermarkets. It’s only since living in Australia that I made my first attempt to cook some from scratch. It took me about 5 years to finally perfect this recipe. It’s not something I eat often and when you make a batch with a pack of 500g of minced pork, it’s a lot for just two. Good thing I can freeze a big portion of it, which lasts us a while. It also took time because I was very picky to find the right texture and taste that reminds me my of favourite ones. I started with a recipe from my grand-mother Gertrude’s recipe notebook, and combined ingredients to obtain the perfect balance I was hoping for. Now I can enjoy some cretons downunder and like the “Tourtières” Meat Pies recipe that uses similar spices (like cinnamon, nutmeg, clove), the flavours reveal many memories from “chez-nous” (home).
*Tim Horton was a hockey player who founded Tim Hortons Inc., a restaurant chain serving coffee, donuts, sandwiches, soup, breakfast and other fast foods. If you go to Canada, you can’t miss a Tim, they are everywhere in all cities, towns, roads and airports! Make sure to try some “Timbits”, the famous donut’s holes (bite-size of the traditional donuts in all flavours).
Homemade cretons on toasts • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2021
Recently, on my last recipe testing, something exceptional happened. I was out of breadcrumbs and it was too late to go back to the shop so I decided to try the recipe with some ground hazelnut as a substitute. These accidental trials are sometimes surprisingly great, or they’re not. It turned out the hazelnuts made it the best cretons I ever had! Not only for the pleasant taste and texture but it makes it healthier, adding some nut protein to replace the carbs of the bread crumb (try with local hazelnuts!). In this recipe you can also find different options for some other ingredients. Duck fat or butter are both good. The French Canadian Salted Preserved Herbs brings a good salty and herbal flavouring, which can also be replaced by herb blend salt or simply salt and a pinch of dried herbs. Some recipes use veal or a mix of both pork and veal. You can create your favourite cretons spread with this recipe, with what you’ve got and prefer.
500kg pork mince (or veal, or mix of both)
1 small onion (or 5 spring onions), finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small sprig of celery, finely chopped (optional)
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup of milk
1 cup of bread crumb (can be substituted with ground hazelnut).
3 tbsp butter (or 2 tbsp duck fat)
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp Salted Preserved Herbs (or 1 tsp herbal salt)
¼ tsp pepper
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ground clove
PREPARATION: In a large saucepan (non-stick preferably), sauté the onions in butter (or duck fat).
Add the meat and stir for few minutes.
Incorporate the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
Simmer on a low heat, covered but with a little opening of air, for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove lid for the last 15 minutes of cooking to evaporate the extra liquid.
Place into small serving dishes and let cool down.
Seal and refrigerate soon as possible.
Spread on bread or toast when the mixture is firm (refrigerated overnight or for several hours).
Safe storage is a maximum of 3-4 days in the fridge and/or keep some in the freezer for up to 2 months.