This traditional New Brunswick Fiddlehead Soup recipe comes from a cookbook put together by my husband’s great-aunt, Mildred (Stiles) Trueman, and her husband in the early 1990s.
Mildred was married to Stuart Trueman, a prolific author who picked up the 1969 Leacock Medal for Humour. A pretty neat accomplishment for a New Brunswicker! (Some other winners include Pierre Berton, W.O. Mitchell, Arthur Black, Stuart McLean, and Will Ferguson.)
Mildred had four sisters and tales of the Stiles’ Sisters escapades are legendary among my husband’s family, including their ability to whip up a feast at the drop of a hat. So when I found out that Nimbus Publishing had re-issued Mildred’s Favourite Recipes from Old New Brunswick Kitchens, I wasted no time in ordering myself a copy. A snippet into the lives of these ladies was worth every penny for me!
The pages are filled with interesting tidbits about the province, some fantastically classic recipes, and a few that raise eyebrows (next to her description of how to cook fiddleheads is a recipe that begins “dissolve lemon Jello in hot V8 juice…”). For me, it’s a treasury of family history to pass to my kids; several of their great-grandmother’s recipes are in the book, including a rhubarb pudding we’ll be trying sooner rather than later and a rabbit pie recipe we’ll avoid until we no longer have pet rabbits. But I digress.
Mildred’s book also contains a recipe for a Creamy Fiddlehead Soup that I decided to try this season. My last fiddlehead dish was a bit more of a modern recipe – Cashew Fiddlehead Stirfry – so it seemed like a good choice to go the more traditional route this time.
The ingredients are pretty straightforward (a couple of potatoes, two stalks of celery, a small onion, a clove or two of garlic, a few cups of chicken broth, rich cream, and four handfuls of fresh fiddleheads), as are the instructions: Boil the veggies and spices in the broth, then add in the cleaned, cooked fiddleheads and simmer. When the lovely greens are tender, slowly move the mixture to your blender and give it a good whirl. Take the mixture back to the stove and add as much cream as you see fit (that’s how I read the instructions, anyway – Mildred might have suggested a cup or two!), then bring it just below a boil. Voila! If you’re feeling fancy, add some croutons and a fresh fiddlehead or two for flourish when you prepare your bowl of Traditional New Brunswick Fiddlehead Soup. I added some old cheddar I had on hand and would definitely be increasing the amount next time!
Please note: Health Canada shares guidelines for the preparation of fiddleheads. Please read the information carefully, especially if it’s your first time cooking fiddleheads yourself.
Fair warning: if this post has you tempted to rush order it from Nimbus, it really is like buying a copy of your great-aunt’s cookbook. There are no photos, the directions are often slim, and some of the measurements are rough, but the results can be fantastic. You just need to have some existing kitchen skills – or at least not be frustrated when the details are lacking. And you never know, you just might find some of your relatives’ recipes tucked inside! There are quite a few common names from Westmorland and Albert County in these pages, as well as gems of country life, like how to make Choke-Cherry Wine, Vinegar in Three Weeks, and Mildred’s own dark rum Christmas Fruit Cake recipe that calls for eight kinds of fruit and two months of aging.