My most significant food memories come from the summer.
We weren’t a junk food family growing up on Prince Edward Island. There were too many of us. The idea of a herd of kids hopped up on sugar was the stuff of nightmares for my mom.
We were the kids with grapes, carrot sticks and hummus in our lunch bags instead of flaky Vachon cakes. Have you ever tried to trade a banana for a candy bar? It requires a certain degree of salesmanship.
Junk food was hard to come by, but summer was the exception. In July and August, my parents would take us to get towering soft-serve cones after softball games. We’d have s’mores burned over a flame and giant fluffy clouds of cotton candy handed to us at the midway.
Those individually sized mini boxes of cereal always make me think of summer camping trips. My youngest sister always got to pick first, and my brother and I would spend an hour selling her on the merits of the grainy one with bran, so she’d leave the sugary, flaky stuff for us older siblings.
Steamed baby clams make for another nostalgic summer dish for me.
When the tide would go out, my siblings and I would trek down to the beach near my grandmother’s house and start digging for clams in the mudflats. We weren’t looking for the giant quahogs, but the tiny air holes that betrayed a baby clam’s hiding spot. We’d fill a bucket and return to my grandmother’s house, where she’d steam them and serve them with drawn butter.
There was always dessert, too. The best would be my grandmother’s raspberry pie. I’ve been chasing that pie my whole life, and although I’m proud of my pie crust now, I know it’ll never compare to Nanny Bulman’s.
I don’t know if it’s the season that makes us crave certain foods, or if the pandemic has us all yearning for a simpler time, but I’m here for it. Give me the sugary nostalgic treats from my youth.
Here are some slightly fancier and homemade recipes of those summery treats.
Funnel cake at home
Look, I love a sketchy carnival with rickety rides and rigged games, but you shouldn’t need to pay a $20 entrance fee to enjoy your favourite treat. Here’s a slightly grown-up version of a funnel cake that you can make at home.
- 2 cups of wild berries
- 1 tsp. bitters (optional)
- 2 tbsp. white sugar
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- 1 egg, beaten
- ¾ cup milk
- ¾ tsp. vanilla
- 1 cup flour
- 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
- 1 ½ tsp. cardamom
- ½ tsp. salt
- Icing sugar
- Whipping cream, for serving
- Thyme, basil or mint, for garnish
Marinate the berries:
I like to use a mixture of strawberries and blueberries, but you do you. Toss your berries with a tablespoon of sugar and the bitters. Stick this berry mixture in the fridge; the gorgeous bitters and sugar will help release the natural sugars in the berries. Let this marinate for at least 30 minutes.
Make the funnel cake:
Heat two inches of oil to 360 F in a medium saucepan.
In a large mixing bowl, mix your egg, milk and vanilla. In a smaller bowl, combine your flour, the remaining tablespoon of sugar, baking powder, cardamom and salt. Once the oil comes to temperature, add your dry ingredients to the wet and whisk until smooth and lump-free.
Grab an piping bag and insert an icing tip. I use a fairly small one. With the bag placed at about two inches above the oil, squeeze the batter, making thick zig-zagging lines. Fry for about four minutes until the whole thing is golden brown and delicious. Transfer to a paper towel-lined cutting board, so some of the oil can be soaked up. Serve with your berries and a little whipped cream. I love thyme as a garnish, but basil or mint would be beautiful too.
Chocolate S’more Pie
This pie is very decadent, and some people will be horrified by the sheer quantity of butter, but I assure you this pie is worth it.
Graham cracker crust:
- 1½ cups of graham cracker crumbs
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 5 tbsp. butter, melted, then browned
Preheat your oven to 350 F. In a medium bowl, mix your graham cracker crumbs, sugar and salt. Then, brown the butter and mix it in. Press your crumbs across the bottom and sides of a nine-inch pie pan. Bake in the oven for ten minutes, and stick it in the fridge until you’re ready to use.
Chocolate mousse filling:
- 12 tbsp. butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup white sugar
- 3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- ½ tsp. salt
In a large stand mixer, whip your butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. I usually let this go for a full five minutes at a medium-high speed. Now, slowly drizzle in your melted chocolate. Add one egg at a time, allowing the mixer to run for a full five minutes between each egg. Don’t forget to scrape down the bowl. Finally, add your vanilla and salt.
Put this gorgeous chocolate mousse atop the graham cracker crust and let chill in the fridge for five hours before topping with meringue.
- 3 egg whites
- ⅓ cup of icing sugar
- ¼ cup white sugar
Marshmallows are toasted meringues. We’re just going to whip egg whites with the whisk attachment on our mixer until everything is nice and foamy. Slowly whisk in the white sugar until soft peaks form, do the same with the icing sugar. Once you have nice, stiff peaks, transfer everything to a bowl and chill in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble.
Once you’re all set and your filling has chilled, you can use a cold spoon to plop the meringue atop your pie. Using a tiny kitchen torch, apply heat to the meringue to get that toasty s’more flavour. Or, if you’re feeling a little rushed, just melt some marshmallows atop your pie! After all, it’s summer — things should be easy.