It’s been said that food is the most primitive form of comfort. And I’m here to tell you that a dish called “râpure,” a.k.a “rappie pie” is the ultimate comfort food in my books.
But it bears no resemblance to what we normally thing of as a “pie.” In fact, visually it’s downright unappealing, and looks like a blob of thick gray glue with small hunks of meat mixed in. Yet, mention rappie pie in certain parts of Nova Scotia and people’s eyes light up, their taste buds start to dance, and they shiver with anticipation—including me! For rappie pie fans, the visual aspect is nothing to fuss about. It’s all about flavour, tradition, homecoming, family—and a good measure of Acadian pride in preserving this recipe.
As far as I can determine, râpure doesn’t exist anywhere else in Canada except in parts of Southwest Nova Scotia, like the Clare area, Yarmouth, Pubnico and Wedgeport. In these regions, it’s a household name and featured in many restaurants. Yet, wander out of this geographic area (about a 40-mile radius) and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who’s ever heard of it.
Because I made a batch of rappie pie yesterday and had a couple of willing helpers, I’m using them to illustrate my wee story about rappie pie. (You’ll hear more about the Acadian communities in days to come.)
Rappie pie is made with finely grated potatoes. After the liquid is extracted, what’s left is white pulp. As it takes a lot of time to peel, grate and squeeze the liquid out, I buy 2- lb or 4- lb blocks of pulp which are prepared commercially here in the region, and sold in grocery stores. For this batch, I used the largest size.
First, boil a chicken in a big pot of water; remove chicken and cool, save broth.
Separate chicken from bones and chop up 2 big onions.
Heat broth to boiling again + add lots of salt and pepper + the onion. Pour 20 cups of the hot broth (5 cups at a time) into the pulp and stir well every time.
Pour about 1/3 of the pulp mix into a giant greased pan. Here, the sous chefs spread the chicken pieces over the top. Then I covered everything with remaining mixture.
Stick fingers in for a taste test. Repeat as often as you like.
Add small hunks of pork fat on top (dime sized) and bake for 3 hours or so. It will help to form a lovely brown and crispy top.
In the olden days, the Acadians often put duck, geese, rabbit, deer, pork—even clams in rappie pie. Some still do. It’s delicious any-which-way. Rappie pie is usually served with butter and can be accompanied by chow-chow, cranberry sauce or molasses. Putting ketchup on rappie pie is considered a sin.
So, that’s my quick post for today folks … back with local road tales tomorrow!
ps Would love to hear your thoughts on rappie pie (or any other favourite local dish you enjoy?!)
I live in Ontario’s “Near North” where we have a strong French Canadian heritage as well. Around this time of year, the Catholic church’s are building up for their Sea Pie picnics, annual fundraisers that help keep the church doors open for the rest of the year. So guess what goes into an Ontario Sea Pie? Cod cheeks, lobster, scallops or some other Ontario seafood delicacy? Sadly, no. Other than pie crust and roasted onions, a Northern Ontario Sea Pie consists of only three ingredients – chicken, pork and beef, each separated by a layer of crust. There are wild game versions too with venison, hare, duck and even bear meat but never, ever is there fish or shellfish. Why a dish that contains no seafood is called a Sea Pie is explained in the link below to an article I wrote last year for the local paper. The locals here consider it a great delicacy. I like it too but when no one is looking I sneak in two or three good glugs of Caribbean hot pepper sauce.
Oooh. I luv’s this story Steve. Who’da thunk? Sea Pie … without seafood. Question: How do you get the layer of crust in between each layer so it’s a “crust”?
Coming back to Yarmouth this month for my 50th YCMHS reunion and can’t wait to have rappie pie!
Yes Judi, you’ll be able to get your fill of it when you’re back in Yarmouth! Have a super reunion!
I think I have never had Rappie Pie done well. The gag factor was pretty high when I did try it.
Susan, I think it’s a love it or hate it kind of thing. Or an “acquired” taste. Must admit, between its appearance and texture, it doesn’t have a lot going for it. But OH the flavour! A friend on FB said, ” I think a better description is baked library glue with chicken and pork fat bits but the taste is divine. Instead of Rapure it should be called Rapture.” I agree.
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