Whether you have a hankering for a loaf to enjoy nibble by nibble throughout the weekend, or are looking for an atypical break-the-fast apple cake, I've got you covered. But first, let's brush up on our Canadian food history. Namely, the importance of David Fife, a Scotch immigrant credited with planting Canada's first experimental farm.
Fife and his wife, Jane, were progressive farmers raising a family near Peterborough, Ontario. Searching for a strain of plants that were adaptable to Canada's harsh climate, Fife wrote to a friend in Scotland asking for seed varieties that would thrive. The Fifes dedicated a small section of their fields to growing the experimental crops sent from overseas. Their diligence led to the discovery of Red Fife, a hardy wheat that was adaptable to both fall and spring planting. Additionally, the grain was resistant to wheat rust, a serious threat to Canadian crops.
From its tentative beginning on Fife's small farm, Red Fife made Ontario a wheat-producing province, paving the way for the Canadian grain farming industry. The heritage grain first planted in 1842 remained the dominant wheat grown in western Canada for 60 years. In the early 1900s, Marquis Wheat replaced Red Fife in popularity and production.
Thanks to a small number of seed savers and organic heritage wheat farmers, (primarily in Canada), Red Fife is still a viable grain and is enjoying a resurgence today. The success of Red Fife wheat was a major factor in the settlement of the Canadian west and its farming industry. Historians and agriculturists claim that Red Fife wheat helped push back prairie grass allowing farmers to successfully work the land, ultimately sparking Canada's reputation as the "Granary of the Empire." Fife's diligent farming practices and his contributions to Canadian agriculture were recognized by the Senate in 1955. In 1963, the experimental farmer was inducted into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame.
During a recent visit to Picton, Ontario, I sought out Jubilee Farm Stand. Known for their hyper local produce, grains and maple syrup, their Heritage Red Fife Flour aligned perfectly with a recipe I've been itching to try from writer and chef Deborah Reid. (I made a few slight adjustments, primarily to incorporate honey and cider into the mix.) The auburn loaf is an enhanced applesauce cake, punctuated by a deeply toasty, almost cinnamon-y flavor from Red Fife flour. I've given the caramel glaze a serious hit of reduced apple cider and added some walnuts for crunch. This may very well be the dessert that elbows honey cake off the table until further notice.
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