L to R : No Boats On Sunday 100% NS Cider, Annapolis Cider Company Heirloom Cider, Elderkin's Traditional Hard Cider, Bulwark Original Cider, Sid's Wild Blueberry CIder, Planter's Ridge Rummed Cider

L to R : No Boats On Sunday 100% NS Cider, Annapolis Cider Company Heirloom Cider, Elderkin's Traditional Hard Cider, Bulwark Original Cider, Sid's Wild Blueberry CIder, Planter's Ridge Rummed Cider

Local Connections magazine has officially changed its name to Halifax Curated magazine and the biggest difference you'll see is that the magazine is now dedicated solely to food and drink.

For the current issue, I wrote about, styled and shot a selection of Nova Scotia hard cider.

My job is pretty great.

Nanny Neil's Apple Pan Dowdy

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The woman in the picture above is Elodie Mary Gallien Wade.

And she was my Nanny.

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Nanny was very close to my sister and I when we were growing up. Every weekend, my Mum would take us to Halifax to visit Nanny where she had her own little apartment on Victoria Road. We'd go to movies, the Public Gardens, the beach and sometimes, we'd just hang out in her apartment. It didn't really seem to matter what we did. We were always together.

When I was 15 years old, Nanny came to live with us. She had been battling the first stages of dementia for a while. For three years, my mother, my sister and I lived with a stranger who cried constantly, begging us to take her home. 

She gradually withered before our eyes, at the end, an empty Alzheimers-ridden husk.

Twenty years after her death, I still carry the weight of grief, heavy, as apple peelings slip from my hands to the wooden board below.

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I can picture my 18 year-old self, after her freezing February funeral, dressed in a black turtleneck, burgundy courduroy skirt, black army boots, and black pea coat, roaming the streets of downtown Dartmouth, chain smoking, blinded by tears.

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Her death drove deep into my soul.

I will never get over it.

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Born in Caraquet, New Brunswick, my Nanny moved to Halifax when she married my grandfather. She spoke little English, and seemed embarrassed by her thick Acadian French accent.

I wish I could tell her how I've tried to learn French, that I chose to study French as my university minor, because of her.

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I love cats. My Mum tells me Nanny loved them too. Mum tells a story about a cat named Toni that would come to their house on Wright Avenue after the previous owners left him behind. Nanny worked serving night lunches at the VG hospital, and every night, Toni would walk with Nanny to the hospital, waiting outside for her, until it was time to go home.

It's these little stories I need, I crave, because I'm afraid I'll forget what little I can remember.

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My other grandmother, Barbara Jean Ellis, was a great beauty.

She lives today with my father, her son, sucked into the vaccuum of dementia.

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While I was growing up, she lived in Ontario.

I never got to know her and I'll never have the chance.

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I have so many questions.

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Last Christmas, I was thrilled when Sean's aunt offered me a box of her mother's cookbooks and handwritten recipes.

'I think you're the one that will appreciate them the most', she said.

She was right.

To me, Nanny Neil's handwritten recipes are something to be treasured; a small glimpse into a life I'll never know.

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Mary Elodie Gallien Wade - Barbara Jean Ellis - Almina Eugene Densmore Neil - Mary Ellen Harris Shand - Ethel Melvina Craig Shand

Who were these women beyond my perceived notion of them as grandmothers?

What was it like to be in their shoes?

What would they think of me?

These questions fascinate me.

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I've been wanting to share one of Nanny Neil's recipes for almost a year now. I approached James Ingram last spring with an idea for a project about grandmothers. This summer we spent a day shooting with Nicholetta from Pepper + Paint, testing my concept in her beautiful bright modern summer home on the North Shore.

Afterwards, I phoned James.

'It just didn't feel right', I said.

Maybe it's grief, maybe it's nostalgia.

Whatever it is, it doesn't feel light and airy to me.

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I do know this.

Diving into the past, dragging up old memories?

It's complicated. And it hurts.

But it helps.

Me, anyway.


Nanny Neil's Apple Pan Dowdy (I've adapted the recipe directions to be more clear than what's written on the original card)

1 C brown sugar

1/4 C flour

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 C water

1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 Tbsp butter

1 tsp vanilla

4 C peeled, chopped apples

Biscuit Topping:

1 C flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 C milk

2.5 Tbsp shortening (I used butter)

- preheat 350º

- cook brown sugar, flour, salt, water and vinegar over medium heat until thick, about 8 minutes - remove from heat and add butter and vanilla - mix well and set aside

- in a buttered casserole dish, arrange peeled, chopped apples 

- pour brown sugar sauce over apples and toss to coat

- Biscuit Topping - in a bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, milk and shortening only to make wet - drop by the spoonful on top of apples - bake 40-45 minutes, or until biscuit topping is golden

Overnight Crockpot Apple Butter

Overnight Crockpot Apple Butter

5 large apples, peeled, chopped

1 C dark brown sugar

juice from half a lemon

2 Tbsp water

1.5 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp sea salt

0.5 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla

- in a large bowl toss chopped apples with brown sugar, lemon juice and water to coat - place in crockpot and cook on low overnight

- the next morning, stir in pumpkin pie spice, sea salt, cinnamon and vanilla - cook 2 hours more with lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape - jar and eat*

* I love apple butter dolloped on homemade granola, on pancakes or French toast, on ice cream, on cake, on toast or by itself with a spoon.

Recipe : Slow-Cooker Apple Cranberry Butter

I've been experimenting with meat jams and fruit butters lately and this one turned out pretty damn good if I do say so. It simmers overnight in the slow cooker and makes your house smell like Christmas! Here's the recipe, inspired by My Baking Addiction:

Slow-Cooker Apple Cranberry Butter

5 large or 7 medium-sized Honeycrisp Apples

1 bag (340g / 12oz) fresh cranberries*

1/2 C dark brown sugar

1/2 C organic cane sugar (I used Just Us! Fair Trade Organic Sugar)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 vanilla bean - seeds scraped out, pod reserved

1 star anise pod

3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed

3-inch cinnamon stick (I use Sri Lankan cinnamon that I get from The Spiceman)

1.5 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp vanilla (I always buy Neilsen-Massey Madagascar vanilla at The Paderno Store in Bayer's Lake - Tahitian if they're out)

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (I LOVE grinding the Sri Lankan cinnamon sticks - the flavour is unmatched)

- peel, core and chop apples - in a large bowl, toss the apples with cranberries, sugars, lemon juice and vanilla bean seeds - place mixture in slow cooker - bundle star anise and cardamom in cheesecloth, or a fresh tea filter, and place on top of apples along with reserved vanilla pods and cinnamon stick - turn to low and slow cook overnight (or 8-10 hours)

- in the morning, remove spice bundle, vanilla pods and cinnamon stick - purée cooked apples with an immersion blender until smooth - add pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, sea salt and ground cinnamon - cook on low 1-2 hours longer - store in mason jars**

*if you don't have cranberries just substitute the weight in apples

**if not canning, store in fridge and eat within 2 weeks - if canning, will keep on shelf for at least a year, probably longer

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East Coast Living Magazine : Fall 2013 : Apples + 2 Doors Down

I photographed a few apple-themed recipes by Chef Andrew Farrell of 2 Doors Down for the fall issue of East Coast Living magazine. After the shoot, he sent me home with two pieces of the Applesauce Pie pictured below. My socks = knocked off. I asked Andrew if I could share the recipe and he said yes! It's at the bottom of this post.

Applesauce Pie


Apple and Roasted Beet Salad with Apple Vinaigrette, Walnuts and Goat Cheese


Apple Cranberry Chutney (far left) on 'The Ploughman' Board








Applesauce Pie courtesy of Andrew Farrell, Chef at 2 Doors Down

Apple Filling

2 lbs Granny Smith apples, peeled, rough chopped

1/4 Cup brown sugar, tightly packed

1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped out

1 Tbsp water

2 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

3-4 Jonagold or Honey Crisp apples


2 Cups all purpose flour

2 Tbsp cornstarch

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp sugar

3/4 lb cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

8 Tbsp ice water

1)   Combine Granny Smith apples, brown sugar, vanilla seeds, and water in a pot.

2)   Cook on medium-low heat until simmered down to a smooth consistency, and reduced to 1/3 of it’s original volume, about an hour. Keep your eye on it so as to not scorch the sauce on the bottom of the pot.

3)   When the sauce has reached the desired consistency, remove from heat and stir in cubes of cold unsalted butter, stirring until all butter is combined with the sauce.

4)   Peel, core and cube the Jonagold/Honeycrisp apples, and stir into the now cooling pie filling. Set aside.

5)   Combine flour, cornstarch, salt, and sugar in food processor, and give it 3 quick pulses. Add the butter to the processor and pulse until crumbly, with the butter the size of small peas.

6)   Add water to the food processor one tablespoon at a time, pulsing in between, to bring the dough together.

7)   Empty the dough onto a clean work surface, and briefly knead, just enough to keep it together. Wrap and chill for an hour.

8.)   Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll a portion of dough to fit the bottom of a pie plate.  Place the remaining dough in the fridge, reserved for the top of the pie. Bake the bottom pie dough for 10 minutes and cool.

9)   Roll out the remaining dough for the top crust.

10) Fill the cooled bottom crust with the chunky applesauce, and cover with the unbaked top crust. Bake at 400 degrees for 45-50 minutes until crust is golden. Cool.

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