History of Creton.
In Quebec, cretons is a breakfast staple and is typically served cold on bread or toast. This pâté-like dish is common in the cuisine of Quebec and has become a traditional comfort food.
Cretons, also called gorton or corton, is a meat spread containing onions and spices. The texture varies from creamy to chunky. Traditional recipes were about 30% fat. Modern commercial versions have reduced that to 5 to 17% fat. There are low-fat versions called cretons minceur. "Cretonnade" refers to cretons made from a meat other than pork. There are some vegetarian versions made from base ingredients such as lentils.
The popularity of cretons in Quebec is a result partially of Quebec's French heritage and partially of the influence of First Nations peoples on early French Canadian settlers. The concept of a pork-based paste is most likely derived from rillettes, which is a similar spread that has been popular in central France for quite some time. The use of salted pork, however, likely comes from the early days of settlement in Quebec as French settlers had to learn meat preservation methods from the surrounding First Nations peoples in order to survive Quebec's long harsh winters.
Originally, cretons were made from leaf fat, which is the fat obtained from the abdominal cavity of a pork carcass. When a pig was slaughtered, the panné (leaf lard) that covered the ribs could be pulled off in one piece. It would be put in the oven with salt and pepper until crispy. Then this was ground up to be used to make creton. Later, more refined versions of cretons evolved, based on ground pork with melted lard added.
This original creton, made from leaf fat, is very rare today. In 1940, Marius Barbeau, who was a famous Canadian ethnographer and folklorist, described how the recipe had its origins in the monasteries of the lower St. Lawrence River valley. One Father Wright, at the Collége de Sainte-Anne de la Pocatiére, had a reputation for making excellent cretons.
The cretons from Father Wright, for the priests' use only, had such a reputation for excellence among the students of the Collège de Sainte-Anne that they would sometimes steal a bowl, like a forbidden fruit, in secret. Sadly, these delicious cretons are no longer found, even in the refectory of the priests. Father Wright took the secret to his grave. But, in short, the best cretons of Quebec are still the ones from Kamouraska county.
It is interesting to know that the mix of cultures from Quebec's first settlers from France and the surrounding First Nations tribes have both had their impact on what is today considered traditional Quebecois cuisine.