If you look for a hodge podge recipe on a recipe site like, say, Allrecipes, you might find some… weird information. You might read something like, “this is an old favourite vegetable stew from Nova Scotia. Is typically made in the fall as gardens are just harvested. It is important that the freshest veggies are used.” And that same recipe might tell you to cook the bejeezus out of your vegetables. Whatiddy what? I’m sure the person who posted that recipe is totally awesome, but also, a victim of The Conspiracy. Because some of the information in that recipe has clearly been planted by someone from a big city. Why are big city folk conspiring against Maritimers? Because they know, on some level, that we are way cool without even trying. And that kinda pisses them off. Also, they want our lobster.
I don’t know very many Maritimers who would call hodge podge a stew. Generally, it’s not that thick. It can be kinda soupy. Also, we harvest our gardens in the spring and summer. Just like lots of other people. And since “it is important that the freshest veggies are used,” waiting until fall seems pretty silly. Most people round here would agree that hodge podge is a summer staple. As soon as the new potatoes, carrots, peas and beans hit the farmer’s markets, we’re into hodge podge season.
I’ve seen some variations in the ingredients for hodge podge. Some recipes call for bacon or salt pork. That sounds pretty awesome, but no one I know has ever used either of those things. However, I think it’s pretty clear that a Maritimer came up with that idea. Someone from a big city would probably add quinoa and rose water. Some recipes suggest substitutions for the butter and cream. Good grief. Those things aren’t optional. Other recipes call for you to use flour to thicken the broth. Those people are probably from a big city. They might also suggest that you put turnip, cauliflower, and broccoli in there. TURNIP? Get real.
Hodge podge is a celebration of fresh vegetables. No. It’s a party. A kitchen party. Because that’s what we do here. You cook your market-fresh veggies in a big pot. Not all at once – you start with the veggies that take the longest, and then keep adding in more. Peas don’t take as long to cook as potatoes – no matter what someone from a big, fancy city tells you. Then you drain off most of the water, and dump some cream and butter in there. The starch from the potatoes will thicken the cream and butter a little, but it won’t get as thick as a stew. Some of that depends on how much butter and cream you throw into the mix. Do you see the balance, people? The healthy vegetables are slathered in something… less healthy. And when you think about how long this recipe has been a Maritime favourite? It makes sense. It’s all stuff we could find in our freakin’ yards. Just kidding. Most of us don’t grow butter in our yards.
Simple. Fresh. Delicious. No hiding behind fancy schmancy ingredients, or seasoning the crap out of it. Just a little salt and pepper to round things out. If you’re looking for a recipe that is brimming with complex flavours and seasonings, this isn’t it. Hodge podge is all about the vegetables. We like to let ’em shine.
Once you’re done scarfing down the veggies, I think most Maritimers would tell you to sop up the extra broth with some hearty bread. I’m also betting that 2.0 would like me to mention that hodge podge is just as good – if not better – on the second day. And that it tastes mighty fine alongside a juicy steak.
You’ve been schooled.
. . .
Nova Scotia Hodge Podge
Makes enough for 4-6 people.
I’ve included some notes that I hope y’all will find helpful.
- 10-12 new potatoes – scrubbed/not peeled, and halved – quarter any large potatoes, and don’t cut the small ones – you want the potato pieces to be about the same size
- 2-3 cups chopped new carrots – scrubbed/not peeled, cut into bite sized pieces (yah, you can peel them if you like)
- 1 cup chopped yellow beans – 1 inch long pieces
- 1 cup chopped green beans – 1 inch long pieces
- 1 cup shelled pod peas – you want just the peas, not the pods
- 1 cup blend – I believe blend is called half and half in the US – you want something around the 10% fat mark (FYI – some people use a higher fat cream, and up to 1.5 cups of it)
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup butter (I use 6 tablespoons)
- salt and pepper to taste
Note: the cooking times listed below are what I use. Generally, you want the veggies – especially the beans – to be tender crisp. Some people like their veggies softer, and will cook longer – thus the frequent use of the word “about.”
Fill a Dutch oven about halfway with water, and salt lightly (about 1/2 teaspoon of salt). Bring to a boil.
Add the potatoes to the boiling water. Cook for about 7 minutes.
Add the carrots to the pot, and continue cooking for about 5 minutes.
Next add the yellow and green beans to the pot, and continue cooking for about 5 minutes.
Finally, add the peas, and continue cooking for about 3 minutes.
Drain off most of the water – leave about an inch of water (no more) in the bottom of the pot with the vegetables. Return the pot to the stove, and reduce burner heat to low. Add the blend and butter, and some salt and pepper (I start with a 1/4 teaspoon of each). Gently stir to combine, allowing the the blend and butter to heat through. As you’re stirring, the potatoes might break up a bit. Not to worry. As the the blend and butter heat through, the broth may begin to thicken. This is normal. Don’t allow the mixture to boil.
Once the mixture has heated through, it is ready to serve. Season with a little salt and pepper to taste. Serve with bread to sop up the extra broth.
Store any unused portions in the refrigerator, and re-heat before serving.