Taste the Sunrise Trail
Nova Scotia’s Northumberland Shore offers fresh, local delights.
I bite into a buttery oatcake and savour the nutty flavour of the freshly milled oats. While munching this delicious treat, I’m taken back in time as Tanya Langille, our tour guide here inside the Balmoral Grist Mill in Balmoral Mills, NS points out the ingenious system of wheels and cogs that mill the flour and stone-ground oats.
The mill is the departure point for a back-to-basics food and wine tour of Nova Scotia’s Northumberland Shore—also known as the Sunrise Trail—where visitors can still learn about the care, labour and ingenuity that go into good, wholesome food. Nova Scotia’s Northumberland Shore is chic by virtue of its citizens’ steadfast dedication to tradition. In this era of slow food—favouring local and traditional foods—the local traditions of preparing the best ingredients using time-tested techniques have been around so long, they’re new again.
The ingenuity behind the oatcake
Here at the Balmoral mill, Langille pulls a lever that engages two sets of cogged wheels that then pull a sack of oats, tied to a rope, up through a trap door in the creaky, wooden floor. The sack rises straight to the ceiling, through a second trap door and up to the top floor where it can be emptied into a chute to start the milling process.
The oats have already been toasted on the cast-iron floor of the mill’s wood-fired kiln in the basement. Now they’re forced between millstones made of im-ported granite that grind them into oatmeal for selling and baking. Knowing the work and the ingenuity that went into the oats for my oatcake seems to give the flavour a depth I could never achieve at home or buy in a grocery store.
“This is the only working grist mill in Nova Scotia,” says Darrell Burke, site manager for the property and for the Sutherland Steam Mill Museum about 12 kilometres away. “The Balmoral Grist Mill is unique in North America because it produces Scottish oatmeal, which goes back to our ancestors.”
Unique European-style pork
Ten kilometres west on Balmoral Road, Darlene and Gary Henderson’s Pork Shop in Denmark, NS, prepares pork products in-house—from Oktoberfest sausage and cold cuts to schnitzel and Paté de Paris. “It’s amazing how many people come from a distance and stop at the mill to pick up their flour and oats,” says Darlene. “They come to our shop, and they go to Jost Vineyards to pick up their wine. We know people who do that trip on a regular basis.” As a long-time resident and cheerleader for the Sunrise Trail, she adds, “The North Shore is a lovely place anyway, so you can make a day trip and enjoy the drive from one end to the other.”
Darlene and Gary took over the Pork Shop from its founder, German immigrant Dieter Mueller. The Hendersons learned Mueller’s traditional German rec-ipes and curing methods over a two year mentoring period as ownership changed hands. Darlene calls her products “real European-style meats.” The smoked pork chops are famous far and wide.
A wine for every taste
Out on the shores of the Northumberland Strait at Malagash, NS, Jost Vineyards continues to win accolades for its wines. When the late Hans Wilhelm Jost moved with his family from the Rhine valley in Germany, where his family operated a successful winery, to Nova Scotia, he found a place that reminded him of home.
Hans’ children now run the Jost Vineyards, making wines from winter hardy French and German grape varieties like Marechal Foch, Muscat, Seyval Blanc, Ba-co Noir, DeChaunac and L’Acadie, as well as smaller quantities of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling and others. With vintage varieties and blends, fruit wines, ice wines and maple wines, Jost has created a varied cellar to appeal to just about any taste.
The gift shop is open year round, and there’s a seasonal deli-bar—among the offerings are meats from the Pork Shop—plus a complimentary wine-tasting bar. You can also tour the operation: I followed our jovial tour guide Glenn Irving on a walking tour between rows of trellised grapes just outside the winery and shop. When I asked about the faded lobster shells spread beneath the ripening grapes, he quipped that they’d just blown in from the shore, but then gave us the straight story—they’re fertilizer. These truly are Nova Scotian wines.
The Mill, Pork Shop and Vineyards are the stars of the Sunrise Trail food and wine tour, but this trail is rich with traditional foods. And here’s a tip: a tour of this region should include a stop in the town of Oxford, the self-proclaimed blueberry capital of the world, where it’s not too difficult to find a slice of blueberry pie.