Canning, filleting, preserving: St. Norbert Farmers’ Market teaches dying skills

Brent Poole says a fish, a cutting board and a knife are all you need to learn filleting skills.
Brent Poole says a fish, a cutting board and a knife are all you need to learn filleting skills. Diana Foxall/Global News

The St. Norbert Farmers’ Market was bustling Wednesday afternoon — though not everything was for sale.

The market was hosting its annual Farmers’ Festival, giving artisans a chance to connect with patrons and instruct shoppers on everything from filleting fish to making bouquets to canning and preserving.

“We looked around at all the different producers that we have coming to our market and we realized that there’s this awesome range of skills that they all have and that people don’t know a lot about,” Marilyn Firth, the market’s executive director, said.

Firth didn’t know her grandparents growing up, so she didn’t get the opportunity to learn valuable skills from older relatives. But she said that’s not uncommon — many people visiting the market to pick up carrots or sourdough are curious to learn more about how the products they’re buying are produced.

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“I’m seeing a real resurgence of that interest — a lot of young people in their twenties are really interested in these skills but their parents actually didn’t know them, there’s like a sort of lost blob in time where these skills just didn’t get passed down,” Firth said.

“I really wish I’d learned how to fillet a fish, so I’m going to go and watch one of those demos because I don’t know how to do that.”

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The event is billed as ‘Home Skills for the 21st Century’, and offered a broad range of free workshops and demonstrations. The basic introduction to canning demonstration and the sourdough baking talk were both very popular, offering tips and tricks to visitors hoping to improve their skills in the kitchen.

Fishing fanatics were well-served, with several demonstrations on filleting and making lures throughout the day.

“When you catch fish, you have to know what the next step is because you want to eat what you keep,” Brent Poole said. He explained he initially learned to fillet fish when his father taught him to fish, but refined his technique after spending years up north as a masters student.

“I have two sons and I taught them how to fish — in fact, I was out fishing with my son this past weekend — and I taught them how to fillet fish and I think they use the same technique that I use,” Poole said.

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But not everyone sharing their skills learned from family members. A number of artisans honed their craft by hitting the books.

“There’s lots of information about how to make kimchi online,” said Rob Marusyk, owner of Cook’s Creek Kimchi. Marusyk started making the fermented dish 25 years ago after discovering it at a Winnipeg restaurant.

“At that time, you just got it on your plate as a condiment — you couldn’t buy it to go,” he said.

“I read some books, talked to some Korean people, then through trial and error over the next few years, I learned how to make a good version of it, supplying to family and friends up until just recently and now, to Manitobans.”

WATCH: Marusyk explains kimchi at the Farmers’ Festival

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Kirsten van der Linde also took to the internet to perfect her flower crowns, which she says are popular at weddings.

“I kind of taught myself and through YouTube videos so it’s probably not the most professional way to do it, but it works and people love them,” van der Linde said.

“I somewhat learned from my boss, Helen, and otherwise it’s just creativity that comes from within and you learn as you go and see what goes together.”

The home skills are in high demand, with many people wanting to learn the benefits of fermented foods or how to get started baking sourdough bread, but the range of artisans means there’s something for everyone, said Firth.

“Having the broad variety is really nice because people are bringing their kids and learning about how to make a fishing lure or how to do chain mail is something that the kids really like to learn about,” she said.

“I am seeing a lot of families here today — we love to see that, it’s really, really nice.”