Renee Trotier is stirring a pot in the culinary world. In it, she combines freshly picked plums, essence of lavender and drops of gin to create a beautiful deep purple concoction. In a few hours, it will be ready to go with your favourite crackers and cheese, on toast, or with dessert. But don’t forget a few key ingredients; she complements these flavours with inspiration from a line of strong women, innovative marketing skills, and a deep passion for the thing that binds it together: heavy metal.
Simmer on the stovetop for a few hours and you have Ritual & Revival – Trotier’s brand of metal thrashing mad preserves. Drawing from seasonal ingredients and unique flavour pairings, she applies a bold aesthetic to each product as a reflection of her connection to the music. Everything from the artwork down to the preparation process is handled with immense care and an understanding for her vast demographic.
As a fellow foodie and metalhead, I wanted to learn more about Trotier’s journey with Ritual & Revival and decided to create a few dishes myself using four of her signature preserves. Ritual & Revival proves that you don’t need to like metal to be able to jam.
Q&A with Renee Trotier of Ritual & Revival
You learned how to make preserves with your grandmother – do you remember how old you were when you started getting into the kitchen?
Well, I would use the word “learn” rather loosely here. My memories of time spent in the kitchen with my grandmother started from the age of five or six, only I think I was more of a companion to her in those days than an apprentice. I remember sitting in the kitchen nook, listening to her describe her cooking methods and providing tips while I read books. Although I was particularly obsessed with her strawberry jam as a kid, I learned much more about the fundamentals of canning and preserving from my mother. She used to make salsa out of tomatoes from her garden every fall, and a delicious peach jam. I didn’t take enough interest back then, but once I moved out and started to develop my own arsenal of culinary skills, my mom was my go-to for advice.
Can you share a fond memory of you and your grandmother in the kitchen?
I used to stay with my grandparents every March Break when I was growing up. More than anything, I remember watching my Grandma boiling potatoes and cutting veggies for dinner. She would always tell me that the secret to a good gravy was using the potato water, because it was both starchy and nutrient rich. She was a wise woman, and a fantastic cook. The same could be said of my mother, who instilled in me an early love of weekend baking. I think that my warmest kitchen memories stem from those slow, relaxing mornings making muffins or cinnamon rolls. My mom passed away in 2012, so those are very special moments to me now.
What was the first preserve, or similar item, you recall making?
The first preserve I ever made myself was a spiced pear jam that I concocted for the holidays in 2010. I wanted to make something unexpected for my family as a Christmas present, and I think I got the idea of making jam from a blog on handmade gifts. As I started researching the fundamentals of jam and jelly making, my interest was piqued. I also made spicy pickled beans and dill pickled carrots that year, as well as an apple cider jelly. Unfortunately, it failed to set into something spreadable, so I added a bit more sugar, reduced it down and called it an apple cider syrup! That’s something I love about canning – it’s never really a failure.
Growing up, did you have an innate interest in delving into various cuisines, or were you a picky eater?
I was lucky to have parents who always encouraged me to keep an open mind when it came to food. They would convince me to try “just one bite” of something I had never had, and told me that my taste buds would keep evolving the more I ate. Once I realized that there were a lot of great tasting foods I would have missed out on, had I never tried them, I became more and more adventurous. To me, the rewards of discovering a delicious new food far outweighed the risks of a single, experimental bite.
What is the most common way you eat or serve jam?
I have always been a toast-for-breakfast kind of girl, so until recently, that was always my preferred method for enjoying jam. Now I add it to yogurt, put it on waffles, use it as a glaze. There’s so much you can do with it!
In the media, and various facets of popular culture, metalheads have been portrayed as cheap beer-drinking, pizza eating skids. Things have changed now – with the launch of band-branded beers, cookbooks (shout out to Annick Giroux) and utensils. What does it mean, to you, to be part of challenging the stereotype?
I feel like I have been challenging that stereotype since I started getting into metal. I was always a good student, relatively quiet and responsible. I don’t have any visible tattoos or piercings, and my interest in upscale culinary adventures and DIY crafting doesn’t lend itself neatly to the traditional profile of a metalhead. But as someone who knew and hung out with other fans of heavy music early on, I understood metalheads as being people who were intelligent, independent and strong willed. I drew strength from metal music, and learned to challenge the status quo. I was amused by the shocked reactions from people when I told them about my tastes in music. When I started developing the concept behind Ritual & Revival, I knew that metal heads would appreciate my adventurous flavour combinations and slightly blasphemous packaging even if nobody else did. As a niche community, we kind of sit on the outskirts of society and in my mind, there is no better place to be. Different is good. It feels like home.
Getting into feminism: we are making strides in moving away from our stereotypical, standard domestic roles, or being able to balance both a career and home life. Fighting the sexist ideology that women “belong in the kitchen,” what makes us powerful in the kitchen? How do we display a role of strength, creativity and knowledge by being able to manage both a lifestyle that combines domestic skills and independent success?
This is not an easy question, but I think you hit the nail on the head when you discussed combining domestic skill with independent success. Historically, a woman was absolutely responsible for maintaining the home and putting dinner on the table. They learned the best ways to cook and passed their knowledge on to younger generations. Does that mean that all women were happy in these roles? No. Many had dreams and ambitions outside of the home, and it has taken many generations of women fighting long and hard to finally gain this type of independence. We are still fighting for equal opportunities to build successful careers in many male dominated industries. For me, the kitchen is a place where I can explore my creativity and expand my culinary skills without censorship or judgement. It is my place of freedom. It is empowering to be able to follow my entrepreneurial and culinary dreams because if I had been born even fifty years earlier I might not have had these same opportunities. It is a small example of exercising my rights as a woman and, more importantly, as an equal part of the human race.
You have a background in advertising – do you feel your skills have supported you in launching the brand?
I think that advertising has taught me how to focus my ideas and translate them into a tangible, marketable product. I have the knowledge to create advertising campaigns based on a company’s target market, certain appeal strategies and marketing goals. The best part about Ritual & Revival is that I AM the client. I understand the target market because I AM the target market. If I like the logo, packaging, artwork and flavours, chances are that other like-minded individuals will too.
Ritual and Revival has a strong black metal aesthetic to it – tell me about the graphics and illustrations – who were your collaborators?
Personally, I’m a big fan of pen and ink artwork, so that’s naturally the style I gravitated towards when selecting which artists I wanted to hire. Tone Ventresca (AKA Tone Van Bone) was the first artist I contacted because my boyfriend had him to do some of his band’s artwork, so I was familiar with his style. I gave him a few examples of metal covers I loved and a crazy idea for a design based on a dark interpretation of Mother Nature and her demon minions, and what he produced was just so great!
I also hired an artist who goes by the name Dahmer Art. He does a lot of artwork for metal bands. I wanted artwork that would match the boozy elements in some of my preserves and had the idea for a Satanic forest party scene. I thought his sketchy kind of style was perfect for it and he proved me right!
Lastly, I hired an extremely talented pen and ink artist named Blial Cabal to create my logo. I knew that I wanted a drippy looking, black metal style logo that was still legible, but I liked the idea of incorporating a hand drawn element like some old-school death metal bands used to use. He came up with the idea of turning the last ‘L’ in Revival into a candle and having the smoke be a strawberry heart. I was instantly in love.
Best part of the preserve making process?
I love the challenge of creating a great tasting, consistent and sellable product. It isn’t always easy, but it’s a proud moment when it works.
The challenging part of making preserves?
This kind of goes hand in hand with my previous answer. There are a lot of rules about what you can and can’t do when it comes to safe and successful preserving, so it’s often difficult to come up new, creative recipes while ensuring they can be properly and safely canned. Well, that and finding the time!
How do you develop the flavour pairings? What inspires you to select the ingredients for each preserve?
Because I create my jam seasonally, I always start with whatever fruits are abundant, fresh, and available locally. From there, most of the flavour combinations are either based on tried and true pairings or born of curiosity and experimentation. I often take existing dishes (like rum and raisin ice cream over apple pie, for example) and try to translate those flavours into jam form.
The Music, and how it impacts the process:
You listen to a lot of black metal in the preserve-making process – which were your top four albums in rotation for this batch?
I often take kitchen time to explore new bands or albums so I didn’t listen to the same thing that often. These were a few of the albums I kept coming back to.
- Taake – Taake
- Abbath – Abbath
- Misþyrming – Söngvar Elds Og óreiðu
- Anaal Nathrakh – The Whole Of The Law
Can you describe how their sounds are reflected in flavours of each preserve?
I don’t create jam flavours based on what I’m currently listening to, but I can certainly compare them to metal albums I have developed relationships with over the years.
Pear Cardamom Marmalade:
Bright orange and lime, honey-sweet pear and exotic cardamom intermingle in a hybrid preserve that is half jam, half marmalade. Its unexpected character reminds me of the first time I heard Skeletonwitch’s debut album Beyond The Permafrost, which combined death, black, thrash and traditional metal in exciting new ways. It shouldn’t work, but somehow it really does.
Apple Rum & Raisin:
Like Ahab’s doomy album, The Boats of Glen Carrig, this jam has a rich depth of flavour. The warm pie spices complement the crisp tartness of the Golden Delicious apples, but it is the Caribbean rum-soaked raisins and a final splash of Kraken rum that truly takes your palette to new and exotic depths.
Rye Ginger & Pear: Pancakes with maple syrup
Sweet, floral pears are complemented by a zing of fresh ginger and a warm oaky kick of premium rye. The classical cocktail flavours are welcoming and familiar, yet interestingly experimental when offered up in jam format. The classic death metal album, Obscura, by Gorguts is a great musical accompaniment for both its Canadian content and experimental edge.
Plum & Lavender Gin: Goat cheese and crackers
Sticky sweet plum is softened by lavender undertones and finished with an herbaceous-yet-complementary kick of gin. Created during the Harvest Moon last fall, this layered and slightly feminine flavour is best enjoyed while listening to the achingly beautiful post-black metal of Alcest’s Ecilles de Lune.
Meet Renee and pick up some Ritual & Revival goods in Toronto on Sunday, May 14th at the HOW BAZAAR: Punk & Metal Bazaar at Coalition. Complete details can be found here.
Location: Coalition T.O. – 228 Augusta Avenue, Toronto
Time: 12-7 pm