Those of you have been subscribing to Crust for a while may remember that I have baked with a number of "Landrace" grains - typically, older more locally grown varieties that fell out of fashion after the war. They handle differently than regular hard red winter wheat, even the excellent organic grain used to make the white flour I use as a base for most of my baking.
Red Fife Wheat is thought to have originated in Turkey, after which it moved across the Black See to the Ukraine where Mennonite farmers grew it. Red Fife seeds were later shipped to Glasgow, where s friend sent a sample to a farmer named David Fife in Canada in 1842. Fife then grew the variety in Ontario and shared it with other farmers, calling the wheat Red Fife after its distinctive color. The Red Fife seed adapted to a great diversity of growing conditions across Canada and became the baking and milling industry standard for forty years, from the 1860s to the turn of the twentieth century.
For most of the twentieth century, Red Fife was grown in very small quantities in plant breeders’ seed collections. Interest in growing heritage wheat grew slowly in Canada. In 1999, Onoway, in my home province of Alberta farmer Kerry Smith began growing Red Fife and other historic varieties. Interestingly, Onoway is quite far North (Northeast of Edmonton) so the varietal does well in a short, intense growing season.
Red Fife is now grown throughout the U.S. and Canada: I purchased my Red Fife flour from a small family run mill in rural Minnesota.
This Saturday's Bake
This Saturday I am going to bake white sourdough batards using Red Fife flour. Let's see how it tastes!
Your Canadian Baker