Unlike most kids who grew up with oatmeal, I grew up with porridge, and that porridge was Red River Cereal.
It wasn’t an every day thing, because it took longer to prepare that pouring a bowl of dry cereal for milk. But often enough Mom would make us porridge. My brother and I loved it. Mom loved it. My sister, not so much.
Once I left home, I tried those quick, serving size, microwaveable flavoured oatmeal packets. But they were never hearty enough. They didn’t remind me of being a kid and eating my porridge.
If I was travelling, and ordered porridge, I learned that what my Mom called porridge, was nothing like what the rest of the world thought porridge was. My porridge was thick and hearty. Other people’s porridge was basically oatmeal.
When I got a bread maker in the 90’s, I found a multigrain loaf recipe that got all of its magic from Red River cereal! After buying a box to make bread, I made the connection that this was indeed the very same porridge of my youth, and I’ve always had a box in the cupboard since.
Not for every day breakfasts, and likely not even in warmer days. But in the dark cold winters, I have often started my day right with a Red River cereal breakfast.
With my last box almost empty, I was looking to restock last year. At first just casually, but then I realized it was never in our grocery store. So I put it on my Whitehorse shopping list and made a point of looking in the city for it.
When I didn’t find it in the city either, I thought it just must be a supply shortage thing, pandemic hoarding or something.
But after many months, I still hadn’t found a box anywhere. Not even an empty spot on the shelves where they used to be.
I started Googling to find out what’s up, only to find out that Smucker’s, who had bought the product, had discontinued it!! At first it was seemingly temporary, but as I searched on, I found page after page of broken hearted porridge lovers.
I broke the news to my sister while she was labouring in the delivery room:
I knew my brother would be more sympathetic. He is a porridge lover!
Well, after a brief mourning period, I decided this porridge of mine was just basic ingredients. Surely I could find a replacement!
I grabbed the box. The ingredients are:
Steel cut wheat, steel cut rye, cracked and whole flax.
I started Googling and found some people who just bought the bulk ingredients and made their own. That would be easy enough, if I had a Bulk Barn store or a feed mill near by! But I don’t.
But I did find a message in a Facebook group of Red River cereal mourners, that mentioned a similar cereal called “Canada’s Great Northern Style Hot Cereal” being sold out of Emo, Ontario (northwestern Ontario). And oddly enough also milled in the USA, in Cook, Minnesota. I looked into the place it was milled in. They sell it too, under a different name – Country Blend Cereal.
They describe the product on their website as:
CANADA’S GREAT NORTHERN STYLE CEREAL, in our opinion, is both better tasting and healthier than Red River. Canadian Pioneers would have manufactured it this way… small scale production using simple, readily available ingredients: cracked wheat, rye, flax, and wild rice.
CANADA’S GREAT NORTHERN STYLE CEREAL is not made the same as Red River. It is manufactured on a much smaller scale with the natural flavouring of wild rice. You will experience a taste much closer to what the Canadian Pioneer would have experienced. It is not only better tasting but also healthier.
The ingredients are similar, but with some wild rice in addition.
I thought about it for awhile, and decided to place an order to try it. It is sold in 2 pound sacks, so I ordered two.
Usually getting anything shipped to Dawson City, Yukon is an ordeal in itself, and I did have a pleasant email exchange with the vendor to verify shipping and my postal code, but no headaches at all, and they shipped my order via Canada Post (the easiest way to ship anything here).
They arrived yesterday, in the cutest little sacks, nicely packaged in cardboard and shipping up here in the mail. Since today is Saturday, a Saturday in January, I could think of nothing better for breakfast!
The directions are the same as Red River cereal. For just one person (Jeff’s with Julie on his porridge opinions), I used 1 cup of water, and 1/3 cup of porridge, to give just over a single serving size.
I added a few raisins during the cooking, and two teaspoons of maple syrup from my friends’ sugar shack near Thunder Bay, Ontario before diving in.
And my review!?!?!
It is good! It smells like Red River cereal. It looks like Red River Cereal. It cooks the same.
But I find it a bit milder in taste, maybe due to the added wild rice? The difference is very slight though.
I give this a two thumbs up!
UPDATE (August 16, 2022) – Several of you have emailed with some great news! The Arva Flour Mill in Ontario has purchased the Red River cereal brand from Smuckers and is producing it again!!
You can buy online!