By: Graham Duncan
Not long ago my wife and I shared a Sanagan’s cote de boeuf. We were on our own at an 100-year-old cottage in Muskoka. There was red wine, there was salad and there was that majestic slab of 50-day dry aged rib steak. It was an absolutely simple and memorable dinner, as a meal can be when it features ingredients of the highest standard.
So the question is, what makes dry aged beef such a significant culinary experience?
Dry aging has been part of carnivorism for as long as humans have understood that changes occur to an animal’s flesh after it dies, the most obvious example being rigor mortis. For centuries beef and game have benefitted from various forms of controlled aging. While modern processing techniques sidestepped the procedure, nothing can replicate the flavours and textures resulting from the painstaking tradition of professionally dry aged beef.
Sanagan’s dry aging fridge is a funky place indeed. In this low temperature, moderate humidity environment sub primals (bulk cuts) of bone-in rib and strip loin sections bide their time, slowly growing crusty exteriors that will later be trimmed away. During this period our friends, the enzymes go to work .
Enzymes are molecules that accelerate chemical reactions in cells. With beef, enzyme actions enhance flavour by converting: proteins into savoury amino acids; glycogen into sweet glucose; and fat and fat-like membranes into aromatic fatty acids. At the same time, they’re working their magic on tenderness too, breaking down collagen fibres.
But what age is the perfect age? 28-days is the steakhouse standard (or that’s when your steak turns into a zombie). Some establishments probe the outer reaches of aging with 120-day-old rib steaks, all gnarled up like Yoda. Assistant head butcher Christopher Spencer, who’s been overseeing the Sanagan’s dry aging program since 2018 explains our process: “We experimented; just a lot of testing. Anything more than 60 to 70 days gets very cheesy. We found that 40 to 50 days achieves a good balance of accessible aged flavour”.
And just what is that aged flavour? I think the only way to describe it is steak-ier. Those elements of savoury juicy succulence that makes your mouth water when you think of a steak are all refined in a dry age steak. There’s oxidized fat lending aromatic depth, all the gelatinized protein (enzymes!) creating that melt-in-your-mouth thing, the absolutely indescribable flavours of age; you know like wine, like cheese. If you’re familiar with the concept of umami, that gives you an idea. But really, words don’t do the trick. You’ve got to try it for yourself. But you’ll have to find your own cottage.
Lamb shoulder is a delicious treat, and generally needs to be slowly cooked for a few fours in a bit of liquid to tenderize the meat. In this recipe, I simply use water and let the marinade season the lamb, then use the cooking broth to poach potatoes and onion to serve alongside the lamb. Put some tzatziki, pita bread, and a fresh Greek salad on the side, and you’re all set for a fantastic Sunday meal.
Note: The souvlaki marinade goes great on kebabs, obviously, but also works as a marinade for whole chickens, pork shoulders, etc. Store in the fridge for up to a month.
1 lamb shoulder, bone in, trimmed of excess fat and elastic-like back strap (alternately, you can use a boneless lamb shoulder)
4 tbsp souvlaki marinade (see recipe below)
6 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾” thick rounds
2 sweet onions, peeled and sliced into ¾” thick rounds
2 tbsp fresh mint, roughly chopped
2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
- Score the lamb shoulder in a crosshatch pattern at 2” intervals. Rub the marinade all over the lamb, pressing in to get into the depths of the scored meat. Cover and refrigerate for at least overnight, but up to three days.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F.
- Place the lamb in a deep roasting pan, and fill the pan ½ way with hot water. Cover the roast with tin foil and place in oven to cook for 3 hours, or until the meat pulls easily away from the bone. Take the roast out of the pan and rest, covered with a tea towel to keep warm.
- Pour the roasting juices into a pot. Add the potatoes and onion, and top up with hot water to just cover the potatoes. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat and cook until the potatoes are just tender, about 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, using a pair of tongs or a fork, pull the lamb meat away from the shoulder bones. Give the meat a very rough chop (you want the meat to be serving-size).
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the potatoes and onions and place in a serving bowl. Add the lamb meat to the pot with the broth, toss in the herbs, and stir well. Bring to a light simmer over a medium heat, then place in a serving bowl next to the potatoes. Serve immediately.
Makes about 300 ml
4 tbsp salt
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1.5 tbsp dried oregano
6 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp garlic cloves, peeled and chopped finely
2 tbsp hot mustard
1 cup olive oil
2 tsp paprika
- Blend all ingredients together and store in the refrigerator for up to a month.
This is normally a time of year when parents are getting kids back to school, and dinner has to get to the table quickly and efficiently. This is definitely a strange year, but the idea of a quick and easy dinner is still very appealing to most people. And this one is a fantastic recipe to use up leftover corn. Ontario corn harvested in August and September is some of the sweetest in the world, and if you’re like me you eat it two or three times per week. Inevitably I’m left with a few ears in my fridge. This recipe takes care of those lickity-split!
6 chicken legs, whole
2 tbsp all purpose seasoning (you can use any brand you prefer; I’m partial to the Butcher’s Seasoning from Cured Smokehouse in Prince Edward County)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 ears corn, shucked and boiled to cook through, then chilled
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp smoked paprika
To taste salt and pepper
1 tbsp chives
- Preheat your oven to 450°F.
- In a work bowl, season the chicken legs with the all-purpose seasoning and rub in the olive oil. Lay the chicken legs on a parchment paper-lined baking tray, skin side up, and roast in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the skin is golden brown and an internal thermometer plunged into the meatiest part of the leg reads 165°F.
- Meanwhile, make the corn. Use a knife to carefully cut swaths of the kernels of cooked and chilled corn away from the cob. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the corn and stir well to break up the kernels. Season with the smoked paprika and salt and pepper, stirring well so the paprika emulsifies with the butter. Warm the corn through, then mix in the chives.
- Remove the chicken from the oven and serve immediately with the corn.
by: Graham Duncan
Did you know that at one point, Peter was thinking of changing the name of the business to Sanagan’s Meat, Charcuterie, Prepared Foods, Sauces, Pickles, Rubs, Mustards, Produce, Gelato, Dairy, etc. Locker? Wouldn’t fit on the sign though. But we’re definitely more than meat. We’re happy to share our shelves with local food entrepreneurs who produce fantastic Ontario-made goodies.
One of those people is Christine Manning of Manning Canning. Her story is indicative of the food community we work with. After a successful career in marketing, Christine’s hobby of making preserves became her second act, an undertaking that not only encompasses producing and marketing prizewinning preserves and pickles but the creation of a full-service rental kitchen supporting numerous other independent eat-trepreneurs.
“We believe a rising tide lifts all boats”, says Christine. “There was no rental kitchen when I started out. I thought an affordable space would help others. Everyone thinks a food business is a low barrier start up but a commercial kitchen is expensive.”
“We’ve always competed on taste. We only make products based on seasonal availability, like the green beans. We only make them when we can get them fresh from the fields. We actually process our fresh plum tomatoes, they don’t come in a bucket.” How serious are they about fresh ingredients? Imagine having your marmalade win a gold medal at the World’s Original Marmalade Awards and then you decide, because you can’t guarantee a reliable, affordable supply of quality Seville oranges, that you would stop making your Gold Medal Marmalade. Manning Canning does not compromise.
That’s why Sanagan’s entrusts the production of our Giardiniera and Pickled Red Onions to Christine and Company.
Here’s a full list of our Sanagan’s/Manning Canning product line.
Charcuterie boards of the world unite; Sanagan’s Giardiniera, an Italianate mix of pickled peppers and veggies packed in oil and vinegar is here to help. And beyond. Salads, sandwiches, pizza — the zesty possibilities are endless.
You just won’t know how versatile these babies are until you have them in your fridge. Case in point — last night’s doggy bag of perogies. I threw some pickled onions on that bland plate of leftovers and—Hey Now—those perogies were energized! Ditto, burgers, cheese plates, meat pies—need I go on?
Manning Canning Spicy Pickled Carrots
M.C.’s all-time bestseller. Spicy, crunchy, zippy. Don’t even think of mixing up a Bloody Caesar without them. Perfect in potato or tuna salad. And I bet they’d be awesome along with baked beans.
Manning Canning Spicy Pickled Green Beans
Old-school steak houses often lay out a tray of pickles at the start of a meal as appetite stimulators. Carry on that tradition at home with M.C.’s green beans before you serve one of our beautiful steaks.
Manning Canning Angry Pickled Garlic
Not only can you enjoy the pickled garlic but save the brine for use in a vinaigrette or make your dirty martini an angry martini. Or re-brine something else and reawaken all that garlicky goodness.
Manning Canning Tomato Mustard
Remember those fresh plum tomatoes? They’re here in spades. The apple cider-soaked mustard seeds pop with flavour. Great in dressings or on burgers. Also a fantastic marinade for pork.
Our chef Anne has a family cottage near Sudbury. Every year she goes for her holidays and upon returning we talk about the unique Sudbury porchetta (or “porketta”, as it’s spelled in that city). Unlike the flavouring of fennel that I’m used to, Sudburians favour a heavy hand of dill with garlic and black pepper. Based on conversations I’ve had with Anne, I believe this recipe could be a legitimate version of a Sudbury porketta, made exclusively with pork belly. I like to serve this with plenty of lemon wedges and Italian chili sauce (bomba).
3 lbs pork belly, skin on, butterflied in half so the meat opens like a book
1 bunch fresh dill, chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp cracked black pepper
2 tbsp salt
½ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup olive oil, plus 1 tbsp for cooking
- Lay the pork belly on your cutting board, with the butterflied flap open. Using a sharp knife, lightly score the meat in a crosshatch pattern (this will allow the marinade to penetrate well). Turn the belly over so the skin side is up, and score the skin in a straight line at 1-inch intervals (this will allow for easier carving once the roast is cooked).
- Mix the chopped dill, garlic, pepper, salt, vinegar and oil together in a work bowl. Flip the belly over again (so the skin side is down), and massage the marinade into the butterflied meat. Open the flap of meat to make sure the marinade gets in between the layers, then roll the meat up into a cannon shape. Using strong cotton twine, tie the roast at 1-inch intervals. Place the roast in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, and up to 48 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Take the roast out of the fridge and place, skin side up, on an elevated rack in a roasting pan. Drizzle a tbsp of olive oil over the skin, and sprinkle the skin with salt. Place the roast in the oven and roast for 25 minutes. Turn the oven down to 300°F (with the roast still inside) and continue cooking for an additional 2 to 2.5 hours, or until an internal thermometer stuck into the center of the roast reads 160°F. The skin should be crackled from the initial blast of heat, but if you want it to be a bit crispier by all means send it under a high broiler for a minute or so to achieve the desired crackle. Remove the roast from the oven and rest for 20 minutes before carving and serving.
Cacciatore is loosely translated as “hunter’s stew”, and is commonly made with chicken, although rabbit is often prepared in this way as well. In Italy, where the dish originated, cacciatore is made differently depending on the region. Some recipes call for peppers, some call for mushroom, some call for white wine. Almost all call for a base of onion, garlic, and tomato. In this version, I included a mild Italian sausage, and accentuated the fennel flavour by using fennel pollen, the extremely flavourful dried spice hand collected from the wild fennel plant. I highly recommend you sourcing fennel pollen; its flavour is unreal and packs a super punch in a small amount. However, if you can’t get your hands on fennel pollen, you can use ground fennel seed and double the volume.
Note: The recipe calls for a whole rabbit cut into six pieces. Ask your butcher to do this for you, as the job is best accomplished with a large cleaver.
Serves 4 to 6
3 sweet bell peppers
2 tbsp olive oil
1 whole rabbit, cut into six pieces (legs, saddle, and shoulder)
3 mild Italian sausage
1 sweet onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and finely sliced
1 cup red wine
½ tsp fennel pollen
2 tbsp capers
1 tin (400 gr) whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped
to taste salt and pepper
- Roast the peppers to peel them. You can do this in a variety of ways. If you have a gas stove, you can roast the peppers directly over an open flame until they are black and charred. Alternatively, you can roast them on a tray in a hot oven, turning until all the sides are well cooked. When charred, place the peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to allow the peppers to steam. Let sit for an hour or until they are cool enough to handle. Rub the skin off the peppers (do not run them under water), and carefully pull the core and the seeds out with the stem. Remove as much of the seeds as possible, then slice the roasted peppers into 1-inch strips.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- In a large skillet over a medium heat, heat the olive oil. Season the rabbit pieces with salt and pepper, then place the pieces one by one in the pan to brown. Do not overcrowd the pan as that could cause the meat to steam. Turn the meat over to brown on both sides before removing and setting aside. Continue until all the rabbit is golden, then brown the sausages in the same pan. Once browned, set the sausage aside as well.
- Add the onions, garlic, and carrots to the same pan and cook for ten minutes, or until softened. Deglaze with the red wine and reduce by half. Add the fennel pollen, roasted peppers, capers, and chopped tomatoes, and stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Add the rabbit and sausage back to the pan to snuggle into the vegetables, then add just enough water to cover the meat. Cover the pan with a lid and place in the oven to cook for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the rabbit meat is starting to fall away from the bone.
- Remove from oven and taste for seasoning, adjusting if necessary. Serve with soft polenta or pasta on the side.
Before Drake proclaimed that we all live in The Six, Toronto’s original alias was Hogtown. A number versus a pig; The Big Apple we ain’t. But we sure used to slaughter a lot of pigs.
Sanagan’s currently carries pork from three Southern Ontario family farms. Like all Sanagan’s suppliers, our pork farmers value small scale, humane animal husbandry. The pigs are processed at low volume facilities located near the farms. By contrast the abattoirs that inspired the name Hogtown were anything but small scale. So, while Sanagan’s embraces a different approach to the life and death of the pig, we’re proud to be selling great pork in Hogtown and thought you might be interested to know how the name came to be.
Sanagan’s heritage pork raised on Murray’s Farm
If the name Hogtown can be attributed to one person, it would be William Davies whose ascent from a single St. Lawrence Market stall in the 1850’s to the establishment of Canada Packers (now Maple Leaf Foods) firmly implanted the pig’s footprint on Toronto’s identity. Along the way the William Davies Corporation became the largest supplier of bacon to England, shipping out of North America’s second largest pork processing plant, located in the Don Valley at Front Street. Davies is credited with popularizing peameal bacon, making him the Godfather of Toronto’s signature sandwich. Eventually the animal world tired of Mr. Davies attentions. He died as a result of injuries suffered after being butted by a goat.
It’s not difficult to witness a herd mentality at Keele and St. Clair as shoppers descend upon Home Depot and Canadian Tire, but this area used to support actual herds of cattle, pork, and horses. The Stockyards, a 300-acre network of rail sidings, loading platforms, stock pens, and processors, including Maple Leaf and Swifts, was once North America’s largest livestock facility. The fortunes of the Stockyards rose and fell with the railroad. By the time trucking eclipsed rail as the most efficient form of livestock transport, and combined with the pressures of Toronto’s ravenous real estate market, the demise of the Stockyards was inevitable. The majority of processors moved from Toronto to Cookstown in 1994 but not after doing its share to consolidate our nickname as Hogtown.
Up until its closure in 2014, for many Torontonians the name Hogtown was embodied by Quality Meat Packers on Tecumseth Street near Fort York. Even if you never saw the abattoir there’s a good chance you saw the trucks, loaded with pigs, driving towards it. I remember working at Fort York in my early 20’s. You either got the industrial beer smell of the Molson’s brewery or the raunchy not quite bacon smell of Quality Meats. Grimly, it felt historically accurate. There had been a packing plant on the site since 1914 in the form of the Toronto Municipal Slaughterhouse. This facility was bought in 1960 by Quality Meats. At its height, Quality processed one third of Ontario’s pork. While it defied animal rights protests and condo-mania it was eventually brought down by the cruel variables of the free market. The last straw was the piglet-killing virus of 2014. Thankfully for Sanagan’s, and the pigs, our small-scale pork farmers were unaffected by the outbreak.
The original site of Quality Meat Packers
Things change. The hogs have left Hogtown. Toronto’s de-industrialization has been rapid. But high quality, locally raised, family-farmed pork will never leave Sanagan’s and Sanagan’s, finger’s crossed, will never leave The Six.
Photos: Graham Duncan and Toronto Archives
Smoking a brisket is both a simple endeavour and a stressful one. You don’t want to overcook the brisket, or cook it at too high a temperature, as it can easily become dry and tough. However, there are a couple of tricks you can use to ensure a moist and tender brisket, rich with the flavour of smoke and spices. One is to brine the brisket for at least a day before cooking. I just submerge the brisket in a brine, while others will go to the trouble of injecting the brisket, much like you would with a ham. I suppose it depends on how much energy you have, or if you had an injection pump. I don’t. The other “trick” is something called the “Texas Crutch”, which is basically wrapping the brisket in heavy duty foil (or sometimes butcher paper) to allow the brisket to steam while it finishes cooking. At the end of the day, if you utilize both of these methods, and cook the brisket at an even low temperature, you will be rewarded with a delicious, meltingly tender, smoky slab of meat.
Note: You need to start this recipe two days before cooking. For the BBQ Spice, you can use your favorite brand. We make our own all purpose one at the shop; see recipe below.
Serves 6 to 8
½ cup sugar
½ cup salt
3 tbsp pickling spice
2 L water
5-6 lbs brisket (I prefer the fatty end, or “point”, but the leaner side, or “flat” is nice too)
1 cup BBQ dry spice rub (see recipe below)
- TWO DAYS BEFORE COOKING: In a large stainless steel pot over a high heat, mix the sugar, salt, and pickling spices with the water. Bring to a boil to dissolve the salt and sugar, then take off the heat. Once the water is cool to the touch, submerge the brisket in the brine so it is totally covered. Place the pot in the fridge overnight.
- The next day, remove the brisket from the brine and pat dry. Discard the brine. Place the brisket in a non-reactive (glass or stainless steel) pan, and season it liberally with the BBQ dry spice mix. Cover and place back in the fridge to marinate overnight.
- The next day, prepare your BBQ. Soak four to five cups of wood chips in water for 30 minutes. If using a propane or gas grill with a smoke box, light only one burner and preheat the grill to 250°F to 275°F. Place a handful of the soaked wood chips in the smoke box and put the box on top of the one lit burner until it starts smouldering. If using a charcoal grill, light the coals and pile them on one side of the grill. Close the lid and adjust the intake and exhaust damper to get the temperature to around 250°F to 275°F, then sprinkle a handful of soaked wood chips on the coal to begin the smouldering.
- Place the brisket on the indirect heat side of your BBQ, and close the lid. Maintain the temperature and smoke (adding woodchips and/or charcoal as needed) throughout the duration of the cooking process. After two hours, flip the brisket over. After another two hours, take the brisket out of the BBQ and wrap it in heavy-duty aluminum foil so it is completely wrapped. Place it back on the BBQ, close the lid, and continue cooking for another 1.5 to 2 hours, or until the internal temperature of the brisket reaches around 190°F, and feels soft to the poke of a fork.
- Remove the brisket from the BBQ and let it rest in the foil for 45 minutes before unwrapping, slicing thinly across the grain, and serving. I like to serve brisket with seasonal boiled corn and potato salad.
BBQ Dry Spice Rub
2 cups kosher salt
1 cup sweet paprika
3 tbsp onion powder
3 tbsp garlic powder
2 tsp rubbed dry thyme
4 tsp dry rosemary
1 tbsp ground black pepper
Mix all the ingredients well in a large mixing bowl. Store in an air-tight container for up to two months.