Christmas and the holidays are a time to indulge any number of eccentric traditions. We hang totally dry socks on the fireplace. We encourage our children to sit on the laps of strange old men. We bring whole fir trees into the house. And strangest of all, we consume a medieval-ish “pudding” that’s not like any other kind of pudding.
If you’re reading this and you haven’t got your own old fashioned Christmas pudding aging in the basement, have no fear, because this December, Sanagan’s will once again have our wonderful house-made Christmas puddings and hard sauce, stacked like cannon balls, ready to fire into the shopping bags of our holiday feasters.
And let’s get this straight — we’re not just talking any old mass-produced Christmas-pudding-in-a-can. Ours are made by hand by our chartcuterie specialist Scott Draper, based on his grandmother, Verna Draper’s recipe.
The Draper’s lived on a farm in Stouffville and like much of Ontario’s U.K. immigrant population they emphasized the Scottish side things. Their style of pudding, made with brown sugar, dried fruit, suet, breadcrumbs, carrot, egg etc., has a slightly lighter finish due to the absence of molasses. And it’s contained steamed within a cloth as opposed to a metal or ceramic mould. And it’s Holidayliscious!
All you have to do is steam it in its cheesecloth wrapping for one hour, and then dollop on and the hard-sauce (butter, icing sugar and brandy).
Oh — I forgot the best part. Like all Christmas puddings worth their fruit peel, ours is best moistened with warm brandy and then set it on fire. Turn the lights down low and present the flaming pudding. Now that’s an eccentric tradition.
Here’s an oft overheard exchange at Sanagan’s
Customer - “How long should I fry these pork chops for?”
Meat Hawker - “Um, that’s a tricky one.”
So first, let me answer directly.
1 ¼ inch-thick bone-in rib chops, fried at medium heat, take 12 minutes to reach the government approved 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
¾ inch-thick centre cut chops; 6 minutes 45 seconds.
But if you just follow these instructions and end up with under or overcooked chops, don’t blame me. You gotta read this whole thing to really dig the pig.
To explore the eternal pork chop frying riddle, I employed a plain old glass top stove, a cast iron frying pan, a reasonably accurate meat thermometer and a stopwatch app.
A medium-sized cast iron pan receives a long preheat on one of the stove’s large elements dialled to #5 (exactly medium). On my stove, this setting, once it’s fully achieved, is more like a medium-hot. A small dribble of oil is then added to the pan. I’m using canola oil here, mainly because of it’s high smoking point. My fire alarm appreciates the consideration.
All the pork chops were cooked straight out of the refrigerator.
All meats were also given the customary post-cooking rest. This allows the meat, especially the very hot surface of the meat to cool, thereby retaining more moisture.
The chops were seasoned with salt and pepper, just before frying.
1 ¼ INCH FRECHED RIB CHOPS
These beauties are from the loin adjacent to the rib cage. They are cut thick to accommodate the rib bones and provide you with delectable tender pig steaks.
This loin chop hit the pan with a fanfare of sizzle. Initially I turned it every two minutes, quickly increasing that to once every minute. Frequent flipping allows you to really fine tune your finish and keeps you in constant contact with the meat. This monitoring allows you observe changes in appearance, aroma and feel — is the meat still wobbly or is it becoming hard? Understanding these changes is the most reliable way to know when your steak/chop is done, rendering timers, thermometers and articles like this extraneous.
At the 12 minute mark I removed the chop from the pan. It’s temperature read as 157 and climbing, levelling out at 159. After a four minute rest it had dropped to 156. The chop was juicy and, truth be told, I couldn’t stop “sampling” it. As you can see by the photo, it had a beautiful crust. Some of our customers desire an even juicier chop and will disregard the official temperature advisory.
¾ INCH CENTRE CUT CHOPS
Cut from further back in the loin, these succulent babies are what we call fast fryers and they’ll help you get a delicious dinner on the table post haste.
Pork Chop #1: 6 minutes = 153 F. + 1.5 minutes = 175 F.
Pork Chop #2: 7 minutes = 166 F.
Pork Chop #3: 6.5 minutes = 155 F.
And then I ran out of centre cut pork chops. So I’m guessing when I say that 6 minutes and 45 seconds gets you the perfect 160 F chop. But it’s a very educated guess. And, incidentally, all of the above chops tasted, more or less the same; as in - great.
So, as you can see, there are a lot of factors involved, all of which can effect your times. Is your stove’s “medium” the same as mine? How does your pan conduct the heat? Is your thermometer, if you’re using one, properly calibrated? And every pork chop is ever so slightly different — they are muscles from living animals, cut by humans not machines.
The above times are a useful guideline, but, given all the variables, the best way to accurately cook steaks and chops is to read the signs. Constant close observation will allow you, with experience, to read the meat.
October is both the month of Thanksgiving but it’s also the anniversary of my start at Sanagan’s. And for that I’m thankful.
When I started at Sanagan’s seven years ago, I was looking for predictable, painless work that would allow me to write a book. After years of gratifying yet financially precarious freelance writing I wanted to write a novel. And I did, writing early in the mornings before heading out to sell meat. In that seven years, some other things happened: my brother had a massive stroke; my dad went into rapid old-age decline, requiring ongoing, sometimes emergency care from me; I had a hip replacement; and I’ve had cancer twice, both times involving major surgery.
So, yeah, an eventful seven years. And throughout it all, Peter, Brian, store manager Claire and all my co-workers have been unfailingly accommodating and supportive in helping me deal with these various crapwiches. To know my employer had my back throughout it all has made some difficult situations so much easier to deal with.
And over the seven years, it’s been an immense pleasure to get to know so many of our customers, many of whom note my absences and welcome my return. You can’t have too many friends.
At Sanagan’s I’m able to sell products of quality in good conscience, knowing that my efforts will contribute to the family farms of Ontario and sustainable agricultural practices. I’m treated with respect and Peter’s a genuinely good guy who cares about his business and the people who work for him.
And I get an employee discount on all that excellent meat.
So, again, thanks.