Everyone reading this newsletter knows that Peter Sanagan runs two butcher shops in Toronto. But, like any other reasonable, well-rounded person, he had a life before the meat business and continues to have a life in spite of it — a very busy ambitious life. Here are some excerpts from an interview I conducted with the boss regarding the latest installment in the life of Peter.
Graham: So Peter, how would you describe this new project.
Peter: laughs I think you can only describe it as a musical.
Graham: I think it’s safe to say that most people didn’t see that coming.
Peter: Oh, for sure but that’s what’s so fun, and frankly, therapeutic about it; it’s so far away from running two butcher shops.
Graham: So, is it like a traditional singing and dancing musical?
Peter: Yeah, I’m a big fan of the genre: Rodgers and Hammerstein, Andrew Lloyd Weber, Rent — all the greats.
Graham: Is this something you have a background in?
Peter: Well, before I got into food, I was a bit of a stage brat. As a kid I was in the touring version of the Polka Dot Door. I did a few commercials. Google https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tz2ARTdaqE0 I was on my way to gaining admittance to the National Theatre School when I got a summer job at Licks, and then that was that. From there it was food all the way. But now I really need something other than work and family.
Graham: What’s it about?
Peter: It’s totally based around my experiences starting up a butcher shop in the market. In a lots of ways it’s about Kensington Market and so therefore about the city itself.
Graham: Wow. So what are some of the numbers?
Peter: Right off the top of my head? Long pause I Can See Myself In That Shop Window; Cows and Pigs and Chickens and Me; Help Wanted - Apply Within; Sing-agan’s…
Graham: That sounds like fun. Are you pitching this to any producers or theatre companies?
Peter: Oh it’s early days for that but The Ontario Cattle Breeders Association is on board.
Graham: Where do you envision staging it?
Peter: Well the truth of the matter is, we’ve got so many talented performers working here at Sanagan’s, that I think I might try doing it in-house. I mean, it’s like the shop is already a stage.
Graham: Does it have a name?
Peter: Oh that was easy. April Fools.
"So, I think I'm buying a butcher shop."
The summer of 2009 was a very different time in our lives, but I still remember the bar we were sitting in (each with our then-girlfriends/now-wives) when Peter told me his next move. He was moving away from restaurants and teaching at George Brown and heading into business for himself at the site of the old 'Max and Sons' butcher shop in Kensington Market. From the beginning Peter saw the opportunity to connect smaller Ontario farmers with consumers in Toronto. It was a risk then, but like the store on Gerrard St. (I'm bringing this all together here...) it pretty quickly became a fixture within the neighbourhood.
Though the move to Gerrard St. had a few parallels (smaller store, window display, more blending of front of house and butchery work), our 'new' space on Gerrard St. couldn't be more different than the original. With the experience we have running the Kensington Market stores, the opening and transition into being a two-location business has been (as far as these things go) pretty smooth. Sure, there were some construction delays and tense moments right before opening, and it's been a lot of work as we get off the ground in a new part of the city, and I probably shouldn't have ordered so much lamb for Easter last year while so few people knew we were even open...but I digress.
We want to use this anniversary as an opportunity to say thank you. Thank you to the tireless efforts of our staff (big shout outs to Cole, Scott, Sophie, Lester and Steven, all of whom were there from day one right through the first Christmas), the support of our neighbours (seriously, go check out Lazy Daisy's, Swag Sisters, The Pantry, Godspeed Brewery, Pizzeria via Mercanti, The Flying Pony, Glory Hole Doughnuts and all the other great neighbourhood shops!) and our incredible and loyal customers (both the group that has shopped with us in Kensington for years, and the group that is discovering us for the first time).
The Gerrard St. store has been a great opportunity for us in a number of ways. The greatest of these opportunities is that this store provides us the means to connect a new neighbourhood with the spectacular Ontario producers we work with. We truly believe that supporting local producers is not only better for our community as a whole, but that Ontario producers have some really kick-ass products, and that should be celebrated.
Please come down to the Gerrard St. store on Sunday, March 17th for some samples and anniversary specials. Thanks for a great first year Gerrard St!
There are many slow-cooking recipes that call for wine or beer to be used in the braising liquid. In this recipe I use Guinness. Its richness and sweetness pairs well with the spices and coffee in this recipe. It truly is a great choice for stews and braises but if you have your own favourite local stout, by all means go with that. Added benefit – you get to drink a couple of pints while the braise is in the oven. Wins all over!
4-5 lbs beef brisket, preferably from the flat end
½ tsp celery seed
¼ tsp coriander seed
pinch ground cinnamon
pinch ground clove
1 tbsp salt
½ tbsp ground pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, large, peeled and roughly diced
1 tbsp butter
3 carrots, peeled and roughly diced
3 stalks celery, washed and roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tsp instant coffee powder (or 1 shot of espresso)
1 can Guinness
1 L beef stock
2 tbsp tomato paste
4 branches parsley
4 branches thyme
1 branch rosemary
3 bay leaves
to taste salt and pepper
½ tbsp flour
½ tbsp butter
1 tbsp English mustard (or Dijon)
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Mix the spices together for the dry rub, then apply them all over the brisket. Rub the brisket with the oil, then put it on a rack in a roasting pan. Place in the oven and cook until brown all over, about thirty minutes. When browned, remove from oven, and turn the oven down to 325°F.
Meanwhile, in a large pot over a medium heat, sweat the onions in the butter until softened. Add the celery, carrots, and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Continue sweating until fragrant and slightly caramelized. Stir in the tomato paste.
Add the instant coffee and Guinness, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the Guinness by half, then add the beef stock. Tie the herbs together in a bundle and drop into the pot. Add the brisket back to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and place in the oven. Cook for three hours, or until the brisket is fork tender.
Remove the brisket from the pot and let it rest on a plate, covered with tin foil. Strain the solids out of the sauce, then place the sauce back on a medium heat and bring to a simmer. Mix the butter and flour together, and whisk the mixture into the sauce to thicken. Whisk in the mustard, then taste for seasoning, adjusting if necessary.
Slice the brisket and serve with the sauce on the side.
Pancake Day a.k.a. Shrove Tuesday was one of the highlights of our heathen/Christian childhood calendar. You understood there was some vague religious thing about it but what really mattered was — pancakes for dinner! And pancakes means maple syrup.
Sanagan’s maple and birch syrups are produced by Shady Grove Maple in Woolwich Ontario, just outside of Guelph. There, Heather and Dan Goetz tap their woodlots and undertake the labour intensive process of turning sap into syrup. Now, lest you have visions of maples trees festooned with old metal buckets and a rustic sugar shack out by the beaver pond, understand that Shady Grove is serious operation. Across 15 local woodlots, they have over 30,000 taps operating on a vacuum system. They can process 4000 gallons of sap per hour. This is what allows them to reliably supply us with GRADE A AMBER maple syrup. Out of the four maple syrup grades; golden, amber, dark and very dark, amber is your classic table syrup; the lustrous pour that provides the definitive Canadian breakfast. And if some of that syrup spills over into the bacon pile? Smoke, sweet, salt, fat; it’s like making love to a lumberjack.
Maple syrup is the king but birch syrup is its lesser-known and surprising sibling. The birch sap season is later and shorter and you need almost twice as much sap to make the syrup. The result of this painstaking process is a thick and dark syrup with a revelatory flavour featuring notes of molasses, licorice and a long tangy fruity finish. Its vibrant flavour will enliven your vinaigrettes, marinades and glazes.
Shady Grove syrups are just one of the many Ontario-made sauces, pickles and condiments that make us so much more than just a butcher shop.
You might think that it’s a bit of a stretch for a Toronto butcher to be writing about Mardi Gras but here’s two reasons why March 5th is being celebrated in our newsletter.
1. Sanagan’s makes some of the best andouille sausage in town. So when you shop for your Mardi Gras feast, whether it features a gumbo, jambalaya or an étoufée, make a stop at Sanagan’s Gerrard or Kensington and get your andouille.
2. The establishment of New Orleans and the term Mardi Gras, as it applies Louisiana, are both attributable to the French Canadian and really long-named, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville. Yup, it was a Montrealer who made this stuff up while he was representing the Colonial French in what is now the Gulf Coast region of the United States. Ergo, we should claim Mardi Gras as being partially Canadian, like General Motors and The Mamas and the Papas. And the direct link between Nova Scotia’s displaced Acadians and Louisiana’s Cajuns only strengthens our claim on Mardi Gras being as Canadian as broomball.
Old World French and New World Louisiana-style andouille sausage are now only distant cousins but what they still have in common is pork and smoke.
Ours fall into the Louisiana grilling style, featuring ground pork in a natural hog casing, flavoured with the typical Cajun mix of garlic, onion, thyme, black pepper and paprika. Then we kick it up a notch (where is Emeril these days?) with cayenne, marjoram, clove and nutmeg. These additions help it to shine in those classic New Orleans dishes.
If you want to keep things simple for Mardis Gras or you’re just looking a zippy prepared sausage, our Andouille are hot smoked over apple wood and are ready to go. Just throw them on the grill, in the pan or in the oven and heat them through.
Laissez les bons temps rouler, eh.
2019 = Pig. Yay!
According to the Chinese astrological calendar, 2019 is the Year of the Pig. Now that’s a chronological event Sanagan’s can really get on board with. Our domestic and heritage breeds of pork, as well as wild boar will enhance any dishes you may be considering for your Chinese New Year feast.
Gwenyn Huang has only recently hung up her meat hawker apron at our Kensington store so she can dedicate more time to her studies in Literature at University of Toronto. We asked Gwenyn what pork the Huang family likes to prepare for Chinese New Year. Here, in her own literate words, Gwenyn outlines the preparation of pork belly fried in red wine dregs.
One of the many dishes we make in our family is pork belly fried in wine dregs. The wine dregs, which is the sediment left over from making Foochow red wine, is fermented and has a very strong flavour and is bright red. It dyes the pork bright red as well, which is why it's so appropriate for the new years. In China, red has always been a festive colour that symbolises fortune and prosperity.
Only a little is needed for any recipe since it's so pungent, which is good because it's hard to come by. (The real stuff is.) My family has a jar that we guard very jealously! But for special occasions as important as the New Year, possibly the biggest holiday in China, we bring it out for sure. But first, we heat a lot of oil and deep fry cubes of pork belly. Then we strain the lot and while the excess oil drips away from the pork, we heat a little bit of oil in a pan. We throw slices of ginger into the hot oil and let it crackle and then a heaping tablespoon (no skimping on New Years) of the wine dregs. We fry the wine dregs for a few seconds, carefully since it burns easily, and then toss in the pork belly. Once all the pork belly is coated and bright red, it's ready to go!
Thanks Gwenyn. When should we come over for dinner?