One of the most common questions we get asked is: What is Ontario food? With our new series, Made In Ontario, we’re spotlighting the treasures, tastes and traditions that make up our fledgling food culture.
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Volume VII: Heritage Pork
For this issue, we thought we’d compare and contrast two heritage breeds currently taking the Ontario scene by storm. The most notable Ontario heritage pig breed has got to be Tamworth, but lately, a fuzzy pig called the Mangalitsa has been rising in the ranks. More on this oddity later!
Tamworth pigs are known for their ginger coats and ability to withstand harsh winters, however, they are also at risk of disappearing. Luckily for them (and us!), Ontario heritage pork farmers are beginning to revive this threatened breed.
Hailing from Tamworth, UK, “the red pig” is hardy, dense, and thrives best in a free-range environment — an environment that doesn’t coincide with most modern industrial rearing practices, and has lead to the breed’s international population decline. Since making it’s way across the pond, a handful of dedicated farmers like Kingsholm Farms of Campbellford, and Harley Farms of Peterborough, are ensuring the Tamworth species can live on with sustainable and stress-free farming practices.
Tamworths’ unique combination of genes has made is remarkably (and naturally) disease-resistant! So that means you’re basically eating “super bacon,” right? This breed, similar to other heritage breeds, also grows at a much slower rate, before reaching a market-ready weight, so they enjoy longer and happier stress-free lives.
Producer who does it right: MacLachlan Meadows‘ entire farm is devoted to free-range and pure bread Tamworths. Check out their Facebook page for farm news and to see their very happy (and very cute) piglets in action.
We really love it: Simple: it’s best and most common form, bacon! Enjoy it with some Ontario free-range eggs and homemade hollandaise for a guilt-free, free-range eggs benny.
The Mangalitsa Pig
Originally born and bred in Hungary, the Mangalitsa pig is most known for its curly, dense coat of hair and extremely high fat ratio — making it one of the richest and most sought after hogs you can find. The breed has since made its way from Europe to North America, where artisanal farmers like Sonrisa Farms or Pelham’s Sylvania Farms have made rearing the Mangalitsa and other heritage breeds their livelihood.
The taste sets it apart from other pork breeds, so much so, that the Mangalitsa has been declared “the Kobe Beef of pork,”. It’s allll about the fat, and there’s plenty of it. Oh, and those crazy Mugatu-esque curls are pretty special, too!
Producer who does it right: Sylvania Farms is the “Home of the Canadian Manglitsa”. They’re Feast On? preferred purveyors who raise a number of heritage species at their Niagara region farm.
We really love it: As charcuterie — Mangalitsa pork is ideal when cured because it has an incredible depth of flavour. In fact, it’s so good, that we’ve made an entire two-day event to celebrate it!
Pigstock 2016 is an opportunity for chefs to learn whole animal butchery techniques, and for foodies and pork-enthusiasts a like to eat Mangalitsa charcuterie prepared by some of Ontario’s best Feast On? chefs.
Ontario heritage pork farmers put a tremendous amount of care and time into their pigs, and for that, we salute you!