One 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 III: Peameal Bacon
Arrrre you achin’? Yup, yup, yup. Forrr some bacon? Yup, yup, yup. – Timon and Pumbaa
Peameal bacon is a leaner cousin to traditional (or as the british call it, streaky) bacon. Made from lean, boneless pork loin peameal bacon is trimmed of most of its fat and then rolled in cornmeal. The meat itself is cured using a wet cure which involves injecting fresh meat with a brine of water, sugar, salt and spices.
The name comes from the yellow crust which was originally made from ground yellow peas. Intended to extend the shelf life during a time when refrigeration was not readily available, this coating was switched to ground yellow cornmeal after WWII when it became a cheaper alternative.
If you’re like us and assumed that when Americans say “Canadian bacon” they’re talking about peameal bacon, think again. “Canadian bacon” is cooked, usually smoked, as opposed to the traditional curing process and rarely coated in peameal. There is some speculation that this is because Canada was shipping peameal bacon to Britain in huge quantities during the 1800’s. Americans in Britain then brought the product back with them and needed to smoke it in order for it to make the long trip across the ocean. But this just speculation.
Best spot to find it: Farmer’s markets around Ontario, St. Lawrence Market is considered the birthplace of peameal bacon and is the mecca of this tasty Ontario treat. If you’re looking for the reigning champ at the market check out Carousel Bakery.
Producer who does it right: Seed to Sausage, if you’re outside of Ottawa try emailing them to see where they supply to. There are several shops that carry Seed to Sausage products.
We really love it: On the Hogtown Ultimate BLT from The Hogtown Cure. Described at the ultimate bacon lover’s sandwich this will cure all the bacon cravings you might have.
What makes peameal bacon so special?
Ontario gets to lay sole claim to the birth of Canada’s breakfast all-star with it’s creation being credited to William Davies, a Toronto based ham and bacon curer. Davies began selling peameal bacon at the St. Lawrence market before starting his chain of pork based retail locations across the city, giving Toronto the nickname of “hogtown”.
Peameal bacon and the man behind it also helped create the Ontario pork industry which today is a huge part of Ontario agriculture and the industry accounts for one in seven jobs in this province.