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Ontario chefs bring home the bacon for Pigstock 2016

This week in Toronto, chefs from across the province came together at the Evergreen Brick Works to celebrate the mangalitsa pig during PIGSTOCK & La Grande Choucroute.

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Chefs from a number of Feast On™ restaurants, alongside industry and butchers, met to learn the art of seam butchery and charcuterie making from celebrated chef and author Brian Polcyn and master butcher Christoph Wiesner. During full day workshop, the group watched as Christoph Wiesner broke down of a mangalitsa sow and then participated in a charcuterie making workshop with Brian Polcyn.

Polcyn’s book, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing, is considered a bit of a charcuterie bible for chefs.  Besides being nominated for a James Beard Award, the book has solidified Polcyn as a master of his craft.

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Chef Brian Polcyn’s mangalitsa porchetta — stuffed, seasoned and tied, ready to be cured.

The mangalitsa pig is special. Known for it’s thick wooly coat and rich, clean fat cap, the breed has been gaining popularity in recent years among Ontario farmers. That wasn’t always the case, as recently as 1991 mangalitsa pigs were on the brink of extinction. They’re coming back though. In fact, as of this year, there are enough Mangalitsa breeders across the country to form a Canadian Mangalitsa Breeders Association!

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Barna’s beautiful charcuterie, as plated by the team at Cafe Belong and paired with Evelyn’s Crackers and Ontario pickles

The sow for PIGSTOCK 2016 came from a small farm in the Niagara region called Sylvania Farms. The farmer, Barna Bakai, has been raising pigs for 200 years — a joke he tells to convey how long his family has lovingly raised the breed. 

Barna and his team also make a beautiful line of mangalitsa charcuterie — including salami, lonza, cured hams and lardo. It’s a natural progression for the farm as the mangalitsa fat/muscle ratio is prized in charcuterie making. You can find some of his products at Sanagan’s Meat Locker in Kensington Market, Toronto.

As part of the day, chefs and industry a like had the chance to indulge in a heritage pork themed lunch at Cafe Belong. The meal sparked discussion on the uses for odd cuts and under utilized parts of the animal like ears, feet and skin.

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Pig part terrine with scallion emulsion by the Cafe Belong team — an impeccable #FeastOn certified restaurant

The event was made possible by the generous support of some pretty delicious partners. Partners like Le Select Bistro, Amsterdam Brewing, Sapsucker Maple Water, Pluck Teas, Sanagan’s Meat Locker, Mountainview Coffee, 100KM foods and of course, Sylvania Farms.

It seems an odd thing, to celebrate an animal by eating it; but we firmly believe that meat, and the animals from where it comes, need to be respected, revered even. By connecting with your food — understanding the animal and what it takes to raise it, that respect grows. To respect your food means eliminating food waste, treating animals with care, raising them with loads of room to roam and good things to eat, but above all, minimizing the amount of meat you eat. Enjoying meat should be a special thing after all.