Bacon lovers uniteTuesday, August 21
With food all around us, we get the luxury of eating and working with some of the tastiest ingredients around.
From lobster tails, foie gras and black truffles, I have enjoyed them all. With a virtually endless pantry of treasures you would be surprised to know there is one ingredient that I keep coming back to – bacon. Simple and cheap, there is hardly a meat out there that is more versatile and packed with flavour than a beautifully cured and smoked pork belly. Whether it’s served on its own, ground into a stuffing, saut ed into a soup, or whipped into mashed potatoes, the possibilities are endless, and the resulting flavours are fantastic.
So you can imagine how excited I was to learn about International Bacon Day. Yeah, you read that right, there is actually a whole day dedicated to this most scrumptious slab of artery clogging piggy. The Saturday before Labour Day is reserved for this special occasion.
Originating in Bedford, Massachusetts in 2000, it hasn’t really gained much traction outside the states, but as a chef, I’ll take any excuse to cook with the mouth-watering planks of pork. It was three years ago when Jerry Aulenbach, aka, the Bacon Man, shared this tidbit of information with me and suggested that we do a Bacon Day dinner. How could I say no to that?
When it came time to do it last year, we decided to turn things up a bit. As passionate as Jerry is about bacon, he is also very passionate about his community, and in particular, the Royale Lepage Shelter Foundation, an organization that helps women and children in abusive situations get out and rebuild.
Jerry and I decided to use our shared love of bacon to raise funds for this great cause and when it came time to start thinking about doing it again this year, it was a no-brainer to support the same charity, but this year our goal is to double our donation from last year.
In order to make this year’s event even more special, we decided to work alongside a great local pork producer, and when I think of local pork, it’s hard to think of anyone other than Alan & Nicola at Irvings Farm Fresh. Their product is arguably the best pork I have tasted.
I also wanted to learn more about their great product and how it makes its way from their farm to our plate. So earlier this summer, I made a special trip out to their farm to see it for myself.
Their farm is on the edge of the Hamlet of Round Hill, a scenic 45-minute drive from the city. It is comprised of 78 acres of land consisting of a mix of pasture and cultivated land.
As I arrive I am greeted by Nicola’s friendly smile. We begin with a tour of their meat processing facility and I am immediately impressed by the clean and sanitary work environment, Alan is grinding what seems like a thousand pounds of pork in preparation for sausage making. An employee is carefully measuring out the key ingredients to dry rub the stack of pork loins that will soon become cured into their famous back bacon.
Once the sausage meat is blended and the sausage casing is soaked, Nicola stuffs sausages. At first glance this task looks quite simple, so when she offers to let me jump in I can’t resist. I am quick to realize just how wrong I was. After a few tries I managed to make a few sausages that were passable, but it certainly wasn’t nearly as easy as Nicola made it look. So I stepped aside and let her work her magic. In a matter of minutes two large buspans were filled with sausages so consistent that if I hadn’t seen her make them myself I would assume they were machine made.
As they both worked away, they shared their story and philosophies with me. In listening to Alan and Nicola speak, it was clear to see their passion for what they do, and the commitment they have to only using the best ingredients. Nicola told me, “If we can’t pronounce it, it won’t make it into our products.” This is a philosophy that I also believe in and was pleased to hear their thinking.
Once the processing was done we made our way to the pasture to see the animals. On the way, Alan shared with me their philosophy for raising their animals. It could be summed up with the following;
The 5 Freedoms
1. Freedom from hunger and thirst
2. Freedom from discomfort
3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease
4. Freedom to express normal behaviour
5. Freedom from fear and distress
I was pleased to see the vast pasture the animals had to run around in. They were free to feed and drink whenever they so desired, had shelter from the harsh weather when needed, had mud to roll around in and straw to lie on when they chose to. Alan and Nicola raise Berkshire pork, a heritage breed, because of the difference in quality. This exceptional pork is often referred to as Kurabota, which means Berkshire Gold, and is widely considered to be the Kobe beef of the pork world. It’s known for its richness, depth of flavour, and deep marbling. Unlike many pork producers, they choose to raise only 45 head at a time, choosing quality over quantity. It was easy to see that these animals were well taken care of and nurtured, rather than simply thought of as a commodity.
After paying their farm a visit it became clear to me that having the opportunity to use such phenomenal pork that we couldn’t just settle for using the bacon at this year’s event. So this year we will be showcasing this beautiful beast in all its glory, with something for all pork lovers.
To join us for this fabulous feast of pork head to:
to purchase tickets. The event takes place Saturday, Sept. 1 at LUX Steakhouse and tickets are $65, with $20 from every ticket sold will go directly to the Royale Lepage Shelter Foundation. You’ll never feel so good about eating so bad!
If you can’t make it down to our event, you at least have to try Alan and Nicola’s tasty fare. Here is a list of some of the many places around town that you can track it down. I highly recommend the jalapeno bacon or the Lincolnshire or Mild Italian sausages, but I haven’t really had anything they’ve made that I don’t like!
Where to Find Their Tasty Products
Careit Urban Deli
5236-199 St., Hemingway Plaza NW, 780.486.1123 OR
9672-142 St., Crestwood Centre, 780.488.1110
9203-111 Ave., 780.479.8175
Italian Centre Shops Ltd
108780-95 St. OR
5028-104A St., 780.424.4869
4345-50 St., 780.462.2010
Wild Earth Foods
8910-99 St., 780.439.4555
Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market
10310-83 Ave., 780.439.1844
Every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., but get there early, they do sell out!
Here’s a tasty little teaser recipe of one of the dishes we will showcase at the upcoming event, using Irvings Farm side bacon. Enjoy!
Bacon Truffle Cream Corn
4 oz. Irvings Farm bacon, sliced, then julienned
4 fresh Taber corn, kernels only
1 Tbsp. shallots, minced
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 Tbsp. butter
cup stock, chicken or vegetable
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. truffle oil
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium pot, saute the bacon on medium-high heat, until cooked but not crispy
Add the minced shallots and garlic and saute until translucent
Add corn and saute
Deglaze quickly with the stock, then allow to reduce
Add the heavy cream and allow to simmer until the corn is softened, 7-8 minutes
Finish the dish with the butter, thyme, truffle oil and seasoning, cook one minute and serve
You can puree this mixture with a hand mixer or food processor, but I like to keep it coarse! Enjoy this with some grilled pork chops and even a great steak!