Baked sausages and apples

-1 package sausages

-2 apples cubed (honeycrisp)

-1.5 lb fingerling potatoes

– 3 carrots peeled and cut into wedges

– 1 red onion, in wedges

– 2 tbsp fresh sage chopped

– 2 tbsp honey

-3 tbsp olive oil

-salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400F. Combine apples, potatoes, carrots, onions, and sage in a bowl. Drizzle honey and oil over, season with salt and pepper and mix.

Spread out in a roasting pan or cookie sheet. Place sausages amidst veggies. Bake for 45 minutes (until sausage internal temp is 160F and carrots and potatoes are tender. 

Vietnamese inspired caramel pork

– 100gr brown sugar

– 1tbsp water

– 2 lb pork shoulder in pieces or 2 lb pork belly in cubes

– 1.5 cups coconut milk

– 1 shallot sliced thinly

– 2 garlic cloves minced

– 1.5 tbsp fish sauce

– ¼ tsp white pepper

-sliced red chilli

-cilantro chopped

Place sugar and water in a large pot over medium heat. Stir until sugar is melted and bubbling then add all the rest of the ingredients except for the chilli and cilantro. Stir and adjust heat to simmer energetically. Simmer for 90 minutes uncovered. Stir a few times while cooking. When liquid has reduced and pork is tender, fat will separate- stir and pork will brown and caramelise in fat. Once liquid is stuck on pork pieces, it is ready! Serve with rice and garnish with red chili slices and cilantro.

Stuffed cabbage rolls

– 1 green or Savoy cabbage

– 1 lb ground beef

– 1 lb ground pork

– 2 teaspoons salt

– 3 teaspoons pepper

– 2 small onions, chopped

– 2 cups white rice, rinsed

– 1 cup milk

– 3 cloves garlic, chopped

– 2 eggs, beaten

Sauce

– olive oil

– 1 onion, finely chopped

– 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

– 1 large can of good tomatoes

– 5 Italian tomatoes, diced

– 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

– 2 teaspoons Worcestershire

– 1 tablespoon brown sugar

– Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cut out the heart of the cabbage and plunge it into boiling water for 5 minutes. Take out and carefully remove the leaves, leave to cool and cut off the center rib for easy rolling.

Mix meat, salt, pepper, onions, rice, milk, garlic and eggs together.

In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and sauté onion for 3 minutes. Reduce the heat and add the garlic. Cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes, cider vinegar, sugar, and Worcestershire. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Place about 4 tablespoons of the meat mixture on a cabbage leaf. Roll into a cigar shape and tie or secure with a toothpick. Repeat.

Place a thin layer of tomato sauce in an ovenproof dish. Place the cigars side by side in the dish and cover with the remaining sauce. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 90 minutes.

Berkshire or crossbred pork rack roast

  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh tarragon or rosemary
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper
  • New potatoes halved and coated with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper

Whisk Dijon and herbs together and add salt and pepper. Rub the rack with the mix and let rest for 30 minutes on the counter. Preheat oven to 425F. You can sear the rack before placing in oven, but I didn’t and it was great nonetheless! Place rack in roasting pan and add your new potatoes. Roast pork for 1.5 hours or until internal temp reads 145F. Remove and cover with foil to rest for 20 minutes. Slice between bones and serve with a side of green beans or buttered cabbage! Beautiful!

Bitterballen, a tasty Dutch snack

–          500 gr Leftover roast meat, shredded (chicken, pork, beef, lamb)

–          1.5 cup braising liquid, fat removed, from your roasts, alternatively make some broth with meat bones of your choice, onion, garlic, carrots, small piece of star anis, bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper.

–          40 gr butter

–          40 gr flour

–          ¼ tsp allspice

–          Half a bunch of parsley, finely chopped

–          Salt and pepper

–          Panko

–          4 eggs, beaten

–          200 gr flour

–          Your favorite mustard for dipping

Shred your leftover meat and cut up finely (you can use a food processor to pulse the meat a bit to avoid getting big chunks in your mix. Melt butter in pan, add flour and whisk, cooking over low heat until a blonde roux is made, 3-4 minutes. Add braising liquid little by little whisking to avoid getting lumps. Once all liquid is mixed add meat, allspice, parsley and pepper. Cook gently until it thickens, 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Let cool on a cookie tray for 10 minutes then cover with plastic wrap and store in fridge for at least two hours until completely cooled. Roll mixture into balls a bit smaller than a ping pong ball. Dredge balls in flour, then dip in beaten egg and finally panko breadcrumbs. Once breaded you can freeze on a tray and transfer to ziplocs to avoid them sticking together. Fry at 350F for 5 minutes or until golden colored and hot in middle. Enjoy with a good strong mustard and a beer or a gin (bitter).

Fig and proscuitto salad

– fresh figs/ 3 per plate

– ferme d’orée prosciutto (1 package for two plates)

–  buffalo mozzarella 1/2 ball for two

– fresh basil leaves

-juice of half a lemon

-1 tbsp honey

-freshly ground pepper

-fleur de sel

Criss cross the figs but not quite to the bottom. Use your fingers and thumbs to squeeze them so they bloom. Place prosciutto slices and pieces of mozzarella around the figs, drizzle with mixed honey and lemon juice, salt and pepper and add basil leaves to garnish.

Carbonara

  • 350gr spaghetti
  • 200g guanciale (or pancetta)
  • 4 eggs
  • 100gr pecorino romano cheese, grated
  • Ground black pepper

Boil the water for the pasta. Cut guanciale in small pieces and cook in skillet for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Level of cooking is per your taste, more you cook it the more crispy it will become. No need to use oil. Set aside. Prepare the pecorino ‘cream’- in a bowl mix whole eggs and cheese and add freshly ground black pepper. Set aside. Add salt to boiling water and cook pasta al dente. Using a spaghetti spoon, drain the pasta (keep the cooking liquid!) and place spaghetti in the skillet with guanciale over high heat. When sizzling, turn off heat to avoid overcooking and scrambling the eggs ! Quickly add cheese and egg mixture to the hot pasta and stir. Consistency should be creamy- if too runny, add pecorino, if too sticky and dense, add 1-2 tbsp cooking water. Serve pasta and top with pepper and pecorino.

Bon appetit!

Salade chèvre lardons (goat cheese and lardons)

  • 1 package lardons
  • 2 apples, cubed
  • 2 Lebanese cucumbers, cubed
  • 4 radishes, sliced
  • 1 head of lettuce
  • Goat cheese, in pieces
  • ¼ cup pecans, chopped
  • Tartare sauce
    • 1 cup mayonnaise
    • ¼ cup shallot, diced
    • ¼ cup small pickles, chopped
    • ¼ cup capers, chopped
    • 2 tbsp wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp dill, chopped

Cook lardons in a frying pan, reserve. Make a salad with the vegetables and top with cooked lardons, goat cheese, pecans and tartare sauce.

Choosing your pork. Crossbred, Berkshire or Mangalica ?

The otherworldly Mangalica (or Mangalitsa) pig is a fascinating creature and a fantastic eat for those who only want the very best. Fatty and marbled, the meat has a brilliant hint of nuts. Truly the best pork in the world.

The Mangalica pig looks awkward and ancient at the same time, with its woolly coat. It never really adapted to living indoors and looks and behaves more like its wild boar ancestors than like the crossbred pigs they use in commercial farms. It is a charming pig with a friendly disposition.

Berks and Mangas eating pumpkins

Its unique qualities come at a price. Mangalica pigs are rare gems that grow incredibly slowly, and they are much less prolific than garden variety pigs. Rumour has it that their fat is incredibly healthy. It is different for sure.

Berkshires

The Berkshire pig is our all-time favorite. It is a perfect compromise between the Mangalica and crossbred pigs. Tastes great, marbles beautifully, with lower pH and short muscle fibers. While not a commercial breed at all, Berkshires are a little less rare and more prolific than Mangalicas. They grow a little faster and dress out quite a lot better than Mangalicas. They are only a little bit more expensive than crossbred pigs, but the taste is already so much better.

Crossbred pige with Duroc influence

Crossbred pigs (Duroc x Landrace x Yorkshire) are bred to perform. And perform they do. They perform as well when raised outside under good circumstances. And they are ubiquitous as they are meant for big commercial farms. Raising them outside, without feeding them industrial by-products does help the quality along a little bit. The meat is lean and there is little marbling. But leanness has advantages too. Most people prefer their bacon a little meatier…

There are other heritage breeds, and we tried some – like Large Black, Large White, Hampshire, Duroc, and Tamworth – in the past. We learnt that we do not want to raise heritage pigs that do not improve meat quality. Unfortunately, tiny genetic pools, haphazard crossbreeding and – let us face it – amateurish farmers, do not do many favors to heritage pigs in general.

Tamworth pigs in the woods

Of course, there are many heritage breeds that we have never tried – but like to try. If you are breeding purebred Hereford, Meishan, or Mulefoot pigs, let us know!

But, let us face it. All we can really think of while writing these lines, is the truly amazing and delicate taste of Mangalica pork.

Berkshire chops

Pastured pork

Raising pigs on pasture is not complicated. All you need is some fencing, shade, feed and a steady, fresh water supply, right?
Right. Until you realize that pigs will destroy pastures at a rapid pace, especially after a rain. That is not the time to take pictures or to get some fresh air! You end up with what we call mud lot pigs. Mud lot pigs are smelly and disgusting, harm the environment (you need plants to use up the manure!), are more disease prone, and probably not too happy.
So you implement pasture rotations to move the pigs to clean land after every rain. Now supplying abundant, clean, fresh water is no longer so easy. They just will not drink enough stale, day old water out of an IBC or hot water from a pipe. You just lost lots of growth, and your pigs may seem happy, but they are in fact…rather thirsty. You had your water tested, right?


Maybe your pigs are growing unevenly, because you do not have enough water points or enough feed points so the boss-pig will hog the water or feed source. Maybe your pigs are wasting 20-40% of the feed you give them, because you do not have a feeder. Such waste is economically and environmentally unacceptable.
Then, it gets really hot in the summer and your shade huts prove inadequate, so you decide to take the pigs to the woods. It is hard to set up fencing in the woods. The undergrowth is not as dense as the thatch in an old field, so the pigs destroy your soil in no time, causing pollution. That is why raising pigs in the woods is illegal in Quebec (REA). The pigs seem happy now, but when you were fixing the fence you were devoured by deer flies. They drove you nuts! The pigs do not seem to mind…
Guess what. Spring and fall are muddy every year, and in the winter, even though your pigs still seem happy out in -30 degree weather, they surely will not grow. We tried it: it takes more than 10 pounds of feed to grow one pound of liveweight at -25C. It is madness whether you look at it from an economic, environmental or animal welfare point of view.
Raising pigs outside this way is not so easy and rarely improves animal welfare or limits environmental impact, and unless clients can be persuaded to pay crazy prices, it rarely pays the bills.


So we got rid of our preconceptions and rethought the model completely. Why would we insist that the pigs are always out? Why not start from what pigs need rather than from our own infatuation with raising pigs on pasture? Why not let the pigs choose? Our pigs can go outside whenever they want, but we accept that they sometimes prefer to stay inside.
Once you start to really listen to the pigs, everything will fall into place. If you do it right, pigs raised on pasture can grow at the same pace as their conventional counterparts, will taste better, will be happier, will not cause environmental harm, and will not cost much more to raise, so you can sell them at a reasonable price.


If you really listen to the pigs, raising pigs on pasture is not that difficult.
The real challenges lie in the maternity, where the piglets are born. ‘Seasonal farmers’ just buy conventional piglets, fatten them on pasture (or in a mud lot), tell a pretty story (almost organic!) and cash in the big bucks.
To really change the system, we need to reinvent the maternity too. But that is another story altogether!