By Graham Duncan
Spread on bread, baked into a cake or enriching a sauce, better butter is best.
Butter is milk fat, separated and solidified from cream by an agitation process called churning. If you take pure heavy cream at home and shake it or beat it long enough, you’ll be making butter. Standard butters are 80% - 82% butterfat, the remaining content being almost all water. High-fat butter is 84%. Does that make a difference? Read on.
Golden Dawn salted and unsalted are high quality butters with the former being enthusiastically salty. Golden Dawn has been made at Alliston Creamery since the 1960’s. Owned and operated by the Kennedy family, Alliston Creamery is the last small independent dairy in Ontario. Alliston favours small scale production barrel churns which produce flavourful small batches of butter.
Photo: Alliston Creamery
A batch of butter just out of Alliston Creamery barrel churn
COWS butter is so good we decided to import it all the way from Prince Edward Island. COWS Creamery comes in 84% butterfat which makes for outstanding baking. To confirm this, we whipped up two identical batches of scones, one made with COWS Sea Salted butter and the other with No Name salted butter. In a blind scone tasting (my new blues name) there was no mistaking the difference. The COWS scone was decisively richer, saltier and more, uh, buttery.
Take a video tour of the COWS Creamery butter facility here.
Churned at Alliston Creamery from the cream of organic, grass-fed, Jersey cows. Jersey milk is renowned for its fat content and for its rich yellow colour. Both of these properties translate directly into Emerald butter with its pronounced golden hue and 84% butterfat content. And make no mistake, their southwestern Ontario cows’ all-grass diet — pasture in the summer, hay in the winter — give this butter an unmistakable depth of flavour. The salted version is made with sea salt from Vancouver Island. Emerald is as dedicated to creating a special kind of butter as they are to ensuring the sustainability of the grass-fed dairy industry.
By: Graham Duncan
Not long ago my wife and I shared a Sanagan’s cote de boeuf. We were on our own at an 100-year-old cottage in Muskoka. There was red wine, there was salad and there was that majestic slab of 50-day dry aged rib steak. It was an absolutely simple and memorable dinner, as a meal can be when it features ingredients of the highest standard.
So the question is, what makes dry aged beef such a significant culinary experience?
Dry aging has been part of carnivorism for as long as humans have understood that changes occur to an animal’s flesh after it dies, the most obvious example being rigor mortis. For centuries beef and game have benefitted from various forms of controlled aging. While modern processing techniques sidestepped the procedure, nothing can replicate the flavours and textures resulting from the painstaking tradition of professionally dry aged beef.
Sanagan’s dry aging fridge is a funky place indeed. In this low temperature, moderate humidity environment sub primals (bulk cuts) of bone-in rib and strip loin sections bide their time, slowly growing crusty exteriors that will later be trimmed away. During this period our friends, the enzymes go to work .
Enzymes are molecules that accelerate chemical reactions in cells. With beef, enzyme actions enhance flavour by converting: proteins into savoury amino acids; glycogen into sweet glucose; and fat and fat-like membranes into aromatic fatty acids. At the same time, they’re working their magic on tenderness too, breaking down collagen fibres.
But what age is the perfect age? 28-days is the steakhouse standard (or that’s when your steak turns into a zombie). Some establishments probe the outer reaches of aging with 120-day-old rib steaks, all gnarled up like Yoda. Assistant head butcher Christopher Spencer, who’s been overseeing the Sanagan’s dry aging program since 2018 explains our process: “We experimented; just a lot of testing. Anything more than 60 to 70 days gets very cheesy. We found that 40 to 50 days achieves a good balance of accessible aged flavour”.
And just what is that aged flavour? I think the only way to describe it is steak-ier. Those elements of savoury juicy succulence that makes your mouth water when you think of a steak are all refined in a dry age steak. There’s oxidized fat lending aromatic depth, all the gelatinized protein (enzymes!) creating that melt-in-your-mouth thing, the absolutely indescribable flavours of age; you know like wine, like cheese. If you’re familiar with the concept of umami, that gives you an idea. But really, words don’t do the trick. You’ve got to try it for yourself. But you’ll have to find your own cottage.
by: Graham Duncan
Did you know that at one point, Peter was thinking of changing the name of the business to Sanagan’s Meat, Charcuterie, Prepared Foods, Sauces, Pickles, Rubs, Mustards, Produce, Gelato, Dairy, etc. Locker? Wouldn’t fit on the sign though. But we’re definitely more than meat. We’re happy to share our shelves with local food entrepreneurs who produce fantastic Ontario-made goodies.
One of those people is Christine Manning of Manning Canning. Her story is indicative of the food community we work with. After a successful career in marketing, Christine’s hobby of making preserves became her second act, an undertaking that not only encompasses producing and marketing prizewinning preserves and pickles but the creation of a full-service rental kitchen supporting numerous other independent eat-trepreneurs.
“We believe a rising tide lifts all boats”, says Christine. “There was no rental kitchen when I started out. I thought an affordable space would help others. Everyone thinks a food business is a low barrier start up but a commercial kitchen is expensive.”
“We’ve always competed on taste. We only make products based on seasonal availability, like the green beans. We only make them when we can get them fresh from the fields. We actually process our fresh plum tomatoes, they don’t come in a bucket.” How serious are they about fresh ingredients? Imagine having your marmalade win a gold medal at the World’s Original Marmalade Awards and then you decide, because you can’t guarantee a reliable, affordable supply of quality Seville oranges, that you would stop making your Gold Medal Marmalade. Manning Canning does not compromise.
That’s why Sanagan’s entrusts the production of our Giardiniera and Pickled Red Onions to Christine and Company.
Here’s a full list of our Sanagan’s/Manning Canning product line.
Charcuterie boards of the world unite; Sanagan’s Giardiniera, an Italianate mix of pickled peppers and veggies packed in oil and vinegar is here to help. And beyond. Salads, sandwiches, pizza — the zesty possibilities are endless.
You just won’t know how versatile these babies are until you have them in your fridge. Case in point — last night’s doggy bag of perogies. I threw some pickled onions on that bland plate of leftovers and—Hey Now—those perogies were energized! Ditto, burgers, cheese plates, meat pies—need I go on?
Manning Canning Spicy Pickled Carrots
M.C.’s all-time bestseller. Spicy, crunchy, zippy. Don’t even think of mixing up a Bloody Caesar without them. Perfect in potato or tuna salad. And I bet they’d be awesome along with baked beans.
Manning Canning Spicy Pickled Green Beans
Old-school steak houses often lay out a tray of pickles at the start of a meal as appetite stimulators. Carry on that tradition at home with M.C.’s green beans before you serve one of our beautiful steaks.
Manning Canning Angry Pickled Garlic
Not only can you enjoy the pickled garlic but save the brine for use in a vinaigrette or make your dirty martini an angry martini. Or re-brine something else and reawaken all that garlicky goodness.
Manning Canning Tomato Mustard
Remember those fresh plum tomatoes? They’re here in spades. The apple cider-soaked mustard seeds pop with flavour. Great in dressings or on burgers. Also a fantastic marinade for pork.