Bacon: many eat and obsess about it but do they how to make it? No, I don’t mean take it out of the package and drop it in a fry pan. I mean, how to cure pork belly, flavor it and make it your own tasty creation. Turns out, it’s pretty easy. Sausage? A bit more difficult, but also a lot more fun. These are only a handful of the things we discovered at local favourite establishment Save On Meats, where in addition to their restaurant and butcher shop components, they’ve added a cooking lesson series.
Before we get into the details, here’s a look at dinner at the Save On Meats dinner. I had the Fried Chicken Dinner (buttermilk chicken with mashed potatoes, peas and carrots – $12.75).
It was tasty and reminded me of good ol’ comfortable home cooking but better. They only use the dark meat of the chicken, which I loved. The outside was crunchy while the inside meat was tender and juicy. While the chicken was great, the star on the plate for me was the mashed potatoes. Creamy, light and even better with some chicken gravy.
Here’s also the famous Turkey Pot Pie that was featured on Diners, Drive Ins & Dives. Served with choice of mashed potatoes, peas & carrots, fries or green salad – but we upgraded to a poutine.
In this basic sausage-and bacon-making class, we learned to grind sausage meats as well as how to cure, smoke and age bacon under the tutelage of Elliott Hashimoto. My inner chef was ignited as I learned that bacon can be made so easily as long as it is cured properly (using ‘magic dust’). I won’t spoil it for those who might want to take the class, but it was so easy that it made me wonder why more people don’t do it at home.
After learning about which cut of meat to buy, we all sprinkled our pork belly with an array of spices to create our own recipe. Me? I used garlic powder, onion powder, a bay leaf, tons of paprika and a little cayene for an added kick. We all took a good slab of bacon home where, for one week, all you need to do is flip it in the refrigerator, and voila – you’ve made bacon.
Next, we had our hands at making sausage. It involved grinding the right mix of fat and meat, taking the intestines of the animal, and loading it onto the sausage stuffing contraption and stuffing the ground meat into the intestine. I decided to go with a spicy, spicy sausage putting tons of cayenne, garlic and onion.
It might look complicated but the good news is that modern homechefs can simply buy a KitchenAid attachment to try this at home. We were lucky enough to use the original sausage stuffer back from Save On Meat’s heydays. You control the width and size of your sausage by pulling the filled intestine away from the machine. Once fully stuffed, you make your links easily by twisting the sausage and voila – spicy sausage anybody?
Overall, a fun experience where you learn a little something, and get to take home some great product to cook with. Who says you can’t play with your food and eat it too! For those who are taking the class, don’t forget to start off your night with a nice meal at the diner next door as the entire session takes a few hours.
If you’re interested in igniting your own inner chef, see the list of other classes offered at Save On Meats below.
Suitable for beginners and those with a bit of experience, participants will learn the basics of sausage making and develop that into the art of charcuterie. Students will be taken through the process of curing, drying, and aging their own sausage using a variety of meats. To complement some cured meat tasting during the class, participants will take home some duck prosciutto, a link of pepperoni and some handmade salami.
During the canning and preserving classes, students learn essential techniques for home water bath canning sterilization, pH balanced recipes and processing. Two seasonal recipes will be taught in class, each with a unique twist and flavour combination. Past recipes include spiced pickled beets, organic spicy dill pickles, strawberry applesauce and earl grey strawberry jam. Students should expect to roll up their sleeves and participate if they want to take home a jar of the good stuff.
The poultry butchery class will take people through the whole process from buying a whole bird to processing it and utilizing every part of the animal. Set in the historic butcher shop, students will learn how to carve a bird including alternate cuts, and how to make delicious stock. No one leaves empty handed. In addition to butchering skills, participants will leave with two chicken breasts, two boneless chicken thighs and a litre of fresh chicken stock.