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Suggestions on where to get quality pork belly in Toronto

Seems like everywhere I turn there are recipes for pork belly this and that. I saw http://blog.ruhlman.com/ruhlmancom/20... and realized I needed to get in on this trend.

Does anyone have any suggestions or experiences to share on buying pork belly? I've asked at a handful of butchers and they didn't have it at the time, but I can't recall which I've already tried.

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  1. This is a commodity in any busy Asian store with a meat counter.
    I bought a good piece for $5 at Soon Lee in lower Scarboro last week. It was fresh, and made a delicious crispy roast for dipping.

    ed to add: This was the first one I have roasted without any seasoning. The flavor and texture is good enough on its own, served with a sauce and rice.

    Soon Lee
    629 Markham Rd, Toronto, ON M1J, CA

    1. For inexpensive pork belly, around $2-$3 per pound, the asian grocery stores are a good bet. You can get them readily at T&T, for example. It's standard pork, and I've used it plenty of times to make homemade bacon and pancetta.

      If you want higher end, "heritage pork", Fiesta Farms, Cumbrae's or a few others will be able to order it in if they don't have it already. Cost will be considerably higher. Berkshire pork belly, for example, will be about $6-$8 per pound. I'm getting some in a few weeks to see if there's a big difference.

      3 Replies
      1. re: grandgourmand

        i've had quite a bit of berkshire pork in my CSA (through stoddart farm) and it's a pretty stark difference, imo. the sausages and pork chops have a near buttery taste through them. i've become a fan.

        i'm eager to hear about your experience with it.

        1. re: toothpicvic

          Can you link to a CSA with Berkshire? I had no idea.
          Regular pork should be fine for pork belly, however, especially if you are just starting to work with it. Virtually all hogs are fatty, juicy, and flavorsome in the belly cuts.

          ed: I found a link for Stoddart CSA but no information on pork. What are the prices like? What breeds?

          1. re: jayt90

            you're totally right, they seem to have taken down the information about their pork. i'm sure that it's "heritage" pork, but now i'm only 90% sure it's berkshire. you can email silvia@stoddart.ca and ask her. she's very nice, but might take a bit to get back to you via email. from the website, here are the breeds they have listed (if you're interested in products other than just pork):
            * Ancient White Park Beef
            * Muscovy Duck & Eggs
            * Chicken and Eggs
            * Guinea Fowl
            * Romney Lamb
            * Rabbit

            they axed the rabbit and fowl this past year, but hope to get it back online next year.

            for price, i believe that i paid the same amount that's listed on the site (which is fairly poorly designed, i think), something like $425 for 6 months of 10lbs/month grass fed. and i get eggs through them too, which are the best eggs i've ever had (i go for chicken, not duck, but that's just me).

            other than my trouble staying in and eating all the meat (i still have lots of meat in the freezer), i love it and i've been suggesting it to my friends.

      2. Medium Rare. We ordered a whole slab and their pricing was the best we've seen so far. It was Berkshire BTW

        6 Replies
          1. re: grandgourmand

            It was either $2.99 or $3.99/lb I don't recall exactly. For Berkshire I thought that was a good price. It wasn't nearly as fatty as some belly that we've bought before. We just fimished making bacon last night so I'm looking forward to trying it.

            1. re: lyndak

              I just called them and they said $4/lb, which is a very good price. I know where I'm getting it next time. Thanks for the tip.

              1. re: grandgourmand

                pas de problemo! Glad I could be of assistance.

          2. re: lyndak

            I was looking for pork Bellies at my local butcher, Royal Beef on the Danforth, and they said that they typically don't carry it and I had to order a full pork belly, maybe even a full case of pork bellies. That was a lot of pancetta for my small fridge so I am looking to T&T.

            Grand Gourmand, let us know how it goes. I am interested to hear how you are doing with your curing.

            1. re: Kooper

              Go to T&T, you can buy a smaller amount. There will be a bit of side rib attached, which can be removed and used for something else. I've used these bellies on a few occasions for bacon and for pancetta. In both cases, amazing results. Pancetta is more approachable, if you don't have a smoker to make bacon (which isn't absolutely necessary but helps). And it's pretty resilient to less than ideal conditions. If you have a spare bathroom or a cool dark place, you're good to go.

              I haven't tried the heritage breeds, but that will change in a month or so, when I make some pancetta from Berkshire belly.

          3. Highland Farms carries it, no idea on pricing but I always see it there (along with side ribs which is another seeming rarity in Toronto).

            1 Reply
            1. re: Boodah

              There are always big packages of side ribs at Costco. Actually too big for me, and I generally buy their fresh, meaty back ribs.

            2. Not quite the same thing, but Weston Foods usually has smoked pork belly, which makes an awesome pork and beans from scratch.

              1. Starskys on Dundas street west of Winston Churchill always has pork belly in stock. I have been thinking of picking one up for the smoker. Is there more to making bacon than "low and slow" smoking? i suspect there is.

                2 Replies
                1. re: LJS2

                  Yes, it gets brined or rubbed with salt and sugar containing potassium nitrate or nitrite. That will take a few days to penetrate. Easiest to find sources are Highland Farms, or Rexall Drugs.
                  You can do without the nitrate/nitrite addition, but the flavor is not the same, and the meat is gray.

                  1. re: jayt90

                    Thank you for the info Jayt90. i did end up reading up on it after i posted and was going to post again about where to find the cure but you beat me to it!

                2. Very best pork belly in GTA is from Galleria Korean Supermarket just past Yonge and Steeles; it's cleaner and meatier than T&T's. Koreans tend to cook it in slices, so that is how it is packaged and displayed, but the extremely efficient team of butchers behind the glass will prepare a whole piece to the size of your liking in minutes.

                  1. There's a Japanese butcher shop at J-town (Steeles & Victoria Park) that serves traditional Japanese cuts of meat. Last I checked, they had some top-quality Berkshire pork belly blocks.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: alexthe5th

                      Yeah, I bought Berkshire pork belly at Famu(J-town) a few times. The quality is much better than the ones you get at regular Chinese markets.

                      In the span of a few weeks I bought 3 slabs of pork bellies from different sources- Famu, Superstore, Chinese Supermarket. I cooked them all the same way, and the one from Famu came out the best. Mind you, I really didn't expect a difference between the Chinese supermarket and Superstore, cause they probably have the same source.

                      1. re: wciu

                        Perth Pork Products supplies Famu with Berkshire pork so it doesn't come as surprise that it was the best.

                    2. I've purchased pork belly from 3 different sources in the past, which were then all prepared using the same recipe (the "red-cooking" recipe found in Jennifer McLagan's "Fat" book):
                      1. Cumbrae's: by far the most expensive (can't remember off-hand the price/pound), good amount of fat, ended up quite tender and delicious, although even after considerable braising the skin was a little chewy.
                      2. St. Lawrence North Market: can't recall the name of the vendors, but the price here was about half that of Cumbrae's. I must say, tied with number 3 for the best pork belly we've tried. The skin was deliciously succulent.
                      3. Via our CSA (Kawartha Ecological Farms): the pig farmer (Mark) was kind enough to drop it off at our apartment, along with 2 pairs of trotters and a head (I'm pretty sure our condo concierge suspect that my girlfriend and I are serial killers). Surprisingly cheap (only marginally more expensive than the stuff from St. Lawrence) and exceptionally tender and flavourful.