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ISO Fatty Pork for traditional French Canadian tourtière

I've been attempting to replicate my grand-mère’s tourtière recipe but I have had problems the last couple of years in finding pork that has a high enough fat content (seems that they are breeding them to be leaner than in days of yore). I've tried Berkshire from Cumbrae's but it didn't give me a good consistency at all-almost watery even (surprising since its known for high fat content).

Can you hounds help me with finding the fattiest pork available in Toronto? Which butcher in Toronto specializes in pork? Thanks in advance.


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  1. If you have a meat grinder you could grind up pork belly. If not I would think any butcher would do that for you? Or you could even hand dice some belly into your groud pork.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mactoo

      I was thinking of doing that...although it won't be faithful to my grandmother's recipe, and I'm worried it will get *too* greasy. But perhaps its something I should consider. Thanks.

    2. Hi Biatch. I'm not from Toronto. Actually I live near Montreal and have been eating tourtiere in various forms and names all my life. The people making it usually stop in the nearest grocery store and buy "ground pork" (unless they're making it with beef, veal, etc etc...).
      House-ground, grocery store pork is generally hi in fat and usually does the job (and perhaps cheaper than an heirloom Berkshire).
      Yeah, they're breeding hogs to be leaner than years past, but I think traditionally, grandma still buys the cheap stuff. Just my 2c. {;-/)

      4 Replies
      1. re: porker

        Hey, thanks for the reply! My grandmere made it with a combo of meats (of which I am not allowed to reveal ;) I've tried the grocery store stuff and it doesn't give me that "creton" texture she so perfectly achieved. Perhaps the regular pork around Montreal is better, which might explain why her recipe achieved the heights that mine with expensive Berkshire cannot!

        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

          My BF makes our creton with a mix of regular ground pork as group pork belly which we do ourselves. It has been the best combo we've found for creton but I haven't tried it for tourtière but it may be worth a go.

          1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

            If you don't reveal the necessary cuts of pork you may not come up with a good replica. Maybe you could find a published recipe with similar ingredients, and let someone here make suggestions without giving away your recipe.

            1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

              Ahhh, OK, "creton texture", 2 things you might try.

              When I make cretons, its basically ground pork cooked in seasoned water with onion (you can get fancy with different spices or meats, but thats the basic idea). My first attempts had me rendering pork belly to get the fat to get the creaminess. I tried skipping the rendering part and simply boiled pork belly in water, then used that water/cooked-out-fat as a base for the cretons. Worked like a charm.
              You could use a slab of pork belly, but you'll get quicker results if you boil sliced belly (what we call " fresh pork"). This will give you the creamy mouth feel.

              The second item I stumbled upon the last time I made cretons, about 3 weeks ago, and the first time using veal in the mix. After simmering 2 hours with constant mashing, the grounds were still too coarse for my liking (I'm assuming it was the veal). The end result would've tasted fine, but not very smooth. I grabbed a hand-blender and ground right in the pot. This gave me a very fine, spreadable cretons.

              Whatever you try, be sure to post your results!

          2. sanagans grinds their pork from naturally raised pigs (no particular breed) and from rather fatty shoulder pieces. i quite like it but haven't tried making cretons with it yet (will be a new winter project!) so i'm not entirely sure it is what you're looking for. if you wanted it ground from a particular breed i'm sure that wouldn't be an issue except that you should just call in advance since they don't have all their breeds available all the time.

            alternatively, you could try berkshire from another breeder like perth pork. i've only had their chops but the fat was quite thick and creamy.... i'm actually not much of a fan of berkshire because i find the flavour quite milky and sweet but just not porky enough as a result. i believe you can get them from healthy butcher.

            5 Replies
            1. re: pinstripeprincess

              Thanks PSP-I'm going to try Sanagan's pork. I've heard very good things about them. I'm not looking necessarily for a particular breed-just nice and fatty.

              1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                Sanagan's is my fav butcher these days and I'm almost exclusively buying from him. Great meat!

                1. re: JennaBean

                  In all the years I lived a hop away from Kensington, I lamented not having a really great butcher closeby. Then I moved away from the neighbourhood and Sanagan's opened literally 2 weeks later. Crap!

                  1. re: JennaBean

                    i adore him as well. i sent him an email about pork neck bones for a humble batch of congee and his were somehow cut into pieces so perfect that there was a load of meat but few tiny nooks that i had to spend forever picking out meat from between. absolutely worth it.

                    speaking of which, i should bug him about some lamb neck and the rabbits in the case lately have been looking fat and delicious!

                    1. re: pinstripeprincess

                      If you like lamb do try his merguez sausage - really a delight!

              2. I still haven't managed to get my grandmere's recipe from her!!!

                3 Replies
                1. re: FrenchSoda

                  My grand-pere says he's never written it down so how could he possibly share it with me! ;-)

                  1. re: JennaBean

                    I think a good crust is half the battle. Almost don't matter what goes in, a great crust can really make the pie.

                    1. re: porker

                      Thankfully my mom and sis know how to bang out a perfect crust...so my primary concern is the filling. I'm going to try the pork from Sanagan's and will follow your suggestions for achieving the creton-like texture. Thanks so much everyone for your help!

                2. I think you live somewhere near me, if you still do you could try Ella's Meats at 674 Pape Ave or Mr Greek Meat Market at 801 Danforth. They have some nice "Filiatra" brand olive oil in 5L cans which I like. ($49)

                  The people at both are really friendly and willing to help you.
                  You should try the sausages they make at Ella's, they are quite good.

                  Here is a little blog post someone did of Ella's. Some guy named Katz discussing pork.

                  1. Splendid, for similar recipes (sausages) i use pork shoulder and ask the butcher for some extra pork fat. They give it freely without charge and always much more than i can use. I cut the shoulder into 1-inch cubes and put them in the freezer for 30 to 60 minutes. Then i chop or mince small batches in the food processor according to the desired texture. It works beautifully.

                    I shop at the Asian markets in Mississauga where they move a lot of pork.

                    1. Have you considered grinding up a bit of the slab bacon available at Fresh from the Farm? I was thinking of your post as I sliced some up this morning at ate a bit raw, and fried the rest. It's very tasty even when raw and I think it would be good in a tourtiere.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: foodyDudey

                        Looks like I'm going to do some experimentation with all these great suggestions! Thanks fD-I haven't tried the slab bacon from FFTF yet.

                        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                          SWS, I've been wondering how the toutiere turned out. Did you try the bacon I mentioned or pork from Ellas? I recently bought bacon from Ellas and it's good.

                          1. re: foodyDudey

                            They turned out fantastic this year! We incorporated various suggestions from the board (including the addition of some ground pork belly), and it truly did the trick. Instead of heading to Sanagan's, we decided to buy local (over Christmas) and sourced our pork from Tarini's Meat Market in Sudbury. I haven't yet tried the bacon or pork from Ellas-but its on the list for a dinner this week. Thanks a lot for your recs-they are always spot on.

                            1. re: foodyDudey

                              Hey fD-update on Ellas. I picked up some pork chops which were delicious and pretty tender. And the staff was super friendly. Thanks again for the tip-I'll definitely be returning!

                              1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                Hi SWS, I'm glad you liked Ella's, I've bought many great items from there. A few weeks ago I served guests a prime rib roast from there and they all commented on how good it was. You should try the home made sausages, those are good.