Peameal Bacon on a Bun
When I travel I always enjoy visiting the local farmers markets. They are a window into the heart and soul of every region and community worldwide. Granville Market in Vancouver for the best wild salmon burger, Pike Place Market in Seattle for prizewinning clam chowder, ByWard Market in Ottawa for Beaver Tails, and St. Lawrence Market in Toronto (and pretty much every fall fair, farmers market and small town in Ontario) for Peameal Bacon on a Bun!!!
On a recent trip to Ontario I was guided around Toronto on a foodie tour of the some of the most famous areas in the city. I want to thank Peter of Kalofagas and Paula of Dragons Kitchen who braved the heat and humidity on one of the hottest days on record (reaching 50C with the humidex), who ushered me around in an air conditioned car to share as much of the city as possible in a full day of sightseeing and delicious eats, even if my waterproof mascara was melting and our energy was zapped from the heat. Both are such gracious hosts and I am so happy they have found each other!
The St. Lawrence Market was our first stop and if I remember correctly is one of the best places to go for peameal bacon sandwiches. We opted for Pasteis de Nata and Turkish Lahmacun and Pide on the outskirts of Greektown this time around. I was born and spent the first 19 years of my life in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, where I ate peameal bacon weekly, if not daily. Mom would fry thin slices with some tomatoes and crumpets/pikelets at least once a week. It was THE breakfast staple along with a rib-sticking bowl of porridge and potato scones.
As with so many foods that we grew up with, the importance of this one goes way beyond the actual bacon itself and is one of those comfort foods we talk about so often. Peameal for me symbolizes breakfast around the table with the entire family, summer at the cottage in Ontario, and all that goes with it, no school, new friends, and so on. I remember having Peameal Bacon Sandwiches at the fall fair, the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, the St. Jacobs Farmers Market, or at the beach at Wasaga. They would take a large hunk, anywhere from 2 to 3 pounds, and slice it not too thin and not too thick. They would then grill it over medium heat so it stays just ever so pink in the center and the cornmeal coating and external fat would grill up nice and crispy. It would be served on a soft Kaiser roll slathered with mayonnaise, and topped with iceberg lettuce and slices of summer sun-ripened tomatoes. Oh, and a few thin slices of Canadian cheddar would be acceptable too. Sheer heaven and such a wonderful foodie memory related to my childhood!!!!
Pasteis de Nata** Toronto Skyline **Peter and Paula at St. Lawrence Market
Roof Top Gardens Royal York **"Green Eggplant" the Beaches with Mary and Lynn **Kensington Market
Lahmacun at Mr. Pide ** Desserts at the Cheese Boutique ** Bobbette and Belle Bakery
Real Canadian back bacon, also known as peameal bacon, is a form of meat unknown anywhere outside the country. Ask anyone in Canada to describe "true" Canadian bacon (at least those in Eastern Canada), and they will tell you “peameal bacon.” Peameal bacon is an Ontario specific speciality, and is only sporadically available elsewhere across the country. When I moved West peameal bacon was unheard of and was unavailable until one day I was delighted to find it at Costco. We will convert these Westerners yet to the true Canadian Bacon!!!! Seriously, all you have to do is talk to a couple Canadians from Ontario and you start to realize that peameal bacon sandwiches, while pretty much unknown elsewhere, are about the equivalent there of pastrami in Manhattan or cheese steaks in Philadelphia. The only Canadian food that outranks it in my books is Poutine!!!A peameal bacon sandwich is straightforward. Just a stack of thickly cut peameal bacon on a Kaiser bun, and perhaps a topping or two..
Armens Restaurant Southampton ** West Montrose ** Sunset Southampton
Poutine from chip truck Caledonia ** Downtown Galt ** Mi Casa et tu Casa Restaurant Cambridge
St. Jacob's Farmers Market and Mennonites
Peameal Bacon is made from pork loins weighing 12-14 Lb. They are trimmed of all the fat and the bones are removed. It is a very lean, meaty cut of bacon, with less fat compared to other cuts so therefore better for you so that you can consume it on a more regular basis. The term peameal comes from the ground yellow peas with which the bacon was originally coated around the 1920’s. This ensured better curing and shelf life and avoided bacterial problems. Over the years this tradition was changed to cornmeal, due to the availability of corn. Usually it is sliced and fried for breakfast but it is also excellent baked whole. The cornmeal makes a crisp exterior and the meat, although quite lean, is particularly juicy, because of the curing process. You have to search a little harder to find bacon that has that real old fashioned taste. Usually it means heading out to a country market in "Mennonite Country" in the direction of Kitchener and St. Jacobs, going to the St Lawrence Farmers Market in Toronto on a Saturday morning or befriending a specialty butcher who has contact with a local pig farmer and a good smoke house. I picked some up when I was at the farmers market in St. Jacobs and brought it back home to my kitchen in British Columbia. I had my fill of monarch butterflies, chip trucks, brick houses, waving cornfields and pioneer fences...and of course peameal bacon!
My niece in Mount Hope gave me a copy of the Summer issue of Food and Drink from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and what caught my eye to pay homage to Ontario and all the wonderful friends, family and food I crammed into one short week, was their version of a peameal bacon sandwich. It is topped with a delicious corn relish and instead of making the bourbon mustard suggested, I used the Kozlicks Mustard I purchased at the St. Lawrence Market.
You will need two to four slices of peameal bacon per sandwich depending on how thickly they are cut. When buying mine at the butcher I prefer a thin cut, so just use more. To make your own ‘Best Peameal Bacon on a Bun’ you will need a good bun, slices of lightly smoked cooked peameal bacon and then it is open for your own interpretation from there. Additions of your choice such as Dijon mustard, caramelized onions or perhaps a slice of Ontario Cheddar are all possibilities. Shaving the cheese allows it to melt slightly when it hits the hot bacon and roll. Once you're handed your sandwich, the biggest decision is what kind of mustard to choose, and if you'll have another.
**Peameal Bacon on a Bun with Corn Relish**
from Food and Drink LCBO
1 cup (250 mL) cooked corn
1 cup (250 mL) seeded and chopped tomato
1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped yellow pepper
1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped sweet onions
1 tablespoon (15 mL) chopped jalapeno pepper
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) brown sugar
1 tablespoon (15 mL) cider vinegar
1 tablespoon (15 mL) olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon (15 mL) vegetable oil
8 - 15 slices peameal bacon
1 tablespoon (15 mL) Korlicks mustard
4 kaiser rolls or other soft white buns, warmed
1-1/2 cups (375 mL) shaved jalapeno Gouda or Cheddar or other cheese of choice
4 crisp lettuce leaves
1. Combine tomatoes, peppers, onions and jalapeno peppers in a food processor and process until chunky (or chop together by hand). Add cooked corn. Stir in sugar, cider vinegar and olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add vegetable oil and bacon to pan and cook for 1 minute or until lightly browned. Brush with mustard and turn bacon slices over. Cook 1 - 2 minutes longer or until underside is browned and bacon is cooked through.
3. Spread each bun with mustard. Top with peameal bacon, cheese and Corn Relish. Finish with lettuce. Cut in half before serving. Serve with Spicy Coleslaw and an Okanagan Pale Ale.
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