Of course, it’s not really a party until the pig comes out …

Of course, it’s not really a party until the pig comes out …

Third annual Day of the Pig at Seed to Sausage draws record 3,000 — and lots of piggy goodness

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MAY 22 14 – 8:05 AM — Barbecue aficionados among us are the first to concede a party in summer doesn’t really begin until a large chunk of roasted hog comes out for carving. Even better if it’s a whole pig weighing, say, 170 pounds dressed, then cured three days before slow-roasting overnight.

All of it washed down with beer. Just saying …

IMG_3100Porcine over embers is mighty fine eating, pure piggy deliciousness, the kind shared last Saturday at the third annual Day of the Pig celebration at Seed to Sausage, a little charcuterie business founded by Michael McKenzie in his garage that grew, and then grew some more. Today its world headquarters is beside Highway 38 more or less in the middle of nowhere, not far from Sharbot Lake on the other side of Perth. You can also find Seed to Sausage cured meats served in fine restaurants and sold at some boutique butcher shops, at Farm Boy supermarkets, and a soon-to-open storefront in Ottawa at 729 Gladstone Ave.

Oh, but on Saturday I was out for the piggy celebration — the third annual event, turns out, with various other artisan food producers showcasing everything from preserves to ravioli.

“It started as the grand opening for our store and we just kind of hoped somebody would actually come,” says Ken McKenzie, Michael’s dad, who was knee-deep in volunteer work as we chatted.

“We originally hoped for maybe 100 people, but instead we got 1,200 folks in the first year, and 2,000 the year after that.”

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(Later, Mike McKenzie told me about 3,000 attended on Saturday, blessed with postcard-perfect weather. Attendance figures are necessarily estimates, as Seed to Sausage sells no admission tickets while food and beverage purchases are by cash.)

I wondered what exactly I was in for as I pointed my tiny Miata westward and kept on going for 30, then 60, then 90 minutes. I was more or less in for the long haul, having made a commitment to help judge the first Day of the Pig barbecue sauce contest, where the winner receives distribution options for his or her sauce with Ital Foods and Findlay Foods of Kingston, as well as an appointment to meet the sales people at Farm Boy.

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First-time contestant Shawna Harvey (photo above, top) was among 19 entries in the barbecue sauce category. A chef at The Fifth Grill in downtown Toronto, she made the 3 1/2-hour trek from her flat in Scarborough after hearing about the competition on Facebook.

“This is a great deal,” Harvey says, enthused about a pig sandwich platter with potato chips, cabbage slaw, and two thick slices of protein/fat roasted 14 hours over an open pit, all for $10.

The whole hog, by the way, was completely sold, carved and consumed within two hours, as people in line waited maybe 30 minutes for a share. Not to worry, as there was more pork roasted overnight in the kitchen.

pig card“I’ve always had a thing for barbecue,” Harvey says, “and started making my own sauce three years ago.

“I find home-made sauce is best using local ingredients, no preservatives, no fillers. It’s got to have big, bold flavours for me with lots of herbs, spice. I’m not a big fan of vinegar-based sauces.”

Entries were judged blind — by number only, so contestants could not be identified — by a panel that included chefs Michael Blackie and Matt Hall of Next in Stittsville, brewer Justin daSilva, Mallory Jones, Central Frontenac Township mayor Janet Gutowski, and myself. (Sadly, my new friend Harvey from Scarborough did not make the top three winners.)

First place in barbecue sauce was the commercial (but hand-made) Just Wing It Grillin’ Gourmet Maple Chipotle Barbecue Sauce (using a reformulated recipe originally created by chef Thomas Riding, formerly at Sam Jakes Inn and changed by owner Derek Croghan of Toledo, Ont., with local Beau’s beer).

Second was by Marc Mathe of Ottawa for his Carolina-style Maple Mustard Apple blend that, he says, is good on pork and chicken.

IMG_3158Left, Michael McKenzie with Matt Hall, chef de cuisine at Next in Stittsville.

Third went to Kris Wright of Ottawa for his concoction using local honey and 10 different chili peppers. Wright was also running the home brewers competition, a first for Day of the Pig that attracted 60 entries. “A panel of judges ranked each beer’s aroma, appearance, flavour, mouthfeel nd overall impression,” Wright says.

Grand prize home-brew winner was Etienne Bisson’s American Pale Ale from Kingston. Second place, Patrick Boisvenue’s Extra Special Bitter from North Gower; thiurd was Nicholas Lanmg and Juston Champagne-Lagarde’s Specialty Ale with (of all things) cucumber, from Ottawa.

IMG_3175“Mike McKenzie is an old classmate and I’ve been developing barbecue sauces with friends for years,” Wright says.

(Right, judging barbecue sauce is not always a pretty sight. Clockwise from left, Matt Hall, Michael Blackie, Justin daSilva, Mallory Jones, Janet Gutowski. Me, I’m taking the picture.)

“I tried to build this sauce around two of my favourite ingredients — honey and chili peppers. Honey is the only sweetener in the sauce and comes from Maple Lane Farms in Cobden. It has a very nice, smooth flavour that is never overpowering and seems to go with everything.

“For the base I added whatever fresh and dried peppers I had in the house. There are 10 types of chili peppers in this sauce including Anaheim for flavoour and De Arbol for a bit of heat. The sauce is finished with the usual suspects — onion, garlic, salt, pepper, cider vinegar and a bit of oil to keep it from burning on the barbecue,” Wright says.

Just the sauce we need slathered on glistening roast pork, I say. Or on a sausage.

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