fluffy pig toronto

Toronto chefs are going wild for furry pigs

Despite its fluffy exterior, this darling-looking animal isn't a sheep. It's a Mangalista pig, a heritage breed from Hungary that local chefs will be celebrating in Toronto. Our city's second annual Pigstock is coming soon, and to mark it, the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance and Le Select Bistro's Albert Ponzo are throwing two events to introduce locals to this woolly creature.

The pigs have a gamey flavour and are especially fatty, making them ideal for charcuterie. They nearly went extinct, but are gaining popularity again as farmers, including some in Ontario, are starting to raise them.

"In some ways, it was almost endangered," says Ponzo. But the best way to save an endangered species like that is to cook it and eat it because then it'll create demand for it."

He first came across Mangalista pigs about five years ago at a workshop in New Jersey where he learned how to utilize the whole animal from Christoph Wiesner, a butcher who teaches seam butchery.

"After that trip, I wanted to bring it to Toronto to let the chefs here have a taste for it," says Ponzo.

For Toronto's Pigstock, happening on Monday, October 24 at Evergreen Brick Works, chefs and other industry insiders will also get to hear from Wiesner and will learn how to break down a Mangalista pig.

"The main takeaway we want them to have from that session is that working with a whole animal is more cost efficient and better for the farmer," says Agatha Podgorski, community manager at Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance. Her organization champions Feast On, a designation program for restaurants committed to serving food grown (or raised) in Ontario.

Participants will also get to hear from Brian Polcyn, who wrote the book Charcuterie and Salumi - books that are like bibles for those who make their own charcuterie.

The night before, Le Select Bistro will play host to La Grande Choucroute, an Alsatian feast featuring choucroute - a sauerkraut dish - along with Mangalista pork cooked by a group of chefs, including Ponzo and Carl Heinrich from Richmond Station.

For this weekend's festivities, chefs will be working with a 360 pound saw from Sylvania Farms near Niagara-on-the-Lake, one of the local farms keeping these furry pigs alive.

Photo via Ontario Culinary Tourism.

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