Happy Hogs

Greg & Bonnie 2

Connecting with your food and your farmer is an integral part of any farmers’ market.  We strive to take it one step further and give you a little more insight into the products you’re buying and who you are buying them from.  Every once in awhile we get really lucky and can steal a few hours (or more if we’re truly blessed) from one of our farmers; I visit their farm, pick their brains, and learn all about their story.  This week, perfectly timed with Easter approaching, I visited Spragg’s Meat Shop and Farm in Rosemary, Alberta.  Greg and Bonnie Spragg are at the market weekly doing deliveries and saying hello, but we wanted to know more.  Don’t you?

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After being employed at a hog barn for a few years, Greg decided he wanted to take a crack at raising his own pigs.  So, Bonnie purchased 3 little pigs for his birthday in May 2002.  It may not seem like the most romantic birthday gift, but his herd flourished and by the end of the summer, Greg had raised 75 weaner pigs to market weight.  He loves his pigs and it shows; he’s been nicknamed the “pig whisperer” and rightfully so.

What little piggy wouldn’t be happy to romp around in all of that green grass?

They’ve now been farming at their present location for 12 years; growing to have approximately 1000 pigs roaming free at any given time. In addition to the free-roaming hogs, the Spragg farm has 200 acres of irrigated land on which crops of barley, wheat, and faba beans are grown to later grind into the necessary pig feed.

In order to increase production to meet the growing demand, they partnered with another local hog producer who specializes in breeding and weaning.

The baby piglets are born year round inside (where it’s nice and warm!), and are moved to their free-range environment at the Spragg farm when they reach 50lbs.

Running PiggiesGreg and Bonnie’s pigs run and frolic in open interconnected pens, free to eat an antibiotic-free, plant protein diet when they please.

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They live happily, hormone-free, in the fresh air… and they really are happy hogs.  Their pastures are seeded with annual grasses to increase grazing time for the pigs.  And in the colder months, they are provided with straw and alfalfa hay to keep the forage component in their diets.

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I couldn’t resist jumping into the pig pen to take advantage of a more personal introduction.  They’re curious little piggies, gently nudging with a boot-chew here and there, as interested in me as I was in them.

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The above are the ‘little’ piggies, weighing in from approximately 50-70lbs at 3 months old.

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They will bulk up to about 240 lbs by 7-8 months of age, like the hog above, before being sent to market.

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Look at all of that space!!!

If you ask Greg and Bonnie what sets their pork apart from the rest of the pack, they will tell you, first and foremost that they have happy hogs.  But in more technical terms:

  • they do not spray the pastures that the pigs are on for weeds or insects
  • pigs do not receive antibiotics, hormones, or artificial growth promoters to ensure pigs grow faster or leaner than they would naturally
  • their pigs get a plant based diet, with no animal by-products in that feed
  • the barley and faba beans that are fed to the pigs have been grown conventionally (crops are sprayed once to kill the weeds in the field, and the barley crops are grown with inorganic fertilizer when necessary to provide the appropriate levels of fertility in the soil).
Piggie Feed Collage
Faba Beans and Barley grown by Greg & Bonnie Spragg; then ground into a fine flour for pigs to eat when, and as much as, they please.
Spragg’s Meat Shop opened in Rosemary, Alberta in November 2005; due to increasing demand for their product, they built a new (and very impressive) processing plant, on the right, which opened a month ago.
Spragg's Shop
You should see the smokehouse they have now!
Greg & Bacon
Bacon is brined for 10 days before spending time drying and smoking in Greg’s impressive new smokehouse. It’s even digital!
The expansion to include processing allowed Greg and Bonnie to raise the hogs, process them, and then market the pork products direct to the consumer.  The meat shop prepares their free range pork for both the farmer’s market retail locations in Calgary, Brooks and Millarville, as well as restaurant and wholesale customers.  In peak season, they process approximately 50-70 hogs each week; with hogs being butchered twice weekly, the pork you buy Thursday-Sunday at the Calgary Farmers’ Market is as fresh as it gets.

And since they were cutting hams, they gave one to me!  When someone gives you such a beautiful ham, you don’t refuse.  So, here’s and Easy Easter Ham recipe for you.

For more photos of the farm visit, check out our Facebook album.  And for another look at Greg and Bonnie’s happy hogs in greener pastures, check out the slideshow on their website.  Or you can follow them on Twitter and Like them on Facebook!

Want to know more about what sets Spragg’s apart from the rest?  Stop by the meat shop here at the market and ask, they’ll be happy to share more information with you!

Easy Easter Feast

A few things hop to mind when you think of Easter: chocolate bunnies, egg decorating, and ham.  Sure, there are other things that make up Easter, but in terms of food, these three things are pretty prominent.  We wondered how best to offer useful (and delicious) information and landed on: How to Roast a Ham.  It’s dead simple and is a sure-fire way to make every tummy at the table happy.
Plus, we just visited Greg and Bonnie Spragg’s pig farm.  When they offer you a ham, you don’t refuse.  In fact, you thank them gleefully because it’s the most beautiful ham you ever did see.
Ham Collage
Market-Sourced Ingredients

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Remember when we said it was simple?  You can’t get a whole lot simpler than three ingredients.  Yes, we know those ingredients don’t include brown sugar and mustard.  There are a few pretty traditional (and still yummy) ham glazes kickin’ around, but we wanted to give you something a little more off-the-beaten-path than the Cola or Pineapple Ginger recipes.  Plus, the only fruit that’s really “in-season” right now are apples and that’s just a little too close to the old-fashioned ham and apple sauce dinner we used to get at Grandma’s.  Why not try something a little different?

Preheat oven to 325F.  Using a very sharp knife, score fat in a diamond pattern.

Meanwhile, stir amber honey with blueberry balsamic.

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Place ham in a shallow roasting pan just big enough to hold it. Roast in centre of preheated 325F oven, uncovered, allowing 18 to 20 minutes per pound for a bone-in ham.

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Roast ham for 45 minutes before beginning to baste generously with the mixture.  To form a rich glaze, continue brushing with mixture every 15 minutes. Save any remaining glaze. Remove ham to a platter and tent with foil for at least 15 minutes.

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If you want to make a bit of a sauce for your ham: add 1 cup of vegetable broth and any remaining glaze to the pot you roasted the ham in. Stir pan bottom vigorously to scrape up all of the flavor-packed browned bits. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat burner on the stove (you can transfer from roasting pan to smaller pot at the point to make it less cumbersome). Then reduce heat to medium and boil gently, uncovered and stirring often, until slightly reduced, from 5 to 10 more minutes. Pour over sliced ham. Meat will keep well, covered and refrigerated, for a week or more.

Now, we know that ham is often served with traditional sides, like scalloped potatoes.  And if you’re an accomplished or ambitious cook, homemade scalloped potatoes are the bomb.  But as we can guess, you’re all very busy and since we’re selling this as an Easy Easter Feast, we suggest checking out the vast and tasty selection of ready-made agrio boxes at the Cherry Pit.

Agrio Boxes Capture

They offer everything from roasted or quick saute vegetables to easy dress and shake salads, all made in-house by their very talented vegetable butcher.  Easter dinner could not be easier.

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Want to learn more about Greg & Bonnie Spragg?  Check out our farm feature!

Grey Cup Grub

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, even though our local Stampeders weren’t able to pull out a win last weekend, that we’re all pretty excited for the Grey Cup around here.  Call us football fans or food fans or… both!

Whether you’re hosting your friends or heading to a party, you wouldn’t want to fumble on the opening kickoff and show up without food, right?  And with everyone else rushing to the frozen snack aisle like a possessed linebacker… *ahem* we mean flocking to the grocery stores last minute to stand in long lines, we’d like to share some of the incredible (and tasty) things you can find right here in one stop.  Ready?  Huddle up, we’ll be your Grey Cup party quarterback.

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Whether your guests have the appetite of an offensive lineman or punter, who doesn’t like a meatball sub?  With Spragg’s Meat Shop carrying some of the best ready-to-go meatballs around, this is an easy throw-’em-in-the-crockpot and slap-’em-in-a-bun (from Yum Bakery of course) meal for the game.

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Looking for something a little on the lighter side for a delicate wide receiver?  Prawns with cocktail sauce is a huge crowd pleaser and Blu Seafood has some incredible treats from the sea.  In addition to the best tasting prawns we’ve had (in our land-locked region), they also have some excellent crab cakes, salmon burgers, and seafood brochettes that are party-ready with very little prep.

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More of a meat-lover, kill-the-running-back, kind of defensive lineman?  Silver Sage Beef prepares a killer burger (slider and full-sized), they do up a damn good chili, and if you prefer beef in your subs, they also have prepped meatballs.  Not a bad selection.

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And what’s a Canadian party without a Caeser? Edgar Farms (part of Innisfail Growers Co-operative) is famous for their asparagus; we wait, not-so-patiently, for it to arrive on the shelves every June and Elna Edgar makes some mean pickles.  What’s better than a spear of pickled asparagus poking out of the signature drink Canadians love so much?  Nothin’.

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We know not everyone who has ever dawned shoulder pads and a helmet is a big ol’ meat lover, so why not offer them a lighter, equally delicious option?  Kin Sushi has a great selection of ready-made combos and they take larger orders for platter.  They also make a killer miso soup to warm everyone up.

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While we’re talking about healthy alternatives to your Grey Cup party, Cherry Pit has an impressive, and tasty, selection of ready-made salads, roasting vegetables, and made-to-order platters that will suit just about anyone’s dietary preferences or restrictions.

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You may be hosting friends and family in your home for the big game, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some great bar-style snacks at their fingertips.  Going Nuts has a massive selection of nuts of all kinds and flavors that will keep them coming back for more.

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We’re not sure we’ve ever been to a party of any kind that doesn’t have at least one dip as part of the snack/appetizer buffet.  The Stock & Sauce Co. has a vast and varied selection of dips from pâté  to pesto, tapenade to tasty dips, even a chocolate mousse that’s incredible on strawberries, these certainly won’t disappoint your guests.

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If you want a more traditional party spread, nachos or as mainstay as you can get when it comes to sporting events.  Los Chilitos Taqueria makes salsa and chips fresh daily and are quite addictive if we do say so ourselves.

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We’re on a dip roll, we’re not stopping now!  2 Greek Gals has you covered for bruschetta, antipasto, traditional Greek fare like melitzanosalata and tzatziki and some pretty martini-perfect olives for the women that are watching the game with the men.

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Martinis for the women, wings for the men?  Not a bad trade.  Wild Fire Wings has an extensive menu of hot-to-take-home or take-and-bake wings from the common buffalo to the not-so-common dill pickle or garlic & parm.  They use organic Sunworks Farms chicken and they have a buy 3lbs, get 1lb free deal.  Say wha?!  Touchdown!

Meat & Cheese Collage

If you’re hosting a slightly more sophisticated crowd that prefers wine and cheese with their long bombs and 50 yards running plays, Fresh DELIcious offers a selection of import and local cheese and meat that could give any large deli a run for its money.  And they often have Thursday deals, so don’t count them out of your Grey Cup shopping.

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And while we’re challenging you not to leave any market stone unturned… we think you should try to slip in these vegan spare ribs from Hearts Choices.  Lighter than a full meat platter, and just as tasty, we think most people would be hard pressed to point out the vegan option in your party spread.

So there you have it!  A dozen quick and easy, one-stop shopping pick ups right here at the market and a drink garnish too!  So whaddya say?  Skip the long grocery lines and visit our vendors for a Grey Cup party that’s unlike all the rest.

Grilled Apple, Bacon, & Cheddar Sandwich

It’s that time of year… the sun is rising a little later to crisp, cool temperatures, the kids are moaning to stay in bed a little longer, and your blissful sunny summer vacation is starting to feel just a little too far away already.  But with the warm days of summer slipping through or chilly fingers, beautiful gourds, greenhouse-treasures, and apples! are gracing our shelves.  There’s something really comforting about cozying up in a sweater with one of your favorite meals; ours is a grilled cheese.  Yes, you may say it’s just a sandwich…. but it doesn’t have to be.  With seasonal tart apples, smoky bacon, and oozy sharp cheddar, this isn’t just a sandwich… it’s a warm hug on a cold day, a nostalgic mainstay, a damn good quick dinner.  And if you don’t like apples or bacon (you might be a little crazy), but you can throw just about anything between two slices of fresh bread and make a hearty, kid-friendly, speedy dinner for those nights when you’re running out the door to soccer practice or piano lessons or just need a little piece of cheesy heaven.

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Market Sourced Ingredients

2 slices whole wheat bread from Yum Bakery

4 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked crisp from Spragg’s Meat Shop

4 slices Farm House Cheddar (we chose 8 years for it’s deliciously strong flavor) from Sylvan Star Cheese

1/2 Honeycrisp apple, cored, sliced thin from Souto Farms

*Brassica Whole Grain mustard from Blu Seafood

Butter

*This can be substituted nicely with the Stonewall Kitchen Roasted Garlic Onion Jam from La Cucina

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Preheat a seasoned grill pan or griddle over low to medium heat.  Assemble this sandwich just as you would a traditional grilled cheese sandwich: spread 1 slice of bread with some whole grain mustard, then top with cheddar (you can go as little or a lot as you like; we covered most parts of the bread with thin slices of cheese), the bacon, the apple slices, finishing with another mustard-slathered slice of bread.  We chose to use the Honeycrisp apple instead of say, Granny Smith, because it’s the perfect balance of tart and sweet that compliments the rich, sharp aged cheddar.  Unlike Granny Smith that are really quite sour, these may just be the perfect apple.

Butter the outsides of the bread generously and transfer to the pan. Grill about 3 minutes per side until golden. Remove to a cutting board and cut the sandwich in half on the diagonal to serve.  And if it’s a particularly crisp evening and you’re yearning for a hot bowl of soup to dip your ooey-gooey salty, sweet sandwich in, check out The Stock & Sauce Co. for a wide array of hearty, healthy soups.

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Cobb Salad with Roasted Sweet Onion Dressing

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Have you ever met someone who just doesn’t like a cobb salad?  Sure, there are vegetarians or vegans and ingredient-restricted individuals who steer clear of this delicious, often-reinterpreted salad, but there’s something for everyone in the well-rounded salad that eats like a meal.  This version, with a southern sweet onion twist, is sure to please even the pickiest of palates.  While it has many individual elements, it all comes together quickly and taking the time to make your own dressing is entirely worth it.  So let’s get started.

Ingredients

Market-Sourced Ingredients

Dressing:

6 unpeeled garlic cloves from Souto Farms

1-2 large sweet onions, peeled and quartered through the core from Souto Farms

1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for brushing from La Cucina

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

juice and zest of 1 lemon from Cherry Pit

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

Salad:

1 clamshell of fresh Alberta romaine lettuce from Cherry Pit

1 clamshell of fresh spicy microgreens from Cherry Pit

1 avocado from Cherry Pit

1 bag of sweet tomatoes (your preference) from Gull Valley Greenhouses

2 cups shredded cooked Bowden Farms chicken from Spragg’s Meat Shop

1 package of bacon from Spragg’s Meat Shop

4 ounces crumbly Gorgonzola cheese, (1/2 cup) from Fresh DELIcious

1/2 cup toasted pecans, choppped from Going Nuts

2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and sliced lengthwise from Sylvan Star Cheese (or Blush Lane Organics)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

Cobb Salad Collage

MAKE THE DRESSING: As we are likely enjoying the last week of warm sun and beautiful blue skies, we opted to grill the chicken and onions.  We even wrapped the garlic in foil and threw it on the grill too.  If you choose to do this step of the process in the oven, roast at 425°. Wrap the bulb of garlic (or individual cloves) in foil and set on a baking sheet. Brush the onions with oil and arrange on the baking sheet. Bake for about 1 hour, until the onions and garlic are lightly charred and soft. Let cool.

Peel the garlic and transfer the cloves to a processor. Add the onions, cider vinegar and lemon juice and puree until smooth. With the blender on, gradually add the 1/2 cup of olive oil until incorporated. Season the dressing with salt and pepper.  At this point, we’d like to be perfectly transparent and admit that while our recipe calls for absolute measurements, we prefer to free-pour the vinegar and oil and trust our instincts.  Food is all about what tastes good right?  So if you want to add a little more vinegar, knock yourself out!  This dressing should have a good kick to it as it will cut through the rich chicken, bacon, and avocado and balance the salad.  Remember: Taste. Taste. Taste.  Taste as you go.

Set Up

MAKE THE SALAD: In an effort to not overdress the salad (who wants wilty, wet salad?), we placed the romaine and micorgreens in the bowl and arranged the remaining ingredients on top.  Just before serving, add your fresh-made sweet onion dressing and allow your guests to toss it all together to really see the magic happen.

This salad is a full meal that is sure to leave your family satisfied, hitting every mark: crisp lettuce leaves, succulent chicken, salty bacon, creamy avocado, bright tomatoes, nut-crunch…. and that’s just a few!  If you don’t like blue cheese, a milder cheese will absolutely work in this salad.  Choose what you like…. because let’s face it, food is meant to be enjoyed so use what you love and leave with a full and happy tummy.

*The onion dressing can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Spragg’s Pulled Pork Tostadas with Pickled Rhubarb and Jalapeños

Blair Marie Photography // 2013

We are surrounded by a plethora of outstanding local offerings here at the market, and we don’t just mean the strawberries and asparagus.  No, we have some pretty amazing people here too.  If you frequent the market, you know just what we’re talking about.  From farmers to artists to chefs, they bring a wealth of passion, knowledge, and experience that is unparalleled.  And we’re very lucky to have Mike Soucy from Spragg’s Meat Shop on our team.  A trained chef, passionate gardener, obvious foodie, and a new small business owner himself (Seed + Soil is a small urban garden specializing in a unique mix of common and uncommon greens, vegetables, and herbs supplying ten lucky subscribers with weekly produce through the summer months).  Neat idea hey?  We’re happy to say he’s sharing his knowledge and love for food with you too, here on our blog!  Not to mention his better half, Blair, is one heck of a photographer. (All photos courtesy of Blair Marie Photography).

While this recipe is slightly more involved than our previous features, we are sure you will find it delicious and still simple enough to whip up on Saturday while the sun is shining and your friends are laughing in the backyard.

So let’s get started.

Mainly Market-Sourced Ingredients

Serves 4

Pickled rhubarb and jalapeños

Pulled Spraggs pork shoulder

Grilled green onion sauce

8 tostadas (which is just 8 fried tortillas)

Chives (fresh, to garnish)

2 fresh lime (cut into wedges)

Blair Marie Photography // 2013

To Make the Quick Pickled Rhubard and Jalapenos:

3 rhubarb stalks (sliced) from Cherry Pit

4 jalapenos (sliced) from Gull Valley Greenhouses

Brine:

1 cup water

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

6 tablespoons sugar

2.5 teaspoons  salt

Bring water, vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil and allow to cool until lukewarm.  Add liquid to sliced rhubarb and jalapenos.  Yup, it really is that easy.  These are ready to eat immediately, but will get better over time in your refridgerator.

Blair Marie Photography // 2013

To Make the Pulled Pork Shoulder: (ingredients from Spragg’s Meat Shop, Big T’s Smokehouse, and Cherry Pit)

1kg  Pork Shoulder

1  onion (peeled and quartered)

8 cloves of garlic (peeled)

2  sprigs of thyme

1 can or bottle of beer

salt and pepper

1/2 cup  BBQ sauce (we’re fans of Big T’s BBQ Sauce)

Blair Marie Photography // 2013

Preheat your oven at 325F; alternatively, you can roast the pork shoulder on indirect heat of a 325F barbecue. Generously season the pork shoulder, add to the pan or slow cooker with onion, garlic, thyme and half the can of beer. Cook for 5hrs or until tender(almost falling apart), turning meat every hour and adding more beer if pan is dry. Remove thyme, shred pork with your fingers or two forks, add in your BBQ sauce and mix well.

Blair Marie Photography // 2013

To Make the Tostadas: (ingredients from Los Chilitos)

8 corn tortillas

Canola or Grapeseed Oil (for frying)

Salt

Deep fry tortillas in 365F oil for 2-4 minutes until lightly browned and crispy.  Remove from oil and sprinkle with salt.  We understand that some people just aren’t thrilled by the idea of frying.  Some people are scared of hot oil.  And some just want a slightly healthier option.  And for these people, we say don’t let the tostada scare you off, a soft tortilla is a beautiful substitution!

Blair Marie Photography // 2013

To Make the Grilled Green Onion Sauce: (ingredients from Blush Lane Organics)

250ml Greek Yogurt or Sour Cream

6 green onions (grilled and chopped)

3 garlic cloves (minced)

1 teaspoon ground cumin from Silk Road Spice Merchant

Worcester Sauce (4 shakes or more)

Hot Sauce (your favorite and as much as you like)

Salt and Pepper

Olive Oil

Brush green onions with olive oil, season with salt and pepper.  Grill until fully cooked and slightly blackened.  Allow to cool slightly and chop. Combine yogurt, green onions, garlic, cumin, Worcester, and hot sauce. Taste and season to your liking.

Now to get to the good part…. Putting it all together!

Blair Marie Photography // 2013

Smear some green onion sauce onto your crispy tostadas.

Blair Marie Photography // 2013

Then top with pork, pickles and chives.  Squeeze some fresh lime on top, if you like that sort of thing.  And since your friends are having a good time, and you had to open a beer (just one) for the sake of creating this amazing pulled pork, you may as well open another as you serve them this killer meal.  Enjoy!

Blair Marie Photography // 2013