Recipe: Mario’s Big Batch Chili

I make only two recipes in big batches with the intention of freezing most of it – tomato sauce and chili.  They both freeze well, make prepping great dinners on rushed nights a breeze, and other than having to chop a few extra ingredients the overall time it takes to make them is the same.

There are 3,000 variations of chili, and I love every one of them.  My go-to chili however is easy, relatively quick, and I cheat by using a premixed chili mix (Organic of course).   If you want to kick it up a notch, check out our previous posts like this Mexican Chili Braised Short Ribs, Spicy Balsamic Chili, or Bacon Bison Chili.

Ingredients (4 servings + freezer portions for another 2 meals)
2-3lbs of ground meat (all ground beef, or all ground bison, or mix one of them 50/50 with ground pork.  If you use 3lbs of meat, it’ll be a meatier chili… 2lbs is fine)
4 -5 onions, diced (I like to use 1 or 2 spanish onions in the mix, but all yellow/white is fine as well – just use whatever is in your fridge)
6 or so carrots, peeled and sliced
6 or so celery stocks, peeled and diced
6 or so garlic cloves (more is fine, you can never have too much garlic)
1 package of chili seasoning
1 package of lardons (optional – this will give you a bacony smoky flavour)
3 cans of whole tomatoes
2 cans white Cannellini beans
1 can of Kidney beans  (listen, you need beans to make a chili… whether you use the combo of Cannellini and Kidney I’ve said, or Northern beans, or Black beans it really doesn’t matter – use what you have in your pantry.  And of course, you could use dried beans, but then there’s the process of dealing with them.  So for the purposes of this easy recipe, stick with canned beans)
OPTIONAL INGREDIENTS FOR THE TABLE:  Grated cheddar or other cheese, diced up green onions, diced up hot pepper like jalapeno, Fresh crusty bread.

  1. In a large pot on medium heat, cook the carrots, onions and celery (otherwise known as the mirepoix).   Give them time to reduce down – this is where the base flavour of the chili is born, don’t rush it.   When the carrots are soft and can be cut with a wooden spatula, it’s ready.
  2. In a separate frying pan, brown the meat.  You don’t have to do this in a separate pan, but I do it because I can get a good browning of the meat and also reduce the total cooking time to half. Add the chili seasoning.
  3. Add the meat to the large pot.   Depending on how much fat you have, you can choose to remove some.  I usually don’t.
  4. Add the whole tomatoes, but you need to squish them by hand one-by-one.  Keep your fist up/palm down so that the juices squirt down into the pot and not up on to you.  You might ask why I don’t use diced tomatoes… I simply find the resulting chili is better with hand crushed whole tomatoes.   But if you used diced tomatoes, that’ll be fine.  Do not use crushed tomatoes, the chili ends up with the consistency of a tomato sauce rather than a nice chunky chili.   Bring to a simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. Stir occasionally, taste and adjust your seasoning.   You can add more chili, kick up the heat with cayenne, or add other spices if you wish.
  6. Add the beans and simmer for another 30 minutes or so.   The longer you simmer, the thicker your chili will be.
  7. Serve with fresh bread, grated cheese,  diced up chili peppers, or whatever else you want.



Recipe: Pork Belly – 2 ways


Everyone loves pork belly.   That’s because everyone loves bacon, and bacon is made from pork belly.   But making bacon at home is not easy; you have to brine & cure the belly, then smoke it.   Pancetta, the Italian version of bacon, is cured but not smoked and still is slightly involved.  Both of those preparations of pork belly overlook the sheer simplicity of roasting.

I can assure you that a simple roasted pork belly will be amongst the most impressive dishes you can make.  This week, we’ve selected two preparations and included instructions and video.   The first is Gordon Ramsay’s roasted pork belly – it’s simple and epic.  The second is a common chinese preparation of pork belly.

Either way, (raw) pork belly costs a fraction of the loin, ham, or even shoulder cuts of pork and is absolutely delicious and extremely easy to make.

Slow-Roasted Pork Belly – by Gordon Ramsay

  1. Score the fat side of the pork belly into diamonds
  2. Rub salt all over the belly
  3. In a roasting pan, cook  down some fresh fennel, garlic, fennel seeds, star anise, and cardomom
  4. Sear the fat side of the pork belly, and rub some fennel seeds into the cracks of the pork skin.
  5. Now with the belly in the roasting pan, fat side up, add white wine, reduce, then add stock up to the level of the skin but not covering it.
  6. Roast the pork belly for 2.5hrs at about 350C.
  7. Remove the belly, skim the fat in the remaining juice, and then bring to a simmer, add mustard, and simmer before moving to a serving jug.
  8. Slice and serve.


Chinese-Style Juicy Braised Pork Belly with Garlic, Chili and Tofu

This recipe is a modified version of the one found here:

Ingredients (4 servings)
9 g ginger
1 stalk green onion
2 cloves garlic
500 g pork belly
50 g sugar
1 l water
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 chilis (dried)
2 star anise
0.5 cinnamon stick
5 bay leaves
5 g soy sauce
2 tsp shaoxing wine (or a dry sherry  or Japanese Sake)
vegetable oil for frying

  1. Cut ginger into thin slices and green onion into large chunks. Mince garlic. Cut pork into bite-sized cubes.
  2. Fill wok one third of the way full with hot water. Place pork belly in water, bring to a boil, and cook for approx. 5 – 7 min. Strain and set aside.
  3. Add vegetable oil and sugar to wok and cook over medium-low heat for approx. 3 – 5 min. until it begins to lightly caramelize . Carefully add a bit of water to thin out caramel. Remove caramel from wok and set aside .
  4. Heat oil over medium-high heat, return pork to pan, and cook until fat has rendered, approx. 4 – 6 min. Discard excess oil from pan and then add green onion, ginger, garlic, chilis, star anise, cinnamon, and bay leaves. Return caramelized sugar to pan and cook for approx. 1 – 2 min. until all ingredients are evenly coated in sugar. Next, add soy sauce, wine, and water. Reduce heat to low and cook for approx. 1 – 2 hrs. until volume has reduced by half and sauce has thickened. Enjoy with aromatic rice



Should hydroponically grown food be considered Organic?

After a lengthy and divisive battle that included protests where farmers sported signs saying “Keep the Soil in Organic”, on November 1st, 2017 the U.S. National Organic Standards Board voted that hydroponic gardens will remain eligible for organic certification. That’s a mouthful. Let us give you the 60 second overview:

What is hydroponic?

Hydroponic is the process of growing plants without soil. A typical hydroponic greenhouse is depicted below, as is an infograph on how the process works.



Farmer side:

Several years ago, soil based farmers in the U.S. discovered that hydroponically grown produce was being produced and sold as Organic with no indication that such products were produced hydroponically. Their stance is that the roots of “Organic” (no pun intended) are deeply buried (again, no pun intended) in soil health.


They argue that organic food is about an entire ecosystem that starts with taking care of the soil, using crop rotation and animal pasturing to rejuvenate the nutrients naturally, and using natural pollinators and pest control. “It is a way for farming, which can often be ecologically destructive, to work with the planet.”[ref]

They argue that soil grown vegetables are both tastier and more nutritious. David Miskell of Miskell’s Premier Organics in Charlotte, Vermont a very early proponent of Organics stated “Growing soilless plants with force fed organic nutrients is a step backward. Perhaps it is a technological innovation, but not an organic innovation. Call it what you want, but it is not organic.”

High-tech side:

Facing off with the farmers are, I guess you can group them as, “high-tech” growers, including large agribusiness companies like Driscoll’s and Wholesum Harvest. They argue “organic” is based on inputs, and the essence of organic is feeding the plants clean nutrients while avoiding the use of chemical pesticides. They argue that hydroponic systems are more efficient, and more financially feasible to set up.

As of last week, they won the debate.

How does this apply to Canada?

At the present moment, it doesn’t. Hydroponic agriculture is specifically excluded from today’s Canadian Organic standards, and the current U.S.-Canada Organic Equivalence Arrangement explicitly states that “Agricultural products produced by hydroponic or aeroponic production methods shall not be sold or marketed as organic in Canada”.

That doesn’t mean that you won’t find hydroponically-grown produce labeled Organic in your grocery store today. In fact, the opposite is true but that is the result of a lack of enforcement on the regulations at the border when such products are imported. Hydroponic (as well as aquaponic) agriculture will no doubt be debated in Canada soon. What are your thoughts? Our opinion is that “Organic” has already been watered down enough and it needs to avoid being overly inclusive so that it can maintain a level of consumer confidence. Should hydroponic and aquaponic agriculture exist? Absolutely, and perhaps they can simply be labeled “Organic Hydroponic” and “Organic Aquaponic”.

For a more in-depth article, click here.

Recipe: Ratatouille


We received multiple positive comments regarding last week’s White Wine Braised Bison Stew with Figs and Raisins… so this week we are sticking with a stew theme but instead featuring a classic vegetarian stew.

Ratatouille was made famous by the Pixar animated movie by the same name (if you haven’t seen Ratatouille, definitely watch it – it is brilliant for adults and children alike). In that movie, a rat named Remy cooks up a version of Ratatoille called “Confit Byaldi”. Aside: famous Chef Thomas Keller was the food consultant for the movie. The Confit Byaldi is a very pretty version of Ratatouille, but the dish at its heart is a simple to make, peasant stew.

We’ve provided the recipe and a quick video to the simple version… and if you’re feeling courageous and have time on your hands, we’ve also provided a video for the Confit Byaldi version.

Either way, this dish should be in everyone’s repertoire.


Simple Ratatouille:


  • 2 red onions
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 aubergines
  • 3 courgettes
  • 3 red or yellow peppers
  • 6 ripe tomatoes
  • ½ a bunch of fresh basil
  • olive oil
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 x 400 g tin of quality plum tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • ½ a lemon


  1.  Prep your ingredients before you start – peel and cut the onions into wedges, then peel and finely slice the garlic. Trim the aubergines (eggplants) and courgettes (zucchini), deseed the peppers and chop into 2.5cm chunks. Roughly chop the tomatoes. Pick the basil leaves and set aside, then finely slice the stalks.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large casserole pan or saucepan over a medium heat, add the chopped aubergines, courgettes and peppers (you may need to do this in batches) and fry for around 5 minutes, or until golden and softened, but not cooked through. Spoon the cooked veg into a large bowl.
  3. To the pan, add the onion, garlic, basil stalks and thyme leaves with another drizzle of oil, if needed. Fry for 10 to 15 minutes, or until softened and golden.
  4. Return the cooked veg to the pan and stir in the fresh and tinned tomatoes, the balsamic and a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
  5. Mix well, breaking up the tomatoes with the back of a spoon. Cover the pan and simmer over a low heat for 30 to 35 minutes, or until reduced, sticky and sweet.
  6. Tear in the basil leaves, finely grate in the lemon zest and adjust the seasoning, if needed. Serve with a hunk of bread or steamed rice.

Pixar Style Ratatouille



Real Recipe: Bison (or Beef) Braised in White Wine, Finished with Figs and Raisins

By Mario Fiorucci, Co-Founder of The Healthy Butcher

About this recipe.

This recipe is one of my all time favourites.  Most people automatically assume that beef or bison, being big red meat, must be paired with red wine when stewed; on the contrary, white wine works wonders to bring out the delicate flavour of quality red meat.  The addition of figs and raisins brings sweetness at an equal level to the savoriness of a meat stew.


  • 2-3 lbs beef stew or bison stew or beef blade steaks or bison blade steaks
  • Olive oil and butter
  • 3 carrots
  • 3-4 celery stalks
  • 6 or so garlic cloves
  • 4 cups beef stock (if bison or game stock is available, go with that!)
  • 2-3 cups white wine
  • 1/4 bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Good handful of dried figs
  • Good handful of raisins (I prefer golden or Sultanas, but any raisins will do)
  • Salt and pepper
  • A large pot, preferably an enameled cast iron French oven about 5-6 litres.


1. Season the blade steaks generously with salt and pepper. Heat the pot and place butter and olive oil inside. Sear the meat on both sides (you’ll have to do this in batches, don’t crowd the meat), then remove from heat and set aside.

2. Add vegetables and garlic and sweat over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits (deglazing).

3. Add wine and reduce at least half way.

4. Place meat back in pan, add stock to just barely cover the meat, then bring to a bare simmer (add more wine if you wish as well).  Add thyme and bay leaves, and check the seasoning of the liquid. It should be fully seasoned now so add salt and pepper if it is needed. Cover with a tight fitting lid and continue cooking on stove top or in oven at 300˚F to 325.

5. After about 2 hours, remove the meat and strain the liquid.  Add back the meat, figs and raisins, bring back to a bare simmer.   Depending on the pot you are using and the exact quantity of meat, it will another hour or two before it is finished.  Remove the meat when “fork-tender”.  The meat will get very tough during the cooking process so don’t worry.  If you are using blade steaks instead of stewing meat, they will fall apart so you may find it best to separate nice pieces of meat and serve on top of a bed of mashed potatoes or yams.

6. About 15 minutes before serving, strain some of the braising liquid into a pot or saucier and reduce it until thick; drizzle this sauce over your finished dish.  Enjoy!


The State of Organics in Canada – July 2017 Report

The State of Organics in Canada

The Canada Organic Trade Association recently released a report on the state of Organic in Canada.  The report rates each province as well as the federal government on four categories: (1) Regulation & Enforcement; (2) Supporting Organic Production; (3) Building the Organic Market; and (4) Data Collection.

Here are the highlights:

Gaps in organic regulations persist in some jurisdictions

The Federal Government introduced national organic regulations in 2009. Manitoba, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have adopted the national standards. Quebec has its own regulation, and the remainder of the provinces and territories do not have any regulation at all. This leaves significant gaps as provinces and territories without regulations
cannot enforce or regulate intra-provincial/territorial organic claims.

Quebec is leading the way in government commitment to the organic sector

Quebec is a leader among the provinces and territories. It has the oldest organic regulations and extensive organic production support, market support and data collection.

Ontario is falling short despite being the largest market

Ontario is the largest organic market in Canada. Yet, there are no provincial regulations and provincial government support is limited and inconsistent.

Organic data collection systems are limited and inconsistently available

One of the greatest gaps in policy and programming is the limited amount of data collection for the organic sector. The lack of robust, consistent and timely data results in uninformed decision making, which poses a risk to the sector. Quebec and Manitoba have the most extensive data collection efforts across jurisdictions.

To read the full report, click here:  The State of Organics: Federal-Provincial-Territorial Performance Report 2017

For a Globe and Mail article summarizing the report, click here.



A Deeper Look at Where Food Starts… the Pasture


While the sheer amount of rain in Ontario this spring has wreaked havoc on lower grounds such as Toronto Island and the Beaches, the rain certainly has meant healthy grass.  To us at The Healthy Butcher that means one thing, 2017 will be an epic year for locally raised 100% Grassfed beef.

In this week’s video we take an in depth look at what makes up a healthy pasture at Pure Island Beef in Manitoulin Island, one of our favourite Ontario farms.


Wine Pairing Rules (plus a nifty infograph)

The-Healthy-Butcher-Wine-Pairing-RulesClick on the image above for a nifty infograph of food and wine pairing.

The following are three general rules, and 5 specific rules that will suit you well as you drink your way through our wines

The sheer volume of books and websites that exist to explain “the rules” of how to pair wines is astounding, which is why our General Rule #1 is the correct starting point.


There are no rules – only suggestions and personal preferences. If you like a combo you’ve had before, run with it.  Experiment and Enjoy!  If you have a glass of wine in your hand, realize how lucky you are and enjoy every drop.


If you’re cooking a recipe typical of a certain wine region, stick with wine from the same region. The foods of a country and the wines of a country have a historic bond that forms part of that country’s


When thinking of how to pair a food, concentrate on the dominant flavour.   That means that how a meat is prepared is usually more important than the type of meat itself. Chicken with a lemon butter sauce will call for a different more delicate wine to play off the sauce than a grilled chicken breast smothered in a spicy BBQ sauce.   So broad statements that say a certain meat pairs well with a certain wine are only sometimes correct.  The key is to think about the dominant flavour.


Pair a dry Rosé when serving a wide range of Hors D’oevres.  A Rosé combines the crispness of a white with the fruitiness of a red, so it will pair well with the variety of flavours being served.


Acid needs acid.  If squeezing a lemon on the food you’re serving is a good idea, pair with a light, acidic, unoaked white.  A pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc will be perfect.

Our pick: Perlage Pinot Grifio delle Venezie IGT


Tannins need fat.  A marbled rib eye steak, grilled sausages or duck confit need a big red.

Our picks:

Eos Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Central Coast

Ryder Estate Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon

Four Vines Lodi Old Vine Zindandel

Fanti Brunello di Montalcino DOCG


Heat needs sweet.  e.g. Riesling with spicy Indian food.

Our pick: Southbrook Connect Organic White


Earthy needs earthy.  e.g. Mushrooms, bison or venison pair beautifully with Pinot Noirs.

Our picks:

Southbrook Triomphe Pinot Noir VQA

Craftwork Estate Pinot Noir Monterey


Has Local Gone To Far?

Has-Local-Gone-Too-Far-Title-Header-1600by Jonathan Silver

In today’s blog post we’re featuring an article entitled “Has Local Gone Too Far?” by Jonathan Silver, a local writer, activist, and food philosopher.

No doubt, “buy local” is a contentious issue; the demand for foods labelled in some way “local” has exploded from virtually zero in the 80s to almost mandatory today. That said, the same people that absolutely demand local and shun people who don’t look demand local also buy oranges, kiwi and coconuts, use olive oil daily, and will wear clothes from the far reaches of the Globe.

Jonathan’s article puts things into perspective. Yes, buying local is great for many reasons but it isn’t the be all and end all. It simply is one of many values we must weigh when making a purchasing decision. Organic vs. Local vs. GMO-free vs. Ethically Raised vs. Grassfed vs. Free of Chemicals and the list goes on – all of which have merits.

At The Healthy Butcher, without a doubt we prioritize local when a quality, Organically-produced or raised product is available. But that’s not the case. Our 100% Grassfed Wagyu Beef imported from Firstlight Farms in New Zealand has easily become our best selling beef… why wouldn’t it, it fills a void we don’t have in Ontario. And our vote is to buy Organic imported strawberries over sprayed conventional local strawberries every time (especially because strawberries are always one of the dirty dozen, see:

Has Local Gone Too Far

The importance of eating locally grown food has gained a strong presence in public consciousness—perhaps its presence is a little too strong. Being local is often considered the ultimate indicator of ethical food. But, in truth, local is just one of many factors we need to weigh in before putting an item into our grocery basket.

When a grocery store, a food package or even a farmer tells you that a product is locally grown, locally made or locally crafted, why is that a reason for buying it? To answer that question, it’s helpful to start from the bottom, by asking the most basic question: What does “local” even mean?

“Local” means, in the most basic sense, that the product you’re holding didn’t come from afar. But that raises another question: What counts as far away? A person who prefers Ontario-grown tomatoes might think tomatoes from Mexico are grown far away, yet another person might even avoid Ontario-grown tomatoes if they grow tomatoes in their backyard. Putting that question aside, it’s safe to say that if we want local food, what we really want is food that isn’t from too far away, whatever “far away” means.

So the next question we need to ask is why don’t we want food that comes from far away? Or to put it the other way around: Why do want food that comes from close by? There are many answers to this question. Let’s look at a few of them.

Reducing Carbon Footprint

Food from afar must travel long distances to get to us, and that uses fossil fuels. The idea seems simple: if you eat food that travels less distance from where it’s grown to where it’s processed to where it’s eaten, you will consume less fossil fuels.

But if you’re just interested in using less fossil fuels, sometimes it makes sense to buy the apple grown further away if it travelled a more fuel efficient journey on a freighter truck than the apple grown nearby that travelled an inefficient journey in the farmer’s van that got caught in stop-and-go city traffic. Mass freighting can create efficiencies in carbon expenditure that you don’t get with small-scale freighting.

Keep Money in the Community

Another reason to buy food from nearby is to keep money in your community. If you spend $100 on locally grown food, then a good part of that money will stay in the hands of local businesses, where local residents can use it to make local purchases again and again. When you buy imported foods, you’re paying for distributors and importers and wholesalers and insurers and warehouses who often have their head offices and shareholders outside your community, or even outside your country. Buying local food keeps money in your community; buying food from afar funnels money out of your community.

But if keeping money in community hands is what matters most to you, then sometimes you may be better off buying non-local food from a locally owned business instead of a locally grown product sold in Walmart.

Trust in the Supply Chain

Perhaps you like buying local food because small supply chains make it easier for you to know where your food is coming from. There’s something reassuring in holding an Ontario-grown apple in your hand—you can put some trust in the labour and farming practices that went into growing that fruit. Getting the backstory on foods from afar can be incredibly difficult or impossible.

But you don’t need to travel far away to find agricultural and labour practices you don’t like. GMO crops, inhumanely raised animals, heavy chemical footprints (think herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides) and monocultures all exist in Ontario. So if you buy local in hopes of avoiding practices you don’t like, sometimes the imported option will be the better one.

Health Benefits

A lesser-known reason for choosing local is for the health benefits. Many nutrients degrade during transport (e.g. antioxidants oxidize), and many distantly-grown foods are bred for transportability instead of nutritional content. But if nutritional content is what you’re after, then sometimes it makes sense to choose the non-local option. For example, if you’re trying to make the most nutritious tomato sauce, then you’re better off going with imported canned tomatoes than locally grown tomatoes. Canned tomatoes are pasteurized and this process makes their lycopene content more bioavailable(1) than the lycopene in fresh tomatoes (lycopene might reduce risk of cardiovascular disease).

We Value Different Values

As you can see, buying local is about buying foods produced nearby, and there are many reasons why being grown nearby is important. I’ve listed a few of those reasons, but there’s a long list of other considerations: developing local food culture, creating a market for local varieties (which improves biodiversity!), having access to better information about varietals (“Is this tomato an Atomic Red or a Bolero?”), and building social relationships with food producers and manufacturers.

Weighing Values

As if making good food choices isn’t complicated enough, other factors often weigh in and make things more complicated. As a conscious eater, no doubt you’ve experienced this before: You’re standing in the grocery store trying to decide between two options. There’s a pint of certified organic strawberries grown in California and there’s a pint of non-organic strawberries grown locally. Which do you buy: local or organic?

What’s happening in this scenario is you have to make a value calculation. There are two values weighing in on your decision—your value for local food and your value for organic food. This is why it’s important to get clear on just why local is important to you. Do you want local because you want to minimize your carbon footprint, or because you want to support local farmers, or because of another reason? If you want local mostly because you want to support local farmers, you can put down the Californian strawberries.

These complicated scenarios are ubiquitous in our food choices. Do you go for the locally produced GMO soy milk or the imported organic soy milk? Do you prefer the local butter produced by cows fed on GMO corn or the imported butter produced with cream from grass-fed cows? In the winter, do you eat pesticide-intensive greenhouse-grown local strawberries or organic strawberries trucked from Mexico? In February, do you eat local corn-fed beef or grass-fed beef imported from New Zealand? (Remember, grass doesn’t grow during Ontario’s winter months…and hopefully it never does)

Once you know your reasons for buying local, you’re in a better position to choose the food option that most aligns with your values—whether that option is local or not.

Making these decisions can feel overwhelming. But there’s good news! There’s no right answer in these scenarios. When we’re forced to make these sorts of calculations, we have to pick and choose the criteria that are most important to us based on our values. So instead of getting hung up on what is the right decision, try getting clear about what you value and which options align with those values.

If you’re interested in making ethical food choices, then it’s crucial to understand that “local” is just one of many factors to consider when evaluating options at the grocery store or farmers’ market. But it’s tough to dig up information on our food and make value-based calculations. The best way to avoid all this confusion is to make fewer decisions; find a trustworthy grocer who can answer your questions, and let them do the deliberating for you

Jonathan Silver is an activist and food philosopher. He tweets @silverjonsilver.



(1) Shi, J. 2000. “Lycopene in tomatoes chemical and physical properties affected by food processing”. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 40 (1): 1-42.