By CJ Juntereal
I first saw Canadian beef in the frozen section of one of my favorite supermarkets a few years ago. I didn’t buy any though, because I’m more familiar with Australian and US Beef. After a couple of invitations to dinner by the Canadian Embassy and Canada Beef International Institute, I now know better and purchase Canadian beef as well.
Canadian beef has the same excellent quality as Australian and US beef. Certain factors differentiate them, though, and are helpful in deciding what to buy. First, Canadian beef is grain-fed (mostly barley and wheat). This accounts for the white color of its fat, and bright red color of its meat. Yellowish fat is the result of cattle that is corn-fed or older than it should be. While a prime cut of corn-fed beef has a buttery, slightly sweetish character to its fat that is dangerously delicious, I learned the hard way that yellowish fat from an older animal is not so desirable because it tastes slightly fishy. I had purchased and cooked a rib-eye steak, ignoring the color of its fat because it was so beautifully marbled—and regretted it after a couple of bites because the fat tasted a bit rancid.
Canada harvests its cattle at a younger age, ensuring tenderness and better overall eating quality—and that nice white fat! Chef Mathieu Paré, executive director of Canada Beef Center of Excellence, says that because of the rich marbling and younger age of Canadian beef it can be cooked to a higher temperature and still remain tender and tasty. That’s good news for people who don’t like to eat their steaks
Second, Canadian cattle farms are mainly family operated, with an average herd size of 63 cattle living in wide open spaces with an abundance of fresh water. The producers’ relationship with the land and their commitment to the preservation of natural resources is the foundation of Canadian beef’s quality.
Third, because the Canadian winter is so long, Canadian cattle come from a premium genetic line from Northern Europe that produce the best marbling. The cold is also a natural barrier to disease.
During dinner at the New World Hotel in Makati, Chef Mathieu demonstrated a recipe using two-and-a-half-inch steaks. I would have normally seared it in a pan on top of the stove before finishing it in the oven, but Chef Mathieu cooked it stovetop all the way.
First, he generously seasoned the steak only with salt. He seasons with black pepper only after the steak is done because black pepper becomes bitter over high heat. He then seared the sides on a cast iron pan that had been pre-heated for several minutes, before laying the steak flat. A two-inch steak takes about eight to 12 minutes to cook to 125F or rare. The chef said that if the steak is browning too quickly the heat may be lowered to medium to finish cooking. I don’t recall Chef Mathieu using a thermometer, but then, he is an expert. I use a quick-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the steak to make sure that my steak is cooked to my desired doneness. Lastly, Chef Mathieu rested the steak for 10 minutes before slicing it. During the resting period, the juices are drawn back into the meat, keeping it juicy and tasty. If you slice it right away, all the juices just spill out, leaving behind dry meat.
The steaks, and a Beef Steak Tagalog prepared by Chef Sandy
Pillitteri is well known around the world for its ice wine—a dessert wine that I equate with nectar of gods because of its concentrated essence of grape and honeyed sweetness beautifully balanced with refreshing hint of acidity. Ice wine is made by harvesting grapes in mid-winter when they are frozen and the temperature is roughly -12C. When the hard-as-marbles grapes are pressed (using 200 times more pressure than is used to press regular grapes), only a few drops of highly concentrated sweet essence are extracted from each grape because the water content is frozen solid and only the sugars can be squeezed out. I used to beg relatives to bring me ice wine from Canada, so I’m happy that I can now purchase it in the Philippines.
Canadian beef doesn’t yet have the same brand awareness for premium quality as beef from other countries, but it has good qualities and a strong support system that may soon change that. In fact, to quote Canadian Ambassador John T. Holmes, “….we are proud that Canadian beef is ahead of the herd.”
Canadian Beef is available in all Rustan’s, Marketplace, and Shopwise branches.
For great recipes and tips on cooking Canadian Beef go to www.canadabeef.ca
The original article was first published in Manila Bulletin Lifestyle.