Food Country is a weekly web series featuring Chef Michael Smith and the flavours, people and stories of Prince Edward Island.
One week Food Country follows Michael as he explores the island, searching for fresh ingredients. The next week Food Country visits Michael’s home kitchen as he cooks and creates simple healthy food.
New episodes every Tuesday.
Episode 19 > Aged Beef
Like steak? Prince Edward Island has the best tasting beef in Canada! Our pristine environment is the perfect place to naturally raise cattle and our chefs are proud to feature local beef on their menus. We’re a genuine steak lovers paradise!
Many factors combine to produce a great steak on PEI. On the farmers side the type of cattle, how they’re raised and what they eat yield a world-class raw ingredient. On the chefs side the way the meat is handled, aged and cooked all combine for the perfect steak experience.
Farmers like Darlene Sandford in Mont Carmel understand that job one is a happy cow. Like all island farmers she doesn’t subject her cattle to the stress and strain of giant confined feed lots. Instead her cattle happily enjoy lots of pasture and fresh air. She supplements their diet with her custom blended “secret recipe” of preserved grass, grains and local potatoes. This nutritious tasty feed helps her farm produce high grade meat that tastes differently from the commodity grade products that dominate the industry. Like all island cattle there’s no need for hormones, steroids or preventative antibiotics either. It’s very simple: the quality of a low volume family farm will always trump a high volume industrial product.
PEI’s beef is processed on island at Atlantic Beef Products; the only federally inspected meatpacking plant in the Maritimes. This also raises the meats quality by avoiding the need to subject the animals to a long stressful journey to a far-away processing plant.
In North America beef is graded based on its marbling, its fat content. More fat means more flavour and thus a higher grade. In Canada we have four grades: A, AA, AAA and Prime. PEI’s beef is such high quality that we enjoy the highest percentage of beef in North America grading out at AAA or Prime!
Chef Ross Munro of Sims Steakhouse in Charlottetown is a huge fan of our Island Beef. His restaurant is my favourite place on the island for a “steak experience.” He pioneered a relationship with Island farmers that allows him to proudly feature Prime local beef and like most steakhouse chefs he prefers his meat aged.
Freshly killed beef is perfectly edible but when the meat is allowed to age it’s texture and flavour improves. The vast majority of North American beef is wet aged, sealed in a tough plastic bag and refrigerated for several weeks. A natural enzymatic reaction takes place and the meat tenderizes while its flavour deepens. Chef Ross takes it a step further though and dry-ages some of his beef. This is a much trickier process but the results are a deeply satisfying beefy flavour, an old-school steak that you’ll never forget!