Friday, November 10, 2017

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair: 95th Anniversary

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair is the largest combined indoor agricultural fair and international equestrian competition in the world. The annual event, which takes place over two weeks each November on the grounds of the CNE, was inaugurated in 1922, when a group of farmers led by W. A. Dryden, sought to create a national agricultural exhibition to set national standards for the judging of domestic animals. These days, over 6,000 animals arrive in Toronto every November, including over 4,900 head of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits, and fancy birds, and over 900 horses and ponies, plus a display of wheat crops and vegetables, educational exhibits and feature attractions, such as the Burnbrae Food & Lifestyle Stage, which hosts local and international chef challenges, food sampling, and a wide variety of entertaining and decorating demonstrations during the day; the President's Choice Superdogs and Royal Horse Show, a gala event that has been a cornerstone of the fair since its inception 95 years ago. "Since its humble beginnings 95 years ago, The Royal has grown into a beloved Toronto tradition and an arena of excellence for culinary arts, agriculture and equine sport," said Charlie Johnstone, Chief Executive Officer of The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. "From top chefs and food producers offering the best in the farm-to-table movement to decorated Olympian equestrians competing for a place on The Royal podium, the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair is a celebration and recognition of the best that Canada has to offer the world."

Horse and young rider waiting to enter the practice ring

Two Suffolk lambs posing for the camera — makes me want to become a vegetarian

This lamb gave birth a few days before and the young ones were nestled beside her in the stall

This years award-winning fleece

Shaving a cow before it's presented for competition in the ring

Breeds are represented from all over Canada - coast to coast

A beautiful Holstein having a bite of lunch before appearing in 'Cowsmopolitan'

Waiting to bring their cows into the ring for judging, this young boy reassures his Limousin friend

Exhibiting at the Fair means gruelling 14-hour days as farmers and their animals 
compete for titles, prizes and glory

Giant pumpkins at the Royal Agricultural Fair

38-pound rutabaga

Award-winning multi-fanged carrot

The Cheddar Grand Champion for 2017 — Balderson Extra Old

With a lot of fast food options, The Heritage Court Café is one of the nicer venues 
to enjoy a quiet lunch

A small but good looking menu of soups, salads and sandwiches

Muskoka Brewery Craft Lager made in Bracebridge

The Royal Reuben with smoked meat, melted swiss and champagne sauerkraut 
on marbled rye bread

One of the food events we visited was 'Rediscovering Acadian Food' with Simon Thibault, who researched old family recipes, cookbooks and folk wisdom for his cookbook on best-loved Acadian recipes

Thibault's cookbook celebrating Acadian cuisine

Classic French Canadian Tourtière 
Serves 6
Recipe courtesy of Simon Thibault

1 tbsp butter
1 lb diced pork shoulder
1/4 lb ground or diced veal
3 tbsp chopped onion
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Pinch summer savoury
Pinch thyme
1/2 cup warm water

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup shortening
4 tbsp ice-cold water
1 egg, beaten

In a frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the pork, veal and onion and cook for about 25 minutes, stirring often. Season with salt, pepper, cloves, cinnamon, savoury and thyme, then stir in 1/2 cup of warm water. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Allow the mixture to cool completely – preferably overnight – in the fridge before preparing the dough. Tourtière bakes best when a cold filling is added to the pastry shell. It is your best protection against the dreaded soggy crust. 

Measure the flour into a large bowl, then sift in the salt. Cut room temperature shortening into the flour with a pastry blender until the mixture is uniform and resembles large peas. Blend in cold water and mix with a fork until the dough comes together. Divide the dough in 2 pieces and shape each into a ball. Flatten each into a circle about 4-inches, then wrap and chill for 15 minutes for easier rolling. Roll half the dough on a lightly floured surface and fit into a 9-inch pie plate and spoon in the filling. Roll out the remaining pastry and place over filling. Seal the pastry edges, trim and the flute edges and cut steam vents in upper crust then brush the top with a beaten egg.

Bake in a preheated 450°F oven for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°F for 25 minutes until pastry is golden brown. Allow the tourtière to cool slightly, about 30 minutes, before serving with tomato chutney and nice green salad.

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