Frequently Asked Questions
Product of Canada
Under the guidelines when the label claim Product of Canada is applied, all or virtually all of the significant ingredients, components, processing and labour used in the food product must be Canadian. Food products claiming Product of Canada must contain very little or no foreign content, with the exception of minor food additives, spices, vitamins, minerals and flavouring preparations.
Made in Canada
The Made in Canada claim may be used when the food product is manufactured or processed in Canada regardless of whether the ingredients are imported or domestic or a mix of both. However, this claim must always be qualified with either Made in Canada from domestic and imported ingredients or Made in Canada from imported ingredients. To use these qualified claims, the last substantial transformation of the product must have occurred in Canada. This recognizes the importance of value added by Canadian ingredients and processing.
When cooking with olive oil it is important to note that both types have a smoke point. This point is a temperature where it will literally smoke while the flavours and health benefits of the oil begin to dimish.
Virgin Oil – approximately 420 degrees Fahrenheit
Extra Virgin oil – approximately 410 degrees Fahrenheit
Virgin oil is a more cost effective way to cook with olive oil and won’t impart much flavour onto your food (unless that’s what you want!) while both are suitable to be served raw.
You should never store olive oil in your refrigerator. Inevitably, the oil will congeal and then it will need to thawed in order for it to be served. Constantly altering the oils physical state significantly shortens the shelf life. Olive oil is best kept in a cool, dark place, such as the basement or a cupboard. Keep the oil away from its three enemies – light, heat and oxygen.
An old saying to remember is ‘new oil, old wine’. It refers to the nutritional benefits of olive oil which are at their peak on the day of production. Every day following this is part of a deterioration process where the oil slowly loses its flavor and nutritional value. The deterioration process is accelerated by exposure to light, heat and air. Always check the bottle for a best before date. On average, producers will allow between 1-2 years after the oils creation.
Juice from the grapes (referred to as must) is simmered in copper kettles over wood fires for days. The water evaporates, intensifying the flavor of the must and reducing the liquid. Once cooled, this must is then aged in large wooden barrels, where it becomes a complex liquid layered with flavours of the earth, the grape and the wood. In Modena, barrels sit in the hot attics of Italian houses for decades, the perfect atmosphere for the aging process to occur.
You must first understand the different types of balsamic vinegar available:
Authentic traditional artisan balsamic vinegar
This is the only kind that may legally be described as Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale in the Euro-zone and it must be sold in a special bottle.Only two places produce true traditional balsamic vinegar, Reggio Emilia and neighbouring Modena, both in Italy. True balsamic vinegar is made from a reduction of pressed Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes. The resulting thick syrup, called mosto cotto in Italian, is subsequently aged for a minimum of 12 years in seven barrels of successively smaller sizes. The casks are made of different woods like chestnut, acacia, cherry, oak, mulberry, ash, and, in the past, juniper. True balsamic vinegar is rich, glossy, deep brown in color and has a complex flavour that balances the natural sweet and sour elements of the cooked grape juice with hints of wood from the casks.
Condimento grade products.
These are often are often a mix of the two above. Condimento balsamic vinegars may be labeled as condimento balsamico, salsa balsamica or salsa di mosto cotto. As there are no official standards or labeling systems to designate condimento balsamic vinegars, it can be hard to tell their quality based on the packaging alone.
Condimento balsamic vinegar may be made in any of the following ways:
- Made and aged in the traditional way in Modena or Reggio Emilia, but without association supervision and approval until 2009, but now with Reg.CEE n. 583/2009 the product is IGP (PGI)
- Made by producers of tradizionale balsamic vinegars but aged less than the minimum 12 years, so no association approval is possible
- Made by the same method as the tradizionale vinegars, but made by producers located outside of Modena and Reggio Emilia provinces and not made under association supervision
- Made of ordinary balsamic vinegar (see below) with the addition of reduced grape juice (mosto cotto) in varying proportions, without any aging
Commercial grade balsamic vinegar.
These are produced on an industrial scale and imitate the traditional product. They are made of wine vinegar with the addition of colouring, caramel and sometimes thickeners like guar gum or cornflour to artificially simulate the sweetness and thickness of the aged Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena. There is no aging involved, and hundreds of thousands of litres can be produced every day.
3-5 years – good for salad dressings, dipping sauces for vegetables and bread, sauces and marinades.
6 – 11 years – more viscous and quite versatile. Use it in sauces (at the end of cooking), in risotto and pasta dishes, in marinades and mixed with mayonnaise or sour cream for a sandwich condiment.
12 – 150+ years – best used after the cooking is finished and in mild dishes (nothing to spicy or heavily seasoned). This allows it to shine on it’s own! Use it to flavor meat like chicken, steak, fish or veal. It is well suited for fruit and cheese pairings, such as strawberries, peaches and pears, along with ricotta or feta cheese.
It can also be enjoyed by itself (just a tiny bit) or added to water (or sparkling water) for a refreshing beverage or simply as an after dinner digestive.
Through our importing and distributing experience, we have encountered the harsh realities that exist within the food industry; namely, that imported goods (and even domestic goods) are far too often modified and manipulated for economic gain. We have come to value traditional farming operations that offer personal responsibility for what they create. Our goal is to defend and promote such artisanal practices, and it is exclusively with these types of operations that we do business. It is important to us to meet with each supplier and build a personal relationship with them as well as learn about their products and production process on a first hand basis.
We’re not talking about the small candy flavoured with rum and covered in chocolate but these ones are just as tasty!
These pricy delicacies are a strong-smelling underground fungus that resembles an irregular, rough-skinned potato. They grow mainly in broad-leaved woodlands on calcium rich soils. They are found with the help of trained pigs or dogs. It is cousins with the mushroom.
Truffles tend to infuse their odor and flavor to everything around them, which is why they work perfectly with ingredients that are submissive and agreeable to let the truffle take center stage.
- The Truffle Is King: Never try to overthrow him with other foods with strong flavors and overwhelming aromas, as the truffle flavor will be lost – a horrible waste.
- Fat is good! Fats work perfectly with truffles, and help bring the full flavor out, which is why truffles are usually paired with fatty foods like foie gras, butter, cheese, cream, and oils. Whichever kind of truffle you’re using, this rule works.
- Holy Trinity: pasta, rice, potatoes. Bland foods are brilliant to bring out the delicious flavor of the truffle.
- Shave, Sliver, and Slice: You always want to maximize the truffle flavor, using the least amount of the ingredient as possible. So always slice into paper-thin wedges or strips, and let them work their magic. Use a truffle shaver (similar to a cheese grater) when shaving truffles. As for quantity, typically use 8-10 grams of truffle per person.
- Save the Peel! If the recipe asks for a peeled truffle, save the peel to use for other recipes, or sauces.
- Punch Up The Preserved: If you have eaten or cooked with Fresh Truffles before, don’t expect to get the same flavor out of Preserved Truffles. Although aromatically exceptional in their own right, we do recommend enhancing the flavor of preserved truffles with a Truffle Paste, to truly bring back the fresh truffle flavor.
Salt not only helps to bring out the flavor in your food, but it is also essential in helping your body to function properly. You need salt to help you maintain a healthy weight as well as balanced fluid levels. It can help you to prevent cancer, ulcers and kidney problems, it helps to regulate your heart rhythm, and it is good for your brain. Therefore it is very important that you obtain enough salt in your daily diet so that your body can function at its best.
The best way to obtain your salt is naturally from plants, but you can also obtain the benefits from your table salt or unrefined sea salt. Both salts contain similar ingredients, but at the same time there is a difference between the two. And knowing what this difference is may compel you to throw your old salt out.
Sea salt is obtained naturally from sea waters. The water is collected into large ponds where it is allowed to naturally evaporate from the sun and wind. As the water evaporates, the salt is left behind, and is raked into layers. The more mineral rich salt settles towards the bottom, while the whiter salt remains on top. The sea salt is cleaned from any debris, but all minerals are left in the salt. The more minerals that the salt contains the richer the color of the salt will be. Depending on where the salt is obtained, it can be a pinkish, grayish or sandy color.
About 98% of unrefined sea salt is sodium chloride, and the other 2% contain essential trace minerals. The sea salt can contain up to 92 essential minerals, which include iron, potassium, iodine, manganese, magnesium, calcium, zinc and sulfur.
Unrefined sea salt will clump up in your salt shaker. This is because there are no anti-clumping agents added to it.
Unrefined sea salt has no additional iodine added to it, but it does contain a natural form in small amounts. However, you can purchase iodized sea salt as well, but make sure to read the labels to ensure that it does not contain any stabilizers or other unnatural ingredients.
Table salt can be obtained either from sea waters or from underground salt mines. But what makes table salt different from sea salt is the fact that it is heavily processed and has other ingredients added to it.
During processing the table salt is heated at high temperatures and stripped of all of its natural minerals. The only minerals that remain are sodium and chloride.
Once the salt has been refined, other ingredients are added to keep it from clumping such as sodium alumino-silicate and alumino-calcium silicate. These anti-clumping agents contain high amounts of aluminum which is very toxic to the body and brain. Aluminum is also bitter, and thus a form of sugar such as glucose is added to help neutralize the bitterness. Iodine is added in the form of potassium iodide. However, in order to preserve the potassium iodide so that it does not break down before it is ingested, stabilizers are added. These are usually in a form of sugar such as glucose or dextrose.
The added ingredients are added in very small amounts, as once the processing is finished, the salt content remains at about 99.9% sodium chloride and only .01% other ingredients. However, table salt is acidifying to the body, as all the minerals which help to neutralize the acidifying effect of the sodium chloride are stripped out.
By looking at the difference between the two salts, it is fairly easy to determine that unrefined sea salt is a healthier choice.
Arborio rice has long been a traditional favorite and probably the best known rice for risotto-making. In stirred rice dishes some of the starch is released, and it is this extra starch that creates the smooth, creamy texture. The trick is to use a rice that will absorb the liquid added to it without breaking apart or sticking together, thus retaining its consistency.
There are actually a number of Italian rice varieties with the high starch content that gives risotto its characteristic creaminess. All these varieties have short, plump grains that are not only suitable for risotto, but which are arguably superior to Arborio.
Carnaroli rice is an Italian variety that has short, plump grains like those of Arborio rice. Also, like Arborio rice, Carnaroli grains are high in starch content and, when cooked, have a creamy, sauce like consistency.
The difference between organic and regular pure maple syrup is in the control of the production in regards to the environment and the products used to wash the pipelines, boiler etc.
Food security regulations for producing and processing food including maple syrup is governed under the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency).
Producing regular pure maple syrup is actually the same process as the organic. No fertilizers, no soap, no acid… exactly the same. For organic maple syrup, there is a certification process in order to confirm to the consumers that we respect the way organic production has to be. Pure maple syrup by itself is organic and natural.
Acidity – the most influential factor in the final grading of an oil. The current limit for an Extra Virgin is 0.8 % (0.8 g per 100g) . If the acidity level is above 0.8% but is less than .2% (.2 g per 100g) then it qualifies as Virgin olive oil. This elevated acidity level is due to the timing of the producer’s harvest. In general, Extra Virgin olive oil is made from younger olives and Virgin olive oil from a more matured olive.
Flavour – Extra Virgin olive oil will be more delicate to the taste with a pronounced array of fruity notes. Virgin oils will offer deeper earthy characteristics, with a strong pronounced olive flavour.
Viscosity – The feeling of Virgin oil, whether it is on your hands or in your mouth, will be much denser. The same quality can be observed by watching it drop from ones fingertip or swirling it around in a bowl.
Cost – Every year when a producer has completed the harvesting and processing of the olives in to oil, only a small fraction of the year’s yield will be classified as Extra Virgin. As a result, producers will sell their Extra Virgin at a higher price then their more abundant Virgin oil.
The most crucial and telling thing to look for on the label of oil is a family name, not only a company name. This applies for not only olive oil. The family name shows that someone is not only putting their reputation on the line for what they have produced but is also personally taking legal responsibility for the bottles contents. The family’s address and contact information should also be included on the label. Other important details to look for include a best before date, the production’s lot number and the types of olives (cultivar) that are used in the oils production.
The most telling sign of all though is to TASTE the oil. You should taste fruitiness, bitterness and pepperiness.
Organic Fair caramel colour is produced at their production facility using only organically certifiable ingredients. They use organic cane sugar and DO NOT use ammonium or sulfites.
Conventional caramel colour is typically derived from wheat, barley or corn. These ingredients can create an issue from an allergy viewpoint.
Specifically speaking, caramel colour that is used in the production of conventional soda is called “Class IV”. This class of caramel colour is used in high acid environments where other caramel colours would flocculate and fall out of suspension in the product.
This class of caramel colours uses both ammonium and sulfites to make a product that is stable in this environment.
One of the benefits of the Direct Fair Trade Foundation is that it forwards one percent of all revenues directly to farmers with whom the producers have a relationship.
Organic Certification is expensive. Many of our supplies have been producing for generations and are family run. It’s a matter of money. The methods they use are ‘organic’ in nature but attaining the actual certification would severely affect them financially.
The Scoville Scale was created by American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville in 1912.
It is used to measure the pungency or hotness of a chili pepper. The chemical compound found in chile peppers (from the genus capsicum) that gives this piquant heat is called capsaicin. The number of Scoville Heat Units (SHU) in a pepper or hot sauce indicates the amount of capsaicin present.
The scale relies partly on a human tester, so measurement is sometimes imprecise. A more accurate method is to use high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). HPLC provides results that are often 20–40% less than the SHU method, but at the end of the day it is all relative.
Fused oils contain only freshly picked fruits or herbs and estate grown olives. No flavours or essences are infused.
The fruit/herbs are crushed directly with the olives to create a fusion. They are not infused, which is when the olive oil is produced first and then a flavour essence is added after to add flavour.
Biodynamic farming started in 1924, when Dr. Rudolf Steiner was approached by a group of European farmers after they had noticed a rapid decline in their seed fertility, crop vitality and animal health. Dr. Steiner had created a series of principles where he presented the farm as a self-sustaining, living organism. Biodynamic farming is the best model of Regenerative Agriculture.
The word biodynamic comes from the Greek words ‘bio’, meaning life and ‘dyn’ meaning force. When applied to agriculture, ‘Biodynamic’ means working with life’s forces or processes. Biodynamic farming is adamantly opposed to genetic modification (GMO’s) in agriculture, gardening and food processing. International biodynamic standards forbid the use of GMO’s in ingredients including in the animal feed.
A biodynamic farm aims to produce everything on the premises, including seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and even livestock feed.
Some scientists estimate that with enough regenerative farming, the global carbon emissions absorbed back into the soil could be up to 15%. Studies show that the soil may be our best chance to reverse the effects of global warming and CO2 emissions.
The backbone of biodynamic farming is the creation of nutrient-rich soil in which to grow nutrient rich products. The is achieved by using crop rotation and growing cover crops (crops grown specifically to add nutrients to soil) and natural compost.
Biodynamic farms require a biodiversity set aside of 10% of the total farm acreage to attract beneficial insects and animals that prey on crop-damaging pests.
Biodynamic farmers and growers use specifically made herbal preparations to enhance and enliven their compost, soils, plants, animals and farm. Production is never maximized at the expense of the health and integrity of the biodynamic farmer’s land or the health and quality of the food they produce.
Organic cultivation is focused on the harvest and allows the certification of a particular part of a farm. Biodynamic certification, on the other hand, is farm focused. It requires that the entire farm be certified using NOP standards as a baseline, and then takes that a step further by requiring additional standards be met before certification is awarded. Biodynamic farms are built to integrate every living organism within the system, including plants, livestock and farmers, creating a close-looped system of farming. It aspires to transform and maximize the health and vitality of the farm’s every aspect, and to improve the way we farm through an ongoing relationship with nature.