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One of the biggest food trends taking place this year revolves around comfort.
As a nation, people are looking to be comforted with nourishing, rich, one-dish wonders that release soul-embracing memories, as well as offer a bit of tranquility in a volatile, pandemic-strewn world.
This isn’t a new trend – it actually gained steam in the last year, as more and more people sought solace in recreating family favourites, or learning to make things on their own, like bread, which continues to be one of the most popular foods being made.
Social media has been awash with professional chefs and home cooks pulling out all the stops and offering recipes on such traditional favorites along with brand new riffs on such classics as soups, stews, roasts, sandwiches, along with soothing, made-from-scratch puddings , cookies and fruit squares.
And if any one company understands the allure of comfort foods, it would be Canada’s award-winning Brandt Meats, celebrating more than 60 years of successfully feeding Canadians coast-to-coast with an array of smoked meats, deli and more, products made from family recipes brought in from the old country by Gerhard and Ida Brandt who started crafting their traditional sausages and deli meats – their kielbasa sausages, salami and Black Forest hams, to name a few – almost immediately when they first landed in Canada.
Gerhard Brandt (who came from Prussia, while Ida hails from Furth, a city in northern Bavaria, Germany) brought with him the secrets of the work – he was a master sausage maker and butcher, a time-honored trade he learned from his own father and grandfather.
The couple started out in a small storefront operation in Toronto’s Junction neighborhood, in the city’s west-end. From a small mom-and-pop company and handful of people, the company has grown to include a massive wholesale operation and more than 150 employees, with Brandt products being sold in Canada coast to coast. The company also has a substantial European Food Market in Mississauga, crammed with old-world charm, not to mention a deli counter that goes on forever, and a hot table bursting with delights like Sauerbraten pot roast, schnitzel, cabbage rolls and more.
Although Gerhard passed away a few years ago, family matriarch Ida Brandt continues at the helm of the business – her daughter, Brigitte and adult grandchildren, Melissa and Richard all working side-by-side to continue in the family’s proud tradition. Ida was once honored as a Toronto SUN Woman on the Move for spearheading women in business at a time when the glass ceiling was one of the biggest obstacles facing many women of that time. “The success of a company is based on customer loyalty, and it’s a message I’ve been living all these years,” said Ida Brandt.
“It’s funny – the company has really grown and evolved throughout the years, but it’s still a family-run, and we’re a tight-knit family,” said Brigitte recently, her mother and adult children nodding in unison. “I do believe having those old-fashioned values has contributed to the company’s success,” added Melissa, whose role includes bringing the company up to snap on areas of social media, and having a strong online presence. “But we’re moving forward with new innovations while keeping the company’s core values at the forefront,” added Richard.
Has the company been impacted by the pandemic? “It has – what company hasn’t? – but we’ve come back, stronger than ever,” said Melissa, adding “I think it’s because of the very nature of the foods we do create…customers just feel comforted.”
Melissa admits that, even with her brother, Richard, “you can tell there’s a bunch of strong women who run this place!” she says with a laugh.
Here’s a classic comfort recipe courtesy brandtmeats.com perfect for cold evenings, or football season.
Pigs in a Blanket
All-purpose flour, for rolling pastry
2 sheets puff pastry
4 smoked farmer sausages
4 cheesewurst sausages
4 turkey knackwurst
1 large egg, beaten
Poppy seeds, to top
Whole-grain mustard and sharp mustard for dipping
On a floured surface, roll each pastry sheet out into a 12-inch square, then cut into 4-inch squares. Lightly brush lower half of each square with mustard, center a sausage on mustard-coated edge, and brush top inch of pastry square with egg. Roll sausages in pastry, pressing seams tightly. Brush tops of pastry with egg, then sprinkle with poppy seeds. Cut each at an angle into thirds.
Place pigs in blankets 1-inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets and refrigerate until firm. Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake until pastry is puffed and golden brown, about 25 minutes. Serve warm with assorted mustards.
Smoked Farmer Sausage Casserole
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 large onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1-750 mL canned plum tomatoes
2 medium red peppers
2 medium yellow peppers
1 yam or sweet potato diced,
Handful Mini Carrot,
4 smoked farmer sausages
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute onions for 3 – 4 minutes. Add garlic, cook for a short while and add wine. Stir in plum tomatoes, yellow and red peppers, carrots and diced potatoes. Reduce heat to low and cook uncovered for 20 minutes. If it becomes dry add a little water. In a medium skillet drop in farmer sausage, cover with water. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 5 minutes. Remove and cut sausage about 1/2-inch thick. Stir in with rest of mixture and cook for a further 5 minutes and adjust seasoning to personal taste.