“With a side of mashed potatoes... and a good glass of red wine.” Dave Kasko, VP of Operations at Soleterra d’Italia, and his teammate John Lines, General Manager at Soleterra d’Italia are in full agreement on how they like to enjoy a plate of Sunterra Farms applewood smoked pork ribs. The duo have me on speakerphone mid-workday at Sunterra’s busy Acme cured meat operation, granting me a few minutes to quiz them on how Sunterra’s ribs go from fresh cut pork to the succulent meat you’ll find at its markets.
For the past three generations, the Price family, along with a committed team, have built the business with a laser focus on quality and continual improvement. This philosophy means Sunterra often takes the production chain into its own hands. Pork was the first example of this savvy vertical integration within the company, and fifty years later Sunterra Farms pork is still one of its most sought after products.
It all starts of course, with the pigs. Raised with the latest in production technology, nutrition and animal health, the animals are treated with respect from birth to processing, which results in a better quality meat for customers.
“It’s important we treat the animals well. If they are not under stress or tension, there is less risk of what is called PSE (Pale, Soft, Exudative) meat,“ says Tony Martinez, the VP of Sunterra Meats, overseeing the Trochu fresh pork operation. “Tension in the muscles of the animal can create dry and hard meat. We treat them well and allow time for them to relax for 24 hours before processing, which makes a large difference in the quality and even colour of the meat.”
About 140 people work at the Trochu facility serving local and global markets including Japan, known for its extremely high standards for meat quality. The facility was designed with these standards in mind and the entire team is skilled in the precise Japanese methods of processing. To create the unique Sunterra Farms pork ribs you find at its markets, the secret is in the cut.
The pork is cut into what’s called a Karubi rib, “an amazing cut that is thick, meaty, juicy with beautiful even marbling and a great balance of fat and lean meat,” explains Dave Kasko. “This specific cut is why our pork ribs stand out in the market.”
Dave works at the Acme operation, where the pork ribs are seasoned and smoked with a perfected recipe that took collaboration across departments to finesse until they got it just right. “The entire team worked together including Sunterra Market’s chefs to get the right formula for every aspect of production from seasoning, preparation, cooking cycles, temperatures... everything. It took a few trials until we got it right.”
Surprisingly the flavourful ribs are rubbed with simple seasonings – salt and pepper – and then smoked with applewood. “The quality of the meat is so good, it doesn’t need much added,” Dave adds.
The pork goes through a few cooking cycles starting with a wet heat and ending with dry heat, which creates a crust on the outside and locks in moisture. The temperature can go from 50 to 85 degrees Celsius and in total the ribs are smoked for about five hours, which allows for the connective tissue to break down, creating very tender meat.
The simple seasoning allows the flavour of the meat to shine through, and also provides the perfect canvas for Sunterra Market’s chefs to experiment with seasonal ingredients for marinades and sauces. In September, you’ll find a special pork rib sandwich at Sunterra Market that features the juicy, boneless smoked ribs smothered in market-made barbeque sauce and B.C. peach chutney, layered with creamy coleslaw and nestled inside a fresh potato bun.
Producing quality food you can be truly proud of takes a lot of dedication from many people, each with a critical role to play along the way. From farm to plate, a team of passionate farmers, producers and chefs work together to bring Sunterra’s pork ribs to its markets each day. The results? Delicious.
Shop Sunterra Farms applewood smoked pork ribs at our markets or order online for free curbside pickup or $8 delivery here.
Find inspiration with our Sunterra Farms Applewood Smoked Pork Ribs 3 Ways guide and our Sunterra Farms Applewood Smoked Pork Ribs Sandwich recipe.