I can’t deny the feeling that I have been building up to the Mangalitsa for the past eight years. For all of Meatsmith history, we have been exploring the heights and depths of our earliest axiom: pork fat is delicious and healthful.
Not all fat is created equal. Diet and genetics, through human coercion, have given pig fat a bad name. Generations of breeding for leanness and soy based rations have done one thing: made fat bitter and rancid. Hence, the thought of eating a slice of pork fat undiluted with lean meat is tongue curling.
There is a group of pig breeds that have evaded the degradation of industrial production, some of them on the verge of extinction. These are the lard pigs. The Mangalitsa is an Hungarian lard pig.
These pigs grow at half the speed of their leaner counterparts and produce at least twice the fat content at slaughter weight. Subjecting these pigs to standard butchery techniques of fat trimming would reduce the yield by at least half. But these pigs aren’t for chops and boneless loin roasts. The fat is the point.
Only traditional methods of cutting and curing rightly utilize all the fat. That is what these shares are for: a feast of salubrious pork fat, unreproved.
Similarly, rather than steel and concrete confinement or hog barns, lard pigs were raised on pannage, a method of forest, riparian and edge foraging once common in the ancient forests of Europe. Roots and nuts abound and these are the fat crafters, responsible for the best hams in the world. The pig killing was also called the acorn harvest.
Mangalitsas are genetically predisposed to this kind of husbandry. They produce fat on the oily side of the lipid spectrum. This unsaturated bias means that the diet and husbandry will be directly evident in the flavor, such that if these pigs eat something oily, like hazelnuts or acorns, you will taste hazelnut and acorn oil in the cured pork.
This places a strict responsibility on the farmer who must be certain that nothing undesirable, like oily fish or soy, will be fed to the transparent metabolisms of these particular pigs. Chris Gruver of Uneven Ground Farm has upheld this husbandry standard with uncommon commitment.
His pigs range on over one hundred acres of paddocks in Oregon. They forage on pasture, garry oak forests, and along streams. Chris supplements the acorns they find in the forests with hazelnuts from surrounding farms. In addition, they get a small ration of barley and peas which lends the necessary structure of saturated fat to the lipid profile. The tannins from the acorns, roots and bark they eat also play their antioxidant role in the fat, protecting its sweetness from the bitterness brought on by rancidity.
This is what the pigs have lived on for almost two years.
Most pigs are harvested at six months. This increased lifespan results in more marbling and more myoglobin in the muscle tissue so that the meat is red. I am honored to harvest Chris’s pigs and offer them to you. My goal is to let the pork do the talking by employing traditional methods. Rather than trim most the carcass and coerce the pork to fit complex recipes with synthetic ingredients, I choose the artistry of the Hungarian peasant who developed the Mangalitsa in the first place.
The peasant kitchen best embodies the marriage of thrift and extravagance. And it is to re-create this well-off frugality and to fulfill my destiny that I offer:
The Meatsmith Mangalitza
Half Pig Share
Szalonna, cured back fat (similar to Italian lardo and Russian salo). This is a slab of fat to be sliced thinly and served raw on hot bread with olive oil, or sliced thick on rye bread with vodka, or cut into a chunk to be skewered and melted over a fire to drip lard onto bread with slices of cucumber and onion. Or use it like pancetta, cubed and rendered in a skillet as the oily medium for fried eggs, or braised greens. As with all salubrious pig fat, there are infinite uses. The only way to use it poorly is to use it infrequently. Wrapped for the freezer*.
Coppa, cured neck with black pepper, smoked. Ready to hang in your kitchen for further drying, or slice thin right away and serve raw with cheeses, pickles, crackers, or on a sandwich. Coppa will hang indefinitely at room temperature, even after you start slicing into it. Like all traditional cures, it may grow beneficial mold.
Bacon, cured with juniper and smoked, sliced.
Sonka, boneless smoked ham. This can be your Easter ham, or hung for several weeks in your kitchen for a future feast. Simmer the ham in water with molasses, onions, apple cider vinegar, beets and other sweet roots; or in water with garlic, onions, paprika, caraway and white wine. When it is cooked (140f internal temperature), remove the netting, cover with mustard and honey, roast in your oven at 420f for 25 minutes. Baste with more honey and mustard twice during the roasting. Let it rest for 30 minutes. Whatever is left over will keep as cold-cut ham in the fridge for well over a week.
Smoked hocks. These are to be braised, ideally in a pot of dried beans with stock. Cook for two-three hours, or until the meat pulls easily from the bone.
Kolbasz, sausage links for frying. Poach gently before frying for 4 minutes, and/or flip only once in the skillet to prevent rupture. Seasoned with sweet smoked paprika, a hint of heat from Vashon grown peppers, onions, pepper and garlic.
Brawn, spiced headcheese, frozen. By half a pig, we mean half a pig. The half head will be cooked into a brawn and frozen. Thaw in the refrigerator and serve at room temperature with mustard and pickled vegetables or slice for sandwiches.
Back bacon, cured with juniper, smoked, sliced. This is bacon made from the loin (aka Canadian bacon); what is commonly turned into chops on leaner pigs. The loins of lard pigs find their best and highest use as bacon.
Back Fat for larding. This is frozen square slabs of fat. Subcutaneous pork fat, or back fat, is the most solid fat on the pig. It therefore lends itself to being thawed, then cut into long strips, clamped in a larding needle and sewn into a lean roast. This fat tastes of hazelnuts and the mild mineral sweetness of demerara sugar.
Guanciale, cured jowl. Like the coppa, this is also ready to hang in your kitchen, and to be sliced, chopped and set to melt in a low temperature skillet for frying, browning meat or cooking vegetables. Guanciale will hang indefinitely at room temperature, even after you start slicing into it. Like all traditional cures, it may grow beneficial mold.
Leaf Lard. This will be packaged in quart containers and stored at refrigerator temperature. It is however stable to sit on your counter at arms-length when needed. This is the original shortening. It does not have an intense porky flavor and is the best general purpose cooking oil in the cosmos. Substitute half the butter in a pie crust recipe with leaf lard and tie your shoes tight.
Larding needle. An essential but erstwhile neglected tool for the delicious and thrifty use of solid pork fat in the kitchen. Clamp a strip of back fat in the jaws and pass the whole needle through a beef roast like London broil, through chicken breast, venison back strap or leg of lamb. When the needle is removed on the other side it leaves a strip of fat inside the otherwise lean and dry meat, imparting juiciness and ineffable Mangalitsa sweetness.
Stock bones and one tenderloin comprise the fresh meat of the share. These will be frozen.
*Upon special request, any item can be left out of the freezer to be hung whole by you.
Here's a visual of the final products:
Taking orders now!
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a share this spring or later this summer.
Please signup for our occasional newsletter on the home page to hear when pork shares are available (Mangalitza or Old Spot, or…). You can also email us at email@example.com to get on a waitlist. Thank you.
This Easter share will be available end of March 2018. We estimate hanging weight to be 175-350 lbs for each carcass (many factors make this a wide estimate), putting a share (1/2 pig) between 87.5-175 lbs. The cost is $13.75/# for everything, including all the value-added items: no added fees or product up-sales. This price includes all your cures, rendered lard, larding needle, etc. * As intimate customers, you’ll also receive all our current The Butcher’s Salt e-chapters.
How to Get One
- Email us to reserve a share: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pay a $500 non-refundable deposit to confirm share.
- We’ll email you in mid-March for pickup confirmation.
- Pay the balance when you pickup your share.
Spring, 2018 Pork Shares
The flavor of pork properly husbanded and expertly harvested beguiles analysis. At best, I can say that it reminds me of cashews, browned butter, aromatic cheese, roasted sweet potatoes and caramel but these are mere tributes. To know this mystery, it cannot be put into words; we must put it in our mouths.
So you can rest assured that with each of our pigs, I am going for nothing less than ineffable cosmic enigma flavor.
Part of the recipe is economy, but I don’t employ the modern sense of the word. I mean benevolent ingenuity that venerates the earth’s bounty and repose, where the language of waste is unintelligible. In other words, old-world ham.
In northern Spain, there are ancient hills of pasture and oak trees. For centuries, pigs have been grazing these hills as an essential part of the ecosystem, not an interruption. The sacrificio de cerdos or pig slaughter is also the acorn harvest. The oak trees and grasses thrive without competition from understory brambles, cleared by the pigs, and the pigs are thanked with an annual gallimaufry of acorns. This relationship produces the best air dried ham in the world, the jamon de bellota.
In another holistic arrangement, the prosciutto di parma gets its “parma” from the whey left over from making parmigiana-reggiano cheese. The pigs are fed on it and once again, thrift and extravagance have kissed in Italian ham.
There is a small cow dairy and creamery on Vashon called Cornerstone Farm less than 10 miles from us. For the love we both share of small-scale husbandry, no-waste harvesting and good pork, this year, we have partnered with Cornerstone Farm to supply us with their gorgeous skim and whey for the shares.
The pigs will eat locally grown organic barley and peas from Scratch and Peck, soaked in the salubrious whey as it’s available. They enjoy forage when the land is dry and mudless shelter when it rains. This diet combined with the genetic disposition of Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs and my methods of harvesting create a loop tight enough to express terrior.
These shares are a new evolution in our share program. We have partnered with this carefully selected local dairy to raise these pigs to our lofty standards. Dairies and piggeries are one of the oldest agricultural partnerships. With this in mind I will raise & harvest each pig myself, from the piglet to the kill to the cure.
Distinctives of this Product
- New: Our package includes cold smoking all bacon, hams and hocks. Our wood comes from Vashon and our own woodlot.
- The Gloucestershire Old Spot breed: These are the cottage pigs of yore and I selected them for their unique ability to generously deposit sweet saturated fat, cheesy unsaturated fat and make the most of forage.
- Management: Our goal is to raise these not at the expense of the soil, but to its benefit. Consequently, our pigs are never forced to live in lagoons of mud.
- Slaughter & Butchery: During slaughter, we retain the skin, head and trotters. As to butchery, you get 100% of your hanging weight. These kind of pigs find the notion of trim to be offensive.
- Curing: Rather than lean on the crutch of nitrites, we employ detailed knowledge of traditional curing processes. These require no weird sugars or non-food items.
- We’re friends forever: For this round, we are dispensing with a befuddling order form. The harmony of the spheres as well as 100% of the global pork eating population unequivocally loves bacon, ham and sausage. The physiology of a side of pork results in a few more roasts, chops, and braises as well. Cutting a pig this way eliminates waste which makes it possible for us to fit an entire side into each share. Also, we want you to stay in touch with your questions so we can offer cookery guidance.
One share is 100% of one side of pork and will take the form of:
- roughly 10-20lbs linked sausage
- rendered leaf lard
- one belly of bacon–cured, smoked and sliced/wrapped for your freezer
- 2-3 brined hocks
- 2 smoked hams
- 8-10 chops
- 1 tenderloin
- 1 loin roast
- 3-4 shoulder roasts
- 1 roll of back fat
- half a head
- a cured jowl, or guanciale
This Spring share will be available April 2018. We estimate hanging weight to be 140-250 lbs for each carcass (many factors make this a wide estimate), putting a share (1/2 pig) between 70-125 lbs. The cost is $11.65/pound for everything, including all the value-added items: no added fees or product up-sales. This price includes all your sausage, bacon, hams and rendered lard. * As intimate customers, you’ll also receive all our current The Butcher’s Salt e-chapters.
How to Get One
- Email us to reserve a share: email@example.com
- Pay a $350 non-refundable deposit to confirm share. Pay a second $350 in February for final feed costs. (You can also pay $700 all at once).
- We’ll email you in early April for pickup confirmation.
- Pay the balance when you pickup your share.
Taking orders for late summer now!
Please signup for our occasional newsletter on the home page to hear when more are ready to reserve. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get on a waitlist. Thank you.
Thank you for reading,
Brandon, Lauren, Wallace, John Luke, Simon, Mary, Beatrice and this pig pictured whom Johnny named Stripes.