Monday, November 12, 2007

Feedback, Farm Visitors

I just got some feedback about my Berkshire pork from a restaurant with 3 Michelin stars:
I'm very impressed with the pork. The fat has a very low melting
point similar to wagyu. The pork tasted like..........well..............
pork! Sometimes it seems as though modern pork is a four
legged turkey, this was a refreshing departure from the norm. As
I've stated before, we're all excited by this.
I feel relieved now. Someone else can see that our finishing program produced fat with the desired qualities. If he hadn't noticed the huge difference between our stuff and other pork, we'd have been really worried.

Besides the feedback, we had some farm visitors this weekend.

Today Sara Dickerman, a freelance food writer, visited the farm. Given her nice article that mentioned how Chez Panisse used bacon, I thought we should give her some samples of our various bacons, produced from the 400 lb, year-old, barley-finished Berkshire hog that we had Curt (of CNJ Custom Meats of Clayton, WA) slaughter on the farm:

That hog, slaughtered without stress on the farm, and ripened 10 days in Curt's cooler should, according to theory, produce great cured products. If we were in Austria, we'd ask the butcher to make Speck, a product that ripens months. The butcher could turn nearly the entire hog into wet-cured, cold-smoked meat. But American processors typically make faster products like bacon.

So I asked Curt, the butcher, to turn half of the pig into bacon. That is, he used the same wet-cure-and-smoke process used to make bacon with the different cuts from the same hog. From the top clockwise there is Kansas City bacon (cured shoulder), Canadian bacon (cured loin), ham (cured leg), bacon (cured belly), smoked fatback and jowl bacon (cured jowl).

There are a lot of neat things about turning the hog into these products: the taste is more intense, they take up less space and there's a spectrum of bacons, from lean ones (Canadian bacon) to fatty ones (jowl and fatback).

When they were cut into sample sized pieces and cooked (and with some ground pork thrown in), they looked like this:

That's (from the top, clockwise) Kansas City bacon, Canadian bacon, bacon, fatback, jowl and sausage. The fatback really shrunk - the fat rendered out of it. It seems Sara's favorites were the jowl and the Kansas City bacon. I suspect I scorched that stuff a little too much. It still tasted very good.

After serving our bacons, we let Sara eat some roasted pork from a Mangalitsa piglet:

She's got some loin, ribs there and other meaty parts. That yellow looking thing in the lower left of the plate is the roasted fat attached to the meat underneath. Mangalitsa fat, even from a piglet, is very tasty. Older pigs have even higher quality fat. I just put the meat into the oven at 350 F for about 45 minutes, then warmed it up again for Sara the next day. That allowed her to taste the Mangalitsa without interfering flavors.

The day before Sara showed up, another freelance writer, Heidi Broadhead, visited and we likewise gave her pork to eat. We didn't have the camera though, so we lost those historic moments. Heidi (and Gary Angell, the herdsman), were the first Americans to eat Mangalitsa slaughtered in America. They both said that Mangalitsa was very, very different from normal pork.

It will be very interesting to see what The French Laundry says about the Mangalitsa piglet once they try it.

Finally, here's a video of some piglets running around on the farm:


Sean Boocock said...

I've been reading your blog since you started it and I have appreciated the perspective you give of a small scale animal husbandry operation. From your posts, you seem committed to producing the highest quality meat for your customers with the best, most humane methods. However, you couch all concerns of the treatment of your animals in terms of the quality of the finished product. Do you strive to treat your animals well, over and above activity that will ensure a quality product? How can you reconcile the relationship you develop with these animals with the act of slaughtering them for food? Do you own pets?

I'm not trying to insult you but merely trying to understand what I, as a vegan, see as the cognitive dissonance of people like you who are intimately connected with both the raising and slaughtering of food animals.

Heather said...

Lovely bacon! That was a treat this morning.

Heath Putnam said...


The issues you raise are important. I will address your concern in a separate post.

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