Monday, November 12, 2007
We recently slaughtered 4 Berkshires and 3 Mangalitsa piglets.
These are very special Berkshires - around 400 lbs live, raised and fattened for optimal meat and (especially) fat quality. That's the kind of hogs that Wooly Pigs raises. We use Austrian techniques to achieve these results.
Right now, one Berkshire is on the way to Brix, while two will go to The French Laundry, where they'll be processed, with some parts distributed to Bouchon and Ad Hoc. The French Laundry will also receive one Mangalitsa piglet. FWIW, there are 4 Michelin stars in there - and these are the first hogs that Wooly Pigs has ever sold. From talking to Devin Knell at the French Laundry, it sounds like they'll have the older chefs showing the young chefs how to process a hog - that's very exciting.
They all got loaded on the truck a few hours ago - barring catastropes, the trucker, Rod, will ensure that they all get what they ordered.
One Berkshire got sold to a Spokane restaurant, Luna, where Chef Kevin Gillespie just got his today. He picked the hog from the slaughterhouse and drove it back to Spokane (2 hours). Also, Kevin agreed to take whatever we gave him - if anything went wrong at the slaughterhouse, he'd take the pigs that we couldn't sent to Yountville. He got a price break for this, as all we had to worry about was delivering the animals to the slaughterhouse.
Kevin is from the South. His grandparents used to keep very big hogs (like ours), and slaughter them in the cold months and put everything up. He was there when they were doing all that stuff. So not only will Kevin buy a whole hog (unlike "chefs" who don't know what to do with a hog), but he'll buy one of our 400+ lb hogs optimal for curing. To top it all off, he just bought a hog last week, so he didn't really need one - but having gotten samples, he wanted to help us out. And from the looks of his kitchen -- he's doing it all himself. That's like Chef Stockner in Vienna - the guy does it mostly by himself, because he wants to make all the cuts.
Anyway, hats off to Kevin for making our stressful week a bit less stressful! If we had to retail the cuts off these, keeping track of everything would drive us crazy.
I've been eager to see the Berkshire carcasses since we took the hogs in. I went over to his restaurant and saw him and half of the pig (the rest was in the cooler). His hog was about 400 lbs live, with a carcass of over 312 lbs. They had some trouble with the head, so it is missing some skin - but at least he's got the jowls. Here he is, showing off the carcass:
So having seen how white and firm the fat is, I'm fairly sure that the folks in Yountville will be happy with the pigs. We at Wooly Pigs are breathing a big sigh of relief. It will be interesting to see which hog has better fat - this batch, or the 400 lb one we killed on farm (finished on 100% barley).
These Berkshires have been fed about 80% barley and 20% wheat these last few weeks. That's a typical Austrian finishing diet used to produce the whitest fat with the best bite. Switching from 100% barley to an 80/20 mix like this is the sort of thing that distinguishes the very good hogs from the best. Let's see if our experience jibes with the experience of the Austrians we so respect, like Master Butcher Kropf.
Chef Gillespie explained that this hog is almost entirely for curing - he'll be doing his normal method (bone-in), and trying out the Austrian-style wet cure method: bone out the meat, pickle it, then cold smoke and ripen. Taking the bones out reduces the risk of rot. The uniform process, regardless of the cut, makes things easy. That's from the book "Hausschlachten" - an excellent resource for people looking for simply ways to raise, slaughter, butcher and conserve hogs. You can see Christoph Wiesner (head of the Austrian Mangalitsa Breeders' Association) doing part of that process in this video.
Kevin got a hog recently, from some other farmer. Here he is explaining what he did to it. It is great to work with such a chef - we know that all the animal will get used. Almost none of it will wind up in the garbage can:
Posted by Heath Putnam at 4:46 PM