Monday, April 21, 2008

Mangalitsa Jowls, Mangalitsa Hype, The Herbfarm Buys Some Live Pigs

I was away at the farm all last week, so I couldn't update the blog. I'll have some neat photos from that soon. We killed some giant hogs on farm, including our boss sow.

Looking on the web, I saw Dawn and Eric Wright's food blog talking about our Mangalitsa pork. That's a Mangalitsa jowl in that pan.

Pork belly is hot now, but whenever people buy it, I advise them to try jowls instead. If you can sit down and eat a super-fatty Notorious C.U.T. (a cut of Mangalitsa ribs and belly) you might as well eat jowl and get the maximum flavor. Someday jowls will replace belly as the popular cut. People just need to learn how great jowls are.

Anyway, I'm very happy that the Wrights liked the Mangalitsa jowls so much. I noticed that they said it was as good as the hype:
It turns out that this pig is worth every bit of hype that’s been surrounding it. What incredible flavor. The stuff is tender, moist and just melts in your mouth. It is insanely rich and I can’t recall a more flavorful meat I’ve ever eaten. Just amazing.
When my wife and I were touring Austria, eating at Austrian farmhouses, whenever we expressed how wonderful we thought the Mangalitsa tasted, our Austrian hosts acted as if they'd heard it a million times. It actually got to be really irritating for us. We were having a profound eating experience. For them it was probably the hundredth time they'd heard how great it was.

Recently, Jess Thompson, food author and personal chef and her friends told us that their Mangalitsa meal was one of their best ever. Without meaning to, we acted completely blase about it. When one of them pointed out, we apologized.

Recently, Rebecca Denn (Seattle PI Food Editor) wrote:
When I first heard about the Mangalitsas I wondered if they would turn out to be over-hyped, and was prepared for chefs to tell me that the pork emperor had no clothes. It didn't turn out that way. Luce, for instance, noted that he's been fortunate enough to work in both France and Italy as well as some fine places in the U.S., that he's worked mainly with heritage breeds and even set off on a cross-country search a few years ago for the best (he found the Red Wattle pig to be "incredible"). Even he thinks the Mangalitsas are the closest thing to European pork he's found here.
Anyway, The Herbfarm is buying six live pigs from us. It is a huge deal that they are buying live pigs. Since when do restaurants buy live pigs? How old-fashioned!

They'll fatten them on their place, feeding them hazelnuts to give them superior fatty acid composition. They'll raise them big and fat and then kill and cure them. I just hope they give them some food with tannins (like acorns) so that they get that super-nutty flavor.

For many reasons, the Herbfarm team is very farsighted to do this. They save money and get to kill their pigs on their schedule. There's nothing like owning them and taking delivery to lock in a supply. I'm happy they'll be in charge of the slaughter. I've disappointed them a few times now - not being able to give them the livers or heads that they wanted. Hopefully they'll have better luck, given that they'll be dealing directly with the slaughter plant.

Keith Luce and his team are a joy to work with. They've been very supportive of our efforts with our Berkshires and Mangalitsa. Keith Luce has helped us to increase the quality of the pork that we produce by pointing out some mistakes at the slaughterhouse.

In other news, Michael Ruhlman wrote about the Notorious C.U.T. that we sent him. I'm very happy that he finally finished and and tried it out. He said positive things about it too, of course.


Anonymous said...

My dear Mr. Putnam,

You sir are an incorrigible tease!

While I still have an ample stock of mangalista cuts on reserve in my freezer, I have not one single sample of mangalista jowls at hand.

I have however tried your Berkshire jowl bacon. I am of the opinion that virtually anything wrapped in a strip of this bacon prior to its preparation would taste extraordinary.

I have yet to see any cuts of mangalista jowls available to ordinary patrons such as myself at the farmers market.

Is this a cut only available to chefs who have sufficiently impressive credentials or a dedicated following? If so I heartily protest this inequity. I want my own mangalista jowls damn it!

I will try to make the University District farmers market this coming Saturday. I will promise to bring along my wallet, if you will promise to bring along some mangalista jowls.

~Mark S

Dawn Wright said...

Mark, I have no impressive credentials nor a dedicated following. :) I am just an ordinary home cook who bought the jowl pictured above at the same U-District market where you shop. I hope you are able to get some on Saturday because this jowl is not to be missed!

Heath, thank you for convincing us to try it out. We're so pleased that you sell such a fantastic product in our neighborhood.

Dawn Wright

Heath said...

anonymous -- I'm very happy you like the jowl bacon. That's my favorite. Here's a tip - when you buy it, make sure it is from a big pig. Bigger jowls usually taste better.

I'm very sorry but we are out of Mangalitsa jowls. There's no favoritism here - just a simple lack of product. A hog only has 1-2% jowls by weight.

Here's how it works: we get hogs killed. We take a selection of stuff to the market. The cuts sell out in this order: leaf lard, jowls, chops, belly, shoulder, legs and organs.

If you want to get jowls, just show up after we've killed some Mangalitsa. If you ask for belly then, I'll steer you into the jowls. People who eat belly are usually game to try jowl, so it sells out quickly.

Personally, the more people ask for jowl, the better. I don't like having to push it as a belly substitute; it is my favorite part of the pig.

Heath said...

Dawn -- I'm very happy you liked the Mangalitsa jowls! It is amazing how good they are.

There are a few other things you might try:

1) Buy some heads and make stock. It is amazing how much flavor a little Mangalitsa stock adds to a dish.

2) Render some Mangalitsa lard. When whipped, it is a lot like whipped cream. The resulting greaves can be used for a variety of things like filling dumplings.

3) Try out Mangalitsa liver. It has a very strong flavor.

Dawn Wright said...

Heath, thanks for the tips! How can we find out when you have new product available?

Heath said...

Dawn -- We are bringing liver, heart and lard (Berkshire) to the markets now.

To get Mangalitsa leaf lard, you'd better call us now and then to find out when we'll kill more pigs. Just like the jowls, the Mangalitsa leaf lard sells out quickly after we slaughter.

The hearts, kidneys, heads and liver sell slowly. We typically bring just a little bit to the market. If you want to get a lot of that stuff, tell us and we can bring it next week. We might ask for a deposit though.

Our Berkshire fat is very high quality - very hard and white, due to the feed and age of the hogs. The Mangalitsa fat is of higher quality, due to its genetics.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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