Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Here's a presentation about Mangalitsa in Hungarian. It has some pictures showing how they produce Mangalitsa pigs and products in Europe. I've heard that the brand, Monte Nevado, will be available in the USA in the near future. I wonder how much it will cost.
Some people will probably be bothered at how the pigs are raised in confinement. Well, that's how most iberico is produced too - but that doesn't stop people from buying it and raving about it, or repeating the falsehood that all of it is produced from free-range hogs that fatten on acorns.
People don't seem to get that there are gradations: purebreds versus hybrids, free-ranging acorn fattened hogs, penned hogs that eat acorns brought to them, hogs that eat acorns and some barley, hogs that eat a mix of acorn-like feed (but no actual acorns), hogs that eat barley, hogs that eat corn and wheat, etc.
If you want to see a nicer version of how people raise Mangalitsa (which is a lot more like our operation in Eastern Washington) you have to look at something like this, from Switzerland. Hungarian producers, who actually make money off the Mangalitsa, typically scoff at that.
Even if you think the Hungarian system looks depressing, there's one very important fact: from a breed conservation standpoint, the Hungarians have done the most to preserve the Mangalitsa - because they are making money off it.
Moving on, one thing I've heard from restaurant customers is that they want really fat Mangalitsa pigs. Are they really sure? Just look at the photo above. That's a tremendously thick border of fat on that loin. It looks scarily different from most pork loins. Would you really want to pay a fortune for such a pig? It certainly costs a lot to put all that fat on a pig; a gram of fat requires 5x the calories of a gram of protein.
I remember when I ate my first Speck at Christoph Wiesner's house. I was a bit shocked at how thick the fat border on the Speck was. The Bauchspeck (belly Speck) was essentially all fat, with little red lines running through it. When I went to Gasser's house and saw his Speck (shown below), my wife and I were horrified - it was even more fatty. They didn't really expect us to eat that stuff, did they?
It will be very interesting to see how quickly the market for very fat Mangalitsa pigs develops in the USA. There's a general problem: meat processors in the USA are too price sensitive to buy such pigs.
The few customers who do want such pigs - e.g. The French Laundry - can only buy a handful of such pigs a year.
Anyone who buys such a pig has to figure out how to sell that fat to the customer. If the customer won't eat a piece of cured meat with a giant border of fat on it, then what?
If there were more chefs like Stockner out there, it would be easier to sell such pigs:
Posted by Heath Putnam at 3:24 AM