Saturday, January 31, 2009

Mangalitsa Pigs Mentioned in NY Times

Some customers today told me that Mangalitsa got mentioned in the New York Times. I went online and searching, finding this.

Normally I'd spot this right away, but I was so busy this last week at the Herbfarm's Pigstock 2009 (a 3-day Mangalitsa workshop given by IGWOE's Christoph Wiesner), that I missed it.

Jill Santopietro's experience mirrors my own. After I compared some Mangalica salami with some "artisanal" American salami, I decided I needed to eat more. Because it was impossible to buy Mangalitsa pigs or pork (in the entire Western Hemisphere), I imported a herd from Europe. As the only breeder of Mangalitsa, I have a good sense of what people intend to do with Mangalitsa.

Hence, I expect that in 2010 we'll see Mangalitsa salami offered for sale. There are at least 3 small companies interested in producing Mangalitsa products. None of the three are very well-known, so you probably haven't heard of them yet.

I'm confident that if someone is going to use Mangalitsa pork, they'll probably do what it takes to make the right salami. Consumers who buy Mangalitsa salami in 2010 will probably be very satisfied.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Mangalitsa, Clampffer and Stockner in Gourmet

Carolyn Banfalvi wrote a neat article, available at about Mangalitsa, Chef Michael Clampffer, Chef Manfred Stockner, Zum Weissen Rauchfangkehrer, etc.

When she told me a few months that she was going to write about Mangalitsa, I urged her to somehow make the short trip from Budapest to Vienna so that she could experience a different side to Mangalitsa. From reading her article, it sounds like she had a great time.

Historically, Mangalitsa pigs were produced in Hungary and eaten in places like Vienna and Budapest. In that sense, Mangalitsa is traditional Austrian food, despite it being a Hungarian product.

Wiesner Visit

I've been very busy lately with the Wiesners visiting.

They held two workshops about Mangalitsa processing and cooking. One was a 3-day workshop at the Herbfarm, another was a 1-day workshop in Seattle held at Culinary Communion.

The Herbfarm event allowed Christoph and Isabel Wiesner to transfer some critical Mangalitsa skills to the USA. It also gathered a lot of the New World's Mangalitsa producers and enthusiasts under one roof for 3 days. Some participants came from as far away as Michigan and California to learn from the Wiesners.

For example, Christoph showed the students and staff how to break down pigs using seam butchery techniques. That technique, compared to the typical NAMP breakdown, results in almost no waste. I'll be posting videos of Christoph breaking a hog into pieces on YouTube soon.

A Mangalitsa has very little meat on it. Feeding it properly ensures that the thing you have to sell - the fat - is as useful as possible. Cutting the pig properly ensures that the valuable meat on that pig doesn't get wasted and wind up in the soup. Watching people learn and practice Christoph's techniques - particularly things like the butchery, which aren't documented well in English books - was great.

A year ago, most of the people who attended probably didn't know what Mangalitsa was. At the end of the event, it hit me that there are a lot of Americans who care a lot about Mangalitsa pigs and their delicious meat and fat.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pigs in the City Part II

I wrote about keeping pigs in the city (temporarily) a while back.

Tonight I found something amazing: in Tokyo, there are people producing pigs for restaurants. They aren't research labs keeping pigs; it is an actual working farm. Additionally, they are being raised in one of Tokyo's richest neighborhoods. You can read more here.

In most places, it is illegal to keep pigs and other livestock in a city, so Tokyo is surprisingly tolerant. I can't imagine they slaughter them in the city too - that would be messy.

In the USA, I think it will start with individuals who decide to do it their way, secretly. That's what happened with the Greywater Guerrillas. There was a neat New York Times article about these people who process their own wasterwater, illegally. It started in the Bay Area, part of America filled with innovators.

If anyone knows about underground urban pig farmers who produce meat, please let me know. The people who illegally keep pet pigs don't count - I'm looking for people who have decided to move on from urban gardening to urban livestock.

Beers for Braising Mangalitsa

This beer works well with Mangalitsa.

When people ask me how I cook my stuff, I say I braise it in beer. Despite the tremendous selection of beers, I'm using fairl specific stuff, so here's more info about my personal preference.

My favorites so far are from Unibroue, in Quebec. They make many beers. The ones I've tried so far have been exceptionally good. They have complex flavors due to special chemical reactions that take place during fermentation.

Here's info on how they produce their ales, why they do it that way, etc. As they say:
Unibroue's brewing methods were inspired by the great European brewing traditions and, in this respect, are one of a kind in North America. Our brewing methods are time consuming and costly.
I don't think it is just marketing hype. As they explain about one of their beers, "... La Fin du Monde is a deluxe beer made by triple fermentation and a unique way of straining the yeast. This method produces an unexpectedly subtle flavour."

By objective measures, that beer is in a different category. It is 9% alcohol, keeps for 8 years and is triply-fermented. Likewise, Mangalitsa pigs can have marbling of 11.8% - versus the 2.3% of typical pork. Mangalitsa products don't look anything like normal pork products. It is a fact that the refermented beers of Unibroue and the pork of Wooly Pigs are very physically and chemically different from their competitors.

The relationship of Unibroue to other producers is like that of Mangalitsa producers to other pork producers: the products are perceived as fundamentally different by consumers.

As with Mangalitsa, Unibroue's methods came from Europe. Like Wooly Pigs with its Mangalitsa, they have brought a new category of product to our hemisphere.

Unibroue looks to be the first mover and the market leader in their category. I don't know of any American producers (big or small) who make beer like (or as complex as) Unibroue's, but I would be interested in finding one. Just as with Spain's jamon producers, Unibroue is a large company. If there is a smaller "artisanal" company that actually produces better "ale on lees" than Unibroue, I'd be very interested to know about it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Unfortunate Demise of the Ossabaw

The Ossabaw Island hog

Someone has written about Caw Caw Creek, Emile DeFelice's farm quitting entirely with Ossabaws. Emile DeFelice and the Ossabaw Island Hogs got written about in "Pig Perfect", Peter Kaminsky's popular book.

Ossabaws are a feral breed of hogs. They are small, difficult to manage and, for feral pigs, very lardy. All those traits work against any commercial exploitation: "small" means slaughter will cost too much per pound of pork, "difficult to manage" implies expensive and irritating and "very lardy" means you've got unusually lardy carcasses (and, as with the Mangalitsa, better meat quality).

From talking to people, the feral qualities of the Ossabaws are what bother them the most. A woman who worked at a zoo where they had Ossabaws told me they routinely charged and bit her; she's got scars to prove it. Also, the Ossabaws preyed on birds than entered their area, which meant the staff had to clean up "crime scenes" so that visiting children wouldn't get alarmed by the pigs' predatory behavior.

I had some of Emile's hams made from Ossabaw Island Hogs a few years ago. At that time, they were the best I'd had in America. When I later visited Europe and ate Mangalitsa products (from Mangalitsa raised in pens, not masted like his), I was surprised that the Mangalitsa products tasted so much better than Emile's, because I'd thought his was so great that it couldn't possibly be bested. That experience led to me studying the issue and getting a more scientific understanding of the topic.

Mangalitsa Pigs

Some have compared the Mangalitsa to the Ossabaw. There certainly are some similarities - but fundamentally, the Ossabaw hogs were subjected to 400 years of natural selection for living on one Georgian island, while the Mangalitsa was produced by Hungarian breeders who needed a large, hardy, easily-fattened.

The Ossabaw's qualities (tough, ready to bite) are like those of some of the breeds used to create the Mangalitsa. As livestock raising changed from nomadic herding of semi-wild pigs to confining hogs on farms (the "megafarms" of the 1800s), the Mangalitsa's progenitors disappeared. The Mangalitsa, better-suited for the "factory farms" of its day, displaced them entirely.

So far, the Ossabaw seems to fill a niche in medical research, so it may not disappear immediately. But if it ever happens that researchers finish with them, that might be it for the Ossabaw population. Besides the Ossabaw, there are other breeds, some of historical and commercial importance, that could quickly disappear from the USA if labs stopped researching them.

I was a bit surprised when I found out how organizations like the ALBC decide which breeds are worth conserving. It isn't based on the genetic merit of the breeds, but rather on things like having a traditional relationship to the USA. Hence, recent foreign imports like Wagyu cattle and Mangalitsa pigs don't merit conservation, despite them having unique genetic merit and relatively small worldwide populations.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Old Food Books, Tradition versus the Best

There's an article about a bookstore specializing in old cookbooks.

Reading the article, it struck me that chefs who use old books and recipes, in an attempt to replicate food of the past have set themselves a difficult task, because so many crucial ingredients have changed.

For instance, the article mentions a handbook from 1917 called "Bacon and Hams." If that book calls for a "butcher hog" in order to make bacon, you'd want a pig like the one at the top of this post (a very fat Mangalitsa). In 1917, the American hog of choice would have been a Poland China, which was at that time the lardiest American breed.

The problem is that butcher hogs aren't readily available anymore. Instead most pigs look something like this modern day Poland China:

Due to its genetics, that pig can't provide the requisite raw material for traditional products. Hence even if one uses an old cookbook on a modern pig, one will only produce a modern version of a traditional food.

Although the Mangalitsa is a traditional breed, capable of producing genuine traditional products, Mangalitsa producers and those who use Mangalitsa aren't Luddites.

As Christoph Wiesner explained to me: he makes traditional products better than his ancestors could partly because he's got a vacuum packing machine. When his stuff is optimally ripe, he vacuum packs it, preventing it from drying out. In the past, when people ate summer sausage (in the summer), it was often dried out. So Christoph has traditional techniques and modern technology all working toward the goal of producing stuff that tastes the best.

It is my understanding that some of the most enthusiastic Mangalitsa adopters - e.g. the French Laundry's Devin Knell and the Herbfarm's Keith Luce - take this approach. They aren't using Mangalitsa because of tradition. They are using it because they think it makes better products than other options - some of which would arguably be more traditional (in the sense of seniority, not carcass composition) than the recently imported Mangalitsa.

Video of Mangalitsa Pigs Rooting

I found a nice video of Mangalitsa pigs methodically rooting up a pasture.

Not all breeds forage so vigorously.

Because of the destruction they cause, in Austria a lot of farmers keep the pigs in a pen, harvest the forage crop and feed that to the pigs in their pen. It is too expensive to let pigs destroy a good alfalfa pasture.

Here you can see how the pigs are helping to clear some land:

The decision to keep pigs behind a fence, to restrict their impact, illustrates a typical tradeoff between giving the pigs what they want versus what humans want. Pigs love to root and destroy things like plants and trees. Humans usually don't want that, but sometimes they do (land clearing), or they find a way to put up with the pigs and their behavior.

Danes Import Mangalitsa Pigs

The Danes have imported Mangalitsa pigs from Austria. It sounds like they'll be used to study meat quality.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Whole Hog Class January 29th

There will be a class held in Seattle's Beacon Hill neighborhood on January 29th, 8AM to 4PM, about how to break down pigs, render lard, cut up the carcass and cure the meat and fat.

The instructor will be Christoph Wiesner and his wife. Christoph is the President of the Austrian Mangalitsa Breeders' Association. He makes his living breeding and fattening Mangalitsa, slaughtering them and processing them. Here you can see him showing how to roast a pig.

This might be their last class here.

Although the Hungarians created the Mangalica, it was Christoph Wiesner who exported Mangalitsa pigs all over the world. He was the first to export Mangalitsa breeding stock to the Western Hemisphere (and Wooly Pigs is still the only company in the Western Hemisphere with Mangalitsa breeding stock).

Additionally, Christoph exported Austrian ways of fattening and processing Mangalitsa. Those who raise Mangalitsas tap into a network of people, led by Christoph, who help them produce the best Mangalitsa products possible. Without Christoph Wiesner's efforts, Wooly Pigs wouldn't exist - we wouldn't have the genetics or expertise required to do what we do.

E.g. Wooly Pigs's first sale was of specially fattened hogs to the French Laundry. It was only possible to produce them because of what Christoph taught me.

Seeing them in Seattle is the next best thing to visiting them in Austria. If you'd like to attend, please contact me.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More info on Cochon 555 New York

As previously mentioned, Michael Clampffer of Mosefund Farm will compete with a Mangalitsa from Wooly Pigs. He should be the only one using an extreme lard-type breed. One of these pigs doesn't look like the other, one of these pigs just doesn't belong.

As Saveur recently mentioned:
Mangalicas (or Mangalitsas, as they are sometimes known in the United States) are curly-bristled pigs with red and richly marbled flesh that doesn't at all resemble, in look or taste, other kinds of pork.
Experiments are in agreement: Mangalitsa is special.

It wouldn't surprise me if Michael takes this challenge more seriously than the other entrants. He's running Mosefund Farm's pig operation, which is being set up to fatten Mangalitsas. Having worked with a bunch of meat-type breeds (some better than others) and the Mangalitsa, he knows that his raw material gives him a huge advantage.

COCHON 555- New York, NY
“5 Pigs, 5 Chefs, 5 Winemakers”
January 25, 2009

WHAT: A group of top New York City chefs will each prepare a heritage breed hog from head to toe for this competition. Guests and professional judges will determine a winner based on creativity, classic preparation and overall best flavor. The winner will be crowned the “Prince of Porc”. In addition, five family-owned wineries will showcase their wines.

Juan Jose Cuevas, Eighty-One
Mark Ladner, Del Posto
Corwin Kave, Fatty Crab
Bobby Hellen, Resto
Michael Clampffer and his Magnalitsa – Mosefund Farm

Wineries: Miura Vineyards , Pax Wine Cellars , Bonny Doon , Channing Daughters , Vina Sastre

Judges: Joshua Ozersky, Lesley Townsend, Patrick Martins, Chris McBride, Benjamin Wallace, Christopher Papagni, Steven Rinella, Emmanuel Kemiji, Heather Hyman, Isabella Wojcik, Matthew Jennings, Carolina Mirarchi, Burke Owens, Brandon Hoy, Hunter Boon and Chris Parachini, Rolando Robledo and Christine Quinlan.

Chef and Judges beer sponsor: Dogfish Head Beer
VIP Guests will enjoy reserve wines from Meander, Kosta Browne, Shane, Slaughterhouse and Auteur with over 150 pounds of artisan cheese with Saxelby Cheesemongers and cheese maker Jeremy Stephenson. In addition, there will be an artisan mixologists reception from Domaine de Canton.

WHEN: Sunday, January 25th, 4:00 p.m.
Chef & Judges Reception 3:00 p.m.
photo opportunity

WHERE: Maritime Hotel - Hiro Ballroom
The Maritime Hotel, at 16th Street and 9th Avenue, is located in Chelsea, two blocks north of the Meat Packing District.

WHY: To raise awareness for Farms for City Kids , a unique educational program combining classroom study with first-hand farming experience for urban kids.

The cost is $125 per person and is open to the public. For tickets or more info visit . Advance ticket purchase required (PROMOTIONAL CODE “baconbits” $25 off).


Cochon 555
began in Atlanta and is national in scope. Other upcoming cities include Chicago, Boston and Seattle. Chefs and judges from each city are selected by Taste Network to participate in the

Taste Network
is a Georgia-based company delivering experiential services to the artisan wine and cheese industries. The company’s mission is to provide cultured events and education focused around artisan wine, cheese and cuisine to its clients and the public at large.

Media Contact: Carolina Uribe

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mangalitsa Products

There's a nice post here about Mangalitsa tamales. Another customer vouches that Mangalitsa tamales are worth the effort.

Next week at the U-District, Pies by Jenny will have Mangalitsa pies. She's had them for a week or two. Also, La Pasta should have some Mangalitsa-sired pork ravioli.

Monsoon is also serving Mangalitsa-sired pork now.

"Mangalitsa-sired" means the "father" of the pig is a Mangalitsa. The dam (aka "mother") is something else.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Cochon 555 New York

The Taste Network is having a breed-specific pig competition in New York.

Mosefund Farm, of New Jersey, will compete with a Mangalitsa from Wooly Pigs. Michael Clampffer, the chef of Mosefund Farm, will compete against four other chefs, among them Del Posto's Mark Ladner.

When the competition was held in Napa, Chris Cosentino won the competition with a Mangalitsa. Among other things, he served skewered fatback. Here's a menu that Michael did in December, which impressed the attendees. I really loved the bacon, whipped lard and Italian sausage that he did.


As Mosefund Farm will be fattening Mangalitsa pigs for the New York area, this event gives them an opportunity to show New Yorkers what is so special about Mangalitsa.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hungarian Domesticated Animals, Farm Evolution

In these photos of a Hungarian farm near Pecs, you can see they've got cheap structures to protect the pigs from the sun. There's not much else, besides a little fencing. Somewhere, there's got to be some food and water - or the pigs would have to bust out to go get some.

It gets cold in Hungary. Just imagine being out there in winter, and being the small pig on the outside of the huddle.

In this next photo, you can see more of the farm. There's more space, more pigs. Everything flows downhill:

The most obvious feature of the pigs are their coats.Other Hungarian animals look this way too. Here's one of their dogs herding some Racka sheep:

In the late 1800s, the Hungarians started fattening Mangalitsa pigs in a more industrial fashion. This photo below is the I could find.

In the photo on the right, they've got train tracks very close to the pigs. That would be great for moving food in and manure and pigs out. These days we'd put in a loading dock to get pigs in/out, and a concrete apron to drive equipment on.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Food Trends

Whipped Mangalitsa lard

There's an article in the New York Times about how caramel seasoned with salt went from fancy kitchens in Europe to Wal-Mart.

I have to figure that Mangalitsa is entering stage two. Stage 1 is fancy restaurants. Stage 2 is fancy food magazines.

I think we'll be in Stage 2 for a while - because Stage 3 is supposed to be "more-inventive chain restaurants" like the Cheesecake Factory. It is hard to imagine Cheesecake Factory serving whipped Mangalitsa lard - but maybe that day will come.

Mangalitsa-Sired Bacon

Some customers bought some Mangalitsa-sired pork and made some bacon from it. The Manglaitsa-Berkshire belly is leaner than the purebred Mangalitsa belly.

Monsoon is serving Mangalitsa-sired pork right now. Monsoon East should have it next week.

Mangalitsa/Mangalica in Saveur's Top 100 Foods

Mangalitsa pigs rooting in straw, taken in Austria.

Saveur has a list of their favorite foods. The list includes things from issue 1 all the way to issue 117. Mangalitsa is listed as one of them.

I think it is the only pig breed on that list. Looking at results like these, it makes sense why Mangalitsa gets the unique treatment; it really tastes much better than other breeds.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Appeal for Sous Vide Advice

Dear blog readers,

Does anyone have any tips on doing Mangalitsa belly sous vide? A customer was asking about this yesterday. She can probably borrow a circulator and wants to try it on some Mangalitsa, but she'd like to have a recipe. She reads this blog, so if you reply in a comment, she'll see it.

Thanks very much!

Here's a place in Hungary that does Mangalitsa sous vide. I suspect The Herbfarm will be doing some Mangalitsa sous vide too, given that they now have a circulator.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Saveur Article about Mangalitsa

There's an article in the 2009 Jan/Feb Saveur that mentions Mangalitsa (aka "Mangalica" and "Mangalitza") and Wooly Pigs.

Saveur and writer Carolyn Banfalvi did a fantastic job with the article. Wooly Pigs is ecstatic that Mrs. Banfalvi wrote such great things about Mangalitsa. It is gratifying that Mangalitsa is finally receiving national attention.

For me, the key sentence, and one with which I heartily agree, is where she explains that Mangalitsas produce "... red and richly marbled flesh that doesn't at all resemble, in look or taste, other kinds of pork."

She also mentions that that the Mangalitsa lardo she enjoyed in Vienna "... had a creamy texture and intense flavor that surpassed those of any other lardo I've tasted."

I agree. I've eaten that very lardo. Here you can see some videos by Chef Stockner, the man who made that lardo: part 1, part 2 and part 3. There are more videos of Chef Stockner discussing Mangalitsa.

The article also states, erroneously, that Wooly Pigs has sold breeding stock to farms in New Jersey and California. That's not true - Wooly Pigs sells neutered animals. There's more info here about who is fattening Mangalitsa.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Mangalitsa Compared to Other Breeds

The loin cuts varied from breed to breed.

I found a preliminary report on the web that compares meat quality across breeds. The researchers bought meat from different producers, then ran a tasting panel. This includes standard crossbreds and many "heritage breeds".

Such an experiment doesn't isolate environmental effects from genetics. Just look at the photo above of their samples - the Mangalitsa was clearly much older and (ridiculously) fatter than the other pigs.

Yet such a study does give useful information to consumers, who typically have to choose from several options. Breed is the primary factor that determines meat quality, and it is the one (as opposed to feed or age at slaughter) that the consumer can control when he purchases his meat.

There is tremendous variation, and Mangalitsa really stands out:
Especially the content of intra muscular fat (IMF) and pigment varied between the breeds. IMF varied from 0.9% (Hampshire) to 7.5% (Mangalitza). One single Mangalitza had an IMF of 11.8%. Mangalitza also had the highest content of pigment (61.8 ppm), while Standard had the lowest content (19.0 ppm).
As the report explains, there are a number of areas where Mangalitsa stands out - juiciness, flavor, etc. Hence, the principal component analysis of the sensorial characteristics of the pork chops has the Mangalitsa in its own category. Others have reached the same conclusion; Mangalitsa is too juicy and flavorful to be in there with the others; it goes in its own category.

Although this test look at meat quality, I am confident that had it examined fat quality, the Mangalitsa would have likewise been superior. As our customers will tell you - Mangalitsa chops taste better than normal ones, but Mangalitsa fat is really where it's at.

With the "heritage pork" market growing, it is nice to see a study that show not only that there's a lot of variation across the heritage breeds, but also that Mangalitsa is of particular value.