Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mangalitsa Culture in America

Developed by Hungarians, the Mangalitsa was adopted by the various people living in Old Hungary: Hungarians, Romanians, Slovaks, Ruthenians, Donauschwaben*, etc.

Old Hungary's Ethnicities

The progenitors of the Mangalitsa (e.g. Bakonyi breed) helped to keep people alive by turning forage and things that humans couldn't eat into human food.**

From those primitive breeds, the Hungarians created one of the world's tastiest pig breeds - the Mangalitsa. The breed came into its own when Hungarians started raising pigs on farms. These were the 19th century equivalent of "factory farms". Here's what a modern Mangalitsa farm looked like in the 1800s:

Today, they are raised similarly, by Olmos es Toth - with some modern innovations like a pyramidal breeding system and farrowing crates:

As the only breeder of Mangalitsa pigs in the western hemisphere, Wooly PIgs gets calls from people like Lucian Marcu, who comes from Székely.

Lucian Marcu with a big non-Mangalitsa pig.

Such people are very serious about their pigs. They want to get their own live Mangalitsa to fatten, slaughter, process and eat. A lot of them kill and process their own pigs. The fact that the pigs really are like the pigs their ancestors raised and ate means a lot.

If that sounds odd, consider that a Hungarian Prime Minister and a billionaire think getting together to kill and process a Mangalitsa is good way to spend a day.

Other breeds that were once like a Mangalitsa won't do, because they changed with the times.

The people who attended our Woodinville workshop (some flew in from California and Michigan) weren't Hungarian. Nevertheless, they spent 3 days processing Mangalitsa pigs - and paid enough that we could bring Christoph Wiesner, President of the Austrian Mangalitsa Breeders' Association, and his wife Isabel, to America teach them about processing Mangalitsa pigs.***

Suisun Valley Farm's Shane Petersen

Mosefund Farm's vet, Ernő, initially called Wooly Pigs because he wanted some live Mangalitsa pigs. I put him in touch with Mosefund, he got his pigs and now he's their vet. I can't imagine a better outcome: Mosefund has a vet who really cares about their pigs.

Ernő's Mangalitsa

Ernő's farm looks traditional. He's even got Hungarian-themed woodcarvings in his home - which is over the top. Michael sent me a picture, so I'm posting them here. Ernő's house has a woodcarving with Fisherman's Bastion (Halászbástya):

Here's another shot of Ernő's pigs in their barn:

When the pigs are big and fat, he'll have a traditional Hungarian pig-killing (disznótor)with his Hungarian friends, and it will be a big event for them.

I'm happy that I've been able to make it possible for people like Ernő to acquire Mangalitsa pigs. I'm happy I'm not the only person who cares about Mangalitsa, their traditional uses, etc.

* While researching material for this post, I found this American Donauschwaben site. I found the black and white photos of traditonal Mangalitsa farms on a different Donauschwaben website.

** James McWilliams, a food historian, has written about how Americans in the colonies used hogs the same way.

*** If that is your idea of fun, check this out. It will be bigger and better.


Vanda said...

For Hungarians pig killing is the most wholesome event when the whole family gets together and spend the day killing and processing the pig. It's most traditionally done in December, before Christmas. I recall reading somewhere that there was some issue with EU rules regarding animal slaughter. If you took Christmas pig killing from East Europeans they would revolt.

I found a Reuters report about a pig slaughter festival. They don't name mangalicas by name, but that's what they look like:

Vanda said...