Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cooking Light Article On Me and Mangalitsa Pork

The January & February Issue of "Cooking Light" features me and Mangalitsa pork.

Starting on page 132, the article "The Cooking Light Way to Eat" has 10 rules for healthy eating in 2010.

Point #7, pages 142-145 is "Indulge Adventurously", written by Rebekah Denn, a James Beard award-winning writer who knows firsthand how tasty Mangalitsa can be.

As explained in the article, I'm responsible for bringing an indulgent treat, Mangalitsa pork, to America. As others have shown, and as our customers confirm, Mangalitsa is uniquely flavorful, juicy and tender.

My tip for first-time Mangalitsa consumers is to order the bacon sampler. As I've explained before, some demanding consumers think this stuff is very tasty.

If you don't want to order bacon, you could try a loin roast (chops), shoulder butt or a belly - but you'll have to call 1-866-767-2464 to order that stuff, because it isn't in the online store yet.

Cheese Article

There's a cheese article in the New York Times that's I found thought-provoking.

Basically, there's a French company making very good tasting Camembert cheeses from pasteurized milk. They've optimized their process to produce cheese that meets US requirements while still tasting very good.

There's reasons why a number of consumers might reject the French stuff: it isn't locally-produced, it isn't organic and it is made from pasteurized milk. Nevertheless, it wouldn't surprise me if the French stuff tastes better than some Camembert that is locally-produced, organic or made from raw milk - because the French producer, Mr. Mons, decided that he wanted to produce something that tastes good.

Wooly Pigs has made similar choices - as a result, our pork tastes incomparably better than other options. Just raising pigs with Mangalitsa genetics gives us a huge advantage, which we compound with other techniques.

Wooly Pigs has chosen to produce the best tasting pork it can and make it available at a reasonable price. At this time, given our scale of production, that requires killing batches of pigs, cutting them and freezing them. In the future - when we produce many more pigs - it may be possible to avoid the freezing.

There is some resistance from some chefs (in some parts of the USA) that, for instance, "don't buy frozen meat" or insist on "buying locally" (where they've got some standard for that) or "buying certified organic" - but like Mr. Mons, the cheese producer mentioned in the article, we've had to make compromises.

A number of very respected restaurants - some with Michelin stars - have decided that Wooly Pigs brand Mangalitsa is the stuff they want to buy and serve. They could serve cheaper, never-frozen, locally-produced pork, but they choose not to, because it doesn't taste as good.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pig Photo

I found the image above on a German-language website.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wiesners on Dutch TV

There's a show on Dutch TV about food. In this episode (around 35 minutes into the show), the host visits the Wiesners and sees their pigs and food. Mangalitsa Chef, aka Bryce A. Lamb is there too.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Pigs Love Meat

I've written before about pigs loving meat. E.g. wild boar fighting over carrion. And I've written about pigs being excellent recyclers.

Bruce King is putting all this into practice, feeding his pigs unwanted wild-caught pacific salmon.

I'm willing to bet that Bruce tried eating some of the salmon himself. It is looks hard to resist.

Bruce mentions:
... They like skin-on fillets better than the skin-off. They'll dig through a pile of fish and eat all of the salmon before they eat any of the other types of fish...
That's one funny thing about pigs and other animals. They've always got preferences. You can witness that behavior pretty much anytime you put down a variety of food - like Mangalitsa bacon. People will typically eat their favorite until it is gone, and then move on to their next favorite.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Food For Real's Bacon Taste-off

Courtney at Food For Real did a bacon tasting. The tasting included the Wooly Pigs brand bacons (available from Foods in Season) and bacon from a meat-type breed of pig.

Here's a sample (emphasis and elisions by me):
It simply is not possible to compare the two meats using the same scale. The Babes in the Woods (the meat-type breed pig) fresh side is earthy and densely chewy, like meat from a past we're to young to have been part of. The Mangalitsa - all of it, including the loin - is completely different. The fat melts in your mouth and the meat is delicate and sweet, even with the hickory smoking... That said, the jowl was among if not the best cured bacon we've ever had.

Not surprising the jowl was the favorite. Many think that. It is wonderful that so many people love the jowl bacon - but really, pretty much everyone who buys it loves it.

I'm happy someone liked the loin so much - that's the bacon that people are reluctant to try, because it is such a novel product. It is also the first time we've made that product. I'm confident we can make it even better next time.

Although Courtney complains about the smokiness, a lot of customers remark that they like the smoke a lot. One thing - the smoke is real smoke, not liquid smoke. Based on the responses I'm hearing from people, I think they can taste the difference.

Finally, it is a humbling experience to have people buy products from Wooly Pigs and take the time to go on the web and write such positive things about them.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Preliminary Report on the Sous Vide Supreme

A disproportionate number of Wooly Pigs customers cook sous vide, compared to the population at large. I mean professional chefs and - perhaps more importantly - people cooking at home.

I suspect that is because the same people who read about a new cooking device that produces uniquely high-quality results are the same people who seek out a new kind of superb meat and fat. Here's an example of such a person.

In order to do some research, I bought a Sous Vide Supreme.

For my first try, I just put some Mangalitsa belly, salt and pepper in a vacuum bag and cooked it at 180F (82C) for about 8 hours. I wanted to eat the results that night, so I did it hot and short. In the future, I'll do it lower, to get higher yield.

You read about sous vide food having unmatchable textures - just as you read about Mangalitsa fat having amazing mouthfeel - but until you experience it, it is just a bunch of words. This Mangalitsa belly I cooked really melted on the tongue. The people who ate it said it was the best Mangalitsa belly they'd had.

I don't have any photos - I wasn't planning to write about my first sous vide experience, but it turned out so positively, I figured I'd let people know that I'm sold on the Sous Vide Supreme. Until the thing breaks or catches on fire - or does something equally awful and unexpected, I'm sold on it.

One reason sous vide interests me is because when done properly, sous vide cooking allows one to achieve higher yields. As this website (selling sous vide technology explains):

"Developed in the mid-1970s in France by chef Georges Pralus who was looking for a way to reduce product loss when cooking foie gras. Pralus found that by cooking foie gras sous vide, he was able to achieve much higher yield and improved texture."

As it further explains:
"food cannot be overcooked, as it is heated exactly to desired core temperature. This is especially helpful when using expensive ingredients like Kobe/Wagyu beef or fois gras..."
Wooly Pigs brand Mangalitsa is in that category - as pieces like these attest.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wooly Pigs Brand Leaf Lard Available Online

Wooly Pigs brand leaf lard is now available from Foods in Season - in their online store. Or you can call 866-767-2464 and order the lard and a bunch of other stuff.

Leaf lard from our pigs is superior because we control various variables to produce high quality fat. I've also worked personally with our processor to make sure they render the lard properly.

The lard isn't hydrogenated. There's no preservatives. Hence it is "pure" lard.

This stuff is great for: making biscuits, cooking sous vide and making spreads, frying chicken, making pastries, cooking vegetables, etc.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Tamales - Mangalitsa Lard - Foodista

Photo by Sheri Wetherell

Sheri Wetherell has a new recipe for Christmas tamales on the Foodista blog, made with Wooly Pigs brand Mangalitsa lard.

Sheri has a recipe for pork tamales on Foodista. She and Barnaby Dorfman are principals at Foodista, the cooking encyclopedia that anyone can edit.

I encourage everyone with a favorite Mangalitsa recipe to put it into Foodista. There's already ones for jowl, belly, bacon, chicken confit and chops - but it would be great to have more.

If you don't live in Seattle or San Francisco (and buy directly from Wooly Pigs), you can buy our lard and other products from Foods in Season by calling 866-767-2464.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bob del Grosso on Wooly Pigs Brand Bacon

Foods in Season, in addition to distributing our Mangalitsa to high-end chefs across the USA, recently created an online store, so they can take retail orders from around the USA and ship people our products like bacon and lard.

Although you can't order lard right now, Foods in Season will have that in place very soon.

As someone with experience with information systems, I thought I'd better test the new store, which has already been improved since I wrote about the experience.

To test the store, I ordered up a bunch of bacon, sending it to:
Foods in Season shipped the product to them. Bob del Grosso was even nice enough to blog about it.

They all liked it.

I'm not surprised. I don't think there's a better bacon for sale online. It was great to be able to sit in front of a computer, type a bit and press some buttons - and set in motion the automatic delivery of Wooly Pigs brand bacon to these people.

I'm glad people are so happy with the products - this is only our second batch of Mangalitsa bacon, and just the first batch to include the cured loin. Selling stuff to people is a great way to get feedback so we can make better products in the future.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Wooly Pigs Sells More Feeder Pigs to Mosefund

Wooly Pigs recently sold more than 100 feeder pigs to Mosefund. The pigs just arrived. There's purebred Swallow-belly Mangalitsa and pigs with 75% Mangalitsa genetics.

Michael Clampffer of Mosefund uploaded a video of the pigs to Facebook.

In the video, the racket is the feeder lids bouncing. The pigs are fighting because to establish a pecking order. It should die down in a few weeks.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Photo Essay on Pigs as Recyclers

Bruce King has an informative photo essay showing the use of pigs to recycle food that but for them, would be wasted.

Looking at the photos, I recognize certain behaviors - e.g. dominant pigs taking a spot directly under the tractor's bucket, resulting in them getting covered in food. It is even more ridiculous in real life. You might think they'd be scared of the big metal thing, or the hundreds of pounds of food that fall out of it. After a few times, they aren't afraid.

It is fun to watch the pigs feed. Like other important activities - breeding and fighting - they give tremendous focus.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Pigs as Recyclers

There's an article about the Herbfarm feeding their pigs scraps.

A casual reader might think they finish their pigs on scraps. That's not the case - because finishing pigs on scraps typically results in soft pork.

As I've mentoned many times, quoting Harris on the Pig, "Pigs will eat food which, but for them, would be wasted," -- and that includes ice cream, condensed milk, pumpkin puree, etc.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pig Genes

There's an article about a new discovery of a gene that determines how lean and muscular pigs are.

The article states incorrectly, "Domestic pigs develop more muscle and store less fat than their wild ancestor, the wild boar."

Although it is true in general that domestic pigs are leaner and more muscular than wild boar, lard-type breeds like the Mangalitsa, which are domesticated, are quicker growing and more lardy than their wild boar ancestors.

Free Pig Food - Warwick, Rhode Island

I got a call today from Mr. Bucci of Warwick Ice Cream Company.

They've got a pallet of ice cream - 2000 pounds. It would make some pigs happy. It can't be fed to humans.

If you live near Warwick, RI and want to get some free ice cream for your pigs, call 401-263-3492. If you know someone who has pigs near Warwick, please let them know about this opportunity.

I've written about this phenomenon - the fact that pigs will eat things that people and animals won't eat, makes them very special. When raised on food waste, pigs are about as "sustainable" as it gets, and reduce incidence of disease and vermin.

Best of all, the pigs love to spend hours rooting through garbage to find the tasty bits - unlike, for example, goats - who are ridiculously fussy in comparison. Never send a goat to do a pig's job!

Bruce King, a Washington farmer, has some blog posts about feeding his pig food waste:
condensed milk
condensed milk backstory
thoughts on free food
more free food

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pat Sheerin on the Mangalitsa slaughter, Pig Breeding Systems

75% Mangalitsa pigs

Mike Sula wrote about Pat Scheerin getting his pig from Stan Schutte. I've written about these pigs before.

There's a nice quote in the new post:

"These truly are a special breed of pork. I’ve attached a couple of pictures after starting to break them down. Look at the color of the flesh—fuck 'the other white meat,' this is tasty goodness. We cooked up the 'skirt' steak. The flavor was so clean and rich and delicious I’m looking forward to the other parts."

I think that's great news. Of course, I'm not surprised. Our pigs are of course very special, and Wooly Pigs provides advice (backed by science and Austrian experience) on how to finish pigs for maximum quality. I don't know how Stan finished his pigs, but based on previous experience, I expect the people who eat those pigs will say they have the best meat and fat they've ever eaten.

As someone running a breed-oriented meat company, I noticed something in Scheerin's quote above, "These truly are a special breed of pork."

Technically speaking, Stan's pigs are hybrids (75% Mangalitsa genetics). They aren't in any breed. Such pigs look like the ones in the picture above. They are very much like purebred Mangalitsa pigs, but in some ways they perform better than Mangalitsa pigs, in other ways they don't.

I've been reflecting on this issue lately because I had some inquiries about feeder pigs. I explained that there were purebred feeder pigs for sale, along with crossbred pigs (75% Mangalitsa genetics). A couple of customers asked, "what are they crossed with?"

My answer was, "meat-type pigs". In response, the customers asked, "what breed?"

Although we can produce such information, I felt it was important to refuse to provide the information, because if they think the details of the 25% meat-type genetics matter, they really don't understand what they are buying.

Yorkshire Terrier

E.g. imagine if 99% of all dogs were companion dogs - Pekingese, Pugs, Yorkshire terriers, and they were primarily rated on their ability to function as companions. Let's imagine that companion dogs have the following traits:
  • Small size.
  • Ability to bond with their masters.
  • Temperament to ride around in a small carrying case.

Typical companion dog at work.

In the pig world, almost all pigs are meat-type breeds or crosses. They produce lots of lean meat, cheaply.


For biological reasons, if one needed to produce lots of cheap and healthy companion dogs, the lowest cost companion dog would likely be a hybrid companion dog. E.g. 1/4 Pekingese, 1/4 Yorkshire and 1/2 Pug.
Pug - the most companiony?

Whether or not you'd pick exactly those breeds, theory says you'd pick the two most maternal (and unrelated) breeds to be the 1/4 breeds in the mix, and you'd pick the a male of the most "companiony" breed as the terminal sire.

You'd breed Pekingnese to Yorkshires, producing F1s (50/50). Because the two breeds are unrelated, you'd get maximum heterosis. That gets you lots of cheap healthy "companiony" puppies with good reproductive traits. You'd keep the females from those matings - because they ought to produce even more puppies for the same cost.

In the British pig world, a typical maternal cross would be Large White and a Landrace. The resulting F1 females are amazingly good at weaning pigs.

To produce your companion dogs for sale, you'd breed your F1 females to your Pug terminal sires, producing excellent all-round companion dogs.

Theory says that even if the Pugs are too "companiony" than what people want in a dog, they could make great terminal sires, because they'll compensate for the fact that the maternal breeds aren't "companiony" enough.

Pietrain boar - good choice of meat-type terminal sire.

In the pig world, the typical pig comes out of such a system, with the Duroc (an extreme meat-type breed) being the terminal sire. In Europe, the Pietrain is a popular terminal sire. As with the dogs, the Pietrain (and Duroc) is so lean that you don't necessarily want to eat them - but they impart the desired traits to their offspring, explaining why Duroc and Pietrain boars sire so many of the meat-type pigs that people eat.

Someone might ask, if the terminal sire is so great, why don't people just raise purebreds and eat them? The answer is that terminal breeds typically have disadvantages, because they are selected for extremes. They are used in systems that make the most of their advantages while minimizing their disadvantages. It would be surprising if a terminal sire (like a Pietrain) was good to eat.


Then imagine a company came along with a Komondor, importing it from Central Europe - a big livestock guardian dog that is not at all like the companion breeds. It can't fit in a purse, and it has a natural livestock guarding instinct. It is incredibly brave, comes from Hungary and has a woolly coat and striking appearance.

A company would do that because it perceived that not everybody wants a companion dog, just as not everyone wants cheap, lean meat. Some want a dog that will guard their property. In the case of pigs, the company is Wooly Pigs, the breed is the Mangalitsa, the customers are the most demanding restaurants and consumers, who want a want a pig that tastes the best. Wooly Pigs imported the Mangalitsa because in the Western Hemisphere, there are no reasonable substitutes.

When it comes to companionship, the Komondor is terrible. It fails one major test - being able to fit into a purse or dog carrier. Yet when it comes to guarding livestock, the companion breeds - and crosses of them - are all terribly inferior to the Komondor.

Mangalitsa pork chops - photo by Barnaby Dorfman

Similarly, the Mangalitsa is terrible at producing lean meat cheaply. But it produces incredibly dark, juicy, marbled, tender meat, something that meat-type breeds (and crosses thereof) can't do well.

Mangalitsa pigs fatten the best.

Of course, there are Pekingese, Pug and Yorkshire fans, and to the extent that those breeds are different, people talk about how much better Pugs are than Yorkshires, and vice versa. They tend to talk about how their companion dogs are better or worse companions. They don't tend to talk about how their companion dogs are good at guarding livestock or fighting other dogs - because that's not what those dogs are are for.

Yet in the pig/pork world, you've got consumers talking about how one meat-type breed tastes better than another meat-type breed, when really, meat-type pigs are about producing lots of cheap lean meat, not producing pork that tastes good. If people were consistent, they'd be bragging that their favorite meat-type breed produced leaner, cheaper meat than other breeds - because that's what meat-type breeds are for.

The Komondor owner thinks it ridiculous to consider the relative merits of a Pug guard dog versus a Yorkshire terrier guard dog. The pit bull owner probably can't find time to consider whether Pekingeses or Pugs make better fighting dogs.

Similarly, a Mangalitsa owner thinks people who talk about how juicy and flavorful their meat-type pigs taste are silly - because compared to a Mangalitsa, they taste dry and relatively flavorless.

Best-tasting pigs.

The analogy between Komondor and Mangalitsa is imprecise: the Mangalitsa is an extreme lard-type breed; it defines the fat end of the spectrum. There is no other breed that fattens easier or has darker, juicier, marbled, flavorful meat. I don't know that the Komondor is the best guardian breed.

If someone produces a dog that is 75% Komondor and 25% companion breed, it will be a lot like a Komondor. It probably won't behave like a Komondor in all respects, but it will almost certainly be a lousy companion dog, and it will almost certainly be a better livestock guardian than all companion breeds or their crosses.

If you produced a 75% Komondor (25% companion breed) hybrid dog and offered it to someone, and they asked, "what is it crossed with", you'd be correct in saying, "it doesn't matter," because the difference in performance between a 75% Komondor 25% Pekingnese and a 75% Komondor 25% Yorkshire terrier wouldn't be meaningful. Both of those dogs are likely to be really great watchdogs and guardian dogs by the standards of companion dogs. They'll be terrible companion dogs; it definitely won't be possible to lug such a dog around in a knitted carrying bag.

To the extent that the Pekingnese and Yorkshire are different, the differences in the 75:25 cross are made smaller, because only 25% of the genetics are coming from those quite similar breeds. Whatever differences there are, they can't have a major impact in the final outcome.

In reality, anyone who is contacting Wooly Pigs to buy feeder pigs isn't contacting us because we've got 75% Mangalitsa 25% Duroc pigs versus 75% Mangalitsa 25% Yorkshire pigs versus 75% Mangalitsa 25% meat-type pigs. People contact Wooly Pigs because we've got pigs with Mangalitsa genetics, and increasingly, people are coming to understand that such pigs, when raised for maximum meat and fat quality, taste incomparably better than all other pigs on America's market.

A more reasonable question for a consumer would be, "how does the 75% Mangalitsa differ from the purebred Mangalitsa?"

The answer: purebred Mangalitsas generally cost a lot more to raise, have higher vet bills, have more fat in the carcass and have tastier meat. The eating-quality differences are imperceptible to most consumers, because they've been eating meat-type pork all their lives.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Wooly Pigs Brand Bacon Available Online from Foods In Season

Food's in Season, in addition to selling you a variety of Mangalitsa products over the phone, now sells a limited selection of our Mangalitsa products online - specifically, jowl bacon, (belly) bacon and loin bacon. I've written about these bacons before.

Although the store is modest now, this is a very exciting thing for Wooly Pigs.

Finally, Americans who want to eat bacon from Mangalitsa pigs - the sort of pigs used by the most demanding chefs - can order it with a credit card from the privacy of their own homes. They don't have to talk to a person. They can just click and type a bit, and the Mangalitsa bacon will come, like magic.

It has taken years to get to this point - because to do this sort of thing and make it work, you've got to have sizable "pigflow" and processing to match. Wooly Pigs is finally producing enough Mangalitsa that we, together with Foods in Season, can make this work.

This is the first day the store's been up. It will be fun to watch things rapidly improve.

  • Right now, payment is handled through PayPal. Many people like using PayPal, because the merchant doesn't get your card info - but it makes it a bit more work to buy, and potentially confusing.
  • Right now, there's a limited selection of Mangalitsa products for sale. In the future, I expect that everything they sell over the phone (866-767-2464) will be available online - including our salami.
Of course, if you call a Foods in Season sales rep - 866-767-2464 - you can order from the full menu - bacon, lard, shoulder butts, boneless chops, loins, bellies, etc.

If you want Mangalitsa bacon sent to you, without having to talk to a person - you can order it online.

I'm so happy about this: Foods in Season, a gourmet purveyor with an excellent reputation, is running an online store - and its first products are made by Wooly Pigs.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sous Vide at Home

There's an article in the New York Times about people doing sous vide at home with a new machine.

I'm mentioning this here because a number of customers of mine either cook sous vide, or have expressed interest in doing it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Illinois Media

I saw an article in the Illinois Times about Mangalitsa pigs and pork by Julianne Glatz. It is quite informative.

The article's photos really stood out.

E.g. there's a photo of some meat. It looks pale and lean, like chicken. I've reproduced it above, along with a photo I took of a Mangalitsa roast. I don't think they've killed their pigs yet in Illinois, so I'm guessing they just got a stock photo of pork. The article does explain that Mangalitsa pork is very fatty, but you wouldn't think that if you just saw the stock photo.

They've also got a picture of Swallow-bellied Mangalitsa with a hernia. That probably has people scratching their heads.

In any case, I'm just happy to see people excited about this stuff.

I understand that Foods In Season has sold Mangalitsa (by Wooly Pigs) in the Chicago area, partly due to previous similar publicity. Basically, some people who hear about it want to try it - and Foods in Season is essentially the only distributor that's able to take an order and FedEx the stuff off.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wooly Pigs brand Salami

Wooly Pigs will have its first batch of salami ready, in approximately 50 days.

Wooly Pigs's first salami will be a Hungarian-style salami: paprika-spiced with light smoke. My first taste of Mangalitsa was some Hungarian salami, by Pick.

It will be interesting to see how good we can make it. One big problem will be getting the right paprika.

Jacqueline Church on Mangalitsa Lard

Chef Manfred Stockner with whipped Mangalitsa lard (r) and lardo(l).

Jacqueline Church has a post about Mangalitsa leaf lard.

She use some lard from Jason Bond's pig. I wrote about that before.

Foods In Season can send you Wooly Pigs brand Mangalitsa lard and bacon - just call 866-767-2464.

Anyway, this talk of lard reminds me of something.

Often people talk about leaf lard and how it is superior to non leaf lard. Although that may be a useful heuristic when dealing with meat-type pigs that aren't raised for high-quality fat, when dealing with extreme lard-type Mangalitsas that are fed for high fat quality, it isn't clear to me that leaf lard is better than non leaf lard.

I haven't done rigorous baking experiments, but as far as how it looks, tastes and smells, I can't tell my Mangalitsa lard from my Mangalitsa leaf lard.

Given a choice between some Mangalitsa lard and some leaf lard from a non-Mangalitsa pigs, I'd take the Mangalitsa lard. My own experiments with Berkshire hogs (fed along the lines of my Mangalitsa pigs) have told me that the Mangalitsa fat (leaf or non-leaf) tastes much better than Berkshire fat.

Scientists Grow Pork in a Laboratory

While reading Bob del Grosso's blog, I became aware of "Scientists grow pork meat in a laboratory".

I've discussed this before - some day, this is going to put a lot of chicken and pig producers out of business, because vat meat will replace "real" meat.

If one could grow mangalitsa jowls and tenderloins in vats, those would be the parts to grow.