Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mangalitsa Lardo, Swiss Meat & Sausage Company

Mike Sloan and his Mangalitsa lardo

The Sausage Debauchery has a post about Mangalitsa lardo. Knight Salumi is about to start making Mangalitsa lardo.

I'm going to bet that in 2010 and 2011, American foodies will start to talk about how amazing Mangalitsa lardo is.

Pre-sliced Mangalitsa lardo - jalapeno flavor

Wooly Pigs has finished its first batch of Mangalitsa lardo. It was made by Swiss Meat & Sausage Company, the company that Christoph and Isabel Wiesner trained.

We did four flavors.

Inspired by the Wiesners (who export pepperoncini lardo to Japan for sushi), I had Swiss make some jalapeno lardo.

I would have done pepperoncini, but I've not had American-made pepperoncini as good as the Italian stuff, and Americans like hotter stuff like jalapeno, so I decided to go for it with jalapeno lardo.

It was excellent. The pepper gives the product some "heat".

Mangalitsa bellies

Swiss Meat can cut Mangalitsa pigs the way they do in Austria, as the photos show. There were no Austrians in the room when they fabricated these parts.

It was an entirely American production.

People who buy our products and meat are helping to improve America's culinary expertise one bite at a time - because that's what pays for it all.

Mangalitsa hams, ready for curing

While we were there, a guy who'd bought some feeder pigs from me, Harry Cope, brought one in to have it killed and cut, Austrian-style. He specifically brought his pig to Swiss to get it done that way. He could have gone somewhere closer, but they couldn't cut his pigs that way.

If Wooly Pigs and Swiss hadn't taken pig butchery to the next level, he'd be stuck with wasteful Anglo-American butchery.

Mangalitsa shoulders, ready for curing

In addition to getting hams to cure, Harry will get shoulders, de-ribbed bellies, de-reribbed loins cur curing, fatback for lardo, fat for sausage, soft fat for rendering and leaf fat for leaf lard.

Much of that product is going to Mark Sanfilippo - the same Mark Sanfilippo that the Wall St. Journal wrote about, along with Mangalitsa Lardo maker Rey Knight.

The fact that Cope/Sanfilippo will get 4 categories of fat - an entirely reasonable thing from a Mangalitsa - isn't normal in America, but makes a lot of sense for a meat processor or a chef.

Mangalitsa sirloins

Mangalitsa rib-loins

So our first batch of lardo finished. It was interesting to see how normal Missourians like the stuff. It was very popular. People immediately got that a little Mangalitsa lardo on a Ritz cracker, or a Mangalitsa lardo sandwich on some sandwich bread, is a fine snack.

Slicing it thin - as shown in the picture above - makes it more palatable to people, and really stretches it. I figure we'll have to sell it pre-sliced (a bit like Kraft singles) so that those without rotary slicers can enjoy thinly-sliced lardo.

Making lardo requires the butchers to separate the meat from the fat very carefully.

Gouges in the fat are undesired, because salt will get trapped in it. The goal is to cleanly separate the fat slab from the meat. It is quite a challenge, because the guy doing the cutting can't see inside the meat.

Last Fall, Wooly Pigs sold a lot of Mangalitsa loins. The loins had the fat on them. Some chefs complained that the yields were too low. To get the most out of the loin, they needed to remove the fatback and cure it into lardo.

Looking back, I can't believe that we expected them to do that. How are they ever supposed to get any practice doing that sort of cutting and lardo making - especially considering that most American pigs don't have much fat on them, and the fat they have is typically unsuitable for making cured products?

I can remember asking slaughterhouses in Washington and Idaho to separate the meat from the fat, so that the fat could be processed. The fact that we wanted special cutting was consistent with the special hogs (very fat, ugly and hairy) - yet they weren't responsive to our needs. The results were a lot of waste.

That's why I'm so happy about Swiss Meat - they've taken this stuff seriously. To my knowledge, there's no other slaughterhouse in the USA where you can bring in a pig (Mangalitsa or otherwise), get it killed and cut "European-style" and have them make lardo out of its backfat.

It won't surprise me if Swiss kills, cuts and even processes meat-type hogs the way they process Mangalitsa pigs - because right now, there's no other USDA-inspected plant up to the task.

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