Tuesday, March 30, 2010


There's a neat blog entry here about Chris Shepherd, Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber - Texas's Mangalitsa clique.

Reading it, I found out that Chef Shepherd recently cut his artery while butchering a pig at his restaurant - a very unfortunate thing.

I think Chef Shepherd and Christoph Wiesner are now using gloves like these for protection.

There's some great team spirit:
Pera, who also was asked to the competition but opted out to help his fellow chef, will be on Team Shepherd this weekend to "bring it home to Houston."
And the Texans are very inventive:

Shepherd is considering serving the following: Steen's sugared crispy pork belly; a plate of pig's head terrine, rillettes, blood sausage and andouille; whipped lardo; posole made with pork ribs; and pound cake made with pig fat and served with local strawberries. He's also making lavender-scented soap using pig fat as party favors for Cochon 555 guests.

It is really neat to think of their being a critical mass of Mangalitsa users in Texas. Two years ago, I never would have guessed that this would come to pass.

Monday, March 29, 2010

DeBragga and Spitler Orders Wooly Pigs Brand Mangalitsa

DeBragga and Spitler ordered a bunch of our Mangalitsa products today: necks, sirloins, rib-loins, tenderloins and lard. You can see the specs of our cuts in this PDF.

DeBragga and Spitler is one of New York's most respected meat distributors. The person I've been dealing with at DeBragga is George Faison - co-founder (and former co-owner) of D'Artagnan and owner of DeBragga.

This means that select restaurants in New York ought to be able to get Wooly Pigs brand Mangalitsa very soon - perhaps late next week.

Sous Vide Tip

I have been using my sous vide oven more.

I'm pretty lazy about cooking and my fire alarm is hypersensitive, so I haven't been cooking things sous vide and then searing them. Normally I take it right out of the bag and eat the stuff hot, or dump it in a bowl and microwave it to make it warm.

I had some Mangalitsa jowl that I cooked sous vide for about 24 hours at 65C. I figured I might as well sear it once.

I got my frying pan really hot and put some slices of the jowl in the pan. It seared and smoked up the room. My two fire alarms went off for multiple minutes. I had to air out the whole place.

Nevertheless, it was worth it. The searing makes the outside tougher and adds flavor. The combination of a crisp outer shell and a soft interior is a bit like deep fried food. It was really great.

I don't have photos, because I ate it. It looked a bit like this.

So my tip is, if you've cooked something sous vide, you might as well try searing it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Mangalitsa Cookies

I made some Oreo-like cookies from Mangalitsa lard. There's lard in the cookie dough and in the "creme" filling.

I've tried making Spanish almond cookies. The basic recipe is almond, cinnamon, sugar, flour and lard.

Those were nice, but to most Americans, an Oreo-like cookie is more familiar and comforting. The history of Oreos is very interesting. They were invented in 1912, back when lard-type breeds like the Mangalitsa were the most popular. Apparently, the original recipe included lard.

Eventually, Nabisco changed the recipe, removing the lard.

My first batch tasted pretty good. I whipped the creme to make it extra light. That makes the final cookies very different from Oreos, with their somewhat sticky filling.

How I did it: I took the cookie mix, show above, and added two eggs and two tablespoons of Mangalitsa lard. I baked the cookies and flattened them with a spatula as I took them out of the oven. I did them at 400F for 8 minutes.

The "creme" was 1 cup lard, some vanilla, a bunch of sugar and some gelatin, to help it set. I whipped the lard and added the vanilla and the sugar. After putting the gelatin in a little warm water, and then cooling it, I added it to the creme. I had to chill that further so that I could whip air into it.

After baking the cookies, I applied the creme and put them in the fridge to make them set.

I don't normally cook from mixes, but using the mix allowed me to get this first attempt done with reasonable success. The point was to see how the lard performed in the cookies and filling.

You can order the lard here:
Foods in Season

Chef Shop

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mangalitsa Soap Box

A German weblog has a photo of a box of soap made from Mangalitsa fat. The guy behind it - Wolfgang Pucher - is well known in Austrian circles.

I believe that the lardo you see here (some of the best) came from one of Pucher's animals.

He's done things that normally you'd only read about. E.g. hanging Mangalitsa hams in caves. It doesn't surprise me at all that he'd produce some awesome soap from his pigs.

Mangalitsa pictures from Inn At Ship Bay

Geddes of Inn at Ship Bay has some photos of his Mangalitsa pork and products.

That leg meat looks really tasty.

I like how he's got his sous vide apparatus casually positioned behind his Mangalitsa lardo.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spanish Ham-related Photos

There's a Spanish website with some neat photos of their iberico hams. They are serious about how they cut them, and have diagrams (which I don't understand) showing the cutting sequence.

They've also got photos showing the pigs and the cured products.

I'm reminded of Johnston County's Hams.

Also, here's an article about the Spanish getting ready to export to China. I expect that one day, American producers of Mangalitsa pigs will compete with Spanish producers. America enjoys a competitive advantage in pork production - and we've got better trade connections with China.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My Thoughts on Slow Food's Remarks on Hungarian Presidium

Slow Food has something to say about Mangalitsa pigs:
All 17 farmers who are members of the Presidium raise the animals in a semi-wild state and grow the materials used to prepare feed. Two significant issues emerged however. In recent years Mangalica pigs have become highly prized due to the outstanding quality of their meat and fat. Seeing easy profits, many large producers (in Hungary and other countries) have begun to cross Mangalicas with international hybrids such as Large White to reduce the time required for growing and fattening.
My understanding was the Hungarian producers, like Olmos es Toth, were crossing the pigs with Durocs (the way the Spanish cross Iberico with Durocs), not Large Whites. Here's more info - on why they'd cross the pigs - and how it, in some ways, benefits the smaller farmers raising purebreds.
In addition, the Presidium producers are mostly unable to meet the extremely restrictive requirements of Hungarian legislation for meat processing and this means that almost all the Presidium sausage production is sold on the local market, in more or less illegal fashion, by word of mouth.
Hungary's meat inspectors must love Slow Food and those illegal Mangalitsa producers.
At the same time efforts will be made to raise public awareness of the difference between intensively farmed hybrids and the Presidium Mangalica pigs.
Historically, the Mangalitsa triumphed over the feral breeds that preceded it because it did well when intensively farmed (as opposed to being raised in semi-wild conditions, like the Mangalitsa's predecessors).

My general sense is that if the consumers can't tell the difference in eating quality between the intensively farmed hybrids and the purebreds raised in semi-wild conditions, there's little point to Slow Food's educational efforts. In fact, if Slow Food can get people to pay more for otherwise equivalent pork, based on credence claims like "raised semi-wild" versus "raised intensively", they'll just encourage fraud - as has already happened quite a bit in Spain, where you've got pork being marketed as raised in one particular province or country, when it wasn't - it was just super-premium pork that had been relabeled to suit the demands of the market.

Slow Food sounds a bit shrill with their, "Seeing easy profits, many large producers ...," as if the Slow Food Presidium producers are necessarily more virtuous and less profit-oriented than big producers (despite the small ones, by Slow Food's own admission, failing to comply with the slaughter and processing regulations, potentially endangering the health of consumers).

On the positive side of things, the Mangalitsa looks to be conserved, in Europe and America, due to companies making the Mangalitsa pork and products that people want to eat. I would hope that Slow Food would see the upside to that.

Chris Shepherd

2010 is turning out to be a Mangalitsa year for Houston's Chris Shepherd.

Not only was he in New Jersey, where he learned how to slaughter and butcher Mangalitsa pigs from Christoph Wiesner, but he's prepared Mangalitsa pigs in Texas - and when he goes to Oklaholma, to compete in Cochon 555, he'll encounter Mangalitsa pork again, because, as described here, Chef Marc Dunham of The Ranchers Club:

will hold a nine-course meal at 7 p.m. in the student union, featuring local Berkshire and Mangalitsa pig breeds. For reservations, call (405) 744-2333. For tickets, go online to www.Cochon555.com.

It is very nice of Chef Dunham to make Chef Shepherd feel at home by serving him his Mangalitsa.

First Mangalitsa Processing Tutorial Released

Christoph Wiesner has released the first edition of "Mangalitsa Butchery". It covers how to cut a half pig into usable cuts using seam butchery techniques optimized for Mangalitsa pigs.

There are many different ways to cut up a pig. The techniques shown in his document show how to produce a number of high-value cuts via seam butchery. In comparison, typical Anglo-American techniques are easier, cheaper and more wasteful. Because of these differences, Wooly Pigs uses American butchers trained in Christoph's techniques, to produce our Mangalitsa cuts.

I haven't seen English-language materials on seam butchery, and even compared with the foreign material I've seen, Christoph's material is superior for learning. The Wiesners are doing Americans a big favor by producing this guide and making it freely available.

You can download the PDf here.

PS: a lot of people who reach this blog via search engines are looking for "how to cut up a pig". This is where you want to be. If you can find a better guide on how to cut up a pig, please let me know.

You can order rib pullers (as used in the tutorial) here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sand Point Grill

Sand Point Grill (the Bartelson's place) is serving our Mangalitsa tonight as part of their 3 for $30.

They've got a slow-cooked Mangalitsa roast, which, according to Craig Bartelson, tastes great.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mangalitsa Festival Photo

I saw this photo on someone else's blog. It is from the Mangalica Fesztival in Budapest, Hungary.

Looking at the photo, I see they've got cured shoulders - of the sort that Wooly Pigs sells green. They've removed the shoulder blade like us. The reason we do that is that after the thing is cured and dried, more meat sticks on the blade than when it is pulled off before.

The bellies still have ribs in them, and the belies don't look trimmed. That's unlike the bellies Wooly Pigs sells.

I'd guess that the torpedo-like things hanging in the mesh are cured necks. Unlike the ones we sell, they've got the fatback and skin on them.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lardo Science

I found this interesting study of lardo, diets and curing techniques.

People who raise Mangalitsa pigs, or people particularly interested in lardo, might be interested in this.

Chef Conversation

I had a talk with Chef Weber from the Herbfarm. He has prepared and eaten a lot of Mangalitsa.

He's got more perspective than most chefs - he's eaten small Mangalitsas, big ones, old sows and just recently, a nearly 3-year old barrow. He said the meat from that was very dark and marbled.

It is neat to talk with him because he understands his guests and Mangalitsa.

He remarked that Mangalitsa has a very specific strong flavor that is totally different from the other pigs they've gotten in. Meat-type pigs, be they Berkshires, Tamworths, Durocs, triple-cross hybrids, all pretty much taste the same. The lean meat of a Mangalitsa has a very strong meaty flavor, which the other pigs don't have.

I remarked that some people eat Mangalitsa and meat-type pork side-by-side, and prefer the meat-type stuff, because it doesn't have a strong flavor. You see that with chocolate too - not everyone wants a 70% cocoa chocolate bar. Most Americans would rather just have milk chocolate.

l suspect that 3-year old pigs are probably too flavorful for most Americans.

Fat Pigs

Mangalitsa pigs have valuable fat. Depending on the type of carcass one wants to produce (e.g. very lean or lardy), one feeds them differently.

Morgan Weber of Revival Meats wrote about different feeding programs - and their impact on Mangalitsa carcass quality here.

I saw today a story that reminded me of this subject. It involves a woman who wants to become the fattest woman. There's some great quotes:

Donna, who wears XXXXXXXL dresses, eats mounds of junk food and tries to move as little as possible.

Ms Simpson already holds the Guinness World Record as the world's fattest mother, when she gave birth in 2007 weighing 38stone.

She needed a team of 30 medics to deliver her daughter Jacqueline during a high-risk Caesarean birth.

Yet although she can only move 20ft before needing to sit down, she wants to be even bigger.

'I'd love to be 1,000lb,' she said.

'It might be hard though. Running after my daughter keeps my weight down.'

Pig fattening is the same way.

The ideal lard-type pig is one that eats to the point of ridiculous excess, allowing it to fatten the fastest, and then sleeps the rest of the day - so that it doesn't burn off those calories.

The Wiesners recently produced some excellent pork, quickly, by feeding their hogs barley and cooked potatoes. The cooked potatoes are essentially pure starch. I'm thinking I might try feeding something similar, to see if I can get more fat and marbling in my carcasses.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pigs and Muck

I found a photo on flickr of some Mangalitsa pigs.

When she's in heat, he'll follow her wherever she goes. So they are breeding in the muck because that's where she chose to stand. As the photo shows, there is drier land nearby - but that's not where she wants to be. She likes to be bred in her own manure.

Here's pigs on a farm in Austria. They are in muck too - it really smelled like hog manure.

But it doesn't seem to bother them - pigs being pigs, if they weren't happy in the pen, they'd bust out. They'd rather be in the pen with the food, even if they are always smelling their own manure.

In the end, what matters is how pigs taste. Mangalitsa pigs, fed the right stuff, can be raised in muck and still have meat and fat that tastes incredible. They can be raised in clean stalls and taste incredible too.

It doesn't matter if one raises a Mangalitsa pig in a filthier pen, in a cleaner pasture, in a confinement barn, etc. -- so long as you hold the diet and age at slaughter constant, the Mangalitsa will taste more juicy and flavorful than other breeds of pigs.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fat is a taste

Reading Bob del Grosso's blog, I saw that fat is a 6th taste.

As Bob points out, fat isn't a flavor - it is a taste.

I'm reminded of the chart above about Mangalitsa pork, from a Swiss book.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mangalitsa Lard Makes Some People Very Happy

There's a nice post here about our Mangalitsa lard.

I encourage everyone to compare whatever lard or shortening they've got side-by-side with our Mangalitsa lard, so they can see how superior our stuff is.

Besides Foods in Season, Chef Shop is also selling Wooly Pigs brand lard.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Butchery Classes Article

There's an article about butchery in the Sacramento Bee.

It had a quote that stood out:
"There are a lot of chefs getting into salumi and curing their own (pork) bellies and curing their own pork jowl, and because of that rising interest in salumi, you have to be fairly adept at butchery," he said.
You don't have to be adept at butchery, if you buy your pork from Wooly Pigs.

As described in this document, we sell cuts that are ready to be cured, whether by meat processors or chefs. The chef doesn't need to know how to produce a neck or a belly - he just needs to have the money to pay for it.

Momofuku and Mosefund

I was talking with Michael Clampffer of Mosefund yesterday and he mentioned that he'd sold some pork to Momofuku, a famous New York City restaurant.

I found this blog post that mentioned it:
If I had to describe this extra fatty pork, it would be "foie gras pork".

If I had to describe Mangalitsa, I'd call it, "pork that's actually worth eating."

There's so much hype about pork these days, but most of it isn't worth eating - and that includes "heritage breeds".

The reason Mangalitsa gets so much press is that it tastes fantastic. Other pork doesn't live up to whatever hype it has. Americans are used to ignoring food hype. When something is actually superior, it makes waves.

I think the fact that Mangalitsa is incomparably better than all other pork just shows how pathetic pork is now - you'd hope that some other pork would be somewhere close to Mangalitsa in eating quality. Unfortunately for consumers, there's no pork produced in the USA that isn't Mangalitsa that comes close to Mangalitsa in quality.

Hopefully Momofuku will serve Mangalitsa again some day.

Behold the Glory of Mangalitsa Pork

Curemaster Rufus Brown (left)

I saw this on the web about Provenance Farms and their Mangalitsa pigs.

I got to meet Steve, one of the owners of Provenance Farms, in New Jersey at Mosefund, where he helped to kill, dehair, butcher and process Mangalitsa pigs under the instruction of the guy who trained our processor how to cut pigs, make lardo and Speck and so on.

I love the fact that due to the efforts of Wooly Pigs, people across America - from California to Texas to Florida to to Maryland to New Jersey to Massachusetts to Minnesota to Missouri to Washington - are enjoying a new sort of extremely high quality food.

I'm very pleased to see non-foodie Americans - the kind who own trucks and live away from the coasts and wear camo - producing this stuff. That tells me that extreme lard-type pork isn't just a fad.

Speaking of which - from talking to Rufus, Johnston County Hams is about to finish its first batch of hams, bacon and cured jowl, made from our pork.

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.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

More Pics of Pasture Prime Wagyu's First Pig

Torm Siverson of Pasture Prime Wagyu sent me photos of his first pig.

It is astonishingly fat.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pasture Prime's First Pig

Must be chefs - look at their shoes.

I got an email from Pasture Prime Wagyu's Torm Siverson about the first pig they killed. They non-butcher humans in the photo are some Florida chefs.

The carcass was around 200#. It looks smaller to me in the photos.

Torm (r) looking at his work.

Given the coloring on the pig, it wouldn't surprise me if it was the cutest piglet in this photo, the little white piggy.

Edit: Chef Windus wrote about this pig (and Pasture Prime Wagyu) on his blog. He's got more photos.

Dinner - Wooly Pigs brand Mangalitsa - Photos

There's a nice entry at You Make it You Eat It about a multi-course menu that included some Mangalitsa products from Wooly Pigs - the jowl bacon and the pork belly. It has nice photos.

About the Mangalitsa pork belly, Wilson, the author, wrote:
This was another of Noah’s master strokes, the piggiest (and most decadently succulent) dish of the night.
My dinner yesterday was considerably simpler - a leg steak pan braised with some rice. The meat was tasty good, but what I really enjoyed was the fat. It has a wonderful bite to it. When I got my second portion, I found myself shying away from the meat and choosing the fat.