Friday, November 28, 2008

Mangalitsa in Germany's "Stern" Magazine

Mangalitsa gets a mention in Germany's Stern magazine. Some of the products in the photo are blood sausage and lard.

Whipped Mangalitsa Lard, Mangalitsa Seven Ways

I spent time with Chef Michael Clampffer of Mosefund Farm recently. He prepared seven different Mangalitsa courses.

The most interesting was the whipped Mangalitsa lard. This dish shows of the strengths of the Mangalitsa - the incredible fat quality. Turning stuff that normally gets thrown away (the rendered fat) into food is nice.

First, he roasted some Mangalitsa belly. As is clear from the photo below, the belly of this 95-lb carcass Mangalitsa is almost entirely fat:

Raw Mangalitsa belly

After roasting, the fat is a bit brown:

Roasted Mangalitsa Belly

Then he added his braising liquid and cooked it a long time. The liquid also contains some herbs and vegetables:

After cooking it got packed away into differen containers. If you look carefully at the photo below, you'll see a piece of belly floating in a bi-colored liquid. The top liquid, which is clear, is rendered fat. The cloudy liquid underneath is the braising liquid.

Mangalitsa Belly Floating in Fat and Braising Liquid

The next day, things have chilled. The fat is easy to extract, because it is semisolid:
Removing the Mangalitsa Fat

He whipped the fat in his mixer, adding in some cornichons, diced toast and vinegar.

Whipped Mangalitsa Lard

To serve the belly, he heated slices, and crisped the fat to get a nice texture. The braising liquid got reduced and used elsewhere. The whipped lard got served on bread.

The full list of things he prepared (all from the same pig) was:
  • Braised belly
  • Whipped lard
  • Panko-crusted fatback, deep-fried in Mangalitsa lard
  • Roasted Leg
  • Italian Sausage (fennel-flavored sausasge, 60% lean, 40% fat)
  • Bacon
  • Pork Rinds (roasted skin)
The guests, all of them experienced food professionals, were very impressed by Chef Clampffer's dinner. Due to the fat-friendly nature of the guests, it was OK to serve fat, fat and more fat. Nobody complained about eating so much fat.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Customer Blogs about Mangalitsa

The Mangalitsa trim (50/50) is for the serious Mangalitsa consumer - because it is a lardy, low-value cut of an expensive pig. It takes a leap of faith to buy that stuff.

Here, a customer blogs about her experience with Mangalitsa trim - part 1, part 2 and part 3.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Millennium of Hungary and Its People, My Wonderful Customers

Larry's Mangalitsa Rillettes with Mustard

I got asked the question, "are mangalitsa pigs curly-haired?" today.

Trying to find an answer, I came upon the book "The Millennium of Hungary and Its People" from 1897 which discusses the creation of the mangalitsa pig:

Text not available
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That was roughly in 1830.

Things have changed tremendously in 170 years: Serbia isn't part of Hungary, pigs don't get driven by swineherds to slaughter - and most importantly, the Mangalitsa is finally available in the Western Hemisphere.

Start eating and you can't stop

Amazing Mangalitsa Customers

I had a customer bring me some Mangalitsa rillettes today at the market. These were incredibly good. The lard with mushrooms, being a lardier product, took a few days for me to eat. The rillettes were 90% gone by the time the market was over.

I've had rillettes before, made from normal pigs. Typically, the fat is a bit repulsive and the meat doesn't taste meaty enough. When I'm done, I often regret eating the stuff. With Mangalitsa, the regret is usually that it is all gone.

The Mangalitsa rillettes had lard on top. It tasted very light and clean. The meat underneath had a very strong flavor. It was possible to eat small portions of the stuff and enjoy it a lot. The stuff didn't last long though, because after about 40 small portions the container was all gone and I went into Mangalitsa rillette withdrawal.

I'm very grateful for such customers. It isn't so much that I'm getting free stuff, but rather, I'm happy to see these people making such tasty things and having a good time doing it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Some people disparage pigs for being so eager to eat and sleep. Our langauge is full of negative expressions like "greedy as a pig", "to eat like a pig", "lazy like a pig", piggish, etc.

Eager to eat includes not only the quantity of feed, but also quality - pigs will eat nearly anything, and they'll eat as much of it as possible. That trait is so astounding that often overlook another important trait: laziness. Pigs will sleep 20 hours a day, if possible, and if woken at the wrong time, insist on going back to sleep.

Of course, the job of the pig is to eat food that we don't want and turn it into meat or fat (exactly what ratio determined primarily by the genetics), things that people really want. Voracious pigs gain weight faster, and laziness allows them to keep that weight on.

Looked at dispassionately, the job of a pig is to transform unwanted food into something we want. The very traits that we disparage pigs for are exactly the ones that pay.

Domestic pigs have been bred to be voracious eaters and particularly passive and lazy. People like Harris, writing in 1870, spoke very appreciatively of the Chinese breeds known for being very, very lazy.

Looking at ducks and geese, it is easier to appreciate the role of appetite, because they don't "eat like pigs." To produce the livers we want economically, we have to force feed them. If only ducks and geese would eat like pigs - we'd save ourselves a lot of trouble.

If you read about ducks fattening, it all sounds so complicated compared to Mangalitsa. We want birds to be a lot fatter than is natural:
Force feeding overrides animal preference and homeostasis. Although ducks may, under some conditions, voluntarily consume large amounts of food, if force feeding is interrupted they will fast for a period of 3 days or longer, indicating that ducks have been fed past the point of satiety...

Increased liver weight is accompanied by a substantial overall live weight gain (in the range of 85%). Obesity influences behavior as fattened ducks are less active and exhibit increased panting in an effort to avoid over-heating. The ducks' plumage may develop a wet or greasy appearance. Anecdotal observations by members of the European Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Welfare suggest fattened ducks also demonstrate abnormalities in standing posture and gait. Mortalities have been attributed to some ducks becoming immobile and therefore unable to access water.
Mangalitsa belly or jowl is, like foie gras, a fatty and delicious product. But unlike foie gras, Mangalitsa fattening is uncomplicated. Mangalitsa pigs really want to be fat.

Hopefully one day we'll have poultry that, like pigs, naturally want to eat until they give us what we want. Or maybe we'll just culture foie gras in vitro - saving ourselves a lot of trouble. If we ever succeed in solving the poultry appetite problem, we'll see breeds of ducks disappear, just as lard-type pig breeds like the Mangalitsa disappeared in response to changing consumer preferences.

Sow Picture

Mangalitsa Sow

I found a cute picture of a Mangalitsa sow on this German farm's website. They don't normally look so cute. She's probably just looking for a handout.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mangalitsa Pigs in Hungary

There are some nice photos from Hortobagy National Park (Hungary) available on the web. They show photos of traditional Hungarian animals, including the Mangalitsa.

It is odd to see that pig covered in mud and think about how good it would taste.

Another Hungarian site shows them doing things traditionally, including the servicing.

Manglitsa at the Genussfest in Baden

Among the various delicacies at the "Genussfest" in Baden (near Vienna), there was Mangalitsa lard. Having eat a bunch of this in the last 24 hours, I can understand.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Random Hungarian Festival

The Mangalitsa is the star of the show.

There's a set of photos showing some Hungarians having a festival. Part of it involves killing a Mangalitsa. I can't understand Hungarian at all, so I really don't know what they are doing or what the context is.

I suspect they dragged the pig to the event so that everyone could see the whole process. More interesting for the people, but more stressful for the pig. [see the comments for what really happened]

After they kill the Mangalitsa, they take the hair off by scalding it. The chains are meant to rub the hair and epidermis off. Austrians use the same system.

After they kill the pig (or pigs?) they make some goulash [NOT -- see the comment for what they made]. Their fancy equipment (e.g. buckets for their gas tanks, neat wooden stands) and uniforms tell me they are probably professionals paid to come and make goulash for the crowd.

I like how when the event is all over, the pig (except for the guts and bones) is all gone. It is a bit like a crawfish boil. The pig comes (live) to the party and doesn't leave. The people leave happy and with full stomachs. What a simple and ancient communal eating experience.

Killing the pig at the event and cooking and serving the meat would be illegal in much of the USA, because the meat wouldn't be USDA-inspected.

Lard with Mushrooms

A customer (a very generous one) gave me some of her lard with chanterelles. She rendered some Mangalitsa lard, fried some chanterelles in it. It was her first attempt at making something like this. Although such spreads aren't common in America (outside of restaurants), you find them overseas, in fancy or less fancy incarnations.

Due to the special composition of Mangalitsa lard, this spread is very light and tasty. Plain Mangalitsa lard would be fine, but the mushrooms give it extra flavor and make it very fancy.

I had some cold on bread. That was very good. Later I warmed up some bread, put the lard on it and added a bit of salt. That was even better. It tastes great on rice too.

If Manfred Stockner were making this sort of spread, It think he'd probably mince the mushrooms more, add salt and then mix them in to whipped lard. That's what he does with Mangalitsa liver, to make a spread.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Transformation of the Poland China

The effect of intensive selection over 12 years on the conformation of the Poland China Pig in changing from a lard to a bacon type (a) 1895-1912, (b)1913, (c)1915, (d)1917, (e) 1923.

There's a book available for preview via Google called "Lawrie's Meat Science" that shows in pictures how the Poland China, the closest thing America ever had to a Mangalitsa, went from being a lard-type hog to a bacon-type hog. The rate of change is fastest in the first few years.

The 2007 version is a meat-type:

Although the modern version and the original have the same name, the economic and eating characteristics of the breed are completely different. Articles like this one often don't mention that the popular heritage breeds have changed with the times.

Ultimately, the demise of original Poland China can't be blamed on Con Agra, Smithfield, Big Agriculture, the government, etc. Americans simply stopped wanting such pigs, at which point the breed had to change with consumer tastes or vanish.

The Mangalitsa is essentially the same as it was in the 1800s. It was able to survive in its original form because the Hungarian government paid to preserve the breed when lard went out of fashion. Specific foods are important to Hungarians, some of them made from pigs, so they preserved the Mangalitsa. The breed survives now because people want such hogs. If consumer tastes change again and they go through a period of tremendous deprivation, perhaps the breed will again be at risk.

Given that the Hungarians had to spend so much money to preserve the breed (and how they almost failed), I'm skeptical that the critically endangered American breeds will survive very long. The expense of running a breeding program, in order to preserve genetic diversity, ensures that the animals will become gradually more inbred, making them even less economic and worth rehabilitating. It is hard to imagine the government or any entity finding the money, year after year, to pay to preserve biodiversity.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Mangalitsa Breed Honored With Stamp

The Mangalitsa breed just got their own postage stamp. More info here.

Those pictured Mangalitsa look a little too nice. Here's some real ones:

The urgent crowding is ridiculous. The one in the back - you just see the nose - is straining to be a part of whatever is going on.

It reminds me of the Mangalitsa on Hamedinger's farm:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Next Big Pig - Mangalitsa/Mangalica

Mangalitsa Piglets

Canada's Globe and Mail is reporting about the arrival, in 2009, of Mangalitsa jamon from Jamones Segovia S.A., explaining that Mangalitsa is "the next big pig."

As they introduce their new premium food product, I expect Wooly Pigs (the ultimate source of all Mangalitsa produced in the Western Hemisphere) will benefit from their PR.

From the article:

Michael Tkaczuk, president and CEO of Toronto's Serrano Imports, came across mangalica ham by chance at a Barcelona food fair in March of this year. On tasting it and hearing the story of the salvation of the unique mangalica breed, he knew that his company, which also brought serrano and Iberico ham to Canada, had to import it. "This product is just unbelievable," he says.

Indeed, the cured ham, estimated to sell at $150 per kilogram, is a worthy addition to foodie "must try" lists. With its maroon colour, rich aroma, smooth texture and robust, slightly salty flavour, it's a close cousin to the high-end jamon Iberico that arrived in Canadian stores last April.

Derek Bendig, chef de cuisine at Toronto's Pangaea restaurant, is one of the few Canadians who have tasted the ham, and is eagerly anticipating its arrival. "The ham is spectacular," he says. "The story behind it is a great selling feature," he adds.

Our customers, who've been enjoying fresh Mangalitsa meat know that it is incredible.

Their remark "close cousin to the high-end jamon Iberico" makes it sound like Mangalitsa isn't as good as Iberico - but any differences in quality would be due to method of raising the pigs, not their genetics. Blog readers know that Mangalitsa is unsurpassed in its fattiness and meat quality, making most Iberico strains seem lean in comparison.

If you've been following this blog, a few things in the article will seem odd:

The mangalica pigs, whose meat is used for the Spanish-cured mangalica ham, continue to be raised in a traditional manner by Hungarian farmers. The pigs are free-range and feed largely on barley, wheat and corn, as well as grasses and other plants they forage.
For the most part, the Hungarians don't raise Mangalitsa free range, just as the Spanish don't raise Iberico that way - unless you count a small fraction of mostly crossbred hogs receiving a 3-month outdoor finish "free range".

From the article, you'd think their pigs would taste as good as Red Mountain Farm's Mangalitsa, which just isn't the case. Red Mountain Farm's Mangalitsa is some of the best raw material in the world, because the hogs are purebred and finished on acorns. It won't surprise me if American Mangalitsa producers, due to their focus on serving the high end, produce better pork than the Hungarians for quite a while, in the same way that Austrians, serving a very small and quality-sensitive market, generally finish their Mangalitsa with more care.

There's more on how the Spanish produce their cured meat products here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Dehesa and Production

There's a presentation available on the how the Spanish use the Dehesa to produce livestock. I haven't seen much online about what they do, so I thought it was worth posting about.

As the presentation makes clear, their pigs are primarily crossbred, outdoors only at the end of their lives and they are ringed. Those are all optimizations that allow them to raise more pounds of Iberico for less money and less environmental damage.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Food and Fuel

Another small farmer did the math and wrote about his fuel use, explaining "Local Food DOES NOT Use Less Fossil Fuel!" He also got attacked for it, so he had to restate his case,

I wrote something similar before and got attacked for it in the same manner, so I sympathize with the guy. All he does is tell the truth (likely because he's bothered about his own fuel inefficiency) and he gets savaged for it.

He gets into some interesting issues involving pastured animals. Overall, I think he's quite realistic, except when it comes to keeping animals indoor during winter.

During winter, particularly in places that get very cold, sheltering animals reduces improves their feed conversion, because they don't have to burn feed to stay warm. Whether you use propare or a hoop building, heated shelter is better than the traditional system, explaining why modern farms are how they are.

People would like to think that raising animals outdoors in primitive systems is both the most humane, most efficient, most ecologically beneficial and they way to produce the best-tasting product. Commonsense says that it isn't likely to be the case.

If nothing else, the most humane, from the pig's point of view, would be to raise them indoors with their dam (mom), eating ice cream and fried chicken, until they all keeled over fat and happy from heart disease. Humans do this for their pets, but not their food animals.

Our ancestors raised animals the way they did because they didn't have the money or technology to do things the way we do now. All traditional systems are low-input and labor intensive. I believe that those systems are the most natural (yet inhumane) and can (under certain circumstances) produce some of the best product. But that doesn't preclude the possibility of a less-natural system producing a higher quality product.

There's reason to think that a lot of traditional food didn't taste that good. E.g. Hungarian sausage is so spicy because traditionally, they finished the pigs in swamps, resulting in swampy-tasting meat. They couldn't vacuum-pack the meat, so it got very dry by the time summer came. Nobody in his right mind would want to eat that stuff today. Some of today's traditional products taste a lot better than what our ancestor's ate, because we have the money to produce the best products, by any means necessary.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Mangalitsa in Austrian Media

It is too lean to be Mangalitsa.

There's a food reviewer raving about how great the Mangalitsa liver and kidney was in a restaurant:
On my last visit came the good news from the kitchen, there are still two servings of Mangalitsa liver and kidney; they were not one the menu. The fried liver with roasted potatoes and whole kidneys wrapped with bacon, plus a surprisingly fruity tasty Dijon mustard: a poem.
Additionally, there's a butcher making good Speck in Gro├čweikersdorf (translation). He's won many awards. He's using Mangalitsa, of course.

It was interesting to read that his slaughterhouse only kills animals from less than 15 km (9.3 miles) away, demonstrating again that in Europe, "local" means something different than in America, where 100 miles (more than 10 times the Austrian figure) counts as meaningfully local. He's lucky he's got Mangalitsa so close at hand - Spanish processors, in order to use Mangalitsa, have to truck it 1800 miles.