Thursday, March 26, 2009

New York Times on Mangalitsa

Tamas Dezso for The New York Times

The New York Times just published an article on Mangalitsa, written by author and journalist Michael S Sanders. There's a lot of neat info in it!

I'm excited that more people will understand what Wooly Pigs is about - whether by reading the article or eating our product.

Monday, March 23, 2009

New Jersey Mangalitsa Workshop - January 2010

Christoph Wiesner roasts a Mangalitsa, caveman-style.

Mosefund Farm has announced that in about 9 months (January 2010), they'll have a Mangalitsa workshop in New Jersey.

Christoph Wiesner, President of the Austrian Mangalitsa Breeders' Association will instruct, teaching the students:
  • Slaughtering, scalding, eviscerating
  • Organ processing
  • Breaking down carcasses - e.g. seam butchery
  • Making lard
  • Curing Mangalitsa - Lardo, Speck, salami, etc.
Students will buy a hog from Mosefund. They'll slaughter it, under Christoph's supervision. They'll break it down (under his supervision) and turn it into products.

Christoph teaching seam butchery

Short of going to Christoph's farm in the Fall, when they kill their Mangalitsa, you'd never get this kind of instruction on such high-quality pigs. Space will be extremely limited. Contact Michael of Mosefund Farm for more info.

I'm confident that Mosefund and the Wiesners will make the event a success, just as the Woodinville Mangalitsa event was a success. Given that it will be such an amazing event, so close to New York City, I think the media will surely cover it.

Pork by Wooly Pigs in New York City

Mangalitsa-Berkshire piglets at The Herbfarm

I'm hearing from Michael at Mosefund Farm that The Spotted Pig will be serving some pork belly from us starting on Wednesday. The bellies formerly belonged to some of Mangalitsa-Berkshire crosses.

Michael reports that Michelle Kung (author of a recent Wall St. Journal article on lard) is going The Spotted Pig to eat some of that pork belly with Jennifer McLagan. Jennifer's book "Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, With Recipes" is nominated for a James Beard award.

If you want to eat Mangalitsa, The French Laundry (Yountville, CA), The Herbfarm (Woodinville, WA), Monsoon (Seattle, WA) and Harbor Brix (Gig Harbor, WA) might have it. In addition, there's a dinner March 31rst at Eccolo, in Berkeley, CA.

New Mangalitsa Producer - Suisun Valley Farm

Shane Petersen of Suisun Valley Farm

Wooly Pigs is the only breeder of Mangalitsa in the USA. We sell neutered feeder pigs to other farms.

Our first customer was Red Mountain Farm - provider of Mangalitsa to The French Laundry, whose operation got written up by the San Francisco Chronicle. As evidenced by the glowing reports from their customers, they do a fantastic job. On March 31rst, Eccolo is having a Mangalitsa dinner, using their pork.

In addition to Red Mountain Farm, we've sold pigs to a number of other farms, including Mosefund Farm of Branchville, NJ and Earthy Delights & Bakers Green Acres.

Marie Nguyen of Suisun Valley Farms

The newest Mangalitsa producer is Suisun Valley Farm of Fairfield, CA. Run by Shane Petersen and his wife Marie, they'll finish their Manglitsa pigs (who are now very young) on acorns. Their farm is close to Napa Valley.

As the photos show, Shane and his wife attended the Mangalitsa workshop at The Herbfarm. They got to learn and practice a number of Mangalitsa skills, including seam butchery.

Mangalitsa Salami in Japan - PICK siker Japánban

Those cute Mangalitsas have no idea what awaits them.

Pick is marketing Mangalitsa salami in Japan. Here's a Hungarian article (Google Translation). Here is Pick's Japanese website.

I first encountered Mangalitsa while eating some Pick Mangalitsa salami. Had it only been a so-so Mangalitsa salami (and I've had some from Pick that wasn't up to snuff), I might not be running Wooly Pigs.

It astounds me to see Hungarians marketing Hungarian products in Japanese:

They seem to be taking the "healthy fat" approach - emphasizing that Mangalitsa fat is more monounsaturated and thus healthier than typical pork fat.

One of the things that convinced me to import Mangalitsa to the USA was the realization that Spain exports frozen Iberico to Japan. Mangalitsa tastes like Iberico (if anything, better), but can be produced in our colder climate.

If Pick develops demand for Mangalitsa in Japan, I expect the networks that export Berkshire pork from the USA to Japan will eventually export Mangalitsa.

Rebekah Denn Nominated For James Beard Award

Rebekah Denn has been nominated for a James Beard award for a story about Wooly Pigs and Mangalitsa.

The Seattle P-I, her former emplyer, recently transformed itself - eliminating all the food staff. She's now blogging at Eat All About It.

Here's what she wrote about Mangalitsa belly - pictured above, in a piece entitled, "Mangalitsa Madness: Porcine Foie Gras":
This fat-laden cut -- belly with some small ribs -- is sinfully rich and salty-sweet. By the time it left its slow braise and joined some glazed turnips and Brussels sprouts on the plate it was practically pork candy, or the pig equivalent of foie gras. It was so tender and moist it fell apart at the touch of a fork.

Dining on any more than a small square of the meat would overwhelm any rational appetite -- the serving shown in the picture, I realized after taking a few bites, would feed two or three. The foie comparison carries over to the serving size. It makes buying a cut of the meat seem less out of reach at $25/lb; the hit isn't so painful when a pack can provide several servings.

I am not usually one to eat the fat off any form of meat. It tastes foul, the texture is rubbery, and it's terrible for your health. With the melting mouthfuls on this young pig, though, I get how people can nibble at it until their lips glisten.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Review of Mangalitsa by Red Mountain Farm

Some customers of Red Mountain Farm made a Mangalitsa dinner and wrote up their experience. Red Mountain Farm's Kylan Hoover forwarded me the review, which I've tried to translate into text and photos.

I'm very happy that Red Mountain Farm did such a great job with their Mangalitsa feeder pigs. This part of the report tells me that they did things correctly:
"In the picture, you can see that the fat is rather stiff. This was quite different from the fatback that we used in our first trial, which was not as brightly white and became floppy at room temperature."
As I've explained before - and as I learned from Christoph Wiesner - Mangalitsa producers must optimize the fat quality. The fact that Red Mountain Farm has hard, bright white fat tells me they did it right.

Whenever I read reports like this one, I'm happily surprised at how much people appreciate Mangalitsa!

Mangalitsa Dinner 3/16/08
Food by Erin & Dave
Wine by Brian

A couple of months ago, Erin got a copy of Saveur magazine in the airport and happened upon an article about Mangalitsa pork. Obsession soon followed and after a month or so, we were able to order some shoulder, fatback, belly, and jowl from Kylan Hoover at Red Mountain Farms. Subsequently, we spent a lot of time testing out different recipes and techniques, many of which we had never tried before. This menu is the final result. The pig in all of its forms was an unforgettable experience. Thanks wooly pig!

1st course

Charcuterie plate: whipped lard, terrine de campagne, and pickles

2007 Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc

Whipped lard was prepared 2 ways: one with truffles and the other with diced red onion and paprika. Pickles included homemade quince and beet pickles, takuan, and dill pickles. We also had some multigrain and French baguette from our excellent local bakery, Bread & Cie.

Terrine de campagne

This terrine contained ground Mangalitsa shoulder, fatback, and belly, along with veal and a foie gras inlay.

Erin: We weren’t sure what to expect with the whipped lard. We were happy to discover that it acted as a flavor amplifier, intensifying and extending flavors without having a specific flavor of its own. It also added a rich mouth feel and was surprisingly light. The quince pickle, which we made with vinegar, spices, and honey, surprised us with its complexity and its combination of tart and sweet acted as an excellent accompaniment to both the whipped lard dishes and the terrine.

Dave: Having sampled the terrine the morning before the dinner, I was very nervous about the traditional course order. I was pretty sure nothing could top it, each bite was like a chain of multiple flavor explosions in your mouth – it was stunning, it was transcendent, and I was sure it was all downhill from there.

2nd course: Savory custard and Greek salad

2006 Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay

This savory custard didn’t contain any Mangalitsa, but it did have homemade Berkshire pancetta as well as shiitake mushrooms, caramelized onions, and Parmesan cheese.

Erin: We have this dish for dinner pretty often. It is basically quiche without the crust. We have tried a variety of different fillings, but the homemade pancetta is the best so far. Ideally, we would have liked to include guanciale instead of the pancetta, but we haven’t finished curing it yet. The reason we tried home curing in the first place was that we heard how amazing the Mangalitsa was cured. After experimenting with a couple recipes, we were hooked. If you’ve never tried making your own bacon, the flavor, especially for cooking, is far beyond what is usually accessible. It is also incredibly easy.

Dave: The salad is also a mainstay – I make it every day for Erin’s lunch. No two are the same, but this one had a base of arugula, mizune, and red leaf lettuce to which I added cucumber, tomato, shinko pear, red onion, walnuts, grapes, Kalamata olives and feta. It is a perpetual source of embarrassment to me that despite my Greek descent, I prefer French feta for its rich creaminess. The dressing was soy, verjuice, white balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

3rd course: Larded pheasant with sausage, prune, and apple stuffing

2006 Karubriel by Adobe Guadalupe

The pheasant was brined and then larded with Mangalitsa fatback using a larding needle.

We made a sauce from the pan juices with port, chicken stock, thyme, and bitter orange zest.

Erin: Larding apparently used to be pretty common for game, but was mostly replaced with wrapping in bacon, if used at all. The short pieces of fatback melt slowly as the bird cooks and bastes the meat, keeping it moist and flavorful. We tried this exact recipe with normal fatback first as a trial run and enjoyed it a lot. The Mangalitsa version, however, was far deeper and richer, really highlighting just how much of an effect this fat can have on a dish. In the picture, you can see that the fat is rather stiff. This was quite different from the fatback that we used in our first trial, which was not as brightly white and became floppy at room temperature.

Dave: One of my favorite things about cooking with Mangalitsa is all the left over fat. The terrine had basically overflowed with this golden yellow lard, intensely flavored with foie gras and some truffle – it was scrape the cutting board over and over for the last drop good. We clarified this, removing the meat bits and jelly, and pan seared the pheasant in it before putting it in the over (instead of the lousy old butter we had used on the first one).

4th course: Braised Mangalitsa shoulder with braised red cabbage and chestnuts.

Vall Llach Priorat Vall Llach vineyard

Erin: This dish is an adaptation of the pot-au-feu recipe in the French Laundry cookbook, but instead of serving it on a bed of vegetables, we served it on braised red cabbage with chestnuts instead. Since there was so much fat on the shoulder, there was a layer of fat that accumulated on the top of the braising liquid. Unfortunately, this seemed to keep the heat in and the meat cooked a bit quicker than we expected. In the future, we’ll check it after 3 hrs or so instead of the 4-5 and cook it at a lower heat than 275. Still, when it came time to eat it, the slightly tougher texture was hardly noticeable. The rich chunks of fat had absorbed all the flavors of the long braise. Each bite was paralyzingly intense. The cabbage had cooked for 5 hours in additional wine and some of the left over braising liquid. It had a lovely sweetness that cut through the richness of the pork.

Dave: all the wines Brian chose were excellent in and of themselves, and as matches, but I really loved this Priorat. We had used a similar Spanish wine for our marinade and braise, but this one was superior in every way. We had tried both red and white wines in our two trial runs for this dish – both were good but I am happy we went with the red -- we really needed something a bit fuller to stand up to the Mangalitsa.

Dessert: Almond Bavarian Cream with berries

2004 Phillip Delesevaux Selecion Des Grain Nobles

Erin: No Mangalitsa here, but an excellent light and airy dish.

Dave: Somehow, there’s always room for Bavarian cream! Our first almond one, and it was really a hit.

Recipes, information, and inspiration from:

Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol I & II, Julia Child et al.

The Way to Cook, Julia Child

Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery, Jane Grigson

Charcuterie, Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn

The French Laundry Cookbook, Thomas Keller

On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee

Eccolo Mangalitsa Dinner - BERKELEY, CA - Red Mountain Farm

Kylan Hoover of Red Mountain Farm with his Mangalitsa

Wooly Pigs provides Mangalitsa feeder pigs - and expertise - to farms like Red Mountain Farm.

Red Mountain Farm's Mangalitsas have an incredible view:

The Mangalitsas' view from Red Mountain Farm

I'm happy to report that there's a Mangalitsa dinner in Berkeley, CA at Eccolo, which will use a Mangalitsa from Red Mountain Farm. If you live in the Bay Area and want to eat Mangalitsa from a local producer in a restaurant setting, this is a great chance. Here's the info:

Eccolo Newsletter March 19th 2009
Farmer Dinner with Red Mountain Farm and Martin Bournhonesque Tuesday, March 31

Join us for a special dinner on March 31st with two of our favorite farmers: Kylan Hoover of Red Mountain Farm(Livermore, CA) and *Martin Bournhonesque* (Salinas, CA). We'll be cooking with Kylan's exquisite Mangalitsa pigs, also known as "wooly" pigs, and Martin's legendary specialty produce, from wild arugula and cardoons to kumquats and avocados.

Both farmers will be at the dinner to interact with guests and discuss their work and products. Jesse Schwartzburg of Star Meats will also be present to discuss the fine art of butchery.

The menu will be priced a la carte, with most special items available in half-portions to allow diners to sample a larger variety of dishes...

Please reserve your table early, as we expect this dinner to fill up
quickly. Call us at 510.644.0444 or click here to make a reservation.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Update on Szent Orbán Borház & Étterem

Mangalitsa cured products.

I recently posted about a cool-looking restaurant in Hungary. It was all opaque though, due to the impenetrable Hungarian language.

Magyars came to the rescue. Vanda helped out translating the menu.

And Carolyn Banfalvi, American author, and journalist wrote to tell me that she reviewed this establishment, one of Lake Balaton's best. She's got some cool food photographs, which I've posted above.

Enough of this blogging - I have to go my Mangalitsa beer dinner at one of Washington's best inns. We will eat a lot of Mangalitsa!

Wall Street Journal on Lard

Manfred Stockner with Mangalitsa lardo and lard.

The Wall St. Journal has an article on lard today. It mentions, coincidentally, the Weston A Price Foundation that I posted about recently.

With such a food-centric article, they needed a food picture. They should have called me! Rather than running a somewhat wimpy photo of a "lard cake", they could have run with a photo of Manfred Stockner holding his Mangalitsa lardo and lard. Here's videos of Stockner on lardo - the same lardo that Gourmet's Carolyn Banfalvi liked so much.

For the most part, Mangalitsa producers are lard connoisseurs - because their Mangalitsa produce so much fat of such (potentially) high quality. Mangalitsa lard is more monounsaturated than typical lard, making it more like duck fat. Mangalitsas produce the best meat - but as a consequence they make a lot of fat - requring Mangalitsa producers to carefully control their fat quality.

As a result of Wooly Pigs selling such high quality lard, it doesn't surprise me at all to go online and find remarks from customers like:
I've yet to find anything better than Mangalitsa lard to cook, fry and bake with.
That customer may or may not know, that Mangalitsa fat tastes good not only because of the breed, but also because of the finishing diet and age at slaughter. Producing great lard requires optimizing multiple variables. If I finished my Mangalitsa pigs on corn (like almost all pigs in the USA), they'd have lower quality fat.

I ate a piece of braised Mangalitsa belly almost two weeks ago. I can still remember how delicious it was.

Anyway, even if the Wall Street Journal article doesn't mention Mangalitsa, I'm happy to know that lard is making a comeback.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mangalitsa-based Agicultural Tourism

There's something on the web (unfortunately only in Hungarian) about a Hungarian farm/restaurant. There's a slideshow of photos here.

They've got Mangalitsa specialties listed - but I can't tell what they are:
Ételspecialitások: 1. Mangalica tarja rozmaringos burgonyával,salátával. 2. Töltött mangalica (máj, gomba, zöldség.) 3. Szürkemarha rostélyos tekercs burgonyás nudlival. 4.Szürkemarha steak friss salátával. 5.Szürkemarha bélszín vörösboros barnamártással, tepsis burgonyával, salátával. 6. Házigazda kedvence (grill szürkemarha bélszín, mangalica szűzpecsenye, libamáj, zöldségekkel) Badacsonyi lávakövön grillezve
Here's some of their good photos:

Nice people enjoying their afternoon meal.

Guys trying wines in the basement.

Although it is warmer, the language barrier normally stops me (and a lot of tourists) from travelling much in Hungary - so I normally stick to Austria.

If you are in Austria, I'd make a trip to Spitzbart's - in addition to doing farrow-to-finish Mangalitsa pigs, they slaughter, process and retail Speck. They also make their own alcohol and sell that. There's some photos of that on the Wooly Pigs website.

Alois Spitzbart, the founder, was the first in that area to have such a farm/restaurant business. His son, Dominik, is the one who has got them into Mangalitsa production and processing. Their other son, Konrad, is an accomplished pastry chef in the USA.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Farm Life

A newspaper has a description of farm life involving pigs, lard, etc.

Here's the part about the lard:

When it came time to butcher hogs, "three or four farmers would get together," Ted recalled.

Mr. Corne and Frank Clymer would often help at his father's farm, "usually in late fall, when it got cold. Hopefully, they'd pick a good day to do the killing."

The hog would be killed and hung up in a tree until it bled out, then lowered into a barrel of scalding water.

"They'd pull it out and scrape the hair (off) real quick," Ted said. "Grandma would spend all day cleaning the intestines to make the sausage," Ted said.

That required a board with a knife and patient scraping.

Hams and tenderloins would be cut and hung in the smokehouse. The rest of the pig would be turned into sausage.

Meanwhile, grandpa would render the pig fat into lard for cooking. The fat would be boiled in a big tub of water.

"He'd pull the fire out and put it back in so it wouldn't scald it," Ted explained. (Scalding would give the lard a funny taste and darkness.)

When it was about ready, grandpa would put the lard in a container and squeeze it down like apples in a cider press.

"The cracklings would fall out when they squeezed the lard out of it," he said.

Under his grandpa's care, the properly cooked lard "would be snow white," Ted said, "because it would never be burned."

Having been to a traditional pig-killing before, I've got the following thoughts:

It is very important to kill pigs on the right day. If you'll be outside, you want it cold but not too cold. You don't want snow or rain.

If your pigs have been infested with worms, Grandma won't have to clean the intestines, because the guts will be useless.

Did they really smoke the tenderloins? I've never heard of anyone doing that.

I'm impressed they were so concerned with keeping the lard snow white. I don't understand their bit about the fire, the scalding and the lard - but I've only rendered lard on a stove, not an outdoor fire.

They don't have much to say about what they fed the hogs to get the best fat. But that makes sense - Americans generally haven't been quality-sensitive when it comes to pork. People killing their own hogs in the 1940s were broke.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mangalitsa, Greg Higgins, Willows Inn (Lummi Island)

I'm going to a beer dinner this Thursday. Here's the info I got from The Willows Inn.

Mangalitsa Pork Paired with Beer from Pike Brewery!

Thursday, March 19, Wine Dinner at the Willows Inn

Greg Higgins from Higgins in Portland will pair his dishes with beer from Pike Brewery. The chef/owner of Higgins, often called "Piggins" because he pioneered the use of the whole pig in the restaurant world, Greg is a nationally known winner of the James Beard award, and Gourmet magazine's top 50 chefs in the country. He will highlight the amazing differences between Mangalitsa pork, recently featured in Saveur and Gourmet, and the normal pink pig. This is a gustatory event not to be missed.

Charles and Rose Ann Finkel, owners of Pike Brewing Company, are regarded as pioneers in American craft beer.
Beginning in 1978, they were the first to market beers from family owned breweries in England, Germany, and Belgium. They opened Pike in 1989 to offer world class beer brewed locally. Pike moved to its current location in 1996, adding The Pike Pub. That year, beer author Michael Jackson described Pike as “A shrine to beer.” In 1997, The World Beer Championship named it “One of the 10 best breweries in the world. The Finkels sold Pike in 1997 and reacquired it in 2006. Since then Pike beers have won numerous awards including Best Scotch Style Ale (Kilt Lifter), Best Stout (XXXXX Extra Stout), and Best Belgian Style Ale (Pike Monk’s Uncle Triple). In 2008, the Pike Pub was voted “best brew pub” and “best local attraction” by readers of N.W. Source. Citysearch named Pike “best organic restaurant.” In working together with Greg Higgins, they have come up with surprising and delicious pa irings to complement Nettles Farm ingredients.

Click the link below and email us with your reservation, or give us a call!

The phone number for reservations is 888-294-2620.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

... each sow capable of delivering eight piglets every six to eight weeks.

As someone who knows something about pigs, I'm astonished when I read things in newspapers like:

The pigs reproduce too fast, with each sow capable of delivering eight piglets every six to eight weeks.
That's roughly 59 pigs per sow per year. Please give me some of these magical pigs!

Here's stats on commercial pigs - which have been optimized for production and surviving in an easy environment. 24.6 psy is considered good. A lot aspire to 30 psy (and do everything they can to reach it). 59 psy is ridiculous.

Piglet video

There's Youtube video showing some Mangalitsa F1 piglets on a German farm.

This is a different video showing the breeding, the pigs and some sausages and preserved meats.

Based on her looks I suspect their sow has some Asian lard-type ancestry. Her pigs look healthy, fat and tasty.

-- UPDATE --

The maker of the videos confirmed that the sow is a hybrid of wild boar and potbelly. She's mostly (3/4) wild boar. I'm impressed at how chuffy she looks.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sows Running

There's a German website with some photos of their Mangalitsas. My favorite shows some sows running. I like how feminine they look. - Red Mountain Farm

Red Mountain Farm, purveyor of acorn-finished Mangalitsa to The French Laundry, has a website: Their pigs really are raised in the mountains:

If I lived in California and wanted to eat Mangalitsa, I'd contact them.

I recommend that you go out to the farm, pick one out and slaughter it there - that's how you get the highest quality meat at the lowest price.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Brasserie 4 & Chris Banek

I just delivered some pigs to the Walla Walla area.

Chris Banek, senior viticulturalist at Seven Hills is keeping some pigs for him and Hannah MacDonald, the owner of Brasserie 4 in Walla Walla.

Chris is a really nice guy, considering that he manages Seven Hills Vineyard - rated one of the top ten vineyards in the world by Wines and Spirits Magazine. When I was delivering the pigs to him he casually mentioned that he farms about 1600 acres of grapes.

Hannah's Brasserie 4 is highly rated French restaurant in Walla Walla, with a play area for children. That's a neat innovation - upscale dining that's kid friendly. Hannah joins Keith Luce (James Beard award winner) in fattening her own Mangalitsa pigs for her restaurant.

They got an interesting assortment of pigs - Hanna two purebreds, Chris a 3/4 Mangalitsa (3/4Mangalitsa 1/4 Berkshire) and an F1:

The 3/4 Mangalitsa pig is the interesting one. The F1 Mangalitsa x Berkshires have pink hooves, like Berkshire hogs. Breeding an F1 back to a Mangalitsa boar produces a 3/4 pig like the one above.

Although he looks like a Mangalitsa, he's got some black hooves and some pink ones, due to heterozygosity. The F1 in the picture above came from a crossbred dam (not a Berkshire) that happened to rendezvous (unintentionally) with a Mangalitsa boar. If its dam was a Berkshire, it would have pink hooves.

A lot of people fuss about the hooves and whether or not they are black. All things being equal, that F1 isn't going to taste as good as that 3/4 pig, despite having black hooves.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Necks of Mangalitsa

Food and Wine has a mention of Mangalitsa - in Berlin:
In addition to an intriguing wine-bar menu, with dishes like goulash made from necks of organic Mangalitza pigs with Bohemian dumplings, there were two seasonal tasting menus.
As Christoph Wiesner explained, the neck ("Schopf" in German) is a favorite cut in Austria and Germany, because of the various pork cuts, it is marbled, even in a common pig.

We don't have the "Schopf" cut in America, but if you check out his seam butchery class, you can see him turning a pig's shoulder into the neck and other cuts. As he explains at the beginning, you can make the neck cut long or short, depending on how much people want it.

This "Food & Wine" mention illustrates another interesting point about Mangalitsa - it is an international phenomenon. The breed is now raised from Romania to Germany, from Czech Republic to Italy. It is eaten all over Europe and Asia.

As of April, we'll be able to say that in the USA, Mangalitsa is raised from New Jersey to Washington, from Michigan to California.

One reason for the Mangalitsa's resurgence is that it does well in temperate climates, unlike the Iberian Black, which is practically hairless.

Mangalitsa Workshop Followup

I talked with Bryce Lamb, chef of Brix 25° in Gig Harbor. He recently got a half a Mangalitsa pig. Among other things, he served a customer a whole tenderloin, and that that customer said it was the best piece of meat he'd ever eaten. Additionally, he did a dish composed of a piece of Berkshire loin and Mangalitsa loin. Customers all preferred the Mangalitsa. That doesn't surprise me given results like these.

I talked with Riley Stark of Willows Inn (Lummi Island). They recently slaughtered their beloved Mangalitsa. After it finishes curing, people can love it in a different way. He was able to use the videos I took at the 3-day Mangalitsa workshop to break down the carcass. Christoph Wiesner even sent him a Rippenschlinge so he could do it as at the class:
Seam butchery part 1
Seam butchery part 2
Seam butchery part 3

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wildboar x Mangalitsa

There's some Swiss breeders selling piglets that come from a crossbred boar (Wild Boar x Mangalitsa) and a Duroc sow.

The sire:

The dam:

I find their efforts interesting. The Austrian Mangalitsa breeders generally consider a wild boar to be a good thing to cross into the herd, because it is closely related to the Mangalitsa. But that F1 boar above looks a lot scrawnier than a Mangalitsa.

There's a red mangalitsa in the Austrian herdbook who has some wild boar in her. When she sheds, it is more obvious:

She's in the herdbook because they got her in the beginning, when Austria had almost no Red Mangalitsas. When bred to a Red Mangalitsa boar, her are correct enough to be called Red Mangalitsa pigs.

Here's a more typical red Mangalitsa:

Now that they've got trade between Austria and Hungary, they can get in new boars and introduce new genes via those boars. Eventually, the herd will look like the boars. That is how the Mangalitsa breed spread throughout Hungary - they bred lard-type boars to their lean sows.

Here's a picture of Franz, a boar in America's (Swallow-Bellied) Mangalitsa herd:

He's got some wild boar traits (e.g. small, wary of humans), but he doesn't look much like that F1 boar above. If Franz's male offspring look small and lean like Franz, they aren't good candidates for keeping as boars. Over time, fewer and fewer pigs are going to look like Franz.

Mark Baker on Public Radio Talking about Mangalitsa

Mark Baker of Bakers Green Acres was on public radio talking, among other things, about the Mangalitsa they'll be finishing in Michigan.

In April, they'll receive a bunch of feeder pigs from one of Wooly Pigs' farms in the Midwest. They'll fatten and eventually market them. The slaughter date is about a year and a half out, so there's plenty of time to work out the details.

Their plan is to fatten them on acorns and produce the absolute best raw material - similar to what Red Mountain Farm did in California. As Mark mentions in the interview, much of their Mangalitsa will probably get sold outside of Michigan. There's only so many consumers in Michigan of such fancy stuff.

This remined me of an article I read on on the fundamental limits of producing an consuming food locally:

The local-food movement, too, must learn to bend. The reality of 21st-century America is that food demand is centered in cities, while most arable land is in rural areas. What open land remains around cities is so expensive that it either is out of reach for farmers or requires that farmers focus on high-end, high-margin products with little utility as mainstream foods. Thus, although there is great potential to increase urban agriculture (as we'll see in a minute), urbanites will always depend on rural areas for some of their food—especially given that by 2050, 70 percent of the world's population is expected to live in or near cities.

Conversely, rural areas with good farm potential will always be able to outproduce local or even regional demand, and will remain dependent on other markets. "One farmer in Oregon with a few hundred acres can grow more pears than the entire state of Oregon eats," says Scott Exo, executive director of the Portland-based Food Alliance and an expert in the business challenges of sustainability. "Attention to the geographical origins of food is great, but you have to understand its economic limits."

Right now, one farmer in Michigan with a small number of Mangalitsa can produce more than the state needs.

Mangalitsa in Hungary, Weston A Price Foundation

On a Hungarian website, a Mangalitsa is the honored guest at a pig-killing.

Whenever I see them just after the removal of the guts, I'm surprised that the tiny feet (a distinguishing feature of Mangalitsas) have managed to support all that fat. Fat hams, fat bellies and ridiculous amounts of leaf lard.

Lately, I've noticed that many customers of mention the Weston A. Price Foundation, as they explain:

The Weston A. Price Foundation is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charity founded in 1999 to disseminate the research of nutrition pioneer Dr. Weston Price, whose studies of isolated nonindustrialized peoples established the parameters of human health and determined the optimum characteristics of human diets. Dr. Price's research demonstrated that humans achieve perfect physical form and perfect health generation after generation only when they consume nutrient-dense whole foods and the vital fat-soluble activators
found exclusively in animal fats.

I think the Mangalitsa should be their poster-pig. I don't think there's any animal out there that can fatten so efficiently, producing such light and tasty fat as a Mangalitsa.

They've got a number of articles that would naturally make someone want to raise Mangalitsas - just for their fat:

Put Lard Back in Your Larder

Sad Changes in the Standard American Diet

The Rise and Fall of Crisco

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Herbfarm Food & Visconti's Mangalitsa Dinner

There's report from Sheri Wetherell who ate at The Herbfarm recently. One dish featured Mangalitsa in it. Keith Luce explained to me that they've been using it in discreet ways in many dishes, so we don't really know how many might have had it.

At home, I use the fat for a variety of tasks. I prefer it to high-oleic sunflower oil, my favorite cooking oil.

Also, last night, I ate at Visconti's in Leavenworth. There was a wine dinner there for Napeequa. Dan Carr, the owner of Visconti's, and Pigstock participant, invited me.

Mangalitsa gets used a lot at wine dinners. I can see why they order in a Mangalitsa for the wine dinner; if they need it to be a special occasion, a few courses of Mangalitsa will do it.

It was my first chance to see 50 or so people eat Mangalitsa for the firs time. A lot of them really liked it. I definitely liked what I ate - particularly the Mangalitsa belly, which was amazing. I liked that more than the tenderloin. The sausage was also very memorable.

They've also got a USDA-inspected facility in the basement where they'll be making cured products. That was really neat to see. They've got a really nice setup - everything looked new and nice. One thing they don't have is a loading dock, they need to carry heavy carcasses down a flight of stairs. The more you deal with meat or meat production, the more you see the utility of pallets, forklifts and loading docks.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Swiss Media on Geneva Mangalitsa Pigs

There's a Swiss article on the Mangalitsa pigs of Geneva. [machine translation]. It has nice general information about them in Switzerland. This is the sort of resort that serves Mangalitsa:

The cold-tolerant and sure-footed Mangalitsa is a good fit for extensive raising in Switzerland. They've got them in Zurich too:


This is some meat I'll be selling this weekend at the farmers' makert.

This time around, I told the slaughterhouse to not trim the meat at all. A customer recently said he liked it that way. That's how I ate the stuff in Austria too - a lot of fat and very little meat.

In the distant past, pigs were appreciated for being able to fatten so much. The Mangalitsa breed is from that time.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Housing Pigs - The Welfare Debate

There's a video from Australian Pork that covers the main issues of the sow housing debate. It is the most evenhanded video I've seen on the topic of intensive housing of sows:

Sow stalls (aka "gestation crates") look awful, but the people who use them claim that they are the best alternative. The video includes some nasty fights between sows in group housing - showing one of the main problems that sow stalls solve.

This next video is really over the top. The animal scientists unqualified support of crates is off-putting:

He makes the claim that most pigs don't want to roam; in the wild, they roam because they have to, for food.

In general, he's probably right that most domesticated pigs don't care to be that active - because they've been selected for living in confinement. There are differences between breeds. Just as herding dogs are generally more active than companion dogs, some pig breeds are lazier than others.

Humans are responsible for these changes in animals. E.g. the Mangalitsa was formed from half-wild breeds of pigs that were quick to bite. The progenitors of the Mangalitsa were like feral pigs. Just as humans transformed wild dogs into fairly tame ones, humans have (over thousands of years) transformed wild pigs into extremely lazy, profligate and tame pigs.

In contrast wild boar are active and generally don't do well around people or in tight quarters.

Wild boar on farm. High fence for short pigs.

I recently talked with a guy who breeds wild boar. They had to cull a number of them to build a herd that could work in their system. They needed to raise them indoors in order to avoid catastrophic winter farrowing losses, but that meant making their farm work for wild animals, and culling the animals that were still "too wild" for the farm. After a few years, they've got a herd that works for their farm, which breaks out the life cycle into a typical multi-site system, allowing them to keep the pigs healthy easier.

Domesticated pigs stay put behind a flimsy fence.

It bothers some people that we've repeatedly taken independent, active animals like pigs and turned them into lazy, dependent animals that require expensive equipment. Some people think it is wrong for humans to produce animals that can't fend for themselves. Others (the folks who raise animals intensively) can argue that the people who raise pigs extensively are indifferent to the extra mortality associated with those systems.

I think most people who have opinions about how animals are raised would be shocked to hear that intensive farmers can logically argue that they are better animal stewards than traditional farmers.

Of course, it is only the amazing success of our ancestors domesticating plants and animals is what allows us the luxury of reflecting on these philosophical issues, instead of filling our time with constant hunting, gathering and whatever else people did in the Stone Age.

It isn't clear how we humans should decide what transformations of our animals are forbidden or not. E.g. Meishan pigs seem pretty nice and happy, as long as you don't make them move around much. I don't think it is wrong that humans have bred them that way. In general, it is good if we match the animals to our keeping systems, and vice versa.

Herbfarm's Pigs - Free Food

The Herbfarm has some pigs that they'll be killing in about a year. Because they raise the pigs close to a city, free pig food is easy to come by. There's no point in buying feed when free food is available.

In their case, they've got free whole wheat bread from Trader Joe's. It is astounding how much free, high-quality food there is in America! It is so shocking to see those pigs eating that really good looking food. But humans don't want to bread once it is 3 days old, so it gets thrown away.

The understanding of Mangalitsa producers is that you can feed the pigs whatever keeps them healthy and gets them to gain until the last 2-4 months, when you've got to be very careful about what they eat - because that's what determines their fat composition and flavor.

It isn't typical that free food is the best finishing food - but Mangalitsa pigs take so long to mature, free food can make up a lot of their diet.

The big pig in the videos is about 19 months old. All he's done his whole life is eat. He'll be approximately 30 months old when he's slaughtered. The feed that really impacts what pork he'll produce he'll eat 8 months from now. He could be eating KFC and TV dinners until then - as long as he eats the right things in the last 4 months, he'll taste sublime.

This understanding confuses some people and bothers them - but it is because they aren't thinking about the issue of how to economically produce fantastic meat and fat.

I remember when Christoph Wiesner explained to me a great way to fatten pigs: let them run around for the first year to develop strong bones and muscles, and then put them in a pen and feed them a tremendous amount of low-PUFA grain. The bones and muscles will allow them to get immensely fat, allowing one to make a lot of Speck.

It bothered me to hear him say that, but when I thought about it, it made sense. If the pigs run off the calories, they won't get as fat as possible. That means they'll be a lot more expensive per pound. It is wasteful and there's no perceived benefit.

One scheme I've heard of - and it is great - is to use electric fence to build a movable pen, and move the pigs around an oak grove, so that they can consume acorns and fatten without running off too many calories. With that system, the pigs become a way of transforming things that we can't use directly - acorns - into something we really want.

My understanding is that the The Herbfarm would like to see if they can get that big pig really big, like the best ones in Vienna. Making sure he can't run off the calories would help.

Another trick I've read about is to allow some hungry pigs to enter and eat after the "target pig" has already eaten. The sight and sound of the new pigs eating makes "target pig" eat even more. As with weight training, every little bit of food helps, because much of the food just goes to maintaining the animal, and only the excess calories get turned into new pork.