Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mangalitsa Culture in America

Developed by Hungarians, the Mangalitsa was adopted by the various people living in Old Hungary: Hungarians, Romanians, Slovaks, Ruthenians, Donauschwaben*, etc.

Old Hungary's Ethnicities

The progenitors of the Mangalitsa (e.g. Bakonyi breed) helped to keep people alive by turning forage and things that humans couldn't eat into human food.**

From those primitive breeds, the Hungarians created one of the world's tastiest pig breeds - the Mangalitsa. The breed came into its own when Hungarians started raising pigs on farms. These were the 19th century equivalent of "factory farms". Here's what a modern Mangalitsa farm looked like in the 1800s:

Today, they are raised similarly, by Olmos es Toth - with some modern innovations like a pyramidal breeding system and farrowing crates:

As the only breeder of Mangalitsa pigs in the western hemisphere, Wooly PIgs gets calls from people like Lucian Marcu, who comes from Székely.

Lucian Marcu with a big non-Mangalitsa pig.

Such people are very serious about their pigs. They want to get their own live Mangalitsa to fatten, slaughter, process and eat. A lot of them kill and process their own pigs. The fact that the pigs really are like the pigs their ancestors raised and ate means a lot.

If that sounds odd, consider that a Hungarian Prime Minister and a billionaire think getting together to kill and process a Mangalitsa is good way to spend a day.

Other breeds that were once like a Mangalitsa won't do, because they changed with the times.

The people who attended our Woodinville workshop (some flew in from California and Michigan) weren't Hungarian. Nevertheless, they spent 3 days processing Mangalitsa pigs - and paid enough that we could bring Christoph Wiesner, President of the Austrian Mangalitsa Breeders' Association, and his wife Isabel, to America teach them about processing Mangalitsa pigs.***

Suisun Valley Farm's Shane Petersen

Mosefund Farm's vet, Ernő, initially called Wooly Pigs because he wanted some live Mangalitsa pigs. I put him in touch with Mosefund, he got his pigs and now he's their vet. I can't imagine a better outcome: Mosefund has a vet who really cares about their pigs.

Ernő's Mangalitsa

Ernő's farm looks traditional. He's even got Hungarian-themed woodcarvings in his home - which is over the top. Michael sent me a picture, so I'm posting them here. Ernő's house has a woodcarving with Fisherman's Bastion (Halászbástya):

Here's another shot of Ernő's pigs in their barn:

When the pigs are big and fat, he'll have a traditional Hungarian pig-killing (disznótor)with his Hungarian friends, and it will be a big event for them.

I'm happy that I've been able to make it possible for people like Ernő to acquire Mangalitsa pigs. I'm happy I'm not the only person who cares about Mangalitsa, their traditional uses, etc.

* While researching material for this post, I found this American Donauschwaben site. I found the black and white photos of traditonal Mangalitsa farms on a different Donauschwaben website.

** James McWilliams, a food historian, has written about how Americans in the colonies used hogs the same way.

*** If that is your idea of fun, check this out. It will be bigger and better.

Mangalitsa in the News

With all the pig stories in the news, there's lots of pig photos. People love how the Mangalitsas look, so they get photographed a lot:

Mangalitsas in the Mist

Somebody's in heat.

I saw some Egyptian pig photos. They aren't Mangalitsa, but like the Mangalitsa, some of them have wild boar traits like stripes and long noses:

They are keeping those lactating sows in a group. The biggest piglets (from all litters) will steal milk from the littlest ones, leading to the little ones losing out.

This is one reason modern producers have moved away from group lactation to things like pens or crates - doing things "naturally" leads to little pigs starving to death.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


The Krispel family is celebrating their 10-year anniversary of making Mangalitsa products with a so-called "Specktakel".

By making and distributing a line of Mangalitsa products throughout Austria - called "Speck" - , they've done a lot to increase awareness of Mangalitsa within Austria.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Yet More Mosefund Pictures

These are pictures of Mosefund's pigs, taken by Chef Michael Clampffer.

There've been other photos of the pigs: here, here and here.

Some of these pigs are going to get slaughtered as part of Mosefund's slaughter and processing class in January.

His hackles are up.

Give them plenty of space and they bunch up.

Round purebreds.

Likely finding grubs.

Mangalitsa Gilt Star of the Show

A Mangalitsa gilt was the star of the show at a British auction.

One thing that's odd about the British pig rare breed pig market is that although they've got Mangalitsa pigs, they haven't made a big splash on culinary world - the way they have in America, time after time after time after time after time.

The point of the Mangalitsa isn't that it is a beautiful curiosity. The point is that it produces the world's best meat and fat. If you are going to eat meat (with all that entails) it, it might as well be a Mangalitsa.

Here's my understanding of why the British aren't marketing their Mangalitsa pigs as food to the most quality-sensitive consumers:
  • Low-cost substitutes from Spain (Iberico) and Hungary (Mangalitsa) - where people have economies of scale - prevent British producers from getting established.
  • There isn't much of a market for world-class, locally produced food in Britain.
  • The people raising the pigs in Britain aren't thinking in terms of food; they are thinking about pigs, pig-keeping, how fancy their pigs look, what price their pigs will fetch at auction, etc.
Wooly Pigs, in contrast, was founded to bring a new super-premium food to the western hemisphere. The project, all along, has been about creating a new wonderful, addictive, consumable - for which there are currently no domestically-produced substitutes.

A big part of that - too - has been working with Europeans who know how to make the pigs taste the best, and how to use the pigs to the greatest effect in the kitchen. As best I can tell, every Mangalitsa producer understands that what the pigs fatten on is crucial (along with other environmental factors). I don't see producers in Britain talking about what they feed their pigs - telling me that they aren't thinking about the pigs as producers of the tastiest meat and fat. That's too bad - the breed is a lot more likely to survive if people love eating them.

Stockner on How to Use a Loin - Roasting Versus Sous Vide

Manfred Stockner - mentioned in this article (and shown above) - is the chef that Michael Clampffer and I look to for advice on how to use Mangalitsa in a restaurant setting. He's been using them for several years - and he's learned how to wring the most money out of a carcass in a restaurant setting.

I'm hoping that we can get him over to America soon to teach some classes to culinary professionals. With the expansion of Mangalitsa supply happening in 2009, more chefs will be using Mangalitsa than ever. Chef Stockner can help them to avoid unnecessary mistakes. The more chefs understand how to make money from these pigs, the more demand there'll be.

Here's his tips on how to prepare a Mangalitsa loin (temperatures in Celsius):

I trim the loin (3parts meat, 1 part fat) because it is not so fancy to eat pure fat in Austria. And of course, curing the fat is more profitable and tastes better than roasting it.

Then I cut the fat in thin slices without hurting the meat.

On the meat side I season with fine chopped herbs, salt, pepper and spices, the fat side gets light salted.

Then I put some rendered lard in a pan, not to much heat and slow roast the loin on the fatty side, until it is light brown and half rendered. Then I turn the meat on the other side and roast it short and hot.

Then I give the meat (about 250g) out of the pan (keep the pan- we need the fat later) on and a grill frame in a 180° degree hot oven for 5 Minutes, then I let it rest for 10 Minutes in a 60° warm oven.

Then I heat the pan with the fat and give the meat the grade of colour I want. Then I cut the meat and serve it.

It is also possible to do the loin sous vide in a circulator, but I am not a friend of using this method to cook meat, which is soft and tender enough, like loin and tender loin.

But I did it with a 5 year old mother sow I bought for curing, just to see if it gets tender. It worked really well.

For this I trimmed the meat the same way, but roasted it short on all sides for not losing too much meat juices.

Then I vacuum packed it and put it in the circulator 56° for about 6 hours.

Then I roasted the fatty side until it was brown and rendered, it was tender with a sensational intense Mangalitsa taste, because the hog was so old.

Jenny's Recipe

Jenny of Pies By Jenny sent me a recipe that she'll be using later this year in her pies. You could prepare this and eat it, without putting it in a pie. This summer she'll have "Rockridge Orchards Desert King Fig Gastrique with Wooly Pigs Pork."

Native Blackberry Gastrique

1/3 cup Rockridge Orchards Apple Cider Vinegar

1/4 cup organic cane sugar

2 cups "Foraged and Found" ( Forager - Jeremy Faber) Native Blackberries

One TBL. chopped organic rosemary

One 1/4 tsp. chopped organic savory

Add to sauce pan Rockridge Orchards Cider Vinegar and sugar and reduce by one half.

Stir in Native Blackberries and Herbs and heat through and simmer until sauce is a loose & silky syrup.

Pour over your ideal preparation of Wooly Pigs Pork...

(This recipe represens three local farmers and foragers in the Pacific Northwest and is in relationship to the "terrior" of Washigton)

If I remember correct, Jenny's "ideal preparation" is usually to braise the pork for 45 minutes.

Mangalitsa Bacon

Barnaby Dorfman, bacon maker and startup founder, gave me some (purebred) Mangalitsa bacon. Having had Mangalitsa bacon made by The French Laundry's Devin Knell and The Herbfarm's Keith Luce, it was neat to see what my regular customers make at home from Mangalitsa.

It doesn't look or taste like normal bacon. Just like Mangalitsa belly, it is almost entirely fat. This is one reason why seam butchery is so important - removing the meat from the ribs and leaving it on the belly makes the Mangalitsa bacon a lot more meaty.

It was some incredible bacon! The fat and flavor was delicious. Barnaby's wasn't too salty, and it had a nice smoky taste.
I cooked slices of the bacon in a pan and added some greenbeans I'd sauteed in mangalitsa lard and garlic. It was very satisfying. It didn't take much bacon to turn a tasty dish into a real treat. The fat quality was much higher than that of the bacon (made from Berkshire hogs) that I used to produce, sell and eat.

People say the Mangalitsa makes great bacon. Indeed it does. Like Mangalitsa in general, it is excellent, but is so different from all other kinds of readily available pork that it belongs in its own category.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mosefund's Pigs

Mosefund's Michael Clampffer told me that they've got record hot temperatures in New Jersey. They made a wallow and the pigs got muddy.

He said that since they got them some people have called about buying some. Some might be headed further north, like the Massachusetts pigs.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Monsoon and Mangalitsa-sired Pork Belly

I stopped by Monsoon today to deliver some Mangalitsa-sired pork.

Johnny, Chef de Cuisine, served me and the staff some Mangalitsa-sired pork belly. They'll be serving it for the first time tonight, so he wanted to try it.

It was done Vietnamese style. He'd already braised it, so he seared it and then warmed it in the oven. He served it on some fresh vegetables and sauce.

It was really incredible. I only took one bite. Some staff members took a bite. I felt really bothered that I couldn't just eat it all. When I noticed those feelings, I felt like a pig.

Someone remarked that it was a bit big for an appetizer. Two people would probably want to split it. I said that if people tried to do that, there could be fights over it - it was simply too tasty.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Texan Customer on Mangalitsa

Michael Clampffer of Mosefund Farm sent a customer in Texas some Mangalitsa shoulder. Here's what they had to say about the product:
We have finally been able to cook and enjoy the pork that Michael sent (your production). It was easily the best and most flavorful that any of us (two chefs: Miguel and Alma) have ever had. Alma said that the shoulder that she received was of course very marbled/fatty and it kept oozing down and then some. She made "chilorio".

Have you had this recipe before? It is like pulled pork and makes wonderful flour tortillas.

That's really nice. Of course, those guys know pork - they run one of Texas's best-respected Mexican restaurants.

Of course, the hitch is the price. Mangalitsa is expensive enough already, and when you throw in shipping to Texas, it is very expensive.

I'm hoping someone in Texas will buy some feeder pigs from our Midwestern farms and fatten them there in Texas.The other alternative would be to sell pallets of pork - but we don't have enough production for that right now - and most restaurants don't buy a few hundred pounds of pork at a time.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lard-type Hog Production in Hungary and Spain

Olmos es Toth has some info about how they produce their Mangalitsa in Hungary. They've also got pictures that show what they do.

Their model is a lot like how they do things in Spain, where Peter Toth worked on Iberico production.
Mangalica gene bank of Emőd: Emőd-Istvánmajor: a gene bank keeping 300 sows, 2,000 Mangalica pigs.

F1 pig farm of Nyíribrony: Nyíribrony, Újtelep 1/b: R1 production plant of 200 sows, 2,300 Mangalica pigs
The author of the New York Times article visited the Emőd farm. Here's the Emőd photo gallery.
"The Mangalica gene bank of Emőd is involved in activities connected with the preservation of the breed, the supply of breeders to the Nyíribrony pig farm, as well as production operations, while in Nyíribrony and Nyírtass the sole purpose is to attend production activities."
Tey've got their nucleus herd at Emőd. The satellite farms aren't as important - because all animals will go to slaughter. A natural disaster or disease outbreak at Emőd could really hurt the genetic diversity of the breed - they've got all their eggs in one basket.

Pen farrowing at Emőd

Moving on:

Farrowing in Emőd-Istvánmajor is performed in traditional farrowing pens, while Nyíribrony utilizes a modern automated facility.

Piglet breeding is attended with modern, intensive, industrial technologies in both plants.

Mangalica breeders and porkers are invariably kept outdoors in large paddocks...

Nyíribrony - modern farrowing of 75% Mangalitsa piglets.

The little pigs stay indoors until they are big enough to go out:

Emőd pigs stay indoors a while.

Then the pigs go out, when they are big enough:

Mangalitsa market hogs (75%) in Hungary.

In summary, they've got a mix of intensive (indoor) and extensive production. That's a lot like in Spain.

Indoor Iberico farrowing

Doing things indoors allows them to control breeding, track pedigrees and keep mortality to a minimum. It looks ugly, but saves piglet lives. E.g. I know a producer for an American niche pork company that forbids the use of farrowing crates, but allows him to farrow outdoors. He says he weans six to nine pigs per litter, depending on the weather.

Products from Olmos es Toth should reach the USA later this year. The Iberico product (exported by Mr. Olmos's company) has been a huge hit.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Watching Slaughter versus Doing It

Shane Petersen learning how to break down a carcass.

I was reading in the news that Slow Food had an event in the Bay Area where they slaughtered some animals. They were able to get 90 people to show up and pay to watch.

I think it is neat that so many people want to learn about how animals get slaughtered - but I don't see how people can learn in such a setting. There's no hands-on experience.

In contrast, when we did our Mangalitsa workshop at Woodinville's Herbfarm, the Wiesners demonstrated, and then the students did the same thing, under the supervision of the Wiesners. That allowed the students to learn how to do it.

For example, Shane Petersen and his wife Marie, Mangalitsa producers in Fairfield, California know how to fatten, kill and process their own pigs. Likewise Mark Baker, who already knew how to slaughter and butcher American-style now understands why optimizing all phases of fattening, slaughter and processing is so crucial.

Students are going to buy, slaughter and process these pigs.

Going to an event and slaughtering your own specially fattened Mangalitsa pig, under the instruction of someone like Christoph Wiesner, in the company of others who are there to kill and process their own Mangalitsa pigs, is a life-changing event.

The difference in instruction shows how Wooly Pigs and other Mangalitsa producers approach things: we don't just raise some of the world's best-tasting pigs - we have some of Europe's best instructors teach people how to turn those pigs into the tastiest food possible.

When I put this into words it sounds ridiculous - but that's exactly what Wooly Pigs and other Mangalitsa producers have accomplished. Besdies Mangalitsa producers, there's nobody producing meat of such quality in America. To my knowledge, there's nobody arranging educational events like the ones we do.

Mangalitsa producers as of April, 2009.

Of course, a lot of this has happened because I worked hard to make it happen - but as more producers fatten Mangalitsa pigs, they are helping to communicate to people what Mangalitsa pigs are, why they are so great and how to make the most of them.

Mosefund Farm, pig area visible in the back.

In particular, I'm very excited about Mosefund Farm in New Jersey. They are arranging an event like last January's only an hour outside of New York City. Short of flying to Austria during pig-killing season, I don't see how you could learn so much.