Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mangalitsa Photos

Just learning to eat grass.

I saw some photos of Mangalitsa pigs in Europe. These guys are selling red Mangalitsas.

Just look at what a good job they've done of clearing the land. Besides the pigs, a few insects and bacteria, there's almost no other life in their pigpen. If they did see any life, the pigs would probably eat it, because that's how pigs are.

a moonscape

Outside the pen, there's life.

It has to eat that shrub before the other pigs get it.

So few sows, so much destruction.

Better eat that grass before the other pigs do.

From another ad for Mangalitsas - someone has some cute piglets for sale:

And here's a photo from Michigan of Mark Baker's new Mangalitsa piglets. Our American ones are just as cute as the ones in Europe.

And an update - Kylan Hoover - previously mentioned many times on this blog, bought some older Mangalitsa pigs from Mark Baker.

Of course, with all these cute piglet photos, we mustn't forget that eventually, Mangalitsa piglets become big, ugly, pushy, fat and ultimately tasty pigs. As this photo from Mosefund, taken at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) demonstrates:

Subculture Dining - Please Help With the Codename

Wooly Pigs is just starting to distribute Mangalitsa pork in the SF Bay Area.

First S.F. Mangalitsa Dinner

Until now, Bay Area customers have had to trek to The French Laundry to eat Mangalitsa. On October 15, there will be a Subculture Dining event featuring Mangalitsa pork.

Please Submit a Code Name!

The goal of Wooly Pigs is to supply San Francisco with Mangalitsa. There's a lot of potential Mangalitsa customers in the Bay Area, and our pig flow is substantial, so the rollout is something of a campaign or operation.

All good operations need a catchy code name. For instance, Microsoft has used the code names like "Chicago" and "Longhorn" for their projects.

So far, the best code name I've heard for our effort to distribute Mangalitsa pork in San Francisco is Porcupine. If you've got a suggestion you think is better, please submit it in the comments section.

Bacon Test

I've produced bacon now from two sorts of pigs: Mangalitsa pigs and Berkshires. The pigs were fed the same and about equally fat. The first batch of Mangalitsa bacon is only ready now. I think this is the first batch of USDA-inspected cured Mangalitsa products in the Western Hemisphere.

The Berkshire stuff was good enough that Saveur described it as one of the Top Ten Tastes to Try in Washington.

The new Mangalitsa bacon tastes better. I tasted them side by side. The Mangalitsa bacon distinguished itself by having much nicer fat. The fat tastes more clean and clear. The Mangalitsa fat melts quicker on the tongue/skin than the Berkshire's fat. It was much nicer to eat the Mangalitsa bacon.

It isn't surprising that there were differences. Although the Mangalitsa and Berkshire are both breeds of pigs, the Mangalitsa is an extreme lard-type pig, while the Berkshire is a meat type breed of pig. They have very different metabolisms. Breed is one of the factors determining meat quality.

Obviously, because producing the best bacon is a mulitdimensional optimization problem, if you want to produce the best bacon, you'll need to get the breed, feed, age at slaughter and factors like processing right.

Somebody's Mangalitsa Pork Belly - from Wooly Pigs

Somebody got some Wooly Pigs brand Mangalitsa pork belly from me and cooked it, photographed it and wrote about it.

I can't read what they wrote, but the food really looks great. If anyone could tell me what the text says, I'd appreciate it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Klee and Daniel Angerer

Klee's Daniel Angerer, a chef from Austria, likes Mangalitsa. According to Michael Clampffer, Moefund will deliver Mangalitsa regularly to Klee.

That's great news for people who like to eat Mangalitsa.

Chef Angerer's blog has photos that show the food. It is clear the composition is such that you can tell what you are eating - which is good for Mosefund.

Ruhlman BLT Challenge - Jowl Bacon

Michael Ruhlman has his BLT-from-scratch Challenge.

In his words, the goal is:

A collective challenge for all of you who really love to cook: Make a BLT from scratch. No, this does not mean raising a piglet for the bacon or growing your own wheat to grind into flour. Yes, extra credit for either, but I want this to be a challenge that everyone can accept, whether you live in a Manhattan walk-up or rural North Carolina, Alaska or suburban splendor: make a BLT from scratch, photograph it and send the photo to me. If you blog, blog about it (and please link back to this post to encourage others to accept the challenge).

As he later wrote:

The key here is that the sandwiches featured the pork belly—the meat was thicker than the bread. This is really a pork belly sandwich, garnished with L, T and mayo.

Here's the critical cooking point for using bacon this thick in a sandwich. If you were simply to cook the bacon in a pan, it would be difficult to make it tender enough to eat without yanking it all out of the sandwich. Belly is a well-worked muscle that need tenderizing. Traditional bacon is tender because it's sliced so thin. The way to make slabs of bacon tender is through long gentle moist cooking.

Sorry Michael - but for crazy folks like myself, it means importing the best-tasting hogs on the planet, and raising them for their fat quality. Because how else are you going to win the BLT challenge?

Here's my solution for anyone who wants to win the BLT challenge.
  1. Import the pigs that make the best tasting cured products in the world.
  2. Raise the pigs for the highest fat quality.
  3. Make jowl bacon from the Mangalistas. Jowl bacon isn't tough like belly bacon (see picture above), so it cooks up tender - because it is nearly all fat. There's no need to tenderize fat!
  4. Make your BLT -- or just eat the jowl bacon, without any L or T, because as Ruhlman says:
The key here is that the sandwiches featured the pork belly—the meat was thicker than the bread. This is really a pork belly sandwich, garnished with L, T and mayo... Here's the critical cooking point for using bacon this thick in a sandwich. If you were simply to cook the bacon in a pan, it would be difficult to make it tender enough to eat without yanking it all out of the sandwich. Belly is a well-worked muscle that need tenderizing. Traditional bacon is tender because it's sliced so thin. The way to make slabs of bacon tender is through long gentle moist cooking.
So here's my secret: just use jowl bacon, from a properly fattened Mangalitsa pig. It is practically all fat. It will be tender and melt in your grateful mouth. There's never any gristle to get in the way (see photo). Belly, as Ruhlman says, is more problematic. So discard the belly, and go for the jowl.

When you've got such incredible jowl bacon, you really don't need the L and the T. The Jowl bacon alone is enough.

Kavin Du: with this one powermove, you won the BLT challenge.

If that sounds unbelievable, just look at what this Mangalitsa customer had to say, about his own jowl bacon.

Hear me now, believe me later: in the near future, people won't be talking of pork belly and bacon, but rather Mangalitsa jowl bacon. It won't be Michael Ruhlman's "BLT Challenge", but rather Michael Ruhlman's "MJb challenge" - that is, Mangalitsa jowl bacon challenge.

Because Mangalitsa jowl bacon is so superior. If you are going to spend time making bacon, you might as well make Mangalitsa jowl bacon - and you don't need the lettuce and tomato if you have Mangalitsa jowl bacon.

Then Michael Ruhlman will change the above text to:
The key here is that the sandwiches featured the Mangalitsa jowl —the Mangalitsa jowl bacon was thicker than the bread. This is really a Mangalitsa jowl bacon sandwich, garnished with an insignificant amount of L, T and mayo.
Michael: No disrespect! If you are reading this, drop me an email and I'll send you a few pounds of Mangalitsa jowl bacon. This is better than any other bacon I've produced (e.g. Barley-finished Berkshire hogs for the French Laundry). I'd be surprised if there's ever been a tastier USDA-inspected bacon on offer in the USA.

Friday, September 25, 2009

New Mangalitsa Producer - Pasture Prime Wagyu

The map above shows the locations of farms that either already fatten Mangalitsa (purebred or 75% crosses) or have paid Wooly Pigs for feeder pigs. Considering that this time last year, there were just 3 farms in the USA with Mangalitsa pigs, that's progress.

My favorite piggy is the blondish one, 4th from the right.

I'm happy to announce that Torm Siverson of Pasture Prime Wagyu is now fattening pigs with Mangalitsa genetics (75%) in Ocala, Florida.

He already raises purebred Wagyu cattle, which, like Mangalitsa, produce high quality meat and fat. Some of his customers expressed interest in Mangalitsa, so he called to buy some pigs.

It has long been clear: if someone buys Wagyu beef, he is an excellent candidate for Mangalitsa pork, because Mangalitsa is different from normal breeds in the same way that Wagyu is.

Pasture Prime Wagyu's pigs all have 75% Mangalitsa genetics. They grow a little faster, are a bit leaner and are more disease resistant than purebred Mangalitsa pigs.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mangalitsa Shoulder

Michael Clampffer sent me this photo of one of his shoulders.

Mangalitsa in NYC at Klee

I know some people in New York read this blog, so if you want to eat Mangalitsa in NYC, Klee is having a Mangalitsa-centered dinner.

Mosefund produced that Mangalitsa. Wooly Pigs sold them feeder pigs, they fattened them and sold the pork.

I'm looking forward to meeting Chef Klee in January 2010, at what I expect to be the best pig classes in America - Mosefund's 3-day slaughter, seam butchery and processing classes.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Gyimesi Family with Mangalica Pigs

An American of Hungarian descent, Dr. Zoltan Gyimesi, sent me these photos of his grandfather in Hungary with "mangalica" pigs. As I've mentioned before, Hungarians have a special relationship to the "mangalica".

I'm guessing the photo shows the piglet and then the fattened pig - but that's not clear.

That's one spoiled looking pig.These days, it is hard for people to understand the concept of having a pig around, enjoying its company a lot - and then killing it to provide food for the family.

The pictured pigs are probably blonde Mangalitsa, a slightyly different breed than the swallow-bellied ones I have. The blondes are a bit fatter, but I don't know of anyone who thinks they taste noticeably different from each other.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hog Production Nearly Unrecognizable

There's an article in Iowa Farmer called "Hog Production Nearly Unrecognizable" about changes in the pig business in the last 25 years. It describes, in a neutral way, various transformations, including concentration, multi-site production, all-in all-out and so on.

One interesting point that the article doesn't make - but should be obvious to anyone reading between the lines - is that pretty much everyone put their pigs inside: Big farmers, small farmers, etc. Similar transformations have happened in the pig business before in Europe and Asia.

Pig farming has been filled with radical innovations and the resulting "creative destruction", explaining why modern production is "nearly unrecognizable" from what it was only 25 years ago.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Egyptian Update

First the Egyptians culled their pig herd. That hurt pig farmers - they lost their pig-related income, receiving very little compensation. That was only the beginning; they lost an important source of revenue, so they've been getting poorer over time.

Next normal people started to suffer, because garbage that had been pig food became food for vermin and bacteria. Of course, when that report came out, the city wasn't even saturated with garbage; the city was starting to fill up with garbage and it was beginning to be a problem.Garbage was still being produced faster than it was disappearing, so it was clear the problem would only get worse.

Now the New York Times reports that Egyptians have a fullblown garbage crisis. Having gotten rid of their waste processors (pigs!) and not having replaced them, they are now up to their ears in edible garbage. There's rotting food everywhere.

In 1870, almost 140 years ago (a time when America's waste handling was as primitive as in Cairo), Joseph Harris wrote:
Pigs will eat food which, but for them, would be wasted.
From that, one can deduce that if one eliminates pigs, replacing them with a more fussy eater (say goats - as pictured in the NY Times), there'll be more uneaten garbage. That leftover garbage will become food for vermin, unless humans pay to haul it off.

Of course, the category of food that pigs will eat, that other farm animals won't eat, includes things like feces and garbage - the kind of things we don't want to have around, because it spreads disease. Here's the Cambridge World History of Food on the phenomenon:

The Garbage Pig

The garbage pig was essentially "presented" with its food intake, either at a fixed site or within a circumscribed area. In eastern Asia, where centuries-old deforestation and high population densities did not favor mast feeding, pig raising was long ago oriented toward consuming wastes. Important in China and Korea, at one time, was the privy pig, kept to process human excrement into flesh for human consumption. Four young pigs could derive sustenance from the waste of a family of four humans, which provided the animals with approximately 2 kilograms of human excreta and 220 grams of garbage each day (Miller 1990). In Asia, food provided by humans rather than by foraging promoted sedentary habits that, in turn, led to the evolution of several breeds with a swayback and a dishlike face. But even the miniaturized types of Asian pigs have big appetites and large litters.

The garbage pig could also be found in ancient civilizations outside of eastern Asia. Robert L. Miller (l990) has brilliantly reconstructed the scavenging role of the pig in dynastic Egypt. But, thus far, similar evidence is lacking for ancient Greece and Rome. In Europe, the garbage pig goes back to the Middle Ages but seems not to have been common until the fifteenth century, when the so-called Celtic pig, with white skin and pendant ears, emerged. Families fattened their pigs primarily on food scraps, and when winter neared, the animals were butchered. Their meat was cured and their fat rendered to make lard for cooking and especially for food preservation. Thus, the human diet was diversified during the cold months.

This form of pig keeping expanded as forest clearing advanced and the scale of food processing increased. Grist and oil mills generated large quantities of waste materials that could be consumed by pigs, as could the garbage from institutions like hospitals and convents. Before proper sewage disposal was implemented, many cities had swine populations to serve as ambulatory sanitation services. In medieval Paris, so many pigs were locally available for slaughter that pork was the cheapest meat. The monks of Saint Anthony – the patron saint of swineherds – were given special rights to keep pigs within the city walls. In New York City, pigs wandered the alleyways well into the nineteenth century. Naples was the last large European city to use pigs for sanitation. Neapolitan families each had a pig tethered near their dwellings to consume garbage and excrement.

One consequence of pigs being such unfussy eaters is that it will pretty much always pay to keep a certain number of pigs by feeding them edible waste. The reason is that the alternative is paying to haul away what could be pig feed. That's true whether the food is whey, DDGS or Grade A Cairo garbage.

Which brings me to an important point: in James McWilliams's recent book, he argues that environmentalists should stop eating meat. His point is that all livestock raising (even grassfed beef), results in environmental problems.

I disagree: obviously pigs can (as in Egypt pre-cull) do a useful job and produce meat at the same time. Without pigs, you actually have to spend more money (and burn more fossil fuels) to deal with the waste. According to this line of thinking, environmentalists like McWilliams should exhort consumers to eat garbage-fed pigs. Not free-range pigs, not cornfed pigs - but just 100% garbage fed pigs.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Help bring Mangalitsa pork to Washington D.C.

Mosefund's Michael Clampffer is hoping to sell some Mangalitsa pigs in Washington D.C. (and the surrounding area) this October.

He's got one customer, but he wants some more, so that he can reduce his freight costs.

If you know a chef in D.C. who should be using Mangalitsa, please let them know about Michael - 201-289-0210 and Mosefund.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Suisun Valley Farm, Pig Roast

Here's some pictures of Suisun Valley Farm and its Mangalitsa pigs:

The pigs have grown.

There's going to be a pig roast out there in about a month.

If you are interested in attending the pig roast, please send me an email:

Maybe Shane will do the roast on a Naturgrill.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Montenevado Video

There's a video up on youtube about Montenevado's Mangalitsa products:

The video shows some pigs and their products - a bit like the presentation described here.

One thing I notice is that in Spain, they chose to use the Hungarian spelling (mangalica), but with a Spanish pronunciation (just listen to the video, they say "man-ga-lee-ka").

In America, I chose to introduce the breed with an Anglicized spelling. My hope is that when Americans go to Hungary to eat Mangalitsa, they'll say it in a way that's reasonably close to the Hungarian.

I've written before about marketing the Mangalitsa products from Montenevado.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mangalitsa Fat and Kids

A customer today explained that his Mangalitsa pork chops were the best he'd ever eaten and completely different from any porkchops he'd ever eaten. I'm used to that; that's fairly typical feedback.

He added that he took the fatback (approximately half the weight of the chops was fatback), sauted it and put it on some vegetables (cooked in Mangalitsa lard) - and his kid loved it. His kid had extra portions (one or two) of the vegetables. From the way he described it, the kid doesn't normally eat the vegetables so willingly; the Mangalitsa fat got the kid to eat his vegetables, and then some.

It is great to think that Mangalitsa pork (more precisely fatback) can get American children to eat their vegetables.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cargill Update

I wrote about Cargill before, with their "natural" line of pork. Since then, I've written about the issue of feeding pigs animal protein. Basically, some science says animal protein is good for the pigs - and it certainly is natural, as this video of wild boar shows.

Cargill is now giving the market what it wants - no-hormone, no-antibiotic pork, fed an all-vegetarian diet.

I'd be happier if they just went by the science (and nature) and continued feeding the pigs animal protein - like this Mangalitsa producer who feeds them leftovers from chicken processing.

If consumers demanded pork from pigs fed an "all Ben & Jerry's diet", yet science showed it was bad for the pigs, I'd likewise be against the "all Ben & Jerry's diet".


I saw this pig on a stock photo site. I think it is a blonde Mangalitsa. Those tend to be fatter than the red and swallow-bellied Mangalitsas.

This one looks like it wants to be left alone in its fatness.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Answer to "What is this?"

I recently put up this photo, asking, "what is this?"

It is a jowl. All the photos are from Kavin Du's blog, where he discusses what he did the Mangalitsa jowl he bought from Mosefund. I strongly recommend you just check out his blog.

He's really into it:
Mangalitsa jowl marinated with rose sorghum and teriyaki, air... on Twitpic The other 1 lb piece I slice it 1/4 inch thick, skin on, marinated in teriyaki and soy sauce and a little bit of the Chinese rose wine over night. Then I put them on a rack and air dry it. With Berkshire jowl this would seal the juice in. With the mangalista something interesting happened. The Italian got it right. The fat develops a firm, almost rubbery texture and a tangy bite so intriguing that you must try it for yourself.

I recently killed a bit fat Mangalitsa and got two 5.5# jowls from it. It is amazing what a delicious bounty Mangalitsa pigs provide us with.

Monday, September 7, 2009

John Stewart (Zazu and Bovolo) has Mangalitsa Pigs

There's an article in the SF Chronicle about John Stewart, owner of Zazu Restaurant & Farm in Santa Rosa and Bovolo in Healdsburg, and his bacon making.

It mentions his Mangalitsa pigs. Those were bred by Wooly Pigs, sold to Suisun Valley Farm and then sold again to Stewart.

Mangalitsa pork from Wooly Pigs will be available very soon in San Francisco. If you are interested, please contact me.

Butchery in the News

There's a Reuters article, "Looking for an evening class? Try butchery".

Of course, Wooly Pigs and other Mangalitsa producers take it much further: slaughter, seam butchery and other skills, like preserving meat, rendering lard, cooking organs, etc.

The next such class is in January, in New Jersey, hosted by Mosefund Farm.

New Book: "Just Food"

There's a new book out, "Just Food", by James McWilliams.

As mentioned in this review by Rebekah Denn, his tone is going to bother a lot of his potential readers. Here's a review in the Providence Journal that captures this well:

A winter tomato grown in Spain that travels to England covers more miles than a local tomato but may still be more energy efficient, since most English tomatoes require hothouses.

Production and processing account for almost half the fossil fuels used to get food on the table — far more than transportation, says McWilliams. To be more energy efficient, he says, we should develop renewable energy sources to make fertilizer, store food and cook more effectively. We should also reduce the amount of land dedicated to food production.

“I know, I know: dull stuff,” McWilliams writes. “It’s so much sexier to reiterate the mantra of eating local, growing rooftop gardens, foraging for wild dandelion balls, and keeping backyard hens.”

Another thing he brings up is that the "eat local" movement is setting itself up for a corporate exploitation of their "brand" - just as happened with "organic". Here's an article I found online (written by someone else) about it. Basically, if people want "local" food, Wal-Mart, Fred Meyer, Whole Foods and Safeway will sell it to them.

It is refreshing to see someone try to be logical about food production.
I'm going to give it another read, mull it over and perhaps write a bit more about it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What is this?

I received an interesting photo (above) from a Mangalitsa customer.

Can anyone guess what it is?

Hungarian Animals - Grey Cattle and Mangalitsa

There's an article here about Hungarian consumers (written in Hungarian) buying meat from their traditional Hungarian breeds.

I think it is neat to see the Hungarians in their traditional costumes with Hungarian Grey Cattle on the Chain Bridge. It probably would have all gone awry if they'd brought Mangalitsas too, so the photo editor just put one in.

America doesn't have its own equivalent breeds. Our popular heritage breeds changed with the times, unlike the Hungarian animals.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Lorna Yee has a blog post about using Mangalitsa lard to make biscuits.

I commented on her blog:

I’m happy you liked the lard!

A few comments:

Fat quality is determined by multiple factors like breed, feed and age at slaughter. Wooly Pigs, the company, optimizes those things to produce the highest quality fat.

When you’ve got a producer like Wooly Pigs, which optimizes fat quality, most people can’t perceive a huge difference betweent the lard rendered from the leaf lard and the fatback. You probably could have rendered lard from Wooly Pigs fatback (from Mangalitsa pigs) and gotten very similar results. Of course, if you don’t optimize the breed, feed or age at slaughter, the fat quality on the pig will vary more; so it would pay to take the leaf lard.

In a few weeks, I’ll have Mangalitsa lard for sale (5# buckets). It isn’t easy to get USDA-inspected lard made, but Wooly Pigs has done it.

There’s different ways to render lard. Depending on how hot you make the lard, you get more or less impurities in the lard. The Austrian ideal is fewer impurities. The goal is white fat that lasts a long time. That means rendering around 225F. In Mexico, for instance, I hear they render at higher temperatures, producing a more porky lard that doesn’t keep as long.

Mangalitsa lard whips. I suggest you render Mangalitsa lard at 225F, whip it, add salt and herbs and eat it:

In the past, people used a lard sieve to keep impurities out of their lard. I’ve rigged one up. It seems to improve the quality of the lard. You can see a photo of one here:

I think Mangalitsa lard is really amazing. There’s a bunch of steps, and it can go wrong at any step – but if you do them all right, you can really wind up with something amazing. As that antique lard sieve indicates, there was a time when people took lard very seriously.

Here's a cookbook from 1862 on using lard to make puff pastry: