Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pretzels Again - and the Coming Food Trend Is ...

Chef Manfred Stockner with Mangalitsa lardo
and whipped Mangalitsa lard.

I recently wrote about how to make authentic pretzels, and how I enjoyed them at Prime Meats, the restaurant that catered our New York debut.

Now Julia Moskin, of the New York Times, reports that decent pretzels are the new food in New York, and gives a recipe - which, like the one I provided - requires lye.

I know something about tasty Central European food. When I see it here in America, I really notice it.

In the spirit of Hans and Franz (two Austrians), hear me now, believe me later: in 2010, the mainstream press will talk about how wonderful Mangalitsa lardo is, because fancy restaurants across the USA will be making and serving it. To make it easier to write that food section article, which must include a recipe, here's one based on the Wiesners' (my favorite Austrian couple):
1) Buy blocks of neck fat or loin fat from Wooly Pigs, the USA's lard-type pork company.

2) Take blocks of Mangalitsa fat and pack them in coarse salt. Stick them in the fridge.

3) Wait until the fat is cured - a month or so.

4) Knock the salt off. Pack the fat in herbs and wrap it in plastic. Let it sit in the fridge for a month or two.

Slice thinly, parallel to the silverskin that divides the two layers of fat. Cut out the silverskin when you reach it.

How to eat:

Basically, lardo is like cheese. You may:
  • Slice and serve
  • Make sandwiches with the stuff.
  • Serve melted on toast, flatbread or pizza
  • Wrap meat in it for cooking.
  • Anything else that seems reasonable.

Zoltan Putnam

Sometimes it is better to be named Zoltan.

Someone in Hungary is upset that we are raising Mangalitsa pigs in the USA (Hun / Google trans.)

I'll bet that if I was Hungarian, there'd be more unqualified celebration and joy about the establishment of the Mangalitsa as the Western Hemisphere's super-premium pig breed.

If the New World is going to have such a pig, the Hungarians are better off if it is their pig, instead of say, Germany's Swabian-Hall, China's Meishan or one of Spain's several Iberian breeds. If the Mangalitsa is the super-pig, it could benefit Hungarians in several ways.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Back from New York - DeBragga Roundup

I just got back from New York. I have photos, but will probably add them later.

Here's some highlights:

DeBragga did a great job; we ought to sell a lot of meat and fatback in NYC.

Pricing is ridiculously important. The price of our stuff in NYC will generally be below $10/lb. Above that price: major resistance. Below $10/lb, the right customers try it. Our strategy now requires turning over more and more pigs. To do that, we need to sell a bunch in NYC (getting a lot of national publicity), so that we can turnover the production in across the USA. It is a lot easier to see that working if the price is low enough.

Prime Meats in Brooklyn reminds me a lot of restaurants in Munich. They've got great pretzels. Not the typically fake ones you often find in the USA. That's all on purpose; that's how the owners wanted the restaurant to feel.

George Faison, co-owner of DeBragga (and our distributor), is passionate and convincing. He's really good at what he does. It is great to have him working in the interests of Wooly Pigs.

As George explained to the crowd, the Mangalitsa launch had some interesting features: we've got an Austro-Hungarian pig, imported by a guy who lived in Central Europe for years, raised with Austrian methods, killed at a plant in the ethnic-German part of Missiouri by staff who were trained by Austrians how to kill and cut pigs, and finally, served at a souther Germany or Austrian restaurant -- the day they got a two-star New York Times review.

Johnston County Hams's ham and bacon (made from our pork) taste great. They are going to make some waves with those products. A bunch of NYC's best chefs agreed that Rufus's bacon and ham were great.

Knight Salumi's lardo from our pigs and our own lardo was so good, I didn't get any of it in the first course, because everyone else ate it before it reached me in the back. The lardo was ridiculously popular.

Tom Colicchio likes Mangalitsa sirloin. He bought the necks.

Chef Paul Liebrandt (Corton - two Michelin stars) is a very nice guy. He's been using the product a while, so he provided some constructive criticism. He was so nice I'm really hoping we can improve the things he wants improved as quickly as possible.

April Bloomfield is a nice person, and a Mangalitsa fan.

Zach Friedman really likes Mangalitsa. I won't be surprised if he visits Swiss Meats to kill his own pig or two. He's very passionate about the stuff! I can see him doing something like this too.

Pretty much everyone in the room liked the Mangalitsa that Prime Meats cooked. What the New York Times said about Prime Meats is true. The food is great. And they really like marijuana - a lot.

It was fun to meet customers that I didn't even know of, and find out they appreciate our products.

It is really neat to watch DeBragga's salespeople sell stuff. I went on sales calls with them, so I saw it up close. They are so smooth with their customers.

While on the calls, chefs bought the fatback. In about 8 weeks, there should be a lot of Mangalitsa lardo being served in New York, by some of its best chefs. I know that because this week, they ordered a lot of Mangalitsa fatback, for making lardo.

Overall, I came away confident that DeBragga is going to represent our product very well in the NY market. They've got the right chef contacts and excellent press connections. Their chefs are already ordering lots of fat, which is a very good sign.

Mark Bittman Like Mangalitsa Meat AND FAT! ---- PR observation

Mark Bittman wrote about a special pork roast (mine!) that he got from DeBragga. I've quoted him, elided him and made bold the things I'd like to emphasize:

... I was lucky enough to be given one of these, a boneless pork loin so fatty that some people will find it repellent. Others (most, I hope), will find it supremely appealing, as I did. I poked holes in it, crammed them with salt and garlic and pepper and rosemary, roasted it over potatoes, without paying much attention (and without olive oil), and served it, ecstatically – it was the best piece of pork I’ve had in years. Some of us ate every piece of fat we encountered, and loved it. Others set the fat aside – despite scolding by yours truly – but appreciated how moist the lean was, as well they might have.

The downside is that this roast costs about a hundred bucks. At over four pounds, it’ll easily serve eight, so the per-serving cost is, if not moderate, then perhaps justifiable for a special occasion. (Pork roasts of any kind are special occasion foods in my book, and the argument is if you’re eating less meat you can afford to spend more on it when you do eat it.) I am still getting use out of the fat I poured off of it, too, which I’ll get to tomorrow or the next day.

Then he's got a post about using the fat to cook something. Basically, his fancy roast got him a great piece of meat and a bunch of tasty fat. The tasty fat made some simple ingredients taste much better.

It helps to have a distributor like DeBragga getting the word out about the product. Without the distributor doing your PR, you've got to do the PR, which typically involves hiring a publicist.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hagakure: The Spirit of an Age

While watching a silent movie from around 100 years ago, I was thinking how odd it is that my business raises pigs that would have been popular then.

I was reminded of this:
It is said that what is called 'the spirit of an age' is something to which one cannot return. That this spirit gradually dissipates is due to the world's coming to an end. In the same way, a single year does not have just spring or summer. A single day, too, is the same. For this reason, although one would like to change today's world back to the spirit of one hundred years or more ago, it cannot be done. Thus it is important to make the best out of every generation. This is the mistake of people who are attached to past generations; they have no understanding of this point. On the other hand, people who only know the disposition of the present day and dislike the ways of the past are too lax.
-Yamamoto Tsunemoto, "Hagakure: The Book of the Samuari"

Running this business requires combining practices of the past with modern technology so as to serve the current generation. It doesn't help to be attached to the past in a dogmatic way.

Humenné Mangalitsa Pigs

There's Mangalitsa pigs for sale in Slovakia.

What's neat is that it is in Prešovský kraj, a non-Hungarian region. Typically one finds Mangalitsa pigs in Southern Slovakia, in the areas with high ethnic-Hungarian populations.

Assuming the people with the pigs are Slovaks, they'll likely make Slovak dishes. Of course, due to more than 800 years of Hungarian rule, Slovak cuisine and Hungarian cuisine are very similar.

Slovaks raising Mangalitsa pigs is a bit like the Austrians or Ukrainians (check out the Ukrainian ManBearPig) raising Mangalitsa pigs.

One thing that's neat about having Mangalitsa pigs in so many different regions is that you can travel around - through Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany and Switzerland and eat a bunch of Mangalitsa dishes and products. They'll all be slightly different and generally very mature (already optimized) dishes or products. You can learn so much that way, so quickly.

It is neat to think that Mangalitsa pigs are a unifying element in the fancy cuisine of so many countries. Somehow I don't think that one will find the tremendous diversity of dishes and products in Spain, where they raise very similar-tasting pigs.

Friday, May 21, 2010

German-Asian Fast Food - Mangalitsa

Some Germans have opened up a fast food Asian restaurant. Guests compose their own noodle dishes. They can choose Mangalitsa pork.

When Mangalitsa enters fast food in the USA, in a big way (chains), that will be a huge deal. I'm guessing that's probably 7 years off.

McDonald's has Angus burgers. At some point, some chain is going to have Mangalitsa pulled pork, or perhaps a BLT made with Mangalitsa jowl bacon.

Ready to Bite

Here's a sow that looks like she's ready to bite. If you were to reach in to her pen, I think she'd bite. If you stood there too long, she might jump up and bite you, just to get you to move along.

She doesn't care that you feed her or take care of her; her hormones tell her to attack you, so she does. It is important to think of pigs dispassionately. Normally, when you start to like them, that's whey they do something disappointing.

A boar will typically make signs before he attacks, like stamp his feet. He will typically attack from the side. Sows just attack, without warning, from any angle. If you get your foot too close to a sow's pen, she might just stick her snout through and bite.

Humans and pigs share a lot of basic behaviors - especially in some contexts.

Mangalica Telep 1931

This video from 1931 shows Mangalitsa pigs in Hungary.

It reminds me of these photos of a modern farm in Hungary - and these Spanish videos showing the processing.

Even 110 years ago, they had farms that look a lot like today's - dense farms with lots of pigs.

Large-scale pig fattening has existed since the 1800s. People who want to return to a time before large scale feeding of livestock on modern farms want to turn the clock back approximately 200 years.

You guys really need to eat that pig.

It is very hard to imagine what that would look like. Food would cost a lot, like it used to. We'd see a lot more skinny people, like the people standing behind those ridiculously fat Mangalitsa pigs.

I suggest you click on the bottom, sepia-toned photo, and look at how gaunt the humans are, and how jowly that sow is. She's got a wonderfully calm and jowly face (think cured jowl!). Just don't get between her and her food.

Local Food, Nationalism and Autarky

There's an interesting chain of stores in Hungary that sells "exclusively high quality Hungarian products, supplied by Hungarian producers to Hungarian consumers." has a post about it.

Of course, they've got plenty of Mangalitsa products, which is how I found out about it.

The store sounds like a combination of "locovorism" and nationalism. People are attached to food the way they are attached to their tribe or county; they'll come to blows over such issues (especially when alcohol and strippers are involved).

I found this part of the Hungarian article particularly interesting:
She laughed warmly when I gently needled her over the presence of certain items (black pepper) obviously brought in from far outside the Carpathian basin - the store claims to only sell products transported no more than 120 kilometers ...

That's one issue that people run into when they restrict themselves geographically; most spices grow in specific areas, not places like King County. Look at what The Herbfarm (a serious Mangalitsa customer) had to do to make sure all their food came from within 100 miles of their restaurant:

“You only get 16 ounces of salt out of 26 gallons of seawater,” he says...

What? They even made their own flour for the month? Yes, says Zimmerman. Every single thing — they had hard red winter wheat custom-milled in a stone ground mill. They made yeast by growing their own starter. No olive trees close enough to make olive oil? They substituted grape seed oil from nearby vineyards and created citrus taste from the juice of unripe grapes.

For huge batches of vinegar, Zimmerman bought an aquarium pump to speed up the conversion of wine to vinegar and also made vinegar from wine grapes close by...

Pepper was made from rue, a hardy evergreen herb, as well as from Japanese Prickly Ash. Water used for blanching was refrigerated and reused, instead of throwing away the valuable, hard-to-make salt in it.

Cheeses were all made from local cream and milk, honey came from the Herbfarm’s own hives, and salmon was obtained from Lummi Island reef-netting operations...

They made coffee from the roots of dandelion and chicory, and liked it so much, it will stay on the rotating menus. Tea came from the bark of madrona trees from Sakuma Brothers Farms and Market Stand in Burlington, where they grow real tea. “It’s the only real tea grown and produced in North America,” says Zimmerman. Who knew?

“The whole Herbfarm staff is invigorated,” he declares. “It’s been a fantastic learning experience. I doubt anyone has had a complete meal that had no outside products in it. That must date back into the 1700s,” he says. “Even if you lived in Seattle in 1850, they still had things brought in from outside.”

Another thing that is interesting is that when it is clear that people will pay for things, businesspeople try to deliver it to them. E.g. Ron Zimmerman at The Herbfarm decided that if he did a strictly local dinner, he'd come out ahead.

Similarly, in Hungary, there's apparently a market for Székely food - so a giant, foreign chain of supermarkets is marketing Székely food:
French-owned Cora hypermarket chain is launching a "Székely kitchen" line of fifty products as part of a "Székely Weeks" promotion aimed at drawing attention to the culinary culture of the often-besieged Hungarian minority in the (now) Romanian territory of eastern Transylvania.
The Székely people (and Hungarians) are generally proud of Székely culture. A lot of Hungarians are concerned about the Hungarian minority in Romania. Cora looks at that and sees a market to serve.

Best of Budapest - Ham Chips & Polenta Cooked in Bacon Fat

"Mangalica" ham chips and polenta cooked in bacon fat: Best of Budapest.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Feeder Pig Customers, Approach to Production Improvements

Where you can encounter our pigs.

Wooly Pigs recently sold approximately 150 feeder pigs to Provenance Farm, Pasture Prime Wagyu and Mosefund Farm. There's also a new farm in Colorado that bought a few pigs.We've sold pretty much all the barrows produced in the Midwest since January.

Besides Colorado, those are all repeat customers - Mosefund, in particular, has bought more pigs than anyone else in the USA.

All those farms are small, and somehow they are all able to make money fattening our special pigs.

Provenance sells in Minneapolis, Pasture Prime Wagyu sells in Florida and Mosefund specializes in New York, but sells nationally too.

Provenance bought a mixed batch of pigs (purebreds and crosses). They would have preferred to have bought all purebreds if we'd had them. Unfortunately, the Madison Club in Wisconsin, and Mosefund in New Jersey got some of those.

Pasture Prime tends to buy crossbred hogs. From raising purebred Wagyu cows, Torm Siverson, Pasture Prime Wagyu owner is aware of how a little heterosis really helps to decrease the cost and risk of raising an animal.

Mosefund just bought a big load of purebreds. That's in keeping with the quality-at-any-cost approach of Mr. Andersen (owner of Mosefund). They are also finishing their current batch of pigs on a grain diet supplemented with acorns. That's better than what Wooly Pigs does - because Wooly Pigs is focused on consistency. Our goal is to produce a consistent wholesale stream of very high quality lard-type pork, killing once a week.

One problem with inconsistency is that if someone gets something really great one time and then gets something worse, they'll feel you are slipping or cheating them. if it is always the same, if they like it once, they'll like it again and again.

When I worked as a consultant in Germany, my neighborhood brewery, Unionsbraeu, was (is) one of Germany's best small breweries. You could theoretically call it a "microbrewery" - but given how in the USA, "microbrewery" might as well be a synonym for "small brewery managed by dilettantes who like to make beer", I don't feel OK using that term. The problem with Unionsbraeu: on a good night, if they'd tapped a great keg, the beer was arguably the best in Germany.

Ayinger, on the other hand, was (is) a bigger brewery in Bavaria, that makes a lot more beer than Unionsbraeu. It is the best of the "real" breweries, although it is much smaller than the big ones. On a bad night at Unionsbraeu, it wasn't as good as Ayinger. This wasn't my opinion; I heard this from beer connoisseurs.

The goal of Wooly Pigs, right now, is to be like Ayinger, and fill the demand for lard-type pork. Mosefund looks like it wants to be like Unionsbraeu.

In general, I try to make sure that when we make quality improvements, we can capitalize on them quickly and permanently, especially if those improvements increase the variable costs (per pig costs) of doing business. E.g. we didn't train a slaughterhouse in seam butchery techniques until was clear we had a lot of hogs to do that way, and we'd benefit for the foreseeable future.

In the course of running this business, I have found that it can be very wasteful to implement improvements speculatively, particularly if they increase variable costs. Increasing variable costs is really asking for trouble - because given the company's rapid growth, profit margins are continually shrinking.

Hence, if we were finishing some hogs on acorns right now, it would be too early. When it is clear we can market such hogs at a premium, sell them in volume, and do it for the foreseeable future, while keeping costs under control - it will probably be the top priority of the company.

When I worked in the financial derivatives world, it was the same. The goal was always to identify some niche with major profit potential, then move into it and scale up in a big way. We put up with all sorts of awful problems for months in the initial phases, and when we were scaling up, we'd try to improve things permanently and things would get nicer and more manageable.

STL - Monarch Restaurant

Josh Galliano, the St. Louis chef at Monarch helping to organize our Mangalitsa-in-Missouri effort, is serving our Mangalitsa pork tonight.

A few days ago, he drove out to Swiss Meat, returning with a case of sirloins and a case of lard.

Mangalitsa Ham

Mangalitsa Ham again:
The former home of Reis 100 is made over into a small-plates restaurant with dishes like duck hash, a pork tonnato sandwich, and air-cured Mangalitsa ham.
In the few months, I expect people will be hearing a lot about hams made from our pork, made by Johnston County Hams.

You can see photos from my visit to Johnston County Hams here. You can see Christoph Wiesner (world-renowned Mangalitsa expert) showing Rufus Brown (Johnston County Hams curemaster) how to eviscerate a Mangalitsa hog here.

I suspect the ham served at Reis 100 is coming from Spain. It will be interesting, in the next few months, to see how Johnston County Hams's hams compare to the imported stuff. There's a lot of variables that impact how a ham tastes. A bit like cheese, you can age the hams a long time or a short time. From what I've read, the Spanish hams age a lot longer than the ones Johnston County Hams will start marketing.

As with cheese, how long to age the ham is partly a function of taste.

One thing that surprised me in the last year was that I found out that the Wiesners were making city hams and selling them. City hams are quickly produced hams - brine injected and cooked. In the ham world, they are low on the totem pole - which is why I was surprised Christoph was making them. Nevertheless, if you can sell them and get a good return, that's what you do; you can't ignore what your customers want.

The fact that even Mangalitsa city hams can taste excellent enough to be fancy food reminds me that the number one thing that goes into making a good food is excellent raw material.

For instance, I'm thinking now of making a few bacon covered donuts, to sell at the farmers market. It all sounds silly, except when you make it with really great bacon.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Braised Mangalitsa Pork Belly

Michael's in New York is serving braised Mangalitsa pork belly.

Most restaurants are too scared to serve a dish this rich and fatty.

Another restaurant that serves similarly fatty dishes is Klee. Michael's and Klee buy their Mangalitsa pork from Mosefund.

Portland pig cook-off followed by brawl over the provenance of pork

Readers of this blog will enjoy this Cochon 555 related story from Portland.

My favorite comment from the Oregon Live website:
nikonf2: "Pretty much a quintessential Portland story: Hipsters, Foodies, excessive drinking and a strip club. Only thing missing was whether they traveled by bicycle, streetcar, or Prius between venues."
I'll be at the Cochon 555 this Sunday in Seattle.

Ignoring the influence of the alcohol and strippers, the brawl supposedly started because a non-local pig triumphed in Portland's Cochon 555, (judged on taste). This is something I've written about before: local doesn't necessarily taste the best.

EDIT: More funny stuff here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Der Tagesspiel on Pig Breeds - Mangalitsa the best

Foto: Andrew Perris (aus dem Buch "Schöne Schweine"
von Andy Case, Landwirtschaftsverlag Münster)

Der Tagesspiel writes about pigs and pork - specifically high quality pork, nose-to-tail cuisine, marbling, etc.

The picture they use a blonde boar, photographed on Christoph Wiesner's farm.

It mentions some things that I've brought up before. Here I'm quoting the Google translation of the article:

Who wants to buy quality, must make the usual meat counters a bow and seek alternatives. Niche players to experiment with old pig breeds, such as anglers semi-pigs, Bunte Bentheim, Schwäbisch-Hall, Mangalitzaschweine, Hampshire, Duroc. Which are often crossed with modern high-performance boars, for pure-bred pigs of old breeds often with too much fat. Still, the best meat, Wolfgang Müller has ever eaten came from a purebred Hungarian Mangalitzaschwein. "Great, I have a fine lard, bacon fat, cut that was firm and crunchy!" Says the Berlin Koch.
That's an entirely typical result. E.g. study #1 and study #2.

In Europe, Wolfgang Mueller can get pork from various breeds. It isn't like the USA, where choices are quite limited. You have to figure he's got a good sense of what's on the market. Unsurprisingly, Mangalitsa tastes the best; if you've got the money, its the stuff to buy.

More translation:
Meat Researchers Branscheid holds the neck portion of the pig, which has often retain the best marbling, for particularly interesting.
People love pig necks, fresh or cured. If I want to give someone his first taste of Mangalitsa, I prefer to sell him a piece of neck, because it makes a very good impression.

New York Launch

DeBragga is hosting a dinner next week. A bunch of New York's best chefs will attend.

I'll be there to explain what we do and why. We'll eat a bunch of Mangalitsa pork and products, including products made by our customers - Johnston County Hams and Knight Salumi.

DeBragga has managed the invitations, venue, etc. If you want to attend and haven't been invited, you'd better talk to your DeBragga representative.

If you had told me just 4 years ago that I'd be rubbing elbows in such company - and providing the food that we'd be eating - I wouldn't have believed you. Wooly Pigs has made a lot of progress in very quick time.

I've worked hard to make this happen. Obviously I couldn't have done it without Christoph Wiesner (and his family).** They have worked hard (for essentially nothing) to make something like this possible - by exporting Mangalitsa pigs and transferring what they know about fattening, slaughter, cutting techniques and processing.

When I look at the New York launch, my hope is that later in the year, if it is clear that New York chefs are adopting our products, we can bring Manfred Stockner to New York and have him teach people how he uses Mangalitsa pigs in a fine-dining setting.

** Many other people have helped Wooly Pigs to get where it is today too; if you've read this blog, you've likely read about them already.

Flimsy Pens, Destructive Pigs

I saw these pictures of some Mangalitsa pigs in Slovakia, where they are trying to sell a boar.

You can see that the boar (center) looks very masculine, while the sows look significantly more feminine.

You can also see that although they live in a place that would normally be green and lush, they've destroyed all plants. There's not a blade of grass in there.

Finally, you can see that they are keeping them in a fairly flimsy and cheap pen. The pigs could probably dig out or break the fence if they really wanted to. So long as there's food and water in their pen, they'll probably stay in there. They aren't fussy.

Open House - Swiss Meat & Wooly Pigs, Upcoming Classes

We are having an open house at Swiss Meat and Sausage Company June 16th.

The event is invitation only. Mostly there'll be Missouri chefs and media there, including some chefs, like Jimmy Fiala and Debbie Gold, who've used Wooly Pigs brand Mangalitsa before.

We'll show people:
In the future, we'd like to have classes at Swiss, where interested people would be able to fly in and learn how to kill and process lard-type pigs into super-premium food.

Swiss Meat really is the USA's first slaughterhouse able to turn lard-type pigs into marketable cuts. A third Mangalitsa fattener - quite far from Missouri - is going to send some pigs there soon. When you see stuff like that happening, it is clear the processor is doing something a lot better than the others. Of course, the reason the processing matters so much is that the pigs are so different from other pigs.

I've invited some of my best customers to attend this event - but I'm sure I forgot to extend the offer to all of you. If you would like to attend, please let me know and I'll see if we can make it work.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sheep Pig? Woolly Pig?

A recent story in the NY Daily News used the term "sheep pig" and "ancient breed":
Mangalitsa pigs, or sheep pigs, are an ancient, curly-coated breed of hog whose meat is highly prized.
I've never heard anyone call Mangalitsa pigs "sheep pigs". I ought to have heard this by now.

And how ancient is 1830, the approximate year of the Mangalitsa's creation, anyway?

The sewing machine was
invented in 1830. I don't know anyone who calls that ancient. They typewriter was invented in 1829 - even earlier - and yet that's not an "ancient" invention.

Nevertheless, if you use Google to search for "known as" and "sheep pig", you'll find a bunch of fluffy articles that say that Mangalitsa pigs are known as "sheep pigs".

Just because an article says something is "commonly known", "also known" or "known" as something else doesn't make it so. A reasonable person would ask, how would a journalist find out what something is "commonly known as"? Would they do a poll, and call a few thousand households? How about a google search?

A number of those articles say the pigs "died out" because they don't do well in confined spaces.

The authors of that stuff aren't doing any fact-checking.

Look at this gallery of Mangalitsa pigs in Hungary and you'll see that Mangalitsa pigs, like most pigs, do very well in enclosed spaces. They also like to be cheek by jowl with other pigs. Those guys in the barn pictured could go out through the door if they wanted to; obviously they'd rather stay inside, crammed up against all the other filthy, smelly pigs.

For the record, pigs do best when given a minimum of 9 square feet of space. If you look at the photo of the pigs in the barn, that's about what they are taking up.

Are Mangalitsa pigs really known as "sheep pigs"? I don't think so.

Why does this bother me so much? While this week it is "sheep pig", a while ago, do to similarly sloppy people, the Mangalitsa breed was supposedly also commonly known as the "woolly pig" - which it wasn't, and which is obviously a legal issue that impacts me. If journalists start saying that Mangalitsa pigs are "also commonly known as Heath Putnam pigs," I'll be even more irritated.

Of course, there's an upside to this; Heath Putnam Farms, better known as Wooly Pigs, is going to sell a lot of pork.

Mangalitsa Lardo & Pepperoni

The Sausage Debauchery has a nice photo and remarks on Mangalitsa lardo.

The True Cure has Mangalitsa pepperoni made with Wagyu.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Anthony Hubbard Delivery - Rillettes

I delivered pork to Anthony Hubbard's restaurant today, in preparation for the upcoming Cochon 555 event.

Anthony wasn't there, but the staff was.

I gave them some Mangalitsa rilletes so they could see what the stuff tastes like. They all liked it, but one guy was clearly moved by the stuff a lot more than the other, so I gave him the remainder to eat.

Many people have tried the rillettes. What's interesting is to see that some people think the stuff is too rich and has too much flavor. Basically, they aren't used to eating food that's very flavorful. Mangalitsa rillettes - which are super flavorful - bother them.

Other people - the ones comfortable with meat, I guess, really seem to like it. They take to it very quickly - and they seek it out repeatedly after eating just a little bit.

I think the situation is similar with Atlantic and Pacific salmon. Pacific salmon has a stronger taste. For that reason, I don't seek out Atlantic salmon the way I do the Pacific. I don't even like to eat wild-caught Atlantic salmon. I'd probably eat farm-raised Pacific salmon (if such a thing existed) before I'd eat the Atlantic stuff (wild or farm-raised) - just based on taste.

Pretzel Recipe

Some of the people who like Mangalitsa pork and lambic-style beers like pretzels of the sort you find in Central Europe - because they've eaten them while traveling.

I don't mean pretzels as sold in America - but rather, ones like what you buy in Germany. I have fond memories of being at one of Germany's best breweries, sitting outside under trees, talking with friends, drinking excellent beer and eating excellent pretzels.

I've had nothing in America that comes close.

Anyway, I saw that an American (of Swabian origin) has been nice enough to put recipes for real pretzels - the sort that require lye - on the web.

If anyone in the Seattle area is willing to bake me some pretzels this way, I'm willing to trade you some Mangalitsa pork for it.

I was prompted to make this post today because I saw a guy selling pretzels today. They didn't look right. They looked a bit like these (too light-colored). He explained that they are made with baking soda.

I've got no tolerance for a bad version of a European classic - particularly when it is possible to make the real deal without having to do much work. Unlike with the pigs, you don't need to import German flour, yeast or lye to make a real pretzel - all you need is will.

Article in NY Daily News about Mangalitsa Ham

There's an article in the NY Daily News about Mangalitsa ham selling in New York for $83/lb.

That better be boned out.

Johnston County Hams will sell hams made from our pork very soon.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Got a Call about Pig Hairs

I sometimes get people calling wanting to get the fiber from our pigs.

I explained to the caller that he could call our slaughterhouse and get a pile of uncleaned, unsorted hair off the kill floor.

Or he could contact the good folks at Provenance Farm in Minnesota and get them to harvest the hair of their pigs. When you only have a few pigs, it is a lot easier to get them to stand still and give you their hair.

Cochon 555 Seattle Press Release

Brady Lowe, the organizer of Cochon 555, sent me this. It looks like you can get $25 off if you follow the instructions below.

“555 TWITTER 2VIP CONTEST” and win 2 VIP Tickets to Cochon555 Seattle (325 value)

How it works

Before Tuesday May 18th, anyone to twitter #cochon555 and invite FaceBook friends via will be entered to win. Those not winning will be given a $25 discount via twitter direct message.

Information below: Please pass to friends of swine, family and all things tasty. If you have a blog, website, FaceBook, twitter or calendar please post. By doing so, you are building a platform for those farmers passionate raising healthy, heritage breed pork. ~ Thank you in advance, Brady

Details are listed on FaceBook. Click on the link, under event image -> Invite your friends.

$10-20 OFF: goodfarmer

COCHON 555 SEATTLE (Five Chefs, Five Pigs, Five Winemakers)

A group of chefs will each prepare a 140 pound heritage breed hog from head to toe in this friendly competition for a cause. Guests and professional judges will determine a winner based on presentation, utilization and overall best flavor. The winner will be crowned the "Prince of Porc". In addition, five selected winemakers will showcase their wines. COCHON 555 is a tribute to heritage and heirloom breeds, chefs and winemakers.

Each 140 lb pig can be pre-cooked, braised, grilled, pressed, pickled, rubbed, smoked, seared, sauced, spiced, injected, marinated, cured in any way, or otherwise prepared. Guest of the event will experience the chef creations during a 2.5 hour stand-up reception. Chef stations will alternate with winemaker tables. Guests should not arrive late for this event.

CHESTER GERL, Matt’s in the Market
TAMARA MURPHY, Brasa Restaurant

McCrea Cellars
Long Shadows Wineries
Buty Winery
Fidelitas Wines
Elk Cove Vineyards

VIP WINES: (reserve tasting)
Long Shadows Wineries
Cordon Selections
Elk Cove Vineyards

Resident Butcher:
RYAN FARR - 4505 Meats San Francisco

Special Guest Chef:
Gabriel Claycamp – The Swinery

VIP EXPERIENCE: Start early with an oyster tasting and special selection of reserve wines. Enjoy artisan cheeses from DeLaurenti while sipping on savory cocktails by Daniel Hyatt of Alembic SF and craft brews from Pike Brewing Company. Guests can meat and greet with the chefs, winemakers and judges of COCHON 555.

MAIN FLOOR: Guests will witness a whole pig butcher demonstration by Ryan Farr while consuming over 750lbs of swine, great wines and brews. A whole roasted pig and swine infused desserts by Xocolatl de David will precede the award ceremony. The after party sponsored by the American Lamb Board will be held at Earth & Ocean and will feature a handful of surprises. This is a full day of new and old relationships, great chefs, swine, wine and we look forward to sharing it with you.

WHY: To promote heritage pigs and breed diversity in local and national communities.
A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance.

LOCATION: Bell Harbor International Conference Center. 2211 Alaskan Way, Pier 66 Seattle, WA 98121

WHEN: Sunday May 23rd, 5:00 p.m.
VIP Reception 3:30 p.m.

HOW: The cost is $125 per person and is open to the public. For tickets or more information visit Advance ticket purchase required. Stay the night! W Seattle is the Official Hotel Sponsor of COCHON555 and special room rates can be found on the website.

WANT TO WIN TICKETS? All contests are announced to our social media friends. Please visit the website and sign up to "Bacon Bits" the newsletter. We will provide event updates, ticket contests and special announcements. On FaceBook and Twitter, search under “COCHON555” and “Cochon on Tour”.


Cochon 555 is the only heritage breed pig and chef competition in the U.S. The touring event was created by Brady Lowe in response to the lack of consumer education around heritage breeds. Other cities include New York, Washington D.C. and Seattle. Chefs and judges from each city are selected by Taste Network, Lowe’s company, to participate in the event. Taste Network is based in Atlanta and delivers experiential services to the boutique food industry nation-wide. The company’s mission is to provide cultured events and education focused around artisan wine, cheese and cuisine to its clients and the public at large.

About FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen: In its 28th year, the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen is the epicurean magazine’s signature event, bringing together 50 of the world’s foremost authorities on wine and food at 80 cooking demonstrations and wine seminars. In addition, over 300 wines and luxury lifestyle brands gather together in the Grand Tasting Pavilion, the epicenter of the event, to pour over 50,000 bottles of wine and exhibit their newest products. FOOD & WINE is the modern, stylish, trend-spotting, talent-seeking epicurean magazine. Published by American Express Publishing Corporation, the leader in luxury lifestyle magazines, FOOD & WINE has a circulation of over 925,000. Details about the event and the company are available at .

Media Contact:
Carolina Uribe

Mangalitsa Carpaccio

The photo shows cured Mangalitsa pork belly served with pesto, in Budapest, at Bock Bisztro.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Wooly Pigs, Anthony Hubbard, Cochon 555 Seattle

Wooly Pigs is supplying Anthony Hubbard, returning champion of Seattle's Cochon 555 with pork.

You can read about the event here.

Anthony is getting a bunch of F1 Mangalitsa pork. You can see what they look like here (they are ugly brown pigs, not very curly). Here's how F1 pigs get produced (warning: contains images of pig sex).

Also competing are some chefs that have bought pigs from me before, like Adam Stevenson (Earth and Ocean) and John Sundstrom (Lark). It will be fun to see them.

I'll be at the event. It will be my first time at a Cochon 555 event.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Heath Putnam Farms" is "Wooly Pigs"

She represents Wooly Pigs and Heath Putnam Farms.

Johnston County Hams is about to start marketing their first hams made from our pork. These will be the first batch of dry-cured hams from lard-type pigs produced in the USA that you can easily buy. Restaurants like The French Laundry and The Herbfarm have produced similar hams - but of course, the hams haven't been for sale.

The sale of these hams is a culinary milestone for America, and the culmination of a multi-year effort involving many people - farmers, slaughterhouse personnel, meat processors, etc.

Unfortunately, because of USDA issues[1] with the name "Wooly Pigs", the label on the hams will probably say that the pork was produced by "Heath Putnam Farms"[2], not Wooly Pigs.

Over the years, many have asked why the company name ("Wooly Pigs") doesn't have "farm" in its name. Others have asked why the company is named after the pigs, because it isn't normal to do this. Here's why:

Initially, I wanted to import Mangalitsa pigs so that I could eat them without traveling to Europe. There wasn't anything comparable in the USA already.

While looking into importing Mangalitsa pigs in 2006, I learned about European lard-type pork producers, who produce millions of lard-type pigs and export pork and products around the world. Meanwhile, in the Western Hemisphere, there wasn't any lard-type pork industry, or even much awareness of that industry.[3]

When I learned about the surprising gap, I decided that my goal was to establish America's first modern lard-type pork company, copying the methods of the Hungarian and Spanish producers.

It wasn't at all clear what to name such a company.

I considered something with "farm" in it, but look up the definition of "farm" and you'll see something like:
A farm is an area of land, including various structures, devoted primarily to the practice of producing and managing food (produce, grains, or livestock), fibres and, increasingly, fuel. It is the basic production facility in food production.
A farm isn't about creating new foods or a new agricultural sector. Nor is a farm about the distinctive animals involved. The word "farm" de-emphasizes all those things, while emphasizing things like the location, the location's dirt and its buildings.

From the beginning, the company has been about Mangalitsa pigs, super-premium pork, incredible products and introducing expertise to America. It isn't about a location, nor that location's dirt and buildings.

Pig Breeder #1

The people involved matter a lot more than the farms. E.g. the skill of the breeders and fatteners matter more than the locations where those people do their jobs. An expert like Pig Breeder #1 can do a great job breeding on any farm.

Besides the people involved in breeding, fattening, slaughtering and processing the pigs, there are the pigs themselves.

Without its Mangalitsa pigs, the company can't produce super-premium pork. The pigs are the basis of the company. In the big picture, the farms (the locations, land and buildings) that the pigs live on and in are not important, compared to things like the genetics, breeding, husbandry, diet, slaughter and processing.

My fundamentally anti-terroir approach led me to reject all potential names involving "farm", "ranch", "plantation", "estate", etc.

It seemed logical to name the company after its unique pigs, especially because they look so incredible. Also, I figured that "Wooly Pigs" was such a great name, if I didn't take it, the second, third or fourth competitor in America's lard-type hog sector would.

Unfortunately, the suggestive name was a bit too catchy. Without ever intending it to happen, we've reached the point where "Wooly Pig" is becoming synonymous with "Mangalitsa", if it isn't already.

Some woolly pigs, not some Wooly Pigs.

It has been frustrating for a while now to explain to people that Wooly Pigs is a company, not a kind of pig, but given that our most important customer can't put "Wooly Pigs" on his label, because the USDA says he'd have to prove the pork came from "Wooly Pigs" (meaning "Mangalitsa pigs"), we've got to pick a new name, if only for the label.

When selecting a new name, it is important that when people go online to find out more information, they find out about Wooly Pigs. Given that we can't put Wooly Pigs on the label, the next best thing is something with "Heath Putnam" in it. Of course, we've got the pigs on multiple farms now - so "Heath Putnam Farms" is our new secondary name for the company known as "Wooly Pigs".

I wish we could avoid this. The company isn't supposed to be about me, it is suposed to be about our pigs, their pork, the products we and others make from them, etc. Nevertheless, there's hams that need to get labeled (so they can be sold), so we are doing what we have to do.

Hopefully we won't have to rebrand the company. I intend to keep using the name Wooly Pigs as long as possible, and to use "Heath Putnam Farms" only in those contexts where Wooly Pigs can't be used.

[1] The USDA is claiming that "Wooly Pigs" means the same as "Mangalitsa breed pigs", despite the fact that no pig expert equates them. You won't find "Wooly Pig" or "woolly pig" mentioned as a synonym for "Mangalitsa" in any pig reference.

Unfortunately, there's lots of blog posts and news articles - arguably incorrect and sloppy - that equate "Wooly Pig" with Mangalitsa.

[2] In the legal sense, "Wooly Pigs" and "Heath Putnam Farms" are two trade names that refer to the same company.

[3] Imagine if there were no Wagyu cattle in the USA, nobody in the USA knew what they were or what they were good for, and you could be the first to bring them in and start producing and marketing them. That's how it looked to me in late 2006.


I found some Ukrainian sites with Mangalitsa pigs and crosses.

Ukraine is adjacent to Hungary, so it isn't surprising that Ukrainians have Mangalitsa pigs too. They've got some neat photos!

Photo from this Ukrainian website.

That thing looks like a Mangalitsa cross. Perhaps it is crossed with regular hogs, or perhaps a wild boar. I wouldn't want to make it angry. They've got neat photos of pigs in the snow too; well worth checking out.

These guys are selling stock. They are in a part of Ukraine quite close to Hungary, that used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

It isn't at all clear when they got their pigs, what they do with them, etc. They seem to be more a curiousity in Ukraine than anything else.

One would think, given how much the Ukrainians love salo (aka "lardo") they'd raise more Mangalitsa pigs. I suspect the high cost of gain deters them.

Genetics of Pig Fatness

Mangalitsa loin

I found a new study today (abstract here) - and the full PDF here on the genetics of pig fatness.

What makes one pig breed different from another are the genes that members of one breed tend to have, as opposed to other breeds (or crossbreeds). Differences in genes can lead to differences in traits like fatness or marbling. When variance in the traits is primarily determined by genes, its possible to have some breeds that are markedly different from others.

The study includes a table that lists marbling (IMF) percentages for various breeds. Marbling is intramuscular fat, a desirable trait. I was happy to see that the Mangalitsa has the most marbling of all pig breeds studied.

Of the meat-type breeds, Durocs have the most marbling. The study says they have marbling of around 3%.

Iberico breeds have marbling of around 6%, approximately double that of the Durocs.

Mangalitsa pigs have marbling that is 25% greater than that of the Iberico breeds, 7.5% -- and the highest marbling of all pig breeds studied. This is why Mangalitsa pigs can outperform Iberico pigs. The Hungarian breeders who created the Mangalitsa really did create the most fat prone pigs.

Mangalitsas have 2.5 times more marbling than the best marbled meat-type pigs, the Durocs. Again, Mangalitsa pigs belong in their own category.

Most of the super-marbled Mangalitsas I've seen have been old and fat. Also, it is possible to do a lot better than the 7.5% IMF listed in the chart - as this study showed, some Mangalitsa pigs have IMF of 11.8%!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mangalitsa Ham - Foreign Videos

I found some videos on YouTube about Mangalitsa ham. It is amazing how much wealth they've got tied up in their pigs, ham inventory, facilities, etc.

Watching that first video, you can hear that they decided to import the Hungarian spelling "Mangalica" to Spain - but to pronounce it differently. I cringe every time I hear them say "manga-lee-ka". Wooly Pigs took a different approach - use a phonetic spelling.

The second video shows how the Hungarians raise their pigs, which is similar to how the Spanish raise their Iberico in Spain.

Its fun to see the very fat pigs running around, shaking like blobs of jello. As in this next video, that I made in Austria, you can see that the fat pigs hate running, and are looking for an excuse to slow down:

Here's a third video. It shares footage with the other two:

By George Farm: Mangalitsa Pigs Feeding on Food Waste

The By George Farm blog has a post about their pigs eating kitchen waste. The pigs will wind up getting eaten at The Madison Club, a prestigious club in Madison, Wisconsin.

Even if you feed pigs that way, as long as you withhold the slop at the end of their lives, it is possible to produce great meat and and fat.

This way of feeding pigs is traditional, and a lot like what people were doing in Egypt until quite recently. To quote Harris:

Although it can be efficient to feed pigs this way, some people get squeamish about it. They'd be happier if the pigs ate feed out of a can.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cured Mangalitsa Neck

The Sausage Debauchery finished and tried his Mangalitsa Coppa. He writes:

This is some fabulous stuff! I now understand what all the fuss is about... What really makes this stuff ridiculous is it's unctuousness. Sliced paper thin, it actually melts on your tongue... Really, really great stuff.
"Coppa" is an Italian word for cured neck.

Wooly Pigs sells neck rolls, which are like the pictured piece, but with a flap of intercostal (rib) meat attached. They are produced as shown in this document - or as in this tutorial.

The Herbfarm makes a similar product from Mangalitsa. Chef Ben says it is his favorite.

Mosefund sold him that meat.

Mangalitsa Ad

I saw some nice photos in this ad for a Mangalitsa sow:

The blond piggies are cute, and already fat looking.

The ad explains that she's already bred, to a good Mangalitsa boar. The owner is selling her because he's out of space.

You have to wonder what the swallow-belly looking pig is doing in the top photo - perhaps they are crossbreeding the blond Mangalitsa sow with a swallow-belly boar.

The Blond Mangalitsas are fatter than the Swallow-bellied Mangalitsas.

The Next Sous Vide Supreme

It seems a lot of people (and restaurants) are curing and aging meat at home - some illegally. Serious people (and restaurants) build rooms with equipment that automatically controls the temperature and humidity.

That just seems to irritating, especially for foodie yuppies who live in apartments. They want to cure their own meat, but they can't construct things like that. It got me wondering if anyone produces machines - perhaps just converted refrigerators - to do the same thing.

I'm thinking the same people who want the Sous Vide Supreme would want these.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Lard is Best & Lard buns build understanding

Lard is the best fat to use when making biscuits.

From Guangdong: Lard Buns Build Understanding.

I'm very excited and want to make some Mangalitsa buns - something like what Chef Angerer is doing at Klee.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Everything Different than All Others

Chef Manfred Stockner with Mangalitsa lardo and whipped lard.

There's an article on an Austrian website about Wolfgang Pucher and his Mangalitsa pigs (translated article here).

He refers to the 5 A's, the saying, "Alles anders als alle Anderen" -- everything different from all others. With Mangalitsa pigs, that's true - they are completely different - the inconvenient hair, the small litters, the massive quantity of high-value fat, the incredibly meaty meat, etc.

Pucher has produced really great stuff, including the fatback used to make the lardo above. I ate that lardo, and it changed my life.

The article also mentions Chef Manfred Stockner, one of the best chefs in Austria, and a guy skilled at using entire Mangalitsa pigs in a fine dining setting.

Pucher mentions the difficulty of finding good processing for his pigs - a big problem for a small specialty producer. Reading about his problems, I get happy about Swiss Meats.

Mike Sloan of Swiss Meats, holding fatback.

Pucher says the Manglaitsa lardo is the best product to make from the pigs. I think I understand why he says that; the Mangalitsa produces fat very efficiently, and its fatback tastes ridiculously good.

Chef Daniel Angerer's Mangalitsa Pig Buns

Miss Tiffie writes about Daniel Angerer's (Klee Restaurant) Mangalitsa pig buns. Klee buys their Mangalitsa from Mosefund Farm - the farm that held the best pig killing classes ever this last January.

The photo above is from Miss Tiffie's blog.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Chat with Monarch's Chef Galliano about our Products

I had a chat today with Chef Josh Galliano of Monarch Restaurant. When I was in Missouri last month, he got a boneless rib-loin, lard and some lardo.

We are putting together a show-and-tell event at Swiss Meats for chefs and media, so I was talking with him today. I got to ask him what he thought of the products he got last month.

He liked the loin. He agreed it was very special. If I recall correctly, he cooked it sous vide and seared it - which is often a big winner.

He liked the lardo a lot, and used it in different ways. He's the sort who'd probably make his own lardo from our raw material. He agreed that our lardo was totally different from all other lardo that he can buy or make. I explained about how we produce that fat, by optimizing breed, feed and age at slaughter.

He used the lard for a bunch of things - sauteing, making pies, frying potatoes.

He preferred our lard to the lard and duck fat mixture he was using to fry potatoes - and given the high cost of duck fat, its cheaper. He agreed that our lard was much better than the other lard he'd been using. He explained though, you can't substitute lard for ALL cooking fats. There are some applications where you'll want to use vegetable oils.

In general, I'm hoping that we can develop a market for our Mangalitsa pork and products in Missouri, because we ought to be able to serve them well via our primary processor.

Lafitte Restaurant (San Francisco, CA)

Lafitte in San Francisco is serving our pork, some Iberico and some meat-type pork (Berkshire) tomorrow - according to Grub Street.

The Iberico that is coming in is all frozen. I like that, because pretty much all the pork Wooly Pigs sells is frozen.

There are some chefs who refuse to use pork that's been frozen. I'm hoping that - due to a desire to use the highest quality ingredients - some of them will choose to use Mangalitsa and Iberico, despite the fact that they've been frozen.

Although imported Iberico is the most obvious competitor for our Mangalitsa, if it leads to chefs being more open to high-quality frozen pork, that's good for Wooly Pigs.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Monsoon - ordering Mangalitsa

I spent a lot of time at Monsoon today.

Eric is ordering our Washington product, which, isn't cut as nicely as our Missouri product. That means he's got to figure out how to make the most of it.

Basically, from the boneless shoulder butt, he can get out a neck (the best meaty cut on the pig except for tenderloin), which is great pan-fried and a bunch of trim which becomes rillettes, which he can make into fried rice (with duck egg!).

Eric is very intrigued by Mangalitsa lardo. I can see he's trying to figure out how to employ Mangalitsa lardo in some of his own dishes. Of course, if he does make lardo (or have us make a batch for him), he'll do it with Vietnamese spices.

When I see chefs like Eric trying to figure out how to use lardo, I get very happy - because that's right up our alley.

La Toretta Lake Resort - Return of Mangalitsa Chef

La Toretta Lake Resort ordered a lot of necks, rib-loins and sirloins - (see the cuts). Mangalitsa Chef (aka "Bryce A Lamb") is working there - which explains how they know about our products, and how to buy them directly.

They are going to save a lot of money that way.

I find it interesting - if anybody is going to take a whole and turn it into parts, Mangalitsa Chef would do it - if only for the fun of it. Yet when you've got a job to do - e.g. banquets for hundreds of people - the right thing to do is order a few hundred pounds of the specific cuts you want.

Mangalitsa Chef knows that our extreme lard-type pig experts (Swiss Meats) kill and cut our super pigs the way he wants them.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Germany: Mangalitsa Pigs Save the Day

Some Mangalitsa pigs in Germany dug up some old and dangerous explosives. Had humans not intervened, the story might have been, "Mangalitsa pigs blow themselves up."

Mangalitsa pigs root a lot!