Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Strength of the Mangalitsa

I recommend you click the next link and view a ridiculously fatty Mangalitsa loin.

Mangalitsa pigs fatten amazingly easily.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Chefs & PR

I got this from Ellen Malloy, a former restaurant publicist, who has created a new internet-based PR platform for chefs, mixologists and sommeliers. It may interest some readers of this blog.

Restaurant Intelligence Agency (RIA) is pleased to announce the launch of Soapbox: A Digital Magazine Written by Chefs. (

Soapbox showcases national chef-driven restaurant professionals: their inspirations, philosophies, backgrounds and opinions, along with of-the-moment industry trends and insider information unavailable elsewhere. This storehouse of industry information is driven by what the
media needs to know, what the public wants to know, and what chefs, mixologists, sommeliers, owners and other industry professionals want to say — in their own words — unedited, immediate, personal and compelling. No processing, no handling.

Soapbox is “fed” by RIA’s proprietary software, Spoonfeed, a social network for the chef-driven restaurant industry. Along with interacting with one another, keeping up with news and accessing Spoonfeed's extensive restaurant marketing manual, members use Spoonfeed to manage their online presence, create a successful online brand, and communicate it to the audiences that matter: media, diners, home cooks, influencers like concierges, and peers.

Spoonfeed is a free service for chef-driven industry professionals. The software prompts members to fill out Personal Profiles, Questions of the Day and Trend Questions. Members answer detailed queries about the facts of their lives and careers, along with upwards of 10,000 targeted “Behind the Line” questions designed to draw out their likes and dislikes, advice and opinions on all things culinary — and most of all, their personalities. While Questions of the Day and Trend Questions for all members are viewable on Soapbox for free, in-depth personal profiles are viewable on Soapbox for the fee of $50/month. Restaurant profiles,
coming shortly, will be viewable on Soapbox for a monthly fee of $250.

Also included are questions about home cooking (and home bartending and sommeliering); travel guides with members’ input about significant culinary destinations; and offbeat questions we think you'll love (e.g., we asked, “The world is filled with different traditions and tastes.
Ever been shocked/awed by an eye-opening culinary tradition while traveling?” and Joncarl Lachman of HB Home Bistro and Vincent answered, “I saw a fish, on ice, that had been completely cut in half and still had its heart beating at a market in Hong Kong....I also saw a dogs head grilling on an open BBQ in Beijing...”)

Soapbox provides journalists (and diners) with an extensive keyword system for instant aggregation of member features, from cuisine style to culinary expertise, so visitors can easily discover who are the whole-animal specialists to local spirits aficionados. Members can also be searched by title, region or metropolitan area. Daily-changing trend highlights and features spotlighting individual members, questions of the day and member specialties keep the content à la minute. And of course, every time you visit, more chefs, sommeliers, mixologists and owners have answered more questions.

Coming soon, Mediafeed will be available at no charge for all members of Spoonfeed. Mediafeed will achieve RIA's goal of directly connecting the chefs, mixologists and sommeliers that matter to the media free of charge — without the gatekeeper and without the cost of traditional PR. "The era of the expensive gatekeeper controlling access to media is over. It isn't good for the media because it hinders their access to a large number of chefs who can't pay the high price of an agency, and it isn't good for the industry because it concentrates the media focus on the precious few chefs who can pay the steep monthly fees of traditional PR," says RIA CEO (and former restaurant publicist) Ellen Malloy.

Read more: Chefs Get on the Soapbox -- Grub Street Chicago

Friday, October 22, 2010

Mangalitsa Around Seattle

Seattle Magazine mentions Mangalitsa pork in its meat issue. It says:
Mangalitsa pork
There are too many notable Mangalitsa pork dishes in town to call out just one, so here’s a round-up of our favorite places where you’ll often find this exceptionally lardy, highly flavorful heritage pork. Though the preparation changes seasonally, you might find it on the menu at Monsoon (glazed with five-spice, $29) Nell’s (grilled chop with gnocchi, rosemary and Swiss chard, $25), or at The Herbfarm (part of a $175–$195 wine-inclusive tasting menu).
It is great to see Mangalitsa pork get some positive press. It even mentions that Mangalitsa is exceptional.

Here's some places in Seattle where you can probably go in* and get some Mangalitsa:
  • Osteria La Spiga (Capitol Hill). There's a neck entree and lardo, either to eat plain or melted around a beef tenderloin.
  • Monsoon Capitol Hill - belly, chop, steak, etc - Monsoon is committed to Mangalitsa pork. Monsoon has a wonderful savory waffle featuring the belly and several meatier dishes - neck steak, pork chop, braised shoulder. Monsoon has used the belly speck in their clam dish.
  • Nell's in Greenlake typically has neck cutlets or loin chops. He also uses the belly speck and jowl speck.
  • Emmer and Rye - Seth has been making hams and rillettes.
Le Gourmand buys sometimes. Serious Pie buys sometimes. Depending on when you go in, Bill the Butcher might or might not have our stuff.

I wish there were more restaurants in Seattle using our stuff - but to my knowledge, that list above is comprehensive.

The stuff has really "taken" a lot better in New York, where Corton, Per Se, Le Cirque and Aureole (those all have michelin stars) regularly serve the stuff. In St. Louis, approximately six places that regularly serve our stuff. In New Orleans the John Besh group (six restaurants) buys a thousand pounds at a time, in addition to keeping a herd of Mangalitsa feeder pigs behind a restaurant (La Provence).

* Due to how they run the restaurant, if you want to eat Mangalitsa as the Herbfarm, you'd better call in and ask if they'll serve it when you'll be there.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Our Pigs Will Make you Cry

According to the blog of the Broward Palm Beach New Times, our pigs will make you cry. As they write:
3. Heritage pork

You know the pig industry is in deep pigshit when its slogan is "the other white meat." Ooh, so pork has as much flavor as chicken. Can't wait to gum up of some of that mucilage. Berkshire, Red Wattle, and Duroc are all flavorful breeds. And if you ever get the chance to taste Mangalitsa pork, you will weep with sheer pleasure.
Just look how that's formulated. They say the non-Mangalitsa ones are flavorful, but that Mangalitsa pork will provoke an uncontrolled emotional response, typically associated with things like graduations, weddings, funerals, etc.

They lump Berkshire, Red Wattle and Duroc all together, as they should. This is what the meat science panels say - Mangalitsa is so better and so different, it belongs in its own category. The fattest pigs taste the best.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Mangalitsa Products Sold in Poland

I saw this page selling Mangalitsa products to Poles. The products look very nice.

The Hungarian products will taste more familiar to Poles than the Mangalitsa products made in Spain. Besides using similar spices and herbs, the Hungarians and Poles both tend to smoke things, while the Spanish don't. That's due to climate - in colder & damper areas, smoking helps to reduce the growth of mold, and it speeds up the drying process.

The products are made from pork of Mangalitsa pigs from Hortobagy, a park in Hungary.

I found these pictures of the Hortobagy pigs here. It seems they are transforming Hortobagy into the swamp that it once was. They've introduced Mangalitsa pigs too.

Traditionally, Mangalitsa pigs were either raised on "factory farms", whose defining characteristic was that people brought to corn to the pigs, or in free-range systems like Hortobagy, where the pigs had to find their own food.

Those systems are both optimal. One produces regular bunches of pigs on a schedule, while the other produces pigs with as little investment as possible.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bay Area Mangalitsa Classes

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, these are the classes to check out.

Register here

Seam Butchery & Charcuterie with Christoph Wiesner

Friday 10/29 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
Hands-on class with tastes
Austrian Seam Butchery demonstration and hands-on charcuterie class led by the President of the Austrian Mangalitsa Breeders' Association, Christoph Wiesner. Christoph and his family run a farm in Göllersdorf, Austria, where they raise rare breeds of goats, pigs and other farm animals. Christoph will lead the class on seam butchery, an old Continental Europe-method of breaking down animals according to their muscle seams. After breaking down the pig, Christoph will lead a hands-on charcuterie class featuring techniques specific to the Mangalitsa. Students will be able to take home the items they prepare.
$95 per person, plus tax

In My Kitchen with the Mangalitsa and Isabell Wiesner

Friday 10/29 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Hands-on class with dinner & wine
After the butchery class, join Isabell in the kitchen for a hands-on cooking class featuring the Mangalitsa. Isabell will lead the class in her favorite recipes and pair the evening's meal with wines from Austria.

  • "Klachlsoup" – pigs knuckle soup with breadcrumb-dumplings
  • Roasted liver with bread and lettuce
  • "Schweinsbraten" with "Krautfleckerln" – roasted shoulder with cabbage
  • "Wiener Schnitzel" – Viennese escalope with potatoesalat
  • "Bauernkrapfen" – farmers donuts with apricot jam made in rendered lard

$145 per person, plus tax

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Eden Farms Selling Some of Our Pigs, Humans are Heedless

Eden Farms bought some pigs from Heath Putnam Farms. Their pigs are fat now and they'll sell them all soon.

They've sold some wholes and halves to chefs across the USA, so in a few weeks, many will get their first ever Mangalitsa pig half or whole.

I'm a little nervous about this because many chefs have a tough time with their Mangalitsa pigs. As I wrote here:
Unfortunately, very few chefs (or even meat processors) can buy a half a Mangalitsa, butcher it and process the meat into usable products - and make all that work pay. Even chefs who regularly use meat-type pigs in their restaurants can't typically do it, because Mangalitsa pigs are so different.
I gave the Eden guys this guide to pass on to their customers - my hope being that they'll cut the pigs in a way that allows them to make money on them, so that they'll want to buy them again.

Why that method works well:
1) Minimal trim

2) Separation of meat and fat into particularly usable pieces

A bunch of chefs will probably ignore our advice. They will have bad experiences. They'll blame the pig. There's nothing I can do to stop that.

I was reminded of this when I saw some Mangalitsa bellies, that had been cut at a typical American plant. When they took the skin off, they removed a lot of fat attached to the skin. They also cut out the spareribs, removing most of the meat:

In the end, the belly looked like a piece of fatback. The customer who got it said he couldn't use it the way he uses his normal bellies; he'll have to grind it up and use it as fat.

I tried to tell everyone involved about this risk. It didn't work. In the end someone - in this case the guy trying to sell that as a belly - is going to lose unnecessarily.

Our bellies

If you look at our bellies, you'll see we derib them. Leaving that minimal amount of meat on the belly increases its value tremendously. One looks like a slab of fat. The other has little red lines of meat in it. A world of difference to the customer!

Most of the customers who buy pigs from Eden Farms will probably cut the spareribs out from their sides, producing bellies like the sorry one shown above. Those chefs will probably like the ribs (super tasty) but they won't know what to do with the fat, which makes up most of the belly.

The fact that Mangalitsa spareribs aren't worth their weight in gold explains why we de-rib the bellies.

I suggested that Eden might as well give all the customers rib pullers (complimentary) - but even that wouldn't work. Most chefs won't listen. They'll probably cut the spareribs out. Many of them probably won't figure out after the fact that when they did that, they ruined their chance of making money on the bellies.

Hopefully the chefs who get the pigs will either want more pigs or some of our boneless ribloins, boneless sirloins, necks, de-ribbed bellies, etc.

Cut up jowls

Here's another sad picture. That's how your jowls turn out if you send them to a plant that skins (not scalds) the pigs and has a busy inspector who slashes the jowls. The result is a bunch of cut up, fairly worthless jowls. You can't make speck from those jowls, so they are worth a lot less than intact, skin-on jowls.

Our Missouri jowls (done at Swiss Meat) are big triangular slabs, not slashed, and people buy them again and again. I can sell them wholesale, to customers like Salumeria Biellese. It is great to have a product that people want, instead of something that you have to grind up or throw away.

I don't think anyone else produces such a stream of high quality jowls. Our Washington processor produces jowls like the cut up ones in the picture, explaining why Heath Putnam Farms conducts most of its processing as Swiss Meat now.

A lot of people are getting into the lard-type pig game, and they think its some kind of joke. They think they can just do whatever it is they do with regular pigs and make a lot of money.

For example, many chefs think they can buy a Mangalitsa pig, do whatever it is they do to regular pigs to it, and have it turn out great. It does not work that way. Typical mistakes:

1) Cutting the pigs in a way that's wasteful.

2) Not making money off the fat.

3) Overspicing the pork.

4) Grinding the fat at too high a temperature, leading to smearing of sauages or salami.

5) Rendering your lard suboptimally. Look - you'll have a lot of lard. You'd better do it right or you'll pay.

If you want to make the best, you need to do things properly. I listen to the guy who sold me my pigs, taught me how to fatten them and taught my processor how to kill, cut and process the pigs. If I do anything different than what he told me, I know I'm doing it at my own peril.

November 2nd - Mangalitsa Dinner in Chicago - Stephanie Izard

EDITOR: Dan Fox, from the Madison Club, explained to me that it is his Mangalitsa going to the Stephanie Izard dinner. I'll post more details once I get them. I'm leaving the original post as is until then.

There's going to be a Mangalitsa dinner in Chicago November 2nd. Heath Putnam Farms bred the Mangalitsa pig. These guys bought the pig and finished it, documenting many of the steps:
They picked up the pigs. I love how Pig Breeder #1 looks at them like they are from outer space, in their fancy clothes and new muck boots.

They took pictures of our farm and some other farm with pink pigs on it (we don't own any pink pigs).

They took the pigs to their county fair.

They cut some pig up.

The chef for the dinner, Stephanie Izard, is a winner on the show Top Chef.

I like it when winners choose Mangalitsa.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mangalitsa Chef's Hoi Sin Glazed Mangalitsa Belly, Anise-cinnamon Infused Maple Syrup

These recipes are from Mangalitsa Chef.

The first originally came entitled "Hoi Sin Glazed Mangalitsa Pork Belly" -- but then, Mangalitsas are pigs, so there's no need to say "pork", right?

You'll want to make these if you are making his Mangalitsa belly waffles - the belly goes in the waffle, and the syrup on top of it.

We'll be getting photos made of this stuff.

Hoi Sin Glazed Mangalitsa Belly

1 lb Mangaalitsa pork belly trimmed and cut into 4 3 1/2oz. pave save trim for waffle

3 ea lemon grass stalks trimmed, quartered

2 ea shallot, quartered

6 cloves garlic

2 ea star anise pods

2 tsp sea salt

4 ea lime leaves

1/2 tbl pepper corn

1 1/2 qt water

Place all in pot bring to a simmer and braise for 45 minutes.

let cool remove bellies from when cool.

1 tbl hoi sin sauce

1 tbl braising liquid strained

mix together toss braised mangalitsa in hoi sin glaze and grill.

Anise-cinnamon infused maple syrup

1 ea cinamon stick

3 ea star anise pod

char on open flame or in saute pan until fragrent.

mix with

1/2 c real maple syrup

1/2 tsp cracked black pepper

bring to a simmer and steep for 1 hour store in airtight container. serve warm.

Kale's Mangalitsa Tattoo

I saw on twitter that someone had gotten a Mangalitsa tattoo. As the caption explains, "when he flexes it gets fatter."

I called up the restaurant, Travail Kitchen and Amusements, and talked to Kale, the tattoo owner.

He said he'd used our stuff at Binkley's in Arizona. Foods in Season had delivered it to him. He's a huge fan of the stuff. He called it the "Wagyu of pork."

I told him I'd send him some complimentary products. I'm hoping I can get a photo that shows his tattoo and our products with logo.

It has taken a few years to get here, but we've finally got people putting drawings of our pigs on their bodies.

The whole business is so tangible. Pigs are big animals. We kill the pigs and have big hunks of meat and fat. Guys like Kale turn that into food that we eat and enjoy (hopefully a lot!). Some people like Kale make it even more physical and tattoo the pigs onto their skin.

Mangalitsa Chef and His Mangalitsa Belly Waffles

Mangalitsa Chef's Carrot Ginger Waffles

I ate the incredible Mangalitsa belly waffle at Monsoon with Mangalitsa Chef.

He's come up with his own savory waffle recipe, which he's released to the world.

If I stay in this business long enough, I'll have a Mangalitsa themed restaurant. I'm going to have Mangalitsa Chef open it. He spent six weeks living with and cooking for the entire Wiesner family. In return, he got to learn how to raise, kill, cut and process Mangalitsa pigs. He's dedicated to Mangalitsa pork. He's looking for work, by the way. If you need an executive chef, please consider Bryce Lamb, reachable at 206-313-9881.

So I took him out to eat the Mangalitsa belly waffle at Monsoon (a Vietnamese restaurant in Seattle). Having opened restaurants in Vietnam, and opened Vietnamese restaurants all over Asia, and having made and eaten waffles in the USA, it seemed like a good idea to bring him.

Mistake! He couldn't just eat and enjoy the waffle. He chewed every bite very slowly, and I could see that all the time, he was thinking about the dish, and how he'd do it. In contrast, I ate all mine (very quickly), and then ate some waffles that another of us couldn't put away.

I asked Mangalitsa Chef to work on the recipe, so that I could put it out there, get it photographed, etc. Below is the waffle recipe. The braised belly and the syrup recipe is here.

Note the egg, waffle (filled with belly) and belly atop the waffle.

Carrot Ginger Waffles

1/18tsp yeast dry active

3/4 C warm carrot juice

1/4 C sugar

dissolve sugar and yeast in juice.

1/4 bu green onion bias cut

1/2 C crispy Mangalitsa pork belly cut into batons

3/4tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 Tbl grated fresh ginger

1 Tbl minced Vietnamese basil

1 Tbl minced cilantro

1/2 Tbl minced mint

2Tbl melted Mangalitsa lard

1 egg yolk

mix with carrot sugar juice

1C AP flour sifted

1C cake flour sifted

add flour in three stages and stir to incorporate

3/4C warm 1/2 and 1/2

add in two stages to flour mixture

5 egg whites whipped to soft peaks

fold meringue into flour mixture in three stages

cover with plastic wrap and place in warm area for thirty minutes.

place 1/2 cup portion on waffle iron and griddle for three minute till done.

Best served with Hoi Sin braised Mangalitsa pork belly, anise and cinnamon infused maple syrup and fried chicken egg with a little salad.

Our Bellies at Salumerie Biellese

Salumeria Biellese is making some pancetta from our bellies. This is a photo of it. I think they'll be done in November.

They bought the bellies and will sell the finished product.

We make a speck from the bellies and sell that ourselves. The key difference between speck and pancetta is that speck is smoked.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cutting up a Pig

I recently cut up a pig, following this guide.

A few thoughts:

1) If your pig is skinned, as opposed to being dehaired by scalding or burning, you've got fewer options. My yield of lardo off this pig is terrible. Try to get your pig scalded if possible. Sometimes it isn't possible - e.g. a pig gets injured and you have to kill her to save the meat.

2) Try to get a lot of counter space. When you don't have enough space, you are more likely to cut yourself, your counter, etc. Or you'll take more time cutting the pig, or both.

3) I didn't have a saw, so I used my rib puller to debone the sides before cutting the belly off the loin. I didn't miss the saw at all.

4) Rib pullers are essential. Once you de-rib the side, you can break the rib off the spine. Everything gets easier. You can order rib pullers here, when they have them. Perhaps there's been a run on rib pullers, given all the upcoming butchery events.

5) You don't need a long knife. I used one of these. Mine is worn down, so its blade is just 3.34 inches (8.5 cm). It is good to have a sharp point, for scraping membranes off bones with the back of the knife.

6) It is important that the the slaughterer split the carcass down the middle, or pretty much the entire time you are working on the loin and neck, you'll curse him. The guy who did mine didn't. It is harder to get the meat off the side with the extra bone and meat. That extra meat winds up being trim too. If the slaughterer splits the hog badly enough, your neck and loin will be entirely trim; I've had that happen. I didn't cry, but I was thoroughly disgusted and dejected at the waste.

7) The slaughterer should strip out the leaf lard when the carcass is still hot. That's when it is easiest. Do it later and you'll waste time.

8) I'm not sure if I did the leg right. I got the "Nuss" out. I think I got the other pieces out. But in the end, I couldn't match them up to the pictures. I could not identify my favorite leg muscles, which I know from cutting into hams. The leg remains a mystery to me.

9) The neck has some soft fat in it, which separates two muscle groups in the middle of the neck. You can split that fat with your fingers, if you pull hard enough. I mistakenly split that fat. Don't do that or you'll wind up with mini-necks.

10) Be careful when you de-rib. Don't cut deep with your knife along the side of the ribs, or you'll cut up your belly.

11) Bag up the bones before you take them to the trash. I piled mine high in some boxes and carried them to the dumpster. You don't want people to think you are a serial killer.

12) Buy a metal glove. I stuck myself a few times. Mangalitsa Chef says they work great. You can splurge and get this one. But even a cheaper one will (according to him) stop you from getting stuck.

Overall, it was interesting and relaxing.

When I was all done, it was neat to think that I took apart an animal as big as me, with a rib puller, a small sharp knife and my two hands. If I ever need to cut up a pig, deer, bear, etc. I'm confident I can do it as long as I've got the tools.

The stuff I fabricated looks a lot better than the stuff I've gotten (or seen) from some professional processors. I'm looking forward to doing my next one, and doing a better job.

Christoph Wiesner does this stuff really well. He makes it look easy. My team, which he trained, does it well too. I'm not very good at this stuff. I really don't want to do what it takes to get good at this stuff; but I'm happy I can do it if I have to.

The overall tedium of the experience - made worse by the slaughterer splitting the pig badly - made me dream of the day when we'll grow meat in vats, and just keep the pigs around as pets, or perhaps just kill a few now and then, for celebratory purposes.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Trouble with the USA's Cured Products

There's an article here attacking Eataly for selling Italian cured products, and not selling American cured products. It explains:

Sure, Eataly is probably doing wonders for the deals Batali and Joe Bastianich can make for their restaurants with suppliers and importers, but it’s not doing much for the farms and artisan producers in upstate New York and other nearby agricultural areas. And when you hear Batali talk about the volume of cheese and meats he’s going to go through at the new market, you almost cringe a little thinking about what it could mean to them, and the shining example that Eataly New York — with its size and share of the spotlight — could have set, especially when there are high-quality locally-produced alternatives available. After all, the Eataly in Turin certainly isn’t shipping in Berkshire hogs from Newman Farm.

There's another article here, about "where to find the best domestically made salumi". As it explains:

"... we're gladdened by the fact that there is a growing number of talented artisans in the States making salumi using traditional Italian techniques."

And then it lists a few meat processors, including Rey Knight, my HACCP consultant, customer and friend.

I've given a lot of thought to "local" food and "artisanal" food in the last few years, for obvious reasons.

Local food

Local food mostly works against the interests of Heath Putnam Farms. There's almost always someone raising pigs who is more local. There's rarely someone raising comparable pigs, of course, explaining why if someone brings up "locality" when discussing their purchases, I explain they'd have to go to Hungary for comparable raw material.

Generally, "local food" advocates gloss over quality defects of local ingredients. E.g. the article attacking Eataly acts as if American producers make products equal to the Italians. As I explained previously, the Italians have a heavy pig system. The results taste better than the American system.

My tiny company optimizes even more variables than the Italians commonly optimize, producing superior raw material, but bigger companies in the USA don't even do what the Italians do, explaining why Americans meat processors can't buy raw material as good as what is sold in Italy, perhaps explaining why Eataly doesn't feature American imitations of Italian products.

The Italians, by the way, like Mangalitsa. I've seen evidence of that recently, and even experienced it myself. The reason is simple: the Italians got rid of their best pigs 50 years ago, and switched to relatively lean Italian Landrace pigs. Hence they must import Mangalitsa and Iberico pork or pigs to get the very best.

Domestically Made Salumi

When the author writes, "... we're gladdened by the fact that there is a growing number of talented artisans in the States making salumi using traditional Italian techniques," he fails to understand the essence of what the Italians do.

What the Italians do is control flavor and fat composition in their pigs, and then make salami from it. The focus on "artisan" technique is silly.

For example, the Pick company, a Hungarian company, makes better salami than the Italians. For their best salami (a fraction of all the salami they make), they use Mangalitsa pigs. Pick is a big concern. They aren't "artisanal" - just as many Spanish firms aren't artisanal, despite producing better stuff than that produced by almost all American producers.

My own understanding of myself (and my customers) is that like pigs, we like to eat good stuff, and we don't want to pay too much or work too hard to get it. Whether or not the product is produced locally or "artisanally" doesn't substantially influence the purchasing decision.

In Summary

Sadly, there's very few American producers using great raw material. Besides my company, there's Johnston County Hams (cured hams and shoulders), and Rey Knight (salami made with some Mangalitsa).

Until American meat processors start using raw material at least as good as the Italian stuff, and until they can beat the Italians on price and availability, I won't hold it against Batali that he's using imported stuff.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sows Fighting and Bullying

A few different farmers have reported that Mangalitsa sows fight longer, harder and bully each other more.

One night some sows turned on one sow, killer her and ate most of her. It was like a horror movie. It isn't clear why they did this; the standard answer would be, "they are pigs."

There's a sow that can't get up, because the other sows had somehow hurt her back. She's been on her side for days. She can eat, crap and drink, but can't get up. She had been alone with four other sows until recently. They turned on her and hurt her. We think they hurt her back, perhaps by riding her. She also had some bite marks - but that wasn't why she couldn't get up.

I also have a boar that got hurt recently. Two boars that normally get along were in a pen together. One of them started riding the other, trying to rape him. The boar on the bottom tried to get away. In the process, he hurt his back. He hasn't been able to walk much since. That means he can't work. He was worth a lot of money - now we might just euthanize him.

In all cases, we've got productive animals that have been hurt by their peers. They are either dead or injured. The injured ones may not recover. It disrupts production. If they have to be replaced, there's a cost to it. Just providing the injured animals with special care costs a lot more than caring for the others.

Clearly, the farm wasn't designed with the needs of the bullied in mind. Nor is the farm designed in the interests of rewarding the just and punishing the guilty. It reminds me a bit of kindergarten. The teacher doesn't care why the kids are fighting, arguing or bullying each other, or which kid is in the right, and which in the wrong. The teacher just wants it all to stop.

There's an interesting video that explores the problem of housing and bullying. Having seen how brutal and cruel pigs are, I can see why most pigs are housed individually.

Pigs don't behave in accordance with their situation. They aren't in the wild fighting for food. They live on a farm and there's always extra food - we see to that, because we want them to get big and fat. But still they fight, and take pleasure denying food to each other - a bit like this dog.

Of couse, the longer animals are domesticated, the more time humans have to impact them. These pigs are probably the most domesticated. They don't move around much or bite humans often.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mangalitsa Pizza Recipes up on Foodista

Thanks to Bryce Lamb (aka "Mangalitsa Chef") and Lara Ferroni, there's 3 new recipes with photos on Foodista. Click on the links below to see them:

Mangalitsa Speck Pizza
Chanterelle and Mangalitsa Speck Pizza
Fig and Mangalitsa Speck Pizza

I'm friends with the Foodista people. Barnaby Dorfman, the man behind it, likes my stuff. He also hooked me up with a great securities lawyer who specializes in startup law, Joe Wallin. If you are in the Seattle area and have a startup, you might want to talk to Joe at some point.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Provvista Open House - Eric Bechard, Gabor Palotai

I saw Eric Bechard at Provvista's Open House.

Eric is infamous for a pig-related brawl. I recognized him instantly and teased him - saying that we didn't want any headbutts. Rufus Brown (of Johnston County Hams), standing next to me, didn't know what I was talking about (or what danger we were in), but that was OK.

Eric and I had an interesting and substantial discussion about local food. He and I respect each other, even though we take a different approach. E.g. he only uses stuff raised in his county. My company produces the best-tasting stuff we can, by any means necessary - the first step was importing the world's tastiest pigs to the western hemisphere. In particular, we don't process our pigs close to our major markets - we process where we get the highest quality processing.

When I explained to him that we are the local producers of Mangalitsa (even though we aren't in his county or even in his state) - because the next closest would be in Hungary or Spain, he didn't get irritated, curse me and headbutt me.

He said he understood and that he respects what we're doing. He agreed that there's no way we could sell all our stuff where we produce it - people are too broke. We both laughed about people buying feeder pigs from me, hauling them great distances and then fattening them a short while before marketing them as "local" in their own markets.

Also, it turns out he's bought meat from me before - back when he lived in Seattle. And he really liked it. I didn't remember that. Knowing that he wasn't going to be cool with buying feeder pigs in Iowa and fattening them in Oregon, I suggested that he buy some breeding stock, so he could have pigs farrowed and fattened (in his county) - so that they could make their way onto his menu, with compromising his principles.

I thought it was neat that Eric and I had mutual respect for each other.

Another high point of the day was meeting Gabor Palotai, a famous Hungarian winemaker who makes wine in Oregon. I was happy to feed him and his friends some Mangalitsa speck (in his language, "mangalica szalonna").

He immediately recongized not only the quality of the product, but that it is the same stuff you get in Central Europe (when you know the right guy). It is always nice to meet people who understand and appreciate what I do - so I gave him some of my last speck, for free.

Foraging Behavior

Bruce King has some interesting observations on his blog about how his dog and the pigs respond when he dumps a heterogenous load of food into the pigpen.

Provvista Open House

I visited Provvista's Open House yesterday, and helped Rufus Brown of Johnston County Hams explain to people why the cured Mangalitsa products are so great.

Provvista's vendors set up tables and sampled their produts to the guests. Provvista staff helped to make it possible for the vendors to sample their stuff and sell people on the products - by providing the space, cleaning up and facilitating things in ways I didn't even notice.

Provvista had had a private tasting of Rufus's hams before they event, so knowing how great the hams are, they sent may people by our table to try the hams, to make sure they experienced it.

There were a lot of hams from Italy and Spain there. It was neat to have them all in one place, so that I could try them. From Spain, there were Iberico and serrano hams.

The Mangalitsa hams had the meatiest flavor of all the hams I tried. As expected, the Iberico and Mangalitsa tasted the most like each other; they were in their own category. The Italian stuff was quite good, but not very memorable. The Italians do get the fat right, which I appreciate - but their meat-type of genetics strictly limit how flavorful their hams can taste.

Comparing the Iberico and Mangalitsa, the Mangalitsa tasted meatier.* One of Rufus's hams (from some sows we killed in January) was absolutely amazing. The fat was white and tasted a bit nutty. The meat was dark red and super-marbled and ridiculously meaty tasting. It was clearly the best ham there. In addition to being the best readily available hams, the hams are a bargain compared to the imported Spanish stuff (the only competition).

Eating that ham, I felt proud to have helped make it happen. Obviously, had I not founded Wooly Pigs (Heath Putnam Farms), it wouldn't be possible to eat this stuff right now. You wouldn't be able to order it online.

Some confirmation of the greatness of Rufus's Mangalitsa ham came later, when some Italians came by. They explained that they live in Italy and have imported Spanish hams (presumably Iberico) into Italy. They looked at the ham (one of Rufus's best) and asked where it came from. They were surprised when we explained the pigs were raised in the USA, and that the hams was made in North Carolina. They sniffed it for a long time and finally tried it - and said nothing. I've seen Italians do this before with other excellent product, so I wasn't surprised. Then they asked for contact information, so they could buy some later. After they left, Rufus and I laughed about that - they didn't want to say it was really great, but they really wanted contact info, so they might potentially buy.

I preferred Rufus's 9-month Mangalitsa ham to some 18-month serrano's from Spain. The Spanish stuff just didn't have the flavor of the Mangalitsa. That's logical: you could "age" some Kraft Singles and they'd still taste like Kraft Singles. Aging them won't automatically make them taste like a great cheese. Anyway, I think it is great that a 9-month Mangalitsa ham can taste so great - but I already knew that from the Herbfarm's quick hams.

* Spain produces some great pigs, that approach the Mangalitsa in quality. Sadly, no hams from those pigs were in attendance; I suspect you'd have to go to Spain to get those.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mangalitsa Pizza

We've got two recipes using lard in flatbread.

There's Jimmy Fiala's and Mangalitsa Chef's. Those guys know how to cook.

Lara Ferroni, food photographer and author used Mangalitsa Chef's pizza recipe and took photos of it.

Foodista Recipes (with photos) are here:
Mangalitsa Speck Pizza
Mangalitsa Speck and Chanterelle Pizza
Fig and Mangalitsa Speck Pizza

That recipe is simple. The Mangalitsa lard makes the dough taste very good.

If you look at the pictures, you'll see some of the pizzas use the Mangalitsa speck.

The recipe for the speck is here.

I'm hoping that one day I'll be able to go out to a restaurant and order pizza like this. Just as it's nice to be able to go to a restaurant and order a Mangalitsa belly waffle (sadly, only on Saturdays and Sundays), it would be nice to be able to get pizza made with Mangalitsa lard.

Lara Ferroni's Pig Photos

Food photographer and Donut book author Lara Ferroni sent me these photos of some Mangalitsa pigs. I bred the pigs and sold them to The Herbfarm. Lara photographed them on the Herbfarm's farm.

The pigs are very ugly, but they taste incredible.

That last photo is funny - the pig is about to push the bread out of the pen. Looking at him, I feel quite lucky to have hands.