Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Murray's Cheese & Mangalitsa Ham from Johnston County Hams

Murray's Cheese in New York City is starting with the Mangalitsa ham from Johnston County Hams.

This is the first group of retail food stores in New York City to sell the ham. They have stores at 254 Bleecker St and at the Grand Central Market.

George Faison of DeBragga and Spitler, the New York distributor of the ham, will be there December 10 slicing the ham for people at the 253 Bleecker store, from 3-6 PM.

Murray's staff told me they'll be selling it for 49.99/lb by the slice, and a 4-oz package for $16.99.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Heath Putnam Farms Gift Guide

Here's my gift guide for 2010: buy someone you love a Mangalitsa ham, or a sampler.

I saw another gift guide today - the gift guide of Ruth Reichl, former New York Times restaurant reviewer and Gourmet magazine editor. I was quite pleased to note her first entry in the gift guide (one per day until Dec 25th):

I'm starting with Mangalitsa pork, because I cooked some the other day, and I was truly startled by the sheer deliciousness of these beautiful wooly pigs.


I love baking with Mangalitsa lard, which is pure white, soft and has a fine sweet flavor that is not quite like anything I’ve tasted before. When you're making pie dough it rolls out like a dream, and bakes up into a wonderfully flaky crust that lacks the mean piggy flavor of so much lard.

But the last time I ordered the lard from De Bragga and Spitler (debragga.com), I decided to order some meat as well. Let me just say that it is, hands down, the most delicious pork I have ever tasted. It is so sweet, succulent and seductively flavorful that the only seasoning it needs is some salt and pepper (and maybe a few cloves of garlic). Trust me: if you send this to a friend, he will love you forever.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Chef it Yourself's Mangalitsa Ham Recipes

Chef It Yourself has some recipes using Mangalitsa ham from Johnston County Hams.

I've copied just one of her photos above, the halibut. It is worth checking out.

The Marx Foods Recipe Challenge is already paying off.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Kale's Mangalitsa Tattoo & Lardo

I sent Kale, the guy with the first Mangalitsa tattoo, some of our lardo. You can follow Travail Kitchen, where he works, on twitter here.

He certainly deserves a shirt too. I wish they were already done.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Paleo, Sous Vide Supreme, CrossFit

By retailing high-quality products like lard, lardo and speck, I've gotten introduced to people following paleo diets.

Basically, if young, fit, educated people show up at the farmers' market and ask for a tub of lard, a block of fatback or a bunch of leaf fat - while expressing no interest in the meat - don't be surprised if they are either Weston A Price members or people following paleo diets. If they look very fit and buying this stuff, don't be surprised if they do CrossFit.

People who say they are eating paleo typically eat meat, fat, vegetables and fruits, while eschewing processed foods and refined carbs.

One of these paleo/fitness guys hooked me up with Dr. Michael and Mary Dan Eades. Besides being famous nutritionists, they are the entrepreneurs behind the Sous Vide Supreme, something I've written about on this blog before.

When I saw the Sous Vide Supreme last year, I got one, because it is a great way to cook a Mangalitsa belly - you get excellent yield, because you don't overcook it and render all the fat. When I later learned who the Eadeses were, I wanted to meet them, so we met at Monsoon and ate Mangalitsa, which they were curious about.

I later arranged for the Eadeses to visit Mosefund's pig event, where they spent 3 days learning how to kill, cut and process Mangalitsa pigs into food. Apparently they had a lot of fun.

Of course, Mangalitsa pigs are a good fit for paleo people, because they produce a lot of excellent fat. Paleo dieters need the fat, because they don't eat many carbs.

I've given out our products to paleo groups several times, like these guys, to introduce them to our Mangalitsa products. I don't know if they'll buy a lot of our stuff, but it is nice to introduce our stuff to a new market.

A while back, I decided I should try a paleo diet, to try to better understand my customers. My Sous Vide Supreme has made it very easy to do this.

A little bit ago, a pig tried to jump a fence. She broke her leg. A mobile butcher went to the farm and killed her, so I got the meat - approximately 200#. I can't legally sell that meat, because she wasn't slaughtered under USDA inspection. I cut her up myself in my kitchen, practicing my seam butchery. I vacuum-packed the meat in chunks.

Here's how the sous vide paleo diet works:

1) Put a bag of meat in the Sous Vide Supreme, at 130F, for around 24 hours. 130F is the right temperature, because the meat cooks, stays moist and gets tender.

2) When the meat is done, put it in the refrigerator and chill it.

3) When it is time to eat, slice of some meat and sear it in a skillet, on both sides. Typically 1-2 minutes a side. The goal is just to sear it and warm it for eating.

4) If you are getting low on ready-to-eat meat, put another bag in the Sous Vide Supreme, or you'll run out of cooked meat, which is inconvenient.

It is ridiculous how good Mangalitsa tastes cooked sous vide. I haven't overcooked it yet, except by searing it too long.

Basically, I've always got meat ready to go. I'm such a lazy guy, and I love Mangalitsa so much, if there's meat ready to eat (after searing), that's pretty much all I'll eat.

It would be a lot harder to make this work if I wasn't always cooking meat sous vide, or about to cook meat sous vide - because there's a 24 hour lead time. Making it a routine makes it easy - and, to the extent that the Sous Vide Supreme is a win over other cooking methods, I'm winning a lot more than if I used it irregularly.

In addition to trying out a paleo diet, I've started CrossFit. I haven't done it much, but what I've done has been fun. I'd recommend to everyone, although it clearly isn't for everyone. Just as the Mangalitsa pig isn't like other pigs, CrossFit isn't like other workout programs - it is very intense.

One thing I notice is that after doing CrossFit workouts, I don't get as hungry as I do after aerobic workouts. It seems the intense workouts depress my hunger.

Results? In about a month, I've lost 10 pounds, increased my muscle definition, strength and aerobic capacity. I can't tell if my energy levels are higher. I definitely crave carbs, even though they ultimately make me crash. Bread is a guilty pleasure. Despite eating a lot of it, I'm not getting sick of eating Mangalitsa. I have fallen in love with my Sous Vide Supreme, because it is so convenient; there's no way I could cook meat so perfectly without it.

I'm very grateful that my customers have introduced me to this stuff.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lardo & Logo

Besides making our own lardo, we've been selling fatback to four different companies lately. The ones you might have heard about include Salumerie Biellese, La Quercia and Knight Salumi.

They are all very different people. G, Marc, Herb and Rey couldn't be more different. But they all appreciate the Mangalitsa fatback.

It will be interesting to see how they go about marketing the lardo. They all have the hard task of marketing a novel fatty luxury food to Americans. Once they bought the fatback, they committed themselves to the task of marketing the stuff - which is good for Heath Putnam Farms, because in the end, it will create more demand for Mangalitsa pork. By selling to multiple processors, we've ensured that Mangalitsa lardo is going to get marketed to many people very quickly.

I've heard that Salumerie Biellese's stuff is available at Eataly - that includes the lardo, the guanciale and the pancetta. I've read about it on twitter. Eataly is such a high-profile retail location, I have to figure Marc Buzzio is going to attract major attention.

At the same time, Herb Eckhouse (La Quercia) gets amazing press. It will shock me if Herb doesn't get some press soon about his Mangalitsa lardo.

Whoever gets the big press first is not only going to have an easy time selling his stuff - he'll also make it easier for the other guys to sell their stuff.

I spent much of yesterday getting stickers made with our new logo, so that customers like Salumeria Biellese can attach the stickers their products, letting the ultimate customers know which company is producing the pork that goes into the product.

When I knew we needed a logo ready for "prime time", I figured I needed to do it right. At the same time, it needed to have some continuity with our previous logo. So I called up my artist friend and asked him to make an R. Crumb-like line drawing of the pig.*

I try to put things like this off as long as possible, until I can do a good job of it, and make it pay.

Although our logo on our fresh meat has been irritating me for months, it just hasn't been necessary or feasible to fix it. But now that there's product in a retail environment, we need to increase brand awareness.

The idea of having a well-drawn image of the pig is to get people to stop and pay attention. If you click on the image above, you'll see it is a nice drawing.**

If I saw the sticker on a product, I'd ask what sort of pig it was. That would allow the salesperson to explain, "that's a Mangalitsa pig, the best-tasting pig known to man." At which point I would try the stuff, and buy it.

After that, I'd know to look for the Swallow-belly Mangalitsa on the Habsburg yellow background. After eating a bunch of that stuff, I would learn to look for that logo, and buy the stuff. I would expect it to cost a lot, but I'd know that it would be the best.

* I would have tried having R. Crumb do it, had I thought I could get it done cheaply enough.

** Now that the logo is nice, it will pay to get some T-shirts made. It is going to be fun to give those out to our customers.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Revival Meats Buys Swallow-belly Mangalitsa Breeding Stock

Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber (photo by Robb Walsh)

I just sold some breeding stock to Revival Meats.

This is exciting. Previously, they'd only bought feeder pigs.

As their blog makes clear, they are already doing a lot with Mangalitsa pigs and pork. For example, they've already sold a bunch of Mangalitsa pork in Texas. Important Houston chefs are very enthused about Mangalitsa pork. They already make Mangalitsa-centric products. Recently, they organized an event with the Wiesners to teach people about Mangalitsa pigs and pork.

Revival Meats has a unique business model.

It is a combination butcher (meat retailer) plus farm. Having a farm allows them to produce special animals (e.g. Mangalitsa pigs) differentiating themselves from butchers that carry commodity meat.

A similar trend has been underway with restaurants for a while now. For example, The Herbfarm grows many of their own herbs and vegetables. That allows them to fundamentally differentiate themselves from other restaurants.

On of the things that's neat about Revival Meats buying pigs is that they can control the entire production of their pigs. Their pigs will be born, raised, slaughtered and processed in Texas, however they decide they want to do it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mangalitsa Chef going to Minnesota

Mangalitsa Chef's Carrot Ginger Waffles

Mangalitsa Chef Bryce Lamb is going to Minnesota. He'll be working at a well-known farm-to-table restaurant, only 2.5 hours from one of our farms.

To get things off with a bang, I'm going to give him some Mangalitsa pigs.

When he went for his interview/audition, he took some of our Mangalitsa pork, which I provided as samples to the restaurant owners.*

Mangalitsa Chef made his Mangalitsa waffles and other Mangalitsa dishes for his interviewers. Apparently people liked his stuff a lot - which isn't at all surprising. The Wiesners think he's an excellent chef. Obviously he loves making stuff with Mangalitsa.

I will be sad to see him go.

* In general I don't give out samples. I gave them samples because they were nice on the phone, and due to the kind of restaurant they have, they are good feeder-pig prospects.

Friday, November 19, 2010

New Logo - Heath Putnam Farms

As part of the rebranding effort, we've got a new logo**. This will be showing up on our fresh meat and products in the next few months.

Here's the original line art (click on it):

The style, line art, was popular in the period when the Mangalitsa was popular. Before photography and halftones, line art was the way to make illustrations for print media.

For example, here's an image of a Berkshire hog from 1919:

Of course, the Berkshire breed has changed a lot, while the Mangalitsa has stayed the same.

** The artist is Tom Byrne, an accomplished artist. His email is xoinx@sbcglobal.net.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Binkley's in Arizona

Mouth By Southwest has a review of a 30-course dinner at Binkley's in Arizona. As the reviewer writes:

After a while, it just became a blur of Mangalitsa pork and Hudson Valley foie gras, liquid nitrogen and chemical baths, truffles and rare South American flowers. (See for yourself in the slideshow above.) Overall, though, it ranks among the top five dining experiences I’ve had in my life. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

I've reproduced the obvious Manglaitsa courses - although, if they used lard, it could be in more courses.

At top, there's the charcuterie plate. In the middle, a bread pudding course with mangalitsa lardo on top (could be interesting!) and finally some loin.

I have to figure that some of their cookies or cakes were cooked with Mangalitsa lard, because it really makes that stuff taste great.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Our Mangalitsa Pork on "Next Iron Chef"

Photo by Tasty Bits of Houston's
Kata Robata's fish dish.

I don't have cable, but I found a synopsis of the show here.

First, I should say, I'm happy Heath Putnam Farms has finally reached the "Iron Chef" milestone. I'm happy to see our product getting positioned next to Wagyu beef.

When I read the synopsis, I saw this:

Tsai: Mangalitsa Pork
Hopes were high for Chef Ming Tsai, as they have been all season, but was his style too 80’s-ish? His mangalitsa pork and pork shumai in hot and sour soup was sensational. But his slow poached lardo with grilled cepes brought out mixed reviews. Donatella even called it off-putting. His last, grilled mangalitsa pork loin with bordelaise sauce, was satisfying. Symon called his dishes the most focused they’ve been all season.

That surprised me. Mangalitsa lardo is the best! How could he lose?

A few seconds of reflection led me to: you can't make lardo in an afternoon. It takes a few weeks just to make "salo" (Ukrainian plain lardo). Lardo has a lower water activity than fatback, and it melts better on the tongue than fatback.

Based on what I know now, Tsai's dish would be better described as a fatback crepe. It wouldn't be terrible, but a lot of people wouldn't love it, the way they might the pictured fish dish from Houston's Kata Robata (which has Mangalitsa lardo), because the fat could be a little unyielding.

A customer wrote me to say that Tsai deserved credit for using the fat so boldly. I can see that; he recognized that Mangalitsa fat is wonderful and tried to use it. Too bad he didn't have enough time to make real lardo.

Enough of that - time to celebrate our achievements. It is great that lots of people now know that Mangalitsa pork is fantastic - because they saw it on TV.

Anyway, I remember selling these guys the meat they used in the show, at the end of June. I got a call from a chef in Las Vegas. They needed a bunch of loins for a Food Network show featuring the most expensive meat. We sent them direct from Swiss Meat and Sausage Company, our processor. It was a big rush to get the stuff out, because we had little time to make the Fedex deadlines, and we had a bunch of other stuff going on. The chef said it was for a TV show, but wouldn't say anything more, except that they needed our meat for a show featuring the best ingredients.

Now we know what it was.

Elysian Fields Lamb

There's a company in the USA famous for selling high-quality niche meat to my first Mangalitsa customer, Thomas Keller. The company is called Elysian Fields. It produces lamb.

Based on what I've learned about pork (and beef), if some meat tastes consistently better than an alternative, it has to do with the following factors (listed roughly by importance):

1) genetics
2) feed
3) age at slaughter
4) post-slaughter ripening
5) pre-slaughter stress

Heath Putnam Farms, the only farrow-to-finish Mangalitsa producer in the USA, started by optimizing factor #1, but also optimizes factors 2, 3, 4 and 5 (subject to economic constraints).

I was looking on the Elysian Fields website to try to find out what factors they control to make the lamb. I found the philosophy section:
Pure Bred’s Keith Martin and Thomas Keller here offer a new perspective on one segment of this industry, raising lamb, a method that puts the animal first and as a result makes what this farmer and this chef believe is the best possible lamb... Mr. Martin and Chef Keller believe that lamb raised according to its nature results in better lamb, and hope that those who buy Pure Bred, likewise share in and encourage these convictions about how livestock is raised in America...
That got me thinking.

What does it mean to "put the animal first"? Does it mean to cater to whims of each pig? If we did that to the pigs, besides feeding them a steady diet of ice cream and hamburgers, we'd have to get each pig a personal belly-scratcher. The ice cream and hamburgers would ruin the quality of the pigs' fat, Heath Putnam Farms would fail, and the Mangalitsa breed might go extinct (in this hemisphere) as a result.

If you look at the front page of the Elysian Fields site, you'll see a link to the following ("Voice of the Lamb"), a personal message from the owner:
All of us at Elysian Fields have discovered one thing for certain, how insignificant and out of focus we all can be in relating to the natural order all around us. We live within a miracle that continues to reveal itself, the dynamics of which we can barely begin to grasp. We feel, for some reason, that we are the center of this natural process when in reality we are completely outside. We have been given a great gift, a gift of choice, which we have decidedly developed into authority over all things. Or so we think. We have moved away as a culture and a society from “real” values, which has in turn removed us from our true mother….earth. No longer are we connected to the soil as all other things are. No wonder our walks in the park rejuvenate us, why getting our hands dirty feels so good. Within the order of nature exist the relationships which are its very fabric. Within these relationships are inter-dependencies proving we are all one, not The One.
That's doesn't explain why the lamb tastes so good either.

Keep looking and you'll find this page:
Once becoming part of the flock, Pure Bred Lambs are fed only natural grain without the presence of growth hormones or stimulants,which may interfere with the quality of the lamb in its commercial presentation. The feed (hay and grain) each lamb consumes is carefully monitored to avoid overeating. Thorough testing for content and nutrient levels is consistently conducted and monitored. Additionally, the water each lamb consumes is also tested continuously to ensure its purity by independent testing sources.

By feeding them grain, they set themselves apart from most lamb producers, who just have them forage. The bit about preventing overeating is necessary because unlike pigs, sheep will overeat. As explained on this sheep website:

Sheep "love" the taste of grain. It's like "candy" to them. They will overeat if grain consumption is not regulated. If grain is slowly introduced to the ruminant's diet, grain can be supplemented and in some cases replace some of the forage in the diet. Whole grain is better for sheep because it requires them to do their own grinding of the grain. Digestive upsets are less common with whole grain as compared to processed grains (ground, rolled, or cracked). Some forage should always be fed to ruminants to keep their rumens functioning properly and to keep them content.
Pigs are a lot simpler (and smarter!). They don't overeat to the point of hurting themselves, so they are easier to raise.

The fact that they feed the sheep grain is probably a bit controversial. A lot of people seem to think that ruminants should just forage. But most people like marbled, juicy, flavorful meat. It is a lot easier to produce fatty meat by feeding the cows or sheep grain, because grain has so much more calories.

Here's a guy writing about the difference:
Grass-fed lamb sounds good. New Zealand lamb is grass fed. Loncito Cartwright’s succulent lamb from Dinero Texas is grass-fed. But the best lamb I have eaten in a long time is grain-fed... The meat is buttery tender and has a fresh vibrant lamb taste, but the flavor is not at all gamy... A grass-fed New Zealand lamb carcass weighs somewhere between 35 and 45 pounds. The lamb chop is small, you can eat the whole thing in a couple of bites. An Elysian Fields lamb carcass is almost twice as big–they weigh 65 pounds on average–and a lamb chop is a meal. Don’t get me wrong, I like the gamy flavor of grass-fed lamb, especially on the grill. But comparing a New Zealand lamb chop to a Elysian Fields lamb chop is like comparing fajitas to filet mignon. And as you might expect, the Elysian Fields lamb goes for a lot more. Racks of Elysian Fields lamb are selling for $26 a pound in New York.
I wonder, what would happen if someone got the best-tasting sheep and optimized the diet and age at slaughter? How much better would their meat taste than the stuff from Elysian Fields?

I should mention, feeding pigs an optimal ration makes it possible to consistently produce high-quality pork. If the pigs are out foraging, depending on what forage is available and what the pigs like to eat, you'll get different pork - often worse than if you just fed the pigs the right grains.

When Hungarians switched from free-range pigs to pigs fattened in pens, they improved their quality, efficiency and consistency over the previous free-range system.

"Next Iron Chef" Season 3 Episode 7

Our Mangalitsa makes an appearance on Next Iron Chef:
The Chairman's charge is SEDUCTION because an Iron Chef must seduce the taste buds. In the Secret Ingredient Challenge, the challenge is to create a seductive cocktail and snack in 30 mins.

For the Chairman's Challenge, the challenge is to create the most luxurious Iron Chef meal ever using expensive ingredients like Mangalitsa Pork, Maine Lobster, Wagyu Beef and Hawaiian Moi Fish.

I like how they list the Mangalitsa in front of all that other stuff.

If you want to order some our our products, call our processor at 573-486-2086. Make sure to explain you want the stuff from Heath Putnam Farms.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Micropig Problems

I had some people email me about breeding stock recently. They want to breed "micro" Mangalitsa pigs. Micro pigs are "teacup" pigs - as small as can be (e.g. 30#). The breeders are after the curly bristles and stripes of the Mangalitsa breeds, likely because the buyers of such pigs care a lot about looks.

I think that's bad for the Mangalitsa as a meat animal. The last thing we want is people getting upset about the that we kill and eat Mangalitsa pigs - in wholesale fashion.

This article is about people who buy what they think will be small pigs, but then they grow up into medium-sized destructive pigs. Because the people are attached to them as pets, they don't just slaughter and eat them. Rather, they keep them around, spending more and more money to try to contain them and mitigate the damage they cause.

The behavior of these pig owners would be unfathomable to our ancestors, who couldn't afford to have pigs destroying their few worldly possessions. It explains why the Meishan, derived from pigs that people domesticated thousands of years ago, is so lazy and tame (Chinese breeders killed off the unruly ones).

I tend to think the way our ancestors did: if there's pig that doesn't fit the system, you want that pig off the farm ASAP, even if it means killing it prematurely. If you keep that pig around, it will cause a lot of trouble.

When I see how big that pig on the sofa is (see photo at top), I'm surprised the sofa looks so good. If the pig was destructive like a Mangalitsa, it would have already ripped holes in the side of the sofa and pulled out all the stuffing. It would have also pulled the cushions off the sofa and had fun ripping them to shreds. I'm guessing they don't allow that pig near that sofa very often, or its a new sofa that they just bought, to replace the old one the pig ripped up.

My other thought when I see that pig is "wow, that's a FAT pig!" It is fat like a Mangalitsa.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mangalitsa Hams

Earlier today, I was looking at the picture (above) of our hams (made by Johnston County Hams), on the Marx Food blog.

Besides thinking, "I hope Justin doesn't hurt himself with that knife," I thought, "that sure is a lot of fat on that ham.

Then I saw that Costco is selling imported "jamon mangalica" (Mangalitsa pork, likely from Hungary, cured in Spain). Besides noticing that their price was much higher, I noticed that their ham likewise has a lot of fat cover too.

That's just how the pigs are. They are extreme lard-type pigs. They taste the best, but they have a lot of fat. The fat on those hams can taste wonderfully nutty.

Marx Foods & Mangalitsa Cured Products

Marx Foods is selling ham, shoulder and bacon from our pigs. As previously mentioned, Johnston County Hams buys our hams and shoulders (and bellies) and cures them.

Three-Michelin Star Restaurants like Per Se in NYC buy them - because they are incredible.

Marx Foods sells a lot of high-quality, hard-to-find ingredients to people. I'm very happy that they've added our Mangalitsa hams.

Justin Marx portioning a ham. (photo by Marx Foods)

Marx Foods has a blog - and they write about getting in the Mangalitsa products.

As they write on their blog:
In you want some cured mangalitsa pork to test-drive and develop a recipe, email me at justin (at) marxfoods dot com. I will send you my choice of the mangalitsa ham, mangalitsa shoulder or mangalitsa bacon. There will be a prize for our favorite recipe(s) and it will be delicious. Plus, the author of our favorite recipe will be eligible to compete in the Ridiculously Delicious Challenge next month.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ham Anatomy, Culatello Fabrication and Manufacture

Our hams (and paletas) get turned into cured hams by Johnston County Hams (order them here).

I've had some people who've bought pigs from me ask how to make culatelli (plural of culatello). Culatello is a cured product made from the "haunch" of a pig. It is a famous product, primarily associated with Italy.

You hear foodies talk about it, but you don't normally get the details.

I try to make this blog as informative as possible, so I've gathered here a lot of info about culatello. If you find this information helpful, please let me know.

The culatello picture, up top, is from this website. You can read about the product there.

It starts with anatomy. Click here for the best document I've found on ham anatomy. Download and look at it - it shows you the muscles in the leg.

The "top round" (aka "Frikandeau) is the biceps femoris (bf).
The "bottom round" (aka "Schale) is made up of the Semimembranosus (SM), Adductor (A) and Pectineus (P).
The "eye of round" is the Semitendinosus (ST)

The culatello is made from a 3-muscle ham, made up of the top round, eye of round and bottom round.

You can see the "top round" at the top, the eye of round on the left and the bottom round beneath it. How do you know which is the "top round"? One clue is the fat attached to it. The "bottom round" doesn't have as much fat, because it is on the inside of the leg.

To fabricate a culatello, you bone out the ham (cutting through a bit of the Sartorius), and keep the top round, eye of round and bottom round as a big piece. To make a finished culatello from that raw meat, you do something like this (rub it with cure, put it in a bladder, tie it up and dry it out).

In this video, a guy shows how to tie it up:

It looks like quite a chore.

A by-product of culatello manufacture is the creation of the knuckle (aka "Nuss") aka "Fiochetto".

In Italy, they make another product from it, a fiochetto.

One neat thing I found, in the course of doing this research, is how to debone a whole prosciutto (the whole leg) into the fiochetto/Nuss/knuckle and culatello/3-muscle-ham.

That's pretty neat! I'm willing to bet that very few people do that on a regular basis.

I remember reading about culatello years ago. None of it made much sense to me - what part of the pig it was, the chemistry involved in curing it, why it was aged, why it was safe to eat raw, etc.

Just a few years later, if my customers ask me for info, I feel I've got to get it to them - that's my new job.

The more I learn about this stuff, the more I learn how many details there are to get right. E.g. in order to make a great culatello, you need:

the right genetics
good husbandry (Mangalitsa reproduction is difficult at best)
the right feed
the right age at slaughter
killing in such a way that there's no blood in the ham and the same pH in each ham.
proper cutting of the culatello
correct curing & aging

and probably yet more factors that I'm not aware of.

It is hard to get all that right. It is amazing that some people decide to specialize in products like culatello, despite that fact that it is a difficult business, with lots of competition.

Thinking about factors that impact taste reminds me of factors that some people talk a lot about, that don't impact taste much. For example:

1) organic raw material

2) how close the culatello is produced to the pigs that provide the hams or the humans that eat the finished product.

3) sustainability issues. E.g. the best stuff tastes the best, regardless of its carbon footprint.

3) how modern the pig farm is

Ugliest Mangalitsa Ever

Mangalitsa pigs are often called ugly. Many people have told me they are the ugliest pigs they've ever seen. When that happens, I reply that they are however, the tastiest (including the most marbled), and that that's what really matters.

I think the young pigs are really cute, but when they get big and fat, they get downright ugly.

Looking on the web, I found a very ugly Mangalitsa. It's got the fat (not rolls - it's more like a blob), the crazy hair, a "beard" of dried muck balls and a very wary look on its face, like it's about to run off or perhaps try to bite. This is the pig ya mama warned you about.

Nevertheless, it might have a loin like the one pictured above - and that's the loin I want to eat. Not a regular sorry-looking pork loin:

Typical pork loin photo, found on the web.

New Mosefund Video, Mosefund Event

My best feeder pig customer, Mosefund, has a new video about their pig operation.

You can see how they keep their pigs outdoors, then bring them indoors, where they can make sure they eat what they are supposed to, so that they get the right fat.

They've got a wonderful educational event coming up in a few days. There's more info about that here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mangalitsa Lardo - A Delicacy in Austria

There is a review of this fancy Austrian Restaurant (translation here) that explains that Mangalitsa lardo is one of their trumps - one of their key ingredients that sets them above the competition.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sausage Debauchery's Pancetta

Photo Copyright Scott of the Sausage Debauchery

Scott at the Sausage Debauchery made and compared his pancetta made from Mangalitsa bellies produce by Mosefund Farm (a live-pig customer of mine).

If you read this blog, particularly if you make your own Bauchspeck, pancetta, bacon, etc. you may enjoy his post on the pancetta.

Looking at his photo, there's one flaw I see. See if you can spot it before reading forward. Look down for more info.

That top belly shouldn't have that crease in it on the skin side. That's the fault of the processor (Swiss Meat & Sausage Company, of Swiss Missouri).The reason is that after getting turned into speck, the skin gets cut away. When there are creases in the skin, there's small but still irritating decrease in yield. It is one of the issues we're working on fixing.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Wiesners, Mangalitsa Cuisine, Cultural Exchange

The Wiesners have updated their website - I'm guessing Marcus Wiesner, Christoph's brother did it.*

They've got a neat page, entitled "Mangalitsa Cuisine", showing what they've done, in words and photos. Here's the automatic Google transation of their page.

It has a great section showing the fresh meat and products of Mangalitsa pigs.

The page also summarizes their interactions with America, many of which I've written about in this blog:
Mangalitsa Chefs (Manfred Stockner & Bryce Lamb)
Their training of Swiss Meat in January 2010.
Their classes at Mosefund Farm in January 2010.
The class at the Herbfarm.
The class at Culinary Communion.
It is nice to see Bryce Lamb getting some international recognition.

The funny thing is, the Wiesners are in the USA right now. They've taught classes in four states in the last few weeks - so Marcus will have to add more to their already impressive page.

One thing their page seems to leave out: their releasing the seam butchery tutorial, so that people can learn how to cut pigs the way they do.

* Marcus is an excellent graphic designer.

Ham Comparison

Washington Extension has put an informative document on the web called, "Comparison of European & American Systems of Production and Consumption of Dry-Cured Hams".

If you read this blog, I recommend you check it out.

Taste of Europe

I lived in Central Europe for several years. It is a large ethnically and linquisitically diverse area.

Before the end of WWII, the whole region consumed a lot of animal fat, particularly pork. A staple food was cured fatty cuts of pork, generally called things like "Speck", "slanina", "szalonna" and "са́ло" (salo). After WWII, the area was partitioned, and culinary habits diverged. In the "western" countries of Central Europe, people primarily switched to vegetable oils. In the "eastern" countries of Central Europe, people continued to eat animal fats.

The primary difficult of widespread consumption of fats (animal or plant) is rancidity. When fats oxidize, they produce compounds, some of which taste very bad. Some taste very good; e.g. the aroma of hams (or salami) is primarily oxidized fat.

People who raise pigs for high-quality fat can control various things (e.g. genetics, age and diet) to produce fat that resists rancidification. Similarly, agronomists have likewise bred plants that produce oils that resist rancidity.*

A major chemical discovery, hydrogenation, has allowed vegetable oils to displace animal fats. Just look at two ways to economically produce high-quality fats for human consumption:
  • Grow, harvest and process row crops into hydrogenated oils.
  • Breed, fatten, slaughter and process pigs into lard. Fatten the pigs by feeding them plants and waste food.
It is possible to raise lard-type pigs efficiently, but even then, pigs can't compete with specially-bred plants, because pigs need to eat anywhere from 3 to 5 pounds of feed (typically plants) to produce a pound of pork, while plants make fat directly from inputs like water and sun.

Despite the cost advantages, after WWII, the communist countries of Europe (Central and Eastern) didn't make the switch to plant oils. What little research I've conducted suggests that communist margarine tasted bad, so people stuck to animal fats (even black market animal fats).

With falling of the Iron Curtain, and increased immigration, we've got populations of people from the former Soviet Union in the USA. They even have stores where they sell the food that they like to eat. E.g. if you go to a Ukrainian store like Taste of Europe in Kent, WA, you'll see a lot of animal fat - in the form of salo, bacon, salami, etc. As one reviewer on Yelp noted about Taste of Europe:
It seems the "Europe" in question is almost entirely the Ukrainian part of Europe.
I don't think I saw any margarine in the place. I don't think I saw a single "fat-free" or diet item either.

I did find "са́ло" (salo), which is popular in Ukraine. I bought some to try. Further inspection revealed that what I bought was not cured backfat (like our own cured Mangalitsa backfat), but rather, cured belly. That makes sense - it is hard to come by thick enough backfat these days to make decent salo - so they use bellies.

I tried the salo. It was OK, but nowhere near as nice as my Mangalitsa lardo. The fat doesn't melt on the tongue. I'd guess it is more saturated. It wasn't not, however, rancid - and that's nice.

I also got some salami (made in America by Bende). It reminded me of Pick salami - but not as good. I understand - they don't source the same sort of pigs here. They also had an American version of Kolozsvári szalonna, which is like our Bauchspeck.

They had pickled tomatoes and cucumbers from Bulgaria and some quark from Canada. I'm hoping that one day, the American quark and pickles will taste as good as the foreign stuff.

I was at Taste of Europe because a distributor suggested I go there to see the sort of products that Ukrainians buy, and why Mangalitsa products might be a good fit for them. Having seen and tasted the stuff, I'm cautiously optimistic. Clearly these guys are fat friendly (not fat phobic). But they are also very price sensitive. It may be that they just don't want to pay what the stuff costs.

* One plant oil that I've used is Frymax ZT, produced from specially bred sunflowers. It is very similar to olive oil, but contains fewer triply polyunsatured fatty acids (the main culprits in rancidity). If you insist on using plant oils, instead of Mangalitsa fat, I recommend you try out Frymax ZT.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Old Postcard

I found a cute postcard on a Hungarian website.

That picture is from the time when the goal was to get the pigs as fat as possible, to yield he most lard, lardo, bacon, etc.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mangalitsa Video From Spain

Here's a video I found on Youtube. I don't understand Spanish and would appreciate an English summary, if anyone can provide it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Csarda Haz - Agritourism Project Built on Mangalitsa Pigs

Csarda Haz location

I recently sold some Mangalitsa breeding stock to George and Dr. Gar House. They are the first to buy Mangalitsa breeding stock from Heath Putnam Farms. Dr. House is an expert in sustainable agriculture. They are going to create Csarda Haz (there's not much on their site, except for a drawing of an old csarda).

Magda and Rosalia

They have big plans. As Gar wrote to me:
We are very excited about our new additions to Csarda Haz: Arpad, Magda, Kinga, and Rosalia, our Swallow-Belly Mangalicas - all obtained from the breeding stock of Heath Putnam, founder of Wooly Pigs.

Árpád the boar.

Our Csarda Haz is not only be a productive organic farm but also a center for preserving traditional Hungarian agricultural practices. Traditional Hungarian 'csardas' are rustic country inns providing food and lodging for travelers. Translated into English 'Csarda Haz' means 'House Inn' or 'Inn of the Houses' - a play on our name and heritage.

Árpád the boar, a little cuter.

In addition to performing this traditional role, our Csarda Haz will operate as a combined bed and breakfast, farm stay, mini-conference center, retreat/spa, and agritourism destination. The vision of Csarda Haz is to become a living museum of farming in the 'old days' and 'old ways' with people in costume performing and teaching traditional agricultural practices.
Gar House with Mangalica Pigs

When completed in the summer of 2012, the main Csarda Haz village will have a main hall with a commercial kitchen for food preparation, cooking, baking, and brewing. Fresh bread will be baked daily in wood-fired brick ovens. The Csarda Haz hall will also include a large dining and meeting area surrounded by several, separate sleeping bungalows or cabins with full bathrooms.

George House with Mary and some of their Mangalitsa pigs.

Csarda Haz guests will enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides and experience farm animals, orchards, vineyards, flower, herb, and vegetable gardens first-hand - all within a relaxed, health, organic, park-like, old-world ambiance and environment. Experienced guides will explain the operation and function of each traditional farming method. Csarda Haz will also offer agricultural education through agricultural workshops and classes taught by well-known specialists.

Our family are of true Magyar ancestry, as George's great-great-grandfather, Count Janos Mukri, an elite palace guard of Franz Joseph, immigrated to the United States in 1904, when Hungary was still embedded in the old Hapsburg Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Csarda Haz is located on County Road 95A, situated 5 miles from Davis and less that 100 yards from the painted Steveson Bridge, a well-recognized Yolo County landmark.
These guys are serious and sincere. I'm sure they are going to do what it takes to make tasty products.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Christoph and Isabel Wiesner on KGO NewstalkRadio

At 36:11 you can hear the Wiesners on "Dining Around With Gene Burns".

I saw an ad for a mangalitsa gilt (sow?) for sale in Slovakia. As the ad says (in translation):
"Mangalitsa female, best for breeding. Has 1.5 years and about 150 kg. is very nice, even nepripúšťaná, hardy, kept outdoors year round."

She's cute.

One concern: if she's 330 pounds and hasn't had pigs, she might not produce any. It would be better if she was younger and thinner.

Holiday Gifts: Johnston Country Hams

mentions the Mangalitsa hams from Johnston County Hams.

I had a wonderful slice of that ham in Portland - the tiniest piece. I can still remember how it tasted.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sauce Magazine

An article in Sauce Magazine mentions our Mangalitsa, many of our St. Louis customers, Swiss Meat & Sausage, Mike Sloan, Austrian-style seam butchery, etc.

Mike told me the chefs enjoyed his butchery demonstration.

It is too bad that that article doesn't explain what it takes to make really great cured products. You might read that article and think that as long as you use the right technique on any raw material, you'll make great stuff. Obviously that's not true.