Sunday, January 30, 2011

L'Etoile in Madison, Wisconsin

I saw this mention of our pigs, from a review of L'Etoile in Madison, Wisconsin:
Since it was an option, I went for it and enjoyed immensely the Mangalitsa pork head cheese, with a sauce gribiche, mâche salad, and gaufrettes while sipping a 2009 Sinnean Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough New Zealand.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

George Faison with a Johnston County Hams Mangalitsa Ham

This is George Faison of Debragga and Spitler with a Mangalitsa ham produced by Johnston County Hams from our pigs, taken at Cochon 555 in Manhattan.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Feeder Pigs

Here's some pictures of pigs from Geddes at the Inn at Ship Bay. That's one nice thing: if you do go all the way to the San Juan Islands, you might find some great food.

Mangalitsa pigs allows the Inn At Ship Bay to differentiate their food from the everyday stuff available on the mainland.

They are moving out of the cute phase. In profile you can see how fat that pig is. Sure he's hairy, but he's got gigantic fat jowls under that hair. These pigs are ridiculously fat.

Pigs play with things by picking them up, chewing on them, rooting, etc.

They are amazing animals. It is really something to think that these odd-looking animals are some of the best-tasting pigs in the USA.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

German Pig Advertisement, Requests for Pig Photos

Someone in Germany is selling pigs. They took this photo. From what I can see, the piglet is biting the stick. The human is using the stick to get the pig to crawl up on its dam, making for a funny photo.

The picture of the pigs for sale reminds me of something odd. Every now and then, a person will contact me, wanting to buy breeding stock. He'll ask for pictures of the pigs.

He doesn't get it.

It isn't like we are Wu Tang Rottweilers, a company that markets a relatively small number of animals, which have individual names like Sookie Bear, Roxie and Isabella, and which are all special enough that they get their own webpages.

We market purebred Swallow-belly Mangalitsa pigs. The breed is very uniform; they look like clones. Any pigs selected for breeding will look like the others. Hence, a photo won't help.

Swallow-belly Mangalitsa piglets

If someone wants a bunch of gilts, the breeder will select them from the ones that have good pedigrees. He'll reject the ones that have faults, like bad feet. After that selection process, they are all expected to do about as well as each other.

A photograph certainly wouldn't tell you to reject one over another. E.g. you won't look at the photo and say, "hey, that gilt in the middle looks worse, get rid of her." Your reaction is more likely to be, "wow, the all look the same. How am I ever going to tell them apart from each other?"

Our business is primarily selling meat. So we raise a lot of pigs, most of which go to slaughter, despite being suitable for breeding. This isn't at all like the dog breeding business.

Given the large numbers of pigs that potentially could get sold, it isn't feasible to select the gilts and take pictures of them, in case someone comes along who wants to see photos and potentially buy some. Every few months we'd have to take a hundred or so photos. Most of the photos would never get looked at. Even if you did look at them, they'll look like each other.

When someone asks for photos, I try to explain why I don't want to take some photos of some candidate pigs. First, it is a lot of work to sort out pigs and take photos of them. Second, it does no good, even if the person wants to buy pigs. And finally, based on experience, most people who ask for photos aren't likely to buy, even if we provide photos.

The only thing I can figure is that maybe some people are afraid we'll promise people purebreds, but then deliver crossbred pigs. But if I did that, I'd get caught, and it would hurt my business.

In general, this irrationality isn't surprising. When it comes to exotic animals, people aren't logical. E.g. you can tell them that a 75% Mangalitsa, 25% meat-type pig is essentially the same, whether that 25% comes from a Berkshire or a Duroc, but that won't satisfy them.

More info on Making Culatelli

Ben Lambert, Chef at Kittle House, sent me this link about how to make a culatello.

If you enjoyed this post, you may like the new link. They complement each other.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Mangalitsa Phenomenon

It is amazing to think that in 2011, only four years after I first discovered Mangalitsa pork and decided to introduce it to the USA
  • there are many Swallow-belly Mangalitsa breeders across the USA.
  • there are many farms across the USA fattening Mangalitsa pigs.
  • there are many high-end restaurants across the USA that regularly use Mangalitsa pork.
  • many writers who know what a Mangalitsa pig is - and they think of it as the best.
  • meat processors make and market Mangalitsa products.

Food Bloggers Review Mangalitsa

Mangalitsa neck. Photo by Anamaris.

I saw two interesting blog posts in the last few days - two reviewers describing Mangalitsa pork.

First, there's Anamaris, who won a neck (aka "coppa") and prepared it two ways. She's got some great photos of her food!

Then there's a reviewer who bought a bunch of pork, including some from a Mangalitsa producer, and compared them all. He's also got some nice photos. You can really see how different the loin chops can look. It is amazing how much variation there is in meat quality.

The meat the second reviewer got from Mosefund is really fantastic. It is ridiculously marbled - just look at the photo. That's about as good as it can get.

Of course both reviewers think the Mangalitsa is incredible, and much better than regular pork.

As the second reviewer writes:
The Mangalitsa is the clear winner here, however it’s expensive and hard to find. I’ll probably buy it once in awhile as an indulgence, but the Berkshire chops are gonna remain as my go-to choice when it comes to putting a pork chop on my plate.

I'm happy the reviewer wrote it that way. A lot of reviewers, realizing they can't afford the best, will try to find flaws with it so that they can feel better about buying what they can afford. This reviewer doesn't do that.

Realistically, it shouldn't surprise anyone that the really great stuff is expensive. That's just how the universe works: people who have money and care about quality bid up the price of the really great stuff.

Here's Anamaris on the quality of the Mangalitsa:
Let me just try to explain something about Mangalitsa pork. It is obnoxiously delicious! I mean, I just know those little pigs trot around the pen mocking the other pigs and telling them how much better tasting they are. And you know what? THEY ARE!!! The Hubbz said this was better than beef tenderloin, yep. THAT good. The fat in the Mangalitsa is almost creamy buttery. And the meat has a slight gamey sweetness to it. I don’t know what to say or think about it, all I know is this is some really good sh#t!
As a Mangalitsa producer, when different people come up to you again and again and say, "that was the best piece of meat I ever ate," you need to train yourself to empathize with them and say, in a serious way, that you are happy they enjoyed it so much. You need to act like their experience was important and meaningful for you too - even if you've heard the same thing so many times from other people.

I can remember being in Austria with Christoph Wiesner, expressing how good I thought something made from Mangalitsa tasted, and he acted so blasé about it I figured he had to have misunderstood me. Because clearly, if he understood me, and how great I thought something was, he'd have more emotions about it. Reality is, after you've heard a thousand times that your stuff incredible, you get used to hearing it, and have trouble empathizing.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Another Mangalitsa Ham Sighting

Chef Erin from Cube in Los Angeles holding a Mangalitsa ham from Johnston County Hams.

Cube has bought a lot of Mangalitsa lard and meat from us. I'm happy to see they got a ham.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mangalitsa Chef in Minnesota

The Rochester Post-Bulletin has an article about Sontes and Bryce Lamb (aka Mangalitsa Chef):
Though he has barely been there a month, Bryce Lamb, the new executive chef at Sontes, 4 Third St. S.W., Rochester, is definitely making his mark.

"We have all sorts of exciting new things happening here," says Tessa Leung, owner...

He has spent the past 21 years working in restaurants as well as consulting, most notably for Noble House, a chain of high-end resorts and restaurants mostly in the southeast section of the country.

In between he spent time in Europe, working as well as studying ingredients and trends. That is also where he also became familiar with and intrigued by Mangalitsa pigs.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Finding a Jowl When You Least Expect It

Pulp Fiction: Vincent Finds the Suitcase.

When you like something, like Mangalitsa, it can be great when you find it unexpectedly.

There's times when I think I'm out of something - e.g. jowl bacon - and then I discover a pack of it somewhere. I get really happy.

I've seen pigs do the same thing. They'll be going around, looking for food. When they find something, they grunt happily. That normally draws the attention of other pigs, who come over to take some.

The Sausage Debauchery has a description of finding a jowl when he didn't expect it:
I rescued this this out of a lug full of scraps given to me by Mosefund Michael. Most was intended to be used for salame. I made 10lbs of 'nduja with Mangalitsa belly and jowl scraps. Made about 5lbs of Salame Felino with some shoulder and neck scraps with some scrap fatback. But, at the bottom of the lug, I swear this thing lit up like the suitcase from "Pulp Fiction." No way I was scrapping it. I'd actually been looking for a jowl since I returned from Italy...
I know exactly what this guy is talking about. It is like finding money on the street.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Food Channel - Mangalitsa is the "trendsetting porker for 2011"

The Food Channel notes on their website that Mangalitsa pork is the "trendsetting porker for 2011."

One interesting thing is that The Food Channel's "Next Iron Chef", which featured Mangalitsa, has helped to make Mangalitsa the trendsetting pig that it is.

If you are consumer reading this and want to get some, the easiest way is to visit DeBragga's website and order some.

My analysis: the Mangalitsa is an extreme lard-type pig, fundamentally different and better from all the other pork readily available in the USA. Europe produces millions of pigs like the Mangalitsa every year. The USA currently produces just a few thousand.

The Mangalitsa trend is in the very early phases; barring something unforseeable, consumption of Mangalitsa is going to increase for several years. The Mangalitsa is likely to be the trendsetting pig of our decade.

Talked with a Fatback Expert Today

We're selling fatback to a guy distributing salo (aka "lardo") to stores serving the FSU* community.

He's buying our fatback. Ours costs more than the stuff from Spain, but he says ours is of higher quality than the imported stuff.

I asked him for more info. What I learned: the Iberico fatback has more gristle in it than ours, and it doesn't melt as nicely on the tongue. But, the price of the stuff, delivered, is under $2/lb.

Iberico pork production

$2/lb delivered sounds cheap, until you consider that the iberico bellota fatback is a by-product of an extremely efficient pig production and global logistics system.**

The first lardo I've seen from Iberico fatback is here. I would guess that if the stuff takes off and more processors start making it, the spread between the raw material and the finished product ought to shrink quite a bit.

* Former Soviet Union: Russian, Ukrainian, Baltic, etc.

** As explained in "Considerations on ethics and animal welfare in extensive pig production: Breeding and fattening Iberian pigs":
The extensive pig production in Spain is traditionally characterised by: the use of the Iberian pig, an autochthonous breed perfectly integrated into the environment in which they have developed; a long duration of the productive cycle for about 23–24 months; a high level of animal welfare level, specially in the fattening process with freedom of movement and feeding base on natural sources: acorns and grass, and an equilibrated “dehesa” agro-forestry system where this activity has been developed. Nowadays, the introduction of more intensificated methods due to the increasing demand led to important changes, such as: the shortening of the productive cycle (10–12 months); freeing from the territorial base; changes during the fattening period, fattening with mixed feed and less animal freedom. All these facts may implicate a loss of the animal welfare condition. These circumstances lead us to question it from an ethical point of view.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Welcome New Blog Readers

Since the recent New York Times story about Mangalitsa pigs appeared, this blog has some new readers.

Besides reading this blog, I also recommend you check out this post on Dr. Mike Eades's blog, about his 3-day visit to Mosefund Farm, where he learned how to kill, gut, cut up and cure Mangalitsa pigs. Why I like his post so much:
  • Mosefund and The Wiesners (their blog here) put on a great event. I wish I could have attended. It is great to have it documented.
  • Dr Eades understands hogs. That's refreshing. So few do.
  • He's got nice pictures of the event.
  • Reading his post, I'm reminded that Mangalitsa producers and Mangalitsa fans are a different breed.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cochon 555 New York - a lot of Mangalitsa!

If you can make it to Cochon 555 in New York on January 23rd, you ought to be able to try Mangalitsa in various forms.

Mosefund will have a pig in the fight. Bill Telepan - a chef of Magyar origin - will be preparing it. I hope he wins one for the team - although, Mangalitsa fans know Mangalitsa tastes the best anyway, regardless of what the judges and crowds think.*

My distributor, DeBragga and Spitler will be there. I suspect that George Faison himself will be there, sampling out Mangalitsa ham from Johnston County Hams. They will also have lardo (and hopefully pancetta and guanciale) from Salumeria Biellese.

* I've gotten used to Mangalitsa producers losing Cochon 555. The event isn't a meat-science experiment. To some extent it is a popularity contest; the guy with the most friends in the room has a big edge over the other competitors.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Another Ham Sighting

Ben Lambert, chef at the Kittle House, sent me this photo of his ham salad, which uses the Mangalitsa ham from Johnston County Ham. He's got the full recipe on his blog.

That is just gorgeous. Again, I find it amazing how this stuff gets used, and how the internet allows us to know what's going on so quickly.

Crabtree's Kittle House, where been works, looks really nice. I'm such a West Coast guy, I probably wouldn't have heard or known of them, but for them using the ham.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ham Appearance in Miami, The Mangalitsa Phenomenon

I find it fascinating to see how Mangalitsa pork gets eaten in the USA. I have a fairly personal relationship to it, because as of 2011, every Mangalitsa pig that has gone to slaughter in the western hemisphere in the last few years was produced by Heath Putnam Farms.* At one point or another my company owned that pig. We either imported it or farrowed it.

If you read about Mangalitsa pork being eaten in New York, Minnesota, California, Florida or Texas, it all came from pigs that were bred by Heath Putnam Farms. For instance, if you watch a video about Mosefund's Mangalitsa pigs, every one of those pigs was bred by us. If you read about Olli Salumeria Americana selling Mangalitsa products, without exception, the pigs that provided that pork were originally bred by us.

Sometimes the pigs change hands many times. E.g. we sold pigs to people in Michigan (Bakers Green Acres). Some of their pigs wound up in Indiana, in new hands. We've sold pigs to Mosefund in NJ, and some of those pigs wound up near Baltimore. Others went to Massachusetts.

In some cases, we and our customers sell our Mangalitsa pork to the same buyers. Nevertheless, all the pigs were bred by Heath Putnam Farms - so if there's a Mangalitsa product out there (made from domestic pork), I know the ultimately, it came from a pig that we produced.

I read about the pork on the internet. Often I've got no idea of the restaurant serving the stuff, whose pig it was, how they got it, etc. E.g. I have no idea how Binkley's got this Mangalitsa, but I know the pigs were mine at some point.

A similar phenomenon is seeing our pork (processed by Johnston County Hams) getting served in restaurants we've never heard of, in ways we couldn't have anticipated. For instance, tonight I found the image up top, in this review:
Still other dishes celebrate porcinity in its various other forms, including a small selection of various cured hams in the "Raw, Marinated and Cured" section that leads off the menu. Along with Spanish jamon serrano and Italian speck, on one visit there was country ham from Kuttawa, Kentucky, on another night some Mangalitsa ham (the new "it"-pig) from Smithfield, North Carolina (presumably from Johnson Country Hams). The hams are served simply, just thinly sliced, perhaps drizzled with a bit of olive oil, and with a sidecar of some spicy mustard. They need nothing more.
It is very odd when this happens. Who would have ever thought that pieces of my pigs would wind up processed and eventually sold and so nicely plated (as shown in the picture above). I'll probably never visit that restaurant. I may not even visit Miami in my lifetime - but they are eating my stuff there.

There is a downside to being so closely tied to the Mangalitsa phenomenon. For example, if someone eats a Mangalitsa product, and the farmer that produced it didn't fatten the pig right, so it gets rancid fat, that's not my fault. it takes a lot of skill to make great pork - and not everyone is up to the task. If someone makes some bacon that's too salty, or doesn't have the kind of smoke on it that you like - don't blame me (unless it actually is our bacon).

Similarly, if you don't like Magyars driving Mangalitsa pigs with traditional Hungarian pig whips, don't complain to me about it. Yes, I bred that pig he's chasing. But I sold him to another farm, who sold it to the Magyar with the whip. If someone attacks me for whipping pigs, I'm going to have a hard time resisting the urge to laugh.

* Although we recently sold some breeding stock, it takes so long to breed and fatten pigs that it will be quite a while before any pigs bred by other breeders go to slaughter. Also, we didn't breed all the pigs we've sent to slaughter; some of them were bred in Austria.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

John Besh's Mangalitsa Pigs - Daytime

Caroline Bubnis at The Door got me some new photos of Besh's pigs, taken by Erick Loos (chef at La Provence).

They look a lot less mysterious in the daytime. I like how they look at night.

John Besh's Mangalitsa Pigs

John Besh not only uses a lot of Mangalitsa in his restaurants - he also fattens his own Mangalitsa pigs behind La Provence.

Some restaurant guests go out back and visit them.

Caroline Bubnis of The Door (they do PR for Besh) sent me photos she took of the pigs. Among other things, she said that the Mangalitsa bacon ice cream that Besh serves is absolutely incredible.