Heritage Breed Pigs

Harvest Moon - Rabbits, Mochi, Fragility, Abundance

Autumn has always been my favorite time of year. The mournful notes of a cello, the desperate blaze of leaves' last color, the crisp bite in the air. I go to the endings. I go to the fallen leaves. To driftwood.












These move me more than the green shoots of hope, the spring.

These are the love poems of my ancestors:

What is the use of cherishing life in spring? Its flowers only shackle us to this world.

by Izumi Shibuku


This body grown fragile, floating, a reed cut from its roots . . . If a stream would ask me to follow, I'd go, I think.

by Ono no Komachi

The book, The Ink Dark Moon, is missing, again. I've bought and lent it several times...happy to share it with people. These poems are mournful and lusty, women articulating longing for lovers in a particular style of poetry in a sliver of life, high courts in ancient Japan, a context which is hard for us to appreciate today. What I love about the poems is how much can be conveyed in a just a few words. It seems impossible. With a bright harvest moon, and summer's end, my thoughts have turned toward harvest.


My disparate and mindful friends offer provocative reflections on all kinds of things: random jackrabbits passing by a campsite, butchering of animals, eating of meat or opting not to, rants against excess, followed by reflections on severity and tenderness. Who else but Elissa Altman can make me cry while reading about brisket?

As it often happens, these threads catch each other, wind up together, and stick with me. Mental lint of the most valuable kind. E.M. Forster put it beautifully:

“How do I know what I think until I see what I say?”

...and this is how these collected thoughts come together for me. This week it is harvest that keeps tumbling over in my writer's mind.

Thoughts keep beckoning in softer or louder voices, asking for some quiet time. I am just now longing for, craving, a few days or maybe just one with no other errands, tasks, pleas from those that need this or that from me now! Even as I begin to type, my mouse batteries are dying making things impossible and the next batteries are not yet charged and that perfect turn of phrase is escaping and I am chasing mercury again - and again.

Breathe. Focus.

Autumn is a time of gathering in, collecting, harvesting.

Harvest can mean so many things. We harvest food, we harvest organs, we harvest meat that was once walking, bounding across fields, or lazing in summer sun, we harvest and animals become meat. This is something many would rather ignore. Others ruminate on this in reflective or harsh ways. Some bring a silver-clear light to it and illuminate it beautifully.

This Harvest Moon has me reflecting on many of these percolating things.

We Japanese say we see rabbits, not a man, not bleu cheese, in the moon. At harvest moon, we make and eat mochi, honoring those mochi-pounding rabbits in the harvest moon. I've just reconnected to that imagery and at the same time recall the beauty of butchering my first rabbit. Jarring isn't it? Cute little bunnies and mochi, to denuded meat and bones.

whole rabbit


nounoften attributive \ˈhär-vəst\

: the season when crops are gathered from the fields or the activity of gathering crops

: the amount of crops that are gathered; also : the amount of a natural product gathered in a single season




: to gather (a crop)

: to gather or collect (something) for use





Giving thanks for the harvest. Around the 15th day of the 8th lunar month Asians celebrate the harvest moon. This year it fell on our Gregorian calendar on September 19th. I made mochi and began to write in anticipation of the holiday about these various harvest threads. It was meat, not mochi, that kept calling.

Itadakimasu means not "bon appetit!" or "tuck in!" as it is so often mistranslated. Instead it conveys a mindfulness and an appreciation of the thing that gave its life so that we may eat. I much prefer this reverence and mindfulness about the meal to the more familiar 'dig in' sentiment.

Appreciate the harvest you eat. Appreciate that thing that gave its life for your meal. Appreciate those that had a hand along the way, farmer, fishermen, butchers, cooks.

If you're enjoying heritage pig, even in excess, appreciate the biodiversity being sustained by farmers growing these pigs. Old breeds are often commercial nonsense, taking longer to grow to market weight, being trickier to have butchered and generally finding a much smaller market of buyers willing to pay the price. Elissa's Gloucestershire Old Spot is one of maybe 200 breeding animals in the US, making it one that is in "Critical" need of conservation. Yes - we have to eat it to save it. GOS are huge - some of the biggest. Other smaller breeds, and going in on a meat share with neighbors, can be a wise way to enjoy heritage breeds, to preserve them and to sustain community.

How an animal lives, what it's fed, is no less important than how it dies. My friend Tamar wrote so eloquently about it in the Washington Post. She's grown and harvested her own pigs. I have such a connection to animals, I find it difficult to imagine taking a life, but perhaps incongruously, less difficulty eating the harvest. I accept a charge of hypocrisy. I resolve it by buying meat less often, but buying better meat. We choose meat that has had a decent life and hopefully met a not-too-brutal end. (I exclude oysters from this, the occasional live spot prawn, and am marginally more comfortable with killing a lobster or crab.)


Fragility and Tomorrow

There are days when people abstain from eating flesh as a reminder of the precious fragility of life. Chinese abstain on New Year's Day, Catholics on Fridays or during Lent. Some folks are ravenous after funerals, some are sickened by their own excess after grief. Our appetites are intimately tied to the cycle of living and dying. The revulsion some feel when they are reminded that their dinner had a prior life are most likely repulsed not by the food with faces, but with facing their own mortality. When we're connected to the transition of another animal going from living-to dead-to dinner, we are facing the reality that we too will die.

The rituals of Halal butchery are particularly eloquent, but all butchery done well, takes on a reverance for life that we take and consume. It's often done with a certain hush. In the presence of butchers I often feel a weight in the air, the best of them stay connected to reality of what they are doing. Chef Josh Lewin approaches his lamb butchery with this sort of reverence and mindfulness.

I suppose some might approach a side of beef as a seamstress would a few yards of fabric, but the ones I've been in the presence of do not.

We have no certainty in tomorrow. Rituals in religions or at meal times can connect us to each other, to a renewed appreciation for life, for now, for community. Josh taught us:

Baynatha Khubz wa Milah - a Jordanian phrase, if memory serves, roughly translates to “now that we have shared a meal, we are connected.”

Our harvest can be more than the crops we gather at the end of a growing season. Our harvest can include joy in a shared meal and appreciation for that which gave its life to feed us.

I'm grateful for the harvest, for the abundance that allows me to use words like "starving" which only means I'm a few steps away from my next meal.

I'm grateful for friends who send me home with an embarrasssing amount of food from their garden, feeding me with their company, and feeding us with this bounty.


In this time of gathering in, I'm happy to share  friends who touch me deeply in our shared reflections on these things.

Elissa Altman - Poor Man's Feast

Hank Shaw - Honest Food

Tamar Haspel - Starving off the Land


mochi with respect for those rabbits: cocoa mochi for the harvest moon and all its reflections.




Best Bites of 2012

I was asked to contribute to the best bites list - a compilation of media folks' recommendations published by Boston's Hidden Restaurants. Given the stellar company, I can't hope to provide a secret favorite or a yet-to-be-discovered spot (although I DO know of a new dumpling house coming to Chinatown - scoop!)

I took a different approach. What are some of the unexpected spots or standout dishes at perhaps surprising spots that I'd recommend?

Here, then are my picks for the...

Best Bites of 2012

Oysters at Mare Oyster Bar - selection that’s hard to beat, perfectly shucked. Sure there are tons of good oyster bars in town now, but this was a surprising addition to a North End spot and I've not had a more perfectly shucked, diverse dozen anywhere.

Cassoulet at Les Zygomates - just wonderfully rendered version of this home-style dish, the tagines are pretty terrific, too.

Sichuan dumplings at New Shanghai - The Sichuan chili oil defines tantalizing.

Sichuan dumpling

Ramen or soba at Pai Men Miyake - okay it’s in Portland, but it takes less time to drive there than it does to wait on line at any top ramen spot in Boston. I don't believe anyone in Boston even does yakitori over binchotan coal...the motsu (pork intestine yakitori) might be the single bite that stands out this year.

yakitori Pai Men Miyake

Red Wattle heirloom pork and barley dish at Russell House Tavern. An off-the-menu item that is worth asking for. If enough of us do, maybe Chef Scelfo will put it on the menu? This luscious barley and Red Wattle fat is the stuff of dreams.

Clams at Enzo in Newburyport - off the charts umami, Enzo is a perfect marriage of sustainable, local ingredients, contemporary interpretations of traditional Ligurian dishes. These are Woodbury clams and the Striper that day was also amazing. What I love is that the Chef Reilly is confident enough to let the technique and the ingredients speak for themselves. No ego on the plate, getting in the way.

Enzo Clams


Two final thoughts:

I had the most ethereal falafel at the new Piperi, haven't been back but I bet it's going to be just as good next time. And, the head cheese at 51 Lincoln (in addition to other dishes there) were so good, I was sad to realize that it was 2011 when last I was there. Must remedy that!

Go Here, Eat This - Tico

Where to Go? What to Order?

Looking for a place to eat in Boston? The "must-try" spot for Chinese food? Dumplings? Dim Sum? My favorite burger? Pizza? A Gluten-free joint? Who does the best dollar oysters? Roast pig?

People often ask me where they should eat in Boston and what they should order when they get there. In these "Go Here, Eat This" quick posts, I'm going to share notes of good spots to eat, highlighting what's unique about the place, including some of my favorite dishes. The ones that are house specialities, indicative of the cuisine, or just ones that I really enjoy. I'll also try to note things like whether the place is friendly to those with allergies, or disabilities, etc. Just stuff you ought to know.

Going forward you can search on "where to go" or just look at the "Noshes and News" page. When I add new posts, I'll add them there and post on the home page, too.

Where to go:

Tico Restaurant Boston


617 351 0400

M-F 11:30 AM-2 AM, SAT. & SUN. 11AM-2AM


Unique about this place:

...is a large pan-Latin menu covers flavor profiles of Mexico, Spain, Central and South America. Large selection of small plates, tacos and entrees covering seafood, meat, vegetarian options.


Large, lively bar with over 80 Tequilas.

Some outdoor seating available.

What to eat:

Pork belly, Grilled octopus with aji amarillo, Shishito peppers,


Questions? Comments? Please drop a note if you've eaten here and share any dishes you think are on the "must-try" list!


Someday Soon They will Get It

When I saw the news about the Israeli author who got a book deal for a pork cookbook, it was hard not to feel a small sense of sleight. I guess I got the offal wrong when I thought chicken parts were trayf (Hello -- chopped chicken liver? see what I get for writing my Shiksa Varnishkes post on only one cup of coffee.) But I am CERTAIN that pork is not kosher. Of this, I am sure. And he got a book deal.

But, I told myself, be patient. (After all, you're so good at that.) I tried. I smiled, I nodded, I politely declined when one editor didn't "get it."

I believe that the market will catch up to my and my quirky obsession with weird heritage breed pigs and those farmers that I love, working against all odds to save these old breeds from extirpation. When you have an obsession, it helps if others share it. It also helps if they seem like good, salt-of-the-earth types. I've met many and we all agree: we are on the right track and good things will come. The rest of the world will follow.



The UN declared 2010 to be the Year of Biodiversity. Actually, they declared it several years back but the world slid backwards and the little progress that had been made was lost. The 2010 effort (largely unnoticed by the media, I might add) was meant to re-energize the issue and spread the urgent message that the world is losing one of its more precious resources, the very diversity of life that not only feeds us, but nourishes the planet and sustains life.

So my focus of late has been another interest, at the intersection of ocean conservation and gourmet food. Sustainable seafood has been an interest for years and bringing that message to others, sharing resources and helping people adopt a science-based framework to make better choices... this became my focus. Pigs would have to wait.

Working in the wee hours on my 4th annual Teach a Man to Fish round up, I took a break to check email. And there it was:

New York Magazine - that obscure publication on the periphery of the zeitgeist - sharing Breeds Apart - How to tell your Mangalitsas from your Ossabaws, and six other heritage varieties. Surely, this is a sign. Surely the publishing world will notice. (And yes, if you're a publisher and you may call me Shirley.)

Here I am with American Guinea Hogs (not on the NY Mag list, also missing Mulefoot)


So I am now hopeful that I'll get a little more traction with "the pig book" and am, as well, moving forward with "the fish book." Here's a little amuse bouche for you on my favorite topics.


Pig Tales: a Love Story -

Pig Tales is a story of seduction. It’s about how America is falling in love with heritage pork.  First it was Kurobuta, then the Mulefoot now it’s the Red Wattle and the Hungarian Mangalitsa that seem to dominate chefs’ and food writers’ attention. Taste memories for good old fashioned pork, our various pork-centric food traditions and our newest celebrities - the farmers - all play a part in the story. Pig Tales is a story of my love for pigs, for the farmers who also love them and are trying to save them from extinction, and about the chefs whose love for heritage products is bringing them back to our tables. This is about our love for flavorful food history and for underdogs.

The Last Fishermen -

Who are the people whose livelihood is disappearing with the vanishing wild fish?

The Last Fishermen will introduce a seafood-savvy public to the fishermen who supply them with wallet-card approved seafood. As the farm-to-table message permeates the food culture, the same links are being explored in the ocean-to-table chain. From community-supported fisheries to fishing cooperatives, new models are emerging in an attempt to salvage what may be a disappearing lifestyle.

The Last Fishermen will explore sustainable seafood issues - from the vantage point of the other end of the pole: the fishermen holding it.



Sustainable Meats 101: Come Join me at the Boston Center for Adult Ed

Not Just Pigs & Fish

Many of you know me through Teach a Man to Fish/Teach a Chef to Fish sustainable seafood events or through my Pig Tales: a Love Story saga. But I really like to talk about all sorts of sensible sustainability. What are choices we can all make, each day, to lessen our impact on the planet but also to increase our enjoyment whilst here? As my friend Meg says, "it's about sensual sustainabilty!" Holla!

I'm so excited to be offering this class at the Boston Center for Adult Ed, the oldest, nonprofit adult education center in New England. We'll be cooking in one of their new state-of-the-art kitchens (Thermador or Gaggenau, be still my heart) at 122 Arlington Street (near Smith & Wollensky.)

We're going to explore what makes our proteins more or less sustainable and we're going to roll up our sleeves and cook! I'm sharing resources, tips and recipes and there will be chickens from Pete & Jenn's Backyard Birds, Bison from Wild Idea and local, probably Halal goat. You will leave the class with new friends, a resource guide, recipes and an appetite for more.

People ask if I cook with wine. The answer is yes. Sometimes it even goes in the food. (Parrump pump. I'll be working this room all week.) But seriously folks, we'll have a chance to learn about what makes a wine more or less sustainable, too. Let's get cooking, and talking, and eating! And come have a glass of wine on me.

Here are a couple of links to get you in the mood:



Please sign up today, mark your calendar, and spread the word!

And thanks to Rich who posted this even before I did.

True Food Tuesday

? We're going to do a live "TweetChat"! Thanks to Traca Savadogo the incomparable @SeattleTallPopp - I've just been introduced to to this tool. To make it easier to tweet - I'm going to use #TFT

3 PM  EST - 4 PM EST - this is our first time at bat so let's see how it goes. I'll be using the questions, concepts within this post to guide the discussion and Traca is going to help me moderate.

If you're on Twitter - and even if you're not - I invite you to join the conversation about what I'm calling "True Food." I've started a hashtag #TrueFoodTuesday on Twitter. For civilians, that's simply a way to track all comments in Twitter related to a theme or topic. Tomorrow, Tuesday we'll post tweets and links and comments here about #TrueFood we're eating, buying, growing, thinking about.


It's growing, it's not in a box, I can talk to the person that grew it...these are hallmarks of #TrueFood.

These came from a package but were only dried, still #TrueFood.


So what is "True" food? And why start this conversation?

Many of us are already talking about true food. Whether you're an omnivore or vegan, whether you like CSAs and CSFs or usually eat from a box but are exploring new ways to eat healthier food, you can participate.

You may have heard about the obesity epidemic? The rate of diabetes? The recent suggestions that pesticides on fruits may be linked to higher ADHD in children?

You may be concerned about disappearing farm land and the aging of the farming population, or the vanishing heritage breeds and loss of biodiversity? Or, thinking about the struggles of local fishermen and the threats to their survival.

Perhaps you're reading Michael Pollan's Rules - see his post on Huffington Post here. And two examples of Pollan's rules:

#19 If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't.

#36 Don't eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk.

These Brussels Sprouts don't need a label to tell us what they are. They are #TrueFood.

Why the #Hashtag topic?

These are the kinds of topics I want to talk about and I want to get others sharing their questions and tips, recipes and photos.

By creating this topic, I'm hoping to catalyze people's thinking and energy, focus it for a day on what we eat and where it comes from.

  • Is it a local fisherman that's doing hook and line haddock or shrimper with by-catch reduction or Alaskan salmon that's carefully monitored?
  • Are you buying or trying or thinking about sustainable meats like Old World Meats Making a Comeback as Sustainable Choices?
  • Sometimes people get tired of thinking about what they can't have. I want to celebrate the good food that we are enjoying, without worry. Local produce, organic grains, sustainable seafood, heritage breeds.
  • Maybe someone will post a Tweet with a recipe or favorite farmer or a photo that shows what they ate that day.



How to Participate

1. Drop a comment here with your favorite True Food you ate on Tuesday.

2. Tweet using the hashtag #TrueFoodTuesday. Or if you use Facebook, drop a link there to your favorite post, recipe or photo of #TrueFood.

? There will be a drawing for a new book Cider Beans, Wild Greens and Dandelion Jelly: Recipes from Southern Appalachia.

Maybe you have a question about how to choose more sustainable foods? Maybe you have a tip to share?

Have a favorite fishmonger, farmer or Farmer's Market?

Jennifer Hashley is both director of Tufts Friedman School's New Entry Sustainable Farming Program and a farmer herself. Her pigs are #TrueFood.

Have a favorite book to share - like Lisa Hamilton's Deeply Rooted, or Langdon Cook's Fat of the Land? Both those books talk about #TrueFood.

Proud of something you baked from scratch or made for dinner from #TrueFood? Share it!


Some links to get you started:

? Nourish Network has a whole section of articles, recipes and tips on Eco-friendly eating, called Eco-Bites. Check it out here.

? Kim O'Donnel on Culinate - these Thursday Table Talk chats are filled with good, True Food.

? Did you see the film Food, Inc.? Thought-provoking film about false food, and True Food.


The Canvolution is all about #TrueFood!



Chef Rick Moonen's Catfish lettuce wraps are #TrueFood.

Laying hen at Pete & Jen's Backyard Birds. Her eggs are #TrueFood.

Farm, Fish & Fowl: Exploring Sustainability



Here are my slides from this afternoon's panel discussion at the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. Along with the Tufts University Alumni Association, the Food for Thought: Tufts Food, Wine and Culture Series has included famous alumni like Dan Barber. Tonight's panel discussion on Sustainability was a thought-provoking and fun event. We were billed as "leaders from the restaurant industry and local farms" who (would) explore the challenges and opportunities of bringing sustainable practices to what we eat."

For my part, I was delighted to participate and scribbled notes while my co-presenters spoke. Peter McCarthy spoke of his commitment to whole animal utilization, to Pete & Jen's Backyard Birds (and bunnies and pigs) as well as his progress toward LEEDS certification at EVOO.

Jennifer was entertaining and managed to cover a lot of information on the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project. What a terrific program they have at this school!


  • Jacqueline Church, an independent food, wine & spirits writer whose work often focuses on “sensible sustainability” issues
  • Peter McCarthy, Chef/Owner at EVOO restaurant in Cambridge, MA
  • Jennifer Hashley, director of the Tufts Friedman School's New Entry Sustainable Farming Project and Co-owner of Jen and Pete's Backyard Birds
  • Moderator:
    Dr. Timothy Griffin, faculty member and director of the Tufts Friedman School's Agriculture, Food and Environment program

    A cocktail reception for event participants will featured hors d'ouevres from restaurants EVOO and the Beacon Hill Bistro, among other venues that offer locally grown food.

    I promised to share my slides. So here they are:



    I look forward to continuing the discussion started this evening, and I really enjoyed the lively chats with many of the attendees during the reception.

    Please email me or drop a comment here if you want more info on the slides, the books we discussed or if you have any further questions!

    All photos are mine except for the gorgeous fish dish on slide three, that's Matt Wright's entry into last year's Teach a Man to Fish event, and the NASA photo on the Issues to Watch slide.


    Meat Revival - Encore

    During the International Culinary Association's annual conference in Portland, I was fortunate to attend a wonderful Saturday session entitled "Meat Revival" hosted by the Art Institute of Portland's Culinary School. With heritage breed pigs from Sweet Briar farm, a demo of butchering techniques comparing French and American styles, Michael Ruhlman moderating, and charcuterie to sample - you might say I was in hog heaven.

    Looking around the packed room of culinary professionals, rapt and ravenous for the information, techniques, explanations made me confident that my book Pig Tales: a Love Story has a market. We're seeing more home cooks, chefs, food enthusiasts asking for recipes, for demonstrations and for real hands-on training.

    In case you're wondering if how long ago this conference was, it was the end of April and yes, I have discovered the one downside of having a digital camera. You are apt to shoot too many photos. You have the opportunity to shoot nearly limitless shots without worry about the cost of film. If you're in a hurry and taking notes, you don't even have to stop to erase bad shots from your memory card. You can shoot away and worry about it later! When you have time.

    For me, it was a dual dilemma of being in my dream class with a clean memory card. I'm embarrassed to tell you how many photos I shot in this class. This is my way of begging your indulgence with the delay in posting here. See, I've been going over lots of photos from that day. Lots and lots of photos. Here's five in a row of Kate talking which one is the best? This one, or that one? That one or this one? And on and on.

    So I have to get more judicious. But this Saturday morning pig fest was no time to start. My gratitude to Camas Davis of PDX Meat, the brand-new Portland Meat Collective, to Dave and the AI staff for hosting, to Sweet Briar for providing the pigs (a Yorkshire cross I believe), Michael Ruhlman for being a great moderator and to our butchery teachers, Dominique Chapolard with his friend and translator Kate Hill, and Adam Sappington Chef/Owner of Country Cat restaurant in Portland. I don't know if the overalls are his daily attire but between them and the berêt you certainly wouldn't lose sight of who was who!

    Olympic provisions joined our hosts in offering finely crafted charcuterie, and fine OR wine from Pudding River rounded out this true breakfast of champions. Move over Wheaties, there's a new game in town. The plate was amazing and I cannot get the jerky off my mind.

    What I was most struck by is the skill, the quiet grace of the movements of both butchers, really. Their methods were quite different, even to an untrained eye (they even started at different ends of the pigs.) I kept thinking of ballet, the delicate movements, the grace and all the discipline and strength that is behind it all. It was the highlight of the conference and one of the best things for me was the opportunity to spend a little time with Dominique and Kate talking pig. What a treat! I can't wait to get to Gascony and learn more, eat more and enjoy more with these amazing folks.



    At the end of the demo during Q&A I asked where the women butchers are. To my great delight there were TWO in the room! Camas trained with Dominique in France and Tray Satterfield (in the fedora in the photos) spoke eloquently about her epiphany and the nearly spiritual path that led her from her career in Finance to her life's work as a butcher. I got to visit Tray at Pastaworks and hope to interview her separately here shortly. She is the inspiration behind my next post on Good Eater. Stay tuned!

    ~ ~ ~

    Ed note: Here's the Good Eater link:

    In Heels and Backwards: Women Butchers Break Bones and Barriers.


    Primal Cuts from Head to Tail - Pig Butchery @ Formaggio Kitchen

    This is about how a pig ends up being a roast. What, you thought they grew in those little styrofoam trays? You've got a lot to learn.

    Most of us know Formaggio for Ihsan Gurdal's Cheese expertise (see Ihsan Gurdal Awarded French Honor). Did you know Formaggio Kitchen also offers butchery class? Pig Butchery 101: Primal Cuts from Head to Tail (they've added more classes, based on demand) In my class, there were a dozen or so enthusiasts in the ktichen, nibbling treats, and learning from two experts about how a primal is broken down, and what pig parts are used in what types of dishes. Based on my class, I highly recommend it. It's terrific, balancing noshes with information, tips with sips. All in all, a deliciously enlightening evening.

    This is the shank I boned out, stuffed with sweet Italian sausage from this same pig (Thanks Julie!), fresh rosemary, fresh thyme. I stuck a few slivers of black garlic and a few fresh garlic cloves into the meat, after I tied it off. How's it look? Not bad, right? Salted with Earthy Delights' citron sea salt and rosemary sea salt. I seared this lightly then tossed in the Cara Cara orange slices and roasted this in a very slow oven. Braising would work just as well or better but I'd never tried this technique on shank. This meat is lighter and sweeter than Tamworth or Red Wattle but it's still more porky than commercial pork. The freshness, the diet, the breed, I'm sure it's all part of what makes this so tasty.

    And I'm going to post some pretty graphic stuff below - bones, closeups of meat, joints, etc. If you're vegan or vegetarian or simply squeamish, I'd recommend you say "ah beautiful oranges" and then go read something else on my site. There are plenty of things to read. vegetarians might enjoy this Super Tabbouleh, if you're into extreme sports, read this. Drama buffs, check out my review of August: Osage County, an award-winning play we saw on Broadway.

    For those of you sticking around, I'm going to start with some easy photos - look! Beautiful heirloom naval oranges.

    Look! Easter treats.


    and the cute little bunny... (hey, what's on the chalkboard?)

    Salumi...yes, we're getting warmer...

    And the guest of honor:

    That is Jason Lord Chef, South End Formaggio and our Berkshire x Chester White pig. Well, at least half of him. Berkshires are descendants of the Kurobuta - Japanese "black pig" (see Kurobuta is Some Pig) - grown for their well-marbled meat. Chester Whites date back to the early 1800s and are known for good mothering, large litters and early breeding capability. They're also said to be good slicing, so packers love them. The white skin is commercially what was thought to be preferred, too.

    This particular pig was the product of a Berkshire boar and Chester White sow, born and pasture-raised in Enosburg Falls, VT, (near the Canadian border) by Greg Finch of Vermont Family Farm. This was about 4-5 months old around 90 lbs. The pigs are raised on pasture as much as weather allows, without hormones or antibiotics. They're able to root and nest and enjoy an all-natural, all vegetarian diet. He was purchased through Savenor's Market in Cambridge where I attended my first butchery demo.

    That's me on the right and Ron holding the suckling pig he was about to butcher. See why he's called Crazy Ronny?

    Butchering - a Trend that's Here to Stay

    You may have seen the Time Magazine piece by Josh Ozersky on DIY Butchering, or the many other recent articles about foodies flocking to the new culinary rock stars kitchens to learn butchery. Even Julie Powell seized the moment (and the meat) writing her sophomore oeuvre, entitled Cleaving, about butchery. Apparently, after infidelity and divorce, whacking large dead animals with cleavers is healing.

    As Powell notes in the video accompanying Ozersky's article however, it's really more delicate work - less whacking and more skimming. I discovered this when I brought home a ham - - attached to the shank and the trotter. I can't imagine what I looked like at the bus stop holding this large shopping bag with a hoof curled, ever so delicately, out the top of the bag. Lucky for me two nice classmates offered me a ride all the way to Kendall Square. I have forgotten their names, but he works at the Coolidge Corner Theatre and she at Flour, if memory serves. Thanks guys!

    Here's how this process went. I started by moving the foot and feeling where the joint was. I cut the meat perpendicularly at the joint, then used the tip of my knife to scrape away at the joint until I found where I could insert the blade to sever the tendons. You can see my results are absolutely amateur giving new meaning to the word "butcher" but...it was immensely rewarding and very interesting, too. Note the color of the meat. Compare it to the Mangalitsa or other heritage pork you've tried.

    Watch for the chalkboard, see the menu? They fed us, they poured beers, we got to buy the pork.






    What's next?

    I still have a boned-out fresh ham and the trotter in the freezer. And the bones for stock of course. I've never done trotter but I think it might be time to make some sort of pâté? Ideas? Recipes?

    Want to read some other pork posts?

    Many thanks to Julie Biggs, Charcutiere extraordinaire (rillettes + sausage + bacon = best goodie bag. Ever.)  Jason Lord, Chef and butcher with a smile, find him at South End Formaggio.

    Pig Butchery 101: Primal Cuts from Head to Tail ? Formaggio Kitchen

    What's a Hungarian Pig doing on Beacon Hill?

    Having never met my Hungarian grandmother, I'm always curious about that part of my own heritage, especially if it has to do with food. The Mangalitsa shares two traits with my paternal grandmother: both are/were Hungarian imports, and both have/had thick, curly hair. Thankfully, the similarities in our bloodlines end there. tan Photo of Tan - click photo to go to Pete & Jen's

    The more I learn about Mangalitsa (Hungarians call it Mangalica), the more I discover that its story shares some common threads with other heritage breed pigs. The breed nearly disappeared due to the geopolitical hardships in Eastern Europe. It was resurrected by two entrepreneurs who understood its promise and appreciated its unique features. The breed was brought to the US by a hi tech guy turned entrepreneur/farmer, Heath Putnam. By throwing down a princely sum, Putnam imported a herd of the once-royal swine to the US just prior to the ban currently in place. Carefully controlling the breeding, Putnman has created a Mangalitsa Monopoly that some chefs grumble about but which does ensure the endurance of the breed. Given the problems other heritage breeds have had when registries disappear or farmers retire or die, it's easy to make an argument for more, rather than less, control. Whatever your feelings are about the "preciousness" of this pork marketing scheme, you'd be hard-pressed to find a person who's tried it and hasn't loved it.

    When I began the Pig Tales book project, I was originally focused on heritage breeds, American heritage breeds. Then I learned about the Mangalitsa. I tasted it and immediately understood why chefs swoon over it. I get Putnam's faith, his vision, his dreams for this breed. He was certain the pork he tasted in Austria, the pork that won him over immediately, would also win the hearts, palates (and wallets) of chefs and gourmands in the US. And it has.

    A Wooly Pig comes to Beacon Hill

    Thanks to Chef Jason Bond at Beacon Hill Hotel and Bistro, the Hungarian Mangalitsa has made it all the way to Boston. As of this writing, the dinner featuring this special hog still has a handful of seats left. Call BHHB to reserve your seat now.

    Prior to Chef Bond's efforts, the only place a curious diner could try this unique pork would have been in a restaurant or two in NYC (April Bloomfield's The Spotted Pig) or at the Herb Farm restaurant outside Seattle, or Thomas Keller's French Laundry. Bond brought two Mangalitsas to New England, raised them at Pete & Jen's farm in Concord. Named Black and Tan, I have enjoyed the gift of some leaf lard from Tan and a taste of the rich meat. Leaf lard is the special fat that grows around the pig's kidneys and rendered it yields fat that is coveted by cooks and especially, bakers. See: For the Love of Lard: Mangalitsa Leaf Lard for Perfect Pies.

    It's an odd thing to see a pig with a long, curly coat. In fact, the Mangalitsa was almost unheard of not too long ago, but now the "wooly pigs" are enjoying their moment in the sun. Well, enjoy, may be too strong a way to put it. No doubt that these unique pigs are in the center of a couple of culinary trends. One is the growing interest in heritage foods and the "eat it to save it" ethos. Another is the farm-to-table movement, and our renewed interest in tracing our food to its source, knowing how it's raised, and meeting our farmers and producers. A return to old food ways, to traditional farming methods both have come to be seen as more sustainable and certainly healthier for the environment, the animals and those consume them.

    Meet Your Meal

    I stopped by to see Chef Bond as he was prepping the newly arrived Black. He explained that this pig was much smaller than his brother (fed the same, raised the same and sharing the same parents). Black, it seems, just wasn't as assertive at meal time. Poor Black got edged out by Tan one too many times. As a result, Bond has much less fat work with but will surely rise to the challenge.

    loin Loin (R), kidneys (L)







    This photo (above) shows the loin and the fat which, if you can believe it, was thicker on Tan. Notice this pork is not white. The commercial pork that comes from industrial factory operations ("other white meat") was bred for speedy fattening, docile handling and lean meat. CAFO/commercial pork is trouble to cook because of the absence of intramuscular fat. It bears little resemblance to the meat of its predecessors. Most commercial pork comes from pigs whose lives have nothing in common with the fresh pasture, foraging life, and gentle hands-on care that Black and Tan enjoyed.

    rib_stripping_tool Rib stripping tool

    I'd never seen this cool little gadget. I suppose Jason learned of it at the Mosefund Pigstock three day butchering seminar. Mosefund Mangalitsa brings the leading Mangalitsa producers together with chefs and food professionals to learn from the team trained by master butchers. They are expert at preparations of all sorts, as well as the full utilzation of the animal, aided by European seam-butchering techniques.








    the_smaller_black "Smaller" Black

    Yes, Tan had more fat than this. For those of you recoiling at the sight of this fat or worried about the quantity, you should know that lard from pigs like this, raised on healthy organic diets including foraged foods is much closer in profile to healthy fats like olive oil. We tend to associate "lard" with the age-old tub o' Crisco. The two could not be more DIS-similar.






    Heavenly Fat, Leaf lard from around the kidneys. Really, rendered down (see step by step photos in the Loving Lard post, link above), it is an unexpected delight.









    armpit Trapezoidal "Meat Pocket" often slit open and stuffed

    Butchering Techniques

    chef bondChef Jason Bond

    At the ALBC conference in Raleigh, I learned about European butchering techniques that run along the seam of a muscle (hence the name "seam butchery") rather than cutting across it as we do in North America. This is one of the unique cuts that result from the seam butchering technique. Two others mentioned in the lecture I saw were called Pluma and Presa - I believe it was a Spanish chart. These are said to be two of the tastiest cuts and two which Americans typically cut through and trim off.

    To have a chef that cares so deeply about how food is sourced, raised, produced and who is able to do this type of skilled butchering, it's not as common as one might think. When that chef thinks, studies, and cares about all these issues from farm-to-table and also prepares such understated yet elegant food with these rare ingredients, we are fortunate indeed.

    The topics of slaughter and butchering are both going to be explored more in Pig Tales:a Love Story and perhaps here. Please drop a comment if you have any recommendations on these below.



    More about Mangalitsas