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" 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