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“…it just oozes grease & fat & all the things that make life worth living”

@AprilBloomfield‘s team at White Gold Butchers take the English chipolata sausage to even more dizzying heights than we’re used to here in dear old Blighty, marrying it up with cheese and egg into the very archetype of the NY breakfast sandwich. Micky D’s this ain’t…

Mouth watering much? Here, in all its morning glory, is the story by Nick Solares who almost swooned whilst eating it…

 

Seaming the Mangalitsa like “The Master”

I came across a copy of this fantastic “seam butchery” guide via the — now sadly no longer updated, but still remaining as a great Mangalitsa resource — “Wooly Pigs” site, run by a Heath Putnam who, back in the early part of the 2000s setup America’s first Mangalitsa company breeding, importing, proselytising & selling them in the US and beyond. He did a fantastic job explaining to a disbelieving American public quite how wonderful the meat and, importantly, that gorgeous fat from this breed can be. I’m not 100% clear why he’s no longer writing or selling but believe the business was taken over by Mosefund Farm.

Smoked Mangalitsa back fat sausage © Tom Adams, Coombeshead Farm

[And if you, gentle reader, still have any doubts about how right he is, this Mangalitsa smoked back fat sausage from Tom Adams at Coombeshead Farm should dispel them.]

The Master was always the best of the Dr Who villains, at least for me, but in this case, the title refers to the description given of Christoph Wiesner by April Bloomfield mentioned in my last piece.

I recently got in touch with Christoph wanting to get his agreement to posting this guide — which had earlier been produced for Heath back in 2010, as he’d bought his first breeding stock from the team at Dewiskentale in Austria — and his wife, Isabell Zernitz-Wiesner, replied quickly, confirming they were happy for this to be done (although she asked me to point out that any typos aren’t their fault!) so, here it is, with grateful thanks to them both and to the International Association of Mangalitza Pig Breeders.

Mangalitsa butchery

A boy and his pig(s)

Does anyone remember the (always) amazing Harlan Ellison’ “A Boy And His Dog” short story (later a film with a very young Don Johnson)? No? Go out and find a copy. You’ll not regret it.

You’ll recall that I’ve raved before about the sublime April Bloomfield and her love of pigs, a love perfectly & passionately documented in her “A Girl And Her Pig” which I covered here last year. In a serendipitous meeting in 2012, she stumbled across the equally wonderful Tom Adams and after much meat and bourbon had been consumed over the next 4 years, thus was born their joint venture, Coombeshead Farm.

© Harry Borden/Guardian 2017

And here it is that you will find Tom rolling joyously around in the straw with his beloved Mangalitsa pigs. I bloody love this picture. Would I swap places with him? In a heartbeat! Am I envious? Too frickin’ right I am 🙂

And here are two of the breeding sows he’s recently brought to the farm

© tom_m_adams Instagram 2017

Five years ago he had less than 20 of these beauties, now the herd there numbers around 70 with Pitt Cue going through two of their 80kg carcasses weekly and Coombeshead using less but still taking one a month. As befits two huge enthusiasts of the “head to tail” ideal, nothing is wasted. Even the ‘gribbly‘ bits (as they’re called in this recent Guardian piece) get used up. And that of course is exactly how it should be done. Wasting nothing; and by doing that, you pay the appropriate respect to the animal.

Lars Hinnerskov Eriksen, a Copenhagen based writer & cook, was one of the 25 people (big hitter chefs inc. April & Nathan Outlaw, knife-makers, butchers, an expert on veg, even a man who specialises in building cooking appliances and supplying exotic woods) lucky enough to go to one of the Pitt Cue Pig Weekends. Obviously my invite must have got lost in the post eh Tom? Eh? Eh? Right? You complete & utter bastard!

Anyway, alongside an early breakfast ration of spleen meat on toast, blood-cake, and brains mixed with egg, lard, and parsley, he and the rest of the guests were also able to dive into these delights over the course of the weekend, ones very reminiscent of those from the ‘matanza‘ I’ve described held in Spain

“…liver with peaches (yes, it works), fried liver coated in coconut (oh yes, just as good), lung and heart stew, strudel made with pork fat, and a traditional Austrian klachelsuppe with knuckle and tail. [Isabell] mixed the blood with fat, rind and barley, and poured it into a massive beef casing for the blood sausage. Then came the meat spread, minced trimmings from the day’s butchery braised with garlic and lard.” Lars Hinnerskov Eriksen

…along with Beuschel, a spiced sauté of heart and lung meat seasoned with mustard.

So, this was two days, totally devoted to the calm killing, careful butchering and exultant eating (in the case of the big cuts preserving them for later use) every bit of offal from one of Tom’s pigs, trained & assisted by the “Austrian pig wizards” — as Tom described them — the husband and wife team, Christoph and Isabell Wiesner’s from Arche de Wiskentale.

© Lars Hinnerskov Eriksen

As well as world-class breeders of Mangalitsa, they’re experts in “seam butchery” — so much so Christoph was called by April, “master” — a process where, unlike with the traditional English (and elsewhere ) butchery method of cutting across bone, sinew, connective tissue & muscle resulting in large, regular shaped chunks of roastable meat, instead they separate the carcass wherever possible, into individual muscles or muscle groups, by following the “seams” where they join the skeleton.

© Lars Hinnerskov Eriksen

There’s a quote by Christoph that perfectly sums up the ethos and the concern behind how the animal is looked after and, ultimately of course, killed

“You can’t make it any better but you can end up disturbing it. That’s the reason why we slaughter the animal in its group and on the feeding place. A transport even two weeks before will show on the meat.”

It’s well worth reading Lar’s entire piece here but for the moment, I’ll leave you with the last of his excellent photos showing the entire pig (one butchered a few days earlier) prepped and ready for a long slow cook over oak — giving flavours of tobacco and beurre noisette — and ash, a more clean, zesty, mineral note. Or so says Mark Parr, from the London Log Company who supply Pitt Cue with their wood and charcoal. And you know what? In that august company, I’m not arguing.

© Lars Hinnerskov Eriksen

And finally, as an homage to Fergus (there’s only one Fergus; you know who I mean), I’m stocking up on Fernet-Branca and ordering in some crème de menthe to make his favourite “pick me up” (or “start the day right” or “anytime it’s needed during the day”) drink.

© Jill Mead for the Guardian

The Dr Henderson

25ml crème de menthe
50ml Fernet-Branca

Pour over ice and drink, ignoring the rather frightening colour. But beware & heed his words of advice:

“Be careful: this is so effective you can find yourself turning to its miraculous powers with increasing regularity. Do not let the cure become the cause.”

 

 

Another helping of ‘internals’ from Fergus H (and others)…

More plated servings of vom schnörrli, zum schwänzli goodness. And another reminder that meat doesn’t come pre-packed in styrofoam, brightly coloured, packaging; at least not naturally. Which is why I keep talking about offal, in all its mis-shapen and bizarre looking incarnations

© Hank Shaw 2008

© Hank Shaw 2008

You may also have noticed that I really rather rate Fergus Henderson? And you’d be right. He’s been at the forefront of the “nose to tail, waste absolutely nothing“, movement for many, many years. Along with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, he’s one of the very good people out there.

fergus-8.0

This post is going to lean a little heavily on photos from the hugely talented and influential team at Serious Eats. I’ve already mentioned J. Kenji López-Alt in Cooking for geeks; in the food lab, the MD of this site. They managed to grab a space at the pass when Fergus visited New York (a few years back now) and cooked with, amongst others, the very wonderful fellow Brit, April Bloomfield at her “The Spotted Pig“.

Their menu included some offal dishes from other than pigs — I’m ignoring them for the purposes of this post. Hey, my blog, my call, OK? 🙂

It started with ribbons of grilled chitterlings (also know as “chitlins”). In any event, however you call them, they’re the small intestine — or, in the case of the “hogs maw”, the stomach — and a staple of Southern (initially poor, mainly black) cooking. But they were also known way back as common peasant food in medieval England, and remained a staple in the diet of our own low-income families right up until the late 19th century and are still a firm favourite across the rest of (possibly less squeamish?) Europe.

© Serious Eats 2008

© Serious Eats 2008

Thomas Hardy wrote of chitterlings in Tess of the D’Urbervilles, when the father of a poor family, John Durbeyfield, talks of what he’d like to eat:

Tell ’em at home that I should like for supper, – well, lamb’s fry if they can get it; and if they can’t, black-pot; and if they can’t get that, well, chitterlings will do.

So, to follow? How about confit of pig cheek and dandelion?

© Serious Eats 2008

© Serious Eats 2008

OK, there is one dish that I’m including with a non-pig offal: the lambs’ brain; battered and deep fried to a wonderful, golden crisp. There’s a green sauce in there, infused with parsley and dill, complimenting those earthy, creamy nuggets.

© Serious Eats 2008

© Serious Eats 2008

I’ve wavered and included this because I could really see this being done well but using pig’s brains.

I’m a little surprised to find that Fergus hasn’t yet done so (he claims pig brains aren’t as flavoursome). But as if by way of compensation, he did do this Brain Burger along with the MEATliquor team recently as part of joint effort raising money for the charity researching into the Parkinson’s Disease, from which he’s suffered for many years.

© MEATliquor 2016

© MEATliquor 2016

Next up from the NY gig, warm pigs head and bean salad

© Serious Eats 2008

© Serious Eats 2008

And finally, snail, trotter, sausage and chickpeas. Perfectly poached snails and al dente chickpeas in a hearty trotter infused broth:

© Serious Eats 2008

© Serious Eats 2008

Am I envious of all the lucky diners who managed to score seats at this gig? Is that sky pixie, voices in teh head, guy in Rome, a Catholic? And do Ursidae defecate in the forest? Hell yes!

And finally for this week? Well, finally Esther…

A look back at when the butchers at Sabatos Prime Meats — who started up nearly 100 years ago, back in 1918 — were (mainly) men and pigs were, well, apparently the size of frickin’ elephants!

© Sabato Prime Meats http://sabatosprimemeats.com/6.html

© Sabato Prime Meats http://sabatosprimemeats.com/6.html

Let’s hear it for the “The Lard Information Council”!

I’ve mentioned before the Tripe Marketing Board. Instrumental in helping to make people love the “not so nasty” bits, as April Bloomfield memorably calls them, they existed as an organisation in England in the 50s and 60s. Tripe was a bit of a hard sell though, even then. Harder today — apart from amongst the more adventurous out there — Val, despite all her many and manifold virtues, isn’t a fan.

Whilst looking at a site over the weekend called “Praise The Lard” (a rather appetising charcuterie producer, not too far away in Louth) which led to this T-shirt available in the US

praise-the-lard-women-s-shirt_design

… I then came across this ‘genuine World War II poster‘.

Except it isn’t. Unfortunately. Rather, it’s a spoof (confirmed by the venerable Snopes) and is actually from an edition of an English comic called Viz“. Number 52, February/March 1992 (and for the anally retentive amongst us, it’s on page 21). Which is a real shame as it’s a great poster for a great by-product from the pig.

lard

For thousands of years (wherever you found pigs being eaten), there, you’d also find lard. The English poor would start their day with a breakfast of lard & salt slathered onto bread; and, to quote Michael Pollan, it’s “the sort of food our great grandmothers would recognise as food” — it’s only recently that we’ve moved away to truly man-made food substitutes, rather than using everything from the animal.

It’s still regarded with a love close to veneration in other countries — the Ukrainians have two festivals dedicated to “salo”, their word for their beloved lard. There’s also apparently a saying there: “Salo is when nobody fucks with you and you’ve got a bit of money”. Having a good bit of salo therefore is a prime indicator of the good life. Can’t argue with this whole concept, I have to say.

Lard has come in for some bad press over the recent decades, driven almost totally by those companies making margarine and other unnatural & unhealthy substances which actually ARE dangerous for you. But despite these scare stories, lard is actually a healthier fat than butter. Weight for weight, it has 20% less saturated fat, and is also higher in the mono-unsaturated fats which seem to lower the LDL cholesterol (“bad”) and raise the HDL ones (“good”). It’s also a useful source of serious quantities of vitamin D and, unlike the hydrogenated vegetable oils, contains none of those nasty trans-fats, the most dangerous ones of all. Whilst it also has more saturated fat than the rightly féted Mediterranean olive oil, nevertheless, food author Jennifer McLagan argues convincingly in her “Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient“, that its saturated fat has a neutral effect on your blood cholesterol, whilst Gary Taubes, back in 2012 in his “Why We Get Fat“, goes even further, believing that fat is actually pretty damn good for us all.

The Italians wouldn’t disagree with this concept. This beauty pictured below is their Lardo di colonnata, holder of an IGP mark from the EU, pork fat aged for at least six months inside marble tubs using nothing other than local sea salt and a variety of spices and it’s made only in Colonnata, a small village with a few hundreds inhabitants, located on a cliff nestled between the famous marble quarries of Carrara, in Tuscany. There’s more details here on the spices and process if you want to try your own version at home. And why wouldn’t you?

Eating it, you’ll spot a fragrant, scented aroma and note the delicate, slightly sweet taste, enriched by those spices and aromatic herbs used in the ageing process. And the very best way to eat it is — with rind removed and salt washed off — as very thin slices over fresh bread, warmed or grilled, with maybe some sliced tomato & onion. Tom Adams (if he hasn’t already) would make this from that prince of fat producing pigs, the Mangalitza.

 Lardo di colonnata, the fanciest of fats. Photograph: Alamy

Lardo di colonnata, the fanciest of fats. Photograph: Alamy

It’s a also hugely versatile fat for use in your kitchen. A relatively high smoke point means it’s perfect for producing that lovely golden, crisp <crunch> on chips or fritters. The good stuff you can get i.e. not that horrible bleached white block from the supermarkets but instead bought from a local butcher (or even home-made) has naturally occurring large ‘crystals’ or flakes of fat, making it also supreme for baking. And if you doubt me, you only have to ask Mary Berry…

 Blocks of lard. Photograph: Antonio Olmos for the Observer

Blocks of lard. Photograph: Antonio Olmos for the Observer

So, can you make your own? Of course you can. The best (leaf lard) comes from that fat found surrounding the pig’s loin and kidneys. Slightly less prized is the “fatback”, coming unsurprisingly, from the animal’s back and then the soft fat, wrapped around the other internal organs. There are two ways to then use this fat to “render” into lard:

In the first method, dry rendering, you merely let it slowly melt down in a dry pan, skimming off — for later consumption! — the remaining bits of skin & meat that you’ll see starting to turn crunchy & golden. The second way, wet rendering, means you’ll need to boil the fat in water. I must say, I prefer the flavour from the dry-render version, as it retains that hint of roasted pork. And because of the process, it stays a nutty-brown colour and also smokes at a slightly lower temperature whilst the wet variant is whiter and is a more neutral flavour, with a higher smoking point. It’s also called pig butter, prosciutto bianco; go ahead, pop along to your butcher (or local farmer) today and start making your own!

I love ’em all. And so should you. Moderation in all things, remember — but make one of those things lard.