Napoleon was a Berkshire.

napoleanberksire

I’ve seen a report that in France it’s a crime to name your pig Napoleon. But if you happen to own a pig and your name is Napoleon and it manages to commit a crime (how is that supposed to occur?), then it’s apparently immune to arrest. That’s the French for you.

Mind you, I’ve not been able to find a reference to this in either the Code Pénal or the Code Napoléon but it’s too good a story not to put here…

Napoleon from Animal Farm was a Berkshire. I mean you all guessed that the actual short (“not tonight, Josephine”), French Emperor wasn’t a pig didn’t you? Didn’t you?

I’ve put some details about their history here.

The MAD-ness of “Carne e Spirito” and Dario Cecchini

“The poetry of butchery.”
“This is an ancient art.”
“Respect the animal.”

This man loves meat. He loves the craft (for craft it definitely is) of butchery. He loves the animals that he butchers and then serves in his restaurants in Panzano. And to hear him speak, albeit filtered through the translation into English from the more melodic sounding Italian, is to understand a little about the poetry of what he does [in case you hadn’t guessed, I too love pigs & butchers, so have no qualms about referring to them & poetry in the same breath].

© Homme magazine, Greece 2014

© Homme magazine, Greece 2014

Obliged, by the death of his father in 1976, to take over the family business and become the 9th generation of the Cecchini’s to work this trade in the village, he became a reluctant butcher; until this sudden change of direction, he’d been studying to become a vet at the University of Pisa.

You wouldn’t know that today; now he has a stripped down, movie-star quality to him — now this man dominates the stage at the MAD food conference in Copenhagen in front of 500 fellow chefs from around the world, quoting Dante whilst cutting into the pig & cleaning his hands of the blood, shit and innards from what looks like an Oxford & Sandy sow.

Dario and the guts © MADfoods 2014

Dario and the guts © MADfoods 2014

This is a 26 minute long rhapsody on meat, butchery & life. It’s well worth 26 minutes of your time. Watch it. Now.

“My bloody Valentine”*

No apologies this once for straying from the True Pig Path™ for this piece of eating porn from the delightfully named Porn Burger site as, whilst it’s not actually pork based, it so very, very easily could be…

[UPDATE: There’s a new site, called Cow ‘n Carbs which you may care to take a look at…]

And it’s just sooooo mouth wateringly, gorgeously, deliciously lovely looking. The author’s managed to restrain himself from diving in and eating this but probably only just for long enough to shoot this and a number of other fantastic photos also & says they intend producing (and eating) a weekly update. I’m already hooked.

And I’m still working on my brining knowledge. There’s currently some inexpensive brisket in the fridge, bathing in brine & herbs & spices, at Day Seven in the process of becoming salt beef.

[* Also the name of a great band whose work you should sling onto your turntable¹ whilst looking at this post.]

¹ For those of you below a certain age, this references 12″ diameter, black circles of a vinyl material, containing popular music laid down in “grooves” in the vinyl and played on an analogue device, through a needle that bounced up & down on its surface, known as a “gramophone” or (in my case) a Dansette.

dansette

Dansette Mono player © Dansette

What a load of tripe.

Tripe…

A word that you might have only heard from your granny. Along with “offal” (which some folk seem to think rhymes with “awful”) and “gizzards”, it is one that has been known to send American friends run screaming for the security of their psychiatrists couch (or at least a white bread peanut butter & jelly sandwich rather than something “adventurous” like their own native Philadelphia Pepper Pot) unable to comprehend why these strange foreigners would think of putting that stuff anywhere near their mouths, let alone then swallowing the damn thing.

Well, “that stuff” is some of the best, tastiest, interesting, most under-appreciated, under-utilised parts of so many animals, including, of course, naturally, pigs. Just take a look at some of the amazing dishes that Wikipedia has recorded as being made with tripe or as a form of regional “tripe”, inc. andouillette and butifarra from France and Spain respectively and, closer to my home, haggis, the national dish of Scotland (please don’t mention deep-fried Mars Bars here OK?).

Haggis

Haggis

butifara

Butifarra

Andouillette from France

Andouillette from France

Can anyone say that looking at these items, they don’t find their mouths watering? What? You’re feeling sick, squeamish, stomach-churning? Unadventurous and want to go home & have a McDonald’s? Poor, simple fool. Take your courage in your hands, gird your loins and maybe start exploring food that’s just a little bit more fun & interesting? OK, accepting that andouillette may start pushing your nasal passages into a convulsive spasm from which they may not recover easily, maybe let’s start with something slightly less of an olfactory assault, such as the butiffara?

So, Tripe (from French: tripe, of uncertain origin) is a type of edible offal from the stomachs of various farm animals where Offal refers to the internal organs and entrails of a butchered animal, sometimes discarded after butchering or skinning and Gizzards means an organ found in the digestive tract of some animals although is often used to mean more generally the intestines.

I went out and bought Stéphane Reynaud’s amazing “Book Of Tripe” but I’ll probably steer clear of describing some of the more “out there” recipes, such as the spinal cord with oyster mushrooms espoused by him (at least for the moment).

Stéphan Reynaud Tripe book

© Stéphan Reynaud 2014

Even so, and putting aside the more er, exotic, items he uses, there are some truly, wonderfully, stimulating recipes here using all of the bits that too often just get thrown away by butchers in England and elsewhere, because there’s “no demand for them” or merely get turned into dog-food. Why the hell should your canine companion get to munch on these delicacies rather than you? Are you mad?

It wasn’t always that way over here: dressed tripe for example, was a popular, nutritious and cheap dish for the working classes from Victorian times up until the latter half of the twentieth century, when its popularity faded, but it still remains a widely cooked & eaten dish amongst the more sensible Continentals and Asians who think that wasting such delights is a crime. The Tripe Marketing Board in England remains committed to keeping its appeal alive. Who couldn’t thrill to a perfect mix of Lancashire & The Mediterranean in the recipe for Pesto alla wiganese?

And don’t forget: “Tripe helped discover The North Pole”

Ad. © Tripe Marketing Board,1952

Ad. © Tripe Marketing Board,1952

So, what of the pig? This new recipe book reminds me so much of the classic “The Complete Nose to Tail: A Kind of British Cooking” by Fergus Henderson, dating back to the 1990s. Both chefs hate the idea of not using everything from the dead beast; both of them show an impassioned love for cooking, for ingredients that work beautifully together & encourage the reader to discover and most importantly, eat what they write so well about.

© Fergus Henderson 2012

© Fergus Henderson 2012

How about Pig’s Ear with a Chicory and Sorrell Salad? Yup, that hits a spot.

Pigs ear & sorrell

Pigs ear & sorrell

Go out and buy them both; try out dishes from both of them. The ‘photos alone will have you drooling over your keyboard. Encourage your local butcher to stock these less popular cuts and body parts. What a load of tripe? Rubbish. What a load of joy awaits you on this trip.

George Orwell’s porcine protaganist or かごしま黒豚 for my readers in Japan

I guess it had to be one of the rare breeds but still I’m slightly sad for the Berkshire (or かごしま黒豚 literally: Kagoshima black pig) lineage, one of whom is portrayed as Napoleon (and thus is to be forever equated with “Uncle” Joe Stalin) in “1984“.

That said, Wiki confirms:

Berkshire pork, [is] prized for its juiciness, flavour and tenderness, is pink-hued and heavily marbled and its high fat content makes it suitable for long cooking and high-temperature cooking

We’d agree with this — a couple of the best chops we’ve had for years came our way recently. Sourced from Sylvia (again) at Old Weston Garden Farm, they were cooked simply under the grill with a few fresh herbs. The meat was fantastic, juicy, firm and the crackling to die for. The Berkshire that did (die that is), did so in a very good cause.

There’s a fuller history on the breed in the normal section of the site.