Children use this as an insult in the playground but, let’s be honest here, the best tasting pigs are indeed the ones carrying a large amount of fat over their bones. And I know you can partly make up for — and thus disguise — the lack of this necessary fat with, perhaps the addition of some herbs & spices but that’s a cop-out; trying to overcome the inadequacy of the meat you start with. Fat is it, as we’ve seen so many times before, so this post will take chin-dripping pleasure in covering a couple more of that type of wonderful older breed from around Europe.
First is the Turopolje…
…a beautiful looking animal with black spots on a white or grey skin. Another of the autochthonous breeds, it’s believed to be the result of crossing the Siska pig — a breed that subsequently spread throughout the entire Balkan peninsula — with the Krskopoljski, from neighbouring Slovenia. It’s a bit of a mongrel if truth be told, but then many of these lovely breeds are and are none the worse for that. They’ve traditionally been raised on the flood plains (as well as forests) and have even been observed diving for mussels to supplement their diet.
Like all of the other breeds I talk about here on this site, the mid-20th Century fashion for lean meat — and the concomitant rise of intensive pig farming — means it’s now very rarely found, even in the region of Turopolje, Croatia from where it originates, and is considered to be on the endangered list although it’s thankfully been preserved in some Austrian & German zoos and its numbers are slowly, slowly increasing.
And then there’s the Buntes Bentheimer Schwein also known, slightly less tongue twistingly, as the Bentheim Black Pied….
…a native breed, renowned for their back fat, often more than 10cm. deep, they also declined — almost to extinction — until this slide was halted in the early part of the 21st Century. The wonderfully named Association For The Preservation Of The Colourful Bentheimer Pig (Verein zur Erhaltung des Bunten Bentheimer Schweines e. V.) was founded by Rudolf Bühler and was later helped by the admission of the breed, during 2005, into the Slow Food Foundation’ international “Ark of Taste”.
He, a long term breeder of the Bentheim Black Pied, and his organisation in turn re-established a nationwide herd book to record the extant stock in Germany and went on to setup a coordinated breeding program (plus of course a rather successful modern ‘marketing strategy’ ¹), so the long-term future of this “piggy bank” seems much more secure.
Finally this fatty, fatty, fatty threesome is completed by the Swabian-Hall swine.
It originated in (and the PGO status now demands that it can only come from) Schwäbisch Hall in Baden-Württemberg, Germany where it had been introduced around 1820 by the English King George III (of dual nationality) who — like many a breeder before him — aiming to increase the fat content, imported Japanese 眉山 Meishan * pigs to crossbreed with the native German Landrace.
It proved popular; so much so that by 1959 the breed totalled 90% of all the pigs in Baden-Württemberg. But again, as in the rest of Europe, tastes changed, fatty pigs fell out of f(l)avour and their numbers fell precipitously; so much so that, by 1984, there were only seven breeding sows and two boars left. Luckily, a few breeders kept the faith and demand for its great meat, dark and strong flavoured, from enthusiasts and the subsequent granting of PGO status means that there are now around 1,500 breeding sows.
* NOTE: to be honest, I think you’ll agree that the Meishan actually looks like it was the precursor of the Turopolje and not the Swabian-Hall? This is a breeding pair from the US. What do you think?
But all of them are hugely good to eat. Because of the fat. Because. Of. The. Fat.
This final shot of Mangalica in Austria dates from 1924. Someone entitled this “thin men, fat pigs”…
Finally, finally I have no idea how or where I came across this document which I found recently in my ~/Downloads folder, but it’s just such a fun piece of history; the ANSI code drawn up for a Dry Martini, dating from 1974. Use it wisely, use it well, use it often.
- “Crafted Meat: Or the Wurst Is yet to Come” by Hendrik Haase 2015