3 Little Wooly Pigs...

ready for head cheese...

All I can say is...yea, right! As if they are little. I hope to get some more shots of our harvest, but for now, you will just have to imagine. A chef friend called to say he was actually making a trek to Spokane to pick up about 4 hogs from Heath Putman,(check out post on his blog about the slaughter for us-April 29th) owner and farmer of the famed Berkshire and little known Mangalitsa hogs from his ranch at Wooly Pigs. Some chef's, media and pork aficionados have been talking, writing and blogging about them lately(Michael Ruhlman etc) so I asked if I tack one on to his order. He gladly accepted to do so. So...arrived they did! We ended up needing to store his two in addition to ours since his walk in refrigerators were not completed yet. We had to clear out a whole side of our cooler out, just to be able to get them in. We literally had 3 huge (about 1000 lb.'s) fresh, black, freshly slaughtered Berkshire Hogs ready to be honored and enjoyed. Albeit two were his, but it was an amazing site for sore eyes. As you could see from the spring lamb fabrication class we had last month(see prior post), this was no different, only in that it was about 6 times greater in size. We had actually desired to procure the Austrian Mangalitsa Hogs, which are a bit smaller, and seemingly special and rare, yet they were not ready yet, and the demand is so high, that they are somewhat on a backlog. A lot of chef's have talked about the prohibiting cost factor to get these hogs shipped to them, and yes, it is high, but by picking them up, we saved a bunch of dough. I realize that only a small handful of folks can take advantage of this method(Northwesterners mostly) due to their proximity to Spokane. I recommend to hook up with about 3-4 different chefs and go in on the whole cost for the shipping of the wooly pig. I have received various quotes of costs, but for a whole Berkshire hog, it will run somewhere around $1300-1400. I would suggest to contact Heath directly and chat with him for the actual cost breakdown. I spent two days with a couple of cooks fabricating and processing the beast. It was a great opportunity to show our brigade what this process is all about and how important it is to be able to do this effectively. It can save you a lot of money if you know how to manage it correctly, use everything possible and market the pig, hence honoring it's life and death respectfully. So far, by the end of the night Friday, we had put shoulders into cure for coppa, jowls up for guanciale, bellys ready for bacon and pancetta, spare ribs braised for picked meat for a Spanish Tapas with Calamari, the Top Sirloins in cure for Culatello, bottom rounds ready for a slow roast for the Tapas, the head soaking for head cheese and some fat in cure for lardo (both regular and fennel pollen spiced) amongst other things. We bagged up about 45lb. of shoulder and leg meat for an upcoming event in which we need 60lb. of savory bratwursts and kielbasas. Some cuts will be used for roasts and braises, the loin we roasted and sold for a special function. The tenderloins are being sold in various specials and at the chef's table or tasting menus. So far, the taste has been quite nice, yet I suspect that with the huge amount of marbling that I encountered while butchering, the best is yet to come in the other cuts! Having an ability or outlet in banquets, dining room, lounge etc. definitely helps in being able to justify the expense and move the meat. In a fine dining(dinner) only venue, that might be a bit tough since there is so much fat! At least 50-60lb! There again, we make all of our own salumi and charcuterie so we use the fat, as well as sell the lardo, belly, bacon etc. Our kitchen is one that we make use of all the cuts, and pride ourselves on the full functionality of the garde manger. It is an endeavor that I think all chefs should experience at least once. It is truly a great project and learning opportunity. I try to do it whenever I can, as that is the way that I trained as a cook... to be able to make use of all cuts and by-products so as to understand the make up of the animal and what each cut represents and can be used for and how it is to be cooked.
splitting of the head

removal of cheeks for braise


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