Tomorrow I am going to pick up 20+ lbs of Mangalitsa pig from Suisun Valley Farms, and I am super excited about it. Why? I love pig and this pig is on the top for flavor, texture, and the raising process. If I am not eating fish or pasta, I prefer pig over cow any day. Cerdo, carnitas, brisket, whatever name you call it, I love it. Now, with a local supplier of fresh pig I can cook some tasty dishes myself, and after tomorrow, I will have enough to last awhile.
This “discovery” came about when my wife emails me and says, “can we make sure that all of our food sources are non-GMO or organic for our upcoming dinner party?” I said sure, no problem but how does one truly know if a meat source is truly non-modified either directly or indirectly through the feed?
Then I see the Next Iron Chef and they mention Mangalitsa pig as being one of the most sought after pig breeds. Being a curious guy, I did some web searching and I find Suisun Valley Farms, run by Shane Peterson. They raise Mangalitsa pigs just an hour away, and there is also Heath Putnam Farms (Woolypigs.com) the only US breeder of Mangalitsa pigs. They distribute throughout the country via mail and directly through distributors.
Why these pigs? Fed a very strict diet, and allowed to age which gives them a natural fattiness. The price per pound is higher than a normal pig, but there are some very key differences. Allowing Mangalitsa pigs to eat organic feed and to age naturally for fattiness is a plus, for example, Shane finishes his pigs by feeding them acorns. The fattiness is also a key difference between the leaner and meatier normal pig. Nothing wrong with lean, but when it comes down to flavor having a nice piece of marbled pork will yield a much tastier result. I compare Kobe beef to Mangalitsa pork. Both are famous for strict diets and having a higher fat content in the meat.
I recently bought a section of pork belly from Shane and the result was amazing. After getting some advice from Michael Volatagio via Twitter I was ready to cook.
First step was to dry cure the 3lb pork belly.
Pat the pork belly dry with a towel
1 part brown sugar and 1 part kosher salt – enough to cover all of the pork belly.
Rub the mixture generously over the entire section of belly
Cover and let it cure for 12 hours.
Before cooking, wash off the salt and pat dry.
Michael Voltaggio advice:
Sous-vide @ 140 degrees for 24 hours.
Dunk in ice bath and refrigerate. Make sure you stop the cooking process immediately.
You now have a fully cooked pork belly.
Since I Don’t Have a Circulator
2 quarts Beef Stock
1 Coarsely Cut Onion
1 Tablespoon coriander seeds
1 Teaspoon fennel seeds
Enough water to cover the pork belly
I placed all of my ingredients in my Creuset and placed in the oven on high to get the temperature up, and then lowered the heat to warm once the stock reached the cooking temperature. Using a handheld thermometer I got the stock as close to 140 degrees as possible and place the cover on the pot. Monitoring the process every 30 minutes to cool or warm up the bath to keep it steady. Never-the-less, this process is not as precise as an inversion circulator, but after 14 hours the pork was very tender.
Take care of when you lift it out of the stock and pat dry with a towel. You don’t want the belly to fall apart. Place the pork into a Ziploc back and refrigerate until the pork belly has firmed up. I left it overnight and then the fireworks began.
I cut the pork into 2”inch wide strips and fried the skin in a lightly oiled pan (vegetable oil) until it was very crispy, and then fried the sides for warmth and some color. The Asian flavors of the broth were pleasant, and the richness of the fat and the skin made this very small section of Mangalitsa pig very decadent. The first comment my wife said was that this was the best piece of pork she has ever eaten and that I don’t have to give our guests very much. Since a little goes a long way, we may find them taking a nap at the table if the portions are too big.
If you look at the price of Kobe and the price for Mangalitsa, it’s a clear winner. Mangalitsa is expensive, but approachable to home cooks while Kobe is better left to tasting menus on Michelin starred restaurants. If you are inclined to try Mangalitsa I would encourage you to give it a try.
You can follow Shane on twitter : @SuisunValleyFrm and get more information on Heath Putnam Farms at www.woolypigs.com