Half a Pig …

Half a Pig …

Just as I was reading this article in the SF Chronicle about people buying meat shares (which mentions my friend Bonnie over at Ethicurean and her meat CSA she’s starting), Matt, my butcher called to say that my pig was ready. Well, half a pig, actually. I bought it from my Milk Lady, and while it was stupendously expensive, what can I say? I grew up with the heirs to the Armour and Swift fortunes and well, I’d rather buy Isabelle’s kids new school clothes. Plus, if her pork is anything like the delicious Jersey milk or those eggs I buy from her, well, then it’s going to be a stupendous pig. Really, the eggs have ruined me — last time I went to California for work I nearly cried over the crappy fried egg they served me for breakfast. It didn’t taste like anything. Certainly it didn’t taste anything like the gorgeous eggs I’ve gotten used to buying from Isabelle — eggs that have yolks the color of marigolds, yolks that stand up at attention. They’re gorgeous.

pig in a wheelbarrow Here’s a wheelbarrow full of pig. The reason it was at Matt’s for a while was that he made me a ham and a couple of hocks. And butchered. ham in a box Isabelle suggested doing half a ham and having Matt cut the rest into steaks — he makes the best ham, but really, for little old me? a whole ham? Either I have a party or give it away — so I’m going to try this out. Ham slabs. The rest of it I just had butchered like normal — I have a big loin roast, which has dinner party written all over it, a lot of chops, a couple of shoulder roasts which I had him cut in half so they’re smaller, a bunch of packages of coarsely ground pork I can use for pates and sausages, and a big old slab of side pork that I’m going to make into another pancetta. There’s also a big bag of fat I’m going to render into lard, and a package of neck bones. I didn’t get the head or the feet — Matt said they came in to him without them and although I considered chasing down a head to make guanciale or head cheese out of, after seeing this video of Chris Cosentino butchering a pigs head (actually, I couldn’t get through the video, the prospect of brains and eyeballs freaked me out), well, I decided if I couldn’t watch the video I wasn’t going to be able to deal with the head. Maybe next year.

Because I’m leaving town next week I had to just cram it all into the freezer (although I might render that lard before I go). There’s still a significant amount of lamb and antelope in there from past purchases (and the Mighty Hunter and his son say they’ll restock me with antelope), so I tried to be organized — big stuff in the back, smaller stuff like chops up front where I can just grab one. And then the slab of side pork — luckily it fit, I was a little worried.

So there it is. A year’s worth of pork in my freezer. It was expensive but I know where all the money went — to two people I really like, my Milk Lady and my butcher. I know that pig was fed nothing but good stuff, including a lot of fallen apples and greens from the garden. I know that pig was leading a happy piggy life until the Milk Lady’s husband snuck up and shot it in it’s pen, so it never went to a feedlot or a scary slaughterhouse. All in all, if you’re going to eat meat, and even I’m trying to cut back, I’d rather know where it came from and who raised it and perhaps even more important, I’d rather put my money into my local community. (Plus that crammed freezer, like my pantry full of pasta, makes me happy. At least I’m not going to starve this winter. I can even feed many of my friends.)Tonight I’m going to start out with a little ham slab, maybe cooked with some garden carrots and potatoes, in a little white wine and herbs. Mmm.

2 thoughts on “Half a Pig …

  1. Good job getting a pig of your own (even if only half). We buy a pig at a time from http://www.sugarmtnfarm.com/blog/ because they are local to us. Like you, we like knowing how they were treated and fed. And our money stays in our community. And the farm shares our values.

    If you check around the sugar mountain blog, you’ll find a recipe for curing hams. That’s how our family does it and it isn’t hard. We also cure bacon, which is wonderful.

    Good luck with it.

  2. I love Walter’s blog — and he contributes to Ethicurean as well — how lucky you are to get one of his pigs. And as much as I’d like to play around with curing a ham, our local butcher Matt does phenomenal hams. He keeps winning prizes for his ham and bacon and sausages (although I wish he’d do more fresh sausage). I did keep the belly and I’m planning to do another pancetta, and some pates like I did last year — and I found a Jacques Pepin recipe for a dry-cured pork loin that I want to try with antelope — so when I get back from Chicago, I think there are going to be some meat products hanging in my basement again. What fun!

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