Tuesday, May 29, 2012

heritage breed hogs

Pigs were traditionally raised with little direct management, allowed to forage for their own food, fed by-products from dairies, bakeries, and breweries, and used to glean fields after harvest. Pigs' ability to utilize spoiled food and other waste made them a valuable sanitation service even in urban settings. Under such "extensive" husbandry, pigs could be used to produce meat with little investment in feed, time, or labor. Today, most pigs in North America are kept in large, climate controlled buildings and fed high-energy grains that have been grown and transported specifically as animal feed. The evolution of pig husbandry has affected the number and type of pig breeds that were raised. Pigs were first brought to the Americas by Columbus in 1493, DeSoto in 1539, and other early explorers. As colonies were established, pigs were imported from England, Spain, Portugal, and other countries. The types of pigs imported were not well documented until after about 1800, when a multitude of breed names began to appear in the historical record. The most important were three imported breeds - the Berkshire, the Big China, and the Irish Grazier - which were widely used as improvers of common stocks. Pigs were an essential part of every farm, being used for home production of lard and pork. They could also be driven to market to generate ready income. Every region seemed to have its own breed of pigs, selected from available stocks to fit the specific climate, uses, and markets. For most of the 1800s, decentralization of breeds and breeding was characteristic of pig production, and this served to maintain a broad genetic foundation for the future. As the larger settled farms of the Midwest began to produce excess corn, the availability and low cost of this feed attracted pig production and processing to the region. By the mid-1800s, the states that produced the most corn also produced the most pigs, and production declined in the East and New England. The industry was becoming geographically centralized as well and the number of breeds of pigs began to decline. Several breeds became extinct by the early 1900s. Pig breeds were traditionally classified as one of two types, lard or bacon. Lard breeds were used to produce lard, a cooking fat and mechanical lubricant. These pigs were compact and thick, with short legs and deep bodies. They fattened quickly on corn, and their meat had large amounts of fat in it. This was considered desirable for improved taste and keeping qualities of the pork. In contrast bacon pigs were long, lean, and muscular. They were traditionally fed on legumes, small grains, turnips, and dairy byproducts, feeds which are high in protein and low in energy. As a result, bacon pigs grew more slowly and put on more muscle than fat. Almost all American pig breeds were considered lard types, with only the Yorkshire and the Tamworth classified as bacon breeds. The market for lard was very strong during World War II, when it was used in the manufacture of explosives. With most lard diverted for military purposes, people had to switch to vegetable oils for cooking. After the war, these oils were successfully marketed as healthier fats, and lard never regained its place in the diet. About the same time, petrochemicals and synthetic nitroglycerine replaced lard for industrial and military purposes. With the decline in the market for lard, demand for lard pigs collapsed. This sudden market shift caused selection of the lard pig breeds to change completely. Breeders needed to produce leaner meat, and they began to select pigs for muscling, rather than fattening, when fed corn. The most popular breeds of the time, including the Berkshire, Duroc, Hampshire, Poland China, and Yorkshire, received most of the industry's attention. These breeds were widespread, and they had the genetic diversity necessary for selection to change direction. The less popular lard breeds were ignored, and most of them disappeared. Only three breeds of traditional lard type remain today, the Choctaw, Guinea Hog, and Mulefoot. The economic structure of pig production has also changed dramatically since World War II. Pigs used to be an integral part of subsistence and diversified commercial farming, and every farmer kept a few pigs. In contrast, production today is dominated by a few large corporations which are vertically integrated, controlling every step from selection of breeding stock to marketing pork in the supermarket. The number of pig farms has declined precipitously; some farmers have become contract growers for the corporations and others have gone out of business. Fewer and fewer sale barns and processing facilities are open to independent pig farmers. This economic centralization has led to genetic narrowing as well. Today, the pork industry rests on a three-way cross between a few highly selected strains of the Duroc, Hampshire, and Yorkshire breeds which have been chosen for performance under intensive husbandry. The seven other commercial breeds that remain, including the Berkshire and Poland China, have declined in economic importance, and a handful of critically rare breeds barely cling to survival. It is ironic that an industry whose success was built on a foundation of genetic diversity is rapidly discarding most of its remaining genetic material. Rare breeds of pigs will not be conserved by the pork industry, since these breeds do not have the characteristics desired for today's intensive production of pork. Instead, survival of rare breeds depends upon their use in traditional production niches, such as on pasture and in woodlands, where their hardiness and efficiency have economic value. The market for sustainably produced pork is very small, but it is increasing. In addition, diversified commercial farmers are once again becoming interested in using pigs in conjunction with land clearing, field crops, specialty vegetables, dairying, fruit production, and other agricultural enterprises. This may also provide habitat for rare breeds… having been raised on a hog farm, i have learned to appreciate these breeds and thoroughly enjoy their deep pig flavor... we raised heritage breed yorkshires before it was cool to raise heritage breeds........ my first sow was named esmerelda..... she was a 400+ pound beauty.......

Sunday, May 27, 2012


on march 11th of 2o12 I handed the historic kitchen at the shelburne inn over to my linecook and a hired gun- so that I could attend the premier pork event of the year- cochon555’s fourth us tour….. this sunday, the day of the sabbath and a day to rejoice pig itself- we will be conjoining on an eatery in downtown portland, oregon (pdx)- the original, a classy modern joint with a high bar, a pig orientated chef and the space to host 400+ swine lovers… well 402 counting me and my baby (who got us the $350 tickets to this pugnacious pig affair) so the plan is- 5pm VIP entry . 5-6pm tasting . 5:15-6pm butcher demo by tracy smaciarz of heritage meats washington . 6:30 the votes are open . 6:45 heritage hog bbq by ethan powell + tobias hogan of EaT oyster bar . 7pm dessert . 7:15 champagne toast . 7:30 awards…. a friendly competition when five chefs cook for one cause- pig ........! converging on downtown pdx I was reminded that one of my wisdom teeth had gone on full blown swollen… I couldn’t pass this up… in we went, stopping to enjoy a table of cultured milk curds provided by cheese bar of portland….. next it was on to trays of hamma hamma oysters on the half shell- as swollen as I was I consumed 2 to 3 dozen…. slurpin ‘em down one after the next… entering the event we are blessed with mason jars full of bacon- on every fucken table in the room- thanks brady…. first room we hit was booming with the presents of chef adam sappington of the country cat dinner house and bar- the berkshire was his hog of distinction… he and his wife made scrapple chips with ranch, all pork slow buns, bacon & butterscotch cookies (I went back twice for these pork poppers), texas bbq baked beans- this crew is going to be hard to beat…… into the big room with chef vitaly paley of paleys place- my down the block competition years ago when I was at tribeca…. Nonetheless he is a bad ass james beard award winning chef and the former cochon555 prince of pork…. vitaleys’ red wattle hog offerings included- black pudding with rich pork broth, spicy pork belly buttercup, face & feet croquettas (these were fricken off the hook), mad mans pork loaf with molasses mustard and a 3 layer terrine of pig…. moving on past vitaley yields naked dead pig parts and master butcher from heritage meats Washington- tracy smaciarz… cutting a large black from the collective… today the some culinary students and tracy worked together to create a series of essays and photographic essays on complete animal utilization… bravo guys- bravo…… on the corner of the room I found the crazy ass team from the woodsman tavern- with one of the crew swingin’ a huge chainsaw in the air for the local paparazzi film team…. their offerings were given up by a duroc hog from worden hill farm…. chef jason barwikowski is another pdx bad-ass, at clyde common he barrel-ages his own spirits in the basement…. his menu for the evening included- kielbasa two ways, kishka pierogi with apple butter vinaigrette, bigos- hunter stew (this was piglicious) and braised pig head….. opposite corner of the large room lay ms. naomi pomeroy of beast….. but I was diverted by a tiny asian woman named rita jia you of lucky strike…. she blasts us with the true taste and aromas of sichuan cuisine, she hails from where the pig is a pillar of good eating and it shows….. salty, spicy, pungent parts of the tamworth, this chick kicks ass…. little hibachi grills pour flavor filled vapors around the room…. a stop at the sokol blosser table for a glass of organic oregon pinot noir, then on to naomi pomeroy and beast… the black shirt chick brigade of beast converted a mckinley farms large black into: foie gras poached pork loin with aged sauvignon blanc pickled fennel, devilled pork mousse with oregon black truffle toasted brioche, celery-apple slaw, mini parker house rolls with 16 hour grape-wood smoked pork shoulder with long cooked collards and crispy shallots, glazed pork belly with angelino plum & ginger confiture and micro mustard greens, pork pudding with cinnamon sugar cracklin’s and vanilla bean whipped lardo- this plate was like a little full on rock show but just too much going on for me to enjoy one thing…. that’s it- all the pork was behind me….. but out rolled brady with ethan powell & tobias hogan of EaT oyster bar pushing a boos block with two huge ass smoked pork butts and a half dozen southern sides….. time to get my eat on one more time….. watching them fill a tower of over 400 champagne flutes was very impressive but my vote went to- adam sappington, but he did not leave as the prince of pork 2o12….. I will await the next cochon555 event with straight up exuberance…. maybe in another city, maybe in the great city of portland, oregon….. I hope that you will join me heather carosi, I hope that you will join me…. one more glass of champagne before we hit the road for the coast of washington state… this was one of the most memorable food event of my life I am so glad we shared these moments together…..! I hope that people understand that we must consume these heritage breed beasts to keep the breeds alive for generations to come…. our children deserve foods not born in test tubes….

Saturday, May 26, 2012

an ode to the belly........

ROOM! room! make room for the bouncing Belly, First father of sauce and deviser of jelly; Prime master of arts and the giver of wit, That found out the excellent engine, the hog roasting spit, The plough and the flail, the mill and the hopper, The hutch and the boulter, the furnace and copper, The oven, the bavin, the mawkin, the peel, The hearth and the range, the dog and the wheel. He, he first invented the hogshead and tun, The gimlet and vice too, and taught 'em to run; And since, with the funnel and hippocras bag, He's made of himself that now he cries swag; Which shows, though the pleasure be but of four inches, Yet he is a weasel, the gullet that pinches Of any delight, and not spares from his back.. Whatever to make of the belly a sack. Hail, hail, plump paunch! O the founder of taste, For fresh pig meats or powdered, or pickle or paste! Devourer of broiled, baked, roasted or sod! And emptier of cups, be they even or odd! All which have now made thee so wide i' the waist, As scarce with no pudding thou art to be laced; But eating and drinking until thou dost nod, Thou break'st all thy girdles and break'st forth a god....

sustainable west coast seafood watch list

worldwide, the demand for seafood is increasing…. yet many populations of the large fish we enjoy consuming are overfished and, in the US, we import over 80% of our seafood to meet the current demands… destructive fishing and fish farming practices only add to the problem….. by purchasing fish caught or farmed using environmentally friendly practices, you’re supporting healthy, abundant oceans… MBA recommendations are thoroughly researched by monterey bay aquarium scientists… make a difference- purchase green list seafood . ask your fishmonger where your seafood comes from . tell your friends, the more ocean-friendly shoppers out there, the better…. your best choices are: us farmed abalone, farmed arctic char, us farmed barramundi, us farmed catfish, us farmed clams, longline pacific cod, Dungeness crab, us pacific halibut, us spiny lobster, us farmed mussels, us farmed cold water estuary oysters (such as those from willapa bay, wa or damariscotta, me), hook & line black rockfish, alaskan sablefish (black cod), wild alaskan salmon, us pacific sardines, off bottom farmed scallops, oregon pink shrimp, wild striped bass, us farmed tilapia, us farmed rainbow trout, skipjack tuna, yellowfin tuna, hook & line white sea bass…..

Thursday, May 24, 2012

sea beans...............( salicornia )

mysterious green plants known as sea beans (or just 'greens' to native folks) are popping up and have becoming increasingly prominent at farmers markets and local foods driven restaurants throughout areas that have a good supply, especially here in the pacific northwest where washington state and oregon meet at the mouth of the columbia river…. I have been receiving buckets of these saline palate pounders from my local forager and finding them in the marshes of willapa bay……. although their scientific name is salicornia, they are frequently referred to by many names, including pickleweed, glasswort, drift seeds, sea asparagus, sea pickles, and marsh samphire…. found in the tidal flat areas, their vivid ultra-green stalks, which grow on salt marshes and beaches, have a crunchy texture and a briny flavor with a vegetal aftertaste that's been likened to asparagus (without the smelly pee)….. they can be eaten raw, but have a high sodium content, so often they are blanched to remove some of their saltiness….. sea beans can also be sautéed, steamed, pickled, and even battered and fried, yes fried…… I have been tossing them with meyer lemon juice and serving them with crispy wild caught spring chinook salmon skin for $15, or a thick piece of applewood smoked salmon belly over the same meyer lemon dressed sea beans- fricken yum…. salicornia is a genus of succulent, halophyte (salt tolerant)plants that grow in salt marshes, on beaches, and among mangroves…. salicornia species are native to north america… salicornia europaea is a highly edible wild edible, either cooked or raw…. in england it is one of several plants known as samphire; the term samphire is believed to be a corruption of the french name, herbe de saint-pierre, which means “st. peter's herb…..” samphire is usually steamed and then coated in butter or olive oil….. due to its high salt content, it must be cooked without any salt added, in plenty of water….. It has a hard stringy core, and after cooking, the edible flesh is pulled off from the core….. this flesh, after cooking, resembles seaweed in color, and the flavor and texture are like young spinach stems or asparagus…. samphire is very often used as a suitably maritime accompaniment to fish or seafood….. eating this coastal treat raw with a little fresh squeezed lemon juice is allowing one to truly experience this salt loving plant at its finest… In addition to salicornia europaea, the seeds of salicornia bigelovii yield a highly edible oil…. salicornia bigelovii's edibility is compromised somewhat because it contains saponins, which are toxic under certain conditions…. this is where years of foraging come into play- one should know the true identity of a foraged wild edible before consumption…. a friend told me before I went live with this post that her haida and tlingit indian friends in alaska called sea baeans ‘…greens…’ and that they make a salad with mayo, crispy bacon bits, green onion, hard boiled eggs and sea beans- something that resembles egg salad to us white bread americans in the lower 48… These same native people sometimes put tiny local salad shrimp in the salad as we do in our kitchen on occasion…… yum

foraging with veronica williams.....my forest floor gypsy

ms. veronica williams learned to pick mushrooms and berries as a way of life, from her mother in her native hungary… she has been a citizen of the united states of America and a resident of south bend, washington since 1949… although none of us will ever know our forest floor gypsy’s true age- these things are best left untouched…. the hilly forests of pacific county resemble the land she grew up on, knew and loved as a child… naturally, the familiar landscape and surroundings encouraged her to continue her avocation and traditions of reaping the harvest of wild edible commodities…. It is a joy to watch her haul in bucket after bucket of wild harvested celery, flats of fiddlehead ferns (these she blows the brown paper like skin off with a pressure washer), multitudes of mushrooms (some she swears are the biggest she has ever found), white and black truffles (she once gave me like $1200.oo worth as a gift- well I traded 2 pieces of beer-can chicken for them), huckleberries, salmonberries, goose tongue and watercress…. according to veronica- ‘…..the food is here for the picking….’ Her skills netted her 200+ gallons of wild berries last season, she has a wealth of SPOTS…. these SPOTS will never, ever be given up to anyone outside her immediate family…. she may sometimes wind up with another of my farmers weaved baskets, but this is the coolest old chick I have ever met… the products that she brings me cannot be dubbed ORGANIC, for they are wild, like veronicas spirit when she is in the deep emerald green forests… it should not go without saying that veronica forages with a respect for all that grows, following the ways of the native american people- the original ecologists….! she is a lifelong member of the mycological society of america and prizes herself on what she describes as “mushroom eyes’….. see- veronica can spot an edible mushroom from the seat of her car travelling at fifty miles an hour…. veronica has been the chef at the tokeland studio outpost since its opening in 1985…. The food in her kitchen is prepared the old school way, from scratch- using wild and natural ingredients…… veronica is a chefs chef, loving to talk food, she is a true inspiration for people educating themselves on wild edibles…. having her float in and out of my kitchen 2-3 times a week is a pleasure, this the kitchen where friend of veronicas- mr. james beard had cooked thirty years prior… for wild edibles call veronica @ 360.718.0362 or 360.875.6295… she has a solid following among us chefs here in the pacific northwest and beyond… rock on veronica – rock on…… the three early oyster mushrooms that you brought me today with the wild celery were fricken absurd, they were the size of my hand, one bigger……

wild stinging nettles.........( urtica dioica )

several weeks ago I was blessed with a big ass basket of nutrient rich wild stinging nettles from my dear friend and nationally acclaimed forager and life-long member of the american mycological society, ms. veronica williams… she says that she gathered this bunch of nettles from an area close to the mouth of the columbia river on the oregon side close to astoria- that is ALL the info she would give up…..! for days after I cursed her for the stinging itch my forearms went through to make the seasons’ first nettle soup…. Nettles happen to be one of my all time favorite wild edibles…. And one of the most nutrient dense of all early season wild edibles… if the season is cooperating one can harvest nettles in the chilly month of february, at sea level that is…. As any forager knows, though, this plant is called stinging nettle for a good reason… when one touches the leaves, the tips of the sharp, hollow hairs penetrate the skin and brake, depositing a toxin… the result is a painful burning or stinging, along with a localized rash… although the young leaves do not seem to sting as much as the more mature ones, the sensation is not a pleasant one in any fricken case… my forearms still itch…..! this stinging quality was once employed by the quileute seal hunters, who would rub themselves with nettles before going out to sea, to help keep them awake through the night… the indigenous peoples of western washington state (where I am now) used nettle leaves, stems, and roots medicinally: a tonic was prepared from any and all of those parts, to reduce the pain and discomfort of rheumatism, colds, headaches and childbirth… the habitat for thriving nettles is deep rich soil and near moisture, frequently shady; sea level to low mountains; extremely abundant in the pacific northwest…. grows throughout most of north america though, I have found nettles in virginia, north carolina, south carolina, tennessee, new hampshire, vermont and maine….. urtica comes from the latin uro, ‘to burn,’ because of the nettle’s stinging hairs, dioica means that the male and female flowers are on separate plants, though in general this is not true of nettles found in the pacific northwest…

Sunday, May 20, 2012


The various parts of a meat animal which are used as food but which are not skeletal muscle. The term literally means “offfall”, or the pieces which fall from a carcass when it is butchered. Originally the word applied principally to the entrails. It now covers insides includingthe heart, liver, and lungs (collectively known as the pluck), all abdominal organs and extremities: tails, feet, and the head including jowls, brains andtongue. In the USA the expression “organ meat” or “variety meat” is used instead… Offal from edible birds and poultry is usually referred to as giblets(nothing beats a good New England giblet gravy on Thanksgiving)… Another archaic English word for insides, especially those of deer, was ‘umbles’, a term which survives in the expression “to eat humble pie”, meaning to be apologetic or submissive…. The taste and texture of offal depends on the particular organ, and on the species and age of animal from which it was harvested from. Generally speaking, offal from young calves is held to be the best, providing large organs of fine flavor and texture (sautéed calves liver and onions- yum)…. Heritage breed lamb offal is also good, but sheep, pig, and ox offal tends to be coarse in flavor and texture….. Although some pig liver is on the sweet side, especially if the liver is from a free foraging pasture raised heritage hog… Offal does not keep well so must either be prepared and cooked quite soon after slaughter or turned into a product which does keep…. The type of offal used in any given culture depends on the favored meat animal, which may in turn depend on religious dietary laws….. Muslim countries use a tremendous amount of lamb offal.…. The Chinese have numerous ways of dealing with organs from their big black pigs….. Offal is a wonderful source of protein, and some organs, notably the liver and kidneys, are very valuable nutritionally….. In most parts of the world, especially the less developed countries, it is valued accordingly. In the English-speaking world, however, the pattern is different. In North America, there has been and still exists a squeamish attitude toward most variety meats. In Britain, where there used to be no qualms about eating offal, overt consumption has declined in the last half of the 20th century, although most offal is in fact still eaten in processed foods where it is not clearly ‘visible’ to the consumer- hot dog anyone......? Squeamish attitudes may be explained on various grounds. Heads and feet remind consumers too directly that the food is of animal origin. Ambivalence about eating certain bits of an animal’s anatomy, such as testicles, is expressed through the use of euphemistic names like swingin’ steaks, fries and rocky mountain oysters to mention a few (dare one eat rocky mountain oysters on the half shell)…..! Some internal offal has surreal shapes and strong flavors, which are not to everyone’s taste. The meat of feet and ears is characterized by textures which are gelatinous and crunchy at the same time, a combination which is generally disliked in the western world, although appreciated in the Orient… I love slaughter time, I make ‘the listener sandwich’- (a crispy pigs ear between two pieces of white peasant bread with a splash of homemade coca cola barbecue sauce)…. A true gastronomic delight out of the two pig ears that generally go to waste…… Roasted snout can be crispy and gelatinous at the same time, leaving ones taste buds and palate in a wonderful place….