pork!

One evening a few weeks ago, my husband loaded Fern and Petunia onto the trailer, and the next morning, he dropped them off at the butcher shop, along with my cut sheet detailing a dreamy variety of deliciousness. Since we were getting some smoked cuts, it’d be about two weeks, they said.

For the next fourteen days, I thought about that pork daily. Maybe they’ll call today? I’d think, and a happy buzz would zip right through my brain. I thought about it so much that one night I even dreamed about bacon. Since this was the first time we’d raised New Guinea Hogs (the other time or two, we’d raised just the standard fast-growing variety of pig), I was itching to see if we could detect a noticeable flavor improvement. Was the smaller, slower-growing, lardier breed actually worth the extra months of feeding? The promise of a new flavor adventure made me positively giddy with excitement.

Two weeks and one day after my husband dropped off the pigs, we got the call: our order was ready.

$845 for a truckload of meat, fat, and bones

As the kids and I sorted the boxes between freezers — bones and fat in one and all the meaty cuts in another — I pulled out various packages for thawing and sampling: two kinds of bacon, some sausage, a ham.

what I call “Little Red Henning It”:
homemade sourdough, homemade cheese, homegrown ham, CLUCK-CLUCK

For the smoked products, we got Canadian bacon (from one pig), regular bacon (from one pig), and smoked hams (in quarters, and from one pig). We did the celery powder version of smoking (uncured), and it’s quite good, though the traditional bacon has a sweetness to it that I wasn’t expecting, and I’m not sure I like.

We also got boneless Boston butts (from one pig), all the fat (divided between kidney fat and regular fat), and the bones for broth. I discovered a bunch of packs of short ribs that I didn’t order which is kinda fun. And as for the sausage, we got it all ground: 50 pounds of Classic, 50 pounds of Italian, 50 pounds of Breakfast, and 16 pounds plain ground pork. Yes, that’s correct: we got zero pork chops, an omission which apparently horrifies people in the pig-butchering world, but listen: we like sausage.

to go with our Einkorn and whole wheat pancakes and yogurt smoothies

I spent that first week frying up bacon, slicing ham for sandwiches, making spaghetti sauce and breakfast sausage patties, simmering broth, and rendering lard.

an outdoor broth-making station to keep the porky smells out of the house

I’ve tried a variety of methods for rendering the lard — stove top, oven, hand-chopped, ground — as I attempt to streamline my system. Chopping my way through mountains of semi-frozen fat is a blister-inducing feat of sheer madness, which caused me to kick myself for neglecting to ask the butcher to grind it for me, o woe!

But then my husband dug our (never before used) hand-crank meat grinder from the attic and I worked up a wicked sweat grinding up all that fat (which is only a small fraction of what we have in the freezer), which was still very miserable but way better than chopping it by hand.

Some of the lard got a little too cooked, which gave it a porky flavor, but it turns out that the porky lard is sublime for roasting potatoes and making lard-butter crusts for quiche. The good lard, the snow white stuff, is as smooth as an Italian Meringue buttercream and an absolute dream to use. I plan to put it in cookies, biscuits, pancakes, bread, and on and on. (Thus far, I’ve only made lard from the back fat — I can’t wait to see how the fancy kidney fat turns out!)

Lard rendered from one box of fat. I think we have eight.

(I also tried crackins — both plain and in biscuits — and they’re pretty terrible, we all think. Maybe I’m doing them wrong? But I can’t really bother myself to care. I mean, the chickens are huge fans and it’s not like we don’t have enough fat already.)

a bandage-wrapped cheddar: the lard is so silky-soft, I didn’t even need to melt it before applying

And as for the answer to my big question: is this variety of pig worth it? YES. Absolutely and unequivically.

This pork is freaking amazing.
Like, ridiculously flavorful. 
Like, absolutely-worth-the-long-growing-time delicious.
Like, we need to get two more pigs STAT. 

To that last point, my husband is dragging his feet WHICH MAKES NO SENSE WHATSOEVER, especially considering that we’re about to have TWO cows in milk, so while he dilly-dallies about, I passive aggressively punish him by making him dump the buckets of whey on the raspberries and asparagus, whey which, I point out sweetly, we could be feeding to a pair of snuffly little piggies…

This same time, years previous: simplest sourdough bagels, my travails as a self-proclaimed kid environmentalist, three things, kitchen notes, practical and beautiful, the quotidian (10.17.16), a list, the adjustment, grab and go: help wanted, that thing we do.

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