Monday, October 12, 2009
Mosefund Pork: The Other Red Meat
Sunday I hopped into my spiffy rental car (mine's in the shop) and, distracted by a beautiful fall day and Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" on the iPod, drove almost 3 hours up to Branchville, New Jersey to visit Michael Clampffer, a former student from CIA who is raising hogs on the 300 acre Mosefund Farm.
I got to the farm around 2:00 PM and was joined soon joined by Mike Pardus and Megan Jesse, who'd spent the morning foraging for mushrooms. I think Mike said they were foraging in some place called "High Point" but since he said it while he was handing me two bottles of Tuthill Town Whiskey, I can't be sure if he was telling me where they'd been or encouraging me to binge.
Michael Clampffer did not set out to become a swineherd (Not many do these days.). He began his career as I did, working in restaurants. Then after 10 years of yelling and screaming and never having a day off, he landed the job of working at the farm as chef for G. Chris Anderson the farm's owner and his family, splitting his week between the farm and their apartment on the Upper East Side of New York City.
The hogs entered the picture when he suggested raising a couple for their own consumption. (It was anything but a hard sell since Mr. Andersen loves food as much as any of us.)
Their first hogs were a couple of Yorkshires, probably the most common breed in North America. Not fully satisfied with the quality of the pork they got from the Yorkshires, they brought in some Berkshires (Kurobuta) before finally settling on Mangalitsa hogs -a breed of "lard hog" that produces huge amounts of extra-muscular fat and beautifully marbled muscle cuts. (You can read all about them at the web site of Wooly Pigs: the only company the breeds Mangalista N&S or Central America.)
The farm is drop-dead beautiful: 300 acres of pasture and woodland that back up to a ridge of the Kittatiny Mountains and Stokes State Forest. It is primarily a horse farm where people board and ride their animals. But there is a small area devoted to chickens and, of course, a much larger area for the hogs.
As most of you know, most of the world's hogs are grain fed and live in pens. But Mosefund Mangalitsa's spend most of their lives running abound in the pastures and woods adjacent to the hog barn. It's pretty cool to look up into the woodland that rises up almost 500 feet above the valley floor and the see trails made by the hogs during their foraging expeditions.
The hogs run wild for about 10 months, feeding on the chicory that grows in the pasture and whatever they rootle up or catch in the forest supplemented by a diet of grain. All that running around is great fun for the pigs and helps to turn the meat dark red (due to the extra myoglobin needed for oxygen transport) and flavorful. Then for the last 60 days of their lives they are penned and fed mostly barley in order to encourage them to produce large amounts of hard fat that are rich the monounsaturated fatty acids that make this kind of pork so terrific for charcuterie (monounsaturated fats are less prone to becoming rancid,which is critical during the aging process, especially for hams which might hang for two to three years).
As of this writing the farm has around 80 hogs with another 120 piglets coming soon. I'm pretty sure that most of the current herd has been pre-sold, but I could easily be wrong about this. I have not tried Mosefund's Mangalitsa pork yet, but I bought a jowl that looks to be about 98 % fat! I'll post on it after I figure out what to do with it.