Monday, January 18, 2010
This is Cooking!
The goal of this lesson was not really to find answers to these questions (That would have been an impossible goal given that none of these can actually be definitively answered.) but rather to lead my class to a place where they could see -or begin to see- how rich with experience the cooking life can be if we stay curious and don't try to place limitations on what we think we are supposed to be doing as we pursue our craft. The truth of this was driven home to me big time when, this past weekend, I spent two days at Mosefund Mangalitsa Farm in New Jersey with a group of people (most, but not all of them chefs) who'd come from as from from as far away as Seattle and Houston to learn how to slaughter, butcher, cook and cure hogs from two masters of the craft, Christoph and Isabell Wiesner.
Christoph and Isabell, who breed and farm Mangalitsa hogs in their native Austria (Christoph is president of the Mangalitsa Pig Breeders Union of Austria or “Interessensgemeinschaft der Wollschweinzüchter Österreichs” -IGWÖ) ; Isabell Zernitz-Wiesner is the manager of their farm Arche De Wisentale.) were invited to Mosefund to run the workshop (Pigstock 2010) by Michael Clampffer who raises Mangalitsa pigs for sale to individuals, restaurants and butcher shops. I was there as a guest of Michael who had been my student at CIA in, not coincidentally, Introduction to Gastronomy.*
So what did we do? Well, on Saturday Christoph and Isabell taught us how to slaughter, clean and butcher hogs that, unlike most hogs, have long hair and very large amounts of fat. In all seven hogs were killed. (I did not get to kill any because there were about twenty people in the class who had paid to be there, and since enough of them wanted to slaughter, I had to bow out.) We roasted one the hogs for dinner and the others were eventually taken home by the students who'd paid an up-charge for the meat. On Sunday we drove over to the local firehouse where Isabell showed the group how to turn the offal into dishes like head cheese and blood sausage.
Here is a slide show of some of what happened on Saturday. There are no images of slaughtering here because I did not shoot any that were good enough to include. I did record video of the pig we would have for dinner being slaughtered, however, when I tried to load it to my PC I discovered that my camera was imcompatible with my 64 bit version of that piece of garbage known as Vista. I'll load it when I van wrest my daughter's 32bit Vista-driven machine from her social-networking addicted fingers.
*I cannot begin to tell you how impressed I am by these three. But I'll do it anyway. Christoph, a former civil engineer, showed great expertise in breeding, meat science and butchery. I was equally impressed by his humane approach to animal husbandry and his humility. I did not discuss breeding or meat science with Isabell but I was really impressed by her knowledge of animal behavior and husbandry. She's just as skilled as Christoph at the slaughter plus she's a damned fine cook. Of course, it was Michael who organized the weekend (there is another workshop next week) and did a fabulous job of making sure everything happened when it was supposed to happen and without incident.