My first pig. Ah, how I have longed for this – ever since reading ‘Charcuterie‘ for the first time so long ago. Now, settled into our new home, I have space to butcher, capacity to freeze, and soon the cellar conditions to dry cure the many products I wanted to, but could not produce before. Saucisson sec. Sopressata. Salt cured ham. Smoked salami. The list is very, very long, and the charcuterie tags in this blog are about to explode.
My adventure in pig aquisition began long ago at our local markets, frequently turned off by the overly high prices the farmers were charging for their sides. But on a chance stop in at the city market in September, I ran into Alan Irving of Irving Farm Fresh Meats, who was selling charcuterie products from his Berkshire hogs. I asked about the price for a side of pig, on the hook. $130. Sold. Good price? No idea. Remains to be seen based on the quality of the product – but it was a price I was willing to pay, we set a date, and Friday that day came, finding me in a meat cooler in a small town an hour from here, pulling a side of Berkshire off the hook, and loading it into my car.
Under the advice of this excellent website, we started breaking down the pig into primals. Then into chops, rib racks, ham roasts, shoulder meats for sausage, belly slabs for bacon and roasting, jowl, tenderloin, loin roasts, etc. Fantastic. I’m one of those seemingly rare folks who actually buy most of these cuts anyway, so to have such diversity of inspiration awaiting is very exciting.
So soon enough, I will have yet another ingredient in my pork products: pride. Butchering your own animal gives you tremendous choice, flexibility, control over quality – but even more importantly: satisfaction. My prize possession of all the cuts? The shoulder and fat – dry cured sausages, here we come.