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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

It Sonofagun Worked

"What do you think?" I asked Steve, watching his expression as he chewed thoughtfully.  After fourteen and a half years of marriage I still can't read him.

He chewed a moment longer, swallowed and said, "I think it's pretty wonderful."  I don't think he's ever described any victual I've made before as wonderful, and I've made some wonderful things.

What was wonderful was the homemade prosciutto that I'd handed him to sample. Homemade prosciutto is more than possible; it's definitely doable.  Using the River Cottage Food Tube recipe, which is one and one half days on salt per kilo of meat, and after rinsing and patting it dry, I rested the pork sirloin I used for the requisite time (three weeks) uncovered on a rack in the bottom of the refrigerator. Today I cut into it, and it sonofagun worked.  The folks at River Cottage used a British cut (natch) for which we have no equivalent in the states, but when I described to Dennis, who was the gentlemen who cut up my half hog for me, where on the animal this said cut was, he suggested I use the sirloin, which is not something you see in the butcher case, generally speaking.  This worked so well that I'll really have to figure out what I can use for the next one; I may have to special order something.

While at the Mother Earth News Fair the weekend of June 6 and 7, I attended a lecture on heritage hogs by Jeanette Beranger of the Livestock Conservancy (which was very good).  From her I learned that there are two kinds of hogs that I want to raise.  One is the American Guinea hog, which is described as a homestead hog because it's a smaller hog.  According to Ms. Beranger, the American Guinea hog is descended from the Essex.  It's a very fatty, lard hog, and she also indicated that there is currently more market for it than there is supply, at least on the coasts.  Obviously, there is no demand for it in pork country.  Easy for beginners (that would be me), it's also great for keeping snakes at bay.

The other hog I would like to raise is also a smaller hog, but it's much more lean than the American Guinea.  The Mulefoot hog is called that because it doesn't have a cloven hoof.  It has very dark meat and makes great hams.  (Prosciutto, anyone?)  It is also supposed to be very easy going and easy for beginners to raise.

Don't laugh - it worked!
Raising pigs for home use is still a pipe dream, along with the acreage I want, so in the meantime I'll just keep practicing my charcuterie skills. The bacon from my half hog that I cured and smoked turned out really well, too, but I know where I can get more pork belly when I run out of it, and bacon is pretty simple to make once you get your smoker figured out.  I smoked mine in a cardboard box, for instance.  I would like to try it on apple or hickory; the first batch I made I smoked on oak bark, which worked great! It is really smoky and delicious and way better than commercial bacon.

By the time I get my country property and my hogs in situ, I should be pretty good at this.

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