Some of you have been asking me why we aren’t using feral pigs in the smokehouse, given that they are such a pest for farmers. Feral pigs are a little too gamey for what we are trying to do, but it got me to thinking about what we have been doing with the Jowlciale and the Surryano ham. In a way, those products came about by using a pig that was almost as strange to me as the feral pig that’s been rooting up crops all over Texas and Florida. I am talking about the Berkshire pork I buy from Heritage Foods USA.
I really didn’t know that much about the Berkshire, or the other breeds of pig that Heritage sells. So when Patrick Martins, the founder of Heritage, brought me those first samples, I didn’t expect them to be much different from the pork I was already buying. I just thought I was helping out some family farms. Turns out there is a big difference, in flavor and in texture. They were absolutely perfect for producing dry cured hams like the Serrano, Prosciutto and of course the Great American Country Ham. Course it took a year to find that out, cause that is how long it takes us to make a Surryano ham. But once we established that Berkshires did taste better, we started buying more and more of them, along with the Tamworth and the Red Wattle. Not only do they taste better, and cure up better, those pasture-raised pigs are a lot better for the environment and are certified humanely treated.
But, nowadays I am always struggling to get enough bellies, and jowl, and I barely get enough trim for the sausages. Used to be that everyone wanted the loin, and the cuts I liked were less expensive and easy to find. No more. I need to figure out more things to do with more parts of the pig! People got turned off of the loin when new breed of hogs got super lean, but these pastured raised Berkshires, Red Wattles, and Tamworths make great loins.
The real bottleneck though is that even with a steady supply, (and I have a stack of farmers ready to raise the pigs I want in the Heritage way), I have nowhere nearby to humanely process them! But we are working on that, and if everything goes right, we hope some fellow Virginians will be opening a new processing facility in January. I will keep you posted.