Monday, January 31, 2011

My "nose-to-tail" pig project...

I've always been in to pushing the boundaries of the day-to-day. I think this is why I am so attracted to the restaurant business. Never a dull moment and you never know what each day will bring.

A fellow chef and good friend texted me asking me for ideas on what to do with a whole pig he recently purchased. My mind was racing with great things one could do with such a divine creature; guanciale, bacon, smoked trotters and hocks, head cheese, chicharrĂ³n, the sky's the limit! I was inspired by my friends quest and so I did something about it. (Thanks Bryan!)

Someone showed me this pic and asked me if I could really eat such a cute creature? (Umm...YES!)

So, I've decided that, since I've never broken down an entire animal before, I'd do just that. I bought a whole 60 pound suckling pig decided to create as many items as I could with that beast. Kind of like showing respect to the animal. Besides, will be great practice for my butchery and charcuterie skills. :)

Cut in thirds...


My piggy came in frozen solid and needed a few days to thaw. After a good "chill" in the cooler, I plopped her out onto the prep table and began. Armed with a hack saw and a couple sharp knives, I began my duties.

Dispatched...


Even though this was a small pig, I still had to put two cutting boards together to have enough work space to butcher this bad boy. After a good rinse, I began by removing the head. I put this aside for head cheese I plan to put on our charcuterie plate at a later time. Besides, I've always wanted to taste head cheese over a nice local salad.

Burning off the hair for the head cheese.


Simmering away in wine, garlic and herbs for about 5 hours.


The finished product, pretty yummy!

Next, I removed the hams and then the buts with my boning knife and under sized hack saw (next time I do this, I will be sure to buy a real butcher-style hack saw and not a small house-hold one from my neighborhood hardware store, lol). It took some doing, but worked out perfectly.

I removed the skin for pork rinds, the trotters to add to the head cheese and the hocks for smoking (think I'll put those in some local collard greens, yum), then saved the butts to make American style hams. The hams came out amazing, but, sadly, I didn't get a picture of the pork rinds before we ate them all! Yes, they were insanely good.

Perfect ham with Dijon brown sugar glaze.


Smoked ham hocks for collard greens? Maybe soup?

Now, I split the saddle down the middle. I removed the bellies of both sides. One of them will be stresa (a flat pancetta) and the other half will be traditional belly bacon (or streaky bacon).

Hack saw. Splitting the saddle in half.

Future bacon.


With the loins, I sawed one into chops (I marinated those with jerk seasoning and grilled them!) and the other, I broke down into loin/ tender loin feeding the ribs to my cooks for our dinner. (they simmered them in a spicy jalapeno salsa and we ate them over rice with tortillas, yes, it was good.) The other loin, I made into Canadian bacon for eggs Benedict ;) .

My finished Canadian bacon came out perfect!


Tiny loin chops!

I love tasso ham, so I de-boned the shoulders, cured them, packed them with spices and smoked them over hickory. Salty, hammy goodness :)

Any scraps left over were set aside for meatballs. I will sear them and serve them Swedish style over home-made egg noodles.


So, head cheese, tasso ham, American style ham, pork rinds/ chicharrĂ³n, bacon, stresa, Canadian bacon, smoked hocks and meatballs. This little piggy definitely went to market and a tasty market at that! Next time, I will source a larger animal and get some better tools. But, this was a great experience for sure and I really learned a lot!

(more pics to follow!)

1 comment:

Leslieraemosier said...

Just awesome Chef! I can almost taste that head
cheese through the screen.