Death of a pig, (part 9) Head Cheese

Nearly 4 months after he was delivered to us Hoosier’s hoof-prints are still making big imprints on our menus.  We are using the leaf fat for the biscuits being serving with fried chicken on our lunch menu.  His jowls, that we cured to make guanciale are being served with a locally produced Buratta cheese.

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Peppered Coppa

On our Charcuterie Chalkboard we are still featuring spiced coppa,  his back fat is in our kielbasa and chicken sausage, and the fat from the hams we smoked are being used to make ham fat – potato croquettes.  The remaining freezer fodder includes some smoked skin and bones, a fair amount of back fat and a few pounds of meat that will end up as sausage, rillettes or even braised.

 

Beyond all that, I just made a non-traditional head cheese, inspired by the head cheese I had at  Cochon a great restaurant in New Orleans.  A few winters back Colleen and I happened by, walking for miles, as we do every time we visit an unfamiliar city.  I had heard of Cochon and since it was about time for a refreshment break, mid-afternoon, we sat outside in the hot February sun, we ordered up some drinks and one of their house-made charcuterie platters.  All of the charcuterie was good, but the head cheese was memorable. It changed the way I have approached making it ever since.

head cheese

Typical Supermarket Head Cheese

Typically it’s the bits of the head; the tongue, ears, cheeks, skin and fat separated by overly gelatinous substance, resulting in a barely palatable concoction. It’s like eating a salty version of that Jello-canned fruit crap my mother would make for us back in the seventies.

 

At Cochon it appeared as though they pureed together some of the head fat with some reduced braising liquid from cooking the head and then folded in the other bits before pouring in all into a terrine to be chilled.

 

 

 

I made it like that a few times with great results, it really is so much better than the traditional version.

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EVOO’s Head Cheese

I decided to take it one step further and smoke the head before braising it, wow, head cheese went from barely palatable to really good to I want some now!  The smoked version is by far the best; sweet, smoky, salty and super rich.  We currently have it on our charcuterie chalkboard, as is, sliced on a board.  On EVOO’s dinner menu we have made a croquette out of it, breading and deep frying a thick slice, serving it with last summer’s raspberry jam, pickled green tomatoes, scallion – green peppercorn sour cream and a butter basted egg.

 

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Head Cheese Croquette

We’ll see if Hoosier offers up any other delicacies worthy of another post. He has had an amazing run on our menu, we greatly appreciate all that he has given us.

Death of a pig (part 7.5)

Back to the ham, I had a Panini today made with Hoosier’s ham.  It was fantastic, Mark (our day sous chef) did the sweet and smoky ham up with Robinson Farm’s (Hardwick, MA) Family Swiss and dill pickled onions served on Raul’s (our baker) sandwich bread. I enjoyed with some of our homemade fries and Alex’s (our long-time lunch cook) tangy ketchup.

My lunch, fries were added after I took the photo.

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Death of a pig (part 8) Saucisson Sec

Making dry cured sausage is simple; grind some meat mix it with spices, stuff it into casings and hang it to dry in a fairly humid, cool space, then wait. To quote Tom Petty “the waiting is the hardest part”.  Three-ish weeks later, if all goes well you have a beautiful semi-dried full flavored, rich, fatty, dry, slightly tangy, cured sausage.  I have made this recipe many times with varied results, mostly great.  However, once in a while I have gotten a batch that just doesn’t work.  Don’t worry when it’s not right it’s obvious, it does not have the rosy meat color you expect from air-dried cured meat, it looks kinda gross and smells rotten.

Below is a pictorial of the steps we used to turn Hoosier’s fat and flesh into Saucisson Sec (dry-cured sausage).

Ground pork mixed with spices.

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The trusty hand cranked sausage stuffer, many hundreds of pounds of sausage have been made using this beast over the 15 plus years we have had it.

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I’m pushing out the sausage into casings.

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Sizing them up.

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Hanging them to dry in our curing room, next to some duck prosciutto that is just about done.

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Three weeks hanging and they’re done.

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Though we still have quite a bit of Hoosier left to use; most notably the head and a bunch of meat to braise, it may be a while before we get into it.  I will continue to write about as we utilize it.

 

 

Death of a Pig (part 1) Delivery

At EVOO all of the land-based protein we use is sourced locally, with the exception of beef, all are from whole animals.  We strive to purchase the best proteins with the least amount of environmental impact.  This will be the first in a series of posts revealing all of the planning and execution we do for nose-to-tail cooking and menu implementation of a pig.

The first thing we need to do is procure the hog.  We deal with several farms that raise pigs, some are growing less than 10 hogs a year which are ready when they are ready.  These farmers usually take orders in the early spring, as soon as they get the piglets, for a late fall delivery.  I recall a couple of years ago one of our annual pig suppliers Pete Lowy of Pete and Jen’s Backyard Birds in Concord MA held back delivery for a couple weeks because “the pigs are enjoying apples” which had recently fallen from the trees. He figured he would delay the inevitable so not only could the pigs uhm… pig-out, there would also be an added flavor benefit to the pork.  Pete and his wife Jen raise a handful of Mangalitsa pigs, a Hungarian breed known for their incredible fat.  We are one of the fortunate few to receive one of these beauties each year.

Other local farmers we use are producing top quality pastured hogs year round. At EVOO we purchase between 4 and 8 pigs a year.  As I hope you will see, over the length of these posts, there is a lot that goes into the complete utilization of each hog.  With the respect we have for the lives of these pigs and limited space in our kitchen, we need to use every bit of one pig before receiving the next.

The pig who you will be following through these posts is from our friends at Dogpatch Farm in Washington, ME.  His name, provided to us by Sue of Dogpatch is / was Hoosier.  Dogpatch Farm specializes in the Mulefoot hog which is a rare Heritage breed known for its freckled marbling, superb flavor and exceptional hams.

Hoosier

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My next post will take you through the first few hours after the pig comes through our doors.