Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Making Magic

Every animal deserves a good farmer, a good butcher and a good chef. 
The hand and knife belong to James Naquin-chef, butcher, caterer, friend-a food rock star among chefs and butchers and all things meat.  The beautifully marbled cut of meat belonged to a carefully raised Duroc/Hampshire pig.  The setting is our farm kitchen.  And when all of these elements come together, I can promise you, magic happens.
The very best food, with the very best flavors, cannot be rushed.  Good food starts with the soil.  Rich soil produces nutrient dense food-grass for the animals, fruits and vegetables for us.  Our pig breeds are selected for their hardiness, grazing abilities and exceptional flavor.  A sow carries her piglets for 115 days- three months, three weeks, three days.  
Once the sows farrows, the pigs are raised on grass in family groups.  They are fed whey from a local goat dairy that is leftover from cheese making plus pasture and hay, extra milk from our goats and barley.  We don't just feed them the cheapest feed we can find.  We feed them the best feeds that produce healthy animals and flavorful meat.  The baby pigs come out onto the pasture the day that they are born.  They only pick at the grass when they are small, but pasture will make up more and more of their diet as they grow.
We raise Heritage breeds of pigs like Gloucestershire Old Spots, Herefords and Kune Kunes that are known for the exceptional flavor of their pork as well as for being able to turn grass into meat and fat.  The flavor of meat is developed through a combination of genetics, feed and time.  Cheap, poor quality feeds and fast growth produces pale, tasteless meat.  Our Heritage pigs take from 10 months to over a year to grow out, but the taste is worth the wait.

I love the saying above and everything that it encompasses-humane farming, a carefully butchered animal and thoughtful preperation (and this is another local  rock star-Ross Flynn).  Ah, and this is where the magic happens.  When you take that carefully grown animal to an artisan butcher and they handle the meat and cuts with as much care as you put into growing the animal.  We have turned the words " butcher and butchering" into something negative in this country.  Believe me, when you see this old art performed the right way, it is nothing short of amazing. 
Then an equally thoughtful and talented chef, takes that meat and creates a dish that is enjoyed slowly, shared, written about, photographed and shared again.  Every piece of the pig is used, not just the tenderloin or the other prime cuts.  Smoky pork shanks in a rich broth with greens, melt in your mouth charcuterie spread across a crusty chunk of bread, Jambalaya, with all of its layers of flavor, simmering in a huge cast iron pot on the stove-now you are getting the picture!  Friends farmers, chefs and butchers coming together in every step of the process over a shared love of exceptional food, animals, farming, drink and community-now that is truly magic and the very, very best part of this old profession of farming for me.
Pork shanks over polenta with tomatoes and lemon zest