Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tamworth pork: The other red meat?

We've been quite busy this past week or so dealing with several hundred pounds of wonderful Tamworth pork. The two pigs we had brought home last June at 7 weeks of age had grown steadily, happily rooting and grazing on pasture as well as enjoying top-quality organic grains. We knew they were bigger than the two Tams we had had slaughtered last year, but we were fairly astounded to learn that they were actually quite a lot larger than we expected.

Last Thursday, we met with Gabriel (chef at the Alder Wood Bistro in Sequim) and Sean (one of his cooks) to begin the process of butchering the hogs. The Bistro is closed every January, affording the crew there a much-needed and definitely well-deserved vacation. Although Gabriel was just buying one of the two pigs, he kindly allowed us to use his cooler to store both carcasses for a few days while we cut it up and made decisions about how to use it all. This was a huge help to us, and we're very grateful for the use of his kitchen space and his knowledgeable help in butchering the pigs.

As I mentioned, the pigs were much bigger than we'd expected. They had been broken down into the large primal cuts: Head, back leg (ham), front leg (shoulder), loin, and side (belly). When we heaved one of the 35-pound loins onto the work table, we weren't too surprised to see a good thick layer of beautiful back fat under the skin. Once the guys had taken out the tenderloin, which lies against the baby back ribs parallel to the spine, they began dividing the gorgeous loin into thick chops. I was so interested in this process (which I'd only been involved in once before, when we slaughtered our first two pigs last year) that it was a few minutes before I noticed something: not only was the meat much darker red than is usual with pork, the meat was beautifully marbled and, to my eye at least, looked more like beef than pork.

Gabriel and Sean worked away at boning and cutting up the pork for several hours. Later in the afternoon, everyone took a break and Gabriel cooked up some of the meat for us. He took some boneless pieces from three different cuts, seasoned them with a little truffle salt, and grilled them quickly. Sliced thinly and served with a mixed-greens salad, the pork was (as my visiting sister Lindy said) "a revelation." The appearance, texture and flavor was actually reminiscent of a good steak. I don't think I had ever had pork cooked this way, and it was truly delicious.

So there you go, folks. Tamworth pork is the new beef, at least while it lasts at the Alder Wood Bistro. If you're within a few hours' drive of Sequim, believe me, it's worth the trip to eat here. The Bistro is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 AM till 3 PM for lunch, and 5 PM to 9 PM for dinner. Reservations are a good idea if you're coming for dinner; call (360) 683-4321.

By the way, if you get out here to the Bistro soon, they might still have some of the fantastic pates that Gabriel made using the Tamworth livers. Just sayin'.

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