Saturday, January 07, 2006

Eating Happy- Kate's first pig

In the grand porkiness of things, my interest is as much about the process as the product, as much about the beginnings as the end. So as I looked over the first comments coming our way from Chefpod in the San Juan Islands afloat on Puget Sound, Washington, I remembered! My first pig. 1973. Lopez Island. Named Happy.

For two Hawaii-raised 22 year-old- haole kids who had never seen a daffodil growing out of the ground or eaten an oyster, let alone keep chickens or kill pigs, ten acres of mostly cedar-wooded land, a long narrow rectangle off Cross Road, a sunny meadow—for when the sun chose to shine in the “banana belt,” and our own tangle of sweet blackberry bushes seemed like the new paradise. It was the time of Mother Earth magazine and “back to the land.” Woody and I had married wearing maile leis then moved from one island to another… to have some room to grow we said. We started a puppet theater called “The Puppet Farm” and in between commuting to Western Washington University’s Fairhaven-Hippie College by ferry boat, we traveled the Northwest performing at schools and fairs living on NEA grants and the GI Bill. It was a brave new world!

Landing on Lopez Island meant inventing rather than finding work. I worked as a waitress at the MacKay Harbor Inn, cleaned the medical clinic on the maid’s nights off, became a housekeeper for an elderly island-born couple on Spencer Spit and began a bakery at the old Richardson’s General Store at the south end of the Island—between making, booking and performing puppet shows We lived in an old Army pup tent as we hammered and nailed a small cabin out of doug fir timber we reused from an old island farmhouse. I had a cook tent under the cedar trees; my pantry was stocked with Bisquick, Cream of Wheat and homemade blackberry jam that never did set up. We had read Euell Gibbons’ books and our new neighbors proved helpful if more than a little amused at our naivety. Sometimes a bushel basket of little Norwegian yellow potatoes showed up on the back of someone’s pickup truck, other days- we were called to help pull some storm-wrecked logs off the beach. After the logs were piled up we learned how to dig for clams and outwit the horse-neck or ‘gooey-duck’ clams- one or two was enough to make a pot of chowder using those yellow finger sized potatoes and our neighbor’s fresh milk from across the road.

The time to test our mother earth mettle came when our best friends took the leap from chickens to pigs. If we helped with the chores, they said, we’d get two for a better price and we could each have a whole hog. What’s not to love about teriyaki pork chops and pineapple ono-ono spam pizzas? Remember we were Hawaii-kine children.

Happy and Shi-shi (our island slang for pee, which she did every time we approached her) grew fat and happy. Some pigs… The Summer Folk came and went as we worked for tips and winter savings. The homegrown pork, (my restaurant job was a bonus here) was going to tide us over while studying for exams; an old chest freezer was found and dragged back from Anacortes; a post and beam shed was designed to accommodate it . One day soon the big friendly half-pets would become meat. An generous old farmer, who had already held our hand through dozens of firsts, volunteered for the slaughter. I decided to work out in the garden and jump in after the kill when my knife skills were needed and the butchering started.

It was not easy. The Seattle city folks brought their kids by to witness the deed “Oh how quaint,” Mrs. Junior League proclaimed as the shotgun was aimed at Happy’s skull. I dug more carrots; weeded more cabbages. The shot rang across the Alder forests and I cringed as the proverbial squealing began.... and continued for what seemed like forever. The pig had raised her head at the last minute and was just wounded in the snout, mortally so, but still very much alive. The “men folk” jumped in the pen and had to wrestle her down as Farmer Joe produced a knife and finished the job as quickly as the thrashing pig allowed. I kept weeding, my head down in the dirt.

Traumatized by that shot and squeal, I don’t remember much else until that evening when we set around the outside fire, the carcass hanging in the shed. The so fresh pork liver went over the coals. I roasted potatoes in foil and chopped some walla walla onions to sauté in sherry. Nervous. I had never eaten pork liver before let alone fresh, really fresh, pork liver. The first taste was magic. Everything changed in a bite. It was porklusciously delicious.

Any reluctance I had was now replaced with eager anticipation to tomorrow’s butchering chore. I would take the knife and using a pamphlet book from the Farm Administration with a pen and ink carcass diagram muddle my way through cutting up a whole pig. I would cut chops and roasts and ribs for two days. Somehow it got hacksawed up, wrapped in freezer paper and stored in the big rusty chest along side a whole salmon and a ling cod traded by a fisherman for a dozen of my famous cinnamon rolls. Life was good.

We finished the cabin by the middle of winter, moved in with a wood stove for heat and eat, and ate Happy chops and Shi-Shi teriyaki burgers until the next summer came around. It was the first and last pig of the Lopez Island days. Soon we would leave for bright lights, city lights and move the theatre studio to Seattle leaving our compost pile untended.

Looking from this far Gascon place, a dozen pigs or more down the road, I now know that I learned then what would become foundation for another life and another career in another country. Keep close to the source; eat what's at hand; pay attention. I still depend on my experienced French neighbors to teach me the ropes; I still am extraordinarily curious of how it all works, from the beginning. My work/travel schedule still discourages me from raising my own four-legged larder, but I buy in at the Ferme Bellevue when there is an extra pig or too many chickens. I help with scraping the bristles off, filling the casing with fresh blood for boudin, boning the hocks and making the paté. Rows of saucissons and coppa hang from rafters with little tags that say “Kate de Camont.” A ham is weighted under the salt, curing until mid summer when I will share it with students and friends when they come to 'Camp France.’ Jars are filled with roti de porc and liver & potato pâté that I store in “The Piggery”- the laundry room/pantry outbuilding here at the French Kitchen at Camont, Ste.Colombe-en-Bruilhois, Lot-et-Garonne, Aquitaine, France--some 8800 nautical miles away, island to bistro-galley. What a Long and twisted Village it has become.

thanks to the for the memories!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Friday's with Fergus

In honor of our guru, Fergus, I began my cooking Nose to Tail with a fresh cut of bone in bacon, pork belly.

Oven Roasted Pork Belly

The recipe I chose starts with making a brine, letting it cool, and then marinating the pork for 3 days before oven roasting it. (I was missing Juniper Berries, market was closed today so will add tomorrow.)

So I am starting this today, Friday,but will post before our Some Pig Blog contest next weekend to give you inspiration.

I hope that we can follow up every Friday with a new recipe.

Send me yours and we will post a link, creating a wonderful resource for pork lover's everywhere.

Today is a holiday, so was a good day to cook.
I made the brine, and put the pork belly in to marinade.
While I was at it, I decided to do a traditional Roasted Pork Shanks, one of the first pork recipes I tried in Bologna, where Pork is KING!

An inforgettable meal!

Easy to prep, simply season the shanks with some salt, pepper, and garlic cloves, sage and rosemary. drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil.
Seal in foil or parchment and slow roast at 350 for about 2 hours, until the meat is colored and pulls away from the bone.

Buon Appetito!

That's dinner!

Gettin ready to pig out!

Simone Mannetti, the same family as Massimo, these guys have a thing for Pork!

Today I was in the Central Market in San Lorenzo, Florence and although there is much excitement and celebrations for the return of the Bistecca alla Fiorentina, I managed to buy some great pork for my homework!

We will be having a virtual Friday with Fergus.

Living here in Italy, I have easy access to the whole hog, from tiny pigs to wild boars.

I was inspired to cook my way through Fergus' Nose to Tail cookbook and decided this would be a great access space fo all of us to share.

With Kate We will be posting our Some Pig blogging weekend event to honor Saint Anthony the Abbot, San Antonio Abate, patron saint of farm animals and Norcini, pork butchers.

I found bone in fresh bacon, which Fergus our Guru, recommends for his recipe.
I will brine it then oven roast.

I also found some Pork Shanks? which I will roast with rosemary and olive oil.

While all these things are taking their slow time... I couldn't resist the beef cheeks to make peposa, the Florentine beef and pepper stew,braised in red wine!

Can you tell I am getting ready to abandon my Tuscan hubby and need to leave a full fridge?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Makin Bacon

Grateful palate
has a Bacon Brittle that I am wild to try!

love syrup on my sausage, so....

One of our favorite sites for bacon is IHEARTBACON

We will be adding on to our favorite experts for more information on all that celebrates our friend the Pig!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Some Pig

Massimo Manetti, Mercato Central Firenze

In March, Kate, Fergus and I are presenting at IACP conference in Seattle on the fabulous food provided to us by the farmer's friend the Pig, Saint's Preserve
, we thought we would share some of our information here on this blog.

Where as the cow is often raised and sold to support the family, the pig provides a year of food, being preserved for consumption during the year. The winter is the season for many of the aging processes to begin for farm families who rely on the cold winter and not refrigerators.

This blog will document some of our favorite, butchers, farmers and recipes that honor the Prince of Winter.. the pig.

Join us as we celebrate the seasons of the Pig, and age old techniques, artisans and butchers carrying on the traditions at the table.