From Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook
“Is there any better, more noble, more magical animal than the pig? Not from a cook’s perspective there isn’t. Virtually every single part of a pig can be made into something delicious. Pork makes just about everything taste better, and no beast offers more variety, more possibilities, more traditional, time-tested recipes per ounce than the humble piggy.
Here, more than anywhere else, it is necessary to jettison right now any squeamishness or preconceptions about what you can and cannot eat. Unless you are an observant Jew, Muslim, or Hindu, there is no reason at all not to throw yourself with abandon into the veritable magical mystery tour that is pork. From nose to tail , from beard to butt, it’s all good, all useful, a walking, snorting, squealing specialty store of valuable and versatile ingredients. Turn whatever ideas you might have about “the other white meat” right on their head, because the lean, white, relatively fat-free chops and roasts the pork industry would like you to think are the best parts are in fact the limiting and uninteresting. It is a severe Food Crime when the major pork producers breed pigs for leanness, as all chefs know that the fattier stuff is by far the best and most useful.
The pig’s tail , slow roasted, then breaded and fried; or used in soup; or salted, cured, and stewed, is good good good. It’s legs and shoulders become gorgeously cured hams of countless cultures: Parma (prosciutto), Smithfield, Bayonne, jamonne blanc, the incredible and life-changing Spanish patas negras…Salt pork, fatback, smoked hock, and poitrine (belly), whether fresh , semi-cured, or cured (as with bacon), were essential ingredients in many ancient cultures, and in many ways, the history of interplay between salt and pork is the history of the world. Few things are not made better with the addition of a fat, smokey lardon of bacon.”
Heritage pigs are specialty breeds that haven’t been tainted by the gigantic pork industry. Bourdain has a good point about the mass produced piggies. They really are boring and dry compared to the way hogs are supposed to be. Heritage breeds are fattier, tastier, better marbled and just damn all around good. The farms that are starting to raise (or have been raising) these breeds are doing more than just selling a superior hog, they are helping to keep these breeds alive. In the 30′s there were 15 breeds of pig that were raised, 6 of those breeds are now extinct. Creating a market for these breeds ensures that they won’t be lost. Give one of these farms a shout and order up some pork or you may be lucky enough to have a local farm that is raising these wonderful beasts. Either way support heritage breeds of pig and any other livestock. You’ll be happy with your choice.
Heritage Foods – Sells heritage breeds of pork, lamb, beef, bison, chicken, turkey as well as many other really fantastic products.
Local Harvest – has links to local producers of everything from pork to honey to pistachios
Heritage Pork International – Specializes in Berkshire ham, sausage and bacon.
Northwest Pork – Heritage pork producers selling primal cuts, sausages, smoked products
Flying Pigs Farm – Raising Large Blacks, Gloucestershire Old Spots, and Tamworths breeds and selling all sorts of cuts and pork products.
Caw Caw Creek Pastured Pork – South Carolina based “Heirloom” pork producer
Spring House Meats – Asheville, NC area farm, raising Beef, Lamb, Pork and Chickens and other natural products.
Heritage Breed Conservancy – a non-profit, tax-exempt corporation working to conserve historic and endangered breeds of livestock and poultry