Woolies & Rolling in mud
Some time ago I think it was in February I got a random invitation from a person on my business e-mail reading “Mangalitsa pork tasting in the US.” Usually I don’t pay much attention to e-solicitations but I was curious about Mangalitsa since I was somewhat familiar with it from growing up in Austria. I remembered it as a cute looking pork to me almost feminine looking with its long curly “permed” wooly hair soiling itself in mud.
(These pigs bring to mind one of those mud wrestling matches which usually gathers a huge male crowd - in this case it gathers food fanatics).
Making contact with friends again, but not through Facebook
Anyway I answered the e-invitation and a few chefs including myself were invited to someone’s apartment (prohibition style) to get a few cooked morsels of the first ever available animals on the East Coast (I understand the first little piggies arrived 2005 to Seattle from Austria). I missed the tasting – I simply had too much on my plate at the time. A few months went by another solicitation, and someone came by my restaurant selling pork. Needless to say as a chef I am in the kitchen cooking and do not have time for every sales call/person. But this one I called back – we were talking MANGALITSA. Lucky me I made contact again with the Austrian pig - thank you Mr. Clampffer.
Mangalitsa is a lard-type versus meat-type style pork (Berkshire-style pork) meaning it is well protected from the cooler climate with its thick layer of fat. I had a conversation with Mr. Putnam (Mangalitsa breeder from Seattle) who explained that this kind of pork would not do well in a warm climate like Florida, because of its long curly hair.
Other Breeds Compared
A few observations I came across:
Berkshire-style pork (a cross between unimproved British pork and Asian pork) is often offered as ”heritage” pork to attract the quality seeking crowd, and is generally bred for leaner meat. If purebred and raised with the right diet (often fed with a mixture of corn, barley and milk) it’s very good every day pork, but certainly less tasty when compared to Mangalitsa.
Kurobuta pork is a Japanese variety (which translates to black pork in Japanese). The standout is that it’s well marbled, meaning there are tiny traces of fat in the meat which keeps it succulent. Also beer is added to its diet which makes them eat more. This is the only pork I have cooked for myself to a medium-rare temperature very much like I cook a steak. It is a succulent, terrific product - delicious.
(“Grammel” which is Austrian German for rendered pork fat solids mixed with Hungarian paprika, capers and pickles - using Mangalitsa)
Mangalitsa has good marbling - I read that it has 70% fat content which makes it unique enough for me already. It’s related to the European wild boar and has crimson red lean flavorful meat much like an Iberian pork (ever tried one of those Spanish black huffed hams also know as pata negra?! - awesome). Mangalitsa has an absolute well- rounded pure clean and light taste. Much of the snow white fat stays solid even when cooked (because of its higher oleic acid level). It’s definitely that honest simple taste, what I seek in pork and describe as old world flavor. It reminds me of pork in Austria when growing up – “energetic” perfect taste.
I have started dreaming up dishes for the weeks to come when my next arrival of Mangalitsa is expected and I’m going for the Mangalista climax --
Mangalista strudel with sorrel, Mangalista cracklings with key lime-spice-dust, Mangalista head cheese with Pumpkinseed oil vinaigrette… stay tuned!