There was a time when ‘charcuterie’ would only be a word known if you’d taken an advanced level of French and were studying food. Thanks to the uprising in food interest, and with a nudge from Michael Ruhlman (author of the book ‘Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing’), a movement is afoot to procure and create quality meats even at home. ‘Food Inc’, the movie, sealed my commitment to only eat meat whose source I know well. Thanks to Anne and Paul Cure, my CSA farmers, I often know the actual animal from whence the meat comes as well.
On a very dreary, soggy, Pacific-Northwest feeling day last week I was invited out to Cure Organic Farm to see the new Farm Store, just opened after a long time vision and effort. In concurrence with this was the offer for a ‘sausage tasting’ of some of the recently cured Mangalitsa pork meat raised by the Cures. I imagined idle chit chat over frilly toothpicks of meat samples. I had no idea I’d be invited into the history and craft of this heritage breed pig and its offerings.
One of the Cure’s Mangalitsa’s catching a well loved scratch behind the ear last fall
I was fascinated by the journey of these pigs coming to be integrated to Cure Farm. While slicing, Paul Cure (whose wife Anne would declare as the the meat half to her produce half; together making a ‘full package’) began to share the journey of discovering and hosting these pigs.
The Cures have attended Terra Madre, or Slow Food movement conference in Italy twice now. Paul had read an article in the New York Times about Mangalitsas and his interest was piqued. He began to research and speak to breeders, in the U.S. and Europe while at Terra Madre.
Some of the Cure’s Berkshire pig Italian Sausage cooking in the new kitchen at the Farm Store. The kitchen will be used for classes in cooking grass fed meats, canning and sauce making.
He learned outside of Austria (one of the primary spots for the breed) one cannot breed the pig without being part of a sort of ‘Gentleman’s Society’. As their numbers dwindled, some Mangalitsas were purposefully imported to the U.K. Their journey to the U.S. was a haphazard one though landing a small number with a reputable breeder on the east coast after they arrived without a breeding certificate, their destiny uncertain. Now there are a handful of breeders raising them in the U.S. including the breeder in Iowa where Paul purchased their breeding stock.
Through some trial-and-error experiences with meat processors, the Cure’s landed a star crossed relationship (my wording frankly after tasting the meat) with Il Mondo Vecchio meat in Denver. Il Mondo Vecchio appreciates the specialness of this breed and have met the Cure’s goals wholeheartedly, supplying the knowledge and ingenuity to create delicious sausages and lardo unlike I’ve ever tasted.
When Anne sliced the Saucisse Sec in ‘normal size’ slices, Paul commented they were ‘way too big’. This sausage should be sliced paper thin.
Our first sample was of a Saucisse Sec, a more rustic, well marbled dry sausage. ‘Dry’ is a relative term; though it is cured it is still moist. Mangalitsa meat has been called the ‘Kobe beef’ of pork by no mistake. The flavor is rich. The color is red, more like beef than regular pork. The quality is unsurpassed.
When we were settling into taste, Anne generously sliced more normal, ¼ inch slices to which Paul commented were ‘way too large’. The richness of the sausage and the meat itself bears need for far less. Paul sliced it paper thin, commenting truffle slicers are often used. A little goes a long way.
Mangalitsa meat (cured or not) is more expensive than its ‘regular pork’ equivalent. Having said that, and having tasted multiple cuts, I will say it is unquestionably worth it. A little goes a long way and it punctuates the point that all pork is NOT created equal!
The Cures are only one of two known sources curing Mangalitsa meat in the U.S. making this opportunity all the more special. They’ll also have pancetta and are working with Il Mondo Vecchio on a 2 and 3 year cured sausage. You can purchase some of their meat at the Boulder Farmer’s Market or their new Farm Store.