Sometime in the late spring a lovely young homeschooler who participates in 4-H contacted me. She lives on a three-acre suburban farm and raises pigs that she sells at the Fair. Last year, we had hoped to bid on one of her pigs, but stuff happens. So, we proposed that if she were interested in raising a pig for us, we'd be interested in buying it.
When she contacted me this spring, she said she was planning to raise two pigs, and she wanted to know if we wanted one.
Um, let me think ... YES!
First off, I know this young lady, and she is as sweet as the day is long. I knew that she would provide a calm and gentle life for this pig, who would be raised and cared for by someone who really cared for him. It's exactly the kind of meat we raise in our backyard, and the kind of meat we want to eat.
The other awesome part about having our pig raised by a young lady we know was that it would be butchered by our butcher and so I could, perhaps, ask for cuts that I might not ordinarily get. Like the jowls.
Since reading about Kate's experience with curing meat, I've wanted to try it, and this pig was just the opportunity I needed to do so.
And so I did. I (mostly) used Kate's instructions (the meat stayed in the cure a little longer and then, I never moved it out of the fridge) with some additional guidance from this website.
The final product is delicious. It tastes a little like bacon, but not exactly. It's more delicate, like the difference between a slow-cooked meat that falls off the bone and one that was roasted and sliced. Both are very good.
We used the guanciale to make the traditional Spaghetti a la carbonara. It was an easy dish to prepare, but was a little daunting for someone who's never done it, and it did turn out just as creamy as it's supposed to, which was a real treat for me.
Like with most things, for me, once I've stepped over that fear line and actually accomplished the task, I'm eager to move forward and conquer other, similar, feats. Now, I'm very excited about the idea of making cured sausage, and I can see all manner of sausage links hanging in the vaulted ceiling in my hallway.
We're planning a Sunday brunch that will include the guanciale ... and eggs from our chickens ... and maybe we'll toast a couple of those English muffins we picked up from a local bakery.
I'm incredibly thankful for the amazing network of people who have expanded my food repertoire, palette and culinary skill. Our local foods diet would not be as tasty without the carefully raised ingredients and the diversity of preparation options.
And I feel incredibly blessed that I'm able to offer my family wholesome, healthful foods and entrees that are completely new, even to me.