I'm so excited I don't know what to do with myself. I've just had the opportunity to interview and photograph Melinda Dimitriades of Farmgate. Her main thing there (surrounded with lots of other goodness) is rare breed black pig meat.

I'm going to be posting the whole interview and maybe even some video soon, but what I'm most amped up about is the PIG FAT, so it's getting its own whole post.

  1. Pig fat is not bad for you, after all. It's a big part of the "Mediterranean diet", where they eat slices of lard on toast and use it as salad dressing.
  2. Animal fat is not bad for you, at all. Indeed the #2 healthiest people in the world (after the Japanese) are the Gascon, who live on Duck Fat.
  3. Animal fat is delicious. Pork fat has one of the cleanest, lightest, tastes, and flakiest texture. This is why our grandmothers (who knew what they were doing) always used pig lard to make pastry crusts (especially pies). That kind of lard is made from just one part of the fat. The rest of the fat can be used as a high heat tolerant cooking oil (roast vegetables, etc.)

Melinda sent me away from the interview with an odd gift, 4 kilos of pig fat that I'd just been filming her trim as she butchered.

I've got a fridge full of this. People are scared of it. They've been brainwashed to believe that pork should be lean. The problem is, I've paid for it when I buy the animal, and in order to make a living I have to get as much value out of the animal as I can. And these delicious rare breed pigs, with the healthy red meat full of iron, carry more fat. They're pasture raised, so they can get a little lazy sometimes, and when it's hot they lay around more. If it weren't for my shop and me buying these pigs, this farmer wouldn't raise them. The big meat distributors won't pay for a pig with more fat.

I'm not scared of fat or pigs, or cooking, so I tried to follow Melinda's instructions. "Put it in a pot with some water and melt it. You're looking for that beautiful snowy white stuff. Once it's melted drain it through a clean cloth (I used coffee filters) to remove any little bits of meat, because those will cause it to spoil. If it's clean it will last for months."

Well I assumed it was supposed to all melt, so I cooked it all day. When it still hadn't melted I consulted the interweb. Fascinating that you can find sooo many recipes for molten chocolate cake, but almost none for making your own lard. Way down the bottom of one of the instructions, none of which were very precise, I found mention of "you won't be able to eat all the cracklings, so feed some of them to your dogs." Is this the cracklings? The pork fat that doesn't melt? Ok, I've now learned from Slate.com's  that I should have cut up the fat. This would increase the surface area so it all gets to melt. And that there's a book about meat fat which covers the topic from health science to recipes by Jennifer McLagen.

 

Well I gave up for a while and when I went back into the kitchen after a few hours, I found the beautiful white stuff!

Pyrmont Growers Market 1st saturday of the month, Sydney
www.mandagerycreek.com.au

photo of a Gordon Ramsay dish (meat is SOOO hard to photograph!)

Next door to Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge/Boston is a place called "the fishmonger". This is a kitchen with a glass counter to sell things they are languidly making right there (to take home and eat). They sell fresh fish and they make fish stews, chowders, saffron mussel soup, salmon en croute, crabcakes, shrimp bisque etc. Photo of our fish tacos on lavosh from Savan Bakery (because there are no decent tortillas to be found.) Yeah they sell the panko...

We got a whole smoked bluefish (1.2 lbs), which will last a long time in the fridge, and we think it will be good broken up over pastas and squashes.

Boston's only food market committed to regional products. House-fabricated and cured meat. Meat education.

Regional cheeses. Deli & café.

The market, and its next-door restaurant, The Garden of Eden, run by Jamey's brother, are located in the uber-gentrified South End. But the restaurant, Jamey insists, is for everyone, all classes. He says we have to talk about class when we talk about food. Local food must not be a "boutique product". The restaurant is meant to be comfortable to working class Bostonians, but offering higher quality and local ingredients, including 100% grass-fed beef, than the $60 a plate place "across the street", serving IBP beef.

The tiny market is "airplane-free", a new concept of eco-ethical trade All of the young cheeses are from New England. The only European cheeses are old enough to ride on a boat. Preserved items are all locally made. He knows his 100 purveyors by first name. But it's immediately obvious that Jamey's true love is meat. A chalkboard at the door advertises "Today's Fats", including house-rendered Lard, Duck Fat, and Vegetable Shortening. Jamey buys a half cow a week and a whole pig, grass-fed from Vermont. He makes all his own sausage and cures the bacon and steams the ham and takes up 1/3 of his deli counter to proudly display the side of bacon. Its a whole new world of pig. (In fact, Jamey runs educational events at which he has a talented young butcher demonstrate his art on 1/2 a pig while we drink wine.)

Jamey trades off with the guy who buys the other 1/2 of his cow. Some weeks he gets the flank steaks and some weeks gets the New York strip, from the other side. So it's after the lard is rendered and the sausages made, and he's helped Massachusetts' new farmers learn how to "sell to the city" again, that the real work begins. He stands in the shop and convinces his customers to buy all the other cuts of meat.

We decided to ask him to choose an inexpensive cut for us each week. This means "chuck roll" and "nerve steak" (the part of the New York steak just a little to close to the fat. Usually discarded. He cuts and sells it for 1/2 the price of the New York, but it's the same meat.) We also buy grown-cow osso buco which is fabulous, pork butt, and capon. We buy guanciale to cook with brassicas.

And we live for his bacon. Jamey's fat bacon generates a lot of grease. The bacon ends up cooking submerged in fat, and shatters in your mouth like puff pastry.

Lionette's market is CLOSED