Monday, March 18, 2013

Porchetta- Whole Hog Butchery Act One

Pork is king.  Hands down there is no other meat so versatile, lending itself to so many preparations.  From the sublime whole roasted pig, to the juicy pork chop, to the magic of the Italian salumeria no other animal offers us so much delight.  I am going to discuss Tuscan Porchetta.  To demonstrate I have included pictures from a whole hog that I procured from my friend a local farmer, and processed and preserved in a totally traditionally Italian manner.

Porchetta in Tuscany is ordinary street food sold in autostada rest areas, and in small cafes on narrow ancient streets.  Here in the states Tuscan Porchetta is gaining a sort of cult following, and for good reason, with entire restaurants and food trucks devoted to its preparation.  Luckily for us cooks,  both professional and amateur alike, it is very easy to prepare and a great centerpiece for a great meal, not to mention the leftovers.

Tuscan porchetta is essentially a skin-on, boneless pork roast laced with garlic and rosemary, sometimes lemon zest, and slow roasted, usually in a wood burning oven,  until dangerously crispy and delicious on the outside and succulently tender and juicy on the inside.  It is a mini pig roast.

In Tuscany porchetta is the skin on, loin of the pig with part of the belly attached.  The ribs are removed, sometimes roasted along with the porchetta, and the entire package is seasoned rolled and tied.  Here I am breaking down a hog that my good friend Curt brought me over from Lover's Leap Farm in Kinderhood, NY.  You can see the loin still attached to the belly, the cut that usually becomes bacon.  I cut most of the belly off leaving just enough to roll around the meat completely sealing the meat in skin.

In the USA it is hard to find a pork loin with the skin and belly still attached without buying and processing a whole hog.  I have discovered a way around this that will deliver a almost perfect replica.  You can substitute a boneless-skinless pork loin, seasoned in exactly the same manner, wrapped in a whole pork belly, and tied in the same manner.  It can be hard to find whole pork belly here in upstate New York grocery stores.  Consult your local butcher and you shouldn't have a problem.

Here you can see an entire skin on pork loin with the belly still attached.  Meat from a local small farm is always your best option from a flavor and sustainability standpoint.  This hog was born and raised on a small farm, outside, and allowed to forage for food in the warm months.  That said commercially raised pork prepared in the proper manner can be outstanding.
Here is the same loin trimmed, seasoned and ready to be rolled and tied.  Before seasoning i scored the skin with a sharp knife in a cross hatch pattern to allow slow rendering of the fat,  The loin is the thick lean part on the right side and the belly is on the left side.  The meat has been rubbed generously in extra virgin Olive Oil, salt, ground black pepper, and a mixture of finely chopped garlic and fresh rosemary.  The meat is then rolled and tied with butcher twine.
Here is the Porchetta ready to be cooked.  These two roasts are from the entire loin of one very large hog.  For a home cook you could do a roast half or a third the size of one of these and easily serve a party of 10-15 with plenty of leftovers for sandwiches.  Check in later and I will discuss cooking and serving Porchetta!

Buon Appetito

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