Monday, February 7, 2011

Bless This Hog

[Caution:  Viewer Advisory -- Discretion Suggested]

We spent most of today with this fellow, Arnold's Valley Pig, who enjoyed his life just down the road.  I'm pretty sure my decision to post this picture was more difficult than choices made by war photographers.  Unfortunately, we're used to them, but not this, although 10 billion -- that's right, 10 billion -- animals are killed to adorn our tables each year in the U.S.
He wasn't squinting when we saw him alive, rooting through the back of our friend's pickup.   He also wasn't sweet and affectionate like a goat.  We discovered tusks growing under his snout, not that that's relevant to anything.

Some people, including Tommy and Sophie, claimed his brains will be tasty with scrambled eggs.  While I'm not up for that, I'm glad very little of what's left of this former life is going to waste.  I didn't know jowls offered bacon, but they do.

Frankly, until this morning I didn't know where most pork cuts come from, and I pictured butchering as a very bloody process (even though I've helped process turkeys and chickens).  I learned it is not.  My first job was to butterfly-cut a rack of pork chops.

Why is this man smiling?  Three reasons.  One, he's known for smiling.  Two, that's what we often do in front of a camera.  Three, he's remembering an early morning in Vernazza, Italy, when he sat on the balcony of his rented flat to watch the town wake up.  A man in a white apron scurried down steps leading to the town's narrow street of shops, a quarter like this one hoisted over his shoulder.

My biggest job for the day was separating the skin and bones from this leg and another one, while Rob, at the next table, did the same thing.  The rest of our crew cubed what we cut off and tossed them into baskets lined with black plastic.  All of this became sausage.
How much fat goes into sausage astonished me, and coated our hands again and again with grease as we mixed and mixed and mixed.  That process took quite a while because our teacher had to pause and cook a patty now and then to see if the seasonings were just right.
"Did you put it in plastic rolls?" asks Virginia.

No, our boss makes it into thin, flat sheets and freezes them, one-by-one, in plastic Glad bags.  Before that happens, the sausage needs to sit overnight and absorb the flavors of sage and other seasonings.  Karen will return tomorrow to help wrap it up.

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