Hog with a lot of lard: Why pork roy­alty is so hot

The Glengarry News - Glengarry Supplement - - News -

BY MAR­GARET CALDBICK

News Staff A true but­ter­ball of a pig, the lit­tle known Man­gal­itsa, which means “hog with a lot of lard,” comes by its name hon­estly.

The rare breed’s meat is 50-per cent fat con­tent with a “wickedly deca­dent abun­dance of fat” so suc­cu­lently de­li­cious it has be­come a favourite with chefs, home chefs when they can get their hands on it, the mak­ers of dry-cured sa­lumi (Ital­ian cold cuts), and food writ­ers and blog­gers.

The Hun­gar­ian breed Man­gal­itsa, pro­nounced mah­nga-leets-ah, is one of the old­est Euro­pean breeds, and un­like pop­u­lar mod­ern breeds of pigs has not changed sub­stan­tially since the 1830s when it was de­vel­oped by cross­breed­ing in the Aus­tro-Hun­gar­ian Em­pire.

The her­itage Man­gal­itsa pig’s sig­na­ture look is its thick, wooly coat sim­i­lar to that of a sheep.

The curly hair is a ge­netic propen­sity that en­abled its an­ces­tors to with­stand freez­ing north­ern Win­ters on the great Hun­gar­ian plains and en­dure be­ing driven like cat­tle to mar­ket.

The meat of the paunchy slow­grow­ing Man­gal­itsa is the colour of beef and lav­ishly mar­bled with creamy-tex­tured white fat to pro­duce ex­cep­tion­ally juicy meat. Among its devo­tees it has gained the rep­u­ta­tion as the best pork in the world.

A well-known writer about the Man­gal­itsa pig is Wil­helm W. Kohl who co-au­thored “The Man­gal­itsa Pig: Roy­alty is Com­ing to Amer­ica” and the de­light­fully il­lus­trated “The pig in Hun­gar­ian His­tory,” a book you can read on­line at http://pure­man­gal­itsa.com

Ac­cord­ing to Mr. Kohl, the Man­gal­itsa is on the verge of trans­form­ing 21st Cen­tury Amer­i­can cook­ing. He de­scribes the flavour of Man­gal­itsa meat as the Kobe beef of pork.

Its unique wild and wooly coat of the Man­gal­itsa and its gen­tle and in­tel­li­gent per­son­al­ity make the breed ap­peal­ing to raise and pop­u­lar with breed­ers.

One huge fan of the Man­gal­itsa is Sylvie Pa­que­tte of Son­risa Farms just out­side Alexan­dria, one of only five Man­gal­itsa breed­ers in Canada.

The for­mer Mon­trealer and her hus­band, Mike Pa­que­tte, who is orig­i­nally from Ap­ple Hill, moved to their 67-acre farm just out­side Alexan­dria in 2006 where they be­gan by rais­ing cut­ting horses.

“I was breed­ing for a lit­tle while and now we’re down to the ones we can’t part with,” says Ms. Pa­que­tte.

In 2012, the Pa­que­ttes de­cided to con­cen­trate on rais­ing Man­gal­itsa pigs, a de­ci­sion that came eas­ily ac­cord­ing to Sylvie, who is now the Pres­i­dent of the Man­gal­itsa Breed­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada.

“I am ac­tu­ally Hun­gar­ian, born in Canada. Both my par­ents are from Hun­gary so my first lan­guage was Hun­gar­ian,” says Ms. Pa­que­tte whose maiden name is Fritsch.

“I’d known about these pigs for a quite a while, that they were Hun­gar­ian and a rare breed and that there were no breed­ers in Canada at the time,” she con­tin­ues. “The breed had only re­cently been in­tro­duced to the U.S. so I thought, per­haps we were crazy enough to bring these into Canada.”

The cou­ple was also drawn to the breed’s har­di­ness. Ba­sic re­quire­ments are pas­turage where the an­i­mals can forage, high qual­ity feed as sup­ple­men­ta­tion, and ef­fec­tive fenc­ing.

“One of our big­gest chal­lenges is fenc­ing be­cause these guys are very wooly and an elec­tric fence can be touch and go,” says Ms. Pa­que­tte.

The cou­ple now has 32 pigs af­ter a cou­ple of re­cent lit­ters and six breed­ing sows and four boars.

The breed tends to have smaller lit­ters, but not the sows at Son­risa Farms that tend to have large lit­ters for the breed, from eight to 11 piglets.

“We have been spec­u­lat­ing with the Breed­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada whether that has to do with sup­ple­men­ta­tion or feed qual­ity,” says Ms. Pa­que­tte who in 2005 grad­u­ated with a Bach­e­lor in Agri­cul­ture from the Univer­sity of New Eng­land (UNE) in Ar­mi­dale, Aus­tralia, a school noted for its em­pha­sis on the ap­pli­ca­tion of sci­en­tific knowl­edge to agri­cul­tural prac­tice. "They get to forage a lot with a main ra­tion of a sort of grower’s mix and we try to min­i­mize how much corn they get,” says Ms. Pa­que­tte. “They get veg­gie scraps from neigh­bour­ing veg­etable grow­ers. In the past we have used grains from Beau’s (All Nat­u­ral Brew­ery in Van­kleek Hill), and if they have ac­cess to whey they have that, too. But they are strictly fin­ished on bar­ley be­cause that is what af­fects the qual­ity of the fat that they are known for.” The cou­ple has two young daugh­ters, oneyear-old Zenge and three-yearold Emoke, who keep them busy and en­joy ca­vort­ing with the farm’s piglets. Peo­ple in­ter­ested in buy­ing meat from Son­risa should in­quire first to learn when meat will be available. Most of the farm’s meat is presold to spe­cialty butcher shops and restau­rants in On­tario.

SYLVIE PA­QUE­TTE PHOTO

FURRY HAMS: Son­risa Farms. Two year-and-a-half-year-old Man­gal­itsa pigs strike a pose in their pas­ture at

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