Hog with a lot of lard: Why pork royalty is so hot
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.
FURRY HAMS: Sonrisa Farms. Two year-and-a-half-year-old Mangalitsa pigs strike a pose in their pasture at