Pork Watch: Iberico Fresco, Jowciale, LaFrieda burger blend
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Undeterred by having seen ‘Contagion’ (Spoiler alert: It’s the suckling pig that did Gwyneth Paltrow in!), I recently tried a thick slice of seared pork loin cooked just the way I like my filet mignon -- rare, rare, rare. And it almost tasted like beef -- rich and juicy and just as, if not more, flavorful than filet mignon -- and it was rare (did I mention I like my meat rare?). It was fresh pork from Iberico de bellota pigs, the famous black-footed, acorn-fed swine from Spain.
Importer Jose Ignacio Martinez-Valero of Lighthouse Trade this year started bringing in the fresh meat -- not the cured jamon Iberico with which you might be more familiar -- from a cooperative in southeast Spain under the label Iberico Fresco. ‘It’s the other red meat,’ Martinez-Valero likes to say. ‘It’s the Kobe of pork.’
Because of USDA regulations, he says, only certain cuts are imported, but there are several: the loin and end loin; tenderloin; sirloin tip; shoulder loin; and shoulder skirt. Still waiting for the back fat and the belly. All the meat comes from 100% Iberico pigs (Spanish law allows for cross-bred pigs that are 50% Iberico to be sold as Iberico), raised humanely and sustainably in the oak forests of the Los Pedroches Valley (a designation of origin).
It most certainly will be showing up on restaurant menus in L.A. and is thus far available at the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills.
In more pork-product news ...
Jowciale! This is the made-in-America version of guanciale, salt-cured pig cheek. And guanciale is one of my favorite cured meats, if solely for the fact that it makes for great spaghetti alla carbonara, one of my favorite pasta dishes. (I am a firm believer in guanciale over bacon or pancetta in carbonara.) Ham producer S. Wallace Edwards & Sons of Surry, Va., has launched its jowciale under the Surry Farms brand. It’s made from heritage breed six-spotted Berkshire hogs, dry-cured, coated with fresh cracked peppercorns, then smoked over hickory logs for a couple of days.
In spaghetti alla carbonara it’s lovely -- not too salty, not too smoky, just right really.
Jowciale is available at www.virginiatraditions.com.
And lastly, butcher Pat LaFrieda‘s pork and beef burger blend. Who buys burger meat online? I am not inclined to, but I admit that this stuff has piqued my interest. Williams-Sonoma started selling the New York cult butcher’s stuff in the spring -- burger and meatball blends and Italian sausages. The pork and beef burger blend is a mix of heritage breed Hampshire pork shoulder and Black Angus brisket, short rib and chuck and has an 80/20 meat-to-fat ratio.
Available at www.williams-sonoma.com.
-- Betty Hallock