BatuttopigA quick announcement to folks in the Heartland.  I’m part of an all-pig dinner at a wonderful restaurant, Battuto, in Cleveland’s Little Italy next Wednesday.

About two hours south of the city, an Amish farmer named Daniel Stutzman has been raising amazing hogs, raising hogs as they’re meant to be raised.  One of the great things about the Iberico hogs of Spain is that they’re fattened on acorns, the nuts helping to give them a healthful and supple and bountiful fat; Stutzman’s hogs also feed on acorns as well as on onions and apples on his farm.  They have bedding indoors and are free to roam if they wish.  They are cared for animals.  The meat is intensely flavorful, the quality and abundance of its fat is amazing. (The belly is an astonishing and gorgeous four inches thick).  I feel lucky to be able to have found a source such as this farmer and his pigs.

The proprietors of Battuto are Mark and Giovanna Daverio, he an alum of Paul Bertolli’s Olivetto, she a Zuni Cafe alum.  With these two excellent chef-restaurateurs and Daniel’s miraculous swine, the night will likely see the finest pork being served that night in the proud state of Ohio.

Download Giovanna’s invitation here.

It’s a five to seven course wine-paired evening, $80 for pork the likes of which you have never seen (belly confit, trotters, sausage, and traditional cuts).  Wednesday November 15th.  Call Giovanna for information and reservations: 216-707-1055.

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12 Wonderful responses to “For Pig Lovers in Cleveland”

  • BobdelG

    Michael, a question: are the acorns that are fed to the hogs treated in anyway?
    Very few oak trees of any species produce acorns that are edible without being treated (native Americans used clay to flocculate the toxins)and most produce nuts that are full of bitter alkaloids. Also efforts to cultivate the trees that do produce edible seeds have been confounded by squirrels who contaminate the groves by burying bitter seeds all over the place. If our ancestors had been able to isolate and propagate oaks that bore edible nuts, I’m sure they’d be at least as common as almonds as a food staple.

    I’m guessing that the answer is no, the hogs eat them untreated and, more importantly, don’t bioaccumulate the alkaloids.

    But I really don’t know.

  • gumivore

    Bob- that’s an interesting question. My mom used to pick acorns out in the park while i was playing kickball or showing off on the monkey bars and make a korean Mook (acorn jello). It kind of freaked me out. From what i can remember, I believe she used to soak them before grinding them up into a paste and then cook them to thicken it and then congeal.

    In regards to the hogs, what effect does species have on the product if you provide a similar growing environment (acorns and bunk beds) and is Daniel growing the same species of hogs from Spain?

  • Steve

    Different species of animals have differing sensitivities to acorns (or any other toxin, really). Cattle and horses are extremely sensitive to the effects of acorns (and oak leaves), while deer, many birds, and small mammals eat acorns with little ill-effect. Humans are fairly sensitive, and I guess pigs are not. Different species of oak also have different levels of tannins. White oak has much lower levels than red or black oak. Who knows what the Iberico hogs in Spain are eating.

    Different breeds of livestock should result in different meat profiles (which is usually the reason someone bothered to develop the breed in the first place). An Angus beef cow and a Holstein dairy cow raised side by side will provide two very different meats, since they were bred for different purposes. By the same token, if you took two cows of the same breed, raised one on grass and the other on grain, they will result in very different meats.

    Iberico is a particular breed of swine (which I believe is recently descended from wild boar), so Daniel’s hogs must be the same breed as the Ibericos in Spain.

  • BobdelG

    Gumivore

    That mook sounds interesting and reminds me of something that an anthropologist friend who studies Central American cultures told me about just a couple of days ago.

    We were hanging out at his house when he noticed that I was admiring a beautifully woven thing that looked like a giant version of what we used to call “Chinese handcuffs.” You know those things that you put on two opposing fingers and when you try to pull the fingers apart they tighten?

    Anyway, he told me that this thing (I forget the name) was used by this tribe (forgot that name too) to process manioc which, like acorns, is full of bitter alkaloids. Apparently this tribe grates the manioc on shredders made from bones or snail shells embedded in wood, fills this tube with shredded manioc then hangs it. As it hangs the tube tightens and squeezes out the alkaloid rich sap rendering the manioc edible. I’m guessing your mom did something like that, no?

    As for your question about the hogs -which I assume was directed at me- I’m almost certain that all hogs are the same species and that the variation we see is not specific. In other words all breeds of pigs can breed with other breeds and produce fertile offspring (the definition of a species) and the differences we see are very superficial. So in an acorn-shell: all hogs should have the same ability or inability to eat untreated acorns. That’s my guess.

  • Stuart Spivack

    Is the menu included in the PDF invitation? I won’t be able to make it but I’m very curious. I’d be happy to convert the PDF to text if you emailed it to me.

    I’m sorry that I won’t be able to attend due to a previous commitment but I still want to thank you for making an effort to support good farmers and good restaurants. Hopefully, I’ll be able to attend your next event.

    I just had a small bit of Stutzmann’s ham for breakfast and I have to say that it was delicious.

  • Bux

    Fascinating stuff about feed, breed and species. I didn’t see anything in Michael’s post that implied Daniel Stutzman was raising Iberico pigs. The breed of choice here in the northeast among organic farmers dedicated to sustainable farming seems to be the Berkshire pig. These are the pigs being raised at Blue Hill’s Stone Barns and the ones I see featured on menus that feature the name of a breed. From loin to belly, the flavor can be magnificent.

    From Wikipedia about “jamon bellota” (not always the most dependable source of information, but this quote is in line with what I’ve heard elsewhere): “Because of the pigs diet of acorns, much of the jamón’s fat is comprised of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol.” Enjoy the pork belly in good health.

    More at:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamón_ibérico

  • Steve

    Ah, I seem to have misread Michael’s post and the context of his mentioning Iberico hogs.

    Incidentally, is the rest of the Iberico hog as highly regarded as the cured ham? With the myriad ways of preparing pork, I would assume the whole pig is delicious, but in my limited exposure to Iberico it seems it is only mentioned with regards to the ham.

    Also, has anyone who has tried various preparations of pork from Iberico pigs also had the opportunity to try pork from Jinhua pigs, which seem to be the Rolls-Royce of Asian pigs? It would be interesting to know how they compare.

  • Bux

    I’ve only had the opportunity to try fresh Iberico pork once at Viridiana, a significantly respected restaurant in Madrid. As it was part of a delicious, but complex dish, it would be hard for me to accurately judge the flavor meat by itself.

  • ruhlman

    RE: acorns. the iberico hogs eat a different kind of acorn than is grown here, long and olive shaped. they aren’t treated.

    i believe these hogs are duroc, which is a good big fatty pig in the category of the iberico.

    and yes, peter kaminsky talks about the healthful properties of hog fat raised on nuts. he wrote a terrific book called perfect pig.

    at the spain conference i tasted some delicious lomo, cured pork loin from iberico hog and it was excellent. the whole hog is indeed flavorful and well used.

    i’ll see if he cares to comment on the species and nut issues above.

  • peter Kaminsky

    before i get to some of the points that have been discussed—i am a journalist, not a meat scientist, but i think I did find out a lot about pigs while researching my book, Pig Perfect.

    all pigs (at least all pigs on the eurasian landmass) are the same species, sus scrofa. the iberico breed is, essentially, the same domesticated animal that was found all over europe. in the eighteenth century certain asian breeds were introduced into the european gene pool (selected for quick maturing, docile nature, etc). the resulting mix and match and more mix and match gives us the breeds we have today.

    berkshires—newly popular in the USA–have shorter muscle fibers than some other breeds, or at least that is what i have been told by one leading meat scientist. this means that even with little fat, they are tender. having said that, i prefer fat (see below).

    durocs—named for a new jersey racehorse of the nineteenth century–are said to contain a lot of iberico dna. the farmer’s hybrid, favored by niman ranch, has a lot of duroc in its genetics

    as for acorns. all pigs everywhere love them. some acorns have a lot of tannin and just as people will do, pigs will reach a point where they won’t eat more tannin because it is bitter and bitter is nature’s way of saying “toxic” .

    the encina or white oak in spain has been bred for sweetness. red oak and holm oak also are among the pig’s favorite food but are usually more tannic so, given a choice, they’ll go for white oak.

    in the united states, pigs roamed the forests of the southeastern united states for two hundred years before the introduction of exclusively farm raised corn bred hogs. those forests were largely what ecologists call “oak park savannah”

    pigs finished on acorns—as they are in spain—have fat that is about 55% monounsatured and another 10-15% polyunsatured. so eat lots of lard
    and lipitor and you will live to 112 (at which time they will still be re-running Seinfeld).

    i would be neglectful of my children’s college plans (and expenses) if I didn’t mention that you can get Pig Perfect by visiting Amazon. If you like it –please write a review.

  • Merry Nethery of Chinquapin Farm

    We are an organic farm in Mississippi, and read an article in Sept/Dec edition of the SpainGourmetTour magazine called “The Pleasures of the Flesh” by Raquel Castillo. I became so excited by your mention of an Amish Farmer who raises these wonderful animals. Do you have contact information for Daniel? We were about to begin a herd of Red Wattle Hogs or Mulefoots, both of which are on the endangered list of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. As small sustainable farmers, we would be most interested in corresponding with Daniel.

    I don’t imagine you have many friends in the USDA…but would be most interested in what they have to say about these breeds, and what their problems are concerned with air drying meats. As I lived in Switzerland for many years, I miss the wonderful meats available there, and would prefer their meats over the hormone, antibiotic filled meats we have access to here in the US.