On our trip to Italy, Brian Polcyn and I saw a lot of new cuts we weren’t familiar with, so as soon as we returned, we made plans to break down a couple of pigs Italian style, bringing in chef Jay Denham, who was recently back from five months staging in Italy.  We wanted to see how he broke a half animal into primals and we also wanted to learn the culatello cut.  Jay had spent many weeks staging at Massimo Spigaroli’s operation, learning this technique for producing what some consider to be the finest version of prosciutto di Parma there is.

From left, I, Brian and Jay tasting salumi

Jay and Brian arrived Tuesday evening and we started with a salumi tasting from American producers.  We tasted salamis from Knight Salumi in San Diego, I had some Mangalista belly and lardo from Mosefund farm, Brian brought some of his prosciutto di Michigan, as well, and I also had some of Jay’s coppa (Jay is the head salumi-maker for a new venture called Woodland Pork).

The following day Scott delivered our pigs, we headed out to Bar Symon whose chef, Matt Harlan, gave us some kitchen real estate to work in.  Thank God for big kitchens (and for all your work, Jon Bito on our behalf).  Jay did the first hog, demonstrating the way Italian breakdown is designed to make best use of the cuts for curing.  The American way of breaking down a pig, designed to focus attention on the center of the pig and on roasting cuts, slices straight through the coppa (the muscle that goes from the neck into the loin), one of the most important cuts in Italian salumi.

Jay Denham, salumi maker for the new Woodland Pork, traveled from his home in Louisville to show us how he butchers pigs. Here he bones out the middle section of the spine and ribs, leaving the loin and belly.

As Jay noted, “Breaking down a pig is a lot like cooking. Everyone has their own interpretation.”

We had several chefs on hand to help and to learn and it was all well documented with photography and video.

The best part of the day was learning the culatello cut.  I have to wait for closer to the time the book comes out to post about that—too important!

Jay, many thanks for traveling all those miles to cut pig in Cleveland.  We’re all truly grateful!