Sara decided to slaughter the pigs on the farm so they wouldn't have to be transported frightened to the processor. Our farmer neighbor, Mark, did the hardest part - shooting the pigs and hanging them from his skidloader, then placed them in the back of the pickup. Sara and Cadence wrapped them up and drove them immediately to the the processor for butchering. The entire slaughter only took about half an hour. Even though these pigs were raised specifically for this purpose, it was an intense and emotional day--I was proud of Sara for maintaining her cool and handling everything so calmly and thoughtfully.
This Wednesday, Sara and Cadence drove back to Dover and picked up the finished meat, all neatly frozen and wrapped. The two pigs provided 330 lbs. of pork chops, bacon, roasts, ham, steaks, ribs, and sausage. Sara had orders for three quarters and we gave meat to the dairy farmers in appreciation for providing us with milk for our pigs and to Mark for helping with the slaughter, so we will end up with about half of that amount for ourselves. That's a lot of bacon!
Last night Sara prepared a fabulous feast of braised pork shoulder, served with walnut-beer bread, spinach and dried cherry salad, and mashed potatoes for our dear friends who were also our first pork customers. We said a little thank you for the pigs. The meal was exquisite.
We have never been so close to our food before moving to the farm. We had grown our own vegetables and eaten fish we caught, but that is not anything like eating chickens you raised from day-old chicks or pork you have raised from young piglets, knowing them as individuals, feeding them, scratching their heads, laughing at their antics and making sure they have a comfortable, happy life. I know could readily be a vegetarian farmer, but then there would be no reason to raise these animals. And since these pigs were destined for the table, they couldn't have dreamed of a more pleasurable life.
Sara, ever philosophical and poetic, remarked as we ate out first pork meal, "It is a cycle - Right now we are consuming everything we fed our pigs this summer--the milk from our neighbors' cows, bushels of tomatoes and squash from our garden, those acorns we raked up from Hal's yard, that powdery pig chow we got from the feedmill, the bones from our organic chicken stock, broken eggs, wild raspberry plants and roots they dug up from the woods, insects they caught, and all of our lovely kitchen scraps." Yes, those pigs feasted like gourmands, and now they are nourishing us very well.
Here is the braised pork recipe Sara used for our dinner. She added beer and wine to the braising liquid:
Braised Pork Shoulder with Chimichurri
Recipe by Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo
ACTIVE: 45 MIN
TOTAL TIME: 3 HRS 15 MIN
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
5 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 5 equal pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
5 garlic cloves
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
3 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
2 cups chicken stock
Chimichurri sauce (recipe below)
Preheat the oven to 275°. In a large skillet, melt the butter in the oil. Season the pork with salt and pepper and brown over high heat, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to an enameled cast-iron casserole and add the garlic, onions, thyme, bay leaf, stock and 2 cups of water; bring to a boil. Cover with foil and bake for 2 1/2 hours, until the pork is falling-apart tender. Transfer to a dish; keep warm. Strain the liquid, return to the casserole and reduce by half over moderately high heat. Season with salt and pepper, add to the pork and serve with chimichurri.
Chimichurri sauce: In a mortar, mash 1 chopped garlic clove with 1 seeded jalapeño. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt. Work in 1 bunch each of stemmed curly and flat-leaf parsley and 1/4 cup of chopped oregano. Stir in 3/4 cup of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar and season with 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper.