Part three: the Meat

Last December, after Mark Kessenich and I escorted his mulefoots Cong and Cherry to the slaughterhouse, there was a quite a delay before he could actually pick up the meat. First, the pigs weren’t scheduled to be cut up until the after the weekend, and then there was a snowstorm that kept him from making the pickup. And then another. And another.

When he finally made the return trip, Cong — all 145.5 pounds of him — had been cut up into his primal parts and frozen. He has a date with the sausage maker in April — yes, they’re that backed up.

Cherry, at 175.5 pounds, had been broken down into smaller cuts — pork chops, hams, shoulder roasts, Boston butts, hocks, shanks, big slabs of belly that will eventually be cured for bacon, and big slabs of back fat that will be rendered into lard. 

Here’s Linda Derrickson’s e-mailed account of their first few meals:

“Our first pork chop meal (a few days ago) was the true reward we have been anticipating for our 16 months of hands-on hog raising adventures. . . . It’s an amazing culinary experience: juicy, flavorful, plenty of texture while still being tender.  And the fat! Oh my gosh, a gastronomic delight. Mark and I relished every little piece of fat, especially the little cracklings left in the saute pan.

“Following the chops, our next pork meal was a shoulder roast. I rubbed it with our garden rosemary and garlic; then roasted it on a rack in the oven. The 4-lb. roast took a little over two hours. Superb! It was tender and succulent. Leftovers were sliced for terrific cold lunch sandwiches. And we boiled the bones and scraps and made a pork-cabbage-noodle soup.”

It cost a total of $147.25 to process Cherry. Cong, who weighed significantly less, was more costly at $128.49 — and he’s going to cost more when he’s made into sausage. Linda and Mark decided to raise their mulefoots, not just to help save the breed, but because they wanted a natural source of fat in their diets. I asked her whether it was worth it economically, given all the the difficulties they faced–pig breakouts, high feed costs, labor, hassles at the slaughterhouse.

“I think in the end you can say it was worth it for the experience,” she said. “It certainly wasn’t a financial success for us. I think we’re getting the message from beyond us that we’re not supposed to be raising pigs.”  

Up until she said good-bye to the pigs, Linda spent a little bit of time each day scratching Cherry behind the ears. I asked her how it felt to be eating an animal she’d been so close to. 

“It’s gratitude,” she said. “It’s not like ‘I’m glad you’re gone — ha, ha, ha.’ It isn’t any different than eating a carrot. My philosophy allows me to eat a carrot, which is a living thing too, and I jerked it out of the ground before it even got a chance to bear young. Cherry got to bear her young. She got to fulfill her life cycle and produce progeny that can go on with her genetics.” 

Thus ends the mulefoot residency at Hillspring Farm. Now we’ll turn our full attention to our pig, Dee Dee, and the rest of the mulefoots at Valerie Weihman-Rock’s spread in Argyle.