Portland's charcuterie-obsessed chefs are prompting local farmers to feed hazelnuts to hogs, in the quest for a distinctive Northwest-style prosciutto
Bacon fans, it's time to meet the new pig in town.
Get ready for hazelnut-fed pork, the latest entry in a hog-happy food scene that echoes what can only be called a national obsession with swine.
Nuts and pigs have nurtured a happy marriage for centuries -- think paper-thin slices of Prosciutto di Parma from pigs fattened on chestnuts and whey, or Spain's incomparable Iberico ham, from free-range hogs that gobble acorns as they roam.
Recipes included with this story: Pork Carnevale, Basic Pork Roast
The reason: Pigs that eat oil-rich nuts in great quantities, especially in the last months before butchering, build up extra (and extra-tasty) fat; that's especially true for old breeds with genetics that encourage it. A well-marbled leg, with months of curing, becomes a succulent ham streaked with sweet, some say nutty-tasting, fat................
As for the cured meats, Brownlow and Silverman don't want to duplicate Italy's product so much as develop a Northwest prosciutto, unique in flavor, texture and appearance.
The pigs, a cross of Duroc, Berkshire, Yorkshire and Landrace, are raised according to their specifications by Pure Country Pork near Yakima, an established producer certified by Food Alliance for its sustainable and humane practices. Silverman worked with a nutritionist and rigorously tested the feeding program to come up with the right balance of nuts to grains for ideal weight gain and flavor......
Where to find nut-fed pork
Nut-fed pork typically ends up as dry-cured hams, but the well-marbled fresh meat often is more tender and juicy than standard pork. Fresh pork from Northwest hazelnut-fed pigs, if you can find it, costs a few dollars more per pound than premium pork. Here are some local sources:
Chop Butchery & Charcuterie, in City Market
(in the meat case every two to three weeks, call for availability)
735 N.W. 21st Ave.
Eastbank Farmers Market, at Tails & Trotters booth
Long's Meat Market
81 E. 28th Ave., Eugene
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