A Tale of Two Piggies: The Heritage Difference

by Louise Geller

If like me, you grew up finding pork largely unimpressive, it’s time to take a second look at what it was meant to be. In the US, the pork industry has spent years taking one of the most naturally delicious animals in the world and breeding the flavor right out of it. The vast majority of pork on the US market is bred for leanness and consistency, and as such as become dull, boring and predictable. Where’s the flavor? I’ve always struggled to understand why “the other white meat” would be a good thing. Heritage breeds like Mangalitsa and Berkshire will take your love of pork to the next level – and show you that this meat is in a class of its own.

Mangalitsa
Originally bred to be eaten only by Hungarian royalty, Mangalitsa still maintains a flavor that will make you feel like a king. If you’ve ever had Hungarian salami, you know Mangalitsa: smoky and rich, substantial in flavor and in texture. More and more, these fine pigs are being bred domestically. The meat is far too dark to ever be called “white meat,” and marbled beautifully. Don’t be turned off by the presence of a large amount of fat – these pigs are known for their fat and in many places raised especially for it. Mangalitsa lard is high in monounsaturated fat and oleic acid, making it lighter, cleaner, and yes, healthier. (Mind you, we’re not labeling lard a health food, but if you’re going to eat it – and let’s face it, you’re going to – it’s definitely the healthier option)

The Mangalitsa breed was saved from extinction in the latter half of the 20th century through the work of a group of Eastern European farmers who revived the breed from 200 surviving purebreds. Today they are becoming more and more widely available, though due to their substantial requirements for food and space it is still a skilled farmer who decides to raise a herd of Mangalitsas. Lucky for us, Mosefund farm in New Jersey is doing just that, and you can get a taste the heritage difference with their fantastic bacon.

Berkshire
Perhaps the most well-known of the heritage breeds, Berkshire pigs originated in Britain where, you guessed it, they were first bred to be consumed by the royal family. They have been bred now for over 300 years, and with good reason – Berkshire meat is sweet, rich and incredibly juicy.

Berkshires were first brought to the USA in 1823 and were initially assimilated into the general pork population – luckily they were rescued from a future of mediocrity in 1875 when a group of breeders who recognized the importance of keeping the breed pure established the American Berkshire Association. Look for the “100% Pure Berkshire Pork” label – this means the producer is a member of the association. Olli Salumeria combines Mangalitsa and Berkshire pork to make their phenomenal salami.

These are just a few of the awesome heritage breeds on the market in the US today – and it is well worth the effort to seek them out for all your pork consumption needs. You’ll never look back!

Sauce Vierge a la Murray’s from Veritas Restaurant

Veritas means truth, and nothing could be more true than saying we love working with Veritas Restaurant in NYC.  And it just so happens that Chef Sam Hazen Veritas loves Chiarentana’s Leccino extra virgin olive oil. Here Chef Hazen shares his recipe for sauce vierge,  perfect to drizzle over grilled meat or fish or use as a bread dipping sauce.  We whipped this up to give it a try a few days ago over some chicken — which we photographed first of course.  The results were palate-pleasing —  try this at home and tell us what you think!

Sauce Vierge a la Murray’s

1/2 qt. Chiarentana Leccino

6 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 cup fine lemon zest (use a good microplane)

Place garlic and lemon in a bowl; pour olive oil over lemon and garlic, and let it infuse for 24 hours.  Then remove the garlic cloves. 

To 1 oz. sauce vierge infused base, add the following:

1/2 Tbs. tomato, concasse (diced)

1/2 tsp. basil, chiffonade

1/2 tsp. tarragon leaves, torn

1/8 tsp. toasted coriander seed, crushed

1/2 tsp. aged balsamic vinegar

1/8 tsp. fresh ground pepper

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Mix as needed.  Use as a bread dipping sauce or drizzle over grilled fish or chicken.

This March we’re mad for…Oma

By Liz Thorpe

In the summer of 2009 I finally found Waitsfield, Vermont and the meandering driveway that led to the Von Trapp dairy farm. That was after the GPS sent me down a logging trail, a bee got stuck in my tank top, stung me, and I nearly hit a tree. Few cheeses are worth that kind of drama, but I was delighted to find (and still am) that Sebastian and Dan’s cheese, Oma, is one. Although they make only two batches of cheese every other week from the thick, golden, unpasteurized milk of the family’s predominantly Jersey cow herd, we’re lucky enough to sell it at Murray’s.

It’s a brilliant collaboration, the effort of two third generation dairy farmers to improve upon their parents’ organic model by making a singular cheese that is aged at the Cellars at Jasper Hill. When you hear about seasonal cheese it immedaitely seems fleeting–rare, precious, and necessary to taste NOW. But all cheeses, even those like Oma that are made year-round, have moments where you can feel and taste the unique conditions of their making. And right now this cheese is exceptional.

Why? Because Von Trapp cows are processing a late winter diet of organic hay studded with fat clover buds and all that fodder (and not much walking through snowy hills) is giving an especially thick, rich, fat-and-protein laden milk. To ensure that the wheels this March are the absolute best I dragged a group of devout cheese proselytizers from the Murray’s ranks into our classroom to blind taste 6 different batches of Oma.

Breaking through the nectarine-colored crust of each wheel, we found interior pastes ranging from custardy to springy, and a windfall of flavors reminiscent of eggy French Reblochon to decidedly bacony quiche. All 6 were lovely, but we chose those with a stickier, more elastic texture and balanced, savory. No bitter bite that can happen with this style.

It’s hard work, but someone has to do it, and we want you to get the best.

PS: Yes, they’re the same family as the singing Von Trapps but the focus these days is on the music of milk.

Going Spelunking with the Murray’s Team

 

 

Step into the Murray’s Cheese Caves with Amanda Parker

Sometimes, in the dead of winter, when I’m avoiding slippery ice patches and greyed snow drifts on the New York sidewalks or trolling the desolate farmer’s market for root vegetables, I forget about the seasons.  That summer exists in its sun-saturated glory, or spring, with its green grass and rebirth.

I forget, too, that cheese follows this natural cycle the whole year through, each wheel aging and ripening to its perfect condition even as the rest of the edible world lies dormant.  What this means for us cheese-eaters is that there is always something new to focus on, ripe and ready for plucking and enjoying at its peak.  We just need to find it.

So as part of our weekly team meeting, the Murray’s crew went spelunking.  Where the rest of New York goes underground for the subway, we at Murray’s go cave-diving, searching our cellars for just the right wheels to share with our fellow cheeseheads.  And true to season, this week we found rich, hearty cheeses that warm us up and stick to our ribs.

Take Vacherin Fribourgeois, for example.  One of the classic Alpine cheeses that are best in this season, made from the most flavor-packed, concentrated grasses of the summer, Fribourgeois is unbeatable for all things melting.  It’s nutty and rich and just a little bit funky, the Swiss superstar of a wintry fondue.  Try it with a good Comte from just across the French border, throw it in a fondue pot and you’ve got dinner—because who can resist bubbling cheese with bread and meat to beat the February doldrums?

Also in the fill-you-up category are our meaty washed rind cheeses.  Right now, our favorites are the gooey Edwin’s Munster and its firmer cousin Tomme du Berger.  Perfect for this month if you think “love stinks,” our Munster is intensely pungent, not for the faint-hearted but in its prime—like now!—it’s got that barny, umami richness that the Austrians love with pickled onions and brown bread.

Less stinky but equally complex is the Tomme du Berger, a mix of goat and sheep’s milks from Corsica, then aged in Provence.  Firm and slightly lacey, it has hints of the heat of southern France, dry tones like the hay and grass that dot the countryside of its origin.  At the moment, it’s gamy and just a bit stinky with a totally different profile than it will have in the summer, highlighting how much one cheese can change from month to month.

And if we can’t fight the winter blues, we’ll at least eat them.  Bavarian Blue—or Bayrischer Blauschimmelkase, if you can handle that mouthful—is a buttery, mild blue from southern Germany, where a South American cheesemaker churns out this creamy, sweet beauty.  Even though its original recipe was based on the piquant Roquefort, Bavarian Blue doesn’t pack the same spicy punch, so it’s a mellow, smoother flavor.  We love it by itself, since these wheels have a hint of licorice already, or with a seasonal honey for dessert.

From our caves to your mouths, try one of our current seasonal favorites—at least for this week!

Consider the Sheep: La Serena

Cheeses at their best:  What we’re especially loving right now

by Grace Mitchell

La Serena

Should you find yourself in search of an oozing, sheepy, expand-across-your-plate wedge of cheese, do take pause!  You needn’t look any further, for La Serena, a raw sheep’s milk cheese from Spain, quite nicely fits the bill.  Deep in the hinterlands of the southwestern province of Extremadura, a man and his son craft from the milk of their 2,000 Merino sheep these unusual wheels of cheese.  As are many traditional Iberian cheeses, La Serena is coagulated by enzymes found in the thistle plant, which lends a tangy, floral character to the goat and sheep milk cheeses made in this manner (most cheesemaking involves coagulation by enzymes derived from the stomach lining of unweaned cows, sheep, or goats).

This floral morsel doesn’t get any better than it tastes right now.  The confluence of Spain’s humidity this time of year and the fatty winter sheep milk yields wheels of La Serena that are at once perfectly voluptuous, delicate, tangy, and vegetal.  These days, the contents of these three-pound lace-bound wheels cavalierly slides like creamy lava within the rind, begging you to—please!—do as the Spanish do:  gently slice off the top of the wheel, and dive in with pieces crusty bread and chunks of chorizo in fondue-like fashion.

We can’t resist sharing our excitement over this sheepy goodness!  To round out your cheese plate with wedges of wheels that we’re also finding especially superlative in this moment, we recommend you to have a taste of the spicy, cakey, goaty Spanish Monte Enebro, and the milky, creamy, subtle Bavarian Blue.