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A Wonderful Magical Animal

Over the last few months, I’ve read several about this amazing pork from a place out in Spokane. Wooly Pigs has imported a herd of Austrian Mangalitsa pigs. These very fat, very hairy pigs are worlds away from modern “improved” breeds. This isn’t the lean, dry, flavorless “other white meat.” Quite the contrary, the meat is dark, rich, and marbled with fat. But even the fat is special. Mangalitsa fat is more unsaturated than typical pig fat, which makes it healthier as well as giving it a softer, smoother texture. Or so they say. Now that the weather has improved enough to start grilling and smoking again in earnest, I had to try some Mangalitsa.

Fortunately, Wooly Pigs sells at the Saturday U-District Farmers Market, so when Kathy was heading out the door to stock up on veggies last week, I asked her to buy some pork, too. And did she ever! She came home with a huge hunk of Berkshire pork for pulled pork as well as a very attractive Mangalitsa loin roast. The Berkshire went in the freezer for another day, but I couldn’t wait to try the Mangalitsa. So, this afternoon, I loaded up the grill with some Wicked Good Charcoal and fired it up.

I wasn’t really sure how to prep the loin roast, so I decided to go simple: I scored through the fat to allow the smoke to penetrate a bit and rubbed the roast with a little salt and black pepper. I threw a couple blocks of alder wood on the coals and put the roast on over indirect heat. I wanted to keep the temperature down at about 300°F, but the fire got away from me a bit and the first few minutes were closer to 400°F. I got the temperature back down in about 15 minutes. And then I waited. Almost two hours later…

Wow. Beautiful. It was the most amazing and unique pork I’ve ever tasted. Rich and flavorful in an almost beefy sort of way. Even the juiciest, best-prepared roast pork often has a very firm cardboardy texture. This had none of that. And that fat! I should mention that I’ve never been one to blindly chow down on fat; I’ll trim away even a thin band of fat from my meat before it goes in my mouth. But this stuff was completely different. It was light and almost airy; soft enough to spread (say, in place of butter on a nice hunk of crusty bread). And the outermost layer was salty and crispy and smokey. Yum. I know some people rave about lard in baked goods, but until I experienced this fat, it never completely made sense. This is the kind of pig that makes great lard and I can imagine any number of ways to use this fat that I’d never consider with regular pork fat.

Of course, this wonderful magical meat comes at a price. Literally. This stuff isn’t cheap. I wouldn’t be surprised if the price goes up further as more people experience its wonder. Time will tell.