The Pig :: Day Three

“I love sausage, but don’t care to see how it’s made.”

Today, you’ll see how it’s made.

Although the recipes came from various sources, the ingredients are simple and similar:

  • ground pork
  • spices
  • herbs
  • often onions and garlic
  • liquid — usually wine

Breakfast sausage (sage and onions) from Better Than Store Bought by Helen Willyard and Elizabeth Coichie
Saucisson (black and white pepper sausage for dry curing) from La Technique by Jacques Pepin
Pork Liver Terrine Pate Campagnola from Cooking by Hand by Paul Bertolli
Boudin blanc (emulsified sausage) from Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn
Cotechino (classic Italian with Anise and boiled pork skin) from Cooking by Hand by Paul Bertolli
Crepinettes, each of the fresh sausage mixtures made into patties and wrapped in caul fat

The meat was all cut up yesterday and divided into portions for the various sausages.

prep for Pate Campagnole

Each team put together its recipe ingredients — this particular prep is for the Pate Campagnole — you can tell by the use of liver.

The meat is ground with a cast iron grinder attachment for the commercial mixer.


The ground meat, herbs, spices, etc. are mixed.


Here, we visit the terrine. Loaf pans are lined with caul fat and the ground meat mixture pressed into the pans.

pate underway

The pans are placed in a water bath and baked. Continue reading

The Pig :: Day Two

Breaking down the sides…

We are entering the middle day of our journey from two snorting and snuffling pigs to some hams, bacon, sausages and the like.

Today, we’ll smoke some bacon, make some headcheese, start some hams, render some leaf lard, and have a swell and somewhat unusual lunch, make big pieces into little pieces and sort them.

These are the vegetables for Head Cheese, or what Fergus Henderson in his book “Nose to Tail Eating” calls BRAWN. We’re looking at onions, carrots, leeks, celery, garlic, lemon zest, a splash of red wine vinegar, bundle of herbs and a small handful of black peppercorns. While I prepped the vegetables, the pig’s head in water was coming to a boil in a big pot. When it got to a simmer, I stuffed the vegetables into the pot.

vegetables for head cheese

After about 2 1/2 hours, everything comes out of the pot and the remaining liquor is reduced by half. The vegetables are discarded and all the good bits of meat are picked out of the head. A terrine will be lined with cling film, the bits of meat added, the reduced liquor poured over and refrigerated overnight to set. The bits leftover will be made into patties, breaded and fried. That’s for tomorrow’s lunch.

My other job-of-the-day was to cook up the pig lungs for lunch. When they were harvested yesterday and before going into their sterilized tray, one of the students picked it (them?) up and blew them full of air. Hey, they work.

I trimmed the lungs of their gnarly parts, cut into small pieces and parboiled. Sliced a boatload of onions and got all that going over a very low flame. That would cook until lunchtime, almost three hours. Salt and pepper was the only seasoning.

lungs n onions saute very slowly

Meanwhile, the ribs were cut out, trimmed and roasted.

clockwise from bread: roasted potatoes, lungs n onions, roasted ribs, vegetable salad

This was a very nice lunch. When I went back for seconds on the ribs, the lungs were totally gone. Bummer. I was surprised that the lungs didn’t taste at all like organ meat. Probably because they are so fresh.

Meanwhile, the prime cuts; hams, loin, ribs, chops and roasts are cut and the balance of the meat is cut into bits for sausage. These bits are sorted by lean and fat so they can be mixed in proper proportion. The shoulder (Boston Butt) has perfect proportion by itself.

hams, cut two ways

some of the lean meat being cut

The cut meat is put in that yellow bucket, weighed and then sorted into hotel pans and labeled for its ultimate use. Tomorrow, we’re going to make 5 kinds of sausage and a pate.

These are the more fatty cuts.

The person top right is cutting the skin from the meat. The skin will be boiled until tender and go into sausage as fat.

Alison requested this picture. It was hard to catch Eric standing still long enough to pose.

At the end of the day, what once had been carcasses, was transformed into hotel pans of various cuts of meat.

A cooler of pig.

another view showing meat sorted for sausages

The Pig


At age 30, we moved to Massachusetts. Our sons were five and three. At age 54 we moved to San Francisco. All but one year of that time, we lived at 48 Harrison Street, Newton Highlands MA 02138. 617-969-3359 It was the time when we embraced adulthood, raised our children and forged lasting friendships. A time like no other in our lives. This is about revisiting New England, not for reflection and nostalgia, but for activity and exploration.
Our visit was centered around the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) annual Nose to Tail Pig Processing Workshop during Columbus Day weekend. Before, we made our way to the Belfast Maine environs, and after, we drove across the whole of New England to Cooperstown, New York, and from there to Newton Highlands.
The story has a beginning, middle and end. You recently read the beginning, “Getting to the Pig.” And here is the middle and the raison d’etre, “The Pig” where we will journey from two snorting and snuffling pigs to some hams, bacon, sausages and the like.

Pig One

We called this fella “Pig One” He’s been in this stall about two days to get used to his surroundings. He’s had his food withheld but given plenty of water. He’s met the farmers, Paul and Everett, so he knows them and is not afraid.

the big room with tables in a “U” shape

We met in this big, high room each morning for coffee and a muffin and to discuss what will be going on that day. Eric — at the corner table — says that today, Paul and Everett, our farmer instructors, will lead us through the process of killing and dressing two pigs.

The day was cloudy and quite cool, perfect weather for our task at hand. We walked across the field to greet Pig One and be instructed how he will meet his demise. The killing must be quick and efficient and cause no trauma in the pig. In this case, Paul will shoot the pig with a .22 caliber pistol aimed at the center of a triangle formed by the pigs eyes and nose. — I was surprised at how calm the pig was, Paul walked into the stall and slowly up to the pig’s head and BANG. — The pig will writhe violently, so stand clear, a flailing leg could cause serious injury.

As soon as possible, the pig will be “stuck” by inserting a knife just above the breast bone and thrusting up. This will cut the main artery that runs above the breast bone and the pigs own heart will pump all of the blood out onto the straw of the pen. Very efficient. That whole process took about 30 seconds.

spreader attached to the pig

A spreader is attached to the pig’s hind feet and he will be picked up and hosed down to wash off mud, blood and straw.

We will process two pigs, the first will be scraped clean of his hair and dressed with his skin on. Often, for hams or bacon, the cut with skin on is preferred. Excess skin can be boiled and ground into sausage, as well. The other pig will be skinned.

Very early, a trough was filled with water and a fire built under the trough. Now the water temperature is just under boiling and the pig will be lowered into the water and sloshed around. The hot water bath eases the scraping… just like shaving, guys.

the pig, being guided into very hot water

The table to the right has been washed and sanitized with a vinegar water solution. Out he comes, onto the table.

pig on the table

scraping starts at the head

For this pig, the head will be cut off whole, to be boiled and made into headcheese. Continue reading

Getting to the Pig


At age 30, we moved from Virginia to Massachusetts. Our sons were five and three. At age 54 we moved to San Francisco. All but one year of that time, we lived at 48 Harrison Street, Newton Highlands MA 02138. 617-969-3359 It was the time when we embraced adulthood, raised our children and forged lasting friendships. A time like no other in our lives. This is about revisiting New England, not for reflection and nostalgia, but for activity and exploration.

Our visit was centered around the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) annual Nose to Tail Pig Processing Workshop during Columbus Day weekend. Before, we made our way to the Belfast Maine environs, and after, we drove across the whole of New England to Cooperstown, New York, and from there to Newton Highlands.
The story has a beginning, middle and end. This is the beginning, “Getting to the Pig.”


“We left home more than 12 hours ago, and we’re still in Reno,” I said to Carol.

We were waiting to board the 5am shuttle bus from Grand Sierra Resort to the Reno Tahoe airport. Brian and Natasza had picked us up Tuesday evening for dinner and we stayed over due to our 6:05am flight to Denver and Boston.

For locals, the Room is $58 and they paid the first $25 at Briscola, Charlie Palmer’s take on Italian. And they provide a free shuttle to airport. Not bad.

Grand Sierra Resort, 5 am


Our Southwest flight was EZ. About an hour out of Denver, I had my second Bloody Mary. It is good. In Denver we had just enough time to grab some eats at Lefty’s Grill. It’s an airport place, so I didn’t expect much, but how could I pass up the Sausage Gravy Biscuits for brunch? The biscuits were thin and soft… nice, and all the gravy needed was salt, pepper and Tabasco. Not photogenic, but… Yum.

Lefty’s Grille sausage gravy over biscuits, Denver Airport

The continuing flight to Boston was without incident and I recounted the cool things I had learned about Southwest Airlines on two previous flights.

  • The no-assigned seats. Who knew? It’s so simple, get on, pick a seat, sit down. OK… pay a $12.50 fee to be in the first 60 to board, guaranteeing an aisle seat. What else do you need?
  • Flight attendants take your order for drinks and bring them to you NO AISLE CARTS and as many assorted snacks as you can eat; peanuts, pretzels wheat crackers, etc. They come back for empty wrappers, glasses, etc and say, “Would you like another Bloody Mary? Yes, thank you.”
  • Two bags per person fly free. I noticed some airlines are now charging $75 per bag.
  • And when we got to the baggage claim at Logan Airport, our bags were there.

Logan airport has a new feature since we were last there: Go to the blue curb for a shuttle bus to rental cars… all rental cars are in one building. Check in on one floor, take the escalator to one of the two floors above. Get in your car. Go. From touch-down to the Ted Williams tunnel, under an hour.

Eric and Alison had arranged to meet us in Portland for dinner, since we couldn’t get their house until almost 10pm if everything went perfectly. And we would be tired. He got that right.

We followed Eric’s directions to the Franklin Street exit off I-295 and as he said, went up the hill and down the hill through several traffic signals until we reached Commercial Street and the Hilton Garden Inn. Meet them in the bar at the Fore Street Restaurant, just behind the hotel. That was EZ.

Fore Street is a New England kinda place of wood and brick. The centerpiece is a wood fired brick oven built by the same guy that built Eric and Alison’s oven/chimney. The building, food, service were all of a piece — everything in harmony to produce sensory satisfaction.

Fore Street: my baked halibut

Fore Street: grilled squid appetizer

Fore Street: Eric’s baked blue fish

our shirts are in harmony, as well

Long day, good day. I woke with the sun at 7am.

Portland ME: our Hilton Garden Inn harbor view

Brian and Natasza’s Kyiv Wedding Anniversary: 10.10.10 Continue reading

Road Eats 3 :: Las Vegas

(It’s about time I got around to continuing my Spring Training recollections.)

Glad to be here.

Not exactly Las Vegas, but very close. When trip planning, we decided that since we were driving all the way from Phoenix, it would be safe to spend the first night in Boulder City and avoid checking into a huge Vegas hotel possibly late in the evening. Even though we got to Boulder City before 4pm, it was a wise choice. The Boulder Dam Hotel was quite nice. Historic. Very comfortable. The Lobby/Parlor had a fireplace going and people were actually sitting around there. In addition to the front desk, there’s a dining room on the first floor. Rooms are on the second floor.

Boulder Dam Hotel

We took a walk around town to get the lay of the land and check out places we might eat. The hotel clerk (probably the owner) was quick to recommend Evans Grille. We walked there and the place was bustling at quarter-to-seven.

The menu was down home and interesting, with a Greek bent. I ordered a cup of Barley Soup and Tilapia with a side of angel hair pasta. Carol, the Special Greek Salad with Lamb and Chicken (she LOVED it). There seems to have been a pink light in the place, but it wasn’t noticeable to the naked eye.


Greek Salad

Of course the servings were large enough for two meals — the families around us were all taking home boxes. We’ll be in Las Vegas tomorrow, hardly a spot for leftovers. Continue reading


Out of Arizona and into Las Vegas

Las Vegas coming up…

We went on a Road Trip, Carol and I. Our main objective was Giants Spring Training in Scottsdale AZ. We got down to Scottsdale expeditiously — bypassing Las Vegas as we headed south and spent a swell six days in Arizona.

So we leave Arizona and embark on the Las Vegas eats part of the recollection.

TUESDAY March 5th
Out of Arizona.
An IHOP was located conveniently in the parking lot of our hotel. I looked carefully over the menu to try to find something appealing and the right size. IHOP specializes in “way too much.”

2 eggs with bacon and two pancakes with fruit compote. “What kind of compote?” I asked. She told. “Can I substitute just plain fruit?”

“What’s your favorite?”


“We have pineapple chunks.”


A spare and odd, but fine IHOP breakfast.

I borrowed some browned shredded potatoes from Carol’s breakfast to help with the eggs. We need to drive north on Scottsdale Road and find a gas station.

We soon find ourselves on Rt 74 going west through Joshua Tree National Forest. By now, we’re in a nice highway driving mode. We take a pit stop at a McDonald’s in Wickenberg. 140 miles to Kingman, we can catch lunch there. NOT.

What happens is Rt 93 joins I-40 and you fly by Kingman. Try and think of a fast food chain that’s not at one of the three exits. We got gas on Rt. 93 in Kingman going south, there must be a greasy spoon or mom and pop once we get off the interstate and on to 93. Nope. What we find is no town and no food.

There’s an exit for Bullhead City that promises a Sonic (2 miles). We take it. The next civilization is Boulder Dam, 80 miles away.

Well, it’s more than a couple miles and we pass a couple of mom-and-pops and reach SONIC. You know those Sonic commercials; 2 guys sitting in a car eating a burger and suckin’ on a shake? (I hate those.) So we drive up to Sonic and they have these 1950’s stations where you drive up and order and presumedly a car hop comes out and clamps one of those trays on your window.

Carol went in… no service inside… the idea is you eat in your car. HELL NO.

We went back the road to Caroline’s Cafe. HooBaby, we’re in luck. The special is open face meatloaf sandwich with mashed potatoes and brown gravy. I’ll have some of that! Carol had the Paddy Melt with sweet potato fries. What we have here is down home cookin’! Eat your heart out, Sonic.

Ready to dig in.

Caroline’s Cafe

Back to the joys of 93 North.
Out of Arizona.
Frankly, I’m glad. I didn’t find Arizona user-friendly. Even in little ol’ Reno, driving downtown I’ll pass a number of restaurants; the ones I’ve sampled are pretty good, almost none are chains. Good luck with that in Phoenix. And the signs along the roadside aren’t particularly informative. They might have cautioned us, “last chance to eat for 80 miles.” And the roads we traveled were string straight and not very pretty.

As far as I got today. Stay tuned… more stuff to come.


Giants Spring Training
plus Las Vegas on the way home

Ahhh… Spring (it is in Arizona)

We went on a Road Trip, Carol and I. Our main objective was Giants Spring Training in Scottsdale AZ. Every year, I’ve talked about going to spring training and every year Carol would say, “I can’t take time off at that time of year.” Carol retired — WooHoo — so this year, we bought the Giants Spring Training package. Tickets to 3 games and hotel for three nights, tee shirts, caps and other goodies. We’re going to spring training! We will meet our friend and Carol’s former colleague, Sarah and her friend Scott in Scottsdale.

We decided to make it a Road Trip, and decided to rent a car for the trip for two reasons: a) we have enough *Miles* to cover a 10 day car rental, b) our Altures road trip mishap; and c) why put nearly 2000 hard miles on our fabulous 2008 VW GTI? That’s 3 reasons. All the better.

We planned to get down to Scottsdale expeditiously — bypassing Las Vegas and spending the night in a town to the west — and stop for two days in Vegas on the way home. If you reduce your map enough Reno to Scottsdale is pretty much a straight line.

Reno NV to Scottsdale AZ

This is the eats part of the recollection. Not all our meals were great… the first one is kind of ugly, but I decided “warts and all” was the way to go. Not every meal was perfect… although some neared perfection. You can skip the ugly one or two if you want but we couldn’t.

WEDNESDAY February 27
We ate breakfast at home before leaving at 8:30am. Don’t remember what we ate.

Lunch at El Marquise, Tonopah NV $31

My Carne Asada with a side salad

Our Guidebook described “a dark, comforting room and good food.”

It was that. The guidebook did not say the food was picturesque.
I had the Carne Asada and a salad.  Carol had a Taco Salad with chicken.
Carne Asada — pork with green chili sauce, refried beans and rice — is my go-to dish in a Mexican Restaurant. Despite its looks, the pork was extremely tender and the beans just right. I’m not a sandwich lover and a taco is a sandwich, a particularly messy sandwich. Carol loved her Taco Salad, she always does.

As with many roadside restaurants, the servings were way too big.


We arrived at Pahrump, a town uglier than its name just before 5pm. Not bad, this was the longest leg of our trip.

The Best Western is nice enough and their companion restaurant, Wulfy’s, is a sports bar kind of place.
Dinner Wulfy’s Fried Chicken + Pizza $31.

Our swell car at the Best Western

Carol had a 9-inch pizza. Mine was the deep fried chicken — choice of wing and thigh or breast — I chose the former. The food was okay, moist and everything, just not seasoned. When I complained, Carol said, “You want good, well seasoned fried chicken, go to KFC, they built a business on their seasoning. MacDonald’s fish is pretty good too… or Jack-in-the-Box burgers.”


my fried chicken with a side of cole slaw


“Yeah,” I responded, “but they have bright lights, hard surfaces, moms with kids and no beer. At least this place with just okay food has good lighting, the Warriors on the TV and Fat Tire on draft. Also salt, pepper and ketchup to apply to taste.”

THURSDAY February 28
Best Western offered a complementary breakfast at Wulfy’s, and it was good. Almost anything you would want for breakfast except eggs-to-order. I had scrambled eggs, sausage links and fried potatoes. The potatoes were particularly good. They had been cubed, roasted and then deep fried. Crispy outside, creamy inside. Carol had the same, except a warm biscuit instead of potatoes.

About 290 miles southeast of Pahrump on US-93, we stopped at Wickenburg for lunch. Believe me, there is almost nothing in Arizona between Boulder Dam City and here except straight roads and horizons; mountains in the distance. (More on that when we travel north.) Continue reading

Anatomy of an Asian Fête

Chinese Fete

When I offered to make a birthday dinner of any dish and/or cuisine, the request was for a chinese dumpling dinner for a family gathering over Labor Day weekend. Not content to roll a bunch of dumplings, boil them up, and call it good, I used the occasion as an excuse to pull together many different asian recipes that I’ve been cooking recently, or wanting to cook, and introduce the family to my obsession with trying to grok all asian cuisines after visiting China in 2009.

The thunderbolt that hit me in China was exposure to several *different* cuisines within China — saying “Chinese cooking” is just like saying “American cooking” — it depends on who is cooking, where they are cooking, and what their cultural background is. Since then I’ve studied more about the many different Asian takes on food preparations and ingredients (from India to Japan) to try to understand the things they share, as well as what made them different.

The birthday dinner audience consisted of adults and children, many of whom had traveled and eaten around the world (including the children) but may NOT have focused their attention on Chinese or asian cuisine. Also, for family gatherings, they were accustomed to straight-forward dinner menus consisting of a big plate of meat, one or two side veggies and/or starch, and a big salad for dinner.

As I indicate in the title here with the French word “Fête” this was NOT intended to be an authentic meal by any stretch. Along with the odd mish-mash of cuisines and ignorance of proper banquet service I sought to use familiar and local ingredients where ever possible: smoked salmon, instead of ham; lobster instead of crab, etc. The intention was to create a tasty meal that exposed some of the diners to new flavors and/or textures but was not completely unfamiliar, as much as to just create a tasty meal that included dumplings. I hope that I succeeded.
Continue reading

Jon vs Food

We have a guest columnist this week. My brother-in-law, the Honorable Jon Hale, Lancaster (Ohio) City Councilman, sent this to his sister, my wife, knowing full well that I write and publish eatsforone. Jon vs. Food is hereby reprinted, in its entirety, with permission.

The Max & Erma’s Landfill

From: Jon
Date: August 5, 2012 10:38:58 AM PDT
To: “Marc & Carol”
Subject: “Jon vs Food!” Additional pix on the way too!

So, the Max & Erma’s chain – corporately based in Columbus with decent food, but admittedly not nearly as fun as when they used to feature phones on each table – has introduced their own eating contest called the Landfill Burger Challenge.

“Complete a huge 4.5 pound three-pattie burger piled up with multiple cheeses, onions, lettuce, tomato, mushrooms, fried pickles, salsa, guacamole, ham and pulled pork, plus a generous one pound serving of chili cheese fries and you win a t-shirt, commemorative photo displayed and a gift card for your next visit.”

Since the beginning of July only one person from seven who’d tried had actually done it, until Saturday, August 4.  Having watched “Man vs Food” over the past few years and hearing Michelle (wife) comment “You could do that” numerous times, I decided to actually give this a try once it came to Lancaster.  Out to dinner with friends Ed & Pam H and Michele, I confidently ordered the Landfill. The rules are that once started you cannot get up from the table and cannot receive assistance from anyone. There is no time limit, but aside from the ultimate goal of being a clean-plater, my first goal was to try to beat the 43 minute time set by the other guy (friend Michele offered to buy me a beer if I could do it in 40 minutes). It soon became apparent that wasn’t going to happen, even matching the other guys 43 minutes wasn’t in the cards either – so, I decided to shoot for under an hour.

Jon attacks.

I found that Adam Richman isn’t kidding when he talks about hitting a food wall – 30 minutes and about 2/3 of the Landfill gone was my wall, but I steadily kept going.  Under the encouragement of my dinner companions, as well as a genuinely supportive wait staff, the final bite went down at the 54:24 mark!


Surprisingly, I was very full, but not all that uncomfortable.  Three laps walking around the restaurant helped, as did getting up to pose for my commemorative photo.  The next day, as promised to several friends, I even wore my t-shirt to church.  Facebook has been well adorned with photos and accounts, and I’m glad I can scratch this one off my list of things to try to do!

Subject: Oops almost forgot…

The Landfill also had bacon on it too! Mmm, bacon…

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry