Evan, our chef friend, called this weekend on his way to work the dinner service. We were heading out to pick up our pig.

“That’s great news,” he said. “Will you break it down yourself?”


Evan has been in our kitchen, so he knows it’s small and unsuited to such a task, even if I was so inclined. But who can blame him for asking; he was as excited as I was. The Trumpet goes through half a pig every week, he said, and they use every last bit of it. On the menu right now he has pork done three ways, as a brined chop, cheek confit, and sausage that they make on the premises.

“Get the back fat if you can,” he said.

“We’re getting back fat.”

“Good. Good. You want to cure that in salt, brown sugar, and rosemary. You really want to be generous with the salt. And then you add it to soups and stews and sauces. It gives a really different, delicious flavor.”

He held forth on the right amount of fat to grind into sausage, then had an important literary query for my husband, so I passed the phone on. A couple of hours later we took possession of our pork, which included ten pounds of back fat. I hadn’t included cheek in my cutting instructions but Heath Putnam, Wooly’s proprieter, very graciously pressed some into our hands. We’d also asked the butcher for (and got) a number of other “funny” things, including whole pork belly and jowl, from which I hope to make guanciale.

The first task was decoding Evan’s instructions. He was most likely telling me how he makes lardo, a cured fat that’s supposed to be completely delectable. There’s not much out there in English on how to make this stuff — I imagine many aren’t eager to part with their secrets — but Michael Ruhlman has a short entry in Charcuterie, and Heath has taped and posted an interview with a European chef on his process. Most say takes three months to cure, or more.

So I started with something I know how to do, which is roast a shoulder cut with ancho chile, oregano, and garlic. We were celebrating our friends’ recent engagement and I’m happy to report that the meat was as wonderfully moist and flavorful as anything any of us had eaten.

Only later did I realize I could have saved the fat scraps to cure for salt pork.