Last Sunday I partook in a culinary event like no other, the Maialata, or the festival of the pig. The Maialata is an age-old Italian tradition that brings together locals for a day of butchering and a night of feasting. This particular Maialata took place in Willamette Valley, Oregon, instead of the mountains of Italy, but it was just as awe-inspiring and mouth-watering.
Cathy Whims of Nostrana and Rudy Marchesi of Montinore Estates, plus an impressive group of Portland chefs and artisan food producers hosted the festival, where we learned about butchering and pasta making, tasted wine and feasted. I was especially captivated by the butchering demo by Camas Davis of Portland Meat Collective and Rob Roy of Nostrana. Their entertaining demo gave me a newfound appreciation for the art and science of butchering. It was incredible to see how little waste there is when a pig is handled correctly and to learn how Portland chefs respect the animal and use every part of it. Here’s the short list of what you can get out of just one sweet hog:
- Pork ragu
- Pork stock or brodo
- Pork shoulder
- Pork roast
- Head cheese
- Spleen soup (umm?!)
- Porter chop
- Regular chop
- Spare ribs
- Baby back ribs
Oh and of course bacon!
Leave it to Portland to put on a food festival that begins with learning how to butcher a whole hog and ends with feasting on various creations of that hog at long tables in a candlelit wine cellar!
A few photos to make you hungry…
And I’ll leave you with the recipe for my favorite dish from the feast, a melt-in-your-mouth pork ragu that is more than worth the hours of simmering.
Thanks Rick Gencarelli of Grassa and Lardo PDX for sharing the recipe!
Rick’s Sunday Pork Ragu
- 1 pound boneless pork shoulder
- 8 ounces pork belly
- 4 T olive oil
- 2 T tomato paste
- 1 cup white wine
- 6 small Cipollini onions, halved
- 2 28 oz cans whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes with juices
- Salt and pepper
- Season the meat with the salt and refrigerate for a few hours.
- Sear the meat in a heavy bottomed pan with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
- Add the onions and let cook for a few minutes.
- Add tomato paste and let cook for a few minutes.
- Deglaze the pan with the wine and simmer for a few more minutes.
- Add San Marzano tomatoes and break them up with a wooden spoon.
- Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Let simmer very slowly for about 4 hours. Season with salt and pepper to taste.