5.17 – Memorial Pig Feast – Prep: Weeks 1 – 4

Preparation for Memorial Day Pig Feast: May 25, 2009


Pig Butchering at The Brooklyn Kitchen, 4/28

After being lucky enough to attend one of this year’s final pig butchering classes taught by Tom Mylan of Marlow and Daughters in Williamsburg, I have decided to embark on my most ambitious feast to date. A meal so ambitious that the prep has required 4 full weeks of planning. Through the inspiration of Tom’s suggested applications for each piece of pig he elegantly butchered to Leonard Skynard (I believe we enjoyed Free Bird twice), and the generosity of my bacon-loving guest photographer, Joe, I managed to secure over 14lbs of local upstate pork and the menu to do it justice.

The menu for Memorial Day will be roughly as follows, with last minute changes according to my whim:

Home-curred Lardo
Porchetta-style Pork shoulder
Salad of creamy blue cheese and pig’s ear cracklin’
Assortment of pickles
Deviled Eggs
Elvis-esque Banana Ice Box Pie (with bacon garnish)

Week 4:



Ive made it, it’s the big day. This morning I inhaled a big cup of coffee and some nova from Zabar to give me strength and am now embarking on the final prep.

Step 1: Start dough for pork bus
Step 2: Start Porchetta
Step 3: Make sun tea (who doesn’t like iced tea on a hot day)
Step 4: Deviled Eggs
Step 5: Banana Pudding (mom’s recipe of course)
Step 6: Make green onion wraps (now deemed meat shafts by JL)
Step 7: re-bake beans with BBQ sauce
Step 8: greet guests (whew!)


Pork-Belly Buns (Courtesy Brooklyn Kitchen)
Adapted by Surly from David Chang, Gourmet October 2007

For pork
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
4 1/2 cups water, divided
2 1/2 lb skinless boneless pork belly, cut into quarters
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

For buns
1 cup warm water (105-115°F), divided
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
3 tablespoons sugar plus a pinch
2 tablespoons nonfat dried milk
3 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Canola oil for greasing and brushing

Equipment: a deep 12-inch skillet with domed lid or a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok with lid
Accompaniments: hoisin sauce; thinly sliced cucumber; chopped scallions

Brine pork:
Stir together kosher salt, sugar, and 4 cups water until sugar and salt have dissolved. Put pork belly in a large sealable bag, then pour in brine. Carefully press out air and seal bag. Lay in a shallow dish and let brine, chilled, at least 12 hours.

Make dough for buns while pork is brining:
Stir together 1/4 cup warm water with yeast and pinch of sugar. Let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.) Whisk in dried milk and remaining 3/4 cup warm water.

Stir together flour and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar in a bowl, then stir in yeast mixture (do not add baking powder yet) with a fork until a dough forms. Knead dough with your hands in bowl until all of flour is incorporated. Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead, dusting surface and hands with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, until dough is elastic and smooth but still soft, about 5 minutes. Form dough into a ball.

Put dough in an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, about 2 hours.

Roast pork while dough rises:
Preheat oven to 300°F with rack in middle.

Discard brine and put pork, fat side up, in an 8- to 9-inch square baking pan. Pour in broth and remaining 1/2 cup water. Cover tightly with foil and roast until pork is very tender, about 2 1/2 hours. Remove foil and increase oven temperature to 450°F, then roast until fat is golden, about 20 minutes more. Cool 30 minutes, then chill, uncovered, until cold, about 1 hour.

Cut chilled pork across the grain into 1/4-inch slices. Chill slices in pan juices, covered, while making buns.

Make buns:
Punch down dough, then transfer to a lightly floured surface and flatten slightly into a disk. Sprinkle baking powder over center of dough, then gather edges of dough and pinch to seal in baking powder. Knead dough with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking until baking powder is incorporated, about 5 minutes. Return dough to bowl and cover with plastic wrap, then let dough stand 30 minutes.

Cut 16 (3- by 2-inch) pieces of wax paper.

Form dough into a 16-inch-long log. Cut into 16 equal pieces, then lightly dust with flour and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Roll out 1 piece of dough into a 6- by 3-inch oval, lightly dusting surface, your hands, and rolling pin. Pat oval between your palms to remove excess flour, then brush half of oval lightly with oil and fold in half crosswise (do not pinch). Place bun on a piece of wax paper on a large baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Make more buns with remaining dough, then let stand, loosely covered, until slightly risen, about 30 minutes.

Set a large steamer rack inside skillet (or wok) and add enough water to reach within 1/2 inch of bottom of rack, then bring to a boil. Carefully place 5 to 7 buns (still on wax paper) in steamer rack (do not let buns touch). Cover tightly and steam over high heat until buns are puffed and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer buns to a plate with tongs, then discard wax paper and wrap buns in kitchen towels (not terry cloth) to keep warm. Steam remaining buns in 2 batches, adding boiling-hot water to skillet as needed.

Return buns (still wrapped in towels) to steamer rack in skillet and keep warm (off heat), covered.


To Serve:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Heat sliced pork (in liquid in baking dish), covered, until hot, 15 to 20 minutes.

Brush bottom half of each bun with hoisin sauce, then sandwich with 2 or 3 pork slices and some cucumber and scallions



20 fresh sage leaves
3 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves only
3 sprigs rosemary, leaves only
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons fennel pollen (available at Whole Foods)
1½ teaspoons medium-coarse sea salt
1½ teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
One 3¾-to-4 pound boneless pork shoulder (skin on, not tied)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup dry white or red wine

1. Heat oven to 250°

2. Finely chop the sage, thyme, rosemary and garlic together (you can do this by pulsing the herbs in a food processor or chopping them by hand). Place the mixture in a small bowl, add the fennel pollen, salt and pepper, and stir together well.

3. With a sharp knife, score the pork skin in a crosshatch diamond pattern, making 1/2-inch-deep cuts about 1 inch apart. With a paring knife, make about 10 incisions (about ½ inch deep) all over the pork and stuff it with about a third of the herb mixture. Tie the pork into a compact roast with kitchen twine, brush the olive oil over the skin and rub all over with the remaining herb mixture.

4. Set pork skin-side up in a roasting pan. Roast for 2 hours.

5. Pour wine over pork and baste with wine and accumulated juices. Continue roasting, basting once every half hour, until skin is well-browned and meat is spoon tender, 2½ to 3 hours more.

6. Remove the pork from the oven; let the meat rest for 15 minutes, then slice and serve.



On Saturday I also started brining some pork belly in a 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup kosher salt, 4 cups water brine . I’m giving firetruck (my new cast iron le creuset casserole) his dinner party debut at the pig feast as host to the belly for our pork buns.

This morning I got up and began roasting the (skinless) belly fat -side up in 1/2 cup reserved stock from the headcheese and 1/2 cup water for 2 1/2 hours @ 300 degrees covered, I will follow this with 20 minutes at 450 until the fat browns. Will cool, slice and chill in the fridge overnight in it’s own juices.


That just leaves deviled eggs, pork bun dough and the Porchetta for Monday. Fingers crossed that Whole Foods does have fennel pollen (as the recipe suggests). It’s like the upper west is a waste land. No squid ink, tenderizing salt or fennel pollen???



Trotter post brine and braising.

After spending the better part of 8 hours in the kitchen today, I can proudly confirm that the feast is on and delicious at that.

I started about noon today, putting head and trotter into my soup pot with celery, onion, carrot, pepper corns, fresh thyme and parsley, a clove, bay leaf, and a couple allspice. Wilbur spent 4 hours tightly covered at 300 degrees prepping to be pulled.

While waiting on Wilbur to finish up I threw together a batch of Julia Child’s cole slaw (aways better after marinating a day or two) and Joy of Cooking’s Honey-Baked Beans. I also threw together a batch of cous cous salad for a picnic in the park tomorrow.


A quick check of the lardo proved to be deliciously sweet and delicate.

Cole Slaw courtesy Julia Childs
1/2 cup Mayonnaise (sorry Julia I bought mine)
1/3 cup sour cream or creme fresh (I used sour cream)
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp cider vinegar
fresh ground pepper
1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Toss with shredded green cabbage, julienne carrot, and sliced green onion.

Honey-baked Beans

1 lb bag pinto beans (dried)

Pick over beans to make sure there are no rocks and cover with boiling water in a bowl (2″ above height of beans). Let stand 1-2 hours until beans are plumped and water is absorbed. Drain and add to pot with 10 cups water. Boil for 45 minutes.

Strain beans, reserving liquid.

Add 1 red onion diced, 1/4 lb bacon (cut into lardon) and 2 cloves garlic minced to beans.

To cooking liquid add, 1 tsp powdered mustard, 2 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 cup honey, 1/4 cup molases, fresh cracked pepper, 2 tsp salt and a splash of hot sauce (my addition). Stir to dissolve honey and pour over beans and onion etc. till covered. Bake 2 1/2 hours at 300 degrees.

The beans are okay, but a little on the bland side for my taste. For the big day I’m planning to mince some green pepper and more onion, and add along with some BBQ sauce and brown sugar to fix it up. Luckily there’s plenty of time left to keep baking the beans

Headcheese molding

After completing my braise, I skinned and pulled all meat off the totter and head and discarded the bones. The teeth still freaked me out too much to keep as a souvenir. I strained the stock and returned to the pot to reduce by half (remember don’t salt till the end to control the final amount).

While reducing I tossed chopped (pulled) meat with a quarter cup finely diced celery, the zest and juice of one lemon and a lot of fresh chopped parsley. In retrospect some fresh cracked pepper would have been nice too. Maybe next time…

Once the stock was fully reduced, I tasted for salt, then combines with meat in the mold. All I have to do now is refrigerate and hope it tastes good on Monday.

I think I’ll go out for dinner tonight as there’s no dishes left in my kitchen or room for leftovers in my fridge.


The headcheese is now molded and chilling in the fridge. Fingers crossed I reduced it enough to gel properly…

Week 3:

We’re now 7 days out from the Memorial Pig Feast and it’s time to get serious about the headcheese.

Today is the 5-day mark before it’s time to braise and that means brining. At Tom Mylan’s suggestion I am going to attempt to corn Wilbur’s tongue (as in corned beef) and set it in the center of my headcheese like a pork Twinkie.


Tom’s Headcheese brine:

1 pig head (or half a head in my case)
1 trotter
1 box (2lbs) kosher salt
1 tbsp pepper corns
1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp allspice
5 cloves
1 lb box brown sugar
2 gallons water
1 tbsp paprika and 3 bay leaves (my addition, sorry Tom)

Heat all contents but the pig parts in a large pot until dissolved. Let stand to cool to room temperature (I went to the movies). In the biggest non-reactive container you have (I use my canner) combine pig, brine and weight down. Leave in fridge covered for 5 days.


After a skim of the internet, Julia Childs and Joy of Cooking I was unable to locate a reputable recipe for corning my own meat. A quick call to Mom saved the day (as usual) she happened to have a recipe from her office-mate/hunter friend Gene sitting on top of her microwave just waiting to share.

Gene Clark’s Corned Venison (or whatever meat you have):

1 tongue (in my case half a pig’s)
2 quarts distilled water (not tap)
1/2 cup pickling salt (non-iodized)
1/2 cup Mortons tender quick tenderizing salt*
3 tbsp sugar (I used brown)
2 tbsp pickling spice (I used Zabars)
2 bay leaves
8 peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1tbsp crushed red pepper flakes (my addition, sorry Gene)

*Apparently tenderizing salt is in a blue bag at your grocery store, but like squid ink, it is unheard of on the upper west side. A quick consult with the butcher at Zabar confirmed they use Kosher salt to corn their beef, so I have substituted (fingers crossed).

Combine all contents but tongue to boil in a large pot, let cool to room temperature.

Combine brine with tongue in a double-lined (one inside the other) ziploc bag and seal. Place in fridge. Turn once each day to ensure even salting , for 5 days total.

Rinse thoroughly before cooking.


Week 2:


With the help of my house guest, Ferocious, this week’s Sunday evening was spent pickling additions to my current stock (dilly beans (2008), bread and butter pickles (2007)).

We made refrigerator-pickled Okra and Crocked Half Sour pickles

Fe suggested spears over whole pickles and I hope she doesn’t steer me wrong.

Crock-Cured Dill Pickles, courtesy Joy of Cooking Canning & Preserves:

2 – 4 lbs fresh Kirby cucumbers, washed and blossom ends trimmed 1/16″ from the end of the cucumber
4-6 sprigs fresh dill
6-8 large cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tbsp celery seed
1 tbsp mustard seed
1 dried hot chili, crushed in your fingers
8 cups water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup white vinegar

Combine salt, water and vinegar and stir to dissolve.

In a 1-gallon crock (any un-chipped ceramic, enameled, glass or food-grade plastic container), scatter half of the dill, mustard seed, celery seed and chili pepper. Layer in cucumber spears allowing for air pockets and top with other half of dill, seeds and pepper. Pour brine over top and allow to completely cover crock contents. Weight cucumbers down under water (I use a pie plate with a jar of water, and cover loosely with plastic wrap to protect from dust.

Let cure on counter 1-3 weeks, stirring every three days. Remove any scum daily if it appears (not to worry there’s been none on mine), and begin tasting after the first week.

After 2-3 weeks pickles can be refrigerated or processed in water bath to store.

Lardo has now been removed from salt and hung to dry from the bottom shelf in my fridge.

Week 1:

Needing maximum curing time, I began curing my lardo immediately after the butchering class concluded, then discovered that my original dinner party date needed to move out one week to accommodate the guest list, oops…

After quickly checking with Mom to see if her Country Ham-Curring prowess had any thoughts on how to slow down the process, we decided we’d better check with the expert (sorry for all those email’s Tom). My plan is to extend the drying time one week, fingers crossed.

Tom Mylan’s Lardo Recipe:

Make a cure of 1 cup Kosher salt to 2 tablespoons sugar and add a couple tablespoons each of crushed red pepper flakes, whole black peppercorn and 5 sprigs of fresh thyme. Rub the fat back in the cure and leave in a plastic container uncovered in the fridge for 5 days then reapply the rub and cure for 5 more days. after that remove from the cure and let it air dry for another 5 days on a plate in the fridge.

I used the above recipe, but included fresh thyme in my first weeks cure, followed by fresh rosemary the second week which the internet says is more traditional (I couldn’t find my rosemary the first week. It was hiding in the back of the fridge).


I also got my pig’s head (Wilbur) out of the fridge and prepped for a week or two in the freezer. I am not a squeamish person, but when the Myth Busters team uses pigs as human analogs they are not joking. Wilbur’s teeth and eye-ball are almost identical to mine, and it took a few deep breadths before I was ready to stick him on the cutting board and remove his ear and tongue for separate freezing…


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