After reading Fergus Henderson’s The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating a few years ago, all I’ve wanted to do is cook crazy things. I’ve been especially fascinated with the idea of buying a whole pig and using every single part of it. The recipe I want to try most is Brawn (a.k.a head cheese). It requires a pig’s head, trotters and tongue. Extremities galore.
For me, the first step is taking a class on butchering—so that, by the time I actually get down to the business of carving the pig up, I know what I'm doing. The next obstacle is buying a pig: your local butcher can connect you with local farmers who raise heritage pigs that roam free and forage in their natural environments. The reward is prized meat that’s extra tender and flavorful (also hormone- and antibiotic-free). Join me on my nose-to-tail adventure! Here are some awesome things to look forward to if you do:
Learn how to butcher. Your butcher can show you the ropes. Jake Dickson, the owner of Dickson’s Farmstand Meats in NYC (purveyors of high-quality responsibly sourced meats), holds classes on how to butcher a whole hog: “We break the pigs down into many more cuts than are traditionally found in supermarkets. We borrow from cutting traditions around the world.” How cool.