Traveling on the French Pig Workshop road means less time to prepare pretty posts with Frenchy pictures of my Kitchen at Camont.
Traveling on the French Pig Roadshow circuit also means catching up with old friends and new- in person and over the airways.
First stop-SFO for the IACP (that’s the International Association of Culinary Professionals to you!) always dynamic annual international conference. I’m lucky to get over at the right time this year and look forward to connecting with friends, colleagues and students. Now meat Kari Underly of Range Inc.- third-generation Master Butcher and Grrls Meat Camp co-founder.
Join us for the first ever Grrls Meat Camp ’Modern Butchery for Women Workshop’ with master butcher Kari Underly (above by Jennifer Marx) and Me on the farm in Napoleon Ridge Kentucky. April 12-14. Want to know more? Spaces still available. Read about it here: http://kitchen-at-camont.com/grrls-meat-camp-workshop/
Next, a series of four French Pig Workshops with my Mustachioed & Beret-sporting Butcher Buddy Dominique Chapolard (seen here with alumni Peruvian Chef Renzo Garibaldi). There are a few spaces at these workshops and you sign up here: http://kitchen-at-camont.com/2013/02/24/two-day-workshops-in-the-usa-the-french-pig-making-farmstead-charcuterie/
What can you expect to learn? More than you dreamed about. We teach and share our lives not just how to breakdown a beast. Setting up a business, creating a new idea, living your own dream. Want some inspiration? look what Kitchen-at-Camont Butchery & Charcuterie program alumni Camas Davis has started here and contribute a little porky love to her Kickstarter dream: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1922917888/meat-collectives-across-america.
Interested? Come Meat Me in San Francisco, Kentucky, Oklahoma, DC and Maine… or write Katedecamont (at) me (dot) com .
A tout de suite!
That’s the ticketing for my April.
What it means for you, if you are following the madness known as The Roadshow Madness Month, is that I have a packed a bag of porky French goodness, in my bags and am hitting the trail spreading the word of grrls making salty meaty morsels and seed-to-sausage farming. Come along and meet me and my talented colleagues as we offer the inside tips, hands-on training, and gentle guidance to understanding meat from the ground up.
What it means to me is a long clear look at my Gascon home before I leave and what I’ll be missing all month:
- Bees. I give a last little look at the hive and am reassured that the honey grrls are working hard, have lots of wild flowers left un-mowed to feast on as the orchard comes into bloom.
- Barnworks. The supporting walls are up and finished and will get their roof while I am gone. I’ll be missing the truss raising party and the tiling, but I’ll be delighted when I return to have a safe and dry roof over the new Keeping Kitchen at Camont.
- Gardens. The potager is loaded with underground activity and all those seeds should have germinated by the time I return. Head Gardenr Finegan is plotting the new Forest Garden next to the orchard and chicken coop so I’ll be looking out for seeds and ideas as I travel.
- Bacon. No, not the porky kind but the furry dog friend kind. He can be a real pain in the rear sometimes, but our little 70 kg bundle of doggy love is hard to leave when I get the evil eye for the suitcase.
- Pantry. Hams, braseola, and magrets are all drying in the piggery pantry. Jars of confit and confitures are waiting for my return to be turned into spring cassoulets and other festive meals. Cooking at Camont means raiding the pantry that I work all year to stock.
Au Revoir Planète Camont! There is family and food trucks waiting, farm grrls and butchers to meet, American heritage pigs to cook and Franco/American beans to cassoulet. I’ll be lobstahing and drinking tequila, staying up with old friends and young great-nieces and nephews. I’ll be taking the temperature of the farm to table talk, the leaning in, and sharing the French Seed-to-Sausage philosophy. If you get a minute New World, let me tell you about the Old World and its good new ways of sustaining food- both on the farm and in the kitchen.
For more information:
A cuddle of black and white piglets under a heat lamp in a barn perched on the side of a mountain in the Pyrenees-
Meet the Porc Basque.
And this is where it ends- 3 years later.
A hall of ham in the same Pyrenees Mountains ageing with the help of the dry Foehn wind.
Meet the Kintoa Ham.
The journey our food takes from live animal to edible product is a long and precarious one. Even a simple carrot is a year of careful work and attention to a complex web of details from soil care and weather to weeding, harvesting and preserving. In the four weeks that our students spend here in Southwest France, on the Chapolard farm and in the markets, shops and kitchen at Camont, they also make that journey. From an idea of what pork is to the visceral understanding of making food from seed-to-sausage, I watch as the one by one, each butcher, cook, or want to be farmer takes the steps in his or her own way. On the way to the mountains we stop at Hasparren- home of the Louis Ospital workshop. Here, Ibaiona Pork Master Eric Ospital shares his little gourmet cult cut- lepoa, destined for the finest restaurants in Paris. I met Eric and the World of Ham a year ago here.
On the last trip to the Pyrenees Valley of Les Aldudes, the Spring ’13 gang of four (Kirsty, Adam, John and Analiesa) were joined by guest Welsh Pig Guru Illtud Llyr Dunsford. For a look at his own French Jaunt journey, check out his thoughtful blog here. Reading about his trip, inspired me to think about my own. Each small group I teach is different and although personalities do factor into learning and time spent together, I see a common pattern emerge. In the beginning, we all look for the similarities.
A pig is a pig is a pig until it becomes a PIG. While working at the Chapolard farm- Baradieu- all pigs are big- 400 lbs plus. Although housed in various European pig sheds just outside the meat cutting room door, they keep a rather low profile as our focus is on the final product- farmstead charcuterie. One of the reasons I whisk the group away from the cradle of a single farm focus is to shake our comfortable relationship with the family farm and introduce the idea that there are a hundred ways into the harbor*.
This is a very different harbor indeed. This is where the differences begin to tell. These fern-thatched nursery sheds are located just outside the Pierre Oteiza production facility and boutique in Aldudes. Mother sows and porcelets are kept here under a watchful eye until the piglets are weaned at 6-8 weeks when they are moved to mountain parks for the rest of their adult lives. It’s easy to spend a couple hours just watching the juvenile antics of the young within walking distance of the restaurant where we enjoyed a long and porky lunch- from prized Kinto jambon to stuffed pigs’ ear terrine served with pickled cherries and a good bottle of Irouleguy.
We talked a lot on the road.
About people’s expectations in buying high welfare meat. About how good animal husbandry isn’t always as pretty as consumers would like to see. Producing good quality meat is a lot of work and yes, there is mud and pig shit. Just ask Kiwi Kirsty as she completes a couple weeks of continuing education mucking around with pigs. Her Plog here is an insider’s few of Pig School here in Gascony.
Next, there are a myriad of small differences that begin to make themselves known. Here at the Chapolards, we make small boneless Noix de Jambon, like culatello but smaller cuts. But this high Basque valley area is famous for ham- on my own map of SW France I call it Ham Heaven. From these farms to this table, or in this case from those Basque piglets to this beautiful Kinto ham rubbed red with the Basque panacea Piment d’Espelette, there are a lot of small important steps: the careful tending and feeding of the animals who live most of their adult life outside until the age of 12-15 months; the slaughter and butchering of the carcasses; the salting, drying and ageing of the hams in this specially designed ‘sechoir’ or curing facility for another 12-18 months. A total of three years plus if add in the gestation period of the piglets.
Most often we eat the salty fruit of all these labors with barely a thought of the day-to-day work that goes into making our basic food. But I trust that after 4 weeks of up front and personal contact with the French farmers, butchers and charcutiers that grow, tend, slaughter, butcher and transform, this well-dressed group, including me, will spend an extra little moment of reflection on the people who make the food we eat. Thanks to all our welcoming hosts-charcutiers Eric Ospital, Catherine Oteiza, and farmers Josette Arrayat and Gerard Bordagaray!
at the Sechoir Collective de la Valle des Aldudes
* ‘Cannibal Ed’ Boden (1981-USVI)
What happens in the Pyrenees doesn’t always stay in the mountains.
Like the kiss and tell excitement of new love- discovering a new place, great food and the nicest people in the world- I can’t wait to share a few souvenirs from my most recent trip to the Pays Basque and the high valleys of the Pyrenees.
Snow on rocks. Being a born and bred island grrl, I am more salty sea then lofty peaks. But something about these Pyrenees peaks touch me. Maybe it’s the way the snowy high pasture melt into grass green slopes. The early spring warm winds create the Foehn effect sending warm dry air swooping down the leeward side of the mountains creating a perfect micro climate for curing hams. And hams we found in all shapes, sizes and pig breeds. But sometimes the unexpected is what makes you happiest. Looking for hams and black-bottomed pigs, we discovered friendship.
Meet my new best friends- Josette and Gerard.
Josette Arrayat and Gerard Bordagaray raise pigs- black bottomed, lop-eared, and meaty Basque pigs that are destined to become some of the finest hams in France. When I found out that Josette was the former head of the Filière de Porc Basque and knew all about the birth of this association, the breed and raised the breed, I was more than willing to make the trip across the mountains to find her. When I found out that Josette was Basque-American and graduated from UC Davis with an Animal Science degree, I was overjoyed. I could ask her all the questions I had without worrying about my BFA (Bad French Accent) and in-delicate curiosity. So after a quick phone call in which Josette insisted on meeting us in the supermarket parking lot at Lasse, off we flew along the snowy peaks and cleared roads for this rendezvous. A rendezvous with passion…
Dominique Chapolard and I are excited to announce a series of two-day workshops in the USA in late April 2013. With two days to explore the French charcuterie pig- we can devote time to both hands-on seam butchery and making charcuterie a la . How does the Chapoalrds run their 100-acre farm and support 5 families with just 30 sows? Dominique calls it the Short Circuit- I call it Full Circle farming. However you call it, the trick is in working not just nose-to-tail but seed-to-sausage. Come learn how and why the Chapolard Family chose to butcher and transform into added value charcuterie all their pigs- 8 to 10 every week- selling them retail at local markets. Workshops are limited in size by venue to no more than 20 participants.