I first learned the pork primals in culinary school, and for years I considered that information dogmatic. Then in an Austrian grocery store I saw this:
It’s called Carinthian farmer bacon (Kaerntner Bauernspeck). Carinthia is a province in southern Austria, known for its rustic food. It took me a few moments to realize where exactly this cut would have come from on a pig. It is in fact a pork loin, with the side or belly still attached, cured as one large piece, cold-smoked, and sold in thick slabs.
Novel cuts like this are just as easy to butcher as the classics. Following is a quick tutorial, with photos, to prove the point.
Here is a side … Continue reading.
So. This is the pig’s head. It is not a true primal cut, but deserves some special attention. I’ve written about a few preparations that involve cooking the head whole, either simmered to become headcheese, or roasted for its own simple enjoyment. This post will discuss cutting the raw head into its various constituents, namely the jowl and ear.
By far the largest piece of meat and fat on the head is the jowl. It is a gorgeous cut, very similar to bacon, though a bit fattier. I remove the jowl by following the jaw bone with my knife.
The meaty circle in the centre is the cheek muscle.
The main difficulty in dealing with the jowl is the … Continue reading.
This is the best primal, without question. It is the source of the best pulled pork, the best roast pork, the best sausages, the best confit, the best… you get the idea.
Below is a pork shoulder, as it looks straight from the side. You can see the neck bones on the left, followed by the first few thoracic vertebrae and ribs. At the bottom is the front hock.
The neck, back, and rib bones separate surprisingly easily from the meaty shoulder. I start by cutting behind the feather bones, then follow the chine and ribs…
…which all come off it one piece, like so:
Next I remove the hock. As with the hind hock, I prefer to separate at … Continue reading.
You know what’s messed up? Centre-cut pork loin is the most popular cut of pork. At the grocery store it sells better than tenderloin (which is more tender) and way better than shoulder (which is more flavourful, juicy, and versatile). People are crazy for lean meat that comes in uniform, round shapes.
The loin primal is usually cut into chops, notably the centre-cut loin chops. I like a good chop as much as the next guy, but this particular loin is going to become back bacon. We will therefore remove all the bones, the fatback, and skin so that we have what is called the eye of loin.
Here’s the loin. On the bottom left you can see the back … Continue reading.
This is what the belly primal looks like right off the hog. On the top left side you can see the ribs. These are called “side ribs,” as opposed to “back ribs,” which are on the loin primal. In fact, this entire primal is sometimes called “side pork.”
On the bottom left is the breastbone, or sternum.
The ribs are covered in a membrane that doesn’t break down very well, even after extensive cooking. When I buy side ribs from the grocery store, the first thing I do is remove that membrane. I think it’s easiest removed while the ribs are still attached to the belly, so we’ll do it now.
Each rib has a vein running between the membrane … Continue reading.
Having divided the side of pork into primals, we will now deal with each primal in turn. First the leg.
This is a whole leg of pork. In the Austrian style, it was removed so that the entire hip bone was left within. (In North America, the pig is usually divided so that part of the hip remains on the loin.) Since the sirloin is defined as the loin section where the hip bone is, the entire sirloin is also still attached to this leg. But we’ll talk about that later.
First we remove the trotter. The joint between the foot and the hock is a bit funny. On the lower, hind side of the joint there is a long … Continue reading.
This is something I’ve been meaning to write for a while: a series of posts on cutting pigs.
Like many Button Soup entries, the next few posts will be nit-picky, unnecessarily detailed, and lengthy. Oh: and graphic.
Regional Pork Cutting Traditions: American v. Austrian
There really is no wrong way to take apart a pig, so long as you end up with the cuts you want to cook or cure. There are, however, many traditional methods. References like Larousse describe the American, British, and French traditions, though there are countless others. In Canada we use a system almost identical to the American.
When I was cooking in Austria last summer, I came across some fantastic cuts of pork that … Continue reading.