Back in September I wrote a post called 'Meeting Mr. Wilbur Red Wattle'. I wrote about my visit to meet Jim and Wendy Parker and spend time finding out about the Red Wattle pigs that they raise at Heritage Farms Northwest. I had just moved to Portland and was setting to the work of finding sources for my pork. I had reached out to several farms, but Wendy's response stood out. We just hit it off right away through emails. As our discussion of which pigs would be ready when progressed, Wendy invited Ally and I to a family Labor Day pig roast. I jumped at the invitation and it became my definition of the perfect meat eating experience. I recalled the Palauan BBQ's I used to attend with my best friend in high school. There was always the whole pig, there in all its (then unknown to me) glory. I would scoff and fake puke, not conspicuously now, I was raised better than that. However, I did make sure to give my friend the look of death as he reached in and pulled the glistening skin and tender, smoky meat to his plate.
Fast-forward eleven years and there I was, cutting an entire pig at an outdoor table two feet from the hole in which it roasted. A multi-generational set of farmers and family members watched on and served themselves. Thirty yards from the open space where "Einstein" had lived, I had earlier walked around the fields meeting all the animals. I watched a squabble between a rooster and turkey, passed out back scratches to a few sweetly verboting boars, and met "Big Mama" and her brand new litter of piglets. I also met both the pigs Wendy had offered One would later become the suckling pig I used in December for The Heritage Breed Supper Club, the other is the hog we will be eating on Friday night.
As Jim and I stood across from each other cutting chops and hams and jowls, steaming and stuffed with garlic, apples and potatoes, we talked. Present that day were both the very small (as in one cow) dairy farmer who provides whey for the pigs and the farmer that unknowingly made my life that day. I am bad with names, can't remember it for the life of me, but this farmer had just asked Jim and Wendy to borrow their hogs for help with a little problem. Seems the grade at his hazelnut orchard is too uneven in a 3-acre area for his equipment to efficiently harvest, the pigs would be needed for about three months to clear the ground. Good news is: pigs LOVE nuts! Win!
As Jim relayed this most recent sign of his hero status, "hazelnut-finished bacon" flashed in my head and my mouth watered. In case you aren't in the know, "finished" refers to how the animal is fed in the final weeks or months before slaughter. Nuts are just the sort of thing that make a pig perfect for the charcutier. The fats in the nuts add flavor dimension and a luxurious, velvety quality to the cured meat. The treasured hams prosciutto and pate negra are from pigs finished on acorns, so one can only imagine what a pig finished on the much richer hazelnut would taste like. Later in the fall, off "Wilbur" went, to hang out with a couple of his litter mates and a few acres of Willamette Valley filberts.
A few weeks ago I got an email from Wendy that Wilbur would be going to slaughter the following week. Immediately I began hatching a plan for the best way to showcase this rare find. I had been thinking for a while about doing flavors that feature local products. Thus my friends, the BCN/PDX Sip and Swill, the first official event of The Bacon Gospel here in Portland. I am using coffee from Extracto Coffeehouse and Roasters, Tao of Tea, House Spirits Distillery and Clear Creek Distillery to make five different flavors of bacon. I bartered with the Brady's of Extracto for a slab of their own bacon and their kids named one of the flavors made from their coffee. Matt Mount of House Spirits was open, personable and gave me a lot of great information about the whiskey he provided. I am already thinking I want to do a Sip and Swill using all House Spirits!
As I mentioned in the original post, there will be a contest to name one of the bacon flavors. 'Untitled' is that flavor, so if you are coming, start thinking of names now! Consensus will decide the best name suggested Friday night and one person will leave their mark on BCN/PDX forever!
BCN/PDX Sip and Swill:
This flight of BLT's is an exciting way to reveal just a few of the flavors I have up my sleeve and taste bacon pushed into hyper-drive. Each flavor of bacon will be served as a simple BLT with its own special topping and watercress. A couple of salads will be served as well to keep palates open and fresh. Each sandwich will be served on different bread, but that will depend on what's available on Friday when I shop. The flavor and its main ingredients are in bold, toppings are in italics below.
'Untitled'-Tao of Tea licorice root tea, honey, white pepper
with vanilla bean and white pepper compound butter
'Backyard Memories' New Amsterdam gin, raspberry jam, fresh sage, Lilla Farm lavender
with sage aioli
'Cheap Date' House Spirits Distillery whiskey, triple ginger (fresh, ground & crystallized), Serrano chiles, lime
with avocado mayo
'Colonel Mustard with the Clove' Extracto Roasters Ethiopian Sidamo coffee, cherry jam, mustard seed, cloves
with cherry mustard
'Finca Vista Hermosa' Guatemalan Micro-lot Micheloy coffee,cacao, vanilla bean, guajillo chiles, cinnamon
with chili orange and cilantro compound butter
Arugula tossed with shaved fennel and apple with a Cara Cara orange, cumin & House Spirits Distillery Whiskey vinaigrette
Mixed greens, radicchio, baby bok choy and Rogue Creamery Crater Lake blue cheese with a carmelized shallot & champagne vinaigrette and chili roasted almonds.
There is still ONE more seat left for this tasting. I know that most of my readers won't be able to come. I do want to do these bacon tastings using local ingredients more often, so if you know beekeepers, jam or mustard makers, make craft infusions or anything you think I might be tempted to make bacon with, please send me a note! Seattle, Bay Area, LA, Toronto and Cincinnati, your turn is coming! I am still looking to get a few more cities on the list for The Bacon Gospel this year. Email me with proposals or questions.
I'll be announcing the next Heritage Breed Supper Club this weekend, right after Sip and Swill. This Supper Club will be very different from the first. It will be more interactive, with a smaller group and tons of hands-on time and might have something to do with Easter and Passover, those are my hints. Details soon!
And finally, next Friday, the 12th Tressa and I will be preparing a gorgeous 4-course meal to woo you just before Valentine's Day. Details about that will be posted soon as well.