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Fort on Pork
The gingery Tamworth is an interesting pig. During the 18th and 19th centuries, all native breeds of pig were crossbred with foreign varieties (the Black Pig of Naples and the Chinese Pot-Bellied pig in particular), to improve them. Only the Tamworth got away unscathed. Consequently, it still has the long, narrow carcass of the wild boar. That’s by the by.
The trouble with contemporary pig production is that fat is regarded as Public Enemy Number 1 when it comes to the eating public. And yet, no fat, no flavour. According to Harold McGee, ‘It’s largely the contents of the fat tissue that give beef, lamb, pork, and chicken their distinctive flavours.’ Not only does fat give flavour, but it also helps lubricate the tightly knit fibres of the meat it surrounds or runs through during cooking. And was there ever an animal designed to carry fat better than the pig?
Sadly, contemporary pigs are grown to minimise their fat content. That means that traditional varieties such as the British Lop (aka the Cottage Pig), Middlewhite, Large Black, Berkshire, Tamworth and Welsh, with their greater layers of fat and individual qualities, are either endangered or at risk according to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (see https://www.rbst.org.uk). Luckily, some enlightened chefs are realising the potential offered by these animals. Pig to watch: Mangalitza, a native of Hungary, but related to the sadly extinct Lincolnshire Curleycoat. I know of three farms now raising them.
Article written by Matthew Fort
What Pork Goes With
Pork is a rich, fatty meat which, delicious though it is, can cloy if not counter-balanced with sharper tasting ingredients. The obvious pairing is apple, which is well known for flattering the umami quality of the meat.
Honey also combines nicely with pork. Its mellow sweetness can be used to marinate the meat before cooking, as demonstrated by Josh Eggleton here. Martin Wishart also uses a honey, soy and hoisin sauce marinade for his Oriental pork dish which also includes squid.
Seafood and pork is a surprisingly good combination; chefs Robert Thompson and Matt Tomkinson have both created dishes which feature both.
Chinese New Year