I feel like I did not get as in depth when I first posted this. I have recently aquired a copy of Primal Cuts by Marissa Guggiana, if you love your meat buy this awesome book!! See below for the update beauty we call the Pig, or as Webster's Thesaurus states: boar, cob roller, hog, piggy, piglet, porker, porky, shoat, sow, swine
As I begin my blogging endeavor, I have to talk about the beast that means the most to me and the cuts that it entails. That being the pig. I grew up on a farm with my family in Denmark, Ohio. Don't worry no one else knows where that is it either. We had horses, chickens, a mean ass rooster, some cows and a bull, a couple goats, rabbits and pigs. My mom grew very attached to her pigs and in true Mary Ellen(my wonderful mother) fashion, she trained them. These pigs loved my mom, they did what she asked, she trained them to go up to the cars that came to our farm and would snort at them, they would come running whenever she left the house, and would follow here wherever she went. Pretty cute. Only down side is that she named them. I remember Pork and Beans and others, feeding them and petting them, then all of a sudden they were gone. When I would ask what happened to them, I would get "Don't worry about them....want more bacon?" Of course I wanted more bacon. This could be where my obsession started, only to sit in waiting until I was 35 and have discovered the wonderful world of salty, porky, treats. I had an opportunity that I held for granted as a child, we were a semi self sustaining farm..... I would love that right now. I remember my mom giving my sister and I each a small salt shaker and sending us to the garden for a snack. The fresh tomatoes, beans, and other vegetables were amazing. I am slipping away into another time right now and losing focus. Now for the business at hand.
This is what I think of when I think of the Primal cuts. I want you all to learn about the different cuts of meat so when I reference a cut of an animal you know where it is from. And since my favorite animal (to eat that is) is that wonderful animal we call the pig. I will take it one step further and say Heritage animal. It can be the wonderful tasty Berkshire or the Fatty and delicate Mangolista. Here is the basic Primals from the animal.
So getting into the Primal Cuts and what they are used for.
Boston Butt- I know it sounds strange but the pork should is actually called the butt. The pork butt is divided into two parts, the top part being the Boston Butt. This is usually cooked very low and slow, on a stove, oven or outdoor BBQ due to all of the connective tissue and fat. This is where your southern pulled pork, Carnitas, and some really good meat for putting in sausages and salumis comes from. Cuts: Bone-in or boneless roast, blade steaks, stew meat, great grind for sausages and salumis and cured meats because of the high and delicious fat content.
Picnic Shoulder- This cut can be used much in the same way as the Boston Butt, that being said it is much tougher, this is also sometimes cured to make hams. Cuts: Bone-in or boneless roasts(smoked or fresh, either whole or divided into the pectoral and cushion muscles to make four roasts per hog), hocks and amazing for sausages!!
Loin- This is the cut that most people are familiar with, this is where the good old American Pork chop comes from. The Tenderloin nestles on the back of the loin and can be used separately. If the tenderloin is left in your chops will resemble more of the beef T-bone or Porterhouse. While this is a prized and expensive piece of pork, it has the least bit of depth of flavor. There is not much fat here, and we all know fat is flavor. (I never claimed to be a health food blogger!!) Cuts: Tenderloin, Rib chops, loin chops, cutlets, baby back ribs, pork racks, rib roast, and loin roast.
Belly- Ohh belly, belly, belly. From this cut some of the most recognizable cuts. The all seeing Oz, I mean Bacon. When this cut is cured and smoked it transforms to every ones favorite breakfast treat (unless you are one of those weird Midwesterners that are throwing down Scrapple like its cool aid. If you have not had scrapple it is delicious.... Note to self make Scrapple!!) You can also leave the skin on, score it and roast the belly and serve as an entree. One of my death row meals is from Andrew Michael's Italian Kitchen, called the AM Breakfast, with polenta, a 63 degree egg, pork belly and house made cracklings that are popping as they arrive table side.......... Damn its Sunday and they are closed, I would be there in a sec if I could. Anyway, this cut is also big in Asian cultures, in stir fry any another favorite dish Okonomiyaki( I prefer the Hiroshima style) This is also where the Spareribs come from that fatty and boney cut of the south. If you Square this cut(Removing the sternum and rib tips) they are called your St. Louis style ribs. There are many cuts of ribs, but they all have one thing in common. Love!! They require low and slow cooking. Cuts: Bone in or boneless belly, side pork, skin on or skinless, spareribs, and rib lets.
Legs- You will know this cut as the Ham!, They have plenty of uses when not being set aside to be cured, smoked, or aged. They are are about one quarter of the carcass. You can roast a leg whole or as separate muscles like any other animal. Grind it or make stew or sausages. Cuts: Whole ham, or ham steaks, cutlets, scallops, hind shanks rear hocks, bone-in or boneless roasts, whole or divided into inside, outside and knuckle roasts. Strips and cubes.
Offal- Last but certainly not least in my eyes. If I can turn one person over to the dark side with this blog, it would make all of the time and money I put into it worth it. We as a culture have really walked away from this type of eating. These bits usually get tossed or sold overseas at high dollar. I am talking about the: Head, ears, feet, caul fat, fatback, hocks, trotters and all of the wonderful organs. The jowls are amazing, being cured as guanciale, or salt pork. Using the whole head you can make porchetta di testa(an amazing porchetta using the entire head and tongue, amazing, fatty, and unctuous great video attached from my man crush Chris Cosentino the modern day grandfather of offal.) Fatback, where we get the all amazing lardo, and the fat for sausages and salumis, the leaf fat for using in baking and larding, the skin in itself is amazing, this is used to thicken sauces due to all of the gelatin, also used in chicharron more commonly called pork rinds, and we can not forget the liver, the heart, the kidney, the tongue the brain...... You can not imagine how good this is prepared by the correct chef. My goal is to improve my offal skills!
I really hope this helps you understand more about your food. Knowing where you meat comes from is important, don't take it for granted. You know what I always say, know your Chefs and Love your Meat!!