The deep freezer was getting low and it was time to replenish it with meat. A friend had told us about a local farm called New Heritage Farms that raised Tamworth hogs he was getting meat from. We decided to get half a Tamworth hog.
The 135 pound side of pork we got was raised on prairie that follows along the Cowlitz river here in Washington state. The Tamworths were allowed to pasture and roam the woods looking for graze and rooting around in the dirt. The farm doesn’t use herbicides or fertilizers, and isn’t considered organic but it is responsibly grown.
Allowed to graze and roam they absorb more nutrients, especially micronutrients. Along with those nutrients come flavor. And plenty of it. Vickie allows her hogs the opportunity to forage on fallen hazelnuts and acorns in the fall. They are also finished on apples and rolled oats and barley.
I drove to meet Vickie from New Heritage Farms to pick up our portion of processed pork. Coolers of frozen pork with names on them were in the back of her farm truck. Neatly wrapped in paper and labeled like you would get them from any other butchers, filling the truck. Other fanciers were there to pick their hogs in various portions, half, quarter, etc.
They were also sad to hear that she wouldn’t likely be offering the Tamworth hogs after this season. It was time to retire and start on something else that involves some relaxing and less of a workload. This was the first time we had bought from her but after cooking up some chops we were definitely impressed and wished that we would be able to get more when the time came.
We had talked with Vickie and agreed on what size portion we wanted. The hogs are sent to the butcher, another local small business, for processing and wrapping. After we squared up with Vickie the next call was to the butchers.
The butcher asked seemingly a million questions about pork and cuts and smoking or curing. It went much like an interaction at the butchers counter though. Most of it came down to personal preference.
“How do you want your pork chops cut? Thick or thin?” The butcher asked “Do you want the leaf lard? Bacon cured? How big of a pack would you like the ground pork in?”
I chose to get the leaf lard, the crème de la crème of fats, which is most often used for pastry. Its a healthier alternative to trans fats and other unnatural fats. Of course we got the ham hocks and half on a ham smoked as well as half the bacon. Opting for some sidepork, an uncured bacon, we will use some for making pork belly dishes.
When unpacking the meat to go into the freezer it almost was overwhelming at the options that we saw for meals. Ground pork for making a plethora of sausage options, Chinese dumplings, and meatballs for albondiga with chipotle sauce. So many options and flavors from the pork wrapped up neatly in paper packs.
The Tamworth is a bacon pig, meaning that it has less fat than the lard pig breeds. The long and lean Tamworth has better marbling in the meat than other breeds. They make good pasture and forest growth and withstand the natural environments better than the production breeds.
The Tamworth doesn’t do as well in factory type production as other breeds do, which in part is what has led to its decline. Less people are keeping them on small farms and they are considered “threatened’ in the United States by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. If we ever are in the position to raise hogs we would seriously consider them.
The breed is also hardy and able to take care of itself out on pasture and in the woodlands. Grazing and rooting to supplement their intake is something they like to do. The sows produce good litters and take care of their offspring quite well. Born wary of people, they will quickly become accustomed if presented the opportunity depending on your preferences.
We eat pork about once a week on average and the grocery store offerings are seriously lacking in the flavor and texture compared to the Tamworth. Overall texture, flavor, and marbling are by far better and it is worth the extra cost. We would recommend finding a local producer and stock your freezer. For those that are squeamish, don’t worry. It comes from the butchers. Cut, wrapped, smoked and cured ready for the kitchen.