I'm ashamed to say that my gifts to Barnaby this year were a bit self-serving: a fancy waffle iron and an outdoor electric smoker. So far he's like a kid in a candy store. Smoking trout, salmon, oysters, turkey breast, beef brisket, but the best so far - and by far - is the Mangalitsa bacon.
We'd written before about this Hungarian heirloom pig (also called Wooly Pig due to its curly hair), but it's so delicious it warrants another article. Once the preferred pig in Hungary (known there as Mangalica) for its fatty and flavorful meat the breed died down to only a couple of hundred due to farmers who were raising leaner and larger litter-producing pigs. Who wants a skinny pig? Isn't that an oxymoron? Fortunately, in the early 90's they started to make a comeback and their numbers are now well in the tens of thousands.
We all know fat equals flavor, sad for the thighs and arteries, but true. That's what makes Mangalitsa so special. Because fat is a vehicle for flavor it takes on smoke and seasonings like none other, making for some of the best, most flavorful sausages, cured hams, lardo, and as we found out first hand...home smoked bacon.
Last summer we sought out Heath Putnam, owner of Wooly Pig, the only company in the Western Hemisphere with Mangalitsa breeding stock (1-13-12 update:.Health Putnam Farms is now owned by Mosefund Farms). From him we purchased various cuts to try, including a heavily marbled belly from a Mangalitsa cross-breed, thinking we'd use it to flavor dishes such as a hearty split pea soup. Then the smoker entered our lives and our bacon eating ways reached a whole new level. Creamy and intensely flavored this is beyond any bacon you've ever tasted.
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