Warning: this post may cause a craving for dried pig ears...or bacon...
Rames, France--A hamlet in the midi-Pyrenees. Just breath taking really. Pure country and mountains; all you hear is the soft rushing of spring water and the low "dong-da-dong" from bells worn by all the sheep and cattle in the valley.
The valley is dotted with these hand built rock barns. The hills are so steep, they put several of these small barns on one property so hay does not need to be lugged too far. This barn housed two pigs that met their fate one snowy February day. I wanted to take a photo of walking them from this barn down a steep path about 1000' away to the truck, but I did not want to spook them and be the cause of a "pig chase" rather than a "pig party"!
Raymond, friend and butcher, killed the pigs and chopped them into "smaller" bits. Here, at the butcher, over the wood fire in the back corner, we also made blood pudding--stuffing the intestines with the pigs' blood, carrots and spices. It sounds grotesque, but it was quite good actually. It's rich, so you can't eat too much, but it's worth a try from a good pig.
Next, all the remaining pig parts were loaded in the van and brought back to Rames. We then carried the raw pork, bit by bit back up hill to the kitchen.
In the kitchen, we separated fat, from meat, skin from lard and put them in separate tubs. Each part of the pig was used differently, some ground into sausage, some into salami, some cured, some canned, some left as roasts...but not a bit was wasted, from snout to tail.
These jars contain peppered and salted pork ribs.
The jars were then boiled in a hot water bath for 3 hours. They can be eaten for up to a year. I had some from last year's pig and Oh Man, they were incredible!
Next the bacon and the hams were peppered, salted...
...wrapped in clean cloth...
...and hung in the attic to cure. The hams (shown here) will take 1 year to cure and can be consumed for up to three years. The pepper cures the meat and the salt draws out the moisture. Both spices are scraped off the surface of the meat before eating, so actually they are not peppery or salty in the end, just perfect. I should have taken a picture of the finished product. We were eating off of last year's ham. Sliced thin, eaten raw with fresh bread and cheese...delectable!
Americans are pretty freaked out about how the French, Spanish, Moroccans...eat their meat. Much of it is cured and eaten raw, hung from rafters and left out of the fridge. It's an ancient way of preserving food, without chemicals and electricity. They take precautions, I mean we washed and boiled all the jars, tubs, knives we used. But it is cautious without fear...very refreshing...
Zach and I will try out a bit of cured ham and canned ribs...we'll keep you posted!