Da’ Whole Hog

December 3, 2012

— My Hog-Sista tackles the beast like a pro!–

I’m the kind of girl who wakes up on a Tuesday morning, makes a nice piping Gaiwan of Formosa Oolong, checks her email, learns that two coveted spots have opened up for the following Saturday’s Whole Hog Butchery class at the Fatted Calf in Napa and twirls for joy like Julie Andrews on an Austrian mountaintop.

Do I want one of the spots? You betcha!

I tried to think of who else might want to take that second spot and carve up a gigantic beast with me…and you know what….while I can find someone to drag to a pole dancing class, and I know a few people I could take to see Tosca and I have a teensy handful of friends who might dig into a fresh pile of sea urchin at Swan’s Oyster Bar with me, I don’t know a single person, not even my husband, who thinks spending the day with a sharp knife and a delicious, big dead animal sounds like fun.

I Tweeted an invitation out to strangers. I Facebooked everyone I knew. But alas, no takers. So I went toward my destiny by myself. Grin barely contained.

— Can I move in, please? —

— Who needs clothes in you closet when you can hang meat? —

— Um…okay…where to begin? —

The Fatted Calf is a special place. Any establishment that sells house-cured lardo, crepinettes with pluots and almonds, and 5-Spice lamb bacon is okay by me. It’s difficult to yank me away from the meat counter, but it is nearly time; my pig awaits!

Once behind the scenes in the kitchen aka Butchering Central, I am handed an apron, shown the wash-up sink, an array of knives, mallets and saws, and we get down to business quickly. The class is only five hours long and there a beast to hack up, an endless salumi tray to nibble from, lunch to relish, good wine to drink, crepinettes to wrap in caul fat, and a hunk of Porchetta to tie up and roast.

I am, as they say, in hog heaven.

— Call me crazy – all I can see is prosciutto waiting to happen. —

Our animal is brought in and I am slightly surprised that it’s headless, split in two, and already kind of neat and tidy, albeit massive. I was picturing something more Gothic…maybe on a hook…maybe hairy…bloody. But our piggy is ready to rock when he gets there – I guess I should be thankful; there is certainly a little something queasifying about the whole (hog) thing.

Incidentally, if you’re political correctness alarms are firing off, the Fatted Calf does not support the trend toward eating baby pig. Their belief is that if you’re going to kill an animal, kill a beautiful big one that can feed a lot of people. So yes to baby carrots, instead!

— You can do it, man! I’m here for you! —

— Jim is a quick study. I hope to break bread (or bones) with Jim again someday soon. —

We are divided up in teams and given assignments. We are handed weapons (knives and such), shown how to parcel out the giant beast into more manageable pieces, otherwise known as ‘Primal Cuts’…incidentally an excellent name for a band!

This is tough work. Saws are involved. We separate the shoulder from the leg, the bones from the meat, the skin from the fat. We get messy.

There is something intensely bonding about the experience. Soon my classmates are like my piggy brothers and sisters. It’s like we’ve spent the summer on Outward Bound together, been to the war and back. We pull each other through the challenges at hand, never leaving a soldier behind.

— Melissa getting jiggy with it. —

I make a new best friend, Melissa. She is as excited about slicing through the skin and fat as I am! She doesn’t think I’m weird for enjoying every second of this and I return the favor.

— Yes, I washed my hands, Mom! —

One of the biggest treats of the day is butchering and preparing an entire Porchetta. There is nothing so gorgeous as a ginormous Porchetta exiting the oven, but the average home cook will rarely get the experience of a piece of meat this honkin’ huge.

My friends at Morso write about Roberta Dowling’s delectable recipe, which sounds DEEELICIOUS, but here at the Fatted Calf, the Porchetta is all about the hunk of heritage pork and the fresh-ground fennel. While we have used Fennel Pollen to season the more, ahem…‘delicate’ shoulder chops, the meat here is slathered with a simple few handfuls of freshly dried and ground herbs which are made on premises and on drying in racks above our heads in the kitchen.

I am taught a ‘Cats Cradle’ type of technique to tie up the porchetta…

–…which I immediately forget —

No one makes a gargantuan Porchetta unless they’re planning on having a big group of people over for supper, but what I think we mere mortals can learn from ‘big-meat’ recipes like this is the collection of flavors and textures that go well together: fennel, rosemary, garlic, crunchy skin and pork for instance. You can use some of these same notes for cooking smaller hunks of meat. I make my lil’ pork shoulder chops with the same collection of flavors.

The Fatted Calf is nice enough to share their smaller scale recipe although the big one they cook up for their case is tres gorgeous! Except for the butchering, this preparation is simple – the gorgeous piggy is the star.


3-5 pound boned pork shoulder roast, fat and skin on

1 1/2 cups fresh garlic, pounded with a mortar and pestle

Zest of 4 lemons

Course sea salt & fresh ground pepper

1 cup toasted fennel seed, finely ground in a mortar and pestle

2 bunches rosemary, finely ground in a mortar and pestle

1/2 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil

Lay the roast flat on a cutting board, skin side down. Sprinkle the interior generously with the herbs and spices. Roll up the pork and tie tightly with butcher’s twine. Sprinkle the outside with more fennel seed.

Marinate the porchetta for up to 4 days.

Rub the roast with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt prior to roasting. Cook at 375 to 400 degrees until the outside is browned to a golden hue, then, lower the temperature to 300-325 for 3-4 hours. Let the roast rest for 30 minutes, remove the string and slice into spirals to serve.

The finished Porchetta – is anything more divine?

And in case you didn’t get your fill of swine…

— The beautiful shoulder chops we cut. —

— Crepinettes! —

— Lunch is not too shabby! —

— I love my piggy but I’m veg-loyal! —

— The Chicharrones didn’t last long in The Muddy Kitchen! —

— Home again, home again… Parting gifts! —

— Dinner at The Muddy Kitchen. Flintstones welcome! —

Take your boots off before you come in here!

Please share the love
Better yet, SUBSCRIBE

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

jennifer ziegler

OMGaaah! I soooo would have gone with you! I can gut and field dress a deer ya know!


Jennifer Solow

Of course you would have, Zee…because we are truly brothas from anotha motha! xxx


jennifer ziegler

oh and ps….absolutely LUV what you blog about! The photos’s, the humorous way you write (you little novelist you 🙂 And of course the Da HOG! I LUV Da HOG! Mostest favorite you’ve done yet except for…Why I’m Thankful For Benigna, Free Beer on Main Street, Pissed Off Dinner and, and…;) The Muddy Kitchen is waaaay more interesting than other pretty and perfect blogs…I think the rest of them are lying to cover up some deep dark family secret 🙂


Jennifer Solow

Oh, thanks, JZ!

Luving you to pieces! Piggy pieces!


Stewart Putney

I would have gone. And we’ve had their porchetta (served 12 easily). It rocks…

Cool class, very jealous…


Jennifer Solow

Yes, Put’!

You should have gone! Let’s sign up for whole lamb in the spring!



And I too would have gone. you can do dis at The Muddy Kitchen Night at TP


Jennifer Solow

YOU? Carving up a whole pig? Fatty bits? Grissly bits? Shiny, glistening chewy junk? Okay….will axe you next time! 🙂



This surgeons daughter wants a place at the carving table ! I’ll put an apple in my mouth and sit under the heat lamp until I hear from you ! Oui Oui Oui all the way Home !



This surgeons daughter wants a place at the carving table. I’ll put an apple in my mouth and sit under a heat lamp until I get my invitation from you ! Oui Oui Oui , all the way Home !


Jennifer Solow

Well, come on by, JooJoo! Always a spot under the heat lamps for ya! xx


auntie jane

butchering? nope!
eating? whole hog!


Jennifer Solow

Oh, Auntie! You could have just hung out in the corner nibbling on salumi!


Nan Solow

Hard to believe you were once a vegetarian! I agree with my sis…no sawing and butchering for me, but oh, yeah, I’d happily gnaw on one of those grilled chops. Delish!


Jennifer Solow

“And who will help me saw the pig?” asked the Little Red Hen.


rosalyn kaplus

What no roasted pig face like at Girl and The Goat in Chicago?
Your pig carvery experience reminds me of my friends’ Betti and Carlo’s Cuban Pig Roast on the Beach Party complete with four foot diameter paella pan and mojitos. Want to go Havana with your puerco?


Jennifer Solow

Sounds great! xx


Ilene Levy

Hi Jennifer,
LOVE your blog! I am an old exercise friend of your mom’s. Just ran into her at Country Day Jingle displaying my stores and she turned me on to it. Also read your 1st book when it came out per her recommendation. Keep it all coming!


Jennifer Solow

Welcome, Ilene!

I’m happy you read The Booster and I’m delighted you found me here!


Leave a Comment

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: