“Wow!” Is all I can think of saying after experiencing Swine and Dine. This event surpassed my expectations so much that I almost felt like I was in a daze the whole time. Mac, Alexis, and I worked like crazy to create an awesome experience for everyone. I think that the event just blew my expectations out of the water! The best thing to do would be to recap the whole event from start to finish so that all of you who missed it can understand how incredible this experience really was.
I picked Toby and Bryan up from the airport the Wednesday before the event weekend and we spent the evening meeting with all of the chefs that planned to attend. Toby and Bryan travel all over the country spreading the tradition of a Cajun Boucherie. We spent all of Wednesday discussing what equipment we still needed and getting to know all the chefs who would be running various stations. Thursday we spent the day/evening working on finalizing the equipment/materials list and we built the butchering table! The butchering table is designed to allow for carrying the pig around to where you need to process it. The height of the table is important to ensure that everyone is working at a good height while processing it. Toby has spent years perfecting the design. Friday was go time! We had to have everything in place so that Saturday we would be ready to process.
The smoker we used to smoke all of the food was designed and built by my dad, which we easily wheeled over to the spot where it would sit for the Boucherie. I cut down a Bradford pear tree to use for smoking the meat.
Friday was also the day where we loaded Bertha the pig on to the trailer so that we could move the trailer in place for Saturday morning. She loaded quite easily with the use of some whey that I produced from making a batch of Chevre. Bertha can’t pass up a meal consisting of goat’s milk and whey. The next thing we did on Friday was to catch dinner! Toby and Bryan wanted to cook Coq au vin. This is “Rooster with wine.” We used some homemade apple wine and 3 roosters that I caught that day. I ran around the farm with a large net chasing each rooster. They seemed to figure out my ultimate plan for them rather quickly. It was a sight to see I am sure.
The food that night took at least 4 hours of preparation. People would ask, "Toby, When will it be ready?” He would respond with, “It’s ready when it’s ready brah.” You do not rush a meal around these folks. You wait for perfection, and boy was it good!
We set up all of the stations for making Hams, BBQ, Gratons, Backbone Stew, Frasseurs, Head Cheese, and Boudin. All the meat was smoked after it was cut off of the pig to prepare it for each station. I am sure most of you know what Hams and BBQ are, but I should probably explain the other stations. Gratons are a version of Cracklins. The little chunks of the pig you see on the smoker are parts of the skin/fat and belly. These were fried in lard, and served as tasty crunchy morsels. These were absolutely awesome! The backbone stew was pretty explanatory whilst utilizing the butterflied pork chops in a stew that was served over rice. Frasseurs is an organ meat stew, which was exceptionally good! I had never felt comfortable eating liver until I tried this dish. Head cheese is made from leftover parts of the head that is slow cooked in a pot until it falls apart and is easy to shape into a pie. The Boudin was amazing! Boudin uses pork shoulder that is shredded along with some liver, rice, peppers, and onions all chopped up together and stuffed into casing that is smoked. All of these dishes may seem strange to you, but these are recipes that were utilized to stretch a pig over multiple meals during times when food was hard to come by. Toby and Bryan specialize in utilizing the whole pig so that nothing is wasted. It is a form of respect if you think about it. We live in a society that is so wasteful with food. If a piece of fruit has a slight blemish it is considered sub-par and thrown away. We need to remember that not long ago people used to starve to death and that every piece of an animal needs to be utilized.
Saturday was the funeral. Early in the morning, Boo Radley said a blessing, and Bertha passed quickly with little to no idea what was going on. I learned so much that day. I am humbled by this experience, and I will remember it forever. I have processed animals before, but rarely ever one that I had named. I understand why people want to close their eyes to this sort of thing. It brings us to a primal state and takes us out of our comfort zone. When you have processed animals as much as I have you start to look at a burger differently, and wonder where it came from. Did it come from an animal with a name, or did it come from an animal with a tag on it listing some random string of numbers.
Here is a picture of Toby and Bryan prepping the pig to be scraped. They use the burlap to help maintain the heat so that the pig scrapes nice and easy.
We had an awesome team of chefs working with us. I especially want to thank Josh Galliano, Tommy Salami, Brendan Kirby, Adam Lambay, Ryan Mcdonald, David Sandusky, William Volny, Andrew Jennrich, Nate and Victoria Weber, Brian Hamilton, Boosiph Radley, Mac and Kelly McKenzie, Romain Montes, and Alexis Tucci for all of their hard work and dedication. I can’t emphasize enough how amazing it is to see a bunch of talented people get together and create something wonderful. After we all cut up the pig it was time for brunch! Alexis and Mac made some pretty awesome brunch Saturday morning by whipping up some of our eggs, and using some veggies from the greenhouse. Mac had brought some pork sausage as well that added to an awesome breakfast burrito! These two saved the day with providing breakfast in a pinch. We had originally planned to bring in a food truck to cook breakfast for us, but last minute the truck broke down and couldn’t make it. Mac and Alexis saved the day on that one! We all prepped the pork and started smoking the meat Saturday afternoon. Once the work was done we began to celebrate. We had a party like no one has ever seen! We cooked 2 hogs this evening, one over an open fire pit, and the other in a la caja china box. Here is a picture of the la caja china box for those of you who do not know what it is.
We had a great time eating these two pigs from Circle B Ranch while also listening to some awesome live music by The Scandaleros. My cousin Josh Galliano and I had a fun time frying a bunch of things in some of the lard we had on site. We of course fried a lot of pork belly, and also tried frying some cornbread. Both were absolutely amazing. People walked away saying, “I didn’t know that something could taste this good!” You would be surprised at all of the cool foods you can fry in lard. Someone told me I should check my cholesterol the next day and see how I was doing…I check my blood pressure reasonably often, and I am doing just fine!
Sunday was the main course! All of the chefs went to work finishing the final touches of their dishes so that they would be ready for everyone to try. The Gratons were absolutely amazing, and I think my favorite dish was the Backbone Stew. All the food was delicious and we ate quite a bit of it all day long. It wasn’t as much of a sit down style of eating. It was focused more on eating some of the dishes as they were done cooking. We spent the whole weekend working our butts off so that we could provide a fun filled weekend while feeding a ton of people while we were at it. I had a great time connecting with a lot of people and learning a lot about the food we were eating. Someone mentioned that this event reminded them of Woodstock! I am pretty sure someone has probably already coined the event named “Porkstock” but I can assure you that this was in its own league of its own.
I can’t wait to do this again and I look forward to bringing everyone back together so that we can have a blast all over again. We had a ton of sponsors for this event, and here are a few of them that provided everything from side dishes to craft beer for the event:
Circle B Ranch, Old Vienna, Beast Craft BBQ, Companion Bakery, The Civil Life Brewing Company, The Roasterie Kansas City Air Roasted Coffee, Urban Chestnut, 4 Hands Brewing Company, 2nd shift Brewing.
These sponsors helped us create an awesome event with tasty dishes and beverages out of this world! If you missed out on it this year don’t be sad. We are going to do it again. Keep posted on the next Boucherie. It is going to be a blast just like this year.
Here is a picture to end it. This is the crew that put this event together. We worked for months planning and organizing people/gear. Each person here did an incredible job, and I am very fortunate to call them friends and cohorts. Thanks Alexis, Bryan, Toby, and Mac. I hope that we can do this again in the spring!