In the 1980’s, marketing teams across the United States coined pork as ‘the other white meat.’ According to Chef Heide, this was the greatest travesty of the culinary world. He spoke passionately about how that led people to think that pork should be lean. The beautiful, fattier cuts of meat were thrown to the side for lean pork chops and tenderloins.
At this point in our interview, Chef Heide disappeared into the kitchen and came out clutching a vacuum sealed pork chop. This was Liliana’s newest acquisitions: Berkshire milk fed pork. He pointed out the thin ribbons of fat and marbling in the chop. Then stopped to ask me how much I knew about meat and fat and what it all meant. My blank stare said enough. With multiple stints as a vegetarian and a reliance on chicken breasts, I have had little exposure to different cuts of meat. When I do get red meat or pork, I have always trimmed all the fat off my meat before cooking (which I didn’t dare admit to him in person) so an idea of a good meat fat was foreign to me. Those of you who are cook-savvy feel free to skip the next three sections or at least contain your snickering to a low rumble. Scroll down to the bottom to see the Berkshire pork tasting menu that will be offered on Tuesday June 28th. We’ll leave you to drool while the rest of us newbies learn a little more about meat, fat and cuts of meat.
Meat is composed of three basic components: fat, protein and carbohydrate. Protein generally comprises 80%, Fat 15% and Carbohydrate 5%. Of these, carbohydrate is the most important for flavor. You know that nice dark brown color you get after you grill or cook some meat? That’s cooked carbohydrate. If it weren’t for the carbohydrates, you would have black hockey pucks because fat burns, protein burns but carbohydrates caramelize.
There are two types of fat: collagen and elastin.
Elastin is tough, connective tissue. You can’t break it down and it’s inedible.
Collagen breaks down with acid and time. When collagen is really thick, there are only two ways to break it down. You can slice it really, really thin (think Philly cheesesteaks) or you can marinate for a really long time.
When collagen is thin, then it will melt when it hits 135-140 degrees. This is where the magic is. When it melts, it’s internally basting. Yum.
Cuts of meat tutorial
Heide made this drawing for me so that I could truly appreciate the awesome-ness of Berkshire pork. He outlined three types of cuts: Select, Choice and Prime. Select is on the far left side. It has thick lines of marbling and fat running through it. Choice has thicker lines of fat all going across the meat in the same direction. Prime has thin, delicate ribbons of fat running through it that will melt when the meat hits 135-140 degrees. Berkshire pork has these prime cuts.
Pork Tasting Menu- Tuesday June 28th
I have to admit, talking with Chef Heide made me a born again carnivore. I will definitely be at the tasting menu on Tuesday night eager to dine on Berkshire pork. Here is what Heide has in store for us:
First course: Pan-seared Berkshire pork with Liliana’s andouille dirty rice with Berkshire bacon wrapped shrimp and collard greens
Second course: Grilled Berkshire pork chop with a strawberry chutney and herb roasted potatoes
Third course: Bacon sundae with vanilla ice cream, homemade fudge, candied bacon
Hope to see you there!