6.24.2008

SKINNING THE PIG

Following sauce- and spice-making, Chris, my father-in-law Jerry, and I—with a bevy of spectators—set out to season a whole hog which would be roasted in a pit for the Crabtree Farms Summer Solstice Barbeque. We weren’t sure what we would discover. Head? Hooves? Skin and hair? Spatcocked, split, complete?

In Crabtree’s walk-in, we found our pig: headless, hair removed, and split into two halves. Our job, then, was to skin her—separating the hide and fat from the meat but leaving it attached at the spine—season her, and pull the skin back over to insulate and moisten the meat during the cooking process.

Chris and Jerry set to work immediately on one half. But, I have to say, I paused. Intimidation, I think. An animal had died, and I, sure as hell, didn’t want to ruin the meat with my inexperienced jabbing and slicing. But Chris said plainly, “Jess, grab a knife.”


As you might expect, the process is a bit like removing a large and well-attached glove. Jerry cut the skin at the ankles, and, from those points, I began easing my knife under the flesh, over the meat. Slowly, the cuts began the appear: the bacon of the belly, the ham, the ribs. And, finally, with the skin pulled back like a blanket, we rubbed the meat down with soy sauce and our Fat Elvis Memphis Dry Rub, replaced the hide, wrapped the entire halves in plastic film, and set them back in the cooler to season.

I left strangely titillated. For this is the core of my love of food: the experience. Achieving greater understanding of the ingredient, getting my hands dirty, learning. Similar to the thrill of the Strut (see previous posts) or eating tamales from the hidden kitchen of a Hispanic family’s roadside stand, the greatness of food is in what living surrounds it. Perhaps it stems from my affection for stories; I have a million of them (my great-uncle abandoned at the amusement park, coming face-to-face with momma bear in Rothrock Wilderness, the stunt pilot with the broken wing: have I told you?). And now I have another: skinning the pig. And this one does earn me some points in the foodie camp, doesn’t it?


I've included quite a few pictures below. Be warned: they're blunt.


1 comment:

Kelley said...

I think this definitely earned you some points in the foodie camp. ;) It reminds me of the first time I ran my hand under the skin of a raw chicken to smear butter and herbs between the skin and the meat. It's shivery but compelling, disgusting and erotic. I respect people who are willing to get that basic with their food. To me, it's the heart of being a foodie.