— Republished from Edible Santa Barbara 2015 Summer Edition —
The Mangalitsa pig is a special breed known for its thick fat, but is also identified easily by its unique curly and wooly coat. Photo by Rosminah Brown.
Winfield Farm is run by Bruce and Diane Steele. Bruce had a longtime dream to have a pig that would help consume surplus produce on his farm. What ended up happening was an explosion of pigs that’s resetting the course of the farm’s operations and helping bring a heritage breed back into popularity that was once on a path of dying out.
Bruce started out as an urchin diver and fisherman, and in 2003 became a land farmer in Buellton on Highway 246 about three miles west of Highway 101. Winfield Farm is most easily spotted by his pale blue fishing boat parked at the base of the driveway. The farm had been in land production for 10 years before Bruce’s dream of having a pig first became a reality.
The Steeles specialize in just one heritage breed, the Mangalitsa, also called a Wooly Pig, and also known as a Lard Hog. The Mangalitsa stock hails from 19th century Eastern Europe. The Mangalitsa has exceptional fat and was the prize pork of Austro-Hungarian nobility at the turn of the century. Once you see how much fat is on its body, it’s a wonder this tenacious breed can move about quickly and easily at all.
The breed is considered rare, and it almost died out entirely. Because the Mangalitsa has so much lard, the breed was unpopular in the 1970s and ’80s when fat became unfashionable. Who remembers the ad campaign for “the other white meat?” It was almost extinction for the Mangalitsa. But thanks to the growing popularity of bacon and pork in general, a desire for rich flavor and unctuous texture in meat, and the recognition that genetic diversity is a good thing, the Mangalitsa is making a comeback and its smooth silky fat is now held in glorious esteem. Winfield Farm is currently the largest breeder of the Mangalitsa in Southern California.
The pigs are fed with fruit and vegetables from the farm with additional organic grain supplement. If Bruce sees an opportunity to feed them something local and readily available, he’ll give it to them. Like autumn acorns or winter squash. So much squash.
The Mangalitsa pigs seem to breed like crazy and the Steeles are excitedly incredulous at times that their initial investment in 2013 of a handful of pigs has become an increasing series of enclosures with their original pigs, then a serendipitous rescue of 13 additional Mangalitsas, plus their next generations. Now there’s new sets of spunky piglets that arrived over Christmastime, running around, squealing, rooting and foraging. They grow so quickly.
Bruce is often constructing new shelters for expectant sows to birth and nurse their young. It’s not all a fairy tale—the reality is that stillborns occur, and when some don’t make it due to a sudden cold snap or the lack of enough suckling teats to go around, it is upsetting to everyone. This is farm life and it comes with unanticipated death as well. As for their fondness of the Mangalitsa piglets, Bruce says with both a smile and a shake of his head, “they’re just so darned cute.”
Winfield Farm to Chef – Full of Life Flatbread
Winfield supplies whole pigs by order to local restaurants, such as Full of Life Flatbread in Los Alamos. Chef/owner Clark Staub purchased a whole Mangalitsa last summer, and he and his staff broke it down and processed it entirely. The specials menu ran fresh Mangalitsa dishes for several weeks, while its legs were set to cure for longer-term projects, like smoked hams, speck and lardo that started to grace dinner plates this past February.
Sourcing locally is important to Full of Life, and the relationship between farmer and chef in this case is especially close—Clark lives just a few miles away from Winfield Farm off Highway 246 and passes it daily on his way to the restaurant. Not only do we have the opportunity to eat this spectacular pork prepared by one of our county’s favorite chefs, but the two are collaborating on recipes for an upcoming Mangalitsa cookbook. Something to watch out for!
Direct purchase is available to the public, by ordering online or purchasing pork through the farm’s weekend produce stand. Winfield offers the magic of Mangalitsa in all varieties of cuts and processing. The primals, or basic large cuts, are the biggest and least expensive per pound, while packets of bacon, chops or sausages are available by the pound, which is a very approachable option for those making a first foray into local heritage pork. They are a great source for the Mangalitsa’s special feature: its fat. Both leaf fat and back fat can be bought, useful for making flaky pastry or cut into lean-meat sausages, respectively.
Slaughter and processing takes place farther north. Currently this requires driving the pigs to a USDA-certified slaughterhouse in Fresno; the Steeles hope to bring this closer to home when such an option becomes available. In Bruce’s ideal world, he would like to convert all this farming equipment to solar—even the tillers and plows.
Whole pig prices are $7 per pound, and are custom scheduled by contacting Winfield Farm. Select cuts in smaller portions range from $10 to $15 per pound. These can be bought by mail order, shipped or picked up in person at their weekend farm stand in Buellton.
Read the original post: Edible Santa Barbara