For three days next week, it's all about the pig.
The third annual Pigstock TC runs Oct. 22-24. Originally created by Cherry Capital Foods to provide participants with an appreciation of the breeding and raising practices that make a Mangalitsa pig unique, it's become just as much about using every part of the animal to create recipes as well as cured meats and charcuterie incorporating classical techniques for preserving foods.
A new twist this year is that $10 from the sale of each ticket is going toward the nonprofit Michigan Land Use Institute's (MLUI) farm-to-school program to build a "10 Cents a Meal" pilot program for interested schools. A joint effort of MLUI and Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District, the program will provide an extra 10 cents a meal to enable area schools to purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables.
Those participating in Pigstock will have a chance to learn about making sausages and what to do with organs, how to butcher a pig and creating dry-cure hams and sausages. Among the teachers are Austrians Christoph and Isabell Wiesner, who raise Mangalitsa pigs, a specialized breed known to produce juicy and flavorful meat and fat. They'll demonstrate seam butchery, which is an old Continental European method of breaking down animals according to muscle seams.
"This way, you're cutting around stuff and utilizing the whole groups and making sure you don't destroy stuff that might be of lesser value in today's marketplace, but still has value," said Evan Smith, operations manager at Cherry Capital Foods. "You have to become much more intimately involved with the muscle groups, with the various uses for the different parts of the animal."
Chef Brian Polcyn, who with Michael Ruhlman wrote, "Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing," will also instruct, as will Bob Rodriguez, garde manger instructor at the Great Lakes Culinary Institute of Northwestern Michigan College (NMC).
Tuesday brings the Pigstock TC Wine Dinner, a seven-course meal prepared by top area chefs at NMC's Hagerty Center. Myles Anton from Trattoria Stella, Paul Olson of Mission Table, Guillaume Hazael-Massiex from Restaurant La Becasse and Bistro Foufou, Eric Patterson of The Cooks' House, John Dayton from Black Star Farms and Coburn McNaughton and Fred Laughlin from the Great Lakes Culinary Institute at NMC will be in the kitchen.
According to Laughlin, who directs NMC's Culinary Institute, sausage-making and charcuterie have been gaining popularity among chefs as well as home enthusiasts. He mentioned reading a New York Times article recently that discussed how an architect in charge of remodeling old brownstones had a client ask for a meat processing room in the kitchen.
"I think it's really taken off and I think part of that is driven by the local foods movement," Laughlin said. "I think a lot of people are looking to local foods for quality and health reasons, and a lot of people are starting to (cure their own meats)."
In fact, he said, Rodriguez will lead a class in the spring that will teach participants how to break down a pig and make their own bacon and sausage.
"Really, all you need is a knife and a saw," he said. "You need a table, some cutting boards, and let's say if you bought a half pig or whole pig and you got it cut in half, which is the way you pick it up, the tools you would need at home would not be cost prohibitive."
Smith said about four pigs will be slaughtered for Pigstock, including one raised on a traditional animal feedlot so that participants can make a comparison.
"It's the kind that have been demonized in movies like 'Food, Inc.,' so they can see the difference in the animals," he said. "Those animals are bred quickly and put on specialized diets — the goal is to have less fat, so it's a leaner product.
"You'll get to see the differences so you can decide when it's appropriate to use that animal and when not to."
For the complete schedule, ticket availability and prices and other information, call 883-2708 or email Allison@EventsNorth.com.