I must have brought the rain with me from Wales. As I headed out of the motel at seven in the morning a grey drizzle had descended over Northern California. It felt more akin to a Welsh winter than an American Fall.I was headed to see Shane Petersen in the Suisun Valley to see his herd of Swallow Bellied Mangalitsa. They’re the dark variety, a cross between the now extinct black breed and the blonde. They’re really quite different from the blonde and red varieties that we have – they definitely have a calmer disposition and their ears are more of a lop than the blonde’s. His pigs were beautiful – they’re free roaming and have around 45 acres of grassland to stretch their legs – these are some seriously happy pigs. Shane has his own blend of feed, which is supplemented with fresh vegetables – these are healthy pigs too.
He’d bought his pigs from Heath Putnam, who I’d met earlier on the trip in Seattle, and is one of the few Mangalitsa breeders in California. His clientele are mainly high end restaurants, and I’d timed my visit perfectly to see the latest batch loaded onto the trailer to depart for the slaughterhouse.
Later in the evening I headed over to Shane and Marie’s house for supper. As an appetizer they had some of their homecured lomo and coppa. I can honestly say, that the coppa was by far the best piece of charcuterie I’ve had all trip. It goes to show that the raw ingredient is the most important thing – happy pigs bred on a good diet make the best meat!