French-trained meat cutter and his wife Caitlin bought the shop,
cleavers and all, from the Zarcones when they retired, and opened
their own version of a neighborhood butcher shop earlier this
year. Tom sources whole animals from local farms like Always
Something, spends the week breaking them down into popular
and harder-to-find cuts, and opens the doors on Saturdays from 10
a.m. to 5 p.m. to sell that week’s fresh meat at the front counter
and previous weeks’ offerings from rows of old-school freezers
along the walls.
Tom slices into a side of Mangalitsa, revealing a fat cap that’s
nearly four inches thick–almost triple what’s found on a standard
pig. The leaf lard inside is soft and spreadable, even when cold,
and pure white–the animals don’t eat corn or soy, which can turn
the lard yellow. This fat is ideal for baking and charcuterie, and
there’s plenty of it.
Amid the layers of fat, Tom carefully carves out the St. Louis
ribs, the shoulder loin, then the roasts, chops, cutlets, and hams.
The Mangalitsa’s dark, beautifully marbled meat looks more like
steak than the pale conventional common pork chop. Seared in
a hot skillet, a Mangalitsa chop behaves like a bacon-wrapped
porterhouse–a crust of crisp browned fat on the outside, dark
meat basted in its own rendered marbling within.
The cuts of this particular Mangalitsa are destined for
homemade charcuterie aficionados and restaurant chefs who
will use every inch of the animal in modern takes on heritage
techniques. They’ll make pastry crusts, tortillas, bonbons, and
salted whipped lardo from the prized fat. Precise cuts of meat
will be transformed by salt, smoke, skill, and time into bacon,
dried sausages, pâté, rillets, fall-apart ribs, and more. Even the
trotters, ears, tail, and nine-pound jowls will be celebrated on a
plate. It takes Tom up to five hours to break down half of a huge
Mangalitsa pig, but only three for a standard-sized hog.
For now, Always Something Farms have a handful of
Mangalitsas. Most are spoken for before they head to the
slaughterhouse, but curious eaters can reserve portions directly
with the farm (and go out to visit the piglets starting in June), or
find special preparations occasionally at Roost in Buffalo (chef
Martin Danilowicz was the one who encouraged Michael to raise
the breed in the first place), Yoshi in East Aurora, or Black Sheep
Above: Michael and Stepahnie Parkot (and son) are helping to bring the heritage Mangalitsa breed back from extinction at
Always Something Farm in Darien. Left: Tom Moriarty breaks down a hog at Moriarty Meats on Grant Street; Mangalitsas are
prized for their high fat ratio.