What Is Berkshire Pork?
There are many heritage breeds of hog out there, including Duroc, Mangalitsa, and Red Wattle, but the one that's hogging the spotlight (pardon the pun) right now is the Berkshire hog. That's because it's starting to appear on more and more restaurant menus across the country.
Simply put, Berkshire pork is pork that tastes like pork. It's a far cry from the insipid, lifeless chops in the shrink-wrapped packages from the store, which come from pigs that have been bred by industrial pork producers to have a minimum of fat, and consequently, a minimum of flavor. The whole thing about fat is a matter of semantics, we suppose — the health-conscious call it fat, while the flavor fanatics call it marbling. Whether you think the fact that the modern-day pork chop has basically turned into a chicken breast from a different animal is a good thing depends on what side of the fence you're on.
But we digress — back to Berkshire pork. Once you've had a taste, there's no going back. Berkshire pork, also known as Kurobuta in Japan, is a 300-year-old breed that was allegedly first encountered by Oliver Cromwell's army in Reading, England. It has fantastic marbling and a significant layer of back fat (the secret to truly good meatballs, by the way), and the meat oozes with flavorful juices. In the case of a bone-in pork chop, the best part comes at the end — when no one is looking, of course. Pick up that bone and gnaw on it to get some extra porky flavor.
OK, now that the sales pitch is over, you're probably wondering: "Where can I find Berkshire pork?" If you're lucky, there's a Whole Foods or similar upscale supermarket nearby, or perhaps you even have a butcher shop in the neighborhood that carries it. Otherwise, your best bet is online. Purveyors like Flying Pigs Farm, Snake River Farms, and Eden Farms all ship nationwide or have ties to an online distributor. Eden Farms also has a helpful nationwide directory of brick-and-mortar shops that carry Berkshire pork. Be prepared to pay top dollar, though — as of this writing, bone-in pork chops from Flying Pigs Farm, for example, will run you about $15 per pound.
Last words: In case you were wondering, yes, I've read Charlotte's Web. And when I was 8 years old, I was all for the protagonist. And I still am. But Wilbur also lived a fairly full life, something which most pigs don't really get to experience these days. And if E.B. White had tasted Berkshire pork, he might have rewritten the ending, to the horror of children everywhere. Yes, I know — pure evil.
Will Budiaman is the Recipe Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @WillBudiaman.