Mago Meal – North Fork 2013: Finding a pig

Richard the auctioneer

We’ve been busy since we returned from Europe.  But now it’s time to start another Mago project and what better project than a Mago Meal?  This one begins with a charity auction at the local community hall to raise funds for refinishing the floor.  Morgan offers up a fancy wine dinner for six people and the bidding begins.

This is a picture of Richard, our auctioneer.  That’s Morgan in the foreground with his little colorful Pantelleria hat on.

The bidding was fast and furious.  Apparently word had gotten out about a similar dinner at a similar auction two years ago and there were several folks eager to take advantage of Morgan’s culinary skills.  The bids finally close and a good portion of the funds required to redo the floor was obtained.  Now the question is… what to cook?

Morgan’s reputation goes before him and the winner of the meal asks if Morgan can include a course with his world famous lasagna including home-made spinach lasagna noodles, Bolognese sauce and béchamel.  Of course.  No problem.

Piglets for sale

While we were in Europe this year, many of the restaurants we enjoyed the most were focused on local sourcing of ingredients.  We think this an excellent idea, so we start looking around for what might be available for our Mago Meal at the end of August.  Because of the extra hot weather in Montana this year and the adequate rain, gardens are bursting with all things vegetable, so that’s covered.

But what for the main course… the star of the show?  Roast suckling pig of course.  But can we find one locally?  As if by magic, we see an advertisement in Glacier Produce, Kalispell, for piglets grown by a local farmer.  Our main concern at this point is the size.  We were looking for an unweened piglet of 10-15 pounds and these babies are over 40.  The problem isn’t the anticipated left overs.  We know how to dispense those.  But do we have an oven big enough to hold such a beast?  We get out the measuring tape, stick our heads in all the various ovens, take dimensions, and determine that yes, with some squeezing, a 40 pound pig will probably, repeat probably, fit.  Next step, let’s take a look at these little porkers.

The farm family

We head back into town and pull up into the yard of the folks who have the piglets.  What we see is this neat little farm with chickens, ducks, geese, cows, one lone female turkey and, of course, piglets.  We get out our tape measure and decide that one of these piglets will probably fit into one of our ovens.

Our piglet

Then begins a surreal conversation about how to get the pig butchered. Although we’re accustomed to butchering game that is “harvested” on the North Fork, it turns out that pigs for roasting take a special technique.  You want to keep the skin on for all that great crackling taste and flavor.  This means that the little piglet has to be killed, then scalded and scraped rather than skinned.  We have several butchers in the valley, so how hard can it be to find someone to do that?

John, the seller, is eager to have one more piglet sold, so he suggests that we load the little darling into a crate, put it into the back of our pickup, and we drive around to find a butcher.  To give you some idea of the moment, here’s a picture of John with the mother sow.

John the piglet seller

Neither Morgan nor I think that this is a very smart move.  Driving around a pig.  So we prevaricate and say that we’ll do some legwork and be back for the pig.  We then drive to or call every slaughter house/butcher in the valley and they won’t do it.  Only one place scalds, Farm to Market Pork, and they only work with animals that they source, but their hogs are all in the 100 plus pounds range.  When we get back in touch with John he says that he’s willing to try that scalding thing, but by this time we  smell disaster in the air and regroup.

So we ordered a pig on line.  Morgan found someone who would mail him a 7 pound piglet and he was happy.

The question then became, where to send it?  It was frozen and packed and dry ice, but UPS delivery up the North Fork road can be… spotty.  Whether or not a package is delivered on any particular day depends on how many packages are destined for the North Fork road that day.  It’s not unusual for the UPS delivery guy to lurk in the Smith’s parking lot waiting for an exceptionally dusty car to come along and ask that neighbor to delivery the package.  Depending on the neighbor’s schedule, that could take a couple of days.  Normally, that’s not a problem.  But with a frozen pig, Morgan became concerned.

Houston... we have pig.So we did the North Fork thing and asked our storage site folks whether they would take delivery and we would come by to pick it up.  That’s what happened and here’s Morgan standing out front of C.J. Storage with his prized package.

Now it’s time to make the Bolognese sauce for the home-made lasagna.  We’ll post an update when we get to the next step of this Mago Meal.



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Patti Hart

Patti has been traveling the world with Morgan since 1974 and loving every minute of it.  She's responsible for the photography and editing on the MagoGuide website as well as making occasional contributions.  Patti also generates the graphics and edits the MagoGuide products (e.g., the Mago Scrolls).  She recently built and published the iPhone and iPad application for MagoGuide. Finally, she is responsible for this website including code that tailors the content to what readers are interested in seeing.  In other words, a very busy lady.