Red Wattles: Hoggie Bling Comes to Town
Winter crunches toward us. We have confectioner's sugar snow this morning. Instead of settling in for long winter naps, the people who grow and process our food keep surprising me with their energy for change, expansions, more work, more production, right through the year.
Here is one stellar examples: Hood's Heritage Hogs, a new Kentucky farm that produces Red Wattle hogs, came to the Lexington Farmers Market for the first time on November 9, 2013. Slow Food USA includes red wattles in its Ark of Taste, a collection of culturally significant heritage foods.
See that dangly thingie directly under this animal's left ear? We call that fleshy caruncle a wattle. Hood's Heritage Hogs' motto: "If it ain't got wattles—it's just a pig."
Travis Hood said the Hood farm, including 61 Red Wattles, moved from Indiana to Kentucky's Robertson County three months ago to take advantage of the kind of pasture and forest that support growing hogs sustainably. In January, 2014, Hood's Heritage Hogs will process and offer for sale nine Red Wattles presently foraging on nine acres, enjoying mast (the "fruit" of forest trees, in this case primarily hickory nuts, with some acorns.) Next year the number of forage-finished hogs will grow. In the short run, Hood's offers Red Wattle pork produced on more conventional diets, including non-GMO corn.
Growers prize Red Wattles for their good temperament, hardiness, rapid growth, and good mothering. Eaters prize the unusually delicious taste of the breed's meat, both lean and fat. The animals reach massive sizes: up to four feet high and eight feet long at the extreme. Travis reported his hams are in the range of 40 pounds each, about double the standard size.
Savoring Kentucky hopes Hood's Heritage Hogs finds hog heaven in Robertson County. We've already started imagining the tastes of pairing this fine pork with heirloom Hickory King cornmeal and grits from Sunflower Sundries, a not too distant neighbor of the Hood's Red Wattles' new Kentucky home.
Photo Credit: Red wattle hog, photographer Mark Whitby, 2010, published in Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons license. Thank you!