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Iberian ham

 
Posts: 489
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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I'm taking a gamble this is new-ish.  Hopefully it doesn't' regurgitate too much stuff.

The subject is about what is probably the best pork in the world.  Let's finish our pigs on nuts (acorns more specifically - in Spain and Portugal).

_ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jam%C3%B3n_ib%C3%A9rico

I learned of this many years ago, just filed it away.  When I started looking at rehabbing this farm 3 or whatever years ago, tree choices almost immediately brought this back into my mind.

But, someone in New England has a story on this, lending credence to it in North America:

_ https://northernwoodlands.org/articles/article/maple-syrup-woodlots-acorn-pork

Going through this for myself, If I can collect 100% of the acorns from 10 Bur Oak, I might hope to finish 1 pig on acorns.

Presumably you don't feed all your pigs every year, this is just the banquet given to pigs to be finished.

I did some fudging, because how many acorns an oak produces changes over its lifetime changes, and so I settled on about 1200 acorns/year.  Bur oak, can produce 35g acorns, which works out to about 100 pounds of acorns per tree.

Presumably, there are other markets for acorns as well.  So if there is a "premier crop" component, that gets sold as is, instead of turning into animal feed.  Another thing a person will run into, is that other animals will eat acorns (or other nuts).  Deer and turkey come to mind, but I am sure that every squirrel in the neighbourhood will have your nuts on his/her mind.

If you are going to have an orchard with nut producing trees, I think you will be trapping squirrels.  I know almost nothing about trapping squirrels.

I don't think this idea needs to be restricted to acorns.  I am going to have pine nuts, walnuts, hazel nuts and possibly chestnuts in my future.  Some (or all?) of them have literature on finishing animals with them.

I did try something different for Christmas cooking.  Yes, you can feed 1000 pounds of nuts to a pig, and change its fat.  Can we cook an animal with nuts, and change its fat?

I've got walnuts on my brain (and I have walnuts growing on the farm).

Way back when, people in France decided that they would try soaking green (near the summer solstice - some religious name is attached, I think summer solstice is more important).  But maybe the French connection to this summer solstice thing came from Italy, and so maybe the French are (slightly) screwed up.  Maybe.  Sort of.

Anyway, what the French started doing, was to harvest highly unripe walnuts about the summer solstice, cutting them into quarters (or so), and soaking them in the cheapest red wine they could buy.  And then about Christmas time, they filtered things and came up with a flavoured red wine which is apparently quite popular.  Supposedly, the walnut remainder is disposed of.

On to Italy.  The things I first suggested said neutral spirits, it seems more likely they are talking grappa.  Italy tends to be further south than France (they do overlap), and so I am thinking this idea probably started in Italy.  But, Italy being further south probably has walnuts getting to some particular state of ripeness earlier than most of France.  In any event, in Italy about the summer solstice, people would go harvest green walnuts.  And they would cut up the green walnuts and soak them in grappa (which is not a neutral spirit, but is probably close to one).  And about Christmas time, they would filter off the walnuts and bottle the liquid (Nocino).  The higher EtOH grappa would probably extract more stuff from the walnuts, than the plonk red wine in France.  And if people live by Saints days, by and large I think they were harvesting the green walnuts too early.

I am far enough north, that I really doubt I will see ripe walnuts.  Short growing season and early frosts (including early killing frosts) just make the idea of being able to harvest ripe walnuts unlikely.

But a second point; is that in Italy, is that in Italy there is a desert which is based on the green walnuts that have been soaked in grappa for about 6 months.  

So, not only can you produce something from the fruit which will likely never ripen, you can produce something from those green nuts which is salable.

---

So, I went  into this Christmas season, wondering about  fat substitution in animals which eat nuts.

I did an initial experiment on chicken breast and chicken thighs.  It didn't seem to be bad.

So, for Christmas I stuffed at 20 pound turkey with walnuts and orange zest.  The stuffing went between the skin and the meat, and the bird was roasted upside down.

I had a brain fart, and I did not have water in the bottom of the pan for the first hour (40)F), so the temperatures of the breastbone and breast meat probably got higher than they should have.  After 1 hour, I turned the temperature down to 200F (for 6 hours), turned it to 225F (for 3 hours) and then turned the oven off.

I suspect the temperature in the breast meat region got high enough, that the walnut grind present toasted.  And it became brown.

I was stuffing the walnuts (and oragne zest) in from a particular orientation, and I didn't try to have walnut at the surface close to the breastbone.   So that may "flavour" my results.

Walnut meat is 65% fat, and of that is 75% polyunsaturated.  The turkey is upside down, all the "oil/fat/" if flowing downhill into the breast.  The breast meat on serving might have been slightly less dry than it usually is, so this recipe is a fail on making moister white meat.  The dark meat was significantly darker than I expected.  And in processing the carcass to make stock, the bones are significantly darker.

I don't know enough about the pigs being finished in Spain/Portugal, I don't know enough about finishing animals.

My cooking used 10% of body mass and got some result.  In Spain/Portugal, the pigs eat nominally 3 times body weight.

I suspect there is an optimum that has animals eating some amount of nuts, and then cooking with nuts later.

 
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Well, you could make some good money on this, maybe, the most expensive Iberico sells for €4,100 a leg:

http://www.bbc.com/travel/gallery/20181114-the-worlds-most-expensive-ham

 
Lana Weldon
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Btw, hat ham is cured for 7 years
 
Posts: 94
Location: Eastern Washington
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Those are some interesting high grade culinary ideas you have Gordon. I don't have pigs currently, but I've liked the tree nut pig systems just for the sake that the pigs do all the work of picking up the nuts themselves!  
 
Gordon Haverland
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Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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Hmmmm, I found some nutrition data on acorns, and tried to enter the table (as BB code), and to preview it there is no table and no errors.  It is tedious to enter this code.

Acorns are about 24$ fat, of which about 82% is unsaturated.  Having lived with walnuts so much lately, they are 65% fat, of which 75% is polyunsaturated.
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