You may have heard of Berkshire pork, it’s on the menu of many fancy restaurants, such as Spago?s in Beverley Hills or the French Laundry in California. It is also referred to as Kurobuta – meaning black pig in Japanese (Berkshire pork is very popular in Japan). Berkshire pork is a heritage breed of pig, which was discovered over 300 years ago in Berkshire County in the United Kingdom. Berkshire pork is renowned for its richness, texture, marbling, juiciness, tenderness and overall depth of flavor. It is thought by many to be the Kobe beef of pork. It is said to have a very specific taste, not generic and bland or mild like regular pork.
It seems that there is a crucial link between a pig?s diet and the flavor of the pork. Most industrially raised pigs survive on corn and soybeans, while Berkshire pigs often eat (or should I say ?dine?) on oats, molasses, fresh vegetables and fruits. Pigs are unique because the fat that they eat is redistributed into their muscle fiber – Meaning that pigs are, literally, what they eat. So, what a pig is fed is very important to how it tastes.
I even read about a farmer that literally put this to the test. One year he fed his pigs scraps?they had a fairly bland taste. The next year he fed them Chinese food and he said they were extremely greasy and generally not very good. The next year (like he wasn?t getting the idea by now) he fed them Dunkin? Donuts and he said they were inedible?like duh…poor little piggies.
In fact, there have been loads of taste tests, studies and general research done on Berkshire pigs?they all say that Berkshire pork is genetically predisposed to producing the finest quality pork due to its shorter muscle fibers and lots of marbling, which contributes to both the flavor and the tenderness. They also say that the reason why Berkshire pork is so juicy and tender, is the lack of stress on the animal. Stress causes the meat to be dry and tough. Berkshire pigs are apparently raised in a low-stress environment. Meaning that they are usually allowed to roam where they want and they have plenty of shade to keep them cool.
This was all very interesting to me, however nowadays, I often ask myself “how much of this is just marketing”. I wondered if this “Berkshire Pork” could really be that much better for the price. A regular pork rack was $7.99 a pound, while the Berkshire pork was $12.99 a pound.
So was it better? Holy “Berkshire Pork” Batman, it was fantastic. The first bite stopped me dead in my tracks. The texture, juiciness, and all of the other stuff they said about it, was true. It really was divine.
Would I spend that kind of money every time, seeing that a 4-rack roast cost me about $35 dollars? I am not sure that I would (only because I am not rich though, as it was really delicious), but if you were to brine a regular rack, cooked it properly and most importantly, made sure that it was well rested, it would still be really good.
I do have to say though, that I think because I spent what I did on the pork, dinner seemed to more of an event, which was really nice. We talked about the pork (okay me) all day and I took great care when I cooked it which made things much more fun. So, I suppose in the end it really was worth it, especially when you think of how much it would have cost if we went out for dinner and had it.
Here, is my recipe for “Slow Roasted Pork Rack” if you are interested. It also happens to go really well with the Braised kale and Soft Polenta.
Has anyone else tried Berkshire pork, and if so, what did you think?
Ciao for now,