PREPPING THE PORK Salvatore Talarico, left, and Christian Kryger rub a pig before putting it in
the smoker, which is behind them.
First off, it helps to be Salvatore Talarico, the executive chef of Aurora Provisions, who knows how to get his hands on some heirloom-breed piglets. At $150 each, weighing about 20 pounds, you’ll notice this is a shockingly high price, but making the best pork in the world isn’t about economic logic or anything normal. It’s about going to unheard-of ends to supply kick-ass grub for your friends. I’m not saying you should get the scientific name for pig, “Suidae,” tattooed across your chest like Salvatore did, but I’m also not one to rule out the importance of life-long dedication or inspiring visual art in the making of great food.
In September, 100 friends would gather for the seventh annual pig roast at Catherine Caswell’s farm in Gray for a weekend of partying, camping, and eating phenomenal pork. In years past, guests have come from as far as Alaska to taste the evolving culinary masterwork of up-and-coming chefs Josh Potocki and Christian Kryger. But most guests have no idea what goes into it. Especially not this year.
In May, Salvatore brought the piggies, which he named “Lunch” and “Dinner,” from Vermont to Broadturn Farm in Scarborough, where resident farmers Stacy Brenner and John Bliss welcomed them into their herd of eight. Salvatore came by three days a week with a waist-high trash barrel full of food scraps from Aurora and other Portland restaurants and bakeries. Note: when feeding pigs as Salvatore does, get in and out of the pen quickly. After Salvatore dumped out a trash bag of food scraps, among the broken egg shells, stale loves of bread, pineapple tops, wrinkling green peppers, smooshed half watermelons, chicken guts, and avocado pits and skins, the pigs started going for his restaurant clogs. When feeding, they snort, push, aggressively hoard, guard, and scarf, all at once. After feeding and watering them all spring and summer, Lunch and Dinner are up to about 130 pounds.
The Wednesday before the party, it’s time to say "bye-bye piggies." Go to the farm early, pick some eggplant, summer squash, sungold tomatoes, heirloom thyme, summer savory, flat-leaf parsley, and basil, and cook up a magical feast of ratatouille for the 13 people who will be hungry after all the slaughtering, cleaning, disemboweling, and cooling is all done. Everyone gathers outside the farm at four, the fields bursting with produce, the sunflowers reaching sky high. Have some food together: fresh-picked watermelon, basil, and prosciutto (made on the farm out of Maynard, Stacy and John’s first pig). Let the group of friends meander, eating ground cherries as they go, to the pig pen where Lunch and Dinner, for the first time since they came here, are alone.
Coordinate with six participants how the deed will go down. There will be two teams for killing the two pigs at once so as to avoid one remaining living pig freaking out. There is a gunman on each team to shoot the pig in the forehead, a person to hold its body down (it’ll be stunned, but thrashing) and a “knifer” to slit the throat, helping it die more quickly and allowing the blood to drain out without getting all over the meat.