What made the loin roast so irresistible, other than the marbling of its bright, rosy flesh, was what was still attached: the skin, and under that, an inch-thick cap of back fat. I was in the market for a dinner-party showstopper, and I’d found it.
Where to buy heritage pork
I told the butcher I planned to brine the loin, dry it, put a rub on it, score the skin and smoke it on the grill over indirect heat.
“Rub vinegar on the skin,” he advised. “That’ll make it extra crunchy.”
Oh, was he right.
I wasn’t exactly sure how the roast was going to turn out. I wondered whether there would be sufficient time, as I had envisioned, for enough of the fat to render and the skin to turn to cracklings before the meat reached an internal temperature of 145 degrees (pink and juicy).
Waiting to lift the lid off the grill when a big piece of meat is smoke-roasting is akin to a child’s anticipation on Christmas morning; peek and you’ll be in trouble. The grill’s temperature drops precipitously, making the final cook time much longer; that’s why I use a remote probe thermometer.
As it turns out, I did have to trim some fat from the roast. But the meat was rich and succulent and had a fresh, clean flavor — the exact opposite of the outcome we’re used to from factory-raised grocery store pork.
The next day, some detective work revealed the pork was Berkshire and came from Craig Hagaman’s High View Farms in Berryville via White House Meats, a collective middleman of sorts that buys pasture-raised beef, lamb and pork from carefully chosen Virginia farmers and makes it accessible to chefs and the public. (It sells whole animals to the former and 10- to 15-pound meat shares to the latter, with shares delivered to A.M. Wine Shoppe in Adams Morgan on the first Saturday of each month. Hagaman also sells his products directly to consumers, as well as at farmers markets.)
So a couple of weeks ago, I doubled my porcine wish list: Mulefoots and Berkshires.
The two farmers responsible were not far apart, either in distance or life experience. Both came to farming as “next chapter” pursuits and subscribe to the theory that raising animals humanely, on pasture and in a stress- and chemical-free environment, is morally and culinarily correct. The quality of an animal’s life correlates with its value as a foodstuff.
Born and raised in Kansas, Dietz-Band has a doctorate in molecular biology and genetics and worked in that field in the Gaithersburg-Rockville corridor until 11 years ago, when she and her husband made a quality-of-life decision to get their then-teenage sons away from the city and have one parent stay at home. The goal was to have their 40-acre Many Rocks Farm pay for itself, and it does, primarily from goat farming. The pigs didn’t come until last year.