This book is a love letter to a unique Hungarian pig breed, a breed whose history seems miraculous when compared to America’s agricultural traditions.
The curly-haired Mangalitsa’s “genetics have remained untouched since 1833”—an almost unbelievable story for those acquainted with large-scale agriculture in the U.S. But raising these pigs is a long game—they aren’t bred to fatten up quickly. They’re renowned for their taste and the quality of their lard, and they’ve found their way to several of the country’s highest-rated restaurants in recent years.
But, according to the book’s authors, this almost wasn’t so: in the early 1990s, less than 200 Mangalitsa pigs remained, prompting Peter Toth and a partner to buy a herd of 50 from a Hungarian farmer in order to expand the Mangalitsa’s numbers. Today, Toth is president of the Hungarian National Association of Mangalitsa Breeders, and, he writes, the breed is 10,000 strong.
Mangalitsa pigs are now (again) a big part of Hungarian cuisine, as 23 Hungarian chefs demonstrate with recipes that incorporate Mangalitsa cuts, from lard to brain to loin. Each beautifully photographed recipe comes with a short chef profile and detailed instructions—make Zsolt Litauszki’s Mangalitsa rillette in breadcrumbs with fermented wax beans, or simply marvel at Antonio Fekete’s “Apple dessert,” a white chocolate-covered molded apple mousse complete with dark chocolate stem (no pig included in this recipe).
If you’re desperate to taste Mangalitsa for yourself, there’s a list, including a map, of Hungarian restaurants at the back of the book, plus a couple of pages advertising Mangalitsa farmers in the U.S.
This beautiful book, with gold-embossed title and incredible photography, is translated from Hungarian, which, unfortunately, results in some typographical errors. This may drive you crazy if you’re an editor type, but don’t let it get in the way of the opportunity to read about this fascinating pig breed. If you are interested in a story that merges fine cuisine with a passion for animal husbandry, you’ll enjoy The Mangalitsa Pig, and probably learn something, too.
by Mate Dobesch, Wilhelm W. Kohl, Peter Toth, Beata Bencsics, Eszter Szalai (Translator)
247 pages; Boook Publishing Hungary, 2014