April 16, 2011

Sur le highway avec mes oreilles de crisse

spring. grey and soggy lands. dead leaves and last years roadkill appear. Food for the underground. Spring in Quebec means a lot of things, but the smell of wood fires, maple and pork fat are some of the most defining. Paying the full tank at a gas station I noticed all these baggies of oreilles de crisse next to the cheese curds. The curds are present all year, but the pork crispies are not. When they appear, you know it is spring, but not yet Easter.

Eating through my bag of Christ's ears I wondered how maniacal it is how these terms come about. I really could imagine sitting at a big wooden table and the King of kings saying "Take these and eat them, for these are my ears." Crunch, crunch....

And then there is Francois and Pascale Pirson of Porcherie Ardennes. Both from Belgium...both from agricultural families. Pascale is from the heart of Bouillon. Born on a farm, one of eleven kids. She saw her future differently, rather as a nurse (for those who have not read other blogs there is a long deep trend here). Her brother owned a butcher shop in Liege, 150km away, and at the age of fifteen Pascale went to help him with washing dishes. One day, one of the counter girls was sick and Pascale was told to put on an apron and serve customers, meaning she suddenly found herself slicing slabs of meat for clients a la minute. She loved it. After that, every congé scholaire, summer, Toussaint, Christmas, Easter she spent helping her brother, serving clients, learning the trade. So instead of becoming a nurse she became a butcher, with the Patronet degree. She met Francois, and they wanted land of their own. They spent 5 years looking. At first they were considering dairy, but with the price of the quota and how closed banks were to lending they decided in 1990 to buy a small place in Quebec near Mont St-Grégoire with 95 maternal pigs. It was part of the dream but Francois had to keep working for someone else, namely Robitaille. In 1997 they took control of the engraisement, pouponnière, élevage au complet. In 1999, meunière. 2000, they cultivate their own cereals. 2001 saw an incredible thing, they became Pied de Cochon's pig of choice. Picard helped them beyond what they ever dreamed of, and are extremely grateful.

With 2500-2800 heads a year, 4 kids, Pascale on the committee of Slow Food and hard working in Marcel's butcher shop Saucisson Vaudois and PR, certified NaturPorc, Francois hard working in the field, and together a powerful presence in their community, Porcherie Ardennes is not only a place I source from, but a place I like to visit for inspiration, for common sense, and for the love of good conversation and food.

As for the deep fried pork rind, they don't sell any, I did not even bother asking. It seemed that it was a good thing that oreilles de Christ were available en masse a short period of the year, but good quality pork all year round.