Swine and Dine: A celebration of the pig

From left: Aaron Oster, Francois Vecchio, and Jan Buhrman during one of the classes held earlier in the week. — Photo by Timothy Young

This week a group of chefs, under the tutelage of a renowned European-born expert, have been learning the ins and outs of butchering, preparing, and curing various parts of the pig.

For those more interested in the finished product, the Harbor View Hotel will host three sampling events this weekend featuring everything pork – from the humble BLT to a gastronomic five-course feast where the pig in all its myriad forms will be paired with wines.

Swine and Dine, the latest offering from Jan Buhrman and Aaron Oster of Kitchen Porch Culinary Experiences, is a celebration of all things pork, designed to underscore the importance of local agriculture.

Ms. Buhrman, and her husband Rich Osnoss, know a bit about the subject. “I’ve been a lover of pigs for many years. I’ve raised them for 17 years and I’ve really learned a lot about pig raising, slaughtering, butchering, and curing of meats.”

Along with the master classes, which were held Kitchen Porch in Chilmark this past Tuesday through Friday, and the Harbor View sampling and dining events, Ms. Buhrman and Mr. Oster will also host a circuit tour of local pig farms on Saturday, Nov. 17, from 9 am to 12 noon. The participating chefs and other guests will make stops at three of the oldest farms on the Vineyard and learn about various pig breeds and local pig raising

The Harbor View events include a Friday night hoedown of sorts. Tim Laursen and Everett Whiting of Local Smoke will bring their wood-fired smoker to the premises and make slow roasted pulled pork sandwiches. For a fixed price guests can enjoy all the pork, cole slaw, and soda they like and then dance it all away to music by Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish.

A competition on Saturday afternoon will feature a number of local chefs vying for the honor of Best BLT on the Vineyard. With gourmet twists on the classic abounding these days, guests can expect a lot of imaginative variations of the three key ingredients.

Among the culinary delights featured in Saturday night’s grand finale feast will be local greens and pickled fresh vegetables along with pork products in the form of artisan cured meats, sausage, fresh cracklings, paté, porchetta, and head cheese. Head cheese? According to Ms. Buhrman, the underappreciated delicacy — a terrine made with the meat from the pig’s head — is “wildly delicious with pickled vegetables and mustard.”

The wine and pork dinner will conclude with desserts by pastry chef Briana Holt from 7a. The other participating chefs are Mr. Oster and the Harbor View’s executive chef Shaun Brian Sells and executive sous chef Nathan Gould. Mr. Sells has just returned from Boston where he was honored as one of Zagat’s 30 hottest up and coming chefs in the Boston area.

The pork for the Friday night Pig Out and five-course dinner will come from local pig growers and small New England farms raising heritage breeds. Ms. Buhrman cannot sell any of the products from her pigs since they are slaughtered here, which means not by a USDA approved facility. However, the four pigs that Ms. Buhrman and her husband raised this year have provided the meat for the hands-on professional Porks and Knives workshop.

A handful of local chefs signed up to participate in four classes with master salumi maker and butcher Francois Vecchio. The individual classes covered the entire process. Students learned how to debone and breakdown a pig, make sausages, cure meat for salumi (a category that includes salami, pepperoni, and soppressata) and create pâté using artisan techniques.

The 75-year-old Mr. Vecchio owned and operated a large family meat company in Switzerland for 40 years. Since retiring from that business, he has dedicated his life to teaching people his art. The much sought after expert is skilled in techniques from Spain, Italy, France, and Germany.

“He really brings a perspective of the specialization and craftsmanship of preserving meat,” Ms. Buhrman said.

Mr. Vecchio first visited the Vineyard this past May at the invitation of Ms. Buhrman. “He checked out the way we raised our animals and agreed to come back,” she said. Her pigs are raised outside and fed all organic grain and scraps from the Kitchen Porch catering operation. They are not given any processed foods. The farm tour, which is open to the public, will include the Grey Barn Farm, The FARM Institute, Native Earth Teaching Farm, and the Farmers Market. Ms. Buhrman notes that each farm raises different varieties and uses different techniques. She believes that the tour will provide a great educational experience for anyone.

“I think Martha’s Vineyard has a real terroir,” Ms. Buhrman said. “We have Martha’s Vineyard tastes and flavors.” She notes that she finishes her pigs up with a lot of acorns, which affects the flavor of the meat. “If you’re paying attention to how an animal is raised and what it’s fed, you can really change the quality of the meat.”

As with all of her workshops and events, Ms. Buhrman strives to raise awareness. “I think it’s important to oversee and learn how people are raising things,” she said. “We can always do better.”

Pig Out, Nov. 16, 6–8 pm. $35, benefits Slow Food M.V.

BLT Bonanza, Nov. 17, 12:30–3:30 pm. $15, benefits Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

Swine and Dine, Nov. 17, 6–9 pm. $80, portion of proceeds benefits M.V. Regional High School garden.

All events held at the Harbor View Hotel, Edgartown. For more information, call 508-645-5000 or 508-627-7000, or visit harbor-view.com.