Carl Edgar Blake II on Big Summer Bash Boucherie: A whole lotta hog!

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Big Summer Bash 2015: Boucherie

Backpocket Brewing — Saturday, June 27 at 12 p.m., $10-12

On Saturday, June 27, Cajun tradition comes to Coralville with lots of tantalizing, farm-raised goodness in tow. Backpocket Brewing and Little Village present a full-blown hog roast, with menu curated by Ionia, IA farmer Carl Blake, of Rustik Rooster Farms.

Blake — who you might remember from his March 2013 appearance on the Colbert Report — and his team have been engineering, raising and perfecting several new breeds of pig: Iowa Swabian Hall, Mulefoot, Iowa Black Beauty and Red Wattle. At Boucherie, they’ll share the benefits of their craft: You’ll be able to purchase plates of Blake’s craft pork as well as Swabian Hall Smoked Brown Ale, a new beer by Backpocket brewed specially for the event.

Your piece de resistance is the Iowa Swabian Hall, a cross-bred pig known for its succulent meat. Are the possibilities limitless in what you can do with creating superior breeds of pig? Or do your crossbreeding options sort of plateau at some point?

Not us, because we have stock from Europe. We’re not dealing with existing pigs in the United States. From pigs in the United States, all of the cross-breeding that’s possible was already done back 40 or 50 years ago, and if there were going to be any good pigs as a result of that, it would’ve already happened. So what we’re doing is taking breed stock from Europe and China, we’re breeding them with our pigs to make a better pig. Now we have four brand new breeds of pig.

The majority of the meat industry is rife with a lot of malpractice and brutality. What are some obstacles that you face when trying to farm pigs ethically?

The biggest issue that we face is right now is processing the pig and turning it into a package or a pork chop that people can eat on their plates at home. Iowa has pretty much eliminated all of the USDA processing plants in the state that can process a pig the proper way. There are no more plants that can process our pigs properly. They’re all gone. We have to go out of state to get things processed. And even the people in charge of these laws, who know that we’re going out of state to do this, are doing everything they can to keep it that way, which is sad because we’re bringing money into the state. If we were able to do it in Iowa, we’d be bringing more money into the state, but Iowa is currently exporting all of their money.

What are your thoughts on the restaurant industry in Iowa and what they are doing with pork?

I think we have a lot of great restaurants here that can do amazing things with pork once they can get it, but they have to pay a premium for it, and it’s hard to get good quality pasture pig. They’re stuck getting Sysco pigs, pigs that fell of the truck, junk pigs, confinement pigs.

I would agree. I actually work in kitchens in Iowa, and I would say it’s difficult to get ahold of some of the quality product you’re trying to produce.

What’s being done is the pork producers inject the pig with brines and solutions, they rub them, put them in stocks. If you have the right pig, you don’t need to rub them, inject them or add anything to them. We don’t add anything to our pigs. A little bit of salt. That’s it.

What do they eat?

They’re pasture raised and fed. They also eat hydroponic barley, goat’s milk, hickory nuts, acorns and walnuts. We’ve got tons of that stuff out in our forest.

Seeing as there are more pigs than people in Iowa, are you very surprised that you basically ended up engineering them for a living?

Well, it wasn’t until I sat and back and looked at the industry as a whole and realized that the way they’re doing it sucks — they don’t have a damn clue what they’re doing and I’m not afraid to tell them in front of the public, to their face or on the Colbert Report! Their pigs suck and I can prove it. I’m not afraid to tell it like it is. We can make a better pig. I thought it was kind of odd that I had to engineer a pig, but what better place to do it than here in Iowa?

You have this Boucherie coming up. What does Boucherie mean? And do you have a background in Southern and Cajun cooking?

Boucherie means “to butcher” in French, and no, I just followed how pigs have developed over the years and how to take care of them. So there was a time in the South, Louisiana and such, when they didn’t have a way to freeze the meat. So what they would do is get together in the fall and have a big party; singing, dancing and they would butcher a whole bunch of hogs that they’d be fattening up in the spring. They would keep some of the most interesting parts of the hogs for the event, then they’d give the rest out to their families, neighbors and community.

So it’s a time honored tradition then?

It is. They would slaughter the pigs and cook them in hundreds of different ways, and that’s basically what we’re gonna do. We’ve got four different breeds of pig for the Boucherie that we’re going to roast and feed the community with.

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