Prosciutto with Proletariat Butchery

Yesterday I stopped at Proletariat Butchery up on Fremont Street in Portland to visit with owner and artisan butcher, Zeph Shepard.  Zeph’s shop is the epitome of small batch, service-oriented butchery.  He takes pride in knowing his customers and helping them get the most out of their eating experience.

I took a hands-on pig butchery class from Zeph last year and it was really helpful to see how a butcher views a half pig and the options it contains.  With knife-in-hand, we cut up the carcass ourselves and it was educational and fun.

One great thing about working with Zeph is he’ll teach and do as much or as little as you want.  If you want to learn how to cut up your pig yourself, he’ll teach you.  If you just want to have him do it, he’ll cut it up for you.  But no matter what you have in mind, he starts with a conversation about what you like to eat and how you can make the most out of your meat.

Proscuitto: ham cured with salt, air, and plenty of patience

Proscuitto: ham cured with salt, air, and plenty of patience

Yesterday, I took Zeph a whole rear leg of pork to be cured into Prosciutto.  I took the photo above in his shop and these are hams that have been salted, coated with leaf fat, and are now aging.  Over time, the salt works its way into the meat while the water slowly exits the meat.  Capillary action pulls the salt in as the water escapes and the meat slowly cures and becomes firm.  A leg this size will take about a year to get to where I can start eating it and maybe another six to twelve months after that to develop its full potential of rich flavors.

This type of charcuterie is all about patience.  I’m looking forward to sharpening my knife and taking the first thin slices off my Elkhorn prosciutto a year from now.

If you’d like to learn how to do charcuterie or maybe have Zeph get it going for you, Elkhorn can provide the primal cuts of pork you need to get started and Zeph can help you get it finished.  Let us know when you’re ready and we’ll get you on the road to great eating!


Welcome to my farm blog


My name is Matt Alford and I am a small-time pig farmer located in the unincorporated community of Laurelwood, Oregon, about five miles from Gaston and 50 minutes from Portland.  I raise Gloucestershire Old Spot heritage hogs and sell them farm-direct to local eaters, who appreciate the high quality of the meat and the extensive effort that I put into making sure the hogs live the very best life possible.

People who know me, know that I have a very high bar for the meat that I put on my own table.  About fifteen years ago, I quit eating meat entirely after learning what “factory farming” meant.  I wanted nothing to do with that and I spent the next two years thinking about life, death, right, wrong, meat, murder, capital punishment, religion, hunting and all sorts of other tangents related to meat. I finally came to the conclusion that eating meat isn’t wrong and whatever meat I consume, I’m going to know that meat from field to table.  I also decided to confront the fact that meat comes from a living, breathing being that thinks for itself and feels pain.  Meat nourishes life by taking life and at the very least, I owed the animal the respect of looking it in the eye and taking its life myself if I thought eating meat was so important that the animal needed to die in order to feed me.

As a result, I learned how to hunt, first with bow and arrow, then later with rifle and shotgun.  I learned what it meant to hunt animals in the wild, on their own terms and what it meant to eat a lot of salad after coming home empty-handed.  I spent days and weeks sitting quietly in the woods, watching animals interact with each other, care for their young, and live in freedom.  I learned humility and respect for every piece of meat I brought home for the table.Chewy

Eventually, I started raising packgoats to help me carry my camp into the backcountry and the meat back out to the truck.  I was a slow learner, but my goats were kind enough to teach me lessons over and over about what it meant to put up a fence and keep it up.  They also made sure I understood that they viewed anything I built as a temporary structure and they were put on this earth to see to it that temporary structures were torn down.

After about seven years of “goat learning” I decided to raise a couple weaner pigs for my own consumption.  HeaderI already had good fences, water, and pasture.  While I expected the final pork would taste great (and it did), what I didn’t expect was to like being around pigs as much as I did.  Pigs are funny.  They chase each other around, root in the dirt, and like to come over and investigate whatever I’m doing.  Now, my farm doesn’t feel complete without them.

I like pigs and I’m happy raising them in a manner that supports their “pigness” and happiness.  It seems that other people like it too because wherever I go and talk to people about how and why I raise pigs, there is someone who asks if they can buy pork from me.  That makes me happy, because every pig that I sell reduces the demand on factory pig farms.  Maybe someday, enough people will buy local, pasture-raised pigs that there won’t be any demand for factory farms and they will just become a shameful foot note in our history.  Industrial pig farming hasn’t been kind to pigs and they deserve better.  I’m doing my part, a few pigs at a time.