Pork is the meat of domesticated porcine (pigs). Pigs are also called swine or hogs.
In Canada, the average pig goes to market between 6-8 months old and weighing between 55-95 kg. Suckling pig is used to describe very young pigs that have only been fed on its mother's milk. Those piglets are between 2-6 weeks old and the meat is very tender, gelatinous but also somewhat mushy.
Unique Qualities of Pork
Pork meat has two-toning. Different forms of myoglobin result in lighter or darker meat. Even when cooked, the colour of the meat looks like different shades.
Another unique trait in pork which is different from other meats is that pork skin is often left on.
Unlike beef, pork is not aged. The animal is much younger than beef and the meat is already much more tender than beef. Due to its high moisture content, bacteria would multiply quickly if given the time during aging. If pork were aged, it would have much lower yields because of moisture loss. Also, pork fat can go rancid because of oxidation.
Trichinosis is a parasitic disease caused by the eating of raw or undercooked pork that is infected with roundworm. (It is also found in wild game.) That being the case, Health Canada advises consumers to cook pork until it reaches 58 degrees C. By freezing pork, the larvae/worms are killed. Someone affected with trichinosis can present symptoms of nausea and heartburn after 1-2 days.
Salmonella is also a concern in pork. Pork is a relatively moist meat and can therefore grow rapidly.
Pork and Religious Diets
For those who practice Judaism and Islam, pork is not permissible. In Judaism, pork is not kosher and not allowed whatsoever. Pigs are an anomaly because of their cloven hoofs and that they don't chew their cud like ruminant animals (for example cows). In Islam, pork is haram (Arabic), not halal. Halal means that is permissible by Islamic law. Religious beliefs revolving food and diets must be respected and carefully managed in the hospitality industry.
Ways to Cook
Pork is the meat of choice for many cultures around the world.
Pork fat is rather neutral-tasting and there are many uses for pork fat in dishes that otherwise do not have pork.
- for barding (outside of a product)
- larding (inside of a product)
- forcemeats using other meats as the main flavour/ingredient
- meatballs, burgers, sausages that otherwise do not have pork
- caul fat used to cover and roast other meats
"Rattlesnakes" is an old cowboy slang word for bacon rashers. (Canadian Food Words p 242)