10-02-2012 | 12.26
For those who didn’t know: deep in our hearts we are all romantics. ‘Back to nature’ is our slogan. Authenticity and craftsmanship is what we are longing for, with food being no exception. That’s why we prefer carrots grown by local farmers over the luminescent green mangetouts that are flown in all the way from Kenya to be sold in our supermarkets. Or why we cherish long forgotten vegetables such as parsnip and Jerusalem artichoke.
When it comes to eating meat we’re even pickier. You can hardly call yourself a respectable carnivore if your steak doesn’t carry the label ‘fair’. After all, who would nowadays stick his knife into a poor piglet that was stuffed with hormones and bred on two square meters, never having seen the light of day?
In restaurant TrouwAmsterdam it’s all about beautiful veggies, pesticide free and bursting with flavour, just the way it should be. However, a friend of mine who has been trying to eat as little meat as possible for years now, confessed he loves to dig into a proper piece of pork whenever he is in TrouwAmsterdam. His excuse is the outright stunning quality of the organic ‘Heldervarken’ on the menu. A happy little fellow with no worries at all.
On Sandrien’s most recent Imprint night my friend Gijs and I had dinner at TrouwAmsterdam. With a great view on the kitchen we’re getting a real front row feel. We see serious faces whenever a dish is ready to be served. And there they are: our grilled sausages made of Heldervarken. Gijs fits the description of a professional eater. As one of the chefs in BIHP, a restaurant on the Keizersgracht that is renowned amongst foodies, he knows exactly what to eat (and what not)..
“This really rocks my world!”, is his first reaction while chewing on his sausage. “This pork is so succulent. The meat has a wonderful bite and there’s hardly any flavour added to it. The taste is pure. Some salt and black pepper and perhaps a bit of finely chopped onion or fennel. No more, if you ask me. This is how pork is supposed to taste.”
A few days later I decided to call the guy who delivers the meat to ask him some questions about the happy pig. “There was no Heldervarken on your plates. It was Bonte Bentheimer.” Frans de Keizer, owner of ‘L’Empereur Boucherie Française, is quite confident. According to him the Bonte Bentheimer has an even better taste. “They’re both special and quite rare, but what sets the Bonte Bentheimer apart is the fact that it’s a true breed, fed with organic barley and Jerusalem artichokes. It enjoys a lot of space and has plenty of dirt to crawl in. This piggy is completely stress free. Add this to its genetic properties and the result is fantastic meat with just the right amount of fat.”
And then to think that the Bonte Bentheimer was very close to extinction. This pig, named after a town near the Dutch-German border called Bentheim , got out of fashion during the 1960’s, obviously because of its relatively high fat percentage. It was practically eradicated in favour of a type of pig, which Frans de Keizer contemptuously calls a ‘skinny pig’. Fortunately a stubborn German farmer succeeded in saving the breed. “Now the Bonte Bentheimer is proclaimed ‘Living Heritage’. A select group of enthusiastic hobby farmers is doing everything in its power to protect the breed. Ever since its rediscovery, the Bonte Bentheimer has become extremely popular. That’s why a well thought out breeding program has been set up to meet with the increasing demand. And let me tell you that even the somewhat unmarketable parts are selling like crazy. We’re using the animal from head to tail, with hardly any waste at all. The production will remain on a moderate and exclusive scale. If I can get hold of 200 pigs a year, I am a happy man.”
Back to the fresh sausages on our plates. It turns out they’re handmade by Frans de Keizer himself in an ‘authentic’ way. A pinch of salt, some black pepper and a bit of fennel is all he needs to create a heavenly taste. Gijs’s tasting buds were right!..
Words: Bonita van Lier, freelance culinary journalist with articles in e.g. Wining & Dining, The Taste of Life and Bouillon Magazine. Always in search of true flavours and the stories behind the ingredients.