Cedarbrook Farm, Kearneysville, WV

I was noodling around the web last fall and happened upon this discussion about Cedarbrook Farm over on Don Rockwell’s DC-area food discussion site. I immediately did a double-take: there’s a great pig farmer right around the corner from where I live? Somebody who raises Tamworth pigs and sells their meat at farmer’s markets in and around DC? How cool is it to have somebody like that in your backyard? I immediately emailed the guy, whose name is David, and he sent along a price list.

And then…nothing happened. I dropped the ball due to some health issues, and kinda forgot about the whole thing for a while. But then I used up the last of the bacon I cured some time ago, and the lack of bacon stockpile in the freezer was of grave concern. Suddenly, I remembered David and Cedarbrook, so I popped him an email and asked if he had any pork belly. He responded that he did, told me how much he had, and asked if I wanted to come get it. Indeed I did, and I picked it up today.

When I pulled up to the farm, I stepped out of the car and turned to see a tall man loping from a building that houses some farm machinery. He said, “You must be Rochelle!” I responded, “You must be David!” He nodded, we shook hands, and he led me to a truck packed with freezers that he uses to transport his meat to farmer’s markets.

As he fished around for the pork belly, I explained that I was glad to have him nearby since I was on the cusp of a bacon emergency. “You cure your own bacon? Do you smoke it or just cure it?” I explained that I simply cure it; I like smoked bacon but don’t have a setup for cold-smoking, and I like cured bacon just as much. When he asked what recipe I use, I told him I’d been riffing off of Michael Ruhlman’s book Charcuterie. “Let me show you the book I like for this sort of thing,” he said. And he pulled out The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, a book that I do not personally own but do already identify as being the sort of book a rock star pig farmer would reference. (By the way, this book was only published last year, but David’s copy is already as well-thumbed as a family bible.) He turned to the bacon recipe and we talked about saltpeter vs pink salt vs using no nitrates whatsoever in bacon cures. I learned a lot in just a few minutes.

As David displayed the pieces of pork belly he had for sale, I spied some quarts of frozen lard in the corner of the freezer. I ended up with 2 3-lb pieces of belly, which are slowly defrosting in the garage fridge, and one of those quarts of lard. David’s lard contains no preservatives. I have been looking for preservative-free lard periodically over the last two years; I don’t get to the markets closer to DC that sell it, and none of the butchers and other meat people I know out my way process their own lard. I’ve even looked for the lard in North Carolina while visiting my folks to no avail. So I felt like I got two special pork treats for future projects, all for driving to this farm a few miles from my home.

Besides the belly and the lard, Cedarbrook makes its own scrapple, offers pork back fat for people interested in making their own sausage, and they make some sausages and hams besides. Plus they have the usual pork cuts, ordinary stuff like ribs. They have a basic website here. Tell David I sent you if you go buy their goods.

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