PORKY'S REVENGE
By JONATHAN VALANIA
 

Pork, the other white meat. Is there a better way to indulge your inner Homer Simpson? I think not. Bacon, Canadian bacon, back bacon, pork chops, ham and cheese, pork BBQ, hog jowls, spareribs, baby-back ribs, pigs’ feet – is there anything pork can’t do?

I thought I might find the answer to this question down at Espositio’s Porchetta, a South Philly institution that traffics in roasted pigs – de-boned, trimmed of fat, laced with garlic and rosemary and delivered to your doorstep oven-fresh. “Most people don’t see this,” says Jules Esposito, who owns and operates the family business his father started back in Italy 80 years ago. “It’s like walking into a morgue.”

As I watch two of Esposito’s master butchers work over a pair of 100-pound porkers with meat hooks and knives I’m reminded of the essential brutality of meat-eating.

There’s a dirty little back story you may not want to think about when you bite into your B.L.T., but it goes like this: The pig is zapped with a stun gun, then a knife is plunged into its heart and Porky is hung on a hook until all the blood runs out.

All body hair is scaled off in a vat of water the temperature of molten lava. The pigs arrive at Esposito’s split open from chin to crotch, the innards no doubt en route to the nearest scrapple factory. The pigs are then laid on a prep table where two of Esposito’s matcher butchers begin preparing them for the oven – the afterlife of all pigs.



Pete Peterson, 78, has been butchering pigs for 60 years. He learned his trade down on the farm, back in South Carolina, from whence he came to Philadelphia in 1938. Peterson is the Keith Richards of carnivores, science-defying living proof of the tenuous link between extensive pork intake and longevity.

“I eat it every day,” he says of his 15 pork chops-a-day regimen. Peterson’s partner, Tahar Taghy, a Muslim from Ben Slimane, Morocco, does not, for obvious reasons, touch the stuff.

After the bones are pulled out and the fat trimmed away, the pigs are seasoned with generous helpings of salt, pepper, rosemary, onions and garlic cloves. Plus a secret ingredient that Esposito could reveal, but then he’d have to kill me. “It’s a family recipe that literally dates back to Roman times,” he says.

Peterson then runs a blowtorch over the entire surface of the pig, singing away any remaining hair. The pigs are then hog-tied to a stainless steel rod for easy carrying. They are stabbed repeatedly to ensure that they don’t explode during the seven hours they spend in a brick oven heated to 550 degrees.

When the pigs are pulled from the oven, they look like great works of art – two hundred pounds of porcine pulchritude, bronzed and aromatic. Nothing washes the foul taste of animal cruelty out of your mouth like forkful of Esposito’s roasted pig. As they say in Charlotte’s Web, “that’s some pig, a radiant pig.”

Esposito’s Porchetta, 1627 S. 10th St. 215.271.8418

 

 

Philadelphia Weekly