Berkshire vs Kurobuta
I'm hosting a dinner party later in the month and want to serve bone-in rack of pork.
I thought I'd buy it online at Niman Ranch, or a similar place that offered 8-rib (frenched) racks for about $55 each. Most are identified as Berkshire.
But then I see Lobel's has a similar rack that is identified as Kurobuta and it is almost twice as expensive.
I thought these two porks were pretty much the same thing. Does anyone have any idea if Lobel's Kurobuta is truly much superior product and is worth the extra dough? I want the real thing and am willing to pay for it. I certainly don't want to buy the Niman's product and have it taste no different from what I can get at my Megamart after brining.
Btw, do the Berkshires/Kurobutas still need brining?
I've never been too impressed with Niman Ranch pork. It's perfectly good, but there's no wow factor. The best pork I've had is the Red Wattle breed from Heritage Foods. Anything from the folks at Heritage is bound to be fantastic. I've also tried their Berkshire and it was delicious.
FWIW, I've also found Niman Ranch bland (not sure if that's the right word)...or as Morton says, no wow.
Re: brining, lots of people swear by it w/ pork. It's been used in recent years in lue of fat content and pork being bred leaner. Personally I've found brining pork to be tricky and counter productive depending on cut and I think it might mask the favor of a nice B or K pork. Better to get something w/ good old fat (marbling on beef) on it and let it render through. If you ate it everyday this would be bad...but for guests once in a blue moon...why not. The seller's service reps should be able to help with this, fat content, rendering, etc.
I did a crown roast for a dinner party a few months back. I asked my local butcher (who also raised the pork) to prepare it for me so when I picked it up it was already trimmed and tied. It weighed about 15 lbs. I brined the meat in a mix of salt, sugar, juniper berries, bay leaves, thyme and black peppercorns for about 4-5 days.
I roasted it at 350F until the meat thermometer read about 135F, took it out and let it rest. When we cut into it, it was about 140 - 145F. The meat was excellent, juicy and full of good flavor. I also had a wild rice, fruit and nut filling which went into the center of the roast for the last stage of cooking. That was the main side.
I'm a firm believer in brining unless the meat is heavily marbled with fat, which pork loin is generally not. It makes all the difference between gourmet pork and a dry piece of wasted meat.
Kurobuta is Berkshire but Berkshire isn't Kurobuta.
Berkshire is the original breed of pig but then some swine were given to Japan, I think in the 1700's and they were bred to be fatter and they are treated well with a great diet. More of the Berkshire swine were given as gifts to Japan by England over the years and these were also bred for the best and fattest. This selection led to slightly better, even more marbeled meat than regular Berkshires and then diet upped the ante a bit more.
Japanese scientists researched the genetic makeup of Berkshire swine and developed gene technology that allows the Berkshire breed to be further divided into 4 genetic sub-types: North Island, South Island, Western and Oriental types. The Oriental type is the basis for successful Kurobuta production. The fat composition is soft, white, tasty and the meat is darker and has a rich texture that is tender and juicy.
So Kurobuta is to Kobe beef as Berkshire is to Wagyu. You can find very good Berkshire that is on the level of Kurobuta but this is usually from smaller operations that can provide the care and quality diet as they do in Japan.
In Australia they are developing herds of Oriental Berkshire and are raising them in the Japanese style. This should be available soon.