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How to procure pork jowls in DC/NoVA?

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Does anyone know a good place to get good pork cheeks or jowls? I'm trying to make my own guanciale since it's pretty difficult to find it around here, but I'm finding it's equally if not more difficult to find the jowls themselves. If there aren't any good places around here, does anyone know any sources online to get good quality jowls?

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  1. I'd start with an HMart or a good Mexican grocer, maybe give Union Meat a call.

    1. I've seen whole and split pig heads at several Latino grocers. Occasionally at Shoppers Food Warehouse, along with pig ears and hocks. Society Fair and Butcher's Block in Old Town would be able to order a locally-sourced version, but it won't come cheap.

      1 Reply
      1. re: monkeyrotica

        I've actually been to Great Wall, the chinese grocery store in falls church, and specifically asked them for the jowls, and they pointed me to a packet that contained everything...the ears, snout, etc. Didn't see too much jowl or cheek in there though,

      2. Try EcoFriendly foods at the Dupont Farmers Market on Sundays - Thats where I get mine, but they are hit and miss. I grab them whenever I see them a and put them in the Freezer. I would call them the week before (ecofriendly.com) and see if they can hold some for you.

        No matter where you go, you'll want to specifically ask for Jowls - The cheeks are the puck-shaped muscles attached to the jowls. If you get them together, separate the two and save the cheeks for a nice long braise, they are wonderful.

        Other Latino grocers to try are El Eden and Bestway.

        (Stop reading if you are squeamish)

        Unfortunately, many slaughterhouses shoot bolts into the head to dispatch the animal, and that renders the cheeks/jowls unusable due to the possibility of bone fragments getting into the meat so they throw the whole head away.

        14 Replies
        1. re: tommyskitchen

          I'm actually a little weary of some head parts because of the reason that, according to what I've read, they hang the pigs upside down after a slaughter and in some less sanitary places, all the dirty bits and juices flow down to the head, which can result in tainted meat, especially if you're planning on curing.

          1. re: takadi

            You could just kill you own hog in the back yard.

            1. re: flavrmeistr

              oh flavr, don't be silly, you'd need a hoist, a scalding cauldron, scrapers, a honking big table and a really good bandsaw. and that's just for starters.

              1. re: hill food

                Scrapers! Dammit, I knew I forgot something.

                1. re: flavrmeistr

                  don't want no hair in my chicharrones after all.

                2. re: hill food

                  Don't forget a bucket, we would make sure to make Blood Sausage!

                  1. re: tommyskitchen

                    Yep. Red boudin, souse, fry up the heart and liver, brains and eggs. You can have the chitterlings, though. Split that little piggy up the middle and soak him in mojo for two days, put him in the Chinese oven 'till he's crispy golden brown and juicy. Is this a great country, or what?

                3. re: flavrmeistr

                  I like eating but I'm no hipster

                  1. re: takadi

                    Not too many hipsters at an Okeechobee hog killing, so you'd fit right in.

                    1. re: flavrmeistr

                      Hipster? - Not sure when country living became hip

                      1. re: flavrmeistr

                        flavr, you live around okeechobee?
                        maybe i asked you before, have you ever been to felda to buy some "swamp mustard"? it has guava in it -- really, really good (esp. on ham and smoked mullet as a glaze). http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/659069

                        1. re: alkapal

                          I lived from White City to West Palm Beach for about 25 years. Can't say
                          I'm familiar with swamp mustard. Swamp cabbage, yes. Sounds good, though.

                          1. re: flavrmeistr

                            LOL -- and i love me some swamp cabbage, too! i grew up in fort myers, and my dad and crew hunted in the everglades. it is where i learned to drive at age 10 in a willy's jeep, hunting wild hogs (though they typically were out for deer).

                  2. re: takadi

                    takadi - to be clear the pig is usually strung up by the hind legs while yet alive, and then the throat is slashed, hence the term on so many gory cops shows "bled out like a hog" the procedure makes use of the still (for now) beating heart along with gravity to flush the system and so tommy's need for a bucket.

                    but do give Union Meat a ring, I've seen whole suckling pigs and heads in their case. they can probably order jowls with some notice. http://unionmeat.com/

                4. if you want guanciale, olli salumeria here in virginia offers one crafted from wonderful berkshire hogs raised in a natural way with no bad stuff. i love their speck, especially…but everything i've tasted from them is superb quality.

                  contact them for specific vendors in this area. some stores carry different items….and those shift, too. i know arrowine carries some guanciale, and there is a new spot we are hoping to try out very soon -- red, white and bleu in falls church -- located at main st. and lee hwy. (EDIT: BROAD STREET and LEE HWY…thanks flavrmeistr!)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: alkapal

                    Do you mean Broad Street and Lee Hwy?

                    1. re: flavrmeistr

                      YES, THANKS!!! i'll edit it…

                  2. you might want to give "let's meat on the avenue" a call. http://letsmeatontheavenue.com

                    the owner/butcher has got "different" things, and makes delicious sausages, so i know he has access to good pork. he also will order things for you. nice guy, to boot!

                    ~~~~~~
                    speaking of great sausage, i just saw this from "let's meat" -->>
                    "We can make any kind of sausage to order. From your recipe or ours, however there will be a minimum order of 5lbs. Just give me a call or send an email and they will be ready in a couple of days. Note, we cannot make sausage on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. We can however make them during the week and have them ready for you on the weekend. ""

                    1. maybe at the risk of being flamed, but i would be hell bent on NOT buying anything like this from china.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: alkapal

                        I whole heartedly agree

                        1. re: alkapal

                          Do the local Asian markets import their fresh meat?

                          I rarely buy fresh meat from them more because I am looking for hormone free - heritage breed -stuff. . . . But I do break down and occasionally get some sliced pork belly at them.

                          I guess I should count on the packages on frozen stuff being imported. . . . Sigh . . .

                        2. Not local, but prariepridepork.com.

                          1. These are just suggestions because I don't know if they can help, but it might be worth a call.

                            Magruder's sells smoked pork jowls and other parts, so they might be able to order fresh for you. Might be worth a call.

                            There is a good butcher at the Lancaster market in Germantown. He also might be able to get your specific cuts if you order ahead.

                            http://www.lcdutchmarket.com/

                            1. These are actually really easy to find at farmers markets; you just have to ask. I know that Evensong has them at the Penn Quarter and Silver Spring markets every week, and I'd bet lots of others have them too.

                              1. I bought guanciale at society fair in Alexandria this weekend.

                                1. I just bought some pork jowls at the Bloomingdale's farmer's market in DC. I forgot the name of the farm that sold it, but they sold a bunch of other pork goodies too. Gonna try my hand at curing it and see how it is