Last Updated on July 3, 2019 by Angie
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Most Pittsburghers know about esteemed Chef Justin Severino and his two restaurants, Cure (closed in early 2019), that featured his creative and unique charcuterie, as well as Morcilla, focusing on Spanish tapas. But did you know that Chef Severino also hosts semi-annual hog butchering demonstrations where you can take a deep dive into his world of meat curing while enjoying a multi-course meal?
We've long been fans of Severino's work and were so excited that we recently had the chance to finally enjoy one of these events at Morcilla.
Free Flowing Beer and a Butcher Demo
The evening began with our choice of draft beer and a beautiful charcuterie board as we got to mix and mingle and settle in. Soon Severino came out and launched right in to a long talk on his background, his training and education at the Pittsburgh Culinary Institute, his move to California and his beginnings in charcuterie, and his journey back to Pittsburgh at a serendipitous moment in its culinary revolution.
His story came full circle when he brought in the reason for the very first hog butchering class – we won't spoil it for you in case you decide to go to a future class, but let's just say it's a fantastic story.
We won't go in to every detail of Severino's background, but we definitely gained a huge appreciation for how Justin has gotten to where he is today and for how he has really helped spur the evolution of Pittsburgh's dining scene.
At this point Severino dove right in to butchering the pig which was displayed on a table at one end of the dining room. He explained where he sources his pasture-raised animals from (local Footprints Farm) and how he utilizes nearly every single part of the pig for something, whether it's charcuterie, stock, or as scraps for some of the staff's pets.
It really was impressive to hear his theories on charcuterie and how he does things pretty differently from, say, traditional Italian charcutiers – all in the name of creating better tasting products and utilizing more sustainable practices. By the end of the butchering session, Severino held up a small container of the parts of the pig that weren't used – from the massive several hundred pound pig, it was probably only a pound or two of waste.
The Multi-Course Meal from Morcilla Followed
By this point we were quite hungry and ready for the multi-course Spanish-influenced meal that came next. First was a tortilla Espanola with eggs, onions, potatoes, smoked olives, and piquillo peppers that was pure comfort food, followed by a simple Basque romaine salad with an anchovy dressing and manchego cheese.
The main courses came next with a morcilla sausage served with a Spanish bean dish with pancetta and chorizo, followed by the piece de resistance: roasted Footprints Farm pork loin with blistered onions and a romesco sauce.
Severino let us know that the pork loin we were eating came from the other half of the pig that we had just seen butchered, and that the time from slaughter to our table had only been a matter of days. It may sound cheesy, but there is something truly humbling about being that connected with the animal that you're eating. Most of the time we don't think twice about where our food comes from – but this dinner forced us to place that front and center and to get real with it.
And, I must say, it was some of the most delicious, tender, juicy pork we've ever had.
Finally, the dessert course was served: churros with chocolate hazelnut fondue. As I'm allergic to nuts, they kindly served me an alternate dessert – a mind-blowing crema catalana, similar to a creme brulee.
As extreme food nerds, we could have listened to Severino talk about mold and pig intestines for hours, but if you're not quite on that same level, this event might not be for you. The food was well-prepared but perhaps not as much of a religious experience as a regular meal there is. If you're all about the food, just go for dinner and go all out on your order; if you've been there, done that and want to learn more about the story behind the food, definitely check out the next hog butchering demonstration.
We learned about the hog butchering classes while being signed up for the mailing lists for Cure and Morcilla. Sign up for this one when you see it as seats go quickly!
Looking for more from Justin Severino? Check out his Salty Pork Bits subscriptions!