How to waltz with a pig

How to waltz with a pig
by Ioana Negulescu
Reading time - 3 min

(originally published in PopChop Magazine)

Sautanz at Cucina Alchimia (feat Alexander Walz and Weingut Heinrich)

All right, what the heck is Sautanz, because all I could picture was a butcher with a large white apron, red pants and striped shirt, waltzing with a pig to the Blue Danube. If you remove all stereotypes, do not take dancing literally and replace the butcher with a team of talented chefs and a large group of people to share the delights with, that is Sautanz. In short, it stands for the pig slaughter ceremony that celebrates traditions and brings a community together.

For a day, the team at Cucina Alchimia and Alexander Walzer welcomed us to participate in bringing dying traditions back to life, all while Heike and Gernot Heinrich poured us glasses of their beautiful biodynamic wines.

By the end of the twelve hours, I had gone through all stages: hungry and satiated (of course, served with a substantial sprinkle of gluttony), awake, drunk, full again, wanting more, curious, excessive, with thoughts crossing my mind, like: “will the dessert contain meat?”.

The morning was dedicated to those of us excited to try the often neglected beauty of organ meats. After a morning glass of pet nat, my nostalgia was comforted by a portion of brain with scrambled eggs on toast. When I say that brains were my favourite food as a kid, I feel like everyone will take me for a zombie when in fact, I just grew up in Romania.

What followed were impeccably cooked kidneys with a creamy peanut butter and pork garum sauce and croutons, then liver with pumpkin tamari (have I mentioned that the team at Cucina Alchimia are crazy about fermentation?), fluffy blood pancake with hollandaise and picked onion (which taught me about Schöberl, an “old school” fluffy dough sometimes made with organ meats, that is added to soup). Then, there was sausage making, porchetta trussing, wine tasting. During the wine tasting Gernot and Heike showed us the charm of 18 of their wines, split into six flights, reminding me of having just discovered Austrian natural wine through a bottle of their Traminer Freyheit, many years ago.

As I stepped out of the cellar (still too stubborn to use a spitoon) I worried about my ability to make it until the end, but the cool, sunny weather fixed me in no time. Cucina Alchimia got more crowded, and the feast continued smoothly, first with a dish of pork belly, heart and tongue cooked in the Schlachtsfestsuppe: an enormous pot where bones, offcuts and leftovers were combined. At Cucina Alchimia a soup is never just a soup: this one was seasoned with rice and brain garum, red beet lacto water and dukkah. The Grammeln… delicious. The cutlet with salsify and spinach, although cooked perfectly, felt like too traditional a cut for the adventurous eater I was on the day. And then… then came the Blutsuppe, topped with a little fresh marjoram, caramelised and pickled onions, as well as a Milzschnitterl (layered pressed toast with spleen spread in between the layers), which I have been dreaming of since I discovered its existence. The last offal dish was pickled beet with raw heart, cut into thin strips and marinated with gin and Maiwipferl (spruce tips), where of course, images of Khaleesi in my mind and a sense of strength accompanied the dish.

Dear reader, dare not to think that the feast ended there. Pulled pork on surdough, shio koji and herb porchetta with potatoes and greens, then multiple rounds of sausages came, before I finally got an answer to my dessert question: bitter chocolate mousse with blood. YES!, I celebrate in my head, this is not only a dessert for mindful carnivores, but also for those like me, who yearn for a hint of savoury alongside their sweets.

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