Like I hear about most delicious things in my life, I heard about the pork produced on Roaring Lion Farm in Sedgwick by word of mouth. A local sausage maker told me that farmers Colin and Arianna Smorawski were raising Meishans, a heritage breed of pigs known for their productivity and mild temperament (good for the farmers), for doing less damage to pastures than other heritage and commercial swine breeds (good for the environment), and for their richly marbled, almost red, meat (good for carnivores). A breed of pigs better known in the United States for yielding pork with the same type of intra-muscular fat and the same rich, meaty taste are Mangalitsas.

The Livestock Conservancy, a non-profit organization that works to prevent livestock and poultry breeds from going extinct en route to fostering genetic diversity in our national agricultural food system, says few American farmers breed Meishans and describes the breed here as “at critically low levels.” Roaring Lion Farm is one very few farms with registered breeding stock in the Northeast. The Smorawskis also raise Angus/Hereford/Murray Gray beef cattle and heritage breed chickens and turkeys. And on a recent visit, I saw one beautiful guinea hen, as well.

The Meishan is one of the oldest domesticated breeds of pigs in the world and is part of the Taihu group of Chinese pigs, named after the lake in China’s Jiangsu province. Ninety-nine percent of Meishans came to the United States in 1989 as part of a joint study run by the USDA, Iowa State, and the University of Illinois. The Smorawskis have been raising Meishans since 2016 and their breeding sows – bearing names of Asian vegetables like mizuna and tatsoi – are descendants of the pigs imported for that study.

I met Mizuna on a snowy day in early January. She and her six-week-old litter were hanging out in a protected area of the 95-acre farm that sits on busy Route 15 and cascades lazily down to the Bagaduce River. Meishan sows are early breeders and typically have 16 to 18 teats, making them well-equipped to feed large litters of piglets. The piglets are born with highly developed digestive systems, which makes them more resistant to digestive diseases and means they wean earlier than many other swine.

Mizuna seemed pleased to brave the six inches of fresh, powdery snow to herself to enjoy the grain Arianna was offering her to help me get a good picture. The snow was too deep for her piglets to make the 20-foot trek to where we stood. Before she sauntered back to her brood, Mizuna looked up at her keeper with what looked like a smile. Meishans’ wrinkled faces and the curve of their jaws makes it seem as though they’re always smiling, Arianna explained.

Richly marbled (ergo a rich, meaty taste) Meishan pork loin. Photo by Christine Burns Rudalevige

Each piglet will grow to weigh about 300 pounds, with the farmers adjusting the fencing around them as they develop so they can feed on various pastures and wooded areas around the farm without damaging any one spot. When they are slaughtered at a local meat processor, the yield on each carcass runs between 200-225 pounds of pork, which the Smorawskis sell to customers mostly through farm shares. For $325, you get 20 pounds of Meishan pork, 10 pounds of grass-fed beef and a large whole chicken weighing 6-7 pounds.

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You can also buy pork, beef and chicken from their seasonal on-farm market. As the farm has a commercial kitchen, the couple occasionally runs takeout burger dinner and weekend morning breakfast sandwich events, mostly in the offseason, as a treat for year-round residents. Arianna explains they hope to do some on-site butchering on the farm in the future, too. You can keep tabs on market event via the farm’s social media feeds.

I bought a pound of loose garlic sausage that went into a lasagna where its flavor registered among all the tomatoes and cheese; a pound of bacon which I had my family blind taste test against an organic commercial brand (3 of 4 could immediately discern the higher quality Meishan variety); and a whole pork loin that I shared with a couple of friends who I knew would appreciate its luxurious fat content.

My neighbor, Mike Ranen, dry-brined his 1-pound piece for five hours, cooked it in a sous vide circulator at 136 degrees F for three hours, and finished it in a cast iron pan. “Delicious. Super fatty, tender, wonderful flavor. Very meaty,” he happily reported.

My friend Colles Stowell, the founder of the non-profit seafood education entity, One Fish Foundation, typically talks more about local seafood than meat. He used his piece to make banh mi, Vietnamese pork sandwiches that call for sliced meat that is lightly marinated in Asian flavors, then grilled and stuffed inside a baguette, along with pickled vegetables, chilies and pork pâté.

“The flavor was rich, with much more depth than domestic breeds,” he said. “It’s been a while since I’ve had Mangalitsa, which I also remember as having a full, earthy flavor. Both are delicious.”

It may be a while before I am back on the Blue Hill Peninsula, but when I am, you can bet I’ll stop at the Roaring Lion Farm Market — Meishan pork is something I want more of in my life.

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Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, recipe developer, tester and cooking teacher in Brunswick, and the author of “Green Plate Special,” a cookbook from Islandport Press based on these columns. She can be contacted at: [email protected]

Pork and Pantry Item Stir-fried Noodles Photo by Christine Burns Rudalevige

Pork and Pantry Item Stir-fried Noodles 

My son concocted this recipe after watching a couple dozen Tik Tok cooking videos on how to make stir fry noodles from the pan-Asian ingredients he stocks in his Los Angeles kitchen for quick, weeknight meals. While he often makes the dish as a vegetarian meal, adding a little thinly sliced, locally sourced pork makes it even more satisfying. The noodles pictured are fettuccine, but any long egg or rice noodles work if you pull them from their cooking water a minute or two before they are fully cooked so that they can absorb some of the stir-fry sauce.

Serves 3-4

8 ounces pork loin with a bit of fat cap attached
Kosher salt
1 pound wide, dried noodles (fettuccine, egg noodles or rice noodles)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 (4-inch) piece ginger root, peeled and minced
1 bunch scallions chopped, green and white parts separated
1/4 cup oyster sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon sambal oelek
Lime wedges, for serving

Cut the pork into thin strips, season with salt and set aside.

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Fill a large pot with water and 1 tablespoon salt.  Set the pot over high heat. When the water boils, drop the noodles into the pot. Cook them according to the instructions on the box or bag, draining them a minute before they reach al dente. Drain well.

Heat the oil in a wok over high heat until very hot. Add the pork and stir-fry until the meat just cooked through, 2-3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pork to a bowl.

Add the garlic, ginger and white parts of the scallions to the pan. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the oyster sauce, soy sauce, mirin and sambal oelek to the pan. Cook the sauce for 2 minutes, stirring the entire time. Lower heat to medium.

Add the drained noodles, the cooked pork and the green parts of the scallions. Stir to coat the noodles well, about 2 minutes.  Serve the noodles hot with lime wedges.


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