This is the site of my grandpa Big Jim Sullivan’s former hog pen in rural Knox County, Kentucky. Big Jim raised Duroc hogs on this plot of land from the 1920s through the 1970s.

For the past few years I’ve been making a 430 mile drive to Madison, Alabama to purchase pork bellies from one of the top hog breeders in the U.S.A.

Henry Fudge has been breeding Duroc pigs since the early 70s and is nationally famous for raising some of the finest heritage pork available on the domestic market.

But recently he began branching out. Allow Mr Fudge to elucidate on his newest breeding project:

The Appalachia Red (The 100 year old new breed!)

Fifty years ago a young North Alabama hog breeder was inspired by Mr James Gray from southern Tennessee to recapture the classic Duroc of the early 20th century.

Mr Gray, having begun his breeding program in 1914, had witnessed the gradual transformation of his beloved Duroc breed from what he described as “a professional football lineman” type hog into a little “Junior High School football player” type.

By the year 2005, through “breeding backwards” with selective inbreeding, Henry Fudge had restored his Duroc to a replica of the pictures of hogs from 100 years earlier.

However, this brought an unexpected bonus. These animals were producing meat quality that had been long forgotten. The loins had 12-15% intramuscular fat, and the fat itself had a lower melting point, a tasty sweetness and a higher percentage of omega 3 fatty acids.

So not only was it the best tasting pork in existence, but also a healthier pork as well.

Chefs loved the new “old” Duroc. However, some observed that the meat wasn’t quite as deep red in color as some of the exotic breeds, and the bellies were just a little too fatty to make an ideal gourmet “pork belly” dish. So, for the next few years Henry experimented with crossing his Durocs with about every “Heritage” line he could find.

Finally, in 2012 he discovered a unique freak of nature that he named Harold. He popped out of a neighbor’s highly inbred old line Hampshires and looked like the hogs of 100 years ago as well.

When Henry crossed Harold on his old Durocs the offspring retained all the positive meat traits of the Durocs, but with the deep, rich red color of the Hampshire and an extra lean streak in the belly as well. For the last 5 years Henry has been breeding the sons and daughters of this cross back to each other, selecting for the red ones as they surfaced.

Since these hogs are to be raised outside, its highly desirable to be red, since the color red reflects the infrared end of the light from the sun. As you probably know, this is where most of the sun’s heat resides.

A black hog absorbs the entire spectrum, making it nature’s hottest possible hair color. A red hog is 10 degrees cooler than a black hog! So, since the entire history of the development of this new breed occurred in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, the name Appalachia Red!

The highly prolific sows raise large litters of fast growing pigs with possibly the finest meat quality of any hogs produced in the last 100 years.

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As you can tell, Henry Fudge is super-excited about this new breed of pig. We are too. We picked up an 8lb Appalachia Red pork belly from him back in the fall, and it is superb. Here’s our formula for how we cured it:

Ingredients

8lbs belly, pork (3628 grams)

64 grams, salt, kosher

9 grams, Quick Cure or Cure #1 (commonly available at better grocers or online)

36 grams, sugar (I omit this but many people love sugar in their cure and this is the “proper” amount)

Method

* Combine Kosher salt and sodium nitrite mixing well

* Sprinkle ingredients thoroughly over both sides of belly

* Put belly in fridge in large pan

* Every 24 hours flip belly over

* Do this for 12 days

* Rinse cure off belly with cold running water for two minutes

* Return to fridge, let rest for 2 days, flipping every 24 hours

* Build fire in smoker, smoke belly with pecan or other favorite wood for 2-4 hours. For this project I used old, cured Plum wood from a tree that had been downed on my grandparent’s farm.

If you manage to execute this project please get back with us and tell us about your results.

Henry Fudge’s Appalachia Red Heritage Hogs in North Alabama

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