Story by Curt Sanburn
Photo by Megan Spelman
Ask Devin Lowder what the best cut of a pig is — belly? loin? shoulder?—and he answers without hesitation, “All of it.” Lowder is Hawai‘i’s only professional charcutier—i.e., a chef who salts, smokes, spices and cures meat into bacon, prosciutto, salami and other, odder things. “I can do great things with the head,” he says.
The head? “Oh, yeah! You poach it, remove the meat and skin, grind it, pack it in a terrine and bake it. That’s what you call a head cheese.” Even the eyeballs? “I take the eyeballs out,” he laughs, “but everything else gets used.”
Italian and French charcuterie is all the rage these days. Bacon is the new candy, confit (duck or goose cooked for hours in its own fat) is the new slow food and pig fat has gone from vice to virtue—especially when it frames a silky prosciutto, marbles a nice capicola ham or dapples a savory soppressata salami.
The burly Colorado native trained at the New England Culinary Institute and spent six years as a private chef to a British billionaire. He started his artisanal charcuterie, When Pigs Fly, four years ago when no one else in Hawai‘i was doing it—he didn’t have a mentor and taught himself. He uses heritage breed pigs like Duroc, Hereford and Yorkshire exclusively— also lately all the rage—from Ahualoa Hog Farm, a small family-run operation near Honoka‘a. “I was inspired by the livestock,” says Lowder. “We raise great animals here.”
Lowder works by night in a back room at the Kailua Candy Company in Kailua-Kona. Prosciutto takes the longest: eighteen months to cure. Others, like lomo corteza, saucisson sec and Island-inspired red wine macadamia nut salami take about three months. Lowder sells — and sells out — at three weekly farmers markets (Keauhou, Waimea and Mauna Lani), and he’ll also cater private events.
The only other place to find his charcuterie is, ironically, at the candy store, where Lowder also teaches a monthly free wholehog butchery class. The fliers he puts up confuse people at first, he says. “‘What, they’re doing a hog-butchering class at a candy factory?’ But it’s so cool, they forget about where they are.”