Story by Becky Speere | Photography by Tori Speere
I am frantic. It’s eight in the morning, day two of lessons on how to make smoked meat and sausage, and I’m trying to locate sausage casings for the photo shoot for this story.
Yesterday I showed Lehia Apana, our managing editor (and resident badass; see story on page 28), and her husband, Brad Bayless, how to slice wild-boar meat into strips to marinate in a secret sauce. (The recipe, shared by rock-star chef Sheldon Simeon, owner of Tin Roof and Lineage restaurants, you’ll find at the end of this story.) Then we diced ten pounds of the meat for Portuguese sausage and mixed it with garlic and spices. As my knife glided through the shoulder, I raved, “The fat in this pig is beautiful, Lehia. It’s pearly white, nothing like the commercial pork found in grocery stores.” She nodded, “That’s what our pig-trapper friend said when he butchered it. Probably really good meat from a steady diet of nuts from the old macadamia-nut orchards surrounding us.”
I grew up in Hilo, and although I never ventured into pig hunting, it was practically a rite of passage for the boys in our family. My brother Thomas recalled navigating the rainforest: “There were no trails. We crossed streams and climbed over ancient, fallen trees draped in moss. We ran down slippery gullies, where old hāpu‘u [tree ferns] stood like sentinels in dripping greenness. Men and boys scrambled after wet dogs barking in the distance. The pigs were skillfully butchered in the forest and placed into homemade burlap backpacks. Everything was orchestrated from the moment you got up—at four in the morning.”
The experience is not for the faint of heart, but then, neither is my hunt for elusive sausage casings. I’ve called all the usual suppliers on Maui, but strangely, the only answer I hear is, “Sorry. We’re sold out.” In desperation, I text Chef Taylor Ponte at The Mill House, hoping he may have a small amount. I plead, “All I need is enough to make ten pounds of Portuguese sausage.” Miraculously, he responds, “Come now.” My story will go on with the last necessary ingredient!
I race to Waikapū, pick up the casings, and arrive on time at Lehia and Brad’s home. Lehia jogs up to greet me, her ponytail bobbing and swaying in the breeze, her body language exuding excitement. As I step out of the car, Lehia grins and gestures with both hands, as if introducing me to a new friend. “And here is our new smoker!” Five days earlier, when she shared that she and Brad had trapped a couple of feral pigs that had been tearing up their small farm, I said, “Hey, let’s make some smoked meat and sausage!”
I suggested they come to my house (in the boonies), where I have a smoker, or perhaps Brad could make one out of tin roofing. Instead, she called her father, Ricky Apana, and lickety-split, he arrived with a smoker from Uncle Ron in the back of his truck, along with two stacks of dried kiawe wood and a bin of kiawe charcoal. Inside, the heavy-duty metal box has racks and holes in all the right places. “In its original life it was a control box for street lights, I think,” says Lehia, as she reads some scribbled handwriting on the metal. “My uncle turned it into a smoker, but doesn’t use it anymore, so he said, ‘Take it.’”