Sometimes you have to manipulate your own feelings. You have to, kind of, focus them. Send them in a certain direction. It takes practice.
I make myself feel excited inside when a pig carcass comes back from the abattoir. Otherwise, what’s the point? Once the pig has gone off, then it becomes meat – that’s the only way I can get my head around it and remain sane. Meat that I have produced myself, and I like that thought; maybe that’s a residue of the old caveman provider coming out in me. And it’s also respect for the animal. Imagine going through all of the rearing and looking after and then getting the pork back and moping and being indifferent about it. No, it’s got to be worthwhile. It’s got to be for a reason, and the reason is my own rare breed, free range, healthy, happy, pork – and that’s exciting.
Only today, I’m more excited than normal.
I don’t normally sell weaners (baby piglets just weaned from their mother), as I like to keep family groups together, but Shammy had a litter of eleven and she was struggling with them all, so I sold four to the local pub landlord.
The pub is situated on the top of Exmoor with wonderful views and a huge paddock out the back. The pigs would be happy. They would also have their feed supplemented with beer, and on a busy day, this could be as much as 20 pints.
I offered the landlord a deal, that if I kept an eye on the pigs and made sure they were healthy and happy and well cared for, in return for him rearing one extra pig for me.
The idea of a pig getting so much beer fascinated me because I know just how important the diet is, and how directly that diet affects the flavour of the meat. For instance, many producers will fatten their pigs on barley for the last month of the pig’s life, but the fat turns pappy and yellow and soft, whereas I finish all mine naturally and the fat is solid and as white as milk (guaranteed to crackle and perfect to render down as lard – and don’t knock homemade lard, it’s been proven to be better for you than butter!).
Another example of a pig’s diet affecting the meat is seasonality. Autumn pork, where the pig has been running in the woods eating tree bark and roots, wild mushrooms, slugs and snails, tastes dark, almost earthy, whereas a spring pig that has spent their time on fresh grasses, heather, gorse, and new saplings, tastes fresher, with just a tiny hint of something you can only describe as citrus, not orange, but a similar background zing you get from oranges; that clean, almost refreshing taste.
So a pig supplemented with beer (not lager), is going to be very interesting.
It went off to the abattoir last week and comes back today.
I have a feeling it’s going to be really special.
I always do all my own butchery anyway, so I’ll break the carcass down into the primal cuts, and then take a chop and fry it gently. I’m hoping to get a sense of the beer coming through in the flavour. I’ll let you know.