Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Rant against suckling pig

Okay, stand by for a full on Kermodian-style rant…

It’s Christmas, I understand that. A time to enjoy all the things you’ve not had the money, or the time, or whatever, thought the past year. Let’s face it it’s a time of self indulgence, and on that level I’m all for it.

But where during the past year would anyone sit down and think, you know what, I’d love to eat a baby?

So why over Christmas would anyone want to eat a suckling pig?

I’ve been asked a dozen times in the past week to supply suckling pigs, two from really, really well known top London restaurants.

Do these people know what a suckling pig is? It’s a piglet under eight weeks old who’s still feeding from its mother. I would literally have to pull it off the breast, take it to the abattoir screaming, and have it killed – even the slaughter men hate doing it, and these are not squeamish boys.

God that’s barbaric.

And when that’s done, it would go off and be cooked. Okay this next bit is a guess because I’ve never eaten suckling pig on principle, but it’s an educated guess. It would be flavourless. The meat would have had no time to mature, intensify and develop any depth of flavour.

It might be tender, but any good cook can make pork tender, especially the pork I produce.

I rear my pigs to between eight months and a year old. They have a good, free range, happy life, without stress or fear, and plenty of time to develop a real distinctive porky flavour. To me, as a producer, that’s important.

However, the quality of the pork is incidental in this rant.

Come on, if you’ve a choice on the menu this Christmas, please pick something other than suckling pig.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

So ridiculous, and yet so sensible

I’d planned on a full day’s logging down on the land, and so went prepared with a flask and sandwich.

Last summer I had spent 6 weeks coppicing an area in the woods, and all the trees that I felled I cut into lengths and stored in a stable to dry-out for the winter.

Dry and seasoned, the wood was now ready to be chain-sawed into sections and split with an axe to the right size for our fire. Of all the non-animal jobs I do, this is by far the most important as we have no central heating, so the fire is our only source of warmth.

However, before I could begin, I had the normal rounds to complete. I let the chickens, ducks and geese out, fed and watered the pigs, put hay down the horses, checked on the sheep and goats.

Finally I was ready to start. After coffee.

I poured a cup from the flask and took a sip. It tasted bitter in the plastic mug, as though too much instant coffee had been used. To make matters worse, it was black. I tried another sip, but it was just too strong.

I needed milk.

All the milk at home comes from Amber, the goat, but she’s just gone down to a once a day milking in this cold weather, and that’s done in the evening. Still, no matter, I only needed a little squirt.
The goats love people and hang around like pet dogs whenever anyone’s there, so it was easy to sneak up behind her. Making a fuss I snaked my hand down, took hold of a teat, placed my cup beneath it and squeezed. And missed.

I watched the milk fire right down the side of my mug and splash on the floor. Bugger.

Wise to my plan and indignant that I should have been so forward and rude to have done it in the middle of a field, Amber gave a squeal and kicked out with her back legs before trotting away.

What I should have done was give up and drink bitter coffee. What I did was start a long campaign of subterfuge of which an M15 operative would have been proud.

I bluffed, double bluffed, even on one occasion triple bluffed until with immense satisfaction grabbed hold of the teat without her noticing what I was doing, and caught a huge squirt of milk right in the centre of the cup.

Amber huffed and trotted away (if she really didn’t like what I was doing, then she could easily withhold her milk so I knew she was only mildly pissed off at me). I tipped the milk into the flask and gave it a shake.

It wasn’t until I took a sip (it was lovely, like having cream rather than milk) that it dawned on me how odd it was to have squirted milk directly from the udder into a coffee and drunk it.