A debut in the grown-up world of retail

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As we’ve already discussed, from tiny acorns mighty oaks doth grow, and in the grub market finding your first retail outlet is an essential part of this arboreal odyssey.

Everyone needs to forge partnerships – Louis Noilly had Claudius Prat, Thomas Huntley had George Palmer, Anne Harvey had James Nichols and, in our case, our partner in crime is the rather splendid Ullacombe Farm Shop & Barn Café where, from this week, you’ll be able to bag yourself a sample of our jammy gems and fruity fripperies.

We’re starting off with a salvo of sweet-toothed specials that includes our popular strawberry preserve (as used by our chums at B&B to the stars Yarner House and mentioned in despatches by none other than the Sunday Telegraph), a rather luscious lemon curd, a rich, sticky pear conserve and our new but nevertheless well received cheeky chilli jelly.

For a limited time we’re tempting potential new devotees to the Greedy Pig’s Pantry brand with some keen pricing, so if you’re in the area then get down there and stock-up today! For those of you in more far-flung corners of the county/country/globe we’re still working on the website shop, so bear with us – we’re getting there. Albeit slowly!

All good things…

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Much though we love our pigs whilst they’re with us, at the end of the day, we know that there’s only one reason we got into pig-rearing, and that’s to feed ourselves.

With this in mind, Monday saw the latest batch of Tamworths safely loaded on to the charabanger and off to the abattoir. When last seen, all three were happily munching on chopped apples with their tails as curled as a big box of curly things, which can only mean that they were entirely happy and unaware of their impending fate, a statement that many pig producers might struggle to say of their stock.

It’s an emotive issue, and I completely understand those that hold differing views to ours; however, in our opinion, as committed carnivores, the best thing we can do is take direct responsibility for the meat that we consume and ensure that the animals from which it comes lead the most enjoyable of lives before dying with dignity. It’s a pretty straightforward contract between pig and diner – treat the animal with respect and care for it’s wellbeing at all times – and if you can’t do that yourself then support those that do, rather than simply chucking an anonymous lump of clingfilm-shrouded Play-Doh into your supermarket trolley without a second thought.

Anyhoo, climbing down from the soap-box and returning to the subject of porky loveliness, this is precisely what now fills the chest freezer in the pantry. We’ve been fortunate enough to attract a number of much-welcomed meat sales this time around, whilst still retaining well over 90 kilos of pork for ourselves – which means that, even by our gluttonous standards, there’s a heartily-fed winter to come. From roasting joints to chops and loin steaks to mince (by way of the ubiquitous banger) we’ve processed as much of our pigs as possible, which seems only sensible. Waste not want not and all that.

Actually, that’s a useful  reminder. Enough of this waffling – there are livers in the fridge that need turning into pâté. No rest for the wicked!

Time to order your pork boxes!

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It’s that time of year again! We’re about a month away from sending our latest batch of Tamworths off to slaughter and so it’s high time we started taking your orders for our delicious high-welfare pork-boxes.

This year, as well as selling our produce in the 20kg capacity boxes that have proved to be so popular in the past, we’ll also be looking at providing shipments in smaller batches, starting at 6kg for £45.00 plus shipping. All shipments will contain a selection of freshly butchered shoulder & leg joints, chops, belly blocks, hocks, ribs, diced meat & sausages, all of which are contained in temperature neutral polystyrene crates with chiller blocks.

Talking of shipping, we’re happy to hand-deliver locally or, if you’re a little further away, we’ll once again be using our cool-box packaging on a guaranteed pre-10am next day service from Parcelforce – a system which worked exceptionally well for us last year.

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We’re lucky enough work with local artisanal butchers Cox & Laflin to create a selection of roasting joints, chops, sausages, steaks & diced pork that we believe to be pretty much unbeatable.

The abattoir we use is also local, as well as being Soil Association approved. We take advantage of the fact that Gages Farm in Ashburton is less than ten miles from home and specialises in small batch throughput, to ensure that our pigs are treated with the utmost respect, ending their journey with dignity and empathy. Our stock is cared for with a high standard of husbandry and this extends equally to the their treatment at the end-of-life.

You can call or email us anytime to talk about your meatbox requirements; however, as an illustration of the range that we offer, here are some ideas of the packages available, their weights, approximate contents and our prices:

6kg (joints, sausages, chops) = £45.00

10kg (joints, sausages, chops, diced pork) = £67.50

15kg (joints, sausages, chops, diced pork) = £90.00

20kg (joints, prime tenderloin, belly blocks, hocks, sausages, chops, diced pork) = £105.00.

Shipping is overnight on a guaranteed pre-10am next day delivery. Shipment costs are additional to the prices shown above and can be Pantry HQ will be hand-delivered at no additional cost.

Reserve your box today, or drop us a line to talk about your requirements. You can chat with us on (01364) 661602 or drop us a line at hello@greedypigspantry.co.uk.

And our survey said…

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Very good, apparently.

Actually, there’s no point in trying to be unduly cool and dispassionate about this one – it’s a massive deal for us!

Whilst we hoped that the way in which we were running our kitchen was appropriate for a professional purveyor of chompables, the proof of the pudding was always going to be in the eating and so, when the nice lady from the local Food Standards Agency office turned up this morning, it’s safe to say that were at least mildly interested in what she had to say about the general levels of hygiene at Greedy Pig HQ.

Quite rightly, no foodie business can operate without the go-ahead of its local food safety authority, and so gaining approval was pretty critical. At the same time though, to our minds, this one was not only a technical hoop through which we were obliged to jump but also a real landmark in the evolution of the Greedy Pig’s Pantry story which would take us from being a couple of folks with a rather vague and fluffy pipe-dream about growing stuff and selling stuff to actually becoming a bona fide food producer and retailer… if only at rather very modest level.

So, the 400 gallons of multipurpose cleaner with bleach, 72 miles of Tork cleaning cloth and thirty or so man-hours of domestic slave labour must have done the trick – turns out we had nothing to worry about. In all honesty our kitchen was hardly a midden in the first place; however, after recent efforts, one could quite reasonably eat one’s dinner off the floor round these parts. Luckily though, there’s no need, as we’ve rather cleverly decided to put various bits of our culinary repertoire into bottles & jars for you to sample on a surface of your choice.

Stay tuned and we’ll keep you up to date with the miscellany of foodie events that we get out to this summer – we’ll also have the shop up and running soon for mail-order sales. Watch this (dazzlingly clean & highly professional) space!

Sumer Is Icumen In

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Finally, after what has been pretty much universally acknowledged as a thoroughly miserable winter followed by an atrocious spring 2018, a glorious Beltane sunrise appears to have heralded-in a spot of decent weather.

And no sooner has the sun popped-out but the entire place has taken on a rather tropical look; with hedges, lawns, paddocks and the wood beside us all suddenly exploding into life. It’s amazing how nature tends to pick up the slack and get itself back on track when it needs to; however, one suspects that this gorgeously warm spell will also result in more than few aching backs and corresponding long soaks in Epsom salt-laden baths.

And so, in the space of no more than a few days, we move from packing the pigs with additional bedding straw to refilling their wallows several times a day and offering cooling hose-downs on a regular basis. As always though, the Tamworths are taking it all in their stride and seem to be entirely happy with the Mediterranean conditions that we’re all currently being treated to. They really are remarkable creatures.

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Not so remarkable is our ability to cope with a little hard graft. Now that the rain has stopped and the paddock has dried-out, we’ve been going like the clappers to make up for time hitherto lost to foul weather.

This has involved a rapid re-digging of our vegetable plots before planting several hundred onions & garlic sets, a similar amount of potatoes, beans, peas and other sundry legumes, which will hopefully get us back on track as far as our veggie growing’s concerned.

The raised beds are now in their third season and, with last autumn’s application of several tons of well-rotted cow dung, the soil within them is now really rather spectacular. Here’s hoping that we’re in for a bumper harvest as compensation for such a stinker of a start to our year!

And finally for now, and ostensibly as a post-script to the previous posting, you’ll no doubt be delighted to learn that work on the polytunnel goes on a pace. Through heartless press-ganging of unsuspecting houseguests into the thankless task of digging post-holes in ground heaving with granite lumps of various sizes, we’re finally at a stage where the (extremely well-anchored) frame can start to go up.

At this rate we’ll have it fully functional just as I start to draw my pension.

Surely some mistake? No rain!?

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What we’re seeing here is sunshine on ginger pigs. I mention this, as here on Dartmoor it rather feels like we haven’t seen the sun in several years – not least the pigs, who really only experienced this sensation for the first time earlier in the week.

Given that the poor little blighters have had to endure some truly grim conditions since they landed at Greedy Pig HQ, it’s a minor miracle that they’re even here to tell to tale, let alone piling on the weight and generally thriving. Nevertheless, thriving they are, which is testament to the hardiness of the Tamworth breed and the main reason why it’s unlikely we’ll be moving on to other flavours of pig… we’re confirmed ginger addicts.

So, several weeks later than intended, we’re finally at a point where we can turn over the veg-beds and get ready for planting-out. The paddock mower has put in it’s first appearance of the year and next week we’ll be welcoming long-time chums Pammy & Jonny for a weekend in the country, having first extorted promises from them of assistance in finally putting up the polytunnel. Exciting times!

Still waiting for spring to arrive…

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OK, the snow is (hopefully) a thing of the past; however, we’re still in the middle of a rainy season of near-biblical proportions and it’s starting to become a little tiresome now.

March saw Devonshire gaining the dubious distinction of being the wettest place in Britain, with double the average monthly rainfall for the time of year depositing itself on the county (the majority seemingly landing right here) and sadly it doesn’t look like the foul weather is letting-up as we move into April.

Despite our concerns during the coldest spells the weaners have sailed through the whole thing with flying colours, braving the snow with complete abandon and facing-up to the following deluge like real troopers. Likewise, the rescue hens seem to be entirely happy to wander about in the rain, clucking, scratching and grubbing for worms like it was the middle of summer – this, despite the fact that nearly all of them are missing a fair few feathers and looking more than a little bedraggled.

On the laying front we’re currently inundated, with an average of seven or eight eggs a day appearing in nesting boxes. Last week saw a haul of ten eggs in a single day, which means that not only are our new arrivals in full swing but the pensioners (whom we had presumed to be beyond their laying days) are back in production too, so we’re currently knocking out cakes, lemon curd and other sundry egg-based fancies like there’s no tomorrow. Also, anyone foolish enough to come near the house leaves with the gift of egg… whether they like it or not.

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Sadly, this joyful fecundity does not extend to the entire household. With the weather having set itself firmly against us we’re now several weeks late in getting onions, garlic and potatoes into veg-beds, whilst we’ve had to hold back on the usual ritual of filling every windowsill in the house with trays of sundry seedlings, simply because the soil is still so cold and boggy.

To make matters worse, the chitting potatoes that have been stored in the workshop have clearly succumbed to the unseasonal winter blast and well over half have gone rotten, so we’re going to have to start again, assuming stocks are still to be had. The hedgerows have yet to really burst into any semblance of spring colour and the ramsoms on the drive (much sought-after for fresh pesto, bear garlic lasagne and other drool-inducing loveliness) are only just getting to a point where they can be harvested – almost a month behind last year’s crop.

All in all it has been a long and unpleasant winter, with spring showing very little sign of picking up the slack just yet. One can only hope that at some point soon the Dartmoor weather gods will decide to show their benevolence and redress the meteorological balance with a spell of sunshine and blue skies.

In fact, I’m off to build a wicker man to speed the process along…

Just when you think it’s all plain sailing…

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Things all went a little bit bonkers at the weekend, with at least six inches of snow arriving from nowhere and dumping itself onto the paddock. As always, the timing of this one was entirely terrible – primarily as the pigs are still only nine week old tiny-tots and therefore far from being fully geared-up for adverse weather conditions.

Additionally, this unscheduled winter wonderland arrived at precisely the same time we took delivery of another half-dozen rescue hens, all of whom are now of the firm opinion that they’ve gone directly from the frying pan to the fire.

Proof, yet again, that the Dartmoor weather gods are fickle gods.

So, the poultry which we were hoping to segregate evenly across the capacious Chickenopolis estate for a few days have instead spent the last 48 hours on lock-down in the chicken run, so one can only imagine that it has been like a feathery version of ‘Bad Girls’ in there. Luckily though, there are no obviously major casualties about the place, despite there being a fair haul of feathers strewn about the place right now.

Going back to the piglets, they’re basically living in an igloo at the bottom of the garden but nevertheless, and despite some really major misgivings about how well they would hold-up to such inclement weather, when last checked they were all merrily buried in three-foot-deep barley straw at the centre of what turns out to be a surprisingly warm & cosy ark. At breakfast feed time this morning I was more than a little tempted to crawl-in and grab forty winks myself!

In conclusion then, Monday morning is finally here and the amber weather warning is a thing of the past, the icicles outside my office window are slowly starting to thaw and the sun is shining once again. Obviously, the next thing we can look forward to is the inevitable tsunami of mud that this alpine adventure will leave us to deal with… although, on balance, when compared to the recent snow & ice I know which I’d rather be dealing with.

We’re back in business!

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Last Sunday saw the day starting with the trusty charabanger taking to the mean streets of Devonshire on a mission to scoop-up another batch of weaners.

Predictably, what began as a sunny, blue-skied day quickly deteriorated into the misty, rain-filled ghastliness which has become the norm this winter; however, regardless of the foul weather, by mid-morning we were officially back in the pig business!

As you can see, the lure of the ginger pig was too strong to resist and so, after months of debating whether to go for Mangalitsas, Oxford Sandy & Blacks, Large Blacks or Gloucester Old Spots, we finally opted for a repeat performance of our first batch at Yarner Lodge,  with three rather tiny, rather gorgeous Tamworth piglets tumbling out of the back of the trailer and into the paddock.

As you can see from the photo above, the girls are still a little ‘stand-offish’ and this hasn’t been helped by the atrocious weather that we’ve been enduring this week – the seemingly constant rain and icy blasts of wind have rather restricted our new arrivals to barracks. Nonetheless, they’re happy enough – eating plenty, drinking plenty, crapping plenty and, when the weather allows, already getting down to the important work of ploughing-up everything in their way.

The ark is rammed to the rafters with bedding straw, so hopefully our latest arrivals will be happy to hunker-down and sleep through the cold snap that is forecast to arrive over the weekend. Once we’ve got through that one, we have our fingers crossed that this rather unpleasantly soggy winter will finally clear off and make way for some form of half-decent springtime. Roll on Easter and spud-planting!

Hang on. With you shortly…

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So the idea was to have fresh stock in the paddock by now, with yet more ginger pigs scheduled to arrive via the trusty charabanger over this past weekend. However, it seems that there has been a bit of a mix-up with dates, meaning that our weaners are still only about six weeks old and so, apart from the fact that they could do with staying with mum for a while longer whilst they really get to grips with the concept of becoming fully independent, it’s highly likely that the poor little mites would struggle to survive the current ‘Beast from the East’ weather which we’re experiencing. At this stage, the received wisdom is to keep piglets housed in around twenty-eight degrees of heat. Given that today, with wind-chill, the Met Office tells us it’s supposed to get down to around minus five, now doesn’t seem to be the best time to be welcoming the patter of tiny feet. Introducing the new batch to outdoor living is probably best left until slightly less refrigerated times.

The revised arrival date is 11th March, by which time it’ll hopefully be looking a little more Spring-like around here. This also gives us a little more time to charge the fence batteries, disinfect the feeders & scrub the pig ark and so, whilst we’re keen to get cracking (or is that crackling?), things are probably working out for the best.