Another batch gone, another freezer full…

Always a tricky balance this one – weighing-up the despatch of animals to which we’ve become very attached against the acquisition of a freezer full of wholesome, delicious and (hopefully) ethically agreeable food.

Whilst we’ve always been concerned about food created through intensive farming – favouring locally reared, chemical-free, organically fed and free-range alternatives – we are, nonetheless, both committed and enthusiastic carnivores, with a keen interest in sourcing quality meat products of all kinds. With this in mind, the natural next step for us was to involve ourselves directly in the creation of at least some of the meat we were eating, which is why started keeping pigs some ten or so years ago.

To us, it’s a pretty straightforward contract between diner and pig. We get to enjoy delicious tucker but, in return, we undertake to raise animals in the most sympathetic manner possible, in a comfortable and stimulating home environment, filled with the best organic feed, fresh fruit & veggies straight from the garden – and with ear-scratches and belly rubs on tap.

Simple enough to deliver but sadly still quite a rare method of production – particularly in the case of pork – which beggars belief really as, aside from any moral considerations, our experience has been that this form of pig husbandry results in the most incredibly sweet and toothsome pork.

Of course, to many, the main consideration here is that this particular production method is far from cheap; however, in our opinion, cost is absolutely no defence for the terrible conditions which many animals must endure, simply to allow supermarkets to make money by selling low quality meat at artificially low prices – it’s unstainable on pretty much every level.

So, for what it’s worth, here’s our message. If your circumstances allow, enjoy food that is produced locally and to high welfare standards – even if it costs you a little more. The likelihood is that the chaps you’re buying from aren’t quoted on the stock exchange and won’t be zooming around in a Rolls-Royce any time soon – but they’ll make sure that the meat you’re eating had the very best of lives before it started the journey to your plate.

And if it means that you only get to tuck into that pile of sizzling bangers once a week rather than every other day, is that really too great a price to pay?

What we did at the weekend…

Like there aren’t already enough things to swallow-up any available time that we might occasionally get, last weekend, we decided to accept a rather gracious invitation from Dartmoor National Park Authority to trundle over the moor into sunny Princetown, there to peddle our wares before unsuspecting muggles at the DNPA’s 2019 Summer Fair.

The fickle Dartmoor weather gods smiled upon us and the sun blazed down for a large part of the day which, in turn, brought out a pleasingly generous number of hungry fair-goers – the vast majority of whom seemed happy enough to dive into our tester pots with gusto.

Having no real clue as to how successful this one might be for us – and, if we’re being honest, having been primarily interested in getting some quality time with DNPA’s retail team rather than looking to clean-up at market – we were more than happy with the amount of stock that didn’t make its way back into the trusty Hilux at the end of the day.

Being the only jam-monger amongst a room full of rather talented painters, printers, photographers & sculptors was hardly the worst thing that could have happened, and so the day ended-up being both rewarding and highly enjoyable – especially as the super-attentive DNPA volunteers seemed hell-bent on making a certain greedy pig even more well-upholstered than he already is, constantly proffering tea, coffee, custard creams and even a cheeky drop of Dartmoor Brewery’s ‘Jail Ale’. Heaven!

Moreover, it turned-out that there was a wee bit of spare time to engage in chit-chat with the DNPA retail officer. Further, potentially quite exciting news to follow…

A strange sense of deja vu…

And the summer season finally kicks-off in earnest as our latest batch of Tamworth weaners arrive at Greedy Pig HQ.

A little later than usual this year; however, that’s no bad thing, as it will hopefully mean that we’ll avoid having to break the ice off drinkers in the morning and the poor little mites won’t be ploughing through eight inches of snow to to get to their grub, as they were made to do last year. It also means that the paddock has been given a little more time to recover, and the wild meadow mix which we sowed last autumn has had a chance to do it’s thing, offering our new arrivals a host of buttercups, clovers and fescues to chomp away at.

Whilst a little quiet at first – still scouring a little from the recent weaning process and clearly finding the whole ordeal of leaving home for pastures new somewhat overwhelming – this gang are nonetheless settling in well and gradually getting to grips with their new environment. This is probably being helped by the mooing and lowing coming from the field next door, where a herd of cows and their recently arrived calves have set up camp and are offering a rather soothingly pastoral soundscape to the place.

A couple of days to get their bearings, adapt to their new diet and generally get their mojo back and they’ll be fine.

Guilty as charged…

Yes, you’re right – we’ve been a little idle when it comes to our recent efforts at website administration. What can I tell you? It’s wintertime and greedy pigs are clearly the sort of creatures that hanker after a spot of hibernation.

Anyhoo, the unseasonably warm February weather has brought us snuffling & grunting from the back of the ark, and so planning for the months ahead is once again well under way. Veggie beds are being tilled, seeds & sets are being planted, troughs & drinkers are being scrubbed and electric fences are being repaired. We’re heading back into production!

The winter lull hasn’t been entirely fruitless though – we’ve already confirmed a few food fairs for later in the year and right now we’re in the middle of negotiations with a second retail outlet for our jams and pickles, so the general direction of travel is still positive. All painfully slow, as always, and we’re still very much at the ‘baby steps’ end of the entrepeneurial spectrum; however, each sale that we make and every new conversation with a potential stockist that we have is adding to our business momentum, all of which is hugely exciting.

And the sun’s shining, which is a bonus…

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 around here. 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!

Jams “R” Us

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After a frantic few days of preparation, last Sunday saw us heading off for our first ever market, with the Greedy Pig’s Pantry logo emblazoned upon a whole host of jams, curds, pickles, tinctures & liqueurs.

Given that neither of us has any great experience in flogging home-made wares to unsuspecting punters at country house Christmas fairs, the first hour or so was a little nervy, with the two of us constantly rearranging the serried assemblage of conserves and generally dithering about the place looking awkward. After a while the penny finally dropped that we were acting more than a little ‘Edward & Tubbs Tattsyrup‘ and so we opted for a tag-team approach for the rest of the day. This strategy was clearly the way forward as we then went on to sell a huge amount of produce, clearing over 90% of the stock we took with us (and therefore 90% of the stock we have to sell – full stop).

Apart from gathering-in piles of filthy lucre, the thing that struck me as most heartening was the response which we managed to elicit from the folks visiting our little stand. In almost every case we received entirely positive noises – concerning the brand itself, the logo and label artwork, about the choice of jars & bottles we’d opted for and, last but not least, the quality of the jams, pickles & tinctures we were trying-out on willing guinea pigs throughout the day. As far as maiden voyages go this one was pretty much the perfect event – and a surprisingly pleasant way to spend a chilly December Sunday.

Certainly, the whole experience has had a profound impact upon our general attitudes toward selling Greedy Pig’s Pantry products via the market stall, and so the new year will undoubtedly find us scouring local papers for signs of artisan food fairs, farmers markets, spring fayres and the like.

Turns out we’re more competent retailers than we’d anticipated. We even managed to get the card machine to work!

Fame at last!

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A while since our last posting, primarily as things have been a quiet on the piggy front since batch 1 found themselves being relocated to the freezer; however, that’s not to say that we’ve been entirely idle when it comes to launching the Greedy Pig’s Pantry brand and getting a real, live, proper company structure up-and-running. How very grown-up of us!

Along with all the tiresome Companies House/HMRC paperwork that we’ve been wading through, we’ve also been experimenting with further additions to our pickles & preserves repertoire, with Diane cooking-up a storm in anticipation of our first experience of selling to the general public at a Christmas fair in early December. The house has been filled with tummy-rumbling wafts of gently simmering fruits, vinegars and spices in recent days, as the first batch of Greedy Pig’s Pantry Yuletide Apple Pickle is cooked, bottled and stored away to mature in time for the big day. We’ll be following this with a range of jams and curds, and we’re also currently noodling the idea of adding hand-made seasonal sweets (choccy-coated cinder toffee, marzipan bonbons, cinnamon dusted shortbreads and so forth) to the existing bill-of-fayre.

Whilst we rather nervously prepare ourselves for this first sortie into the mysterious world of artisanal retail, things are looking dazzlingly bright as far as our existing outlets are concerned (or, more accurately, outlet – in the singular) with our friends at Yarner House having recently fed our Greedy Pig’s Pantry Sumptuous Strawberry Preserve to a roving reporter from that esteemed organ The Daily Torygraph – presumably with positive results, as we managed a mention in despatches, as you can see by clicking on the image above or the link [here].

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Tiny acorns and all that; however, we’re pretty bowled-over with the concept of getting our nascent foodie venture mentioned in the national press, so let’s hope that it’s the first of many positive plaudits. Exciting times here on Dartmoor and there’s plenty more to come!

And then there were none.

Mirabile Dictu! We’re pig-free!

They say that every day’s a school day and that has certainly been true of the Batch 1 experience.

Whilst in large part our Tamworths were supremely easy to look after, one thing which they all had in spades was intelligence. All pigs are bright but these guys were in a league of their own – an attribute which, in turn, made them both a joy and a nightmare to be around.

With reference to the latter, Number 3 proved to be a master escapologist with a strong sense of what was and was not an acceptable pastime for a young pig about town – and the trailer (or ‘charabanger’ as we’ve come to know it) was absolutely not on the approved list.

On the scheduled D-Day, whilst her larger brother and sister quite merrily climbed aboard the bus for the abattoir, Number 3 decided that this wasn’t the smart move and – much to our chagrin and the general disgruntlement of her siblings – kicked-up an unholy stink which concluded with a mass-reversal down the ramp followed by a sprint for the safety of the ark.

Fast forward a week and, after a solitary sojourn with extra bed-space and prime pickings from the Mexican hat feeder, Number 3’s behaviour was even worse than before. Given that by now she was weighing-in at over 130 kilos (every last gram hell-bent on not going into the trailer) the second attempt at despatching ended in an unscheduled and highly unwelcome workout for yours truly, plus another week of splendid isolation for our unruly gilt.

As well as being super-smart it would appear that most pigs are also nothing if not capricious. This being the case, and having hassled our chum and local farmer friend Steve Palmer to turn-out on a rainy Monday morning to help with the titanic struggle which clearly was going to be loading attempt number three, our errant porker decided that instead she would nonchalantly saunter up the ramp to grab a final breakfast of pig nuts & chopped apple, all with next to no assistance required.

The bloody creature clearly revelled in making us look like prize chumps!

Nevertheless, chumps or not, I have used the past tense here and so I can confirm that, after a short trundle down the A38 followed by the most casual and stress-free of trailer decants, Number 3 finally shuffled off this mortal coil at around 9am this morning. Next stop, a spot of the Butcher’s art at the redoubtable Cox & Laflin and the last of our sturdy troop will then reappear in a few days’ time as chops, bangers, steaks, and sundry other cuts. A magic trick of which I wholeheartedly approve.

It’s gratifying that the feedback we’ve received thus far has been universally positive, with friends and neighbours who invested in a box of our organically fed, hand-reared Dartmoor pork telling us that it’s some of the best meat they’ve ever tasted. Certainly, from the extensive product testing that’s been going on around here [agreed: it’s a hard life] I can confirm that it really is delicious stuff, with a sweetness to the meat which we’ve not tasted in the previous flavours of pig that we’ve kept in the past.

Undoubtedly, we’ve had our trials and tribulations with the Tamworth but nevertheless the end product (whilst a little fatter than we initially had in mind) is proving to be entirely excellent in every way, and so it’s a breed which will definitely be on the agenda again when we’re ready to re-stock.

For now though, it’s time to scrub down the ark, dismantle the electric fence and clear away the small mountain of bedding straw which has accumulated at the bottom of the paddock. Time also to get serious about a proper business plan for future batches and to start making the necessary moves to acquire the parcel of woodland next door, which we’re keen to expand our production into. Exciting times.

So, expect no further pig news for a while. But fear not! There are other equally fascinating things going on here (he says, with tongue firmly fixed in cheek) so do stay tuned. If you’re keen to try some of our rather splendid porky produce, then please feel free to drop us a line at hello@greedypigspantry.co.uk and we’ll add you to our ever-growing meatbox waiting list.

Next project for completion… THE POLYTUNNEL. Ooh, the drama!

Monsoon season’s here!

Whilst this picture might not entirely drive-home the nature of today’s weather, the set of dripping waterproofs and mud-covered wellies sat in the hallway are testament to the fact that our otherwise fairly pleasant summertime has taken the day off. It’s like Rangoon out there this morning.

On the whole, rearing pigs is both a fascinating and rewarding occupation, and one that we’re wildly excited about pursuing in a more substantial way as the months progress. All that said though, there are some mornings – potentially those where a tincture or two may have been enjoyed the previous evening – when being forced from a warm bed to trudge miserably through mud and poo to clear out a sludge-laden Mexican hat feeder whilst being assaulted by sweaty, screaming, drooling pigs is simply not top of the pops, even for the biggest fan of all things porcine.

Given that we’re now only ten days from bringing the 2017 batch experience to a conclusion, close attention is suddenly being paid to the long-range weather forecast, in the hope that their final morning is a dry(ish), clean(ish) and relaxed(ish) affair – rather than becoming a Benny Hill blooper reel featuring three crap-covered pigs running around a mudbath being chased by a dung-encrusted, well-upholstered bald bloke.

Clearly, offerings to all of the relevant household deities will be made in the coming days… no point in taking any chances.

How big?

Well, the weekend didn’t go quite according to plan, and so we’re playing catch-up now. Ear-tagging still needs to be done sometime this week but there’s another job that needs doing first.

Before I can talk with the butcher about our cutting list, we need to know how much porker we’re talking about processing, and so today’s lunchbreak was spent fondling mud-covered pigs whilst waving a tape measure about the place. [Note to self: measure pigs before/during their first feed of the day, when they’re fresh from a night’s kip on new new-mown hay. Do NOT wait until lunchtime when they’ve been rolling in dung, widdle and various other forms of beastly mud and oomksa].

Anyhoo, the results are in and I can officially confirm that these guys are mahoosive! They’re averaging-out at 128 kilos each at present, with a couple of weeks to go… how did that happen? Given that the usual estimate is 64% of dead weight ending-up in the freezer, that means we’re looking at 245 kilos of pork – that’s a lot of bangers!