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 and Tulip 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 the most heartening was the response which we managed to elicit from the folks that visited 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 that 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 December Sunday to boot.

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 arcane world of artisanal retail, things are looking dazzlingly bright as far as our existing outlets are concerned (or, more accurately, outlet) 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 the image above or [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 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!

We’re on the home straight!

The plan is to send the 2017 batch to slaughter at the end of this month and so we need to get to grips with what to do with the resulting several hundred pounds of juicy joints, chompworthy chops and scrummy sausages which will be heading our way in the very near future.

If anyone’s interested we’re thinking of offering meat boxes at around £75 per quarter pig, £150 per half and £275 for a whole carcass (lovingly prepared by our friends at local butchery Cox & Laflin). There will potentially be an additional charge for courier services which we’ll know more about soon – but in the meantime, if you’re looking to fill a spare corner of the freezer then do let us know. It’s a first-come-first-served kind of thing and we already have a few orders which have come from folks known to us locally, so pipe-up if you’re keen!

While you’re positing potential pork-based pursuits, have a think about this one. Looking to next year and the potential expansion of the Yarner herd to fill-up the woods next door, we’re looking into the possibility of setting-up a pig club, where folks invest in meat pretty much in the same way as oenophiles invest in ‘en primeur’ wines.

The idea is that people who are looking to enjoy high-quality, free-range, organically fed pork buy a share in a pig which we then acquire for them, feed, nurture and, ultimately, despatch and ship-out – butchered, packed and ready for the freezer. We’re still working on a pricing structure for this but the ball-park figures are going to be similar to those above – possibly a little less if we can attract enough customers and make the numbers work.

Everything’s at the dreaming / outline planning stage right now; however, it would help us enormously to know what people think of this idea, so do let us have your thoughts on the subject (whether they be good, bad or indifferent) by dropping us a line at hello@greedypigspantry.co.uk.

OK, that’s a worry dealt with.

As batch 1’s ‘big day’ gets closer, so the number of unresolved issues seems to build. What are we going to do with all this pork that’s about to land on our doorstep? What’s the cutting list going to look like and how will we stop it getting so hopelessly complicated that we can’t sort through it with the butcher? How on earth do we get consignments of juicy chops, succulent joints and scoffable sausages safely to those folks who have shown an interest in purchasing supplies from us? And more importantly than all of that stuff, how the hell do we take our pigs to slaughter in the first place?

With our previous sorties into the world of pig-keeping we always had the help and guidance of a good friend who, along with a wealth of experience and seemingly endless supplies of patience, also had a rather handy livestock trailer which he was happy to lend to us as and when we required it. Given that we’re now at the other end of the country, it seems a bit much to be asking the redoubtable Mr Bryan (aka Seabass) to pop down with his trusty Ifor Williams, and so yesterday the bullet was firmly bitten as we finally purchased a trailer of our very own. A proud moment in any would be micro-farmer’s journey toward self-sufficiency and one that rather confirms we’re in this for the long-haul.

So, the Yarner Lodge livestock charabanc is up and running, which means there’s one problem at least which won’t induce any further 3am ‘wake up in a panicky sweat’ moments. No doubt though, there’ll be plenty more waiting just around the corner…

So… WordPress then.

As some will already know, I’ve been playing about with the idea of a blog for some time – thus far primarily doing so by boring people rigid with monosyllabic burbles and accompanying photos on Facebook. The results have been less than earth-shattering, which hardly surprises me, as it’s really not a great way to wax lyrical about the stuff we’re up to. And let’s face it, there’s only so many pictures of pigs and chickens eating breakfast / dinner / lunch (delete where applicable) that your average person can stomach.

Having built a few websites in the past I thought I’d have a go again; however, given that we live in such a connected world nowadays, with so many platforms through which to consume content and so many devices with which to access them, it very quickly became apparent that I was wildly out of my depth. Time then to abandon all hope of ever becoming a technical legend and call instead upon the social media professionals… ho hum.

So here it is, the opening salvo in what will hopefully prove to be a relatively rewarding experience for all concerned. Let’s start with a picture of pigs eating breakfast / dinner / lunch (delete where applicable). Plus ca change…