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?

It’s nearly that time again…

Where on earth has this summer gone? Before we even really noticed it the latest intake went from pint-size to portly, and so our thoughts now turn to the end-point of the process… a trip in the trusty charabanger to our friends in Ashburton.

This said, we still have a little time to go – the pigs are booked-in to the abattoir mid-September, and so there are plenty of fresh veggies from the garden and a whole load of post-repastal belly rubs yet to come for them; however, we do need to get ourselves a little more organised and work out where our next batch of super-exclusive, highly sought-after pork boxes will be heading.

We’ll be despatching these guys a little earlier than usual on the advice of our butchery chums Cox & Laflin – a minor tweak which should further improve the overall fat to meat balance. Sadly though, this does mean that supplies of the finished product will be even more limited than usual so, if you’re interested in securing yourself a box full of porky loveliness, please let us know as soon as possible.

The sums are still being scribbled on the back of an old envelope but the recent (almost inevitable) rises in organic feed costs mean that we’re likely to be charging £10 a kilo this time around – a wee bit more than last year’s boxes but still considerably less than even the most uninspiring samples of supermarket-sourced free-range, organic pork.

Boxes range in capacity from 5kg to 20kg and are packed-full of freshly butchered chops, diced meat, ribs, joints and sausages. Orders are taken on a strictly first-come-first-served basis, so if you’d like to book your free local or UK-wide cool-packed 10am next day delivery then let us know via email at hello@greedypigspantry.co.uk. We look forward to hearing from you!

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…

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.

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.

To welcome in the May – despite the fact that the duvet was warm & inviting whilst outside it was pitch black & blinkin’ freezing – it seemed sensible to prepare a flask of hot, sweet coffee, trouser a hip-flask of home-made sloe gin and head-off for Haytor, to join the lunatic throng already gathered to watch Beltane Morris and chums usher in the summer months. A spectacular (if slightly bonkers) event which is well worth supporting should you be lurking about the moors on the first of May – as were the folks [here].

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…

Chorizo is the way forward

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OK, so the six weeks we had to wait before finding out whether we’d managed to create an even vaguely palatable bit of charcuterie were pretty tiresome; however, the old adage about good things coming to those who wait clearly still rings true, as it seems that we have ended up creating some fairly spectacular chorizo from our Tamworth pork.

This whole charcuting business is becoming rather addictive and so, despite the fact that we now have more chorizo in the larder than one might reasonably shake a good-sized stick at, the basic components of (a rather more hefty) batch two are currently sitting in the fridge, whilst the office is strewn with recipe books as we ponder precisely which route we take next with our continental sausage making adventures.

At the same time, there’s a substantial amount of research going on into the mysterious and arcane world of smoking (the culinary sort – not just the common or garden ‘having a wheeze on a Woodbine’ variety) and so, gentle reader, expect to be regaled with further reports of our forays in to the artisanal world of smoky wursts, salamis and bacon in the very near future. Whether you like it or not.