Chorizo is the way forward

charcuterie01

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.

There’s always one.

A lot of our early thinking on the subject of rearing Tamworths was informed by historic news coverage of the once famous ‘Tamworth Two’, a duo a ginger pigs called Butch and Sundance who escaped their appointed abattoir to live as fugitives for a week or three before being recaptured and happily retired-off to a rare-breeds centre in Kent on the back of their new found celebrity.

“They’re clearly going to be escapologists… how will we keep them in their pen?” we asked ourselves when they first arrived; however, as time passed we began to realise that, far from suffering acute wanderlust, this lot were basically quite a stay-at-home gang. Just how much they loved their surroundings here in Yarner Wood was proved today when the time finally came to offer fond farewells to our latest lodgers and take them on a short drive to Ashburton…

Loading pigs, in my modest experience, is a bloody nightmarish job. Regardless of the so called ‘tried and tested’ opinions at large about making the job easier – either by having the trailer in the pen for a few days prior to removal, starving pigs the day before departure so that they’re more biddable, getting them used to walking around the pen at heel, so they feel compelled to do as instructed – all of this, to a greater or lesser degree, is hogwash. Pigs just don’t like trailers. They don’t like walking up gradients, they don’t like the booming noise their trotters make on the tailgate, they absolutely don’t trust the interior of even the most palatial trailer and they don’t trust you – no matter how well you were getting on the day before abattoir day.

And so today, after an obscenely early start to ensure that our little darlings were cleaned and gleaming when they met their maker, all three pigs were introduced to the temporary corral I had spent my Sunday afternoon lovingly crafting and gently coaxed toward the trailer, within which various piggy delicacies had previously been strewn with gay abandon – just ready for three well-balanced, contented, cheerful and hungry (no Sunday supper) porkers to take full advantage of.

Result? Complete chaos. After an overture of studious trailer avoidance coupled with furious destruction of the hitherto unsullied grass that the corral had been built upon, the tempo slowly rose (on both sides – loaders and loadees) to a crescendo of screaming, sweating pandemonium, which left all concerned feeling more than a little fragile.

And so Diane and I did what any right-minded people would do when faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem. We had a tea break.

Half an hour later, feeling a lot more ‘zen’ about things and considerably more ‘at one’ with both myself and my piggy chums, I wandered back down to the paddock, climbed inside the trailer with a trug-full of pig nuts and started to gently coo and ululate in an attempt to attract attention.

Amazingly, the effect this had on both the boar and the bigger of the two gilts (who we shall call Gilt01) was quite remarkable, with the pair of them stopping the mining operation they were busily engaged upon to slowly start ascending the ramp, as if hypnotised.

Five minutes later, we’re plus two passengers (busily tucking-into the aforementioned porky delicacies) and yours truly is suddenly feeling like the universal pig-whisperer. Even better, just at that moment the current Mrs Clayton-Smith arrived on the scene to revel in my skill and derring-do and to watch me masterfully guide the third passenger of our little charabanger to her seat.

Result? Complete and utter chaos on a bicycle. When the thick-end of roughly one hundred and thirty kilos of muscle and teeth decides it’s not having any, it is most assuredly NOT HAVING ANY. Not only would Gilt02 not even start to consider the idea of jumping aboard the magic bus, her already ensconced siblings started to decide that maybe this wasn’t such a great idea after all and, given that they’d finished the canapés and fizz, maybe it was time to head back to the comfort of the family ark.

Long story brought to a short close? I cut my losses and headed off to the abattoir with only two passengers.

The idea I had was that I could deposit the boar & Gilt01 and then make a fast dash home to try again with our lonesome traveller. Sadly though, the lairman at the abattoir had other ideas and so the upshot is that we now have a single pig in residence until next Monday, when the whole torrid nonsense begins again.

Suffice it to say that the Sunday starvation rules will be in full force, the trailer will be parked right in the middle of the pig-pen for at least a couple of days before lift-off, both myself and the mem-sahib will be doing our very best porcine equivalents of Barbara Woodhouse or Cesar Millan (take your pick, dependant upon your age/location) and I will be in the back of the charabanger again, pig-whispering like a good ‘un when Monday morning comes around.  Sheesh.

 

 

 

 

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.

Ask not for whom the bell tolls…

… it tolls for the pigs.

The deed is done – the abattoir run has been booked and the butcher is already sharpening his cleaver in anticipation. End of the month = end of the pigs. Luckily for us, it will also signal the start of the sausage-scoffing season. Woohoo!

Time to start running down the freezer in anticipation of our pending porky payload.

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!

Portion control is an art…

…which I’m not sure I possess in any great way.

We’ve over-shot the runway a bit in terms of how long we’re keeping Batch 1 versus the store of food we calculated we’d need… it’s not going to get us through to the end of the month.

This being the case, we’ve used the opportunity to try another organic feed provider – just as a comparison. Thus far, all the pigs we’ve kept have merrily dined upon tucker from the chaps at Hi Peak – purveyors of fine organic fodder at more the reasonable prices. “So what were the results of swapping the nosh?” I hear you ask. Well, I’m not sure whether it’s down to the fact that the stored Hi Peak food was getting to the end of its shelf-life, or that this new grub from Allen & Page is just fundamentally made from more appealing stuff; however, either way, it’s clearly the piggy equivalent of crack-cocaine, as the gang nearly killed me in the rush to get to the Mexican hat feeder when the dinner gong rang yesterday evening.

So, all’s well in the nutrition department – next job this weekend is to work out where all that feed’s going, so it’s time to break out the tape measure and calculate latest weights. For those of you that aren’t entirely au fait with gauging the poundage of a pig, you’ll be pleased to hear that it’s all very simple. Essentially it’s the circumference of the body just behind the front legs (or the ‘heart girth’, as it’s known) squared and then multiplied by the length from ears to tail – the sum of which is divided by 400 to give the overall body weight. Easy when you know how; however, it does rather beg the question “who the hell was it that woke up one morning and decided it was a good idea to go around squeezing and measuring pigs in an attempt to guess their weight?”.

Whilst we’re in essential maintenance mode, there’s another task which needs to be performed this weekend – one that could either be an absolute breeze or, on the other hand, could as easily turn into complete Armageddon. It’s time to dig out the pliers and stick identity tags in the little darlings’ ears. A two-person job this one, so wish us luck!