Sunday, 14 October 2012

Ham, ham and a bit more ham!

Last time around we made a Wiltshire cure ham from one leg, which even if I say so myself, was delicioso! We also attempted a Italian style parma, but unfortunately as we'd over wintered the pigs, the climate was not right and about 2 months in of hanging in the barn, the flies and maggots destroyed our ham in less than a day!

So this time we decided to up the game and make 4 hams! 2 in the tried and tested Wiltshire Cure, 1 Suffolk cure and again we have taken a risk and tried another parma style ham.  Recipe for Wiltshire Cure below.

After 21 days of soaking in their different brine's the three wet hams were taken off to our local Smokery.  I am currently awaiting the telephone call to go and collect these said hams! Can't wait to try them.

With the dry ham, after 20 days of being packed in salt inside a wooden wine box, weighted down with two bricks, this week I removed the leg for parma from it's salt brine. I then washed it down and rubbed with white wine vinegar. I wrapped in two thick muslin cloths, then encased in a double layer of chicken wire and hung in the barn. With a bit of luck in 6 months time we will be eating parma ham!

Our recipe for Wiltshire Cured Ham

First make the basic brine.

For Basic Wet Ham Brine

2kg coarse salt
50 g of saltpetre
6 litres of water.

Bring all of above to boil, stirring to dissolve salt. Boil hard for 10 mins, skimming any froth.  Leave to cool.  Transfer to large tupperwear box and put in fridge or outside if below 3 Degrees Celsius.

Make sure your meat and brine are chilled and cure your meat in this basic brine for 2-3 hours in the fridge.

Wiltshire Cure

1.5kg salt
3 litre of bitter
2 tins of lyles black treacle
30 juniper berries
30g crushed black peppercorns

Whilst your leg is brining in basic brine, boil all ingredients for Wiltshire Cure.  Leave to cool and place in fridge.

Once your ham has been in basic brine for 2-3 hours, drain completely and transfer into Wiltshire cure.  Weight the ham down (I usually use a 2 litre sterilised plastic lemonade bottle filled with fresh clean, cold water).  Leave in brine for 4 days per kilo. Mark on a calendar or your diary so you remember!

After you have left for allotted time, remove ham from cure, wipe dry with a muslin and hang in cotton pillowcase for 24 hours.

Then smoke!

Once you have smoked your ham, cook on a low heat for 2 - 3 hours. Slice and enjoy!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Beautiful Bacon!

After 5 days of being cured, 4 hours soaking and 24 hours smoking we have 3.5kg of beautiful bacon.  Very, very happy with the result.  All the effort is worth it, it tastes so good.

Who's for a bacon sarnie?

Pork loin during curing process

Finished product

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Making bacon, sausages, ham and all things porky!

Well it has been 6 days since we received our 209kg of butchered pork and boy have we been busy.

Sorting, vac packing, freezing, brining, mincing.....the list goes on.

One of the best parts of this whole process is the fact that we do it with our very good friends.  One of the traditions that has established is that we get both families together to make sausages.  On Sunday we made over 6kg of sausages and had a lovely bbq to celebrate and taste some of our creations.  All delicious and not much left over on anyone's plate.

We have also used one of our loins to make bacon.  This has been curing for the past 4 days and is currently wrapped in muslin and hanging to dry. Tomorrow we will take it over to our local smokehouse, where David, our friendly oak chip smoker will give our bacon it's mildly smokey flavour.

Two of the hams are now brining in a mixture of molasses. bitter, juniper berries, peppercorns and of course salt!  This will remain in our fridge for the next 3 weeks or so and then it will be smoked too.

We are also attempting a Spanish style Parma ham.  We did try this last time, but unfortunately the maggots got to it when the weather warmed up. Hopefully, because it is coming into the cooler months, we will have more success. It is currently packed in 7kg of salt inside a wooden wine box, with two bricks on top of it and will remain so for about 28 days.  We will take it out, wash down with white wine vinegar, wrap in muslin and then chicken wire and hang in the barn for about 4 months! Fingers crossed for our 2nd attempt x

I actually really enjoy this part of the process and can't wait to taste some of our efforts in the coming weeks and months.

Friday, 7 September 2012

You have to take the lows to get the highs!

Wow what a week!!!

Monday started early with the rising of the family in order to get up to the pigs by 8.30am. No mean feat with two under 5's, I can assure you.  Anyway we made it, with a minute to spare.

Fen very kindly looked after our children, whilst we loaded the pigs onto the trailer.  With our first batch of Boundary Pigs we asked around and came across a local guy who owns a trailer, and for a small fee will transport your pigs.  Trailers have to meet certain DEFRA rules for the transportation of animals and its all quite complex, so hiring someone who knows what they are doing, is well worth the money!

After about 30 mins of battles and a few bids for freedom into the paddock, all 3 girls were loaded. Paperwork signed and ready to go.  Stupidly, I went to the trailer and said goodbye........don't ever do this! With a waterfall running down my face and a very heavy heart, I waved them off.

Grant my husband, followed them to the abbatoir.  He made sure they were okay and did something I don't think I'll ever be able to do. He watched the Gloucester Old Spot go.......I think for curiousity and for peace of mind, this was something he had to do.  He said it was as humane as it could be and that the pigs seemed quite calm, prior to their ultimate fate.

Olly giving pigs some grass

3 hours later, he arrived home with a bucket of our pigs blood. This might be more than most could bare, but our promise to these animals, is that they do not die in vein. They live a lovely life and we will use every part of them possible in death.  So, probably, the hardest task of all ensued.  The children were both home at this time and I, as their mother tried to distract them from the new arrival in the bucket, but Devon (4) curious as ever said "Can I help Dad?".  We explained what is was and what was happening, but she was not detered and apron donned, she got what can only be described as 'stuck in'.  Mixing the blood, clots and all, through the sieve. Nothing fazes this 4 year old. Amazing! 
Sieving blood!

After the blood was sieved, we could get on with the task of making the sausages. We decided to make morcilla, a Spanish, blood sausage and the classic English black pudding.  I will post recipes in a different post.

Blood sausage in the making!

In total we made about 50 sausages.  If  you like it and know us, mention it! 

On Sunday night, I had sat down with the delightfully named 'pork cut forms' to work out how we would like our pigs butchered. Last time, we used a local butcher, but this time we decided to use the abbatoirs cutting service.  This form is very short, scarily short.  Anyone who has ever slaughtered or received a whole animal, knows that the amount of meat and cuts is not short and can be an absolute minefield. To say I was nervous about being responsible for the detailing of butchered cuts of 3 pigs is an understatement. However, when the meat was collected today, not only did the butcher give us the highest praise, in saying that our pigs were the best pork meat he'd butchered all week, we actually got what I thought we would have from my completion of the said pork cut form! Phew. Actually no, BIG PHEW!!!!

We are so pleased with the quality of the meat (yet to be tried), but it looks great. Fat to meat ratio is very good. Last time our meat was quite fatty, but rare breed pork is. For a first attempt though, we were really pleased. We'd over wintered our first pigs, which means they are fattier as they pile on fat to keep warm.  This latest, second batch of Boundary Pigs, came in late Spring as weaners and have probably been a little spoilt (!), but these past three weeks, we've actually reduced their feed.  This was not to starve them, but just to reduce fat on the meat. We reduced feed by 1\5, so not a massive amount, but it seems to have made a difference.
Salugter weight tags. 7kg between each

This evening we vacuum packed what we could.  Alan and Fen collected their shares and we embarked on making bacon.  Guess who wanted front line action???!!???  So the four or five day bacon curing process starts. Next over this coming weekend ham making will start and then sausage making. More blogs to follow.

Making bacon

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The last supper.......

Not much has happened since my last post, but today has been very eventful!

This week we prepared the open stable for the pigs' last day.  We found with our previous  pigs it was a good idea to move them into this clean environment the day before they went off to slaughter. This meant they could be kept clean. Abattoirs don't like dirty, muddy pigs turning up. Most abattoirs only slaughter pigs on one day of the week, so we need them to be clean, otherwise a whole week goes by (and about £20 in feed for 3 pigs at this age). Ultimately the thought prevails, would you like to eat muddy meat? Probably not, therefore clean pigs are better for everyone!

So, this morning I moved the pigs from their outdoor pen, which is about the size of a tennis court, to the open fronted stable (with the help of Devon (4) and Olly (2)!).  They seemed quite happy, but 2 hours later they had escaped through a tiny gap in the gate and where rampaging around the paddock! This prompted an outing to our local DIY store to buy some more rope to tie the gate to the front of the stable.  A few hours later they were happily back, and what we thought was secure in the stable.

Then the awful task of ear tagging started. Both the Oxford Sandy and Blacks, were quite easy to tag.  But the Gloucester Old Spot was a different story......we just couldn't get the tag in her ear and she became quite distressed.  I therefore decided I will try again in the morning. It is DEFRA legislation that any pig going to slaughter must have a herd mark or tag on them.  We have some pesky metal tags, which in hindsight were a bad purchase, but you live and learn.

So last meal fed and seemingly quite happy, we left for home and a night of preparing our kitchen for tomorrow's delights. 

No more than an hour later and a call came to say the pigs are Houdini's nemisis' and had escaped into the paddock again! I seriously don't know how a 120kg pig can fit through such a tight space, but she did. All 3 girls were now safely back in their original outdoor pen and bedding down in their ark for the night.  Ok girls, you win!

So tomorrow's final fate looms nearer and will start at about 8am, with the loading of the pigs into the trailer.

I have mixed emotions this evening.  This of course is the ultimate reason you start on this journey. But death always comes with a heavy heart.  However, these pigs have lived a beautiful life, being fed on amazing fruit and vegetables alongside their normal diet in a lovely enclosure. Rooting, wallowing and lots of sunbathing for the past 6 months. Pigs doing what pigs should do, but sadly for most commercially produced meat is not the case.  In death, as a butcher says, all but the oink will be used of the boundary pig herd No 2.

Tomorrow we will make a few different types of blood pudding including good ole fashioned black pudding. Later in the week we will take delivery of the rest of the meat and a day of vacuum packing and sausage making will ensue.

Farewell girls. It's been great fun and strange as it sounds I will miss you.

  Devon, Matilda and Olly helping out today

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Mayhem, measurements and momentus decisions!!!

We have an escapee! The darker ginger has decided that the grass is greener on the otherside and yesterday escaped........many times! The electric fence wasn't working properly and she took her opportunity to squeeze through a tiny gap in the far corner.  However, everytime she escaped she waited by the fence to be let back in! After a few tweaks of the fencing the girls are secure and happy in their enclosure once again.

We have watched the girls getting bigger and bigger. Our original calculations thought they would see well in to late September, when the windfall apples arrive and the acorns.  However, the wet weather means that the harvest of windfalls looks poor and the acorns are yet to develop on either of the old oaks that dapple the enclosure. So today we decided to measure them.  There is a simple calculation that give you a rough indciation of a pigs weight.

Girth measurement in inches x Girth measurement in inches x Length measurement in inches

multiply by 400

divided by 2.2

= approximate weight in kilos of your pig.

Anything over 65 kilos is slaughter weight.

Measure tape in hand whilst being fed I recorded the following:

Lighter Oxford Sandy weighs 82kg
Darker Oxford Sandy weighs 84kg
Gloucester Old Spot weighs 113kg!!!!!!

Our escapee having a drink after her exertions!
So D day is closer than we anticpated and the decision has been made that they will go off to slaughter on 1 September.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

It's been a while.....

Well the pigs are 5 months old now and getting fat and muddy! The months of rain we've had has meant they are living in a quagmire. However, they really don't seem to mind. We've been lucky to still be getting the spoils from the cheeky chaps at the greengrocers. Thanks guys. We've also been investigating the pros and cons of going completely organic. These pigs are free range, but the food we feed them is produced using pesticides etc. Grant, my husband, read a very thought provoking book recently, called The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Do we really know what we're eating? Sadly the answer is probably not! A real 'food for though' read. Anyway I'm hoping to be a little more active in my blogging hereinafter.....