So I’ve taken a very active step toward being a farmer and in June I bought two pigs. We bought them locally from a friend when they were 7 weeks old. They’re Saddleback cross Gloucester Old Spot and I’ve called them Francis Bacon and Lord Ham. They look very cute and very delicious!
I’ve had pets and have taken an active interest in the livestock here at Deviock but never been responsible for my own animals. Chris used to farm pigs and at one stage had 30 sows, so his brains were picked and the River Cottage Pigs & Pork book was read. Luckily there was a pig arc on the farm, which only needed minor repairs and after sectioning off a piece of field next to the veg garden with electric fencing, the brothers have been busy scrubbing up the grass and roots, piggy backing (that’s right, pigs do ride on each others backs) and generally enjoying themselves – or so it appears. They’re lovely characters, very friendly, very chatty and seemingly always looking for food. I do worry when I go in with them that if I stand still they’ll eat my willies.
They get fed a mixture of pig nuts, oats, sugar beat, the whey from the goats milk (when we make cheese) and pickings from the garden. We’ve just put buckets in the cottages and ask our guests to save their vegetable peelings, which they can then feed to the pigs.
They’ll stay with us until they about seven months – which will be end of November and then they’ll go off to the abattoir and come back as pork. People often comment that they wouldn’t be able to kill them once you’ve formed a bond and especially named them, but we’ve been keeping livestock here for meat for the past 15 years, we love our animals (every single one has a name), we look after them, feed them well and care for them. If we’re set on being meat eaters, then surely that’s the best meat you can eat. So it is with that ethos in mind that we look at the pigs, we enjoy the pigs and we look forward to an amazing bacon sandwich.
I want to make my own bacon. In the River Cottage books there is excellent advice and recipes for curing pork. I have now turned a small dark room (it was once destined to be an outside toilet) over by the big barn into a curing room. Which basically means I’ve covered all gaps with an old mosquito net, built a bench and installed a fridge. I will then dry cure some pork belly and make bacon! Another project before the pork comes is to turn an old oak barrel into a cold smoker – more on that in another post.