Hi everybody. I’m still playing catch-up today so even though it it two days in a row, I’m giving you more Hog Blog. But it’s a bumper instalment this time where Nicola goes into great detail about the experience of eating an animal that she has raised and cared for herself. I really recommend you read this one right through to the end. There is something quite sweet yet pragmatic about how she describes it all.

Cheers, Thomas

The Hog Blog – February 2008, part 3

The Hog Blog - February 2008, part 3

Joe has produced a spreadsheet. Julia doesn’t agree with it and produces one of her own. I don’t like it because it requires Elvis to go to the abattoir to give us more profit.

I don’t want to send my prize board to the abattoir. But I don’t want to argue with anyone about money, least of all two people I am fond of.

Have radical plan. Will hurl even more money into pig project but will be the only investor. I will give all others their money back and pork in exchange for labour. With any luck Julia and Joe will still want to give time in the future towards helping look after them and I can pay them for that time with meat rather than money. Solves all discussion about money. Feel relief to have made a decision and email the others to ask what they think.

They agree! And they want to continue helping in exchange for meat. Now I will be poor, but at least I will be my own boss.

Today I discover, quite by accident, that Berkshires are not fully grown until they are three years old. Why do they make them breed so early? It’s like teenage mums in council flats, and quite unworthy of a Berkshire. Who knows what they could achieve if they weren’t weighed down with the burdens of motherhood so early? Feel a plan coming on to make Mabel wait another year before encountering sex or babies. But can I afford it? Probably not.

February is very cold indeed, surprising us with thick frosts, icy grass and ponds, freezing fog which gives way to bright sunshine by coffee time. I drive to the abattoir in Frome to collect not Porker, but a carcass. I pay them £27 which seems incredibly cheap compared to all the other bits of looking after pigs. The body is in two halves with the head and feet still attached, the head sliced neatly down the very centre, so that whichever way I lay the long bundle one eye is looking up. She smells like meat and not like a pig. All her hair is gone and her skin is pink, but there is a small tuft or two of strong black hair close to her snout so I know it is her. It strangely reminds me of visiting my newly-dead father in the chapel of rest and noticing little tufts of cotton wool stuck to the bristle on his chin. But it turns out not to be sad. I knew that wasn’t Dad, just his husk, and I know this isn’t Porker, just her outside. Wrapped in a huge tarpaulin she makes the journey back to Bristol again, and Steve the butcher at the farm shop takes her in as if this is normal. He promises to have her ready in three days and I leave, feeling strange.

I have no idea how much meat to expect back really. I rang the abattoir and they said the dead weight was 57 kilos, but that doesn’t really help me work out how many chops, how many sausages.

I find out when Steve rings late in the evening to say all is ready to collect. Clever Porker gave: 16 bags of chops in twos, weighing about 500g a bag, 8kg of sausages, 4kg of belly pork, four rolled boned shoulder joints all weighing about 1.5kg, 6 leg joints (which I still fail to understand) weighing about the same as the shoulder joints, and two long ribs at about just over a kilo each. Steve charges me £30 which I think is incredibly cheap. Was thinking of maybe doing a butchery course but it is hardly worth it when he does a professional job at such a low cost. He is even cheerful about it and tells me it is good meat, which gives me a burst of pride. The head and the offal and the trotters and some innards were all in a separate bags, which I gave straight to Joe so he can experiment in the kitchen. I stuff as much as possible into the two fridges at work, put the rest in the freezer and go home with two pork chops.

I walk into the house with my precious package, feeling nervous. If it doesn’t taste good then all this will have been a bit pointless, and too expensive to repeat. I shout to all and sundry that I am home and I have meat! Silence. Nobody at home. This is rare. For a moment I’m tempted to feel sad about it, but actually the quiet is good, and the tasting maybe too solemn a thing to attempt with others.

I put the chops in a roasting tin. They look good. Chunky and lean but with a good layer of fat around them. I drizzle a little olive oil over them and sprinkle some chopped-up thyme from the garden, then pop them in the top oven of the Aga.

I have some fabulous purple sprouting broccoli so I prepare that while I wait for the pork. I set the table properly, light a candle, award myself (and Porker) a proper linen napkin, open a good bottle of red wine. After about quarter of an hour I take them out to turn them over. A quite remarkable smell wafts through the kitchen and I feel very very hungry. On the plate they look delicious. I sprinkle some lemon juice over them and push a knife through the first one. It goes through the meat as if it were butter. The flesh is white and moist and smells slightly gamey, but it is tender and the best pork chop I have ever tasted. The darker meat near the bone is almost like offal, and with a strong pork taste. Good indeed. Two of these huge chops is far too much for one person, but I am greedy for more so I keep eating until I have not only finished them both, but licked the bones clean too. I give a tiny bit of gristly fat to Bobbie. She is ecstatic. Her barking has, at last, got the better of Porker.

Feeling rather bloated now. But by golly it was good. Porker did so well I raise a little toast to her. She was a good piglet, a lovely pig, she went to her death with hardly a squeak (apart from the ear tag noise) and she gave us all fabulous meat. What a pig! I will never forget her, and in fact she gets her own back, because I am windy all night. My fault.

Nicola

Previous instalments from The Hog Blog

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