Pigs to Pork…

 
 
 

 

Pigs the back story –

Last year we had three pigs.This year we had eight. Last year they were Berkshires. This year they were Tamworths. We loved the pigs, so curious, funny, and with personalities all of their own. At the end of the day…well six months actually…they are on the farm for a reason; they are completely and utterly delicious. It’s easy to forget this when you feed, nurture and get to know them. We saw them several times a day. They kept us amused with their shenanigans, hiding in the woods, tipping over their water to make mud holes to wallow in.

They arrived in mid-May in the middle of me being busy helping with lambing at Kinderhook Farm. They were just big enough for us to help carry them off the trailer from Grazin’ Acres squeaking and squirming. Soon they grew bigger. When you see them so frequently they don’t seem to be growing for a while, then you look at them and they have suddenly got much chunkier. Then they just keep getting bigger. Pretty soon they are huge and thoughts move to them having to leave. They were about thirty pounds when they arrived and averaged around two hundred and fifty pounds when they left. That’s quite a steep growth curve. Butchers prefer pigs of two hundred to two hundred and fifty pounds because after that point they tend to put on more fat and not much muscle.

It’s hard. People who don’t raise animals don’t think about it, why would they? Chickens aren’t the same thing although, I am quite fond of a few of our hens. Pigs are different though, like cows and ewes. They are mammals and they share many similarities to humans, more than some of us would like to think about.

We are Animal Welfare Approved so the pigs are raised in a very humane and responsible way, respectful of pigs innate needs and habits in the wild. They lived a good life in a large area of woodland and were fed certified organic grain supplemented with stuff foraged from the woods and extra treats like bread, vegetables, fruit and some dairy made available to us by a local supermarket.

The weekend before they were due to leave was tough. I was sad they were going and felt more than a little emotional about it. Once they actually left, the anxiety of getting them on the trailer calmly had somehow distracted us. It was time to move on to the next stage. I had actually thought about it a great deal beforehand…in detail…as I had to decide how they were going to be butchered. The slaughter house needs cut sheets, how the carcass is to be cut up. I have to try and think what our customers will want to buy. Sausages? What kind? Roasts? Small or large? Bacon? Slab or sliced? Nitrate or not? Decisions, decisions. Next year we will have a good sense of what people want but this year we have to try and estimate it all.

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Pork the next stage –

Last year one of the three pigs went to The Meat Market in Great Barrington to be butchered and processed by Jeremy and I. It promised to be interesting seeing a whole individual carcass so we could assess how it had turned out and what changes, if any, we needed for the next season. Jeremy, apart from owning The Meat Market, also is the brains and talent behind Fire Roasted Catering. An amazing outfit of passionate people who cook local, seasonal food over fire in a spectacular way for some pretty fancy parties and weddings. Jeremy luckily had a gap in his busy schedule and took some time to guide me through the pig process again.

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Jeremy Stanton with a Made In Ghent pig

It was indeed fun learning more and we produced some really delicious pork products. Last year we created a new one to all of us thanks to Carsten our German friend, part-time Ghent resident and pork product aficionado! Ahle Wurst is what he dreams about…an old school German cured salami made in every German village and pretty much unavailable in the USA. After a tasting of the real thing in the winter Jeremy recreated the Ahle Wurst last year with Made in Ghent pork. It was a huge success with Carsten and anyone else who tried it so with our latest pigs we were on for Ahle Wurst Part II.

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Ahle Wurst dried and ready to eat

This year one and a half pigs (of the eight) went to The Meat Market. Jeremy and I, with help from his great team, made more sausage, charcuterie, lard, bacon and hams. These are our experiments that, one day, we might be able to make on site at Made in Ghent. It was a very hectic two days of making English bangers, butchery and then frantic curing, fermenting, brining to make chorizo, Ahle Wurst, bacon, hams, guanciale, coppa and lomo. Some of those things are still curing/drying and will be ready in the coming weeks for us to try. Perfect for the long winter months.

In the store at Little Ghent Farm we are now selling roasts, three kinds of sausage, hams, chops, ribs and, of course, bacon. For the more adventurous we also have liver, heart and heads.

Pigs…the gift that keeps on giving!

Lomo...in process...cured and dried pork loin

Lomo…in process…cured and dried pork loin

 

 

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