Sunday, 26 June 2011

Here piggy piggy

So I have embarked on the biggest challenge at Banceithin to date. Whilst the refurb project threw up it’s fair share of obstacles, I was ultimately dealing with bricks and mortar, which could generally be persuaded to do what I wanted with a ‘tap’ from my trusty mallet. Working with flesh and bone is a different matter entirely. The butcher who prepared our last batch of piggies is selling up and moving on, so I have decided to do all the butchery from now on! This throws up all manner of issues, the main one being not having the appropriate facilities for meat preparation to allow us to sell to the public. During one of her research sessions, Philippa found a council run ‘Food Centre’ only 30 minutes away which you can hire by the day and is heavily subsidised to help small producers get into the supply chain without the need to invest in a bespoke butchery unit. RESULT!

For the last three weeks I have been undertaking various training courses to get up to speed on the whole process of turning a pig carcass into various yummy treats. The first day was an official food hygiene course where I learnt about bacteria, bugs and how not to sneeze over raw meat. I had to sit an examination at the end, and whilst I knew it couldn’t be too tough, I found myself getting palpitations when the examiner made the statement that sends shivers down most people's spines –“You may now turn over your papers”. The actual exam turned out to be pretty straight forward, mostly common sense and I have just received my certificate.

With that under my belt I did a two day pig cutting course. I can now split a carcass into it’s ‘primal’ cuts, being the shoulder, hand and spring, the loin and belly, and the leg and chump. I’ve deboned a shoulder and leg and have got the butcher's knot down to a fine art. The next stage was to make sausages out of the cubed shoulder. The machines at the centre are fantastic and can mince 10kg of pork in a couple of minutes. The centre made us use ready made sausage mixes, used by all supermarkets and most butchers. We’ve decided the Banceithin sausage will not be like those other sausages, and we want to control everything that goes into them, so I have been starting to do small batches in our kitchen to get the herb and spices mixture right.

I’m looking to do three types of sausage, a good breakfast sausage with sage, a spicy one and a garlic one.


The first test was ok, but my mincer was set too fine so the sausages were a little firm. Next test I’ll be using the coarse setting, though this process is more about getting the flavour right, as I will be using the Food Centre's equipment to make the sausages to sell to the public.

The final training day this week was to learn how to dry cure and brine cure meat to make hams and bacon. Mmmmmm! It’s so simple, and I can’t wait to produce my own bacon. I just hope we don’t sell too much of it, as I want to keep it all for myself!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

And the winner is …

The omens were not good from the start. First stop on the Green Tourism Awards road trip was the supermarket, to stock up on nutritious road trip snacks to keep us perky for the long journey, you know the kind of thing I mean – cheese puffs, bacon fries, fizzy cola bottles. As I rummaged amongst the cobwebs in my purse I heard the till operator mutter about something being inauspicious. At first I thought she was passing judgement on my snack choice, but then I noticed that my purchases added up to “£6.66”. Yikes! Obviously putting something back was not an option, so I laughed in the face of superstition and strode confidently back to the car, muttering under my breath “this trip is not doomed, we’re gonna win, this trip is not doomed, we’re gonna win…”.

The rest of the day passed without a hitch. I didn’t drop beetroot on my parents carpet at lunch. We didn’t get stuck in a monumental M4 traffic jam. I didn’t spill red wine on my white shirt at dinner. We didn’t have the airbed with a leak. Maybe Lady Luck had stowed herself away under the dog blanket and joined us on our journey to the Big Smoke.

Well if she had, come the next morning she’d upped and left us. Can’t say I blame her. The price of a beer in Pizza Express was nearly enough to send me scuttling back over the border. The bad juju started with an iron, or more specifically, a broken iron. But that was ok because Dave would be able to iron his shirt when we got to our friend’s place in Wimbledon. Oh dear, said friend doesn’t appear to be answering her phone. That’s ok, she’d be home by the time we’d driven across South London. But she wasn’t. Dave failed to make himself understood by her non-English speaking cleaner so off he went in search of the local laundrette. As luck would have it there was one round the corner. This is the laundrette that only closes on Christmas Day and one other day in the year. What are the chances of us turning up on annual steamer servicing day! And so it came to pass that just hours before the awards ceremony was due to start, Dave is stood in his boxer shorts on the pavement of a leafy residential street in Wimbledon changing into suit and crumpled shirt.

Time for a pre-awards ceremony pint to calm the nerves brought on by all this bad juju. What’s that you say? None of the beer pumps are working today? Okay, okay, I get it, I’m reading the signs, we were never supposed to win! 

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Fastest pig in the West

I’m sure you’re heard of “Babe”, a rather successful kids film about a small pink pig with a talent for sheep herding. I think we may have the reverse situation on our hands. Teri is a Welsh border collie. She’s supposed to have an instinct for sheep herding. She prefers pig herding.

For the past few weeks the sheep on the neighbouring land have been helping themselves to our tasty pasture. Each morning there can be up to 30 sheep and lambs grazing around the pig pens. This is of no consequence to Teri who, without so much as a cursory glance in their direction, makes a beeline for the pig pens, leaving me, in dressing gown and wellies combo, to corral the sheep without canine assistance and shepherd them back where they belong. Meanwhile, Slater and his girls rush to the fence line to meet Teri, there follows a short stand off, nose to snout through the wire. Teri leans forward bum in the air, nose to the ground, poised to run. The pigs stand their ground, beady eyes fixed on Teri. Who will make the first move? The pigs turn tail and make a mad dash across the mud to the other side of the pen. Teri takes the perimeter route. Who will get to the other side first? This performance continues, with the pigs zigzagging the length and breadth of their pen pinball fashion. This happens every day, two, three, four times a day.

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At first I thought Teri was the ringleader, with the pigs simply reacting to her, but the more I watch this routine, the more convinced I am that it’s the pigs who are in control. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the pigs positively revel in this ritual, and quite deliberately rev Teri up. There’s a knowing smile on Slater’s face as he leads his girls in a race to the other side, ears flapping in the wind, four trotters leaving the ground as Rosie leaps the food trough like a championship hurdler, mud flying up as Honey takes the corner at a cracking pace, Blanket at the back trying to keep up. All very amusing, but not ideal when you’re trying to fatten your pigs not break the porcine land speed record!