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!