The vegetarians have had a few weeks off pig talk (during which time one of them has reverted to carnivorous mode). But as we draw near to the end of processing our second and third pigs, I’d like to share a few thoughts before they slip my mind in favour of walling, carpentry, ditch-digging and other skills soon to be coming my way.
In no particular order, then:
o If you pick up your pig in two halves, head off and heart, lungs etc in a bag, you should realise that half a 90-kilo pig is still not half heavy. And a bit slippy. Not all that easy to take up the narrow stairs to the spare room. It’s probably worth having a strong friend round to help – or having your pig cut up into more manageable pieces that will fit easily into your car.
o Allow a week to process each pig from kitchen table to freezer. Bollocks to Hugh’s ‘Pig in a day’. His pig arrives cut into handy sized pieces. You’re doing it all yourself. Admittedly, this week includes slicing bacon, lardons and making sausages, but let’s be realistic. With our first pig, we ended up going to bed at 3am to finish doing the sausages – not great on a school night.
o Note to self: Process the abats the day they come back from the abattoir. Don’t wait, thinking there’ll be time in the next few days. There won’t. (Same goes for processing bacon that comes out of the brine.)
o There are some pieces of equipment you will need ready:
- a butcher’s saw
- a large machete-type knife
- a medium knife and a small boning knife
- a knife sharpener
- lots of medium to large hooks (suddenly those old nails sticking out of beams in country houses look seriously useful)
- an unfeasible amount of sausage skins (say, 30 metres per pig) and access to more at short notice
- half a dozen trays and/or washing-up bowls
- a six-foot section of kitchen side
- anti-bacterial cleaner
- an apron
- lots of freezer bags (mainly medium-sized)
- a plastic dustbin full of brine (allow half a day to make the brine and a day to let it cool)
- freezer blocks to keep the brine cool
- a bacon slicer
- a sausage machine
- a few wooden wine boxes for prosciuttos
- breadcrumbs and other sausage ingredients
- a serious weighing machine (going up to at least 10 kilos)
- butcher’s string, medium thick
- lots of freezer space
- and someone who’s done it before – at least the first time.
o Do not try to process more than one pig at a time. Especially during the half-term holiday. Even if you’re mostly making sausages – one front leg takes one and a half hours to bone out. Tunnel boning for dry cured hams even longer. Just don’t do it.
o When a recipe says: “Simply cut the head into four using a saw”, ignore the “Simply”. You’ll never want to be an Elizabethan ship’s surgeon again.
All the lessons learnt can’t be put into one post. I’ll just say that, our next pig will be killed on the land and processed immediately. Probably starting on a Monday morning towards the end of the year, during term time.