Monday, 22 February 2010

Reflecting on pig week

It's worth taking a moment to look back at the last week, to see what lessons can be learnt for next time. Which, weather depending, won't be too far off. (Vegetarians and vegans click away from the screen... now.)

A friend came round in the morning after school drop-off and shot the pig. I ran over and bled the pig straight away, so I knew she was gone quickly. (Backing up a second, I had thanked the pig for what she was about to give us before my friend shot her, which made the whole process - spiritually and ethically - much easier.)

Almost immediately, we realised how heavy she was. (Lesson here: Another person or two would be useful for pigs over, say, 60kg. She was probably over 80kg.)

In the tractor shed, we had huge difficulty hanging the pig up. Again, the weight issue. (Lesson: I must install a pulley system before the next pig.)

My friend was very busy, so I skinned and gutted the pig on my own, which took a surprisingly long time. I then had to lift two halves of pig above my head to hang to cool. I don't need to mention the weight again, but let's say I was pretty tired by lunchtime, around 2.30pm. (Oh, lesson: A proper butcher's saw would be handy - it takes a while to cut through bones with a hacksaw.)

The weather suddenly started warming, so I butchered half of the pig. Just taking the side off the hook in the tractor shed reminded me how tired I was already. I was planning on butchering both halves, but this first half took longer than I hoped. (This happens with most things around here. It's been mentioned more than once that I have an unrealistic way of looking at time. A clever person could probably write an equation for it.)

Her Outdoors made pate while this was going on and I listened to a lot of Radio 4 (the News Quiz - superb - Sandi Toksvig - like a female Stephen Fry, only funnier). We also roasted bones for the dog, who is fussy about eating them raw.

In the evening, I decided to look for butchery videos on youtube and found the link in the previous post (see below). (Lesson for me: See, you're not allergic to research.)

Butchered the other half of the pig much faster, thanks to those videos. Already started looking forward to cooking ribs at the weekend. Almost forgot the head, but took off the cheeks and put with other eat-soon items in the fridge.

Can't remember the morning. I think I re-set the pig fence and separated the remaining two pigs and did some fro-ing, stripping and digging work on the new outdoor eating-area-to-be, had some fruitless meetings. Cooked pig cheeks in red wine, then washed up all the sausage-making stuff and started mincing meat at around 9.00pm. Her Outdoors, exhausted from labouring on the land (building a new rabbit run, digging a field by hand, moving compost, planting etc.) reminded me that it was late and we said we weren't going to do this again. (Lesson: Don't start making sausages after, say 6.00pm. It's silly.)

Got to bed late. (Another lesson while I remember: Mincing meat, then adding breadcrumbs, seasoning etc. is not much more work than doing it all in one go, and the consistency's much better.)

Bagged up those sausages and stashed them in a friend's freezer. Then had the day off, making a two cubic-metre compost bin and tidying up around here so we don't look quite so shabby. Took a hand and a couple of hocks out of the brine to hang over the bath. Ate a lot of ribs for dinner.

Woken up very early by Boy throwing up, having finally succumbed to what they call "Le Gastro" around here. A bi-annual viral thing we've all had and you don't really want to know about.

Made the rest of the sausages, starting much earlier in the evening, and hung them over the bath.

In summary, then: Half a day to kill and hang the pig; two half days for butchery; two half days for sausage making. That's realistic, and allows plenty of time for manual labour. (Although we're both tired at the end of it, and it's not even a full week, it doesn't feel particularly out of the ordinary.)


rockmother said...

I think you are doing an incredible job both of you and pig cheeks in wine - yum!

Alex Crowe said...

Thanks romo. Coming soon: our very own coq au vin (hard to go wrong with anything simmered in wine for a couple of hours...).