Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Mighty meaty

It's been a highly sociable week. On Saturday, my daughter and two grandsons came for an overnight visit. It's the first time the boys have stayed with us and grandson number 1 was very excited about staying on 'Grandma's farm'. They arrived mid afternoon on Saturday and played a bit, ate supper and got settled in for the evening. On Sunday morning it was still damp outside, but dressed in our not-so-glamorous waterproofs, we still managed to get outside and do a few chores. My older grandson helped us to move flexible fencing, feed the chickens and ducks and move wood chippings onto a particularly soggy and slippery area in the duck enclosure. 

 My daughter took this photo of us on our way to get yet another barrow load of wood chips, it made me realise that I really need to invest in some waterproofs that don't give me a Michelin Man look. I loved spending this precious time with him and hearing his squeals of delight as we raced around the yard. It seems riding in a wheelbarrow is the mode of transport for a five year old, although I'm not sure which of us enjoyed this more!
 Yesterday morning Mr J and I cleaned out the chicken shed. The eight inch deep bed of sawdust certainly made interesting scratching material for the chickens and it also helped to soak up some of the rainwater that was sitting on the surface of the ground unable to drain away fast enough.
 The chickens will scratch through this and turn it over and over during the winter months and then, in the spring, I will fence some of the area off and plant kale, spinach and other vegetables that the chickens like to eat. It will be quick and easy to feed the chickens some of their favourite leafy greens when they are growing in the chicken's field.
We then refreshed the deep bedding sawdust in the chicken shed and I treated the perches and fixings with diatomaceous earth as a preventative measure against red mite and then we headed indoors for a quick wash so that we didn't smell of chicken poop for the rest of the day.

Martha of @MarthaRoberts arrived early afternoon to deliver a couple of boxes of pork. I met Martha via Twitter, which has proved a great place to get to know some like-minded smallholders. She has a smallholding near Abergavenny on which she raises rare breed pigs that happily spend their days foraging on her hillside amongst woodland and grass. 
Photo courtesy of  Martha Roberts

A few weeks ago I asked Martha for a half a pig when the next batch of free range animals were despatched. She gave me plenty of notice so I was able to make sure that we had lots of space in the freezer.

I asked for some of the parts of a pig that aren't as popular now as they were in the past. So yesterday I took delivery of my half a pig together with some liver, hearts, kidneys, hock and leaf fat (the fat from around the kidneys).

I'm going to make liver pate, a coarse pate for Mr J and a smooth one for me. I'm going to render the leaf fat to make lard, which is high in omega 3 and I understand that if it's rendered very slowly and makes a very white lard, it is perfect for pastry as well as for using as a cooking fat. I'd like to try a rich slow casserole with the kidneys and slow roast stuffed hearts.

I'm really keen to experiment with old recipes and find ways to use as much of the carcass as I can because I feel that so much of the animal must go to waste. While we love a pork joint for a roast dinner, there are an awful lot of other dishes that can be made using other cuts.
Photo courtesy of  Martha Roberts

This experimentation has a reason. Mr J and I have been discussing our mid term plans for the smallholding and have decided that we may have a couple of pigs in the future. This certainly won't happen in 2017 and depending on how far we get with upgrading the dilapidated piggieries, it may happen in 2018 or later. In the meantime, we can learn how to make the very best use of as much of a pig as possible. There are some parts of the animal that I can't face trying, it makes no logical sense at all, but still, I don't fancy the lungs or spleen despite finding several recipes of how to cook them.

I've been searching through my mother's cookery books (like this 1961 edition of Mrs Beeton's) and looking online for recipes, hints and tips of how to prepare our new food. My plan for the next couple of months is to try out new recipes and decide which appeal to us the most and to share the successes on my blog. 

This morning Helen and Jane came to visit. Actually, Helen came to collect the flexible fencing that she kindly lent to us earlier in the year. We spent a lovely couple of hours drinking tea, eating cake and talking all things smallholding. Helen keeps pigs and Jane has sheep, so we swapped stories of muddy incidents, rainy days chasing our animals and shared lots of laughter.

This afternoon I started turned my attention to the pork. I started with the easiest joints to cook, the roast shoulder joints with crispy crackling.

I unwrapped the joints and left them to get to room temperature. I put them into a roasting tin. I scored the skin and rubbed some sea salt over the skin and into the scoring and put them into the oven on 220 degrees C. After about 25 minutes I turned the temperature down to 170 degrees C and cooked the joints until they were ready (I like meat well cooked). I poured off some of the fat and juices into a bowl after the first hour and again once they were cooked. Once they are cold, the fat and juices can be separated and I will freeze the juices in small portions until I want to use it as a base for gravy.

This evening's supper was a celebration of smallholders' food. We had roast pork, crackling, apple sauce that I made in September using our neighbours' windfall apples, gravy and purple sprouting broccoli which I picked from the garden just before dusk. We took a few moments to appreciate how lucky we are.
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  1. This blog post is really interesting, and the photo of the roast pork has me salivating as I type :-)

    1. Thanks Chrissie! Some days life is just plodding along, same old, same old, but this week has been filled with visitors and activity.


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