We first tasted the Mangalitza pig when we visited St Louis for the Clandestino dinner last year. The boys there were so passionate about the meat and its special qualities that I was intrigued. The more I have read about it the more interested I have become, especially for the charcuterie properties (fat, in a word) that it has.
And fat is what this breed has been all about. Breeds such as the Mangalitza, the Iberian Black and the Alentejana have always been raised for lard production. As this has seen a decline in demand over the years, these pigs have had an increasingly rare sighting, so much so that now Mangalitzas are officially considered a rare-breed. Still raised in reasonable numbers in Hungary, they even have a festival to celebrate this pig, which you can see below in a very long Hungarian video (if anyone can translate this for me, please do!). A Hungarian friend spoke highly of the flavour of the Mangalitza, but also informed me that they too were very rare in Hungary during the communist period, due to their slow growing properties, and ‘inefficiencies’.
And so, after many months of research and emailing, we were off to meet some Mangalitza farmers.
Our first stop on our mini pig-tour is at Doves Farm, famous for their organic flours which is widely available throughout the UK. Michael and his wife started Doves Farm back in 1978 when he had converted the farm to organic and had fields of wheat and no market in which to sell it. So they bought a milling machine and began to make flour, selling it door to door. Since then, the business has grown to what it is now, but I do love their passion for their products. They have recently released a range of unique flours, such as Einkorn which is a smaller head of wheat that makes a great grain as much as a flour, and the Heritage range which is from ancient seed stock from the 16th and 17th century. What I found also very interesting is their commitment in gluten-free products which they have received great awards for. It is hard to make a quality bread which is gluten free, but starting with their flour would be a step in the right direction.
But it isn’t just flour that we are in Wiltshire meeting Michael. We are here to meet his pigs. These were first discovered by Michael when they were in Hungary sourcing flour, and they now have a small collection of them, some recently just given birth to piglets. At first you are struck by how friendly these pigs are – they are incredibly curious and cheeky. They had a great fondness for my plimsoles, particularly the rubber toes and shoelaces. Serves me right for wearing white trainers when visiting pigs.
The sow (unnamed due to an attempt not to get too emotionally involved, bless) recently gave birth to some lovely dear piglets. Named or not, you can see how it would be hard not to get too involved in these dear creatures.
Micheal also gave us some of his delicious sausages that his local butcher made from one of the less lucky. We bribed a local publican to cook them up for us the next day on the basis that we would share..
Reconfirming for me that these very endearing animals make for more than just entertainment.