What will our first pigs taste like? Will it be Biscuits or Apples?

We are doing it. Finally. And it’s more exciting than I ever thought it would be. Our first animals have been slaughtered and the curing has begun. Having talked about this for so long, that now that we finally are doing it, it feels quite unreal.

This process is a research project. We like both farms, but they couldn’t be more different. We have nicknamed them the biscuit pig and the apple pig. Both are Organically raised, and the husbandry top quality, but the feeds are worlds apart.

The biscuit pig has been raised on fancy crumbs. In the great application of re-using waste as pigs for century’s have been used for (until some dumb asses fed pigs, pigs) our farmer has been feeding the BPigs some delicious oaty goodness. Intrigued as to what this would do to the meat, and to the fat, we were pleased to find an amazing level of marbling, and an almost creaminess to the fat. And fat is something that this breed produces plenty of.

The apple pig has been raised on.. fruit, naturally. And plenty of it. When I first met with these farmers, I was amazed at what commitment they had towards their feed – often travelling up to 100 miles to find fresh fruit and veg waste. They truly believed that feed and the traditional European methods of pig farming was the best way to go, and were doing all they could to do so. They also had sacrificed their Henry IV apple orchard for their animals, which the pigs were taking full advantage of.

Another difference was the amount of time.

The BP has been raised for 10 months. The farmer believes that any longer and the fat to meat ratio is disproportionate. The Mangalitza is a relatively small pig, and yet produces a large volume of fat. Any longer, on the high carb diet of tasty biscuits and all you will get is more fat. Even with the animal at 10 months, he came in as 95 kilo’s and almost 50% of that was lard. No pancetta either, as the belly doesn’t have sufficient meat on it. We are going to have to use another breed for that.

The AP has been raised for 18 months. This, with the addition to a large pen, and a less fatty diet has led to a leaner pig, with darker meat and a different quality lard. The weight, surprisingly is not too different to the younger pig, but the muscles appear more worked. This could have something to do with the pen set-up; having all the animals in one pen ensures that they interact differently, more actively.

Now that they are butchered and are laying in their cures, we have to wait patiently and see. This process is a long one, but one that will produce results. We just have to decide which of the results taste the best.

9 thoughts on “What will our first pigs taste like? Will it be Biscuits or Apples?

  1. As the owner of some Mangalitza I’m really interested to see how these differ in quality.

    My money’s on the 18 month. I had a coppa from a 30month old Mangalitsa recently – free roaming, pasture raised, with a wheat, barley, trich feed and a slaughterweight of around 160kg. The deep red, developed meat made for a far better muscle – quite possibly the best cured meat I’ve ever tasted.

    From what I’ve read, and spoken to other producers, the Mangalitza gets an optimal marbling at 9 months. It’d be interesting to see how the back fat compositions differ – various grains have differing effects on the polyunsaturated levels of the fat in pigs. Did either have a different finishing diet (you mentioned the trad European methods) – did they finish them on a high fibre diet?

    Mine’ll be slaughtered at 18 months, though seeing how slow growing they are it might even be a little longer.

    I’m so hoping it all goes well for you, the Mangalitza needs to secure its place within the UK meat market.

    • It was quite amazing to see the difference quality of the meat and fat – And it’s obvious now that we can’t rely on the mangalitza for all the products we want to make. As for the diet, I am pretty sure the diet was consistant throughout. Do you finish yours with a particular feed?

      • All the Austrian methods of raising these animals are pretty much the same as what we would have done prior to there being high protein commercial feeds on the market. I follow a feeding regime similar to what my grandfather would have done in the 40’s/50’s (though I suspect it’s the same as my family would have done for the past 500+ years). It’s largely fresh vegetables, fresh grass or hay and a high fibre grain like barley. We’ve never been large scale breeders, we’re essentially following in the tradition of keeping a pig in the cottaging tradition. Traditionally as most pork production was seasonal, owners would have raised barley as a finishing feed once other fresh produce was coming to an end – if they had woodland the pigs would have been allowed to forage for acorns as a finisher, the poorest of families in the 17th and 18th Century would have sent their children out into the forest to collect acorns for finishing – I assume the Iberian methods of raising indoors and then finishing in acorn woodlands derive from an age old seasonal way of feeding animals.

        However, modern slaughter year round provides us with a very different product as it doesn’t follow that same natural life cycle. No business can work on the old fashioned model of slaughtering once a year or for one month in a year so essentially modern feed provides us with a consistent product as the diet is regimented. However, I don’t think you’ll get any better meat than a traditionally raised, winter kill.

        I visited http://www.tailsandtrotters.com/ recently who finish their pigs on hazelnuts – it gave the fat a really sweet flavour, excellent as fresh meat, but I wonder whether the high fat content of the nut will affect rancidity during long curing. I even saw some Mangalitza produce in the US that had rancidity issues – which I would have put down to their long term diet.

        One of the things that attracted me to the Mangalitza was the composition of their fat (high Mono vs Poly) – have you or your breeders sent any of the back fat for chemical testing? It’d be interesting to see how high the biscuit pig is in polyunsaturated fat considering he’s the same weight in half the time as the apple pig.

        Out of interest, what type of Mangalitza were these? I have a couple of blondes and a red, the ones I saw in the US were all Swallow Bellied and had a completely different temperament.

        I’m in the same boat as you at the moment, I knew all along that I’d need two breeds, but choosing the right one to complement it is quite a job.

        I know I’m rambling and I hope I don’t sound preachy but I’ve spent the best part of this year looking at breeds, so I’m a little manic.

        If you ever want a chat, get in touch. The UK charcuterie world is tiny, we all need to work together to make it a flourishing industry!

  2. All of this is fascinating, and yet of course there are concerns and issues still unanswered until the first pig is sampled. We have tried to cure in many different ways with the first animal to see if we can find any flaws or best practice for the future. The issue of nitrate vs no nitrate is an issue with fattier animals. The Iberico curers uses the nitrates for this exact reason. We have yet to send off the back fat for sampling, but I think that is something we need to do.
    I’d love to chat with you at some point and see your animals too. We are heading your way again in the next week, and then again in a month to sample our first salami’s. I have your details, and will get in touch. Would that time suit you?

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