Ham

I am really relieved that when we butchered we decided, by minimising the risk and maximising on the reward, we would remove the 3 muscles in the legs and cure them separately.

By doing so we were able to trial a few different styles of cures – one of them wet brine, some others dry, some with fresh herbs (rosemary and juniper) others without anything else except the salt.

The first hams to be ready were the Fruit-fed Mangalitza leg muscles.

The two muscles that were ready were the topside that was cured in juniper and rosemary, and the silverside that was cured and then rolled in black pepper. The topside, being the less fatty muscles of the two had a deep almost purple colour, and had a heady fragrance of the herbs.

The silverside had the added benefit of the fat, and this gave a rich flavour of the meat, which was also helped balance with the pepper.

Now that the rest of the muscles and lardo would have been curing for an additional few weeks over the christmas period, we will have the rest to sample this January. And this means we will be setting up shop in a few markets in London very soon.

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.