Friday, September 23, 2011

Free Range Pigs

We have just returned from a weekend workshop about starting a free range pig business. It was good, and we learnt a lot about pigs, but it was only necessary for us to do it because of the Intensive Pig Industry. We can run cattle or sheep or goats on our property, but to run pigs, we need to have a Certificate. It shouldn't be any different to cows, as we want to run them in paddocks and use the same grazing principles for them as we do for our cattle, but unfortunately, the "powers that be" don't think the same!
There is a code of practice that states that pigs should be allowed to act as pigs. The only way this can be done is to allow them to free range - not in a bare dirt paddock or a shed! And....I must add, that the supplementary feed should be placed in a trough, not just on the ground! Pigs do eat dirt (incidently not deliberately) as they like to dig in it, but they don't NEED to eat it.

Pigs eat a lot of grass and this will always be their first preference, so it's essential that they have free access to it! They also need to eat a grain supplement, which will include meat meal. Pigs are omnivores and so they do eat grain, grass and meat. Just like us - we need a balanced diet too! The big difference with us, is that we need to make sure that we don't eat too much of a good thing!

If you were to eat true pasture raised pork and conventional shedded pork in a blind taste test, you may think that the stronger flavoured pork is the free range. This is because one of them will have a "gamey" taste. True free range pork tastes fantastic (and simple) - it is not strong flavoured at all! The "gamey" flavour, which you will find is the shedded pork, is not a wild taste, but a taste of their own effluent! So, next time you want to try pork, PLEASE try a pasture raised or organic piece of pork to try and see if you can taste the difference!

Another story I must the workshop, we where in the paddock with some young gilts (females before they are mated) and were standing around in a circle talking. One gilt, who wouldn't allow us to pat her, came over and "sat" in on our conversation! About 6 of us humans were standing in a circle and she was sitting on her haunches  in the circle and just being "part" of the discussion. Pigs are very intelligent and should NOT be kept in pens in sheds.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Pig - using everything but the Oink!

Well, the title is misleading, but I like it, and one day, maybe I will........

We recently killed a pig and I decided to have my first crack at bacon, make some brawn and try some things that we don't normally eat. We had some of the liver, which we don't normally eat and I don't think we will bother again! It's a lot stronger than beef liver.

Today I had my first try of the brawn.....I will be doing that again! It's made from the head and the feet of the pig. I did half a head and two trotters - next time I would add more meatie stuff like the hocks or shoulder chops, but even as it is it's really good and it just set so perfectly. The addition of the trotters is to add the extra geletin that's needed to make it set and hold together. When I cooked the brawn I included both ears, but took them out before making the brawn. I wanted to try something with them, as I'd seen a recipe in a recipe book - Crispy Pigs Ears. The recipe didn't quite work, but it was very good.

The ears are sliced and then crumbed and fried and finished off in the oven. My crumbs didn't stick but the idea is good and I will be trying again to perfect it - just need to wait until we kill another pig. I served the ears with some wilted greens - shallots, asparagus, snowpeas and warrigal greens. Everything was home grown - well, the warrigal greens were picked out of the paddock. They are a native green vegetable and is used just like spinach. It grows on creek and river flats naturally, and is really nice. It's similar to spinach in that it should be cooked, although I have used it in pesto and salads without any dramas. I think you need to eat about 4 cups in one sitting to be a problem, so that's not likely!

If anyone wants the recipe for Brawn or Crispy Pigs Ears, you will have to ask for it. I will post a photo of my brawn as it looked really good!

The bacon was also really good! I didn't smoke it as I don't have a smoke house, it was just cured in the fridge for a couple of weeks and then I sliced it. So simple and I don't know why I haven't done it before. My brother just visited and brought me some home smoked ham and bacon, so I will enjoy comparing my bacon with his!