Keeping a herd of pigs brings a lot of enjoyment - they are curious, intelligent and (often) lovable animals, with plenty of character. When the time comes, they can provide you with a fine carcass that can be turned into all manner of tasty things. The River Cottage ethos is all about knowing the story behind what's on the plate, and as Gill Meller explains in this accessible and comprehensive guide, by rearing and butchering your own pigs you'll be able to create a full range of delicious pork products in the most sustainable, economical and hands-on way possible.
No 14 in the indespensible River Cottage handbook Series
To watch me cook a few recipes from the book (click here)
By CountryEndeavours on 21 July 2015
Gill Meller has been a core member of the River Cottage team for over 10 years now, and as Group Head Chef for the brand, he has come up with some truly mouth-watering, earthy, rustic dishes. His passion for the origin of the ingredients he uses, coupled with their sustainability and ethicality are at the forefront of Gill’s outlook on food.
With the recent release of his new ‘River Cottage Handbook [No.14]: Pigs & Pork’, Gill covers many topics; including breeds, housing, feeding, slaughter and butchery as well as some delicious porky recipes to try out.
The handbook is incredibly informative – jam-packed with everything you could possibly need or want to know about Pigs, but the stand-out vein throughout is the personal connection that Gill clearly has to everything he talks about, within.
You can tell this is a subject that is close to his heart, and this is evident right from the off as Gill gives us a stark reality check on the journey of pork for many chefs. The fact that this journey begins (for some) with the “thud of a box of cheap vac-packed bacon being delivered” to hotels nationwide, is alarming.
As a consumer (to use the literal sense of the word) this made me think about the countless times I have rolled up to a hotel breakfast buffet, not thinking twice about the quality or journey the bacon I was about to eat, had – let alone the welfare of the animal that produced it. And I’m not alone. Don’t think that Gill is trying to take aim at consumers or chefs, though – this is simply the state in which we, as a country, have let ourselves get to, and this handbook helps raise awareness and respect for the origin of the food we eat.
A particular favourite section in the book is Gill’s ‘Potted History Of Pigs’ – more notably, the passage where he talks about his encounter with a wild boar:
“I was hunting one of my hawks through scrubland on the edge of Powerstock Common in Dorset. The terrain was rough, with an eerie remoteness. I came into a large clearing of grasses, sporadic bramble and soft marsh. My hawk swooped past me and alighted on a small spinner of young willow and bramble. I assumed the barely discernible movement of a rabbit of pheasant in the undergrowth had caught his eye. I went right up to the tangle of blackberry with the intention of flushing out whatever was inside.
All of a sudden, the entire bush erupted in the most dramatic way. The ground literally shook as, from within, out barged the barrelling frame of the biggest wild boar I’d ever seen. The shock of its physical stature took me from my feet and, as I fell, it hoofed over my left leg and down through the copse.”
Whilst the first half of the handbook acts as a practical guide to keeping pigs and the preparation of the meat, the second half is dedicated entirely to recipes which will see you utilising “everything but the oink”. Sausages, curry, roasted pork, pies, sandwiches, ham, and even chocolate truffles made with pigs blood all feature, and as you make your way through them, you’ll have a new-found respect for just how versatile this meat is.
Whether you’re thinking of owning pigs, or if you simply want to educate yourself whilst trying out some new recipes, this handbook delivers on all fronts, in spades. This is arguably one of the most concise titles out there for Pigs and Pork and we highly recommend adding it to your library!