The Whole Pig – from nose to tail
The idea was simple – give 12 people a side of our superb rare-breed pork from the Berkshire/Gloucester Old Spot pigs reared at Food Safari HQ – get them to butcher the whole side from the key primals to the secondary cuts and offal, teach them some butchery, some cookery give them great food and send them home with armfuls of meat and a headful of new knowledge and skills!
Turning the idea into a reality was more complicated, 12 sides of pork is a lot of meat! For a novice boning and cutting requires a lot of concentration and how would we make the day fun breaking it up with cooking and eating!
But on Saturday 18th February a group of intrepid individuals came to Food Safari HQ to get to know every bone and joint of pork and what to do with the cheeks, trotters and kidneys! Some of the group have their own pigs and wanted to learn how to butcher their own meat, others just loved pork and wanted to learn more about it. There were quite a few who’d been given the butchery course as a Christmas present and perhaps didn’t know what they were in for!
With charismatic butcher, Gerard King, at the helm everyone immediately felt relaxed fuelled by a hearty bacon sandwich and ample coffee we go started first removing the heads and cheeks ready for the kitchen.
Gerard King has butchery in his blood! His family had a small group of butchers in North London, which he worked in when he was young, leaving briefly for a stint in the City, he soon realised his heart was in butchery not finance (who can blame him!) and he returned to the family business. In 2007 Gerard was given the opportunity to establish a new butchery at the brand new Suffolk Food Hall, a large farm shop just outside Ipswich. Attracted by the idea of being able to buy his meat direct from the farm, to get to know the farmers and see the quality and welfare of the livestock, Gerard left London behind and moved to Suffolk. He’s now well known in Suffolk as the cheeky butcher at the Broxtead Butchery!
Gerard taught the group some useful knife skills and techniques and we got down to the main joints that now look a bit more manageable.
Back at our Whole Pig butchery course we put our knifes down briefly to go in the kitchen and find out how to make devilled kidneys which we ate immediately!
After refuelling on a filling lunch of roast pork belly, we got back to work wrapping up the day making our own sausages to take home!
Sunday -Day 2 – was all about curing and preserving. We learned about the differences between British, Italian and Spanish techniques for preserving pork. We started the process of curing English style bacon and Italian Pancetta.
In our beautiful preserving urn we mixed a brine to cure gammon.
At lunch we were joined by the owner of Emmett’s of Peasenahll – one of Suffolk’s most famous producers of Suffolk black ham, bacon and gammon all cured and smoked in original Victorian outbuildings behind the shop in the village of Peasenhall just a mile from Food Safari HQ. Mark was able to tell us all about this business and the traditions associated with this over 100 year old business as well as some of their latest recipe innovations for example switching the recipe Mark inherited for curing in Guiness for more delicious and locally produced stout Nethergate Old Growler. Mark is also very well travelled in Spain and his shop now sells some excellent Spanish charcuterie which we got to try. Mark also talked about the still popular Spanish tradition of the Matanza.
The highlight of the day was the afternoon salami and chorizo session. With a few pointers from Gerard, a kilo of paprika, garlic, pepper and a few bottles of red wine, everyone got creative inventing their own recipes.
Everyone was thrilled with the results which they got to take home to air dry for four to six weeks and then show off to friends.
We packed a lot into the Whole Pig Weekend – but then there’s a lot packed into one side of pork – so much meat to cut up and learn how to use. I think everyone left exhausted, full of great food, with a few new friends and a some great new knowledge and skills to put into practice on their own pork or just on joint from the butchers!
The next Whole Pig Weekend is Saturday 22 – Sunday 23 September. come for one day or both!
Praise for Food Safari
Fantastic day, loads of variety, excellent food.