Friday, 29 November 2013

Pork, pork and MOAR POARK!

A good vet could get it back on its feet?
Thursday 28th saw us having yet another new experience, getting our pork cut up by the abattoir guys and bringing it home to sort through, make decisions on and pack away. I have been saying in these posts that we were doing a carcass for carcass swap with one of our lambs but we have re-crunched our various numbers since then and that would be massively unfair in our favour. Our lambs feed on "free" green Roscommon grass, where a pig has to be fed pricey, paid for ration and barley its whole life which, in this case was January right round to now.

Liz Soprano disposes of the body?
Farm gate prices for a whole pig carcass and a whole lamb can be tricky to compare because your 'carcass' might actually be somewhat processed into sausages or salted for bacon, but even so it was clear that a lamb is 'worth' only half what a pig would price at, so we settled with Carolyn that we'd just take a half carcass plus the 'odd bits' that we'll use but which Carolyn does not - the head for example, trotters and any kidneys we could get our hands on.

Growers "slap mark" (actually a tattoo)
So we arranged to meet at 3 pm at the meat factory where we'd be allowed into the big stainless steel walled cutting rooms to watch our carcasses being jointed up and to choose from options like boned or un-boned, chops or joints and so on. This was nothing like going into our little lamb-butcher in Castlerea with his old fashioned butcher's chopping block and one band saw. This was an industrial space with ten or so guys wearing white plastic aprons and chain-mail gloves, working away at steel tables, the carcasses rolling in hanging from overhead steel railway tracks, noisy circular saws you pull down from the ceiling to cut out the spines, band saws that zip through trotters in a trice and hydraulic rigs that brace themselves against the back of the meat and pull out shoulder blades with no need to cut.

Shoulder and neck joints
We were treated to a Master Class of butchery. Our guy worked away with effortless skill and dexterity. Ask him to 'tunnel bone' a leg and watch the flash of the blade and a blur of wrist twisting and wriggling as he delved down into either end of the joint freeing up the main bone before slipping it out of one end almost clean of meat. Ask him to bone out the ribs and you'd watch again as with a couple of knife strokes he was able to peel up the whole rack of ribs intact. We actually had one for our tea. In under the hour we had our meat in bags in our car and Carloyn's three half-pigs in bags in hers.

Home then to sort out what we'd got - the simplest way seemed to be to spread it out on our big table and reassemble the animal so that we could bag and label our bits, decide which bits to try salt-curing, work out what to do with the head and the cheek meat for brawn, separate out trotters, tails and other off-cut bits. We also decided, as I said, that supper was going to be a taster of this Gloucester Old Spot (Purebred, pedigree) meat, so Liz roasted the rack of ribs smeared with a little of our homemade spicy tomato 'jam', and very nice it was too, served with cous-cous, fried mushrooms and a tomato and feta salad. Very porky and succulent. Filling too - these were the full length chest ribs, 12 inches or so long, spine to sternum, not the short cut-up bits you normally buy.

Rack of whole ribs.
Today, with our meat safely stashed, we headed down to Carolyn to help her sort her batch, which was three times the size of our own job. Also Carolyn already does a lot more salt curing and making sausages, so she was pleased to have the extra manpower cutting away big sheets of skin from the loin/flank/belly slabs and cutting up big lumps for going in the sausage mincer. Liz got stuck into bagging and labeling and in 2 hours we were celebrating the last lump 'processed' and Carolyn was frying us a pork steak each as a reward - delicious folded into a heel (crust) of brown bread as a substantial sandwich.

Greek style pork?
Finally just for a laugh (forgive me). Liz and Diamond were amused by the way pig carcasses were sometimes displayed in the butchers shops on the island of Poros in Greece, so here is our 'homage' to Greek style pork, complete with shades and fag on. I don't know if it improves the flavour. We are not actually going to be able to smoke any of this meat but there is no reason why we might not construct a cold-smoker in the future if we do get into rearing these fascinating animals for ourselves.

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