Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Farewell Happy Hams

Some of the pictures on this post are of a dead pig - please do not look at the pictures if you are of a sqeamish disposition!

The pigs are dead, long live the pigs.

And so they shall, both in our memories and, more practically, in our freezer and ultimately on our plates.

Before I go on I want to emphasise that the pigs did not suffer. They were killed by a professional debiteur who used what I believe is called a bolt. They were being scratched at the time by my husband. The photos below are graphic but please remember that this is reality.

OK. Speech over. Description now follows of what we did this weekend. First off on Friday Laurent arrived to slaughter the pigs. I was not there at the kill but went up afterwards to help with the initial butchering so that they could then be hung overnight before being cut up and "dealt with" on Saturday. As you can see in the photo, the pigs were hoisted onto a ladder to make his job easier and the first thing he did was to pass the flame gun over the entire body to remove the hair. They were then scrubbed and hosed down.

The pigs had to be gutted and the livers were kept for the pate and our Monday "Liver night" (more on that later).

And that was just about it for Friday. Our pigs were suddenly no more than a very fond memory and two carcasses. The real work began on Saturday morning at what my father would have called "sparrow fart".

We decided a month ago that we would ask Laurent to do the butchering. He is after all a professional and although Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has an excellent course available on his website we knew that faced with two large carcasses we would probably not do a very good job. Laurent was fantastic. He had so many buckets I lost count: pate, rillettes, sausages, fat, rubbish and fromage de tete. Meat and bones were put into each bucket accordingly. Two enormous pots were simmering - one for the rillettes and the other for fromage de tete (this is eaten cold and I can't really describe it but please, it is not the guts which is what everyone appeared to think - that is called andouillette and we had opted out of that option!).

Whilst we stood and watched and occasionally cut up vegetables Laurent got on with the job in hand. Joints magically appeared with and without bones; chops mounted up in a separate tray; spare ribs in another; did we want bacon? And how many hams were to be smoked?

As it turned out we didn't use the liver for the pate as only one was usable - the other had a small number of spots and we had to throw it away - and we wanted to keep the one we had for Monday evening.

By lunchtime we had bagged up all the meat except the sausages which needed to drip a bit to dry off and the rillettes and pate. And of course the Boudin - a close relative to Black Pudding and absolutely, utterly delicious! We put everything in the freezer and took a break for lunch. Laurent had very kindly given us some Pork Liver Pate and that was enjoyed with French Bread and salad.

Later in the afternoon he was ready with the rillettes and the pate. We only had eight pate bowls so we have bagged the rest up - it is frozen uncooked so this is not a problem. And of course the sausages...

These took a little time to bag up as we wanted five per bag (2 parents, 3 children) and there were a LOT of them! In theory I have been very organised as sausages are in bags of 5 and chops in bags of 3 (I can't remember the logic but at least I know how many there are!). The boudin came as three enormous sausages, each about two metres long; so these were cut into pieces about 30cms long and bagged.

Back to Monday night and the liver...

As I have never cooked pork liver before a friend very kindly agreed to come over and cook it with us and of course eat it with us! So we decided we'd have a degustation du porc, or a pork tasting evening. Whilst Joyce prepared the liver, I cooked some of the boudin and sliced some of the fromage de tete. I was determined that any produce was to be from the garden so my chard parcels were there, together with mash potato. There were nine of us in all and we started by drinking a toast to the Ham One and Ham Two - it seemed impossible to not mention them. And then the feast began. Everything was delicious although I think there was less enthusiasm for the fromage de tete. It's the sort of thing you would eat very happily if you had a blindfold on as it tastes delicious but looks less delicious than it tastes!

Right from the start of this project we have had people telling us that we wouldn't be able to slaughter the pigs (or rather, get someone else to do it) as they would become our friends. Well, yes, they did become friends but there was never any doubt in our minds of their final destination. We gave them a happy home, fed them, played with them and loved them. I wasn't there at the end but that was because I was worried that my reaction would stress the second one. I said goodbye to them in the morning.


Lorna said...

Those sausages look huge! and gorgeous! My little girl would love everything you have just described. Our pet lamb is in the freezer now and is delicious although we don't mention to the kids that it's henry! I agree with you, you know you have given your animals a happy home etc, that is the same way I feel about selling our 2 year old male cattle (it wouldn't be possible to let them live any longer). However, I have to admit, that although I love Lamb, I could never eat veal - maybe that comes from being cattle and dairy farmers and being used to letting them live for at least 2 years?

Sharkbytes said...

This is a fantastic post. We are so far removed from all of this reality of food on the table. I've never butchered a pig, but have done my share of venison. Thanks for sharing. I'll be back.