A month and a half after the event, I finally feel I’ve cogitated sufficiently on Pig Day to commit some words to screen on the subject. Yes, I’m about to cast my pearls of wisdom before the swine of Dingley Dell Farm. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of Pig Day, let me quote Donald Edwards, one of the twin geniuses behind the festivities (see also, Rachel McCormack of Catalan Cooking):
So the plan is – we get a pig (I might go down a week before hand and choose said pig….), it gets killed, then we do all sorts of pork goodness to it, possibly whilst drinking the closest we can get to aguardiamente..
And that’s how it happened. Kind of. Bleary-eyed after a drunken night of sausages and Scrabble, Alex and I rolled into Suffolk in no mood to slaughter anything, so it was fortunate that food safety regulations dictated that meat must be allowed to come down to chilling temperature before butchering – and thus the beast we were about to eat was already dead while we were still glugging wine and talking up our foodie credentials. (“Yeah, so, only a small glass, we’ve got to get up early and kill a pig”). More welcome, however, were the roast pork rolls awaiting us at Dingley Dell, which set off the Hayward bros’ talk about pig welfare very nicely indeed:
One thing that I took away from our little ride in the pig trailer, and our tour around the pig fields, was that pork labelling in this country is in need of reform. Pork can be sold as ‘produced in the UK’ as long as the last significant change to it took place in this country: so sausages made from, say, Irish pork (farrowing crates are still legal in the Republic, stalls so narrow the sow is hardly able to stand up, and certainly unable to turn round, to stop her accidentally crushing her pigletss) can still carry a British flag if they were processed in this country.
These silky little lovelies were about six hours old – their skins had the incredible translucent glow of creatures that had never breathed the cruel air of the outside world. (And yes, the question of sucking pigs did come up – they don’t do them at Dingley Dell; “it just doesn’t seem fair somehow.”)
Outside, marauding packs of slightly older little pigs galloped around, mischievously intent on disturbing the peace of their long suffering mothers.
The teenage pigs move into marquee-style enclosure with their peers a few weeks before slaughter – Mark says that there’s only a couple of truly free-range pig farms in the UK, simply because the cost, and unpredictability, of the final product puts off most retailers and restauranteurs. I’d like to think that one day this might change, but in any case, this lot – the upper fifth of boisterous pigdom – looked happy enough to this inexperienced eye. They were pretty shy at first, but once they got used to the presence of a load of cooing cameras, they gradually plucked up the courage to edge towards the branches we were proffering as bait.
Warning: here ends the cute bit. Only one pig features from now on, and it’s pretty dead, as you might imagine, given the next item on the schedule was a butchery demonstration from Wayne and Jim of Suffolk Meat Traders, who deftly sliced up our carcass while we scoffed some brekker:
Time to get cooking. I was put on to the morcilla team, making a sweetly spiced black pudding with a few buckets of blood Donald had procured from God knows where. Once I overcame my initial squeamishness (curious, how reluctant I was to taste it in its raw form, given cow’s blood is my absolute favourite chip dipping sauce), this was enormous fun, mixing paella rice, chopped onion, parsley, cloves, pig fat (so soft!), black pepper and lots of lots of gloopy blood And then we ate. How we ate. To be continued…