Earlier this year visitors to Moelyci environmental centre were surprised to stumble across six very large, happy pink pigs, brought in to turn over the land as a precursor to planting. They were a popular addition and Aidan loved them. He braved the electric fence (very low voltage worried parent readers) to climb in and make friends with them and in one delightfully malicious moment named one of them Roisin (after his beloved sister!!)
Roisin the pig
We paid those pigs a few visits over the summer so imagine our dismay when one very wet and windy day, while showing my Peckham dwelling cousin and his family the joys of mountain life we found the pigs were gone!
“oh no, they must have escaped” Aidan said…but us adults all caught each others eyes and inside we all knew the truth.
So did Aidan after we paid a visit to Moelyci at the end of the summer, for there in the freezer we found those happy pigs packaged and ready for buying.
I think its important for kids to know where their food comes from. Despite spending many years as vegetarian I am I suppose, quite unsentimental these days. If we are going to eat meat then having some awareness of where that meat is produced, reared and slaughtered helps us make informed decisions about what we eat and where we buy it.
I watched Country file the other night and discovered that Britain imports 60% of the pork we eat. British pig farmers are apparently losing around £7 per carcass due to rising feed costs and the lack of appreciation in pork prices making it hard for them to continue producing, although pork remains the most popular meat globally taking up 42% of the market. Some of this is down to a continued lack of confidence in British pork following two foot and mouth bouts and an export ban, but also because European production methods are not so stringent. Intensive pig farming and lack of welfare guidelines in Europe mean that costs are kept low; they can cram more pigs into a smaller space, cut the energy they expend by not letting them run around and therefore feed them less.
In 2013 things will change as new regulations come into effect bringing European production into line with us, so levelling the playing field. But in the meantime we in Britain can be discerning consumers. If we buy locally, or at least British, not only will it help our struggling pork farmers, but at least we know our meat has come from happy, well cared for animals, not ones forced into pens with little room to move and no chance for exercise!
Our pork shoulder was totally delicious. It was quite fatty which made great crackling, which I simply rubbed with plenty of sea salt and some crushed and ground spices.
As we sat down to eat we wondered whether it was Roisin we were having for dinner….the real Roisin (an on-off vegetarian) looked less than pleased and Aidan said “that’s sad”, before tucking into a plateful. I’m now looking forward to receiving my half a pig for Christmas.
Slow roast pork:
I used two cloves of garlic, some pink and black peppercorns, coriander seeds and fennel seeds which I ground to a paste/powder in a pestle and mortar. I then rubbed it over the fat pushing it into the slits. Preheat the oven to gas mark 8 / 230 degree C. Place the pork on the top shelf uncovered. Roast for about 20 to 30 minutes until you can see the skin starting to puff up a bit and harden into crackling then turn the oven down to gas mark 3/170 degree C for about 3 and a half hours. If the crackling gets too dark or begins to burn cover with a piece of foil and wrap loosely.
Move the pork to a serving dish to rest and cover with foil. Pour off all but a tablespoon of the fat from the tray then put it on the hob to make the gravy. Add vegetable stock to the meat juices and bubble away until you get a nice dark gravy. Strain and serve with the meat and crackling.
I served mine with some potato and swede colcannon, roasted parsnips and hone-made made apple jelly. The perfect Sunday dinner.
Apple and sloe gin jelly:
2 kilo of cooking apples (I used mostly windfalls which are fine for this)
1 pint of water
rind and juice of a small lemon
454 grams sugar to each 500ml (1 pint) juice
Cut and trim the apples removing any bad bits (you need to do this as adding them will cut the shelf life of your jelly) and put in a large preserving pan. You don’t need to peel and core them. Add the water and the grated lemon zest (make sure not to add the pith as this could make the jelly bitter).
Simmer until the apple is soft and mushy. Line a large sieve or colander with muslin or a jelly bag and put to stand over a clean bucket or pan. Fill with the apple pulp and allow to drip into the container. I often fold over the muslin and put a plate on top with weights just to help the process.
The following day, remove the plate and weights and with a pestle, end of a rolling-pin or your hand, give the muslin a good squeeze to get as much juice out as possible. Some say don’t do this as it makes the jelly cloudy but to be honest I don’t mind cloudy jelly and I would rather squeeze out as much flavour as possible. Measure the juice into a jug and pour into a large pan adding the proper amount of sugar and lemon juice. Heat gently stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for five minutes before testing for a set. If it needs longer continue to boil until it wrinkles when you put a teaspoon full on a cold saucer.
Once you have reached the setting point switch off the heat and leave to cool for about five or ten minutes. Add a good glug of slow gin (or two) and transfer to warm sterilised jars. It should keep in a cool dark place for several months and store in the fridge once open.