Salute The Pig ...the countless joys of porcine delights Sun, 23 Apr 2017 19:24:53 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 58232573 Fat, lard & eating healthily Sun, 23 Apr 2017 18:18:11 +0000 Continue reading]]> It bears repeating that the lard from high fat pigs increases the high-density lipoproteins known as the “good” cholesterol. So eating lard is good for you. Another blow to the agro-chemical crowd who’ve tried to convince us that their margarine crap is healthier for us…

Dept. of Chemical Engineering, Instituto. Superior Técnico, Lisbon, October 1997

And nowhere else (apart from maybe our beloved Mangalitsa and possibly the Ossabaw, but I need to research that last thought and check this more thoroughly) is that goodness seen at such a healthy high as in the ibérico. And why’s that? What? Have you not been paying any attention to my previous writings?

The acorns — that are so essential to the raising of the ibérico — have an extremely high level of mono-unsaturated oleic acid at around 62% (which can lead to as much as 55% content being retained in the fat on the ibérico) — as well as the coronary-neutral linoleic acid (up to 10.5%). This level, although lower than the 83% typical of good olive oil however <deep breath> means a still massive improvement over that exhibited by the more common corn or soy fed pig.

“No self-respecting French chef would ever be without lard. Leaf lard is obtained from the visceral fat deposit surrounding the kidney and loin, and is considered the highest grade of lard because it has little pork flavor. This is why it’s prized in baking, where it’s used to make flaky, moist pie crusts, croissants, and other non-Paleo delights. Lard is an incredibly versatile fat. I use it mostly to roast vegetables. Unlike olive oil, vegetables roasted in lard do not get soggy or greasy. They stay crisp and almost dry, with a wonderful flavor. This surprises people because they think of lard as ‘greasy.’ Not so. A tablespoon of lard has about 6g MFA, 5g SFA and 1.6g PUFA.” Chris Kresser, L.Ac

And, did you know this? One from the excellent Charlotte’s Butchery in Newcastle.

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Pssssst! Hey Mister! Wanna buy some postcards? No? How about (some) “tools of the trade”? Sat, 22 Apr 2017 13:52:39 +0000 Continue reading]]> Otherwise known as “Wow, buying this shit gets really expensive. Like, really fast”. I warn you in advance that this is going to hurt your credit cards. But then so do just the books, as you may have gathered from one of my earlier pieces.

Some of my cravings…

More even than a heavy Bolivian Army Marching Powder habit, it’s very easy to let your desire for “just one more knife” or “I really think I could use that somewhere”, new device, lead you down that hard, unlit, rocky road to bankruptcy, homelessness, desertion of and by family, life lived for a few short weeks out on the cold, mean streets and ultimately, a despairing death, by your own sorry hand, in the nearest fast-running river where your body gets found, weeks later, bloated, eyes gone, seagull pecked, stinking, rotting flesh, washed up on a beach.

OK, I’ve not yet reached that point. Yet. So, before I do — and find I can’t afford to pay for the server to host this blog anymore and it all disappears into the digital void — let me show you some of the items that I (and others far better qualified than I) consider essential as well as a few that fall into — “gateway drug” warning here — the “nice to have” (or even better, “fun shit to play around with”) categories.

First, knives. There’s no way around this. They’re a sine qua non of the kitchen. You will need a knife or two. If you can keep it down to that sort of number, then you’re golden. You may be able to. I wouldn’t count on it. Even if you’re not butchering your own animals, there’s a lot of cutting involved in preparing parts of the pig, ready to cook and then eat.

That said, you don’t have to spend a sum close that of the GDP of a small African country to get suitable blades. A boning knife, a chefs knife and a general purpose one and that’s about it. And you could stop there with these three.

Boning knife Chefsknife Utilityknife

Now, I know that you’re all fine, upstanding young things, so porn is a subject you’ll be fully au fait with. So, be aware that there is a metric fuck ton of knife porn out there.

Ranging from these beautiful Japanese knives to be found in London at the (you’d never have guessed) Japanese Knife Company  with e.g. this “Santoku” (which translates as ‘three benefits’ – slicing, dicing and mincing), coming in at a very reasonable £300 or so


to these black-smithed delights by Jim Wester:

44 500

(with only a 12 degree bevel, similar to the Japanese style) which are a delight to loo at, are unique to each buyer and are a steal at $300 or less to others ranging in price from no more than around £10 all the way up to multi-thousand pound orgies of steel & wood such as this one

Top ten highest priced knives in the world 00010

made in Japan by the Yoshihiro knife masters of Sakai and costing around $5,000, there is (as the sales cliche would have it) indeed, “something for everyone”.

Having said all that, a cleaver — as featured in the sign at the top of the page — falls under the “fun shit” heading so why not buy one of them as well? With a suitable chopping block or board, there’s no reason to take large chunks out of your work-surface unless you’re particularly cack-handed and if you need to cut through bone (maybe you’re breaking down a larger section of an animal), they’re quick and suited to the task.

Cleaver01 Alien Rob Z Cleaver

And to keep all of them in tip-top condition? Well, that’s another learning curve. I suggest you take a look at this 20-minute video entitled “From Dull to Sharp: A Video Guide to Sharpen Your Knives” via the excellent KnifePlanet site. I’d also suggest that you practice on one of the less expensive knives until you’re more confident that you’re not going to make a total pig’s ear (see what I did there?) of the work involved.

Once you’ve agreed that you can do this yourself, rather than getting your local blacksmith involved, here’s a good whetstone — one that doesn’t slide away from you when you start working on getting that blade just so.


Along with the whetstone, you’ll probably need a honing steel, or a butcher’s steel.

Antique kitchen butchers knife sharpening steel joseph rodgers sons ltd sheffield circa 1900s 15 4 3998 p ekm 600x361 ekm

They’re ideal for regular, per-use maintenance. They’re also a bit of a misnomer in that they don’t actually hone (or sharpen as some have been led to think) the knife but rather they’re there to bring the blade back into alignment, straightening out a curved edge, so they cut cleanly every time. This “straightening” allows the knife to cut much more easily, so the idea that it’s really been sharpened is easy to understand. The day I had a pig butchery course, the master butcher there, Adrian, was continually “wiping” his knives up and down the steel, only once or twice each time, but after almost every cut, keeping that edge true and ensuring the least effort was needed to bear down through meat, fat, tendon & sinew.

It’s a skill, a muscle memory that I still don’t yet have but one well worth cultivating if only to cut down on the amount of sweating you need to do when undertaking some serious butchery. Adrian came from an industrial slaughterhouse background, so energy saving hacks are a natural thing to come up with when you have so many carcasses heading rapidly towards you on the overheard, chain conveyer, that need to be turned rapidly and efficiently into their component parts.

OK, there’s a few other tools & items that I’ll throw in and that honestly won’t break the bank. Well. A couple of them might but…

Unless you’re very sure about the accuracy of your oven — and to be honest most normal domestic ones are more than a little flakey after a couple of years use, day in, day out — get a meat thermometer. In fact, get one anyway. Even if you are. Sure that is.

You can get one of the older style ones, such as this on the left, punted by Heston Blumenthal — I guess his pension plan needs as much help as it can get after his divorce — or a better choice, more accurate, easier to use and that registers almost instantaneously, is one of these canonical ETI thermapens. You’ll find you need it when cooking anything hot, when barbecuing (again, anything where the temperature control is critical — more on this when we look at the use of barbecues in smoking & curing) and, if you get into it, even when cooking sous vide, so at around only £40, it’ll save you from some possibly quite expensive mistakes. I have both of these items but I can’t recall the last time I used the Heston device, so save your money & just buy the thermapen.

542hbsscr 1 1    Thermapen colourcoded 4 standing

A lot of recipes insist on quite accurate weighing. So, whilst the older analogue scales are OK at a pinch (see? I did it again), if that’s all you have, some digital scales take all of the pain and uncertainty out of weighing and allow you quickly to flip between grammes, ounces and millilitres at the touch of a button. And being able to “zero” the dial each time allows you to add numerous ingredients, wet & dry, to the same bowl, one after the other, getting each of them quickly right, rather than trying to calculate in your head what needs adding or subtracting.

Ozeri Touch Professional Digital Kitchen Scale 11 lb Edition Tempered Glass in Elegant Black review

Then for the nerds amongst us (or just those with more money than brains?) there’s the iGrill available from the Apple Store with the almost obligatory app for the iPhone or the similarly sourced iDevices Kitchen thermometer. Neither of them are necessary to getting the job done. Of course. But fun? Yup.

Igrill Idevice

Finally, if you’re thinking of getting into the afore-mentioned curing and smoking then you should probably consider buying some of the following as well.

They’re not mandatory but then they’re not hugely expensive either and make things quicker and in some circumstances, appreciably safer (when we come to talk about curing salts or Prague Powders, you’ll see why this is a concern). But also simply following the recipes carefully makes sure you don’t die from eating the fruits of your labours (or killing friends and relatives), so they don’t have to be added to your Amazon Wish List…

I’m sure you’ve all got an old, probably slightly rusty hacksaw at the bottom of the tool-box or stashed in the garden shed. Resist the urge to use this. I mean you can, nothing stopping you and it’d work OK and a bit of rust never killed anyone, but a separate butcher’s saw costs little and can be easily cleaned & sterilised (again for those hygiene reasons cited above).

By the way, I mean buy one of these little beauties (the saw, not the man)  Davethebutcher

rather than one of these bad-boys Butchers band saw unfortunately. That is unless you’ve got a much larger kitchen than me…

When you start making your own salami or fermented sausage, a pH measure gives you an accurate reading on the acidity level which is crucial to getting a good product at the end. You can use pH strips but they’re not as accurate and the probe on this makes the job quick & easy:


For use in your drying/curing area — which could just be a small shed or a box or an undisturbed but ventilated room — a thermo-hygrometer gives you reliable readings on the relative humidity (the relationship between the water-content of the moisture in the air and the ambient temperature). There’s more on why this is important in my review of Steve Lamb’s book elsewhere on this site.


To keep your newly created parcels of joy protected from the ravages of the outside world and to help in storing them and also as part of the sous vide cooking, a vacuum packer is hugely useful. Again, not an expensive outlay but one that will repay the small investment over and over in time & waste saved.


Buy some trays, boxes & brine bins. Nothing fancy. Cheap, plastic, available from almost anywhere but easy to keep clean and sterilise and they ensure there’s no spillage, especially when storing things in a domestic environment where you don’t have access to the walk-in stores and fridges open to the commercial chef.

A drying box — where the thermo-hygrometer comes into play — but there’s no need to spend the $1400 necessary to buy one of these (purely for poseurs or those too stupid to realise they’re being conned). Instead, make your own.cover-steaklocker2

There’s a good guide to this in both Tim Hayward’s “Food DIY” and Steve Lamb’s “Curing & Smoking” talked about in the “How many food books does one person need? I mean really? post. Suffice to say, that a little bit of carpentry skill goes a long way on this. Hell, even I considered doing it this way. That tells you all you need to know about how easy this actually is…

The last three items I’ll cover really do fall into the “nice to have” or “fun shit to play around with” categories.

Firstly, a butcher’s block. The upright ones you may have seen in your local butcher’s cost a fucking king’s ransom and weigh more than a small Panzer tank. But if you can get one and have space for it and don’t sustain a hernia getting it into the house and then treat it well, it will last your lifetime and that of the lucky person to whom it’s bequeathed. Even one of the smaller, less divorce provoking, work-surface models make cutting and prepping food a little bit more fun and organised. For those reasons alone, consider shelling out…

Butchersblock  Blocksmall

Of course you can use an old BBQ, or a tin box or a small brick-built contraption or even, at a pinch, an oven to smoke and grill and cure your meat and other foods. But a Weber grill is controllable, easily managed, easily cleaned, stores in a corner and works superbly well. You can even just use it to just cook stuff.

Weber Grill 130748939547937652

And then there’s the Big Green Egg. This is an item that I drool over. Dream of. That I desire. That I crave with an almost crack-habit like need daily. It’s a thing of deep beauty but more than that — it’s just so bloody good at doing its job. As witnessed by the huge panoply of chefs that choose to use one in their kitchen, often putting it front and centre of the show.

Think Daniel Clifford, Midsummer House, Cambridge with 2 Michelin Stars, Tom Adams of Pitt Cue, Sat Bains at his eponymous Nottingham place (and I love his website design!), Simon Rogan at l’enclume and L’ortolan’s Alan Murchison, all of whom were bitten by the EGG bug and haven’t stopped using it since. Boy, do I want to get my hands on one of these babies.

Ge2 Gegg1 Gegg2 Gegg3

Well, that’s it for the moment. Having spent, at least in my head, a huge amount of cash (£3,745 for this one), I think I now need to go and lie down and dream of green eggs…

Big green egg header photo

And “one last thing”? Here’s a rather fine shot by an old friend, Simon Le Gros Bisson (@sbisson) called “The Pig Tells The Truth”, taken at The Yardbird restaurant in Vegas recently, picturing one of those very tools that I mentioned above.


We’re slackers in the pork consumption stakes; rather better at pig welfare though. Fri, 21 Apr 2017 14:30:41 +0000 Continue reading]]> And I’m not encouraging you all to yet more gluttonous excesses in an attempt to prove our post-Brexit country-hood prowess, by upping our consumption game and out-eating those perfidious EU types, let alone taking on the Chinese menace. Nope.

© AHDB Pork



That’s us there — highlighted in yellow — at the bottom of the EU league table. And compared to the Chinese? Wow. Real lightweights.

Eating nearly three times as much as us (and with a population 25x bigger), that’s a shedload of pigs being farmed. However, we can be justly proud of the welfare standards here in the UK (driven by the EU legislation) — let’s ignore the damage that Brexit may do to these for the moment — and instead, be rather heartened by the news (flagged up by the always excellent that EU animal welfare standards are to be adopted in China.

The Open Philanthropy Project, a US based organisation, has awarded the RSPCA a two year grant to conduct their research and work and get a comprehensive set of standards in place for the Chinese farming industry to follow.

Whilst this is going to take some time to come to fruition — it’s a big, BIG country after all, it’s hugely encouraging and a great start in terms of global animal welfare; can we do the same for those quite frankly disgusting factories (they don’t call them farms as they’re then not caught by welfare legislation) in the States do you think?

And finally, a related Grauniad piece today on efforts to reduce our meat eating habits and help save the planet. A suggestion that we tax meat. Not as far-fetched as it may sound at first.

Proponents of industrial farming would no doubt regard this as special pleading, and come up with figures purporting to show that the environmental performance of small farms is no better than that of large ones. However, small farms and local food economies provide social benefits because they keep consumers in touch with the source of their food, whereas rows of polystyrene trays in supermarkets manifestly do not. Consumers will understand better why meat needs to be expensive when they can engage with its production and the people who produce it.

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“If you dream about a pig, you will soon have good fortune”. Thu, 20 Apr 2017 17:52:23 +0000 Continue reading]]> That’s apparently a Korean superstition. Dreaming about pigs (and their by-products), very very frequently, as I do, I’m more than a little disappointed that the promised lottery win hasn’t yet materialised. Dammit to hell.

© Hairy Bar Snacks

This recipe for pork scratchings is the Clint Eastwood of pork crackling; one that stands alone….

Basically, whatever scraps are left over from butchering and trimming a pig can become scratchings. Whereas crackling is what you get when leaving the fat and skin on the meat — the canonical recipe for which is here. And there’s a great little site called Hairy Bar Snacks which you really should read which is an encyclopaedic guide to all things cracklin; scratchin’ (and even chicharrones).

The quantities given below should result in around a kilo of edible loveliness being produced.

2 pounds pork belly skin and other trimmings
8 ozs. groundnut oil
8 ozs. lard or bacon fat

1. Freeze the pork skin for at least an hour, not so that it is frozen solid but so that it is at least pretty stiff. Slice into slivers about ¾ inch thick and about 1 inch long.

2. Heat the lard & oil in a large cast-iron pot over a medium heat around 170°C. Add the pork, a little at a time. Use a good thermometer (like the thermapen here) and keep checking & regulating the temperature so that it doesn’t fall below 150°C nor go above 180°C. You’ll find that as the pork cooks, it’ll render even more fat. Cook for between 20 and 25 minutes and, using a pair of long tongs, turn the pieces of pork until it’s floating in the oil. You’ll know they’re done when they turn golden brown and crispy.

3. Use a skimmer or slotted spoon to scoop the results out of the fat and drain on some paper towels. Season immediately with some sea-salt; nothing else (well, a la Egg you could “kick it up a notch” and roll them in some chilli powder I guess). Then, try to resist temptation and let them cool to room temperature or at least to something slightly less hot than the surface of the Sun.

4 The easiest step: Eat. With beer. Or if you’re very strong willed, I suppose you could store them away for another day. They’ll be fine kept in jars or resealable plastic bags and can be held at room temperature.

And finally? How about this delightful image from the Public Domain Review, entitled The Spinning Sow?

They go on to explain it thus:

In this 17th-century Dutch engraving a team of pigs are shown spinning flax, while in the corner a woman — who’d normally be associated with the work — sleeps. Across the top runs the rhyme “Die met gemack sijn kost wil winnen // Die set sijn Varcken aen het spinnen”, which can be roughly translated as “He who easily wants to make a living / should put his pig to spinning”. Rather than a serious suggestion for female empowerment through porcine labour, we can almost certainly take this to be satirical in tone. The artist here seems most likely to be referencing, at least to some level of remove, a popular medieval motif of the “spinning sow”, an image with often distinct misogynist associations.

So, no change there then, eh, since 1673?


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“Eat your heart out baby”. Mon, 17 Apr 2017 14:03:54 +0000 Continue reading]]> I’ll be working on updating a page on The Alphabet of Offal — recipes, descriptions of every little bit of delight from the inside, pictures. The whole nine yards. Mind you, even for carnivores, some of this stuff can be a little hard to swallow; for vegetarians, it must be worse than being forced to sup on the very sperm of Satan.

But of all the many offerings available in the meat world, pork is the only one that really satisfies me 100%. It squeals “meat” when you chew it, the fat is sweet and unashamed and authentic. There’s no mistaking it, no disguising it, nothing “tastes-a-bit-like-chicken” about it. It’s the real thing, the emperor of meats. Pace “Trainspotting”:

“Choose life! Choose pork!”

The heart though? Eating something that might just as easily have been my own? Of all the pig’s organs, none is more surgically compatible with its human equivalent. Hard to work out whose is whose on the plate eh? So, cutting to the chase, if you really want to get to the heart of things, it probably tastes quite a bit like yours does. And make no mistake about it: you’ll taste damn good with a bit of spiced kidney stuffing. Oink oink eh?

The heart has a simple and democratic generosity all its own. We offer our hearts to give pleasure and we open our hearts to share pleasure.

“If you have many riches, give some of your wealth; if you have little, give your heart”

But still, still; when it can look as good as this on a plate? Hmmmmm… Aye, there’s the rub.

It was after all good enough for Salma Hayek in “Tale Of Tales“…

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Perfect pork crackling? Mon, 17 Apr 2017 12:29:34 +0000 Continue reading]]> An infallible method; I’m happy* to hear any suggestions you may have but this one always delivers. If, after following my recipe, it doesn’t look like this, you can sue me*…

*[NOTE: for the hard of thinking; I’m not and no, you can’t actually]

So, how do we manage this miracle? The first important step is to bring the pork up to room temperature; take it out of the fridge at least an hour before you intend cooking. Preheat your oven to 250°C (480°F).

Then, take your sharpest knife (although I have to ask you; why aren’t they all sharp?) or even better, a Stanley knife, and score the skin in lines approx. ¼” apart  — seriously, use a ruler if you can’t do this by eye. These straight cuts will deliver the best crackling (whilst also making the carving a breeze) but you can also cut ½” inch apart lines diagonally then cross-hatch with similar ½” lines done 90° in the other direction, to give you diamond shapes. Or ask your butcher 🙂

Next, fill a full kettle and bring it to the boil. Put the pork into your sink making sure it stays skin side up. The as soon as the water comes off the boil, pour the scalding water slowly over the skin, ensuring it gets onto all parts. You should be able to see the skin tighten visibly as the water hits. The pores will open up — an important factor in the crackling coming through properly in the cooking phase.

Take the pork out of the sink and pat it dry; this is the third important point – there needs to be no moisture left on the outside of the meat.

Pour some olive oil into your hands, then massage it all over into the the skin, working it into every part and into the cuts. Then sprinkle liberally with sea salt, again, importantly, making sure it gets into the cuts as well.

Roast the pork in a tin on the middle shelf for 15-20 minutes until the skin starts to blister and then, depending on the cut, cook it as follows:

Belly: 180°C (350°F): 1-1½ hours

Loin: 180°C (350°F): 1 hour

Pork Shoulder: 150°C (300°F): 3 hours

Towards the end of the cook, check the skin by eye. If you’re not happy with the amount of crisp, golden crackling then it’s time to blast the top into submission. Turn on the oven grill until you’re happy the alchemy has happened. But watch it closely; this is the time when it can tip over into burnt and blackened rather than golden and delicious. Don’t take your eyes off the beauty.

Then, remove from the oven. And restrain yourself from immediately tearing into the delights in front of you. Have some patience. Allow it to rest in a warm place (or on a pre-warmed plate) for between 10 and 20 minutes. Then, throw all caution to the winds and dig in. The pork will be moist, the crackling a wonder.

Go on, you know you want to do this for tonight’s meal.

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¿Conoces al Gochu Asturcelta? Cooking a Celtic pig… Sat, 15 Apr 2017 17:36:21 +0000 Continue reading]]> If you managed to work your way through the previous post, you’ll be further ‘delighted’ to know that there’s some more Spanish homework for you to translate below (and then bring in for teacher to mark) to get the full skinny on this pig. But, as a reward, at the end, I give you a recipe for ribs, from this delightfully flop-eared animal.

© Tierra Asturia

For generations of Asturians, their Gochu Asturcelta (“country pig”) was a bedrock in the economy of their small farms and an important source of protein in the family diet. Its docile character and its easy adaption to the wild and humid Asturian climate along with an ability (like others of the Celtic breeds) to survive through times of food shortage made it an invaluable & easy & cheap animal to maintain. In a rural society where the main animals herded were ruminants — cows, sheep and goats — the pig was a complement, one that helped to maintain the biodiversity of and the maximal use of, all the food sources obtainable from pastures and forests. An early nod to countryside preservation meant that in most of Asturia, dating back to at least the eighteenth century, the Juntas (or town halls) dictated that the muzzles be ringed to stave off excessive damage to the mountain soil — anyone not complying was subject to draconian fines.

According to Alberto Baranda:

“The best form of exploitation is the outdoor breeding with adequate food during growth and a finish based on acorns, chestnuts and other products of the forest for fattening pigs for meat production in extensive systems of exploitation, where, in general, animals of the bait phase are finalised taking advantage of the natural resources of their environment, which confers to their meat a high quality.”

In 1622, Luis de Valdés, in his “Memories of Asturias”, says:

“There are a great number of wild boars in the mountains as well as of gochos (pigs) bred with oak acorns and chestnuts. Its bacon is tasty cooked because it is firm but it is not as good roasted, since it does not have the fat of Castilla”.

In its day, the breed was spread all across Asturia. A very precise census in the middle of the 18th C. gave a population of 278,448 pigs. We also know, thanks to a Felix de Aramburu in his “Monograph of Asturias” — published in Oviedo in 1898 — that at the end of the 19th C., it was still very abundant in Asturias, noting in that same year, that he had counted (really, he counted all of them?) 134,955, throughout the principality.

Fernando Alburquerque, in his work published in 1947, titled: “Wealth in the hand. The pig” praises its meat and most especially the ham:

“Within the indigenous and rustic races, we have very good pigs, and in Asturias there is a black pork producer of the famous Serrano ham, a delight of the Spanish gourmands.They are raised, as in Extramudura, in the open air. “

Again, like all of these rustic, mountain-side breeds, the best finishing was achieved by giving them over to foraging for acorns, chestnuts and apples. On feeding, the ACGA is even more precise and tells us that:

“Usually it was fed twice a day, once around noon and again at dusk; the base of the food was the waste water from cleaning of the dishes, to which was added potato peelings, any half rotten or mouse gnawed pieces of bread, of cakes, of corn and of barley. All this was thrown into the trough.”

“They also ate turnips and oar which was planted almost exclusively for them; bunches of cabbage, corn in green or panicles, hazel leaves and nettles that were harvested and cooked to add to the lavazas (slops) and of course bean, acorns and chestnuts, which many gave them peeled as they claimed that in this way they gained more.”

The introduction of new intensive production systems as a result of an almost exponential increase in the animal protein requirements driven by people in the cities — which at the time were growing rapidly due to Europe-wide rural-to-urban migration — itself occasioned by an increase in the purchasing power of these same urban workers, alongside the deforestation policies of the 1940s and 1950s — which deprived the Gochu Asturcelta of large swathes of its natural habitat — meant that the breed, still at around 224,000 sows in 1955, by 1978 wasn’t even deemed noteworthy enough to be mentioned in the official statistics.

The Asociación de Criadores de Gochu Asturcelta (Association of Breeders of the Gochu Asturcelta, ACGA), was founded in 2002. They’d been formed to snatch yet another almost extinct autochthonous Spanish breed from the jaws of extinction as, by 1998, it was down to just three sows and one boar (as far as any one could ascertain across the entirety of Asturia and they did search the length & breadth of it) and even 6 years later, it was still only slightly better off at five boars and nine breeding sows. Not a hugely encouraging basis on which to start this fraught process…

The Official Cattle Breed Catalog now includes the Gochu Asturcelta in the “Group of Indigenous Breeds in Danger of Extinction” as there are currently still only a few hundred albeit now more widespread in 31 of the 78 municipalities. José Manuel Iglesias, president of the Breeders’ Association, stressed in 2012 that:

“…the breeding of Asturian pigs has generated benefits and has not cost anything to Asturian society. The intention of this group, beyond the recovery of the race in danger of extinction, is to give an economic value to the Asturian countryside and thus help to avoid the depopulation of the rural zones”.

This Spanish video below, more poetically than I, further explains the history; any mistakes or clumsiness in the words above, are mine alone because my translation skills possibly leave more than a little to be desired…

And finally? OK, so finally, we come to your reward for having made it this far; you’ll have to do a bit of work yourself to get this into your laughing gear but, believe me, it’ll be so worth it. Here, with no further ado then is a recipe for costillas de la matanza (or Killer Ribs), courtesy Jeffry Weiss from his 2014 “Charcuteria: The Soul of Spain”:


2 racks of ribs from this animal (you could substitute any rare or pedigree breed of course)

2 oz. (50 g) kosher salt

2 tbs (20 g) freshly ground black pepper

1 tbs (12 g) granulated sugar

3 crumbled bay leaves

2 tsp (4 g) ground cinnamon

½ cup (100 ml) Oloroso sherry

The rinds from 4 lemons; try & remove them in unbroken strips

3 sticks of cinnamon

5 crushed garlic cloves

3 fresh bay leaves

Rendered pork fat (enough to cover; see below)

½ cup (100 mL) Pedro Ximénez sherry

1 cup (200 mL) Pedro Ximénez sherry vinegar


1. In a suitable over-proof dish, combine the salt, black pepper, sugar, crumbled bay leaves, and ground cinnamon.

2. Put the ribs into the dish and toss them with the cure from step 1, coating them evenly. Sprinkle with the Oloroso sherry. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the ‘fridge for at least 24 hours.

3. Preheat the oven to 250°F (120°C).

4. Remove the ribs from the cure. Rinse well and pat dry with paper towels. Place the ribs in a large Dutch oven with the lemon rind, cinnamon sticks, garlic, and whole bay leaves. Cover with sufficient rendered pork fat.

5. Place the Dutch oven over medium heat and bring the fat to a bare simmer. Remove from the heat.

6. Cover and place in the oven for 2 hours, until the ribs are fork tender and the bones pull easily away from the meat. Remove from the oven.

7. Allow the ribs to cool to room temperature in the Dutch oven, and then place in the ‘fridge to chill in the confit overnight.

8. In a small saucepan over a medium–high heat, combine thePedro Ximénez sherry and the sherry vinegar. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a rolling simmer for 8 to 10 minutes or until the sauce’s volume is reduced by a third. Then remove from the heat & set aside.

9. Light a charcoal grill, heat a skillet or a broiler on high heat (But be warned: The ribs will splatter a lot in an oven!). Remove the ribs from the fat, wiping off any excess. Place the ribs, meat-side down, and cook them for 10 minutes, until cooked through and starting to brown.

10. Glaze the ribs with the sauce on the bone side. Flip them over and glaze the other side. Continue cooking for 5 minutes, until nicely glazed and just charred a little in spots. Remove from the heat and serve.

Finest kind!


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“Run from the beast, There’s danger in his eyes”… Sat, 15 Apr 2017 14:00:56 +0000 Continue reading]]> Run towards the “Beast” (@BeastPDX), @NaomiPomeroy‘s restaurant; unlike Pete Perrett. A butcher, chef, author (amongst other accomplishments), running a farm to table place, one that has a great ethos. (And a really rather good pig sketch logo as seen below).

Service at Beast © Justin Bailie

With a centre-piece butcher’s block, plunked straight down in the middle of the room, from where Pomeroy & her fellow sous-chef (initially Mika Paredes) — with absolutely nowhere to hide — cook up a storm on their 6 course, prix-fixe menu for the 24 covers they handle. Zagat’s mention the “amazing carnivorous feasts” which totally works for me. I mean what’s not to like about a menu that includes a dish called “Beast Hash”?

Pomeroy calls her cooking style “refined French grandmother”. Called

“…simultaneously exquisite and accessible” by Food & Wine

focussing (of course) on local ingredients, including the whole hogs that she butchers and breaks down herself.

She also nailed the still endemic hypocrisy in an industry that even now in 2017 struggles to define a woman working as a chef and with big pieces of meat in terms other than that relating to her looks (or attitude):

“And then the other piece of the meat theme is that there is a level of, I think, marketability, irony, and interest in two young, attractive ladies taking down some hogs, you know what I mean? There’s something interesting about that juxtaposition that I’ve always really enjoyed. There aren’t that many female butchers.” Mother Jones interview, below.

and more recently in 2016, from a piece by Gastronome Geeta:

There is talk about women not getting their due in the industry but do women help other women?

“I think so and Dominique Crenn recently responded to a British male chef who made some misogynistic remarks about women in the industry. I totally agreed with her on how tired we all are of this subject of the gender issue and we want to be referred to as chefs, period.”

Her book “Taste & Technique: Recipes to Elevate Your Home Cooking“, with a recipe for a Milk-Braised Pork Shoulder amongst other delights, looks like a keeper and one that’ll regularly be grabbed down from the shelf. She joins the pantheon of female chefs & butchers that should act as an inspiration and source of support for women in this industry.

Read more in this (early) 2011 interview from Mother Jones (& yes, I’ve donated).

Two Young, Attractive Ladies Taking Down Some Hogs | Mother Jones
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Come on people; eat me! Eat lots of me… Thu, 13 Apr 2017 17:50:10 +0000 Continue reading]]> This is worrying as fuck. I honestly thought that, after their long decline during the dog years of the mid to late 20th C., rare breed numbers were rising and their future slowly being secured. These figures from the Rare Breeds Survival Trust look like a looming fucking disaster zone.

I’ve written before about how the best way to secure their future is to eat these great animals; to demand their meat in the restaurants, shops and butchers that we use. But WE HAVE TO DO BETTER. Come on people. I’m serious. If Spain and France and Italy can do this — get their rare native breeds back and close to fully sustainable — then so should we.

Post-Brexit, it’ll be even more important that we get good meat, not the hormone-riddled, antibiotic, pumped crap that comes out of most of the rest of the world that they’re so keen to start selling us after the”barriers to trade” (AKA consumer protections) come down. So start eating. Now. Please, I’m begging you.

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“The Medium is the message” said the good Marshall Wed, 12 Apr 2017 08:50:12 +0000 Except when the automatic cross-posting to Medium doesn’t work that is; apologies to y’all gagging at the bit over there to read this immortal prose. Hopefully, this problem will be fixed quite soon…

…as the last post there was this one.

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