Salute The Pig ...the countless joys of porcine delights Mon, 22 May 2017 06:31:17 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 58232573 Sausages? Fri, 19 May 2017 16:42:44 +0000 Continue reading]]> Apart from bacon, is there a more exciting word in the English language? I don’t think so.

A shout out then to a friend, Phil Kernick, for a reminder of some notable facts about these marvellous culinary delights, which prompted this quick post. Seen below is “The Victorian”, produced by the inimitable Turner & George butchers; one component of the amazing Hawksmoor breakfast

The Hawksmoor breakfast. Photo by Ewan Munro on Flickr.

Apparently, sausages predate both the Greeks and the Romans; the Sumerians (who inhabited what is now modern day Iraq) were making sausages some 5,000 years ago.

  • The modern word sausage is derived from the Latin root salsīcius meaning “something that has been salted” and the first specific reference in English came in a 15th C. vocabulary ‘Salcicia’, a ‘sawsage’ according to the OED
  • Early Romans mixed fresh pork with finely chopped white pine nuts, cumin seeds, bay leaves and black pepper. Absent the pine nuts, that’s still what we do today.
  • In another bearded sky pilot act of madness, in 320 AD the Roman Emperor Constantinus I and the Catholic Church, made sausage eating a sin whose consumption was thus banned. Morons.
  • It was in the reign of Charles I that sausages were divided into links for the first time in Britain. I don’t think that contributed to his later head loss. But who knows?
  •  Once made, sausages used to be stuck up chimneys to be mildly smoke cured.

What are you waiting for? Head off to T&G or Ginger Pig or any of these other fine butchers and buy some.

In The Victorian, the beef is dry-aged for a minimum of 28 days, and the rare-breed pork used has a higher than usual fat to meat ratio so that they’ll stay juicy. It’s a coarse ground mix for texture and as well as the beef contains some aged mutton for strength of flavour. Hand-made and then slipped lovingly into natural casings what’s not to like? Already my mouth is watering…

© Londonist

And how to cook them? You can of course fry them — that’s both traditional & tasty. But how about listening to Tim Hayward who, in “Food DIY”, suggests strongly that you poach them:

The truly ideal way to cook a sausage is to poach it slowly sunk to its hips in a bath of olive oil but, failing that, massage each individually with oil first then slide them into an oiled pan and keep them rolling, on a low heat, for as long and as continuously as possible.

Trust me, even 25 minutes of gently rolling them back and forth, jostling their plumply greased little bodies against each other is not too long. As the skins change to a light tan, then begin to caramelise as the Maillard reaction takes place, you’ll find yourself shifting into the perfect meditative state to honour your sausage.

I don’t know about you but that’s enough writing; I’m off to eat.

]]> 0 6537
Wandering Wells-Next-The-Sea; and no pork: Sun, 14 May 2017 14:48:44 +0000 Continue reading]]> Breakfast sausage, bacon & black pudding; that was pretty much the sole pig product intake over the past 3 days. And — any Salute The Pig heresy aside — a diet none the worst for that.

@ Gurneys Fish Shop, Thornham.

So, in reverse order, here’s a few highlights of the recent trip we made to the North Norfolk coast. It’s pretty much pictorial; not many words needed for this nature and culinary odyssey (I guess “odyssey” is stretching it a bit — we may have walked miles in a vain attempt to counteract the huge quantities of great food inhaled but, even so, the Iliad it ain’t.)


]]> 0 6480
So, what’s so awful about offal? Thu, 11 May 2017 15:25:58 +0000 Continue reading]]> Just a reminder that meat doesn’t come pre-packed in styrofoam coloured packaging; at least not naturally. Which is why I keep talking about offal.

© Michael Ruhlman

Technically it’s defined as: “those parts of a meat animal which are used as food but which are not skeletal muscle”.

The term comes from “off fall”; originally named after those pieces which fall away from a carcass during butchering and originally applied principally to the entrails. It’s since been extended and now covers all of the “internals” including the heart, lungs & liver (collectively known as the “pluck”), all the abdominal organs and extremities: tails, head & feet (which I talked about in this post) along with the brains and tongue. Bird offal is known as “giblets“.

Another, archaic, English word for these insides, especially those of deer, was “umbles”, a term which survives in the expression “to eat humble pie” (meaning to be apologetic or submissive).

The taste and texture of offal depends a lot on the particular organ, and on the species and age of animal from which it came. Offal from calves is generally held up as the finest, providing as it does, large organs of a more delicate flavour and texture. Lamb’s offal is also good, but sheep, pig, and ox offal inclines towards a more coarse flavour and texture (or so say some. Me? Bring it on!).

Offal doesn’t keep well, so is either prepared and cooked quite soon after slaughter or turned into a product suitable for keeping such as brawn, haslet, paté and some sausages.

The type of offal used (or indeed whether any is used) in any given culture depends very much on the favoured meat animal, which may in turn depend on those weird, stupid, just plain dumb, religious dietary laws. Muslim countries use a lot of lamb offal — as they’re too fixated on some bearded sky pixie ramblings to make the sensible choice and also eat pigs. The Chinese on the other hand, weird though they may also be, have numerous ways of dealing with the organs from pigs.

Offal is a great source of protein, and some organs, notably the liver and kidneys, are particularly valuable nutritionally. In most parts of the world, especially the less developed countries, it’s prized accordingly. In the English-speaking world, however, the pattern is a little different, at least in more recent times. In North America, there has been and still exists a squeamish attitude which prompted the title “Unmentionable Cuisine” for a (hugely readable and enjoyably written) book by Schwabe.

In Britain, where there used to be no, or anyway few, qualms about eating offal, consumption declined in the last half of the 20th century, although the offal is in fact still eaten in processed foods where it is not “visible” and its use is increasing again as people rightly go for the “nose to tail” approach .

This squeamishness? Heads and feet tend to remind people that (shock!) this food is of animal origin. And a certain ambivalence about eating certain bits of an animal’s anatomy, such as testicles, is expressed through the used of euphemistic names.Rather unsurprisingly, in the USA, they refer to “organ meats” or “variety meats” instead. Euphemism is all. Some offal has rather surreal shapes and those strong flavours, which are not to everyone’s taste. And the meat of feet and ears is characterised by textures which are gelatinous and crunchy at the same time, a combination which is more disliked in the western world, although greatly appreciated in the Orient.


Davidson, Alan. The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press, 1999. pp. 548-49

]]> 0 3945
Is the first cut always the deepest? Sun, 07 May 2017 18:20:58 +0000 Continue reading]]> Let’s start at the Schnörrli and work back shall we and see how best to cook all the animal?

And whilst there’s some differences between the breeds both in terms of fat to flesh ratios (think Mangalitsa v. Large White) and thus, the size of the cuts able to be made from them, this guide to how best to use all of the animal (diced up over the next few weeks for your delectation), pretty much applies to any of them.


The butt (see what I did there?) of jokes to some (think back on a not lamented, ex-Prime Minster and his public school sexual proclivities) or an object of horror to others, the head is full of fatty, rich, gelatinous goodness. Although people rightly say about the pig that one can eat everything ‘except the squeak’, the eyeballs – albeit edible – aren’t something I’d recommend you hurry to try but the rest of the head provides lovely rich pickings.

So, how do you cook it?

The whole thing: unless you have quite a large pot, it’s probably best to ask the butcher to split it in half; then either slow roast until it’s lip-gluingly tender or simmer it in water with some bay leaves, good stock, sliced vegetables and some herbs until it’s whisper-soft (Fergus does it this way below), falling off the bone. Pick the meat from the bones and set in a terrine with the reduced cooking liquid (which will have jellified) to make brawn.

Ears: this recipe is by the very wonderful Stéphane Reynaud in his (aforementioned and canonical) “Book of Tripe”

…resulting in this delight…

Photos by Marie-Pierre Morel

Cheeks/jowls: sweet, delicious nuggets of tasty meat that require long, slow cooking, thanks to the work they’ve done. They can be salt cured overnight, simmered gently for a few hours and then bread-crumbed and fried to give you Bath chaps. Known as guanciale in Italy, the cheek should be finely sliced if it is to be grilled or fried as a bacon cut. Cured, the cheek is also a great addition to a bean or lentil soup. Or you can slow cook them in (I’d suggest duck) fat to then make a cured pig cheek pate.

Snout: not often cooked on its own so it’s usually included in a recipe for brawn or roast head (as below). That said, it does yield a small amount of lusciously tasty meat and can be simmered until tender, then again sliced, bread-crumbed (or panko-crumbed would work) and deep-fried until a golden brown. crunchy mass.

And of course, such a guide wouldn’t be complete without a full couple of recipes from the canonical “The Complete Nose to Tail: A Kind of British Cooking” by the equally canonical Fergus Henderson:


]]> 0 6005
Surpassing Spanish sausages? Use the rustic breeds… Thu, 04 May 2017 13:29:25 +0000 Continue reading]]> Empirical proof — that is, if any were needed for you good and clever people — that the best meat and thus, the best sausages, comes from the heritage breeds and not those bland, pink, over-farmed hybrids that I rail against all the time.

This excellent rebuttal of the bland (and quite frankly disgusting “recovered meat”) approach — taken by such as Wall’s — to sausage making, comes from the Dept. of Food Technology at the University of Murcia. Almost straight from the h̶o̶r̶s̶e̶’̶s̶ pig’s mouth…



]]> 0 6204
“Too much blood”? Tue, 02 May 2017 13:38:53 +0000 Continue reading]]> Back in the last century — 1983 to be precise — with some of you, gentle readers, as yet un-born, The Stones sang about this subject. Earlier still, Lady Macbeth of course thought the old man (Duncan) too full of it.

Life is fuelled by blood — unless you’re a mollusc (blue blooded) or flatworm or nematode (no blood!) of course  — circulating around the veins, oxygenating and bringing nutrients to all parts of the body; red because it contains an iron-rich substance called haemoglobin. The ancient Greeks considered hema (“blood”) as synonymous with life itself. I think this is why a lot of people have a problem with eating their meat rare — still with the blood showing — a terrible reminder to them that this hunk of deliciously lightly charred & hugely tasty protein was — not that long ago possibly — part of a living, breathing animal, with that red stuff keeping it alive.

The Greek Keres on the other hand had no such scruples:

The black Dooms gnashing their white teeth, grim-eyed, fierce, bloody, terrifying fought over the men who were dying for they were all longing to drink dark blood. As soon as they caught a man who had fallen or one newly wounded, one of them clasped her great claws around him & when they had satisfied their hearts with human blood, they would throw that one behind them and rush back again into the battle and the tumult.

I have to say I’ve seen people who still eat like this…

Watch out though: blood, when drunk can be toxic. So, as in all things, moderation eh? Because blood is so rich in iron — and because the body has difficulty excreting excess iron — anyone regularly consuming blood runs the risk of iron overdose. Iron’s necessary for all animals (and indeed most life); but high doses can give rise to a condition called haemochromatosis which in turn can lead to a wide variety of diseases and problems, including liver damage, buildup of fluid in the lungs, dehydration, low blood pressure, and nervous disorders. Vampire bats are able to dump excess iron; you, however, are not a vampire bat and because humans haven’t evolved such an iron-extracting mechanism, drinking blood can kill…

In Britain we have “black pudding”; made from (any guesses?) blood and filler grain and spices (often oatmeal) and blood pudding is common across all of Europe — inc. Spain with their wonderful morcilla & botifarra. There, the Galicians have blood pancakes (called filloas), Andalusia produce sangre encebollada whilst the Valencians eulogise their sang amb ceba. The production of blood pudding ties in neatly in Spain, with their matanzathe right time to slaughter is in the winter when the animals are at their peak weight. And of course there’s France’s boudin. Europe isn’t alone though as pretty much every country & race around the world use this resource in their cooking.

© The Fruit Pig Company

The Irish used to bleed their animals as a prophylactic measure and then mix it with butter, herbs, oats or meal; a typical hearty rural food for the poor. In Northern Germany their pig’s blood is mixed with vinegar, meat scraps, spices and sugar to make schwarzsauer; eaten warm or it can be preserved in jars. Portugal’s blood soup is named papas de sarrabulho  (“papas” translates as “mash” and “sarrabulho” is a popular expression for coagulated blood, so the literal translation would be “mashed blood”). Made up of pig’s blood, chicken meat, pork, ham, salami, lemon and bread scraps and then sprinkled with cumin, helping to produce its distinctive odour.

Like the heart that I talked about before that keeps it all circulating, blood is both a mystical substance and one that’s hugely important to life. I can understand the qualms some people have about eating blood products but if you have any respect for the animal that you’re eating, then you shouldn’t waste it — respect the source, eat (or use) everything.

There are a few (well, numerically quite a lot I guess) bearded sky-pilot religious nutters who refuse to eat blood of course. Or pigs. As I said before, their loss… If Mark Essig is to be believed — and I’ve no reason to doubt his deeply scholarly chops displayed in “Lesser Beasts” — then one reason was because pigs were animals that the poor could rear, on their own, with no reference (or deference) to a central authority. Anathema to those early religious types and their governments.

Eating pigs as subversive resistance to an over-bearing & over-weening government? Works for me.

Stepping back closer to the subject in hand, I’d commend you to chef & author Jennifer McLagan, talking here to Tim Hayward on R4’s Food Programme about Blood. She suggests thinking of blood as a substitute for egg whilst cooking; the same proteins and binding abilities apply and if you can get over the sheer REDNESS of everything you use it in, then it’s a great idea.

I’d also give a shout out to the fine people at Fruit Pig Company; they use only fresh blood in the black pudding. And that improves the taste and texture. Dramatically. So much so that they supply a stellar list of great eating places inc. The Hand & Flowers, Hawksmoor, The Duck & Waffle & Hambleton Hall. They also do mail-order. Buy from them; you’ll never go back to dried blood (which some people estimate makes up 95% of the blood used in the UK — which is insane. No provenance, no idea of the source whilst at the same time, there’s no shortage of local blood that shouldn’t be wasted).

And finally? Finally, as Neil Young said in his 1974 classic “Vampire Blues” –from one of his triumvirate of genius records, “On The Beach”:

Good times are comin’,
I hear it everywhere I go
Good times are comin’,
I hear it everywhere I go.
Good times are comin’,
but they sure comin’ slow.

]]> 0 6218
Don’t damn the Danes darling… Sun, 30 Apr 2017 13:19:24 +0000 Continue reading]]> I may have been doing down those dastardly Danes; definitely did Denmark a disservice. As it turns out, a significant portion of the imports from there — inc. their pigs — are actually excellently organic.

© Danish Crown

They’re doing it right. And it isn’t just so that they can be labeled ‘organic’. It also means that the welfare of the pig suddenly becomes much more important again, instead of the animal just being a cog in an industrial factory as is so common in the US and other countries — we have a high level of animal welfare in the UK — the Brexit fire-starters want this to be removed in a “bonfire of the regulations”.

The Danes’ system demands a minimum of 300 m² of outside space per sow. The pigs live and forage and dig & snuffle around on this ground (which as a side-effect helps improve the soil quality) and their piglets have to remain with them for at least 7 weeks. And any use of antibiotics means the pig can’t be sold as organic.

I’ve been more than a little scathing about their pigs in the past, here and here. The inexorable rise of the Danish Landrace pigs — like the similarly large, pink ones that came to dominate all corners of the porcine farming industry since the 1950s — and their takeover of the English farm landscape was a direct result of national governments post-war policies encouraging a move away from slower growing (more expensive) heritage breeds towards fast-growing, fast-to-market hybrid breeds.

In the early 1800s there were still two main types of pigs in Denmark. On the islands the pigs were relatively small, stocky and with erect ears, known as the “Island-pig”. In Jutland the pigs were bigger, with an elongated body and large drooping ears; “The Jutland Pig”. The Danish Landrace pigs are derived from the latter. Fast growing, lean, you can see why they were (and remain) so hugely popular and were exported across the world.

There’s 40 minutes of an interesting Radio 4 “You & Yours” that you can listen to here.

And finally? Some images that I came across this week. The first one, an old trade card, for Lea & Perrins’ Worcester sauce; a vital ingredient in dishes from many of the best chefs around, inc. Marco Pierre White.

I think of it as an English take on the Roman liquamen. Romans fattened up pigs livers by feeding their animals on large quantities of figs. These they then marinated in liquamen – also known as garum, fermented fish sauce – wrapped in caul fat & grilled. I do a similar thing nowadays but with their kidneys.

Oh, and that exclusive story about the original recipe being “found” in a skip? It was flagged by both the Daily Heil & The Torygraph so huge pinches of salt are probably needed; read this good slam-down from the Grauniad which pretty much kills off any idea that it was a factual report…

and the second is the (great design) label used by Marky Market (“your man at the market”) on his pork items that he buys for his customers, early in the morning at Smithfield market.

© Marky Market 2017

An ex-PR man, Mark White was made redundant and, after starting working with a friend, Johnnie Mountain — a chef I’ve written about before who also loves pigs — set himself up as a food buyer. His ethos is nicely summed up below. If you’re in London, you really should check him out…

“I’ll get you the best fresh meat, fish and shellfish that Smithfield and Billingsgate can offer, delivered straight to your office before you’ve had a chance to enjoy your first cup of coffee.”

]]> 0 6201
The best sous-vide ribs in the world? Fri, 28 Apr 2017 14:58:23 +0000 Continue reading]]> Via @John_Barlow_LS9, comes a recipe by @PepeSolla, a Michelin starred chef and owner of the eponymous Casa Solla, the former a great writer on all things Spanish (but most especially Galicia, as witnessed by his excellent “Everything But the Squeal: A Year of Pigging Out in Northern Spain“).

© J. Kenji Lopez-Alt 2015

It’s just 3 steps to eating heaven…

1.Take ibérico pork ribs (quantity is entirely up to you), a bay leaf, some crushed fresh garlic, some chicken stock, a little olive oil and a pinch of Szechuan pepper & seal in a sous-vide bag

2. Cook in the water bath for 11 hours at exactly 70°C.

3. Bone ribs, then pan-fry, briefly, to toast the skin.

And then? Then grasshopper, you just eat them. John described his experience thus:

“… they make you cry when you eat them. They are about the best thing I have ever tasted.”

Or if this process seems just a little too easy for you, then you can always follow the more involved version by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt guru of all things sous-vide at The Food Lab — whose photo I’ve used above. Pretty damn sure either will be the bomb though.

Me? I’m off to get some Mangalitsa ribs; I’d pitch them against ibérico any day. I’ll keep you posted.

]]> 2 6397
An umami tusnami explodes into your life… Thu, 27 Apr 2017 14:24:55 +0000 Continue reading]]> Here’s another genius creation by Mathew Ramsey @mathewramsey. For a real umami taste-bomb, why not let this beauty just roll straight over you? Accept it into your life – there’s no way to fight it off or escape its savage beauty.

He’s also written a book which I’ve strongly urged you to buy before. Keep an eye on his Facebook page.




]]> 0 546
Remember children — don’t shop at Tesco! Wed, 26 Apr 2017 14:10:36 +0000 Continue reading]]> Not at @Tesco or indeed at any of the monolithic factories called “supermarkets”. In the name of “customer choice” they are in the process of ruining our food, our communities and the planet.

Does anyone (apart from the neo-feudalist, neo-liberal knaves in power) think this is sane? Partly fuelled by the insanity of austerity and all of a piece with the Brexit free-booters…

2016-03-27 at 11.56

]]> 0 1200