Saturday, 7 March 2015

Turning 'Fennel' into Pork

Ok so this is not a miracle process that turns veg into meat. Fennel is/was a pig we purchased around Christmas. And although it has been a very busy time here at Maes-y-Delyn. But Sunday we managed to fit in our first pig without any assistance from start to finish. (Well we butchered it Monday evening)

So be warned this post contains details and images of butchery.

Fennel & Mustard
Now it’s not that we haven’t processed out own pork before. And we have done most of it ourselves in the past; but generally with a hand from a friend (or two). But this was my first one from start to finish (as I usually don’t get a look in when it comes to the butchering).

This bore was almost of working age and didn’t appear to be putting on any further weight. So he wasn’t the biggest, but then that is ideal for a home kill.
Fennel had been living with us for a few months now. He was always destined for the freezer. But his main role was as company for Mustard the barrow we bought until Rosemary our future (fingers crossed) breeding sow arrived.

This is because (and not many people seem to know this) but pigs are very social animals. And are not meant to be kept solitary. Even though we have a large breeding pair, she would not be running with these guys until she is a little older (And bigger); for both her own safety and because of the height of the electric and barb fencing.
So either way Fennel had been on borrowed time. And Sunday was the day.

As always preparation is everything. We try and set up and have all our equipment clean and ready to go before.
For a pig kill you will obviously need a means of dispatch. This is actually one of the most common questions we get asked. So we use a shot to the head (just off centre from an imaginary cross between ears and eyes) followed by a ‘bleed’ with a knife to the throat. We consider this quick and efficient.

He didn’t see the shot coming and was calm until the end- as any stress not only traumatises the animal, but in turn spoils the meat.

You will also need a means of scalding the pig, so as to remove the (or majority of the) hair. We use a bath tub filled with part boiling and part cold water (boiled using our keg over a gas burner).
The ideal temperature for scalding is 64 °, so we aim for 66-67 as the temperature will drop slightly when the pig is in there.

Then it’s quick work using the edge of a clean shovel (or a spade) to agitate the water (and the skin) and remove as much of the fur/hair as possible.  Once you have removed as much as possible carefully transfer your pig to your work area.

We use a foldable table. (It’s just easier to work at waist height than leaning or bending to work off the floor).
To remove the remaining hair we use ‘bell scrapers’. These were the first time we had used these and they worked really well. The round open base make a good surface for scraping and the hooks on the end allow for the removal of toe nails from the trotters.

I guess that’s one of the good things about processing an animal yourself. Is that you can take the time to process those parts that other people may not consider using.
And if you ever raise and then kill an animal you appreciate and try to use far more of it… or at least we do.

From here we hang the pig on a spreader. This needs to be inserted behind the tendons, so it will take the weight.
Once hung up, we then rinsed down (to wash off any hair that’s just sticking to the skin- it can get tacky) but try not to soak the meat too much. (You should never wash the inside though.)
This allowed us to see any remaining hair, these we we then 'shaved' using a sharp knife.

From here we prepare for gutting.
First job is to remove the voice box (if you haven’t already, as this area can hold blood from draining that may coagulate and spoil the meat.
Next carefully remove the genitals (if male) and cutting around the anus. This will require tying off with string until you can remove it with the intestines. This is to avoid contaminating the carcass and therefore the meat.  
Now begin gutting, a mistake here will cost you. Once you have safely made an incision, try and work with the handle inward with the blade outward. As this minimalises the risk of piercing the intestines.

Working with gravity, you use a sweeping motion with your hands along the spine (from inside) to work the organs out.  We are careful to catch and separate the useable organs. Now we’re aware there are many that would not consider eating or saving offal. We have been told numerous times that you shouldn’t eat offal or that there are too many good cuts to worry about it. But when you’re responsible for the death (and life) of an animal it seems important to utilise as much of it as possible. The liver alone was almost 1.5kg of meat- and when you have raised and fed an animal organs that filter or process are not a concern. Besides you can always see if their healthy.

So we kept the liver, kidneys, heart, and caul fat, trotters and we finally removed the head. We kept this too. Though we are yet to decide what to do with it. Surprisingly there are a few options; brawn, roasting or boning out.

The carcass and head were then transferred to the cold room over night to chill down. There's no need to hang pork for any longer it doesn't have any benefit like beef or venison. So the following evening cut it up into joints, chops, fillets and diced pork for curries or stews. Was also chance for us to give the meat saw a run.

As for the offal, most went in the freezer, however given it was St Davids day we used it for faggots.

As we ate most of before I remembered to take a pic these are the leftovers I took to work for lunch the next day. (Much to the amusement of my work colleagues.)

Faggots are a traditional welsh meal. Using mince from various cuts, including liver with diced onions, sage and pepper and beaten egg. You can also put breadcrumbs in (I’ve read in some recipes) but we don’t.
These are then formed into balls and baked in the oven in an onion gravy. 

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