Last winter, I wrote a post about how I took part in the home kill of a pig. It was a totally humbling experience and one of the most popular posts I've ever written.
That kill was filmed for an episode of GF3, and took three days with lots of stopping and starting and what seemed like dozens of people milling about with metres of electrical cords for me to trip over. At the end of day three, it was decided to be an annual event, where friends would get together, work hard and divide the bounty of an entire pig.
Yesterday, albeit a little late in the season, as these things are best done in the chill of winter, five us got together and we did it again. A little different this time, no cameras, and the pig was dispatched the day before and left to hang overnight so we could process everything in one day. This meant I felt a little removed from the entire process this time, it certainly wasn't as dramatic, but it was just as rewarding and respectful.
We kept things a little simpler this time, because of the warmer weather we had to work fast, and not having a smoker handy meant delights such as mortadella were off the menu. As was cotechino as there is plenty of that about, although still we managed a magnificent bounty of food for three families.
From one pig we managed to make a prosciutto, an English style smoked ham, four huge sides of pancetta, guanciale, lardo, salami and coppa. All of these will take time to cure before they can be shared. Some, like the English ham will be ready in a few days, some things, such as the prosciutto, will take months!
There were also fresh ribs, hocks and fillet to be taken home and eaten that day, plus about 10kg fresh pork sausages. The ribs are a favourite, basted with a mustardy glaze and roasted for an hour or so until soft and sticky and chewy. The fresh sausages need a day or two to set before they're ready to eat. Perhaps I'll pan fry them in a little olive oil, breaking them up with the back of a wooden spoon, then I'll throw in the last of our garlic to fry for a moment, before adding a generous glug of last season's precious passata. Served over a huge bowl of steaming spaghetti, this is one of my favourite pasta sauces ever.
Right now, I'm boiling up the head, trotters and tail to make that delicacy known as brawn, or head cheese or tete fromage as the French like to say. I open the lid of the giant stock pot and peek gingerly to see the snout and ears simmering away in an aromatic broth of juniper, bay and pepper. It's confronting, which to me is a good thing and just as it should be. Despite missing the dispatching side of the process, I am reminded that I'm taking what many would perceive as waste and turning it (hopefully) into something delicious to share.
Knowing that it's part of an animal in the pot, that lived a good life is a humbling experience for which I am so grateful. Grateful to feel so strongly connected my food, for the friends who work hard to make pig day happen and of course, most grateful of all to the pig.