Today was our sixth pig day since we’ve been here on Croft 3. We only had two remaining piglets from our first litter and a friend shot those for us, teaching us about the butchering and splitting the meat with us. That was my first experiment with bacon making.
Last year we had three piglets to process and had invested in a bolt gun so that we could do the whole thing ourselves. Ady killed the first two and I did the third. We were much more proficient at the butchering and processing thanks to our friend’s teaching and our own experience processing venison over the last couple of years. We had some great cuts of pork, some fantastic sausages, some ill fated chorizo (lost in the polytunnel when it blew down) and another rather experimental go at bacon. My brine cured hams were very good though.
This year we have six piglets in the litter. Our plan is to keep two of those – one a sow to run with Tom for breeding so that we have two breeding females, giving us two litters a year, the other is the little piglet who will have so little meat on her and has won hearts all over the island so assuming she survives her first harsh winter gets a reprieve.
So that is four piglets to process and we started with the first today. It was an easy choice for the first one – there was only one male in this litter and he was the biggest piglet by far, the biggest appetite and the one most likely to start problems in terms of mating with his sisters or mother, or fighting with his dad. He had done none of those things but had grown as large as he was going to without starting to eat a lot of our bought in pig food as the weather turns colder and grazing gets less.
I was doing a post office shift so I helped Ady by feeding and distracting the rest of the pigs while he killed the pig and removed him from the pen, then I went off to work while Ady skinned and halved, then quartered the halves into joints. I got home in time to roll some joints and practise my butchers knots, bag up and label the various cuts and weigh the whole lot.
We now have about 6 roasting joints in the freezer, along with a large bag of meat waiting to be minced (sausages!), ribs and diced pork for stir fries. We have a large container with a sugar, salt and spice brine mix with two large and two small hams soaking and 2 lumps of meat in a dry cure mix to make bacon.
The rest of this week is looking pretty busy so it will probably be next week before we deal with the next three pigs after which a big mincing and sausage making session is scheduled.