Johnny & His Pigs
My friend Paul and I recently purchased six Large Black piglets. They were anything but large when they arrived but are rapidly expanding into proportions that will justify the name of their breed. The live in a small, sloping field in the beautiful Toadsmoor Valley, near Stroud, and are rapidly turning their current enclosure into something resembling the no-man’s land of the First World War.
Aside from the general pleasure of keeping these amusing, highly intelligent animals, our plan is to use them to develop the Cotswold equivalent of jamon iberico or prosciutto di Parma. Many people reckon the climate of these Isles is too damp for the production of such delicacies but we’re not so sure. As far as I can make out, the Spanish and Italians go out of their way to make the environments in which they mature their hams more British in terms of temperature and humidity than standard local conditions. In any case, they tend to use electronic climate controls nowadays, and we intend to do the same. But when the weather is right, we’ll open the shutters of our maturing shed and let in some good Gloucestershire air.
So why Lage Blacks? Well for one thing, they’re as close to the famous pata negra pig as British breeds get, with the same tendency to put down delicious marblings of fat in their muscles. They come from Devon and Cornwall, and some believe their ancestors include pigs captured from the Spanish Armada. For another, they are delightful and relatively docile because their lop ears have a similar effect to blinkers on a horse. Plus my grandfather kept them in Africa (their black hair protects them from sunburn) and one of his sows famously farrowed a litter of 22 piglets. If ours are anywhere near as fecund, we’ll be quids in.
Pigs will eat almost anything - I once had a pair who wolfed down the charger for their electric fence, batteries and all, with no apparent ill effects - but we plan to experiment with feeding them all kinds of local goodies to see which has the best effect on the meat.
Beech mast, wild garlic, apples and whey from cheese production will all feature on the menu. And we’re going to make all sorts of charcuterie products aside from air dried hams.
Should the people of Parma and Salamanca be quaking in their boots? Probably not but we’re quitely confident that we will come up with some very tasty items indeed. We’ll keep you abreast of developments on this site.