As regular readers will know I have done a few courses with James Swift and Ruth at Trealy farm from the fantastic Meat Course which is so much more than the title suggests to ham and bacon making with Trealy Farm Charcuterie butcher John Standerwick a true master of butchery.
I have always had a love of pigs so when I was told by James that he had some pigs in sow I asked if I could have one when they were ready. I have visited the farm as they grew and listened to James stories of them digging up flowers, escaping and creating general havoc at the farm. The pigs are a cross saddleback and mangalitsa, both breeds make fantastic pork and the mangalitsa is renowned for its fantastic fat.
With the recent scandal in the meat industry and the public demanding clearer traceability for the meat what better than to have actually seen your meat in a field foraging for its natural food and to know that it has had a full and happy life. I honestly think that this is the only way forward with our demand for meat, if communities or groups of friends can find local meat producers and in effect adopt a pig, some sheep to even a cow they cut out the middle man, they move from the factory farmed imports from Europe to a sustainable and far more ethical and economical way to eat meat.
We arrived at the farm on Saturday afternoon in glorious sunshine to start our pork butchery. After a walk around the farm we or should I say that Ffion chose the pig we were going to butcher. I think that educating children as to where food really comes from is very important as you can see from the pictures she is more than happy to be around real food not plastic wrapped insipid meat in a supermarket, she is aware that meat comes from animals and is happy with this. Her method for choosing our pig with James was quite ammusing she simply wanted the one with the most nipples.
The process of breaking down a side of pork into what we recognise as cuts of meat is not that difficult, t break into what are called the primal cuts takes four basic cuts, seperate the leg, shoulder and split the loin and belly. From there you start to break it down further into chops, belly slices, bacon, hams all the trims go for sausage the head and tortters making brawn and fantastic stock.
I shall post recipes using the cuts of pork that we got from our side of pork, from roasts to stews and hopefully as it warms up bbq ribs.
For an hour or so work at a cost far less than supermarket meat we now have pork that will last a few months, we have shoulder roast. leg hams, bacon, chops and all the other fantastic pork goodies that generally the butcher keeps for himself.
If you would like further information on sourcing your own pork and even details on where you can hire a unit to butcher it just drop me message or leave a comment on here.
A day as a trader!
As a general rule of thumb I tend to a customer at Usk Farmers Market, this week has turned out somewhat different. Friday night I sent a tweet ask James of Trealy Farm if he would be at Usk, as he was attending the food festival in Cardiff he would be there but only for a short time as he had nobody to run his stall at Usk, when he said this I had drank one or two small beers a few hours later after a few more I sent James a tweet saying that I would run the stall if he had found nobody else. Rule number 1 whilst in the Army was never volunteer, rule number 2 was see rule number 1.
So Saturday morning saw me set off to a market trader not a customer, I already know a lot of the traders at the market and after a brief of what was what and being called the apprentice I was all set. The sample of the day was the new lamb merguez sausages, James had already fried some off and they were going down well with the customers, during the morning I cooked off some more and now have a new favourite. The difference from being a customer to a trader was an eye opener for me, in the past I have cooked my own sausages and taken them around the traders but this was different, it helped that I have a great respect for the product that I was selling and thoroughly enjoyed my day as a trader, all the other traders were great as usual and the weather was slightly better than we have experienced of late.
The best part of the day was my payment, the last time I worked on a market stall of any kind was over 30 years ago and I used to get five pound for the day today’s pay was the best days pay I have had in a very long time, I came home with a goodie bag packed by James before he left for Cardiff.
A days pay lots of meat goodies
Will I do it again in all honesty yes without a shadow of doubt, I enjoyed every minute, not often you say that about working.
A Weekend Feast
A visit to Raglan farm shop on Thursday provided me with a whole shin of beef, bacon and Sirloin steaks. So the weekend started early with Sirloin steak for tea on Thursday, I always cook my steaks Heston’s way the difference is so noticeable and i wont go back to cooking in the way I was taught and accepted for many years, the secret is a searing hot skillet and turning the steak often during the cooking, my new favourite toy is my meat thermometer I cook the steak to 55c then allow it to rest on a rack the residual heat finishing the cooking process.
On Friday I took the shin and took three large cuts from it for braising slowly with a selection of root vegetables, 8 hours on low in the slow cooker resulted in melting, unctuous meat and a rich gravy.
The first and third Saturdays of the month are Usk farmers market a fantastic local market with some amazing produce from award winning local producers. A new producer was at this weeks The Welsh Pig Company a visit to their stall seen me come away with a belly of pork and some sausages, the belly to be Sundays lunch the sausages for breakfast and to make Ffions favourite sausage ragu.
One stall i always visit usually for the simply sublime smoked haddock is Black Mountain Smoked Foods, I recently had a recipe published on their site for omelette Arnold Bennett, todays choice was a smoked duck breast which provided a simply delicious lunch with a simple salad of pea shoots, baby spinach and chard leaves with plum and orange segments and a bitter orange Vinaigrette.
After lunch it was time to get tea sorted which was to be a shin of beef bhuna, the recipe for my bhuna can be found on the site.
Shin of Beef Bhuna
Sunday is to Pork fest, I have to say that belly of pork has to be my all time favourite cut of meat. The belly of pork went into a 22% brine with juniper berries, coriander seeds, black peppercorns and bay. A 22% brine is simply 22g of salt to a litre of water add the salt and other spices to the water bring to the boil to dissolve the salt, allow the brine to cool completely before placing the belly of pork into a suitable container and covering with the brine and place in the fridge for 12 hours.
After 12 hours in brine it is time for slow cooking by slow i mean very slow around 15 hrs at 50-70c. As the pork is still in the oven i will update this post later with images of the final crispy, sticky, juicy mouth watering roast.
The weekends drink of choice was also purchased from the farmers market from Untapped Brewing Co
Will post pics of the belly later.
Meat & Camping
I left work last Wednesday and traveled back home to South Wales, I had taken two days off work and with it being a bank holiday it made for a nice long weekend off. The two days had been taken off for me to attend a course. I work in IT but the course had no bearing on my work at all, it was centered around my passion which is food and in particular meat, I wont give details of the course at the moment as it was a trial course that is soon to be made available to the public, I will say that it was two of the most enjoyable days I have had in a very long time. The course covered from pasture to plate and everything in between, from animal husbandry to slaughter, from butchery to curing it really had everything and will be of interest to a wide range of people from small holders to foodies. The people running the course are two of the most passionate people I have had the pressure of meeting, their knowledge and commitment to what they are doing is truly awe-inspiring. The people I met on the course will I think turn out to be friends for a long time. I will write a far more in-depth piece on the course in the near future. After leaving late on Friday evening with a whole belly that I butchered and cured which is now taking up a shelf in the fridge, faggots that I shall be having for tea when I get back home on Friday and ribs that I haven’t decided what to do with yet but ill post the results on here.
I was meant to be travelling to West Wales to a place I truly love a stunning campsite on the Ceredigion coast with views over Cardigan Bay, as things went it was 10pm when I got back to my home and the prospect of a two-hour drive was a bit daunting so it was decided that I would leave early the next morning. After two days that had been long but very enjoyable a glass or two of wine and an early night seemed the best bet. After a good nights sleep I was up and on the road to Talywerydd in Ceredigion for a nice long weekend of camping and visiting the many blue flag beaches that are on the doorstep of the site. We have now decided that we like it so much we are getting a caravan and making it our seasonal site, the place is perfect for exploring one of Wales best areas, stunning seascapes and landscapes are all in easy reach.
I have some pictures to add when I have uploaded them.
In these days when to qualify to be called a meat sausage all the meat content has to be is 30% meat the rest can be made up of various items from cheeks to offal. To qualify to be called a pork sausage the minimum is 42% pork, the remainder can be made up of fat and connective tissue. Often cheap sausages do not meet the required standards of meat content so become just sausages, these are often made with mechanically reconstituted meat (MRM), I shall not go into what it entails here but if you wish to know more just Google it or drop me a message.
Why not take away all that risk of not knowing what a grinder attachment that combines a sausage stuffer is in your sausage by getting a sausage stuffer, either a standalone one or an attachment for your food mixer, KitchenAid do. You are then in total control of what goes in your banger, there is a campaign in the UK that is about “Not in my Banger”.
The other issue with shop bought sausages is the quality of the meat, factory farmed pork is injected with antibiotics and growth hormones, living in huge sheds on metal slats, the animal lives in squalor and when slaughtered is under stress, this has been proven to taint the meat and produce low quality meat. A free ranging pig that has the sun on its back and wallows in mud that protects its skin, foraging and rummaging in the roots for its natural food will produce a far better meat every day of the week.
We buy all our pork from either our local farm shop or the local butcher, for making sausages I get lean shoulder, and pork back fat, whatever sausage you make always use pork back fat, be it beef, chicken or venison I have tried many different fats but always come back to using pork back. There should be between 20 and 40% fat in your sausage. Fillers can be added to bulk up the sausage but to also change texture and taste an example is breadcrumbs of between 5 and 20%. Always add water to your sausage mix minimum of 5% or the same as your filler.
Flavoring of your sausage is only limited to your imagination. Freeze dried herbs are by far the best along with freshly ground spices. Try adding wine, fruit juice or beer rather than water and dried fruit but rehydrate first.
Salt content in sausage should be between 1 and 2% for fresh sausage use rock or sea salt but NEVER curing salt. If you plan on semi drying your sausages add between 50 and 100% curing salt to the total salt content these sausages require 2% total salt content.
All that above is the basics of sausage making, with the information above and your sausage stuffer you are well on the way to creating your own stunning sausages be they fresh to fry there and then or dried for curing, simply enjoy the wonderful art of sausage making and get that sausage stuffer working over time.
You can get your sausage stuffer from amazon, they have the best prices and along with user reviews make it the best service
Sausage stuffer for KitchenAid mixer
Standalone sausage stuffer
How many times have you tried to slice hams as thin as the translucent wonders that you get from the deli. No matter how sharp your knife without a meat slicer you will struggle to get your cured meats cut that thin.
If you are serious about your Charcuterie and producing the hams that are associated with it then to have the wafer thin slices for your charcuterie plate you need to invest in a good quality meat slicer. Take away the effort of producing slice after slice each to the same thickness.
For consistent and effortless results a meat slicer with a powerful, cool running high torque motor with a smooth gear drive, this will glide through your hams in no time giving you the confidence that every slice is the same. A high quality stainless steel blade to glide through your charcuterie
An easy to operate thickness control to allow cuts from deli thin to 3/4 of an inch for your gammon’s. An easy-clean cantilever design, tilted, large capacity food carriage and a button to lock the food carriage when not in use for safety.
Removable components for ease of cleaning including the blade, food carriage and food pusher, this ensures that your meat slicer stays hygienically clean no bits of meat stuck or trapped in the slicer.
An optional non serrated blade for even finer slicing is a must have on your meat slicer.
If you are going to make bacon then a meat slicer is a simple must have, you will never get even and regular cuts without one. Whether you are making streaky bacon, back bacon, loins the simple fact is that you will need a meat slicer for cutting it.
Don’t forget that your meat slicer with its thickness settings also is perfect for cutting your favourite breads to go with the plate of charcuterie that you prepare.
The best I have found without spending thousands on an industrial meat slicer is the EdgeCraft 610 Chef’s Choice, it has never let me down an I have pushed it to its limits, coming from a catering background I have used many many different meat slicers in the past, some professional kitchen slicers have not come close to the quality that this machine does, its a home use meat slicer that thinks it is an industrial slicer.