200kg of pork!!! Holy Sausages!!! It’s hard to believe that after 22 weeks of TLC our two pigs grew to 120kg live weight each. They were fed the best of feed from day one. Brambly and Sage is what Davinia named them, something I was against from the start, but I think it was easier for the kids to relate to the animals with them being christened. Both piggies were fed a superior diet of pig pellets, soybeans, rolled oats, mollasses and the finest of apple pomace from the home of Dan Kelly Cider. Some say we were marinating them from the inside out. Watching these two grow was incredible. Every day they relied on us to take care of their needs and we did. They were given a very good life.
Preparation for their departure began a week in advance. Firstly I rang my butcher to keep him up to date with everything. I then made a gateway at the exit of our allotment using wooden pallets and baling twine. It’s incredible how handy baling twine is. I also made arrangements to borrow a livestock trailer from a local farmer. Reversing a trailer of that size can be very intimidating but let me tell you, I reversed that trailer like I owned it. Something I was very proud of. This was the first of my list of accomplishments with the task at hand.
I was up at 6am on the morning of their departure to make sure I had enough time to load the pigs. This is where things got tricky. Leading up to this day I had been allowing the pigs to get used to walking through the narrow gateway of our allotment with great success. But when it came time to loading up, these two portly girls had other ideas. My first error was not accepting the help offered. ” I’m grand ” I said. Big mistake, huge. Trying to haul 240kg of stubborn weight on your own is too risky. I nearly had my hand crushed when they decided that the metal tailgate of the trailer was scary. So take all the help you can get, it’s priceless. Farm accidents happen all too quickly. Take it from me please, “Farm Safe”.
By now it was 0730 and the pigs were still not loaded. They had to be at the factory for 0930, an hours drive away in rush hour traffic. I still had time but I needed to up my game. Bread boards. Another useful piece of junk on an allotment. I normally use these for the bottom of the chicken coop to make it easier for cleaning. So I grabbed my spare bread board and a length of Wavin pipe, which I picked up at the ploughing championships last year. These two items of kit and my persuasive knee got the job done. I used the board like a blind to lead the pigs into the trailer. Pigs have tunnel vision and are notoriously curious so by blocking off the side of the pigs view with the board I was able to coerce them into the trailer. Once in I closed the gate quick. I couldn’t believe it. I did it. I looked over my shoulder to see if anyone saw but no one was around. I felt like a lone golfer who scored a hole in one with no one around to acknowledge. Only the hens were there but this didn’t stop me from fist pumping the air.
It was off to the factory now. I dropped them off without incident and on the journey home I did feel a bit emotional, all alone with my thoughts. This passed quickly though as I was still driving a huge trailer back to the farmyard.
The next morning I collected the pigs. They came in at a dead weight of 100kg each. The factory workers gave out stink to me on account of their size. I feel it was more of a health and safety issue more than anything else. But hey, I had grown these pigs to this size and I was well pleased with the outcome.
I arrived at my butchers, “Shane M Curran Traditional Butchers” in Stamullen County Meath later that morning. Together we carried these pigs into the shop. Thank God we both had a background in martial arts because I’m telling you needed more than a rear naked choke to take these beasts down. We were fighting in a different weight category.
Shane got stuck into prepping straight away. I have to say if you ever get a chance to stand in with a craft butcher, do. I come from a family of butchers and standing in his shop made me feel incredibly nostalgic. I really was so privileged to be allowed to stand in and watch the craft my grandfather had done for years. You know you’re in a quality butcher shop when every person that walked through the shop door knew Shanes name and even more impressive, he knew theirs. This is a true sign of a shop being a cornerstone of the community. Please support your local butchers and help keep them around for many more years to come. Families turning to the supermarket for poor quality plastic wrapped meat is the very reason my grandfather ended up closing his door. A butcher is an essential part our future.
Head to tail is how we butchered the pigs. Pig cheek, ham hock, crubeens and tail. No cut was left to waste. The only part not to be cooked would be the squeal. When we got around to cutting the meat I thought my knife skills were good from all my hunting but when you see Shane handle a butchers knife you know you’re in the second division. He prepared these two with absolute ease and expertise. First of all we prepared the hams as they were going to be soaking in a brine for at least 3 days. I acquired 5 litres of raw Dan Kellys cider from my friend Olan McNeese and we pumped this into some of the other cuts using a pickle pump. Next we prepped the meat for the sausages. When you butcher a pig you will get a mountain of sausages. We got a mountain range. So I decided to create our very own sausage recipes to make some signature Married with Cauldron sausages. I made a Jack Daniels and cola with prunes, a honey and chorizo and in honour of the pigs a brambly apple and sage with Dan Kelly cider sausage. All three taste incredible.
Next Shane asked how thick do I want the pork chops and I said “1 vertebrae thick please”. You can’t beat a nice thick chop on the barbecue. Together we prepped these pigs over two days. Time and attention to detail is absolutely necessary when preparing your own meat. After all it would be a crying shame to let any of this wonderful pork go to waste all because you hadn’t done your homework.
In the end we prepared 200kg of meat. With this volume of meat you need to have a large deep freezer. I would highly recommend this lifestyle choice for anyone as long you remember that this is not a walk in the park.
I want to take this time to thank everyone who helped us get here. Barry and Bernie for helping us get the allotment, Vincent Smith for taking us as tenants, Dave Pettigrew for advising me on the speed bumps of pig farming, my brother Ken for helping me with the collection of the pigs and the lone of his jeep, Olan McNeese from Dan Kelly’s Cider for supplying me with the finest apple pomace to feed the pigs, David Smith for the lone of his trailer, Coogans of Trim for their professional dispatching of the pigs, my butcher Shane Curran for his valuable time and most importantly my family who were there every day to take care of the pigs when I was working. During some of the hotter days in our particularly dry June Davinia gave the pigs a shower and made a them a mud bath everyday.
I hope you all have an incredible summer and make the most of your kitchen with your family and friends.