Raising pigs for meat and lard

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Our pigs at around 12 or 13 weeks old. Healthy Wessex saddleback boars, raised in the forest with portable electric fencing.

How much time does it take to raise pigs on the homestead for meat? How much of a commitment is it? What do you need to get started? How much does it cost?…

I write this partly for myself to read next year, so that I remember how it all works, partly for others who are considering raising pigs.

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Cutting up a pig without a saw

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Before our pig kill (see this post) we had discussed what we wanted to do with each part of the pig. To keep costs down, we just had the mobile butcher here on one day to do the kill, hair removing, gutting, and sawing the pigs in half and leaving them to hang for a day before we would cut them up ourselves. If we wanted him to cut them into pieces he would probably have to come back another day.

We’ve never before cut pigs up ourselves, and how we handled it is a bit different to the process I’ve seen elsewhere because we didn’t have a saw. Every other instruction around is for how to do it with a saw, so I will write about how we did this using only 6” (15cm) boning knives, and maybe a firewood axe and a good aim (depending on how the spine has been cut).

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Pig day

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Our 6 month old Wessex saddleback boar pigs

The next few photos are of the pig slaughtering process, with commentary, to help others who want to raise their own meat or understand a process that has mostly been forgotten in modern times.

Our pigs have lived happy lives in the paddock above for the past few months. They have been able to express their pig-ness, and have enjoyed a diet of acorns, whey, scraps, and local gmo-free grains. Their natural behaviour is to search for roots in the ground with their snouts, turning over some of the soil in a gentle way, and also manuring it. They feed the soil life and prepare the ground for new plants to grow.

Vegetarians might want to stop reading this now.
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Perfection

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I am not that great at describing foods. I sometimes laugh at the descriptions on the back of wine bottles, and at the obsessions that plague the cosmopolitan boomer-inspired worlds of recipes and restaurants, when to me there is just nothing like simple foods created traditionally, and there’s not much to say except ‘perfect’.

This cheese deserves praise though. I will post pictures of it and tell its story.

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This cheese was the last cheese I made this year, towards the end of March when I switched back to once a day milking. I’ve had a few hard cheesemaking fails this season due to my rennet being old and stored badly, but there is just nothing like homemade hard cheese, raw and full of flavour from wild cultures, so I persist in trying them every so often. This one used a ‘washed curd’ technique that gouda and havarti use, I used some of my homemade viili yoghurt as starter, and I probably made it on a fruit day in the biodynamic calendar. I used an 800g cheese mould, using 5-6 litres of goats milk.

Lately my land and house have been wanting to grow camembert-style rinds. As this cheese became soft-looking as it aged, and the sides of the rind ‘splooged’ (for lack of a technical word) I noticed a beautiful white rind forming on the splooged bits. At some point it stabilised, but I eyed this off every time I tended to the cheeses, wondering if it would be similar to camembert when I cut it open.

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We cut it open the other night, it was like no other cheese I’ve had. Cheese perfection that doesn’t fit into any little cheese category in a book. This cheese can’t be replicated with packets of cultures and milk from the shop, it is just like all good foods should be, an expression of the land that makes it.

I sat it next to the ripening chorizos and saucisson secs in the larder, to spread the white bloom.

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