Learning how to bring home the bacon

It’s been a great week for the good life. I had a very enjoyable and informative couple of sessions at the Country Living Spring Fair with Francine Raymond and Sara Ward about keeping hens and bees, both with good audiences keen to ask the experts an array of questions. 

Then James and I prepared the house for his sister Mandy to come and stay so she could look after the chickens, dogs and Beau the Bengal while we headed off to River Cottage HQ – a long-held ambition of ours – on the Devon-Dorset border to attend its Pig in a Day course with eight other novices. Rather than teaching about keeping livestock, as the title might suggest, it involves over seven hours of hands-on butchery and cooking, not to mention the numerous servings of delectable porky treats throughout the day – from scrambled egg with chorizo and a variety of bacon types to prosciutto ham and devilled kidneys, it was a varied and abundant feast.  

Course tutor Steven Lamb (pictured with our fellow tutees, above right) inspired us all with his boundless enthusiasm, good humour and seemingly inexhaustible patience! We learned how to deconstruct the carcass of half a pig – which was laid out on the butcher’s block at the front of the class when we arrived – into a variety of cuts. Plus, discovered the best ways to make a range of foods including dry-cured bacon and hams, liver pate and sausages. There was also plenty of time to enjoy the view from the cookery school – and watch the lambs being born just beyond the window – as well as visit the Oxford Sandy & Black weaners (below) who enjoyed a pat and scratch behind the ears at lunch time. All in all an uplifting and inspiring day. 

Yesterday, I delivered all the bacon that we collected from our farm shop-cum-butcher to very appreciative colleagues at Country Living HQ who were delighted with their rashers ready for the weekend. It’s hugely satisfying to feed so many people with the meat of our own home-raised pigs – and to be told how tasty it is! Now, James and I are raring to go and practise our new-found skills – and save more than £350 on butcher’s costs next time we raise some pigs to boot.


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