Sunday, 23 June 2013

Mid-winter bounty

(Warning: This post contains images of dead animals and discreet references to butchery that some might find difficult.  If this is likely to offend please click elsewhere.)

Here we are in our first mid-winter in the bush and finally we have bounty, some very unexpected.

If not coming out of our ears then eggs are certainly coming out of their allotted space in the fridge. Finally our 4 chooky girls are all laying, producing more than we can currently get our mouths around. As a result, tomorrow is officially named 'Egg Day' and  we WILL have eggs for breakfast - poached I think - and I WILL make a cake (and perhaps some meringues), and, even so, there WILL be another 4 cackleberries tomorrow!

Wild pork
The other day we had the very good fortune of having three feral pigs trapped as part of a local authority's coordinated action to reduce the feral pig activity in the region. We are, as landholders, legally obliged to control feral animals (rabbits, pigs, goats and foxes, etc) found on our property.

In our case, a tribe of feral pigs were doing substantial damage to our conservation area, an area that protects critically endangered box forest. The activity of the pigs were opening the rare forest up to weeds and damaging the habitat of native animals.

Three pigs were trapped and shot and, in an attempt not to waste the bounty, the Lad and I  harvested as much of the wild pork that we and our fridge could manage. In the end we harvested most of what we could from one of the pigs - the pig to the left. (This is the most graphic of the pictures.)

As essentially city people who have moved to the bush, this was the first time we had ever attempted such an activity. I must say that it was a little confronting and very physically demanding work to 'break down' or 'butcher' a freshly dispatched pig, but armed with my experience of 'dressing' rabbits in the Rabbit Challenge, I felt somewhat prepared.

In both cases (with rabbits and with this pig) I have found the experience truly humbling. A cliché maybe but the experience has made me both appreciate the life of the pig and also the work of butchers. It's a hard thing to describe without sounding foolish so I wont try.

Somewhat surprisingly, the flesh was incredibly lean, clean and dark.

As a result of a whole day's work, I now have two leg hams and a pancetta curing ala Gourmet Farmer in the fridge before smoking and have tucked away a large amount of lean pork meat for stir-fries.

And tonight we had ribs, but more of that later...

I now fully appreciate why it takes a whole extended Italian family to take on the 'breaking down' of a pig. Perhaps, if this post doesn't outrage all my readership, I will post on my ham and pancetta making...

Gradually the vegetables are coming in too. We have eaten all the main heads of the Calabrese Broccoli already and are awaiting side shoots. Now it is the turn of the Womboks to glut. Soon there will be purple cauliflowers and Romanesco Broccoli, Savoy cabbages, fat beetroot and celery.

Today, as a result of a few frosty mornings, I have also harvested most of the chillies.

A Mid-Winter's Dinner
All these elements - eggs, wild pork and veg have come together tonight to feed us in a kind of Mid-Winter celebration.

 I am incapable of taking a decent photo of food (mostly because of the colour of the flash). So even though the photos look grim the dinner was fabulous and somehow feels like the ideal meal to celebrate the shortest day in our new bush home - food grown or from animals raised  by us, sauces made from fruit  sourced  from the roadside and, in case of the pork, meat butchered by us.

Here is what we ate - a star denotes from our property or near by. Roasted wild pork ribs* marinated in plum sauce* (made by me from gleaned plums from roadside trees), chilli*, ginger, hoisin and white peppercorns with egg* fried rice and stir-fried wombok*, spring onions* and tofu.

I feel like we have really started to live here.

How was your mid-winter/ mid-summer?


  1. Great post - no outrage here! I think it's wonderful that you're making the most of the wild pigs - they had to be cullled, and this way what was a dangerous pest in life becomes useful in death. If only all our garden pests could be so useful!

    I, for one, would love to see posts on the ham and pancetta process.

    1. Excellent, then I shall post on my small goods making soon.

  2. Well done to you both. I expect butchery to be quite a mammoth task indeed and physically demanding. I watch one of the river cafe series and they did a whole thing on butchering a pig and it really looked pretty tough.

    I too would like to see a post on ham and pancetta processing.

    Have you buried or processed the other pigs for garden use?

    1. Then post on my small goods making I shall do.

      We were somewhat limited by our strength. I will be using the remains of the one pig as an addition to the fertility of the orchard - just as we did with the carp and the remains of the rabbit. Good use I feel!

  3. Brilliant post. That was pretty ambitious to break down a whole pig, well done! I have been looking at the pancetta recipe in Matthew Evans' book, but am worried about where I would hang it where the temperature would be stable enough. What sort of place have you found for that?

    1. Oh thank you. We did our best but we were somewhat limited by our butchery skills and the lack of a very very sharp knife. One has since been purchased.

      Funny that you have been looking at the recipe too. Fortunately (or unfortunately) our house is pretty unheated at present - it's a work in progress. It means that we are pretty chilly in here (unless the fireplace is lit and raging) but it means that we have some suitably cold placed to 'hang'. The pancetta is currently 'hanging' in the laundry over the laundry tubs. But more on that when I post on pancetta making.

  4. Excellent stewardship of local provision! I am reminded of Little House on the Prarie where they spend all their days provisioning and preparing food for the leaner months. With respect to gluts of Chinese cabbage-we make an excellent Vietnamese Chicken and Mint salad from Stephanie Alexander with Chinese cabbage. You'll have to find the chickens elsewhere though!

    1. Oh I am going to have to look up that recipe, it sounds delicious and I need new options for my Chinese cabbages!

  5. Once we were staying in a boat only access area of the Marlborough Sounds in NZ and their little patch of bush was being dessimated by wild boar, which was trapped while we were there. A HUGE animal which my husband helped butcher. A grizzly and sobering business, but they wanted to make the best use possible of the animal as a matter of respect and care. They had built a little smokehouse and made their own ham and bacon.

    1. Gosh, yes, I am quite glad that the pigs that were trapped here were juniors. Not sure I could handle a huge boar. Was the meat nice? I have heard that the meat of the mature males is a bit 'flavoured'.

      I fancy a smokehouse!

  6. You are embracing country life with both hands, aren't you? Well done on your recycling efforts. When I was chatting with my (then) vegetarian daughter about my two chooks, she said she wouldn't be at all affronted if I recycled (ate) them when the time came (and no, I wouldn't/couldn't!)as better that than 'waste' them.

    I'll be very interested in your ham and pancetta post!

    1. I am loving it here and loving having some really local food, so local that it has grazed here.



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