(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!
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?