Back in May we welcomed four piglets to the farm, our spring pig project had begun. It is a five month experiment in raising our own animals, caring for them, and eventually harvesting those animals for food. There is a lot of rationale for such an endeavor, and many benefits, but I am not here to convince you of the merits of such a thing, only to share our experience in it. I assume if you are reading this that you have come to terms with your omnivorous nature and won't begrudge me my own. If you have committed yourself to other ways of feeding the wondrous machine that is your body without animal proteins, then you have my admiration and well-wishes.
|Our young pigs back in June, starting to grow.|
|Taken in July sometime, I think.....showing a little more size.|
|Taken in early September, getting big now.|
In the information age, there is a great deal of help out there for people interested in taking on work like this for themselves. And, of course, such a pursuit has a niche community out there that is passionate about such things. There are the foodies, the hunter-sorts, the homesteaders, paleo-dieters, and a whole crop of people coming to this through the agrarian renaissance. One such voice comes from the good folks at Farmstead Meatsmith, an amazing resource located here in the Northwest. They have published a series of beautiful (no really, you should go watch) instructional videos on their site that not only give some of the practical steps to farm butchery but also do a good job of introducing much of the rationale that drives so many of us to seek a different way of life, or perhaps I should say a different way of food.
In mid-October I will be taking part in a hands-on experience in side-butchery with the Farmstead Meatsmith folks over on Whidbey Island. I have been tooling up for our own harvest, collecting knives and knowledge, and in general getting very excited about the culinary benefits of this process. I can recommend several books that have helped in the planning, including Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing; Stéphane Reynaud's Pork and Sons ( a beautifully photographed book about pig harvest and charcuterie in provincial France); and The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating, by Fergus Henderson.
Harvest is going to happen sometime around the first week of November. In the meantime the pigs are eating cull apples and pears, zuchinni and squash, and even the occasional early pumpkin. They like extra eggs from the chickens when they can get them and nearly took my hand off the other day when I delivered a bag full of over-ripe plums and apricots. We've liked the experience and are already making plans for next year. More updates to come as we get to harvest time.....wait until I tell you all about salami!