The OSB Pig Group appears in many of the smallholder/pig/farming publications. In this article, Kim Brook talks about “getting some pigs” in the August – September 2019 issue of The Country Smallholding magazine. Read more below in the pdf publication
The OSB Pig Group appears in many of the smallholder/pig/farming publications. In this article, Kim Brook talks about “Raising Weaners”. In the February March 2020 issue of The Smallholder magazine. Read more below in the pdf publication
The OSB Pig Group appears in many of the smallholder/pig/farming publications. In this article, Kim Brook asks “Pig Breeding, is it for you?” in the April May 2020 issue of Smallholder magazine. Read more below in the pdf publication
Merrist Wood College is based in Guildford, Surrey on a 400 acre estate with 340 animal management students. Our aim is to inspire the next generation of animal keepers, we do this by teaching theory as well as practicals on a range of different species. In May 2018 the college achieved their zoo license allowing us to keep a more varied selection of species. This allows students to study farm, birds, reptiles, invertebrates and small mammals, it is hoped that over the next few years the zoo collection will evolve further.
In 2017 the farm opened its doors to hold private birthday parties for the public, where children get a personal experience with the animals. During school holidays the farm also open for keeper for a day where children aged 6-16 years old take part in a variety of animal husbandry tasks.
Additionally the college holds three public open events, with our largest being the annual Fleecy Frolics event which this year bought 6500 visitors across the weekend. We also plan for Oxford Sandy and Black piglets to be born over the Easter holiday, this year was the first year we didn’t have them on site for our event. Excitingly one sow named Edwina was at Whipsnade zoo to farrow and the other Whippy went to Chobham Adventure Park a new farm collection. They stayed at these establishments for the busy Summer months advertising the need for conserving rare breeds.
The college has a long history with keeping Oxford Sandy and Black pigs, with the first arriving in 2008 when the cohort of degree students clubbed together to buy two Cynthia gilts as a thank you for their time at the college. This was a very exciting time for the college as it started our passion for keeping the breed and showing our students how great the breed was. Soon after this we started running ‘Introduction to Smallholding’ courses and were able to see just how prolific this breed could be, with both gilts breeding 12 piglets we used our smallholding course to sell the offspring. We still continue to do this and in addition run on 3 to 4 males for meat, with the perfect sale conditions of students and staff the meat flies out the door before we’ve even had a chance to unpack it.
Over the next few months we plan on getting two Oxford Sandy and Black registered gilts, hopefully of the duchess bloodline as there doesn’t appear to be that bloodline in our county. We are also applying to be an RBST approved centre in 2020 which we will hope to eventually become an open farm at weekends. In the future we will be continuing to use Oxford Sandy and Black pigs to help teach our students pig husbandry and hopefully help our pledge of supporting rare breeds of livestock.
This question seems to get asked quite a lot, especially among the less experienced rare breed pig keepers. It’s fairly easy to rear a couple of pigs but slaughter day inevitably comes and we often find ourselves without a clear idea as to how we’re going to cut them up. We might not be aware of all the options and all too often we just rely on the butchers advice.
They’re the expert right?
Well, yes they are but they are ‘generally’ experts in cutting traditional commercial joints from low fat commercial pigs and may rarely, if ever, come across ‘real pork’. They’ll happily (mostly or at least through gritted teeth) cut your carcass into roasting joints and chops, a few steaks, maybe cure you some bacon and convert the trim pile into a few dozen sausages. The trouble is they will leave that 2 inch layer of fat that you might not have been expecting on your joints and chops. The reason they do that is because you probably didn’t tell them not to. That’s not your fault (you may not have known it was there) or even the butchers fault (he’s just doing what’s asked of him/her) but it does result in less attractive joints and people won’t pay for a joint that’s 40% fat – Can’t say I blame them.
So, Yes! Maybe your pigs are too fat but only too fat for traditional cuts and joints.
That’s where you need to start thinking a bit more creatively.
If you find yourself disappointingly surprised by the amount of fat on your carcasses and your butcher just confirmed your suspicions you might think you have failed to produce the results that all that hard work and expense was supposed to be about. Maybe you were hoping to emulate the ‘commercial’ pork seen on supermarket shelves and had promised something like it but ‘better’ to your friends and family. If that’s the case I’m afraid you may have chosen the wrong breed and possibly the wrong customers. Slow grown, free range heritage and rare breeds are wonderfully designed to put down some beautifully flavoured fat and then as if by magic, you turn your back for 5 seconds and they put down some more. It is more than possible to consistently produce retail-able wonderful pork from rare breeds but it takes experience and knowledge and even then there will still be variations in fat from pig to pig.
I only grow a few pigs a year. They’re for my benefit and for friends and family to enjoy (although I am looking to release my Salami into the wild fairly soon). I’m not a commercial producer and as such I get big variations in the amount of fat my pigs put down. Sometimes they go off to slaughter a bit late and sometimes one is just greedier than the others. I’m not disappointed if my pigs come back a bit overweight…………It can only mean one thing.
You can only make top quality Salami, Pancetta, Guanciale and Chorica with top quality ingredients. Get your butcher to trim the excess fat off the joints and bag it up for you. You can always tie the skin back onto a joint for crackling. You’ll have attractive chops and joints with just the right amount of fat and a whacking great bag of white gold for the good stuff.
I definitely don’t see it as a failure if I get a pig back with 2 inches of back fat, wobbly great jowls and a belly that’s 70/30 fat to lean. I just butcher them slightly differently and make even more from the carcass. I’m not going to mince the jowls into a breakfast sausage, that’s for the rest of the trim. I’ll make Guanciale. It is simple to make and is delicious. Overly fat pieces of belly don’t lend themselves too well to traditional bacon or roasting so make Air Dried Pancetta. Salami in all its forms is a little more complicated but nonetheless achievable with a bit of research and some good fortune.
Pancetta Tesa, by the way, is probably the easiest to make of cured whole muscles. It requires little more than some salt, herbs and spices and a fridge and keeps almost indefinitely, improving with age.
Most of the world rejoices in the fat pig. The Chinese go mad for fat belly, the Italians make 100’s of different cured products that only work because of the fat. The Portuguese Porco Preto (Black Alentenjano Pig) is a monster of a pig and their amazing spicy Chorica are only as good as they are because of the fat. There’s a good reason Iberico Hams are so delicious and expensive. Pata Negra pigs will not win ‘Slimmer Of The Year’. There’s 1000’s of cured, dried, fermented, smoked, boiled, steamed and raw sausages in this world and they all need good quality fat to make them as good as they are.
Turning a heavyweight carcass into some fat chops and lardy roasting joints that need to be served with a side of Statins is one way of doing things but for me it’s definitely not the way forward. Fat pigs lend themselves to so much more than just the normal roasts, chops, a bit of bacon and pork n leek snags. We’ve got to have those things of course. They’re a traditional part of life in Great Britain and we love them but with some creative thinking and a bit of research you can get the best of both worlds from a fat pig.
Commercially attractive rare breed pork AND amazing Charcuterie.
I’m not sure there’s such a thing as too much fat, just a little more work to make the very best of it.
Pork chops. A cooked breakfast with sausages and bacon. A leg joint for Sunday Dinner. What else is there to pork?
We have been raising OSB weaners now for just over a year and our freezer has been full of pork in various guises all that time. All the recognisable cuts: roasting joints, sausages, gammon, chops. They’re easy to cook with little thought and little effort, all the effort having been done to get them into the freezer in the first place. So, our first freezer-full was used quickly but possibly with not as much enthusiasm as it deserved!
At this stage, I must point out that we are a family of four with not a chef amongst us! There is no particular culinary expertise between my husband and I and if we find something which suits the whole family, it tends to be done to death! So, treating our very first much-loved happy pork with very little imagination was, as we have since pondered, sacrilege!
Having said that, in spite of our lack of kitchen skills, the very fact that we had slow grown, high welfare, rare breed pork at our disposal meant that any meal made with or out of it was absolutely delicious. The slightly higher fat content than we had been previously used to was a delight and our meat portion sizes became smaller and smaller, the more we experienced meat that actually tasted of something in its plainest form! Those who tasted our wares soon became converts and we were persuaded to take on more weaners the next time to provide the same experience to those other families!
With our next freezer-full, I was determined to put my meat to better use and I was encouraged and enthused by the LovePork website. On our facebook site, Gorstage Park Porkers, our customers posted pictures of their own culinary journeys and we have all encouraged each other to try new and exciting meals that certainly I wouldn’t have thought of using pork for in the past!
A good Sunday Roast still can’t really be beaten as my favourite meal of the week but at a recent family celebration, we fed 35 over two sittings with the vast majority of the meat being from our very own Oxford Sandy and Black, Stephen!
From bland beginnings, we can, amongst many other dishes add to our family menu:- Swineherd’s Pie (the piggy version of shepherd’s pie) Marinated Pork Ribs on the BBQ (honey, soya sauce, white wine vinegar) Pork Fillet Stroganoff Pork Souvlaki with flatbreads Belly Pork in the fondue (very 70’s!) Bacon & Chocolate Chip Cookies (don’t knock them ‘til you’ve tried them!) Meatballs (made from squeezed out sausages so no need to season or add anything else!) Sausage rolls (just add garlic and blitz sausage meat!) All dishes easily and quickly prepared and all have caused a stir both within our home and when shared with others!
Here’s wishing you all lots of fun with your well-loved pork! I hope you’re as proud of what you’ve achieved as we are!
There is no “in thing” with pork. It is how well you serve, cook and present your food that makes people come back for more. My favourite is roast belly pork on the bone. Also i like to cook a rack of pork and this should be cooked medium and not very well done. I travel a lot in Asia where pork is very popular and exquisitely cooked. It is more fatty cuts.
Andy Lawrence asks I’d also like to know how long he hangs his pork for. I believe some chefs like it hung for up to 3 weeks. Also, would he like to share any of his recipes for pork? What’s his favourite pork cut and pork dish.
Hanging pork for a week is sufficient. I also salt my pork for 24 hours and then wash off before cooking. As i mentioned i do like all cuts of pork. But having a good apple sauce is important, many chefs are now using eating apples but it must come from coooking apples because of good acidity.
Deborah Phillips Nisbet asks, I’d be really interested to know how long he keeps his OSB’s before slaughter, his feeding regime and his results. I’m guessing commercially he needs to get the most out of his piggies and not have excessive fat so if he’s using OSB’s in his restaurants, he must be doing something right
I keep two lots 6 months and nearly a year. For meat and charcuterie. Some are kept in the woods and on grass land but currently they are away from my home as i am resting the land. I have someone to feed them twice a day but Kim knows these details so i will leave it to her to tell you. Fat is the best bit and important for flavour. Again, it is important how and what you produce with your pork to make it a success. Be experimental. I experiment all the time.
Is that Polly Buckham. Please remember me to her and send her my good wishes. I remember I was invited by a friend to stay with him at Hampshire, I turned up at this house after a walk and knocked on the door greeted by Polly it was a lovely day. Please remember me to her. Was there a Sophie there too?
Nelle Rolyat asks Would a quarterly recipe from him be a possibility? I know these things are being done anyway on the page but he would maybe draw more attention form outside the group and potential customers.
I have promised to do this but i have been travelling extensively since Kim and I met last June. Kim keeps me up to date monthly and we chat regularly. I know that Michelle Anderson Carroll has been working on the OSBPG Recipe Book and is now having finishes touches with Andrew O’Shea The Group is doing a fantastic job in both support and promotional work with the Pork and yes anything i can do i will.
a chuckle…I have my OSB Apron and i will make sure that happens. If you are interested you can see me on you tube Great British Feast where i am cooking pork. Yes it was taken awhile ago but it will show you me cooking some belly pork.
My Final comments, Id like to say that I do admire the OSB for their meat and they are the best pig for pork. i have also tried various breeds of pigs but the Oxfords win. Saddlebacks he described as a pretty pig and was also good pork pig.
We are quite often asked what the main differences between keeping conventional and organic livestock are. Some who asked are surprised that in my opinion there is little difference between organic and any other high welfare system. Access to drugs is , of course, limited to a proven need and some of the more critical antibiotics would need a derogation to be used. This sometimes has to be applied for retrospectively as livestock have an annoying habit of getting sick outside of office hours.
Wormers and other medication given to conventional livestock routinely are not allowed although a derogation may be available if exceptional circumstances can be proved.
We started to keep pigs with just one large white gilt, she did us very well but was not ideally suited to our organic system. We experimented with Gloucester old spots but found they tended to get fat quickly. We purchased an Oxford Sandy and Black boar and were very pleased with the cross, after a couple of litters of crosses we purchased 2 Oxford Sandy and Black gilts from Cirencester OSB rare breed show and sale the resulting litters have been very promising and we have decided to concentrate on pedigree pigs.
Finding organic breeding stock, more so with less common breeds can be impossible but the soil association have no problem with conventional animals being converted. Converted breeding stock will never be organic but can produce organic offspring after a 3 month conversation period.
Feeding pigs organically is only difficult because food to soil association standards is hugely expensive, bagged nuts can be as much as £1000 a tonne, so our pigs never see any. We were fortunate to find a 30 year old roller mill for little more than scrap price and now mill our own cereals. The pigs get a kilo a day each, barley is favourite and they will happily eat wheat. Rye however seems to be one of the few things pigs won’t eat it just gets pushed around the trough and you get really discontented stares.
We have not yet been brave enough to farrow outside and the girls come in a couple of days before they are due. They farrow in loose boxes, the first few litters we restricted the amount of straw and set up creeps. The sows piled all the available straw over the piglets and they never used the creeps so now we let them nest with more straw and have discarded the creeps. Piglet mortality is very low.
Even after three years we do not always get the finished pigs right although the fat is never too extreme. We sell most on line or through word of mouth, either as jointed half pigs or sausages. We are lucky that the butcher we use will take as many surplus pigs as we can produce at a good premium.