Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Half a pig, is it worth it?

I was still feeling somewhat annoyed by ending up paying more than I hoped for my half a pig. I figured the best way to find out if it had been worth it was to see what the same amount of meat would cost if I bought it from the supermarket.

I used the Tesco online prices, plus the weights from my half a pig and calculated the price for each part. Just out of interest I priced up the very cheapest and the best that Tesco had to offer online (which was not always that good by the way, a mix of finest, organic and standard, although I think all British).

Joints (13.72kg)- These were a mix of shoulder and leg and I can't tell which is which, I worked it out as 1/3 shoulder, 2/3 leg.

Shoulder (4.57kg)- cheap £12.24, best £18.28
Leg (9.15)- cheap £58.46, best £73.10
Chops (5.47kg, 20 chops)- cheap £21.83, best £78.00 
Belly (2.41)- cheap £10.24, best £15.64
Sausages (3.5kg)- cheap £3.71, best £19.91

Cheapest- £106.58
Supermarket best (a term used loosely)- £204.93
Butchered half pig plus sausage supplies- £145

So in the end it worked out to be a lot cheaper than the closest supermarket equivalent, a £60 saving or more depending on what sausages you choose from the supermarket. The saving should really be higher as the quality of some of the meat priced as best is well below, in fact even the best of the best does not compare with the welfare standards of the butchered half pig (British, fully free range, organic).
It was not even that much more expensive than the cheapest options, and a lot of that I would not eat, especially the sausages (seriously what can possibly be in sausages at £1.06 per kg?!)

There were also a few extras that couldn't be priced, like back fat and bones and trotters if you have someone to eat them, that makes it even better value. There was also a good afternoon of entertainment in making the sausages!

So in all it is not only worth it for the entertainment value of making sausages and satisfaction of eating truly happy high welfare pork, but also financially. That said I will be trying to better the price when I buy the next one.

And because I don't like to post without pictures, here is a roast dinner featuring some of the much blogged about pig. I am happy to report it was very tasty indeed.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011


One of the main reasons for getting half a pig was to make sausages. I like sausages but really don't like the way you get grisly bits in shop bought ones, even quite fancy ones have iffy bits in and it honestly makes me feel a little queasy.

I wanted some tasty sausages without the "bits that pucker" (as my friend puts it) and the best way to know what goes in a sausage is to make it yourself.

The meat came from the half pig and the skins, rusk and flavour mix from Weschenfelder sausage suppliers (they were very good, decent prices, every thing you could need and fast delivery).

I asked the butcher to skin and chop about half the belly for sausages, unfortunately he left it as pretty large chunks, that probably suit their grinder but were much too big for mine. First task was to cut it down to more manageable chunks. I did get rid of one or two bits that were solid fat as being belly meat it was quite fatty in general.

After the chopping came the mincing. I am very impressed with this little grinder, it coped with the 3.2kg with no problems.

Next the skins were rinsed to get rid of the salt and soaked in warm water. We used ready spooled skins, I think this made the whole process easier and is worth the extra money.

For mixing the filling we used flavour mixes to make a batch of 1.5kg pork and apple and 1.5kg of Cumberland. We wanted the first ones to be very simple and straightforward, which they were. We then used the sausage book recipes to make 500g of pork and leek and 500g of baking chorizo.

Mixing the filling, I tried using gloves but it didn't work so hands it was (apart from the chorizo, I didn't want super chili hands). You can see the mincer ready to stuff the sausages behind the bowl.

Unfortunately there are no pictures of the stuffing, all four available hands were in use making the sausages so none free for the camera.

Getting the skins on was a little tricky, I think the nozzle is better sized for hog casings and we soon learnt not to overstuff the skins as it caused bursting when we tried to twist them. We ran out of casing at the end, four spools is about right for 3kg pork.

The slightly odd looking ones were cooked up for sampling, the more normal ones were bagged in portions and left in the fridge overnight then frozen.

They were very tasty.

Lots of things to do a little differently next time though (I am writing them here so I remember)-
  1. Ask the butcher for smaller chunks of meat
  2. More flavour mix than in the instructions, they were nice but could have done with more herbiness/appliness
  3. More liquid if following the book recipes, will use the meat:rusk:water ratio from the flavour mix instructions as they were perfect
  4. 4 spools of casing for 3kg meat.
  5. Less chili in the baking chorizo, they are hot!
  6. Remember making sausages takes at least twice as long as you expect (although less if the meat is already chopped small)

Saturday, 9 July 2011

What's in a pig?

Actually, what's in a half a pig, but you could double it to get a whole one.

Yesterday we collected our first half a pig.

First up, the pig price saga- I spent ages researching prices and sources. I had been told that a half pig should not be much more than £80, but I wanted one that was free range, so knew it would be more expensive.

Prices seemed to be around the £140 mark so when I was offered £2.20 a kilo for free range organic I double checked the price and placed my order (that would be about £66 for a half). I should have triple checked, because I got a phone call saying that the price was wrong and it should be £4.20 a kilo, they did say I could cancel the order. Since I am having a whinge I will not name the supplier, following the if you can't say something nice don't say anything rule. Actually they were very nice and butchered to order, just confused the prices.

I ummed and ahhed, it was more than I wanted to pay but was pig with excellent provenance. I looked for other sources and even tried to work out what the closest equivalent in supermarket prices would be. In the end we went for it, figuring we live and learn and depending how tasty it is we can look for a different source next time.

It looks like this:

Obviously what you get depends on what you order. I asked for:
  • a female half pig- to do with hormones and meat flavour
  • no head- no room/time to deal with it, don't like brawn
  • no trotters- no dog, don't fancy eating them myself
  • no offal- just don't like it
  • about half the belly skinned and cut into chunks so I can make sausages
  • joints sized for 5-6 people 
The biggest problem with researching was that I couldn't find out how much of what cut to expect which made it hard to work out values, so on arrival we weighed each bit and noted it down, weights include the packaging.

Joints, mix of shoulder and leg, can't tell which is which- 13.7kg, 7 joints
Belly cut into strips- 2.41kg, 16 big strips
Belly skinned and diced- 3.8kg
Chops- 5.47kg, 20 chops
Chunk of back fat, forgot to weigh this

I was also offered the bones but turned them down this time.

The meat looks excellent, not too fatty. It has been rewrapped (the clingfilm was rather leaky) and frozen apart from the meat for sausages and a joint for Sunday so I can report back on flavour soon.

Today is going to be spent making sausages, once I know how many I get I will work out what it would all cost to buy individually and see if it has been good value after all.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

What mincer?

After much faffing around the half pig is ordered (more on that in another post), it will be ready on Friday afternoon, which left me with a bit of a problem as I had not got my mincer/sausage stuffer combo organised.

I have done quite a lot of research, originally I was going to buy a sausage starter kit with the classic bolts to a table cast iron type, like the ones they sell here, most likely as part of a kit with skins and rusk.

I would have preferred a stainless steel one though as it would be easier to maintain, they can be found here, but were a little out of my price range.

During my research I had seen various plastic mincers, but written them off as flimsy, until I came across this one on the Lakeland website. It had excellent reviews apart from people having issues with the suction fitting. Since time was short and there is a Lakeland shop nearby (ish, its in Nottingham) I rang them to check there was one in stock and went to collect it yesterday.

It is variously called a meat mincer (the shop and website) a health mincer (the instructions) and a pasta maker (??!! the box).

It does have three pasta attachments, but I would say it is a mincer that does pasta, rather than a pasta maker that does mince (does that make sense to you?). It also comes with two grades of mincing blade, a chopping blade, a meat tray, meat poker/suction cup key and a sausage nozzle. The nozzle is not overly long, but the skins I have come in short lengths so that is fine.

I picked up some beef to give it a trial run, just in case it was a disaster I didn't want huge amount of pork sat waiting while I frantically tried to find an alternative.

It was not a disaster, and so far I am very impressed, a huge advantage over the alternatives being that it comes apart completely and being made of plastic and stainless steel (the blades) it washes easily, no worries about stuck bits of meat in the machine.

The suction worked perfectly on the granite slab, but also seem ok on my slightly textured worktop.

The only slight problem is that the crank handle is longer than the machine so it has to hang over the side of the work surface, but I guess that does give more leverage and it was not an issue.

It will get its real test when the pork arrives, but so far it has a big thumbs up.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Fate of the strawberries one- Rumpot

Or Rumtopf if you want the German, they are behind this idea, and a very good idea it is too!

Take 440g (about 1lb) or strawberries and mix with 220g (about 1/2lb) of sugar. Leave for 30mins or so.

Put the sugared strawberries plus all the juice and sugar into a rumtopf jar. You don't have to have a special jar, but we found this one in a charity shop any large, lidded jar will do.

Pour rum on top of the berries until they are completely covered, we used about 750ml. Put the lid on and sit the jar safely on a shelf.

As more fruit comes into season (raspberries, cherries, blackberries, blackcurrants, red currants etc) repeat the process of fruit, half the weight of sugar, add to the jar and cover with rum. Frozen fruit and tinned fruit can be used too, a few pineapple slices are good.

The jar should be full by the end of the summer, leave it for a few months for all the flavours to mix and just before Christmas strain the liqud off for drinking. The fruit can be eaten too if you like. 

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Strawberry season, part two

As the garden is only producing nibble quantities of strawberries today we went to the pick your own fruit farm at Wymeswold.

Prices and a field of strawberry plants.

Many of the strawberries were not quite ripe, but we came home with a nice basketful (about 1.6kg after chopping the stalks off for £6.56- bargain!). The raspberries were not ripe yet so we came home without any.

Amusingly shaped strawberries for your entertainment.

The berries have been prepped for their various destinies, but more on that tomorrow.