Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Pig Farms and Open Arms

Working as a chef you gained certain perks, one being we were able to go on sourcing trips. One in particular was going to Pete Gotts farm in Cumbria, Sillfield Farm. Pete raises some of the best pigs and wild boar in the UK. His meat is not only well known in the industry but well known in London's Borough market. The trip not only allowed us to spend a day on the farm we also learned how to break down a pig and kill our own chickens, pluck them, gut them and have them for supper. The best part we made our own sausages and bacon. We took the train from London to Cumbria in the morning and was greeted by Pete who took us from the station to the farm where we went through the planned two days in his meeting room. A big room with a boars head on the ceiling pillars and a long table in the middle for us all to sit. After the meeting we had a tour of the farm. Pete had so many different animal from hamsters to donkeys. The most interesting things though were the pigs. The many different kinds and colours the most bizarre were the fury pigs. These pigs looked half sheep half pig. Cute as hell. After the tour we walked to the top of the hill and took in the beautiful views of the Cumbrian hillside. Packing up we headed to the hostel, changed and headed out for dinner at a local hotel.

 The next day we got up early and headed back to the farm. Pete was there smiling and ready for us to begin our day. First on the list was the birds. Some local hunters had brought Pete some different game to show us and explain the different birds, how they are used and what they would taste like. Once he had finished he brought us some chickens from another farm near by where he should us how to break the neck and then pluck the bird. I won't go into to much detail, but it isn't as easy as it looks and of course you want to do it as quickly and painless as possible. Once everyone had either a go at the chickens or plucking the birds (or both) we headed inside. Pete had his butcher with half a pig where he showed us the different cuts and ways to break down the pig. They have a saying you can use everything on a pig except the "OINK". Nothing goes to waste, after the butcher was done with the pig Pete should us how to clean the chickens as so we could have them for supper. It's a horrible task killing a chicken with your bare hands plucking it and pulling the guts out. Chopping off the head letting the blood drain, however as a chef I felt like this is how it should be. My value for food had changed and risen to another level.

The many cuts of pork
    Soon after cleaning down Pete brought us loads of different herbs and spices and a recipe for real Cumbrian sausages and streaky bacon. Putting us in groups of two everyone had an opportunity to come up with a sausage and bacon recipe. The bacon had to cure for two weeks but we cooked the sausages straight off. There were lots of different types, Stewart the baker and I came up with an apple and cider sausage with was good but a bit overkill with the dried apple. The winners did a spicy sausage which I won't lie was banging. After all the excitement we ate supper which was all the birds we plucked and gutted. Supper was delicious with chicken, guinea fowl, duck and pheasant. We finished and packed up then headed home. 

   Pete's farm has an amazing shop full of goodies you can probably only find in Cumbria and in the streets of the Borough market in the Sillfield farm stall. I see Pete most Wednesdays as he delivers the restaurant it's lamb and pigs.

Pete explaining about the birds
  Killing the chicken and seeing the animals my appreciation and value for food has really grown up. Unfortunately in life we don't appreciate the simple things like meat and food in general. Food is our fuel but it is also our personality and our history, food is what makes us alive and living. The way we eat, cook and even appreciate food is a mirror of who we are. Next time you are eating, think about what it is and how it reflects who you are. 

  Next blogg is moving onto pasta and my trip to Italy! As always thanks for reading!

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