Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The last porky tales - part 3: In praise of fat and a varied diet

If I had to pin down just one thing about the taste of home grown pork that was a revelation, it would be the fat.

I should probably point out that we haven't eaten commercial pork for a number of years now, preferring to buy from an excellent free range producer nearby (King Valley Free Range - hi E!), so we were already eating pork that has amazing flavour. So to be honest I wasn't expecting there to be much (if any) noticeable difference with our own pork as long as we got it right in the cooking. I was wrong.

I can taste the difference, particularly in the fat. Honestly the fat is so tasty it's almost better than the meat. I think this is because as a home producer we had the luxury of being able to provide a more varied diet for our 2 piggies, including trailerloads of apples and chestnuts from a neighbour, plus a regular supply of vegetable scraps from the local green grocer. Not only did this help keep our food bills down and our piggies happy, but I think the diet has had a difference to the flavour - in the same way you can taste the difference between grass fed and grain fed beef, or between a home grown and a commercial chicken. It was interesting that the butcher was shocked at the size of our pigs compared to their litter mates (who were processed 4 weeks before) - and I put that down to their diet too. Granted they were a bit spoilt and probably got a bit more food than was strictly necessary, but as you can see from the previous porky tales post there is a very nice layer of fat, but it isn't excessive - there is still plenty of meat.

A few weeks ago in Bendigo we went to the fabulous Dispensary Enoteca, and Jerry had a pork belly entree (free range, rare breed). We both agreed that the fat had no flavour compared to ours. It was really interesting as before growing our own we would have said it was pretty tasty.

So with Christmas coming, and my experience that the only decent pastry I ever make involves lard, I decided to render some from our piggies. I saved some of the fat for barding (the butcher had scored it), but the rest went in batches into a low oven in my cast iron pot to render. It took a few hours each time, but I was left with several jars of lard, and then some pork scratchings (crispy skin). I've never been bad keen on them so they mostly went to the dogs.

When I was rendering the back fat for lard I swear it smelt like roasting toffee apples - but better. The smell was more enticing than a full roast dinner! When cold it went a beautify snowy white, and it still smells great.

Since then I've used the lard to make lardy cake, as well as make some mighty fine crispy roast potatoes to go with roast dinners.

I can't say I was overwhelmed with the lardy cake, but glad I have tried it once. I'll be saving the rest of the lard for pastry and potatoes!

Coming soon: getting my head around brawn and pate, plus making bone broth.


Joyfulhomemaker said...

a local guy to us has started with free range pigs and he bought some down for us to try..he bought a ham and some pork sausages...and i thought the fat was devine too..

Linda said...

I've organised to get some lard from organic pigs this weekend. I'm going to make soap with it. Maybe you could do that as well. What wonderfully local soap that would be!

Margo said...

@Linda there was nowhere near enough fat to make a decent batch of soap, and it seems like such a waste when it's so tasty :-).

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