A little porcine magic at Thyme
They bring undoubted delight to our farm & kitchen garden, a see-saw gallop, snuffling snouts, perky ears and bright little eyes, the pigs are firm favourites with the team at Thyme and guests alike. Its difficult not to be sentimental about them, they are intelligent and comical in equal measure. Bunny Guinness, who works with us on our evolving garden designs at Thyme, describes her own pigs with huge affection in The Daily Telegraph, ‘[they] roll over with muted squeals of pleasure, rather like a Labrador, when you start scratching them in the right places.’ They are part of the food production of our farm, so ensuring their lives are as full and as natural as possible guarantees that we get the very best quality meat from them.
We chose eight week old piglets from a local farm after weaning, they will only do two short roadtrips in their lives, the rest is spent snuffling about with their snouts in the ground. We have had a really wet winter but those long snouts are powerful tools and even the hardest ground is no challenge to them, eating roots, slugs, forgotten root vegetables and driven by an incredible sense of smell that can detect a food source deep under the surface of the ground, hence their skills with truffle hunting. Our need for a rotavator has almost disappeared; just move them on when they have turned the ground over. They love windfall apples and overgrown courgettes, even the grass clippings along with their mix of cereals, and have become part of the recycling system at Thyme. ‘The Pig Idea’ started by Thomasina Myers & Tristram Stuart in 2013 is still campaigning to lift the restrictions imposed on food waste being fed to animals. The pigs we see today were domesticated centuries ago to clean up our scraps and leftovers, creating a healthy mindful cycle that kept food in the food chain. However, in 2001 the feeding of catering waste to pigs was banned in a response to the outbreak of Foot & Mouth Disease. The circumstances leading to such devastating outbreaks must of course be avoided but we hope that ‘The Pig Idea’ are ultimately successful in their campaign to allow the feeding of legally safe food waste to livestock, wherever the option of feeding to people has been exhausted, and then our pigs could enjoy more than the surplus vegetables and become part of the ‘no waste’ kitchen systems we have at Thyme.
Nonetheless, their delicious diet means that they grow rapidly in their gorgeous surroundings and are ready for slaughter from five months, around 80kg in weight. The Pietrain cross Duroc breed we have chosen forms a solid cylindrical body with good quality meat across a tight, broad muscular back with large hams. We are now using them for bacon, homemade Italian Sausages, and cured meats, which are utterly delicious - all the moreso because we know exactly how the meat has been treated. We urge you to think about the pork you buy, always ask your butcher about the farms that they source their pork from; buy some mince and enjoy our sausage recipe or even better join our chefs and experts on one of our inspiring charcuterie classes this year and expand your knowledge of one of the nation’s favourite meats.