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August, 2006:

Pignuts

It’s common practice in France for boy-pigs to be castrated in their first few weeks. I’d expected our pigs to be delivered minus their danglies. The theory goes that a castrated boar is less of a handful, lower sex drive and no risk of boar-taint in the meat as they approach sexual maturity. Now, as unfamiliar as I am with the genitals of farm animals… I noticed what looked for all the world like one plum shaped object popping out of the back of one of the pigs! That was clearly not on so off I toddled to my knowledgable farmer chum for a discussion.

Cue much unbounded hilarity, falling about laughing and general uproar at my bestesticled piglet. So, a cursory examination of the piglet by myself and my neighbour and it was pronounced… ‘une cacahuete!’

The pig breeder was called in to take care of errant ‘nut’.

He arrives, has a look at the pig, a good examination and is very apologetic, explains how in all his years of pig castration he has never missed one and will take care of it right away. Preparations are made and…

this is a bit grisly…

I watched the incision…

and the 7ft spurt of non-testicular abcess goop squirting across the paddock. I swear I nearly fainted. To the credit of the little piglet it seemed to take the proceedings in its stride. Can’t say I’d have been quite as understanding myself.

One follow-up visit a few days later and the non-testicle wound was well on the way to healing and all was well in pig-nut-land.

PiggyHilton

A new and exciting departure for us.. livestock! We’ve long raised the great majority of our own fruit and veg.. and have had surplus products to give away as gifts to friends/family/neighbours. Infact, last year we had such an overwhelming surplus of peaches at one point we were regularly taking bucketloads over to our neighbour for his pigs and one day they even had a wheelbarrow load. As evidenced by his new found charcuterie skills, Adrian is keen on experimentation, so as we have the unused land it seemed like a jolly good idea to raise our own weaners. All that surplus food is going to become… bacon (and salamis, chorizo, boudin noir, jambon cru, wiltshire cure hams etc. etc.).

Some backstory… in mid July we went to visit a local pig breeder.. he’s fairly close… only a couple of kilometers from us. He rears all his animals outdoors and had close on a hundred breeding sows and a couple of boars to service them. We had our choice out of a couple of litters and it was almost impossible to pick two out. We left having agreed on a couple of critters and a price for them.. to be delivered sometime in mid August.

We’d done some small amounts of prep to an area that was pretty much ideal.. it’s aboout 150M2, has good fencing and a large shed (the PiggyHilton) with plenty of shade provided by a Walnut tree and a small stand of hazlenuts.

The Bellebouche PiggyHilton

Friday evening was the appointed delivery time and they were somewhat unceremoniously carted in by our pig breeder. We gave them a brief look around their paddock and let them have a little explore. They were distinctly unhappy at the whole being-moved and scary new surroundings experience but after a few minutes settled down and began exploring their new patch.

Double Trouble

They immediately discovered a couple of small cobs of concrete that Adrian had kicked out of the PiggyHilton after doing a flooring repair in there a few weeks ago. It seemed such a shame to disturb them so we decided that.. if concrete was to be their first meal.. then so be it. Poor things.

Well, they have both settled in and seem to be at home in their new pig pen. Now they can come and go as they please in their pen. Their first morning they were very wary of us but after a few token tomatoes fed by hand, they seem to be more relaxed.

We were given half a bag of weaner nuts which we were told to give to the pigs mixed in with the food we are going to feed them with. So far they have tasted a concoction of maize, beetroot water, tomatoes, courgettes, cornichons, plums, grapes (Adrians Pinot!), grape vines and all manner of vegetation from the grounds of their pen. The balance of their diet will be a mixture of whole grains (corn, barley, wheat, oats) and a specific ‘farine de cochon’ all of which are mixed up to make an appetizing looking ‘Piggy Polenta’.

It is amazing how strong their snouts are – they have ploughed a little resting area in the shade of a stand of Hazlenuts where they have their morning and afternoon snoozes. They have been remarkably considerate and made a little toilet area in one corner which means it is easier for us to keep their pen clean. Pig husbandry seems fairly easy so far!

We have both resisted the temptation to name them, although I have been accused of trying to give them names when trying to describe them – so far the favourite descriptions are -“the turkish power lifter and the smaller spotty one” – easier to describe them as the splotchy one and the spotty one but then this is a little too close to actual names.

We don’t want to name them as we don’t want to get really attached to them – although I’m not the one hand feeding them tomatoes and slices of apple for breakfast in bed.

– Joan

Piggypics, have a truffle around.

The spotty one Eyes down, look in. ThePigWithLegsLikeaTurkishPowerlifter Feline Disdain, in spades

I should mention that not everyone was as delighted as us with the arrival of the new grunting, squealing, running about like madmen porcine chums. Our cat surveyed the scene with the correct amount of feline disdain.

Pig Ignorant

Once more, new guests bed down for the night in Bellebouche

Just add sunshine

Interesting to compare and contrast.. back in January Joan planted up our seeds for the chilli crops this year, just as soon as they bravely poked their heads out she blogged a little photo. Well, the results are starting to come in!

Piment de Espelette

I’m particularly pleased with those boys above , they’re ‘Piment d’Espelette’ a French chilli grown in the basque region in the far Southwest corner of France.

http://www.pimentdespelette.com/ and http://www.lamaisondupiment.com/ have more info.

In inimitable French style they actually have their own Appelation Origine Controllé so I’m going to crown these little fellas.. Piment d’Bellebouche! They have an excellent sweet-heat to them and we’ve got bundles of them drying. Who knows, they might even end up in some chorizo d’Bellebouche but that would obviously require some pork.

Louisiana Hotsauce in the making

These are a more typical long waxy cayenne type pepper, they fruit profusely and last year’s crop is still serving me well as dried chilli flakes and exotic smoked chipotles.. and we seem to have about ten times the quanity this year. Fear not though as this offers up a couple of opportunities for culinary experimentations.

Bellebouche hotsauces

My first attempt (above left) was at a Louisiana style sour fermented hotsauce. It’s simplicity to make, just take about 400g of peppers, de-seed them, inadvertently scratch your nose, having done so, then sit and howl in agony for ten minutes. After the howling you can then begin thirty minutes crying like a baby. After the crying is complete blitz in a blender with a quantity of white vinegar and a tablespoon of salt. Decant, leave six weeks before consuming. A little teaspoon-taster dipped in the blender for chef sampling was a taste sensation. It can only get better. My winter scrambled eggs on toast are going to rock mightily.

Second recipe on the right. Same chillis, this time minus the agony and I left them upturned on a quiche dish and gave them a fierce grilling to char and blacken the skins, reducing the flesh to not much more than a mush and concentrating the flavour. I then made up a batch of passata from our tomato harvest using just the golden sunrise fruit and cooked the whole lot out slowly with some onion, plenty of garlic and some sprigs of thyme. When the whole thing was glooping away nicely it was blitzed, passed through a sieve and bottled. This is a coating sauce for baked enchiladas/chimichangas and.. if you’ve never tried that kind of mexican food before then you should check it out. Great stuff.

Put simply, I can’t get enough chilli stuff, the heat is probably what most people associate with them and I’m sure to many people chilli is chilli… but it’s just not so. The depth of flavour and the variety that comes from the fruits alone is just a starting point.. they’re a great addition to plenty of foods and not just the usual thai/idonesian/indian variety either, there is a long heritage of the use of chillis in all kinds of cooking and being able to homegrow a number of varieties is a real thrill.

If any bellebouche blog readers would like a seed exchange later in the year… let me know what you’ve got – I’d be happy to post some out to you.

– Adrian

The antidote, beetroot!

After a couple of hours skull-wrangling and in a slight refrain from yesterdays meat oriented post… I thought I’d drop in some pretty pasta pics.

A vegetarian meal was definately on the cards and if I’m going to have a simple meal of just pasta then it’s worth putting in a little effort to make something fresh, a little eggy and with a little twist.

A couple days worth of harvesting the summer beetroot and processing it and I’d kept a handful of cooked beetroot back for salads… I decided it might be a gas to have a go at beetroot pasta..

meatfree


There’s not really a lot to discuss, pasta is the worlds simplest thing to make, just flour and eggs but the addition of a pureed beetroot was a lot of fun. I’d let the majority of our beetroot harvest get to quite a size in the garden as I was keen to maximse our pickled beetroot, it cooked out superbly tender and remarkably sweet. All I did to make the pasta was blitz down one cooked and peeled root with a couple of eggs to a fine puree and then mix it in with the flour… it was a glorious sticky vivid playdough type mess when I’d done but it did make for some great looking photos.

Drying the tagliatelle over a wooden spoon

A little drying time for the pasta helps before the dish is cooked.. it makes it not as flabby as fresh pasta can be sometimes and helps holds a dressing much better as the pasta has a little bite.

And into the pan for the quickest of cooking… fresh pasta is a handful as it floats and thrashes around wildly in the pan.

Spectacular

And how to serve that? Well nothing more than a dressing of some fresh sage leaves crisply fried in butter that’s just on the point of being Noisette and a little sprinkle of some freshly grated pecorino.

Excellent veggie food, sweet tasting pasta, a rich herby dressing and a little sharp/salty edge from the cheese… and (importantly) no pigs head!

Charcuterie, Episode V ‘Pâté de tête

I’ve embedded the majority of this post behind a cut, I understand that a couple of hundred people come by the blog every day so I think it’s only fair to offer up some reasonable warning that the balance of the content in this post relates to Páté de téte – the French terrine made from, well.. a pigs head! The meek, squeamish, Vegetarians or meat eaters in denial about the true nature of foodstuffs probably shouldn’t click on. You certainly shouldn’t click on if slightly icky pictures of heads, eyeballs, snouts, brains and the like is going to put you off your lunch.

I do have some slightly less graphic charcuterie posts from the past that might get you warmed up first

Charcuterie, Episode I Makin’ Bakin’
Charcuterie, Episode II Substantial Pork Pie
Charcuterie, Episode III Pied-a-cochon
Charcuterie, Episode IV A longing for Boerewors means… making sausages

or just click through..

(more…)

And they’re off… the toms come rolling in

We’ve been nibbling at bits and bobs of ripe fruit for much of July but as August begins, the majority of the tomatoes are starting to come right…

A mornings harvest

I picked a ‘tasting tray’ for a neighbour and here’s a little snap of it..

A sample of the delights of the humble tom!

From left to right…

  • Santa. This is (I believe) an F1 hybrid… we grew these from saved seed from some tomatoes a visitor brought over when they came on holiday here last year.. it’s come (almost) true to the parent fruit but has a much more distinct Italian plum tomato shape/taste/feel. A nice cherry style hybrid.
  • Gardeners Delight. Very sweet with tough skins. Huge tresses of fruit. Makes great salsa.
  • Golden Sunrise. A little bit blond, nice to look at, not much substance.
  • Money maker. Excellent flavour, bit pippy, bit watery.
  • Tigerella. An RHS gongwinner with excellent flavour with good acidity, stands up really well in a simple salad with a robust dressing.
  • Roma. (Top right) A little bit difficult to see in this snap, better picture of them in the foreground of the photo below. They are the classic fruit in tins of Italian plum tomatoes. We’ve got tons of these. Very few pips, loads of flesh, not much juice. Will be the backbone of the sauces that get made to see us through the winter and a fave for making sundried tomatoes
  • Marmande (Bottom right). Second (and final) year I’ll be growing these. These have great flavour but for it to develop they really must be left on the vine until the last minute and the best tasting ones won’t be ready for a month or more. Good for late season fruits.

There are more.. we’ve grown (I think) nine varieties this year.. ‘Ailsa Craig’ and ‘Aunty Madge’ aren’t quite ready yet. This lot are all outdoor grown, all raised from seed we’ve saved/bought and started off in late January indoors. I’ve not used any tomato feed on them at all.. just a smattering of ‘nettle soup’ as the plant was growing up, seems to do the trick and as we’ve 70+ plants we’ve more than enough to be going on with.

more toms

Houston We Have A Problem

Our wonderful seven year old digital camera is no more. It has finally given up the will to work. This has meant that we haven’t taken any photos in the last 3 weeks which is a shame as in this time we have visited some really amazing places and seen some truly outstanding things. We will write a few short posts later detailing these.

Today, our new camera arrived, courtesy of amazon.fr. It has more functionality, is smaller and has a bigger memory – so watch this space !!

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