Vale House Pork: From Field to Fork

Here at Vale House Kitchen, we’re firm believers in the field-to-fork philosophy – and we don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk too. For the last two years, we’ve been raising our own pigs for our butchery courses. We believe that if you’re going to eat meat, you should be comfortable with where it comes from – and for us, that means raising our own so that we can be absolutely sure that the pigs have had the best quality of life possible, and been slaughtered humanely.

Our pigs come from Susan Tanner at the Plum Pudding Pigs Company, who breeds Oxford Sandy & Blacks (a rare breed known as ‘plum pudding pigs’ because of the dark splotches on their hide, like the fruit in a plum pudding) on the top of the Mendips. They’re the ideal pig to keep in your garden because they’re content and happy chaps who don’t try to escape, and their slow growth to maturity means they taste fabulous. We take the best possible care of them, but we never forget that they’re not pets – hence their names, Sausage & Bacon for the first year, and Trotter & Chops this year.

Once they reach nine months, we take our pigs to Langford Abattoir, part of Bristol University – although we should admit that since we’re still a bit nervous of driving a truck with a great big trailer on it, we usually ask our lovely local farmers, Ray and Colin, to lend a hand. Both of them were born in the ancient farmhouse 500 yards down the road and are the local font of all farming knowledge and know-how.

Because the abattoir is part of the university, it’s staffed by trainee vets who are devoted to ensuring an exceptionally high standard of welfare, and used to dealing with smallholders who’ve only got a few animals. The pigs are swiftly dispatched and we end up with the carcass in two neat halves, plus the offal. At our pig butchery classes, that’s exactly how we start – with half a pig – and then we break it down into all the familiar joints and chops, as well as making sausages, bacon and ham. Although it might make some people squeamish, we think that it’s only respectful to be in touch with the process that brings you your bacon sandwiches – and we reckon taking a little extra care over it all makes them taste better too.

To find out more about our pig butchery courses and to book your place, click here.

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