Daisy was a good pig. She came with the farm when we bought it and it wasn't long before she had her first litter. She was always a brilliant mother and gave us 30 piglets in all. The sound of her contented grunts is sadly missed.
But she was in danger of turning into a pet rather than livestock. If we carried on like this, we would pour an awful lot of food into her and then, one day, we would find several hundred pounds worth of pig passed away, leaving us with a big problem to deal with.
But our options for Daisy were limited. Our small butchers would not be able to deal with turning such a large sow into sausages. The best they would be able to manage would be to turn her into an awful lot of mince. And the butchers attached to either of the abattoirs I have used, so I'm told, just out all their sausage pigs in together. If I out Daisy in, I wanted Daisy back, not somebody else's meat reared goodness knows how.
So when the Cambridgeshire Self Sufficiency Group were planning their sausage making demonstration and Paul the friendly butcher suggested using Daisy, it seemed like a perfect solution for the old girl.
We would be able to make her into all sorts of sausages, plus a few other well chosen cuts of meat - an old sow like this is no longer suitable for the most tender cuts - and everybody, not least us, could learn how to make sausages thanks to Daisy.
I've already written about the adventures of getting Daisy into the trailer and off to the abattoir. Well straight after lunch last Thursday I headed off to pick up Daisy's carcass. (Sorry to be so matter of fact about it, but that is the best way to deal with these things. I have no problem looking after animals, even naming them, then eating them. In fact, I have a problem with people who are not willing to face the fact that they are actually eating what was a living animal.)
It was, however, pretty disconcerting to be given Daisy's head first. It did still look like Daisy, but if you've ever seen a dead body you'll know that there is something missing from it, the spirit is gone. When the heart stops beating, the essence of a being leaves it. Nevertheless I determined to make sure that Sue didn't have to see this.
We then loaded Daisy into the back of the car. She really was quite a size. The carcass had a lot of fat on it. Usually, if this were a weaner, I would be ashamed at such poor rearing, but I guess this was a sign that Daisy had become more of a pampered pet.
I met Paul at 2:30 and we proceeded to get the room ready to start the mammoth task of turning Daisy into meat. As Paul says, "livestock is deadstock". This is a good thought for all smallholders to hold on to.
Our task was not helped by the malfunction of Paul's mincer - he had lent it out and it seemed the smallest piece had broken off rendering the whole machine useless. Emergency phone calls were made and a couple of non-commercial mincers duly arrived.
From nowhere, too, reinforcements arrived to help with the task.
I'm sure we slowed Paul down considerably, but he is a very patient man and was keen to teach us as much as he could.
The sausage making was actually quite straightforward, though there were a few techniques to be mastered. I had purchased ready made mixes of spices, herbs and rusk. These were mixed with a little water, then about 20lb of meat was minced and the whole lot was mixed, kneaded and pummelled by hand until we had sausage meat. This was loaded into one end of the sausage making machine and by turning a handle the meat was forced out of the other end into the waiting casings. We used natural hog casings, which we had washed and loaded onto the nozzle at the end of the machine.
The person stationed here had the job of trying to make sure the sausages remained the same thickness and the skins did not split. Obviously there were a few misshapen souls, but on the whole we ended up with some decent sausages. Paul showed us how to twist and tie them and voila!
You'll have to imagine the finished product, as this is when my phone ran out of battery, so no more pics.
When I say that we ended up with some decent sausages, we actually got about 160lb of sausages in the end! In fact I was so busy mincing, mixing and trying to bag everything up and label it that I never actually got a go at the business end of the sausage making machine.
We also made a boiling sausage, made from leaner mince mixed with red wine and garlic, ideal in cassoulets or to use for meatballs. In addition to the sausage, Paul cut the back legs (the front ones are actually referred to as hands and not legs) into quite a few lovely gammon joints and a few roasting joints for us. We got spare ribs too, a couple of strips of loin, plus a whole load of mince and diced pork.
Overall, I felt this was a fitting end for Daisy. I was immensely proud of Sue, too, for coming along and helping out. She hadn't been sure if she would be able to bring herself to, but in the end I think it helped her.
I was determined not to waste anything. This would have been disrespectful to Daisy. As well as all that meat, I had six bags of fat and bones in the car. Making the best use of this would be my Friday task.
Meanwhile, if anybody wants to buy any Daisy sausages, please email me. You will know that they come from a pig who was treated well and had a good, long life. You will know too that they contain no dodgy ingredients, no factory sweepings, no eyelids etc. You will know that they were hand crafted by expert sausage makers!
We have available, at £3.80/lb:
Lincolnshire (sausages and sausage meat)
The Great British Banger
Chilli and Coriander
Old Dubliner (peppery, sausage meat)
Thank you Daisy.