"I awake each morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savour the world. This makes it hard to plan my day." E. B. White
Here’s a little irony for you. The quote above (which also graces our homepage) is by E.B. White, the author of Charlotte’s Web, a book about a spider who saves a pig, and about friendship and kindness and love. The little girl Fern, supported by Charlotte’s amazing web-spelling efforts, also spends a great deal of her time and energy saving Wilbur the pig from the usual farm pig’s fate to end up as bacon. And yet White’s sentiment in the quote above so helpfully captures the spirit of what we’re trying to do at Jonai Farms - raise happy pigs who only have ‘one bad day’, and then eat them.
Sorry, Wilbur, but we savour while we save.
If that’s not disconcerting enough, of the pigs who will be slaughtered, we’ve taken to calling all the boys Wilbur, and all the girls Charlotte. Accuracy be damned. And so we found ourselves 15 months after arriving on the farm ready for our first slaughter.
Six months ago, I wrote about our first piglets and all the learning that got us to that point. Since that first, we’ve had another five litters born, though Big Mama’s entire second litter was taken by foxes in the night. She was the first we’d allowed to farrow out in the back paddocks, and it proved to be a huge mistake. The poor sow was distressed for a couple of days, and we were all deeply sad at the senseless loss of so many little piglets. As a result, all sows are brought back to the nursery paddock next to the house to farrow, where we can keep a closer watch while Danny Boy (our Red Heeler) patrols the perimeter.
Our first winter on the farm was an endless series of frosts and Stuart’s regular stress of getting bogged trying to haul feed to the pigs out in the back paddocks. A new road is going in next week to resolve that particular issue.
We watched too much Portlandia, and Stuart grew a beard and took to milling some of the pig’s grain with an old grinder bought from another pig-farming friend.
Holgate Brewery kept us in spent brewer’s grain as a proportion of the pigs’ diet - keep an eye out for Jonai Farms pork sausages on their menu soon…
And at last, spring came, the pigs were big enough, and it was time to test out our systems (and taste our pork!) before commencing sales next month.
Stuart took one of the Wilburs to Diamond Valley abattoir in Laverton, where he was satisfied with the professional and humane handling of the pig as he was escorted in. The pig didn’t appear stressed, and everything went smoothly. The next day, he picked up the carcass (split lengthways in half, cleaned and de-haired with the head removed - though we had requested the head back - we need to formalise arrangements with them if we want offal). He then collected me from work (I work five days a week - three in the city, two from home - a story I will tell soon about how many farms are surviving only by bringing in other income), and we arrived home around 6pm to commence butchering.
From paid labour to labour of love, I thought. :-)
The kids were excited, and remarkably philosophical about the first Jonai pig to end up on the butcher’s block. It’s obvious that our message has been absorbed intact - they are a lot more comfortable eating animals who have lived good lives than those who haven’t. We all found the butchering process fascinating.
At around 9pm, the pig was fully butchered into shoulder roasts, Boston butt and tenderloins (saved for sausages), belly for rillette, belly for bacon, loin rack roasts, leg roasts, hocks and trotters. We quickly cooked up the spare ribs with salt and pepper on the barbecue and served them with grilled polenta as a little tasty reward for our efforts, delighted to have our first sample of Jonai pork and to find it to be delicious!
The next night I roasted one of the rack roasts, which you can see was luscious…
Next came jars of rillette for chrissy pressies for the fam...
A shoulder roast cooked on a bed of Jonai-garden-fresh leek, celery, fennel, garlic, and tarragon, plus cinnamon and star anise was the centrepiece of the extended family christmas lunch…
Finally it was time to make sausages, on the first free day since slaughter. Many hands made… if not light work… at least loads of fun with our assortment of grinders - the clear winner was actually the oldest of the three! Bratwurst, chorizo and Jonai garlic sausages have all since been enjoyed by many, and soon diners at Holgate will be enjoying these and other variants as well.
Our first bacon is too salty, and we let it dry out a bit much in the fridge, resulting in more of a pancetta. It’s been a welcome ingredient in such delights as my first ever pork pot pie (which also featured a luscious stock from the trotters - thanks @tomatom for the inspiration and recipe!), though less welcome to grace the plate with fried eggs. We’ll work on our recipe before moving into selling cured smallgoods in a few months.
And so we’ve done it. We’re truly eating paddock to plate - homegrown single estate sausages, if you will. And we’re ready to sell this wonderful pork to the public, starting in a fortnight. We’ll post a price list and details of how we’ll be selling (small, medium and large boxes of mixed cuts and sausages) in the next week.
Those who have expressed interest, I promise there is a newsletter coming soon as well! If you haven’t already expressed interest and would like to, you can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s a pleasure raising your pork, ethical omnivores! :-)