I reluctantly kissed the gentle lips of the lady, into the car she slipped and drove off. Down our quiet road, off to the never never. It would be a spell before I'd set eyes on her again, and that was just what was planned, not accounting for what might go wrong. The outback has a way of testing us, especially testing for the cars that carry us. I on the other hand wouldn't leave for my adventure for a few days yet and I had some chores that needed doing. One large sow hanging in quarters in the cool room weighed heavy on my mind, as it did on the butchers hooks that held the heavy weight of a skinned carcass. Quite a job lay ahead, a job I was new to, but rather eager to embrace. Breaking down a fully grown pig has been on the list of skills I'd like to learn for a while and as the opportunity had presented itself I grabbed it with the swiftness of Mr Miyaki's chopsticks.
My master for the morning was the quintessential Aussie butcher, Don. Short in stature, sure, but he made up for it in honestly and ability. As I opened up heavy timber doors to the workshop kitchen, he carried in load after load of mobile butchering equipment. Simple gear that he'd modified and improved to make mobile butchering possible and efficient. I couldn't help but praise him on his inventiveness for connecting a large hand cranking meat mincer to a small electric motor to make mincing kilo's of meat a breeze.
We broke down the beast, with each cut Don would explain what I should do with it. I watched in awe. I helped handle a few of the large quarters as they went through the heavy duty saw. I bagged and tagged and no doubt asked many annoying questions, trying to drain a life time of experience from the man in a just few hours of assisting him break down the pig.
Unfortunately I hadn't been clear enough in wanting the offal, the head, the trotters, the skin so I ended up with a bit more of an Aussie butcher version of a pig, but nonetheless I have a freezer full of meat, and a handful of chorizo recipes to try. I have loin for making bacon, legs for Jamon, belly for pancetta, cuts for roasting and a supply of mince for experimenting with sausage recipes.
The only reason I have this pork is because a lovely lady called Prue offered me two pigs free to a good home. I've never met her, I've just spoke to her on the telephone, a few texts and thats it. From what I gather she's pretty happy that the pigs ended up used well. They will feed us for well over a year, so I thank you Prue. For taking me down a path I've been putting off for so long. A path that I'll now travel each year. A pig will be an annual tradition, all the way from piglets to bacon. Having the experience like this seems to allow me to better understand what is involved with pork production, the conditions in which they live, the personalities they possess and the cost of feeding and processing them. All elements of pork production that I guess we don't see when we grab that shrink wrap of bacon at the supermarket. I'm feeling fortunate to have seen the process.