Our friend Richard raises Gascon pigs on his farm, letting them run through eight hectares of forest. Gascons are a fatty pig but the fat is divine and perfect for my growing kids.
We bought half a pig and I spent the morning separating it into cuts for cooking. I hadn’t chopped up an animal this big before and there was a lot of pig anatomy to learn. Richard did most of the work – he’s about five times as fast as me. I was familiar with most of the cuts but I wouldn’t be able to construct a pig out of its component parts. We had some simple chops tonight and they tasted divine. The big leg and shoulder cuts went into the freezer until our oven gets wired.
In a surprise move the ramoneur showed up. He’s the sweep who lives a few houses down the road towards the village. M. Erbisti is very busy this time of year but since we are near neighbors he snuck us in to a gap in his schedule. Now Project Warm is unblocked for installing Mr. Green in the Library. I was wondering what a 21st century sweep would be like and he was certainly a character. He sang to himself. As he was moving aside some roof tiles to get access to the top of the chimney he was repeatedly singing ‘I can’t do this’ in French as though he couldn’t fit through the gap in the roof. He could.
And to finish off the evening I made stock out of a pile of the pig bones and and put the half head into Big Red (our large cast-iron pot) to make a paté or brawn or head cheese depending on where you live. I’ve never cooked anything like this before. There was an element of the macabre to it. After many hours of cooking you could pull the teeth out of the jaw. To roof of the mouth fell off. The meat dropped off the bones and the stock was thick with gelatin. I’m letting it cool tonight before separating meat and bones, chopping it all up and mashing it into those French glass pots with orange seals.
Bug the Siamese is still finding mice.