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The Duty of Feasting


Winter, not Fall, brings the greatest harvest for our homestead.  The garden is iced-over, cold and dead.  Each day is a prolonged dusk where the sun peaks over the fir trees for only a few minutes at midday.  The children tire quickly from playing in the cold and wet.  Inspiration is in short supply.

But then it comes, emerging from the steam of the scalding barrel and the plumes of smoke from the shed.  Lard, rillettes, ropes of sausages, hams, pate, hocks and bacon descend on us in such generous quantity that we spend a good two months merely managing the largess.  The smoker must be stoked to accommodate the pork as the various cuts come off the salt.  The meat hangs in the shop to dry; then to the smoker for two days, while the next batch comes off the salt.  The fire smolders everyday, all day.
The overwhelming yield of a traditional harvest, where the notion of trim is downright blasphemous, compels an orderly routine of preserving and feasting.  The pig head, for example, must be roasted.  If we freeze it, the skin won't crisp properly, but it also only lasts fresh for a few days in the fridge.  We are thus obliged to serve an extravagant feast.  

This year, I boned out the pig head, leaving the face with the ears and jowls and snout as one seamless mask.  I stuffed it with sweated shallots, a little orange zest, chopped apples, smoked caraway sausage and roasted chestnuts flamed in whiskey.  I sewed up the pig head, then started roasting at around nine in the morning.  By five, we were feasting as the direct result of a pig head threatening to spoil.  

November 30th is St Andrew's feast and after this date, all pigs scrape easily.  Before this day, they are shedding the summer coat and growing the winter layer, making fall pigs the most difficult to dehair.

At the very least, this is another cue to start the harvest only when winter has made itself felt and can no longer be confused with a prevaricating fall.  Kill the pig to welcome the dark days with heart-easing mirth.  And don't neglect singing the Boar's Head Carol.

Sometimes, it isn't enough to be invited to the feast.  Give me a minute and I will recall a myriad obligations I have to fulfill first.  Left to my own devices, I push the feast off until it doesn't happen.  But when the pig drops noiseless to the ground, I am required to feast.  I cannot shrug it for other duties because this dead animal goes to the top of the list.  It is impossible to argue with a dead pig.  I am, thankfully, commanded to feast.

 
"You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat."
George Herbert
"There is a great discrepancy in written and oral reports of pig killing without a gun. Many recount a silent and peaceful death. Others have pig killings etched into their mind as the primary horrors that made them flee the country. There is no middle ground.

I think this is a result of good and bad slaughter men to be sure, but also of the relative killability of different pigs. The cold truth is that not all pigs possess the same death grip on their life (if that makes sense at all). Pigs vary in their ability to freak out. The horizon of fight or flight is not equal among pigs."
 
Brandon, excerpt from recent conversation
on killing pigs without a gun
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"I haven't felt this inspired in a long time..."
"Even knowing you for five or so years, watching video after video that you have produced (over and over), butchering pig after pig with you, and even after going through a Mangalitza before, Vicky and I just want to tell you how far you have hit it out of the park this time.

The depth of flavor, the variety of the products, everything far surpassed our expectations, and it made me realize how much more there is to be gotten out of a pig. Everything in the share has me inspired to plan out months of soups, breads, larded and bacon-wrapped roasts, and cassoulets.

And the sausages are amazing; I didn't know how we were going to feel about 30#+ of paprika-flavored sausage, since we don't normally use much paprika, but you have done what you set out to do - make a sausage that we can see eating and enjoying for a long time without getting sick of it.
 
So - thank you. I keep experiencing waves of gratitude that people like you are not just keeping alive the arts that give depth and significance to the simplest acts of living, but that you are also so willing and able to spread the message." -Josh, a 2018 pork share patron

On Sale Now: Mangalitza and Gloucestershire Old Spot Pork Shares.  Email back to reserve one.  Ready for pickup Feb/March 2019.  Dare we say, Christmas is the time to think about Easter feasts?
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Thanks for reading & keep in touch! 
Peace be with you,
The Sheards
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