I promised a little more action on the blog, so here’s another belated post about our growing family. A couple of weekends ago, we made our way up to Shrewsbury to see Sarah Moore of Tails of Booley. We bought three beautiful six month old Mangalitza pigs from her, all gilts, one red and two blonde’s. They were a little nervous after the long journey back, but they’re now settled in their woodland and have been rutting about, breaking through the fence, rolling in the mud and making themselves at home.
We’ve had a fair deal of interest in the pigs, a few of the local farmers, who’ve kept pigs for decades have been curious to take a first glance at a curly coated pig. I was a little wary that they’d think of them as gimmick pigs but in fairness they’ve all been quite gushing when they’ve been to visit. We’ve also had family, friends and neighbours up to say hello (including some Swedish visitors today!).
So why curly coated pigs? Well, to be fair, these are test pigs for this year before we start a new herd. The Mangalitza is a traditional lard producing pig, they’re an Austrian/Hungarian breed but at one time all of Europe would have had a similar breed. The closest modern British breed would have been the Lincolnshire Curly Coated that died out in the 1970’s. There’s been mention of a Herefordshire breed too, perhaps at one time we had a Welsh variant as well.
Unlike modern developed breeds (and I include our rare breeds in that category) they have an intense marbling in the meat – this is partly down to the pigs natural characteristics but it also develops thanks to a very specific high fibre, low protein diet over a long period of time. Modern pigs are often ready for slaughter at six months, these won’t be ready until 12 to 18 months. The characteristics of the fat in the Mangalitza is very specific too, due to the diet, it’s lower in polyunsaturated fat, higher in monounsaturated fat and has a higher level of Omega 3 to 6 fatty acids than most seed oils. This makes the meat (and the fat) perfect for long curing, as it won’t go rancid quickly. One of the authorities on the breed is founder of Wooly Pigs, Heath Putnam, check out his site for more information.
We’re hoping to send some of our backfat off for lab testing once we’ve had a first slaughter to confirm quite how good these pigs are!
We’ve named two of the pigs, but I’m offering up a packet of sausages to the best name for the third. The largest of the blonde gilts hasn’t yet been named, pictured above (photographs courtesy of L. Taylor by the way) – we’ve had some suggestions via our Facebook page, and so far my favourite is Princess Bubblegum. Feel free to drop a suggestion in the comment section, I’ll keep the competition open for the rest of August.