If you go down to the woods today, you’re quite likely to come across some gorgeous piggies. Well you are if you’re in Wigan and know where to find them! These beautiful saddlebacks are managing some pretty important woodlands in Wigan, feasting on unwanted and problematic roots, brambles and the like which would otherwise need chemicals or heavy machinery to shift. The combination of breed (anyone who has had saddleback pork will know what I mean), natural diet and good exercise means that they are also going to produce some delicious pork.
You can get your hands on this pork though Cook and Foragers– an online food delivery business which specialises in local and ethically sourced foods. The couple who run Cook and Foragers also run the pig conservation scheme so they wanted to find foods locally which would complement the quality of the pork and at the same time sits well with their own ethics.
Katie, one half of the business along with partner Jack, told me that they looked long and hard for a slaughterhouse which would dispatch the pigs in the way which they wanted and a butcher who would give the meat the treatment it deserved. They use Edge and Sons, a well-known Bolton butchers, to get their pork ready for market and to source all of the other meats for the business.
Salads come from a cooperative in Manchester, eggs from Cheshire and veggies come from near Liverpool. So everything is sourced from as close to Wigan as possible.
So what’s in the box? It was heaving with autumnal flavours including three colours of carrots, parsnips, turnips, leeks, fennel, squash and mushrooms. There were eggs from Lymm with golden yokes and salad from up the road in Manchester. And lets not forget the pork: bacon and sausages to be exact. The pork is exactly what field to fork is all about: sustainable, traceable and above all delicious.
The sweet cured bacon was delicious in a stew made up of all the veg box ingredients and some lentils. I normally like my bacon smoky so this was a nice change. The sausages were a bit un-uniform in size but it didn’t stop them making for excellent sausage sarnies. Full of flavour and no rubbish seeping out of them as they cooked, the quality was there to see.
So impressed was I that I decided to order my Christmas ham and chipolatas from them as a change to my usual Christmas meat order.
The chipolatas were giving the Nigella treatment on Boxing Day: soy sauce, ginger and honey and cooked until golden. The ham was stashed away for new year, when it was simmered in apple juice and spices and then I finished it with this bourbon apple glaze. My heart sank when I first cut into it- there seemed to be a lot of fat. Panic. But after a couple of slices the meat appeared, and it kept coming. The fat was just protecting the main prize and it was like the Mary Poppins bag of gammon! The meat was juicy and full of flavour – the glaze complimenting the pork rather than overpowering the original flavour. It saw us through a buffet and another three days of lunches which was good going for a 2kg joint.
As well as meat and veg boxes there are recipe boxes which give you everything you need to make meatballs, pork belly or a Sunday roast. No waste except maybe leftovers for the day after.
Price wise, the meat seems on par with the farm shop which is absolutely fine given the quality. They deliver all over, but it is free locally if you spend more than £10. Even the packaging is eco-friendly and recyclable.
It is great to see people with a real passion for what they do, and the good news is that later this year they will be opening a retail unit at Haigh Woodland Park – so you can go and look at the pigs working hard in the woods before stocking up for the week. I will be sure to cover that development when it opens as there will be a range of artisan producers there.
Take a look at the Cook and Foragers website for all of the details or visit Conservation Pigs to find out more about the Saddlebacks and the hard work they are doing.
Edit 26th Feb: new piggy images! I had to go into the woods today for work so I took my camera as the sun was shining!
Thanks to Cook and Foragers for my lovely box and best of luck with those gorgeous pigs!