Pig in a Day with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Hubby is one of those annoying/lucky people (depending on how you look at it) who’s birthday is during the Christmas festivities. After him buying me a KitchenAid for my birthday, I knew I had to pull one out of the bag to make his birthday pressie just as special as his present to me.

A few weeks back I received an email from River Cottage making me aware of some dates with Hugh. Dates with Hugh in River Cottage are becoming rarer and rarer so I knew I had to act quick. The Catch & Cook in June course sold out 5 min before I phoned so I went for the Pig in a Day course, meaning Hubby would have to get his Birthday pressie early. He was a tad bit shocked when I announced where he would be going and that he would be meeting his idol Hugh.

So here I pass on to Hubby who has written his own account of the day, also if you are veggie I suggest you don’t read or scroll down any further:

The day started when I pulled into River Cottage. You can’t park right at River Cottage so took a bumpy ride down into the valley on a trailer pulled by a tractor. When me and my 23 fellow course mates arrived we were shown to a yurt where tea, coffee and delicious brownies were waiting for us. It was a lovely warm welcome. Then all of a sudden my idol of idols Hugh appeared. He shook my hand and introduced himself to me, signed my Meat cookbook then had our photo taken. The photo makes Jules laugh as we look like bosom buddies.

We then headed down to a converted barn for the course which was essentially demonstrating the process and principles of butchering and processing a pig. I don’t own any pigs, yet, but would love to in the future and a smallholding mate of Jules has offered us half a pig after Christmas. Along with Hugh there was also the legend that is master butcher – Ray Smith.

It started with half a pig that Ray slowly butchered into different joints while Hugh cooked the various dishes. This was definitely nose-to-tail eating. The first dish to be prepared was brawn as it has to be slow cooked. From behind the demonstration counter Hugh produced a quartered pig’s head. I was able to taste the brawn later on in the day.

The first dish I tried was pig’s brains. Hugh first poached the diced brain then coated in breadcrumbs and then deep-fried. Curiosity got the better of me and I knew I had to try it. It’s creamy and melt in the mouth, not much taste, more texture. This evening Jules & I have debated over whether or not you can legally buy pig’s brains. I say yay, she says nay. Either way it’s not worth the risk of seeing Jules’ reaction if she came home one day to find a pig’s brain the fridge.

Next on the menu was devilled kidneys. Again something I have never tried before as I thought I didn’t like kidneys, but these were very very tasty. Hugh may have converted me to kidneys. Liver pate was also demonstrated, but I didn’t get a chance to try this one.

While the barn was being transformed for lunch we had the opportunity to walk around the grounds. The pigs all looked very happy in the mud and the geese were quite adamant to peck my shoes. I was also inspired by their smokers made out of barrels. Lunch was generous slices of pork served with creamy mash and roasted veg. To follow was pear sponge cake. Very tasty.

The afternoon was hosted by Ray and Steve and was primarily about preserving and processing meat. During the afternoon they demonstrated how to make air dried ham, chorizo and sausages. All of the people attending the course were given some chorizo and sausages to take home. We ate the sausages the following night and they were absolutely delicious. Very different from sausages you usually buy. They were packed with meat, herbs and a bit of sugar which helps the sausages to caramelise when they split.

I found it a really interesting and informative day. On top of the recipe demonstrations they also advised on what knives to use, how to tie a butchers knot, the right questions to ask at the abattoir. It was a lovely chilled environment and you were encouraged to ask questions throughout the day. I will be returning as I enjoyed myself so much.

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