One Porky Pilgrimage To Scotland
With one weekend left before the Christmas rush is upon us, here at the farm, I thought that I would take a couple of days off to explore some farms in the North of Great Britain.
Although many people would prefer to be taking a weekend break somewhere much warmer, I donned my waterproofs and long-johns and embarked upon a frosty pilgrimage up North to visit a farm specialising in raising animals of the wilder variety.
The relationship between Scotland and Pork is a slightly strained one. Scottish Historian and Anthropologist Donald Mackenzie famously coined the concept of the ‘Scottish Pork Taboo’. Despite archaeological evidence of pigs being eaten in Scotland, Mackenzie insisted that there was a cultural abhorrence of pork that still existed in modern society. Any prejudice that might have existed in the past has now been safely discarded, however, and Wild Farm (situated on the Crown Estate in Glenlivet) is a farm that is proudly proving that by producing high quality pork with a difference.
Before visiting the farmers at Glenlivet, I had an appointment with a plate of Slow-cooked Pork Belly at the Culloden House Hotel, Inverness. A four star hotel that has been crowned with two Rosettes for it’s refined British classics, Culloden House is a grand stately home just a stone’s throw away from Inverness.
After a long, long drive up from Essex; I was grateful for the wonderful service and glad that I’d dressed smart – a high class establishment through and through, I would’ve felt a little out of place in my farming get-up!
After a very civilised lunch, I drove down to the lodge that I’d booked a few days prior. Highland Heather Lodges (http://www.highlandheatherlodges.co.uk/) provide luxury self-catered accommodation in the heart of Scotland’s gorgeous countryside.
When I arrived, the sun had long set, so it wasn’t until the morning that I could fully appreciate the awesome views that surrounded the small collection of lodges. Massive lakes, trees and mountains all collected in one vista. It was a shame to only stay there for the one night, but time was pressing and I was to yet arrive at my destination.
After a comfortable night’s stay, I headed down into the Highlands proper to meet the passionate farmers at Wild Farm. Although they initially made their money raising Reindeer, these noble creatures are now kept as display animals only. Although Britain has been treated to slightly warmer weather this December, the winds still felt pretty icy up on the hills of the Crown Estate. After moving away from farming Reindeer for meat, the lads wanted to diversify their livestock, whilst minimising the amount of care they had to give in the frosty winters.
As such, all the animals on the property come from hardy species requiring little maintenance and a little feeding from time to time. The Belted Galloway Cows, a Scottish breed, lives happily off the pastures of the hillside whist also providing a rich meat, deep in flavour. Their Soay Sheep are similarly thick-skinned and do not require shearing, giving them more time to look after the one animal that I was really interested in: their Wild Boars!
Whilst researching Boars a couple of weeks ago, Wild Farm’s website proved invaluable in providing me with some great hands-on information as to the practicalities of raising Boar. Their one boar breeds with 6 sows, all through the year, providing them with a good stream of pigs to grow. Each sow provides the farm with between 8-10 piglets, these growers can be purchased at a good price, from £5.50 per kg.
Rather than raise pure bred Wild Boar (and pay for an additional license to keep a Dangerous Wild Animal), they have elected to raise a cross of Boar and Tamworth. Similarly gamey, this cross-breed makes for rich eating with a surprisingly low-fat content. The Boar are the only animals on Wild Farm that require regular attention from the farmers. As the animals are essentially semi-domesticated, it’s important that they are regularly handled to keep them compliant with feeding and slaughtering routines. The amount of attention these animals get possibly exceeds the amount that I give my own pigs, something I might have to consider before purchasing my own sounder!
Although, I think the lads at Wild Farm were hoping that I might leave with a couple of growers under my arms, I left empty handed.