A rare breed
PUBLISHED: 15:18 24 February 2014
In the shadow of Oxburgh Hall in west Norfolk you will find the Scotts Field Pork herd of Large Black Pigs kept by Rob Simonds and his wife Sarah. Distinguished by its lop ears and long, deep body, the Large Black - Britain's only all-black pig - has long been recognised for the tasty and succulent meat that it produces. Indeed Mrs Beaton in her Book of Household Management notes that "the black pig" is regarded by breeders as the best and most eligible animal.
In the early part of the 20th century Large Blacks were widely distributed throughout Norfolk as well as Suffolk and Essex, and were frequently crossed with other breeds to produce both bacon and pork pigs. A change in eating habits led to a decline in numbers in the 1960s, and the Large Black is now a registered rare breed. There are now only about 300 registered sows left in the UK, making this wonderful animal rarer than a Siberian Tiger!
Rob and Sarah are working hard to guarantee the survival of the breed, and while doing so their outdoor reared pigs produce succulent meat that is wonderfully tasty and which is gaining a following of customers, artisan producers and chefs.
The Simonds do not sell meat directly to the public but through, as Sarah put it, another endangered species, the British butcher - Keith Charlish of the Paddocks Butchery.
www.scottsfieldpork.co.uk; 07940 800275.
Sarah Simond’s top tips for buying and roasting pork
1 Buy more of it! As well as being great value, pork is good for you – about a third of the fat in pork is that which lowers cholesterol. It also has more protein than chicken and is full of zinc, iron abd B vitamins.
2 Always buy your pork from a butcher and ask about its provenance. If he can’t tell you the name of the farm his meat comes from, go to a butcher who can.
3 Try rare breed pork such as Large Black – it is slightly fatter than commercial pork but this where the taste and succulence comes from.
4 If you have bought a roasting joint, remove any plastic covering as soon as you get home. In order to have perfect crackling the meat must be as dry as possible before it is popped in the oven.
5 There’s no great mystery to how to get the perfect crackling – buy joints with a good covering of fat.
6 To cook a joint of pork, drizzle with oil and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Allow 25 minutes per 450g for leg and loin joints at 190°C/gas mark 5. Allow extra time and cook at a lower temperature for shoulder joints 45 minutes per 450g at 160°C/gas mark 3.
7 Allow your joint to rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving to ensure that the meat relaxes and is tender to eat.
8 Save time and money by buying a joint large enough to last your family for several days. It is delicious cold with pickles and fantastic served as rissoles with coleslaw.
Parmesan Yorkshire puddings
Remember to use the freshest eggs. I make the batter in the processor, whizzing all the ingredients together. If you make it by hand, add the eggs to the dry ingredients, then add the milk, water and cheese.
2 whole eggs and 1 egg yolk
115g plain flour –sifted
A good pinch of salt
50g finely grated parmesan.
330ml milk (full fat or semi-skimmed)
2 tbsp water
Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6/the Aga roasting oven
Make the batter, then leave it to sit for an hour. Heat the oil in the Yorkshire pudding or mini muffin tins until it is very hot, pour in the batter and bake until golden brown.
Baked Coxes apples
Baked apples make a nice change to serve with roast pork rather than a traditional apple sauce, and can be cooked ahead and reheated.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.
1 small apple
A drizzle of maple syrup per person
Make a lid out of the top of each apple and remove the core. Sit the apples bases in a gratin dish. Pour maple syrup into the middle of the apples, then put the lids back on, and drizzle a little more over the top. Bake for 45 minutes.
In a three and four-oven Aga, use the baking oven. In a two-oven, cover the apples with tinfoil and bake on the grid shelf of the roasting oven. To reheat, cook in the roasting oven on the grid shelf for five minutes.