Friday, May 09, 2008

I’m the first to admit that we (mostly) haven’t a clue what we’re doing here and if there’s any didacticism going on, it’s definitely from the point of you learning from our mistakes, rather than us being the experts dispensing wisdom. Having a humble viewpoint is not such a bad thing though. Coupled to that, Permaculture
is experimental. So we’re learning from new about established stuff that lots of other people know about (but not us, yet) and we’re also trying to design our smallholding along permaculture lines, i.e., learning about stuff that nobody else might yet have tried, so we tend to approach all things with an open mind.

We were told by several people, for example, that it wasn’t possible to cure Prosciutto-style ham in Brittany because it was too humid or we’d at least need to smoke it first. We followed the instructions on Hugh’s Pig in a Day DVD, figuring that if he can do it in the UK—which has never had a reputation for being less wet than Northern France—then it must be worth a try here.

The process wasn’t without its worries though. As it was winter, we read that we didn’t need to worry about flies. But birds? Our wild birds have become used to us feeding them and a leg of ham, hanging in the breeze, looked very much like a three-Michelin-starred bird feeder. So down it came, on our return home after Christmas, then the pecked bits were judiciously trimmed off and a bird proof but wind permeable container fabricated out of an old French farming rabbit cage donated by neighbour Kysinia. A few too many damp days with not a breath of wind and I was beginning to get concerned that we were going to be proved wrong.

One of the issues was how long we should have left the leg entombed in salt before hanging. Hugh says “For every kilo, the leg should have 3 days in the salt. Knock off a day or two to 'sweeten up' the cure.” But our leg was from the pint-sized Kune Kunes and so the days-per-kilo ration left us with so few days, I’d already added a few for luck. I took the ham down, trimmed of the dubious moist bits, put it back in the salt and searched for information on web forums and Kune Kune breeders. The most help I got back was helpful best guesses, as I couldn’t find anybody who’d done this with such a small hind leg. My suspicion is that the formula should be in the form of a “minimum of so many days plus so many per kilo”.

Happily, once hanging in the air again, we got a spell of cold, dry blowy days and a fine dry coating of good white mould formed, without any suspicious moist, black, smelly, bad bits. Again, it should have been left up there for several more months, according to Hugh’s advice, but after smelling and prodding it, I impatiently pronounced it fit to taste … and it’s great! Not overly salty and good texture and taste. The doubters have been the first to praise it (we’ve been handing out morsels to taste al over the place). All to say really that one shouldn’t discount the invaluable savoir faire of people who clearly know but that also shouldn’t be a barrier to sensible experimentation.

I was intending to write about our recent attempts at shearing our sheep but got lost in pork after the intro; so I’ll tell you about that soon.