The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


Photo: Pig trotter and tail

Photo: Pig trotter and tail

Neil put the shin of beef on the weighing machine and punched in the price.
“The price comes down for this in December. Which is good for cooks like you.”
We’ve eaten all the “ready meals” that I made for the freezer so it was time to stock up on skirt and shin of beef and ox kidney. Organic meat tastes so much better and Neil’s prices are very competetive.

There’s nothing I like more than the heady combination of meat, gossip and recipes that happens in Neil’s shop. I usually buy in bulk when I visit – putting in an order a few days before. This helps avoid being tempted by all the treats on offer in this carnivores’ emporium. I’m a sucker for biltong but he had sold out so I felt quite virtuous that I hadn’t extended my shopping list.

It must be about five months since I visited the organic Carter Street Butchers in Fordham. It’s a half hour drive from the cottage and just has been too far to travel. But with Christmas fast approaching and the need to choose and cure a ham I had to go this week.

I hadn’t realised how big a leg of pork actually is. It was fun looking at the selection I finally plumped for a fifteen kilo one which Neil carefully sawed in half. He threw in the tail, hock and the trotter for free. The trotter will make good jelly for pork pies. I’m not sure what to do with the tail – any ideas?

We are planning to give home cured free range happy ham as presents for Christmas this year – a treat that no one could actually buy and very economical for us as the pork costs about £3.50 a kilo.

When Danny heaved the heavy bags into the cottage the pork seemed even bigger than it had in the shop. The two joints were huge.
“Are you sure that they will be cured by Christmas?”
“Yes but the problem is space. They’ll take up most of the fridge. And we’ve got a belly of pork to cure too.”
In the end we decided to freeze one half leg to cure later in the year as a 7.5 kilo ham would easily feed us and our friends.

To be certain that our ham would be cured by Christmas, I carefully removed the skin – this will be frozen until it’s time to roast the beast. Then I skewered the flesh at inch intervals to increase absorption of the cure. It fitted snugly in a huge stock pot and is now curing in the fridge. Last year we smoked our ham in the old chimney above the wood burner for three days. This ham is too big to go through the access door so it will be wrapped in butcher’s muslin and hung in the inglenook over a smoking fire instead.

I dropped into Tesco on the way home and found 6 pints of organic milk on the CFC for £1.60 so this morning I will be making loads of parsley sauce to go with our ham. It freezes well and is also a good base sauce for fish pie.

Overnight steak and kidney bubbled away in the slow cooker. I woke to tempting wafts this morning and was drawn down to the kitchen to taste. It was unbelievably good. Can’t wait for supper tonight!

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  1. I reckon the Min Pins would love those tails. My cats are my new best friends whenever I’m having to dispose of interesting parts of an animals anatomy.

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Carole

    Thank you. The slow cooker has just made some steak and kidney filling for pies so I’m going to give this a go. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a pig’s tail.

    Hello Susan

    We love rabbit so I’m definitely going to try this in the future. I’m sure that Neil will put some by if I ask him nicely 🙂

    Hi Louis

    Oh that sounds to die for, must ring Neil immediately.

  3. It’s been quite some time since I had them, but I remember we used to boil the tails and then dip them in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs and deep fry them.


  4. Ever since I was a child (in the 50’s) we have used pig tails in rabbit stew. Rabbit being a dry meat it helps give it a nicer texture.

  5. hi fiona i do my pigs tails in the slow cooker with just yellow split peas and stock it makes a lovely thick soup and the meat and fat falls of the bone.

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