Firstly Im not an expert in pork unlike my amazing pig whispering mother and father in law. Just an avid fan! So talking to them on what we can do with left over goodies and the every trusty google I discovered the tradition of pannage. The word ‘pannage’ comes from the medieval times and developed from the word ‘pascere’ which basically meant to feed something or in terms of livestock, literally turning animals out to feed. A old European practice of pigs was to move them into forests or woodland to graze and clear fallen fodder. Admittedly many of us don’t have means to move stock onto forests for seasonal benefits so ive been googling and reading up on why brining the party to them is a brilliant option to offer roughage of orchards and woodland this time of year.
In the beautiful new forest you can be lucky enough to still find this practise of pannage still carried out for up to 600 pigs that Benefit greatly from being the best in the business of waste management. They are turned away to eat away at fallen apples, acorns, nuts and poisonous plant that are harmful to other stock and animals and clear debris. our pigs already live out happily all year but they don’t have big woods to manage so with that, focusing on what we have available here from the land this time of year is abundance of apples and acorns.
As the cider production is well under way and apple harvest is in full swing the apple press has left lots of slices of the apple pomace which is basically the solid mass of what is left at the end of the process. The whole process of apple picking is complete by using everything up with minimal waste and as you can imagine pigs enjoy this greatly along side their meal.
Not all apples make the cider press unfortunately but waste not want not! Providing they are free from obvious signs of rot and decay, apples that have been on the Ground a while also provide some wonderful supplement. A worth while purchase and worthy investment Is a fabulous old mangle or fruit mill. They basically chop up anything you like from apples to potatoes in to smaller pieces which make portions easily manageable but massively reduce the risks of livestock chocking on whole portions.
With Acorns falling in impressive abundance around us in a wonderful stereotypical autumn fashion it’s time to grab an old trusty feed bucket. (no instagram worthy wicker baskets to hand unfortunately) many hands the light work and admittedly it does take some patience to fill a few buckets! if you are lucky you should acquire some little helpers to and fill up on the goodies that have fallen from above.
It’s not new by any means that pigs love acorns. In fact the practice of finishing pigs on them is pre medieval. It was almost a right of passage to begin autumn with hogs turned out to root through royal forests.
Continuing on my googling research quest with acorns, finding that the earlier the acorns are eaten the better impact on the flavour of the pork to which is considered a delicacy especially when served as ham called ‘Jambon Iberico de bellota’ which is widely sort after. There are many pros to feeding on natures ad lib. For one it encourages the natural behavior of pigs which is to happily root up ground to find goodies and nesting instincts. The acorn flavoured pork itself produces a majority of unsaturated fat while studies have shown that its actually lowers bad cholesterol in pork and in the past in Europe these pigs would have been referred to as ‘olive trees with trotters’ believing that the finished ham shows the same benefits as olive oil! I’m excited to see and taste the results!