Review: The Ginger Pig Meat Book by Tim Wilson and Fran Warde

The Ginger Pig Meat Book by Tim Wilson and Fran Warde

Published in hardback on 7th May 2011 (Mitchell Beazley, £25.00)

Photography Kristin Perers

If I was a pig I’d like to grow up on one of Tim Wilson’s farms. The pink-cheeked and chubby Yorkshire farmer describes his book The Ginger Pig as a ‘meat manual for the inquisitive domestic cook’. But it’s really an inspiring and often touching panegyric to the joys of rearing happy, healthy animals.

Co-authored by the food writer Fran Warde, The Ginger Pig answers every question I can think of about livestock, cuts of meat and how to cook them. It’s also a wonderfully entertaining book that reveals the passion, dedication and hard labour that goes into producing some of the country’s finest meat. Kristin Perers’ photographs of the farms, the animals, the staff and the recipes are magnificent.

The book explains why supermarkets prefer to sell meat with flavour-enhancing bones removed – sharp bones pierce shrink-wrapped plastic packaging – and why meat differs in flavour from season to season. It also includes endearing descriptions of the personalities and characteristics of different animal breeds. The ‘small, chubby rears’ of Plum Pudding pigs apparently make excellent roasts and they’re ‘blessed with a sweet temperament.’ The ‘skinny rears’ of the Large White breed don’t cut the mustard when it comes to ham but their long backs make for good bacon. The Bluefaced Leicester sheep hates bad weather, while the Blackface is the perfect mother.

So appealing do the authors make life on the farm sound, it’s easy to forget how gruelling life can be. Tim’s diary puts that straight. In summer his days start at 4.30 am and end after 10 pm. In the run up to Christmas Tim and his staff fulfill orders for 1,000 turkeys, 500 geese, 180 pigs, 80 lambs, 30 carcasses of beef and a mountain of pies, sausages, bacons and hams.

The Ginger Pig is peppered with over one hundred recipes, from spring roast lamb with oregano, to hogget stew with capers and olives, to an alarmingly hearty trencherman’s Toad-in-the-hole packed with whole chicken breasts stuffed with sausages and tied together with ribbons of bacon before being cooked in batter.

The business that started with three Tamworth pigs called Milli, Molly and Mandy and a boar called Dai Bando now has three farms in Yorkshire and four London butchers’ shops. The shops inspire such loyalty that one customer at the Hackney branch commissioned a three tier meat pie for her wedding, instead of a cake. The bottom layer was a classic pork pie, the middle section a chicken and bacon creation and the top tier was mixed game topped with cranberries glossed in farm-made gelatine.

Rather touchingly, the man who has nurtured literally thousands of pigs, cattle, sheep and chickens concludes his book by saying ruefully that he’s ‘spent so much of my life trying to produce the perfect animal that I may have forgotten to start my own family’. There’s a photograph in the book of him talking to a six-week old Tamworth piglet, the breed after which The Ginger Pig was named. I swear the piglet is saying ‘thanks Dad’.


  1. A very amusing and informative review of what sounds like a fascinating book. The farmer author is clearly smitten with the Tamworth pig which, after the famous Tamworth Two escape do sound very characterful, not to say delicious, animals.

  2. Thanks for leaving a comment jakey. Having read the book which is, as you say, fascinating I found myself rather smitten by pigs too.Charlie

  3. You have given a tantalising taste of what sounds like a wonderful book – I will be buying it tomorrow after having read your inpsiring review, full of praise in your ever elegant literary and witty style Charlie – my favourite blogger. I will certainly be telling my friends who own pigs to buy this book! AJ

  4. Great review, makes me want to go and buy the book and I don't like cookery books either! It will however be bought as a present for those who do, starting with a friend's special '0' party next w/e!

  5. Dear AJYou are so kind – I really am touched by your comment. It made me blush. Let me know what you think of the book once you've had a chance to read it.Thanks so much againCharlie

  6. Hi Mitzi FritzI'm so pleased you enjoyed the review. I do hope your friend with the big '0' birthday loves the book- I'm sure she will.Charlie

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