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’.