In 2010 we tried our hand at keeping pigs for the first time, the experience of which was a great learning curve. Country Smallholding Magazine are to publish our Pig Keeping Feature in their September 2011 edition, so if you are interested in reading how we got on, buy a copy of the magazine.
After trying our free range pork, Pat suggested that we try our hand at making home made sausages, so after booking ourselves onto a course, one Sunday afternoon in April, we found ourselves driving down the M3 with all sorts of images going through our minds on how the course would progress.
We met up with our"Tutor" and four other eager participants around an old style, pine farmhouse table in a converted shed. In the centre of the table, was a bowl of pork mince, a pair of old fashioned weighted scales and an ominous looking bowl containing fluid, with what looked like long condoms floating around in it.
We were each given a pinny to don, a mixing bowl and a sheet of instructions, before we took it in turns to move around the table, weighing out the mince, adding rusk, water and our chosen ingredients. We chose ginger for the flavour of our first twelve sausages and pepper for the remaining twelve. After kneading the soggy mixture with our hands, we took our places at the large plastic sausage filler. Pat took his place at the helm of the machine, with the turning handle and I stood to his left at the nozzle end of the machine.
I waited until Pat had stuffed the mince into the end of the machine and had replaced the handle, before I fished one of the sausage skins (pigs intestines) from the bowl of salty water. Once it was unravelled, it resembled a long stocking. I tied a knot in one end and fed the open end over the nozzle. I really was amazed how much sausage skin I actually needed to feed over the nozzle before I reached the knotted end.
When the skin was in place, we were finally ready to go and with Pat turning the handle and me feeding the meat through the skin, I soon had quite a nice little pile of sausage curling up on the table in front of me.
After tying up the other end of the sausage, our Tutor showed us how to twist one end of the first sausage, one way, then picking up the other end of sausage and twisting it in the opposite direction. The end result produced a complete string of twelve professional looking sausages.
We then swapped places, with Pat feeding the empty skins over the nozzle end and me turning the handle at the other end, much to the amusement of our fellow sausage makers! At one point when I put air into the sausage skin as opposed to meat, someone shrieked that I had missed my vocation as a balloon maker! In my defence, with my small and ropey arms, I found that turning the handle was extremely hard work, much harder than I had expected, so much so, that at one point I found myself practically laying over the machine! In addition, I am a little on the short side and the table top was slightly too high for me, making the task in hand much harder than it needed to be.
At the end of the course, we were allowed to take our prized sausages home with us, along with the two Gloucester Old Spot piglets that we purchased from the farm.
We reminissed the days events over a cup of tea and a sausage sandwich when we arrived back home. The sausages had a nice texture, but were lacking in flavour. Possibly because we didn't add enough ingredients. We both concluded that we had enjoyed the experience, but agreed that the manual way of making sausages is quite time consuming and we didn't think that this would be suitable for anything other than a smallscale, or hobbyist type of set up.
We have decided that for the time being, we will stick to our local abbatoire for the slaughter, the preparation and the packaging of our meat, as although this is probably a more costly way of doing things, it is relatively quick, there is no outlay on machinery; manual or otherwise, there is no mess and the end product and it's packaging look far more professional than we would have been able to produce.