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Pig basics (part two)
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You cannot make bacon, as you can milk, merely out of the garden. There must be something more. A couple of flitches of bacon are worth fifty thousand methodist sermons and religious tracts. The sight of them upon the rack tends more to keep a man from poaching and stealing than whole volumes of penal statutes, though assisted by the terrors of the hulks and the gibbet. They are great softeners of the temper and promoters of domestic harmony. They are a great blessing ...'

Cobbett did not discuss breeds of pig: he simply advised the cottager to let the farmer do the breeding and then to buy from the farmer a ready-weaned pig, which, 'at four months old, ... if he be in good condition, he will eat any thing that an old hog will eat. He will graze, eat cabbage leaves and almost the stumps, Swedish turnip tops or roots; and such things, with a little wash, will keep him along in very good growing order.' Such a weanling would be a year old by its killing time, but 'If a hog be more than a year old, he is the better for it. The flesh is more solid and more nutritious than that of a young hog ... The pork or bacon of young hogs, even if fatted on corn, is very apt to boil out, as they call it; that is to say, come out of the pot smaller in bulk than it goes in.' Around Christmas was a good time to kill. 'To kill a hog nicely is so much of a profession, that it is better to pay a shilling for having it done, than to stab and hack and tear the carcass about.'

Pig basics (part two)

The lost art of milking a pig ...

Cobbett went into considerable detail about how to deal with the fresh carcass, burning off the hair, scraping the skin, taking out the innards ('and if the wife be not a slattern, here, in the mere offal, in the mere garbage, there is food, and delicate food too, for a large family for a week; and hogs' puddings for the children, and some for neighbours' children who come to play with them').The next day the butcher would cut up the hog: Cobbett gives a long list of the different cuts of meat that the family would achieve, and the supply of lard that would be available, even before the remaining sides, or flitches, were set aside to be cured as bacon in the home salting- trough — enough to last until the following Christmas.

Ideally the flitches (or preferably just the hams) could be smoked in the cottage's inglenook bacon- loft. And in the meantime the cottage pig had been merrily supplying a considerable quantity of dung to enrich the vegetable patch, as well as turning over the soil in its rootling, making it easier for the cottager to dig.

It is easy to like pigs. They are friendly, sociable, talkative animals, highly intelligent and trainable, and easily pleased by human company. Their physiology is far closer to that of humans than that of other livestock. For example, pig's milk and the pig's digestive system are similar to those of humans.

Pigs are omnivores and will try almost anything edible. Though mainly vegetarian, eating plant roots, tree mast, berries, fruit, vegetables and grain, they will also rootle for worms, grubs and the occasional small vertebrates and carrion. They are great opportunists and well able to look after themselves.

Pig basics (part two)

An Essex and a Large Black enjoying good rootle.

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