Monday, 19 May 2014

Real pork

The Farming Life Centre run various groups, I had my first get-together with the Rural Social Group last week gathering reminiscence and embroidery for the project Stitching the Wars. I a tried to get a flavour of the rich conversation in my notes, this time centred around pigs and the black market, some of which I share now.

Bacon and Ham, from my Grandma's Mrs Beeton's Every-Day Cookery book, 1920s

On higher ground they’d only grow oats, lower down wheat, lower down still they’d grow barley. They’d take oats to the mill, roll them for horses and cattle or ground up fine for the pigs.

The ministry let you kill 2 pigs a year, you could use everything but the squeal! You couldn’t keep the pork though, it would go off. (no fridges then) The man who killed it would take a lump, the neighbours would take a lump- and then when they killed one would do the same for you.

You’d salt the meat, the bacon. Savoury Duck (made of pigs liver, fry and belly), brawn, (made of pig head and trotters) scratchings, rendered fat or lard- used for baking, ham was hung up (the sides of the pig from ham to hip) the shoulder made into bacon- used a big salting stone. You’d kill one day, hang it up for a day, then you could deal with it. The bristles you scolded off with hot water, singe anything left, there’d be coopers in the corner, going for the hot water, the farmers wife would be stoking the fire at 4 in the morning, polishing the children’s shoes whilst waiting for it to boil.

Pork and Veal, from my Grandma's Mrs Beeton's Every-Day Cookery book, 1920s

You’d kill them at different weights, pork from the middle, (but it went off fast) between the bacon and the ribs. Real pork that. Some put oat meal in a sack, those were big pigs, 20, 22 score, now they’re 8 or 10 score. Large Whites, or Middle Whites, had to be careful not to over salt it. Dry and sweet it was. I’d bob a pickle in with the brine, or black treacle in it, made it sweet.

Anyone who had a lot of milk had contracts with shops in Manchester. If it was Oldham Wakes, the shop would say ‘we don’t need the milk this week’ so the farmers wife would have to get busy making butter.

We retailed milk, in the country the door would be unlocked, we would take the milk in, and on the table would be a brown paper bag with scraps in for the pigs. They would expect a it of bacon at some point in return. Anyone with any gumption wouldn’t starve.

The Black Market, they’d do all sorts. This one had a hurst with a coffin full of black market, it ran from Ashbourne to Uttoxeter- so much flour, joints of meat, 100 weight sacks of sugar…

Poachers would get their greyhounds around on a Sunday, miners from Chesterfield, poaching hares and rabbits. The miners would be a curse with their whippets, seeing whose dog could run the fastest, whippets chasing the hares, they’d have a job chasing those hares, running this way and that.

There was a police force set up by farmers the ‘Baslow Society for the Prosecution of Felons.’

The village bobbies used to be very good. Would do shifts of 4 hours on, 4 hours off, day and night. Anyone who drank to much would be put up in the village hall till they sobered up.

It’s a dangerous thing on a farm, but you’re there when your families there, it’s a good environment for children.

Alan, Brian, Mary, Ann, Margaret, Tom and Arthur   

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