Friday, January 25, 2013

Waltzing Matilada

Waltzing Matilda
Yup, that's what I named her, the newest arrival at our pen. Funny but I took one look at her and that's what popped into my head. 
"Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda, you'll come a waltzing with Matilda and me." Can't you hear this Australian song? It makes me smile and that is just what Matilda does to me. 

She has one back leg that is stiff and she's a beaut. Okay, she's not. In fact she's down right ugly but our four year old grand daughter likes her too. It must be a so ugly she's cute kind of thing.
She's not quite as ugly and funny looking as these pigs from the US research center but she is a Meishan pig from the University of South Dakota via a gal I know that raises pigs an hour from here. 
 What was I thinking when I brought Waltzing Matilda home? Yes, I know she has no hind end and it pinches harder than a clothespin and that means no hams when we butcher. 

Her back is short and that means she won't have nice bacons. I know, I know. And no, it wasn't an emotional decision either even if she is gentle and quiet, two traits I really appreciate. We bought her for a specific purpose and a bit of an experiment.

Let me tell you a little about Meishan hogs. They are from China and imported because they have some interesting genetics. These pigs have a litter size of 15 to 16 pigs because they ovulate more eggs per cycle and have a greater uterine capacity to deliver more live piglets. Wow! This equates to lots and lots of piglets. The gilts mature at two months and can be bred then. Whoa! 

Yet none of this is applicable though because Matilda did none of these. In other words, she failed as a representative of the Meishan breed, all her babies died from two litters. With pigs, three strikes and your out doesn't apply so she was sold for the chopping block, ours. We were looking for an economical deal to make sausage and a have a few steaks. We didn't want ham and bacon at this time and this Meishan with her tendency to create more fat fit the bill. I know today's breeds of animals are bred for leaness. But we wanted sausage. You've got to have fat for sausage. 

I've been saving little plastic containers to put lard in to freeze for making pies. Leaf lard specifically. You need lard for home made soap. All the new fangled oils and butters are a bit expensive and so I go for pig fat, beef fat, and sometimes a little olive oil thrown in. I'll save the fancy oils for making lotion. I haven't made soap in a years. I still have lots of soap in storage but I think I'll make a batch or two of castile with Cory's fat and experiment with a new variety of soap with Matilda's. A friend of mine is really getting into soap making so I'm going to touch base with her and determine that experiment.  

Every year I try a cazillion new things. This seems to be the year of experiments in meat. Cory, our Corriente steer is not what we are use to in beef, as we've always had Angus. Corriente I guess are leaner and have a slightly different flavor. We'll find out.
We've never had a Meishan so that will be a new experience. But if you've ever read Farmer Boy by Laura Engles Wilder, you know that in those days they had a lean hog and a fat hog. Candle, lard, and sausage all needed from the fat hog and from the lean just meat. I can see the wisdom in that.

But though I'm ready to learn, I still have misgivings every time I drive by this friends pen.  Now this is the type of hog I'm use to, long, with big hind quarters and I wonder if we've made a mistake buying Matilda. I'm sticking to the plan though and pushing my brain sideways. That means being more flexible. Buying livestock as adults instead of babies. Buying different breeds and learning the virtues of them. I believe in the days to come, we all will need to be flexible and inventive to fill our needs. The road ahead is looking more rocky by the day.

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