Paulette Whit­ney on roast­ing a whole pig.

Gourmet Traveller (Australia) - - Contents -

Aline of par­ty­go­ers, bur­dened with camp chairs and pic­nic bas­kets, fol­low their noses, drawn to the scent of roast­ing meat. A 40-kilo Large Black pig that Coreen and Matt have raised at Our Mates’ Farm is ro­tat­ing on a spit, all heat-blis­tered cop­pery skin with caramelis­ing juices run­ning hither and yon. The kids flinch at first, see­ing ears, curly tail and snout, but the prom­ise of crack­ling soon wins them over.

Coreen and Matt and their two mini farm­ers, Julian and Rachel, bought a ne­glected apple or­chard at Geeve­ston in the Huon Val­ley four years ago, con­verted it to or­ganic, grubbed out trees grown to trif­fid-like pro­por­tions, in­tro­duced pigs, cat­tle and sheep to the pro­duc­tion sys­tem, and grafted tra­di­tional cider va­ri­eties and more flavour­some fresh-eat­ing cul­ti­vars onto the old root­stocks. They’re in­no­va­tive farm­ers, prun­ing apple branches higher so sheep can run the or­chard eat­ing the lush pas­ture grow­ing un­der the trees – elim­i­nat­ing the need to slash or

spray. They press sin­gle-va­ri­ety apple juices, make pies, tuck a jar of apple sauce in with every side of pork they sell, and work with a spe­cial pig, the Large Black, a breed that will graze and scav­enge ap­ples un­der trees with­out the bull­doz­ery habits other breeds have. This kind of poly­cul­ture makes sense. Why wouldn’t you use sheep in­stead of her­bi­cide to man­age grass – grow­ing chops un­der­neath your apple crum­ble – with the sheep ad­ding lit­tle pel­lets of fer­tiliser as they graze? And the pigs eat­ing fallen fruit is a boon to the or­ganic farmer, break­ing the life cy­cles of pests such as the codling moth, which emerges from fruit left on the ground to in­fest next sea­son’s crops.

The feast­ing be­gins as Masaaki Ko­maya, chef and lo­cal le­gend, does the rounds with a plat­ter of rain­bow-coloured sushi, al­chem­i­cally more de­li­cious than the rice, sea­son­ings and veg­eta­bles it’s made up of. Our fluid in­take is well

served, too. In an or­chard­ing part of the world, am­ply supplied with cider mak­ers, the pop of bot­tle caps and mur­murs of wild fer­ments and for­got­ten casks re­dis­cov­ered is a con­stant hum, while the kids are queu­ing clutch­ing mugs be­fore an urn of warm spiced apple juice.

I’ve picked the first of my cu­cum­bers and turned the last of my med­lar paste, made with Coreen and Matt’s med­lars, into a fool with whipped cream and honey, and our friend, chef and farmer Matthew Evans, has baked lit­tle rolls that are be­ing stolen from the ta­ble by tiny hands long be­fore the pig is done. The bring-a-plate ta­ble is heav­ing with the choic­est things we guests could muster from our gar­dens or larders.

There seems to be an es­tab­lished tra­di­tion of Matt Tack – our host farmer – grow­ing or catch­ing a par­tic­u­lar type of an­i­mal, then invit­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate chef over to help pre­pare it. If there’s a tuna on the ta­ble Masaaki is in charge, but carv­ing the pig on the spit falls smack bang in Matthew Evans’s field of ex­per­tise. I’m not sure what draws me – the lure of prop­erly sharp­ened knives, per­haps, or my la­tent de­sire to be­come a butcher’s ap­pren­tice – but I find my­self along­side Matthew, slic­ing up the pig af­ter it’s been de­clared cooked and heaved onto a work­bench for carv­ing. We try to be fair, giv­ing every­one a lit­tle piece of puffed, crack­ling skin, but we make sure to slice off the odd per­fect piece and sneak it into our own mouths. Hav­ing piled meat onto plate af­ter plate we’re about to fill our own, when Masaaki ar­rives with his. We carve juicy, pale slices of loin, melt­ing, fatty bits of belly, plump cheeks and dark slices of leg and shoul­der meat, notic­ing the fresh sweet­ness of loin com­pared with the rich­ness of the belly or the gami­ness of the cheek. A meal like this, the bounty of a whole beast, grown with love, shared be­tween a happy, grate­ful horde and savoured with our al­most sci­en­tific anal­y­sis and juicy-chinned smiles, doesn’t feel like glut­tony, it feels like plenty – a soul-en­rich­ing bounty and a de­li­cious learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

We carve juicy, pale slices of loin, melt­ing, fatty bits of belly, plump cheeks.

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