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Sunday, 5 October 2014

New Forest tradition of pannage is producing pork to rival any in the world

Pig at Balmer Lawn in the New Forest Hampshire UK
A pig at Balmer Lawn, Brockenhurst. Credit: Luke Parkinson.
The ancient New Forest tradition of pannage is producing pork to rival any in the world, thanks to the pigs’ free roaming lifestyle and diet of acorns.

The claim comes from top chef James Golding, chef director at The Pig Hotel Group, who says that meat from pigs turned out by New Forest commoners to roam freely in the Forest is proving a hit with his guests.

The Pig Hotel in Brockenhurst, and some pannage practising commoners, are members of the New Forest Marque, a quality assurance scheme supported by the New Forest National Park Authority that promotes authentic New Forest fare of the highest quality, while encouraging people to shop locally.

A practising commoner is someone who makes use of common rights attached to their property. The right to turn out pigs during the autumn to feed is called ‘pannage’ or ‘mast’.  Over 300 pigs were turned out in 2013 and they play a crucial role in the New Forest by eating acorns that are poisonous to ponies and cattle.

James Golding said: ‘I believe the superior flavour of pannage pork is due to a combination of its acorn-rich diet and the free roaming life of the pigs. I always say that a happy pig is a tasty pig!

‘We have seen that customers ‘in the know’ actively search out eateries in the area that are serving pannage pork. It’s a bit like every seasonal food; it’s not around all year and should be enjoyed when it’s available and at its best.

‘Using pannage pork at The Pig shows our passion for local produce. With the help of the New Forest Marque we now source 80 per cent of our produce from within a 25 mile radius.’

New Forest Marque member Jamie Burgess, of P.R. Burgess and Sons, has followed in the footsteps of generations of his family to practise the common right of pannage.

Jamie said: ‘I usually turn out around 50 pigs onto the Forest and one of the main reasons I do it is because pannage pork is so popular - the meat tastes great, and we get orders from all over the region.

‘We find the pork to be superior to regular pork because the pigs are out eating acorns and beechnuts, giving it a great, unique taste and texture. Foodies with a real passion for good meat are particular fans of it, and if demand continues to increase we will definitely be looking to expand.’

Pannage pork is available from P.R. Burgess and Sons at Swallowfields Farm in Bramshaw. Contact Jamie Burgess on 07795 082358 for details.

For more information on the The Pig Hotel Group visit www.thepighotel.co.uk.

To find out more about New Forest Marque produce and the benefits of buying locally visit www.newforestmarque.co.uk.

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