Good pork is great and I love to cook with it in all its forms from the mighty roast with crunchy crackling to casseroles and pan fried fillets. So that’s how I met Jez Pitman, owner of a herd of beautiful Gloucester Old Spot pigs
My relationship with Jez started at the Pannier Market in Tiverton where I would do some on the spot cooking demonstrations for him in return for some of his produce. As an ex Iraq combat soldier his life story is very interesting and covered to some extent on his website, but suffice to say that when he set up his farm in 2006 he was adamant that the welfare of his animals would be paramount.
It’s also interesting to note that the name ‘Moonbeams’ came into being because of Jez’s beliefs in a holistic approach to farming which encompasses many different aspects, one of which is the relationship between lunar cycles and the needs of the animals on the farm. In truth I don’t know if I really understand how that works, but my friend believes it and I respect his views and his right to use every available system to continuously generate an improved quality of life for the animals under his care.
All of the pigs on the farm are entirely free range and left to their own devices as much as possible. So, for example, they’re kept together as family groups with none of the painful and distressing interference that would be found on a more commercially intensive farm. I’ve been to the farm many times and it still delights me to see his beliefs in practice.
Why is that important, well the answer is simple. The pork from Jez’s farm is some of the best that I’ve ever tasted. There’s no nasty residue when you cook it and it doesn’t dry out when you roast it. The flavour I believe is all the sweeter in the knowledge that an ethical approach is really the best way. In point of fact this lovely pork was featured recently on television as part of a recent BBC1 cookery series and his sausages won the prestigious regional award ‘Best Sausage in the Blackdown Hills’, so it’s not just me who thinks that this pork is ‘top drawer’.
I think my favourite cut at the moment is Moonbeam’s applewood smoked bacon which is slowly smoked over wood chippings to give it a lovely rounded flavour rather than the slightly harsh taste that you might find in some ‘smoked’ bacon which is actually a flavour enhancer added to a commercial curing mix. Each to their own of course, but I know which one I like the sound of.
If you can make it down to the Exeter Food Market on Thursdays you can have a chat with him about his farming techniques, or for further information go to his website at www.moonbeamsland.co.uk