Andrew Sartain's Tamworth pigs put more than a meal on his plate
PUBLISHED: 08:55 28 February 2013 | UPDATED: 19:51 05 April 2013
A former Michelin-starred chef has turned his hand to producing sustainable meat - with a twist: using his herd of Tamworth pigs to help manage his century-old woodland as Melanie Greenwood finds out.
A taste of Somerset
A former Michelin-starred chef has turned his hand to producing sustainable meat - with a twist: using his herd of Tamworth pigs to help manage his century-old woodland
Former Michelin star chef, Andy Sartain, is aiming to change the shape of UK woodlands with a unique sustainability project launched in Somerset that produces amazing pork.
Andy, 49, of Yatton, is raising rare Tamworth pigs in eight acres of semi-natural woodland around Cleeve and has been nominated for the BBC British Food and Farmer Awards in the process.
He said: I am solely driven by the fact that I could never buy the quality of meat I need for my growing charcuterie business. This technique of sustainable woodland management using Tamworth pigs for scarifying and bramble clearance is one that has been neglected for more than 100 years.
Andrews three year plan ( www.wildfoodlarder.co.uk) will see 20 Tamworths live and breed naturally, rooting out invasive wild garlic, coppicing, creating charcoal and of course making wonderful pork.
In autumn the native pigs will forage beech mast, ash keys and acorns on triple SSSI land around ancient Stone Age circles within woodland near Cleeve.Ultimately, his Tamworths become high quality cured, gluten and rusk-free European style sausages. While commercial pigs live for around 16 weeks, Andrews enjoy nine months of natural habitat meaning consumers get lean and beautifully marbled meat with amazing flavour.They are slaughtered just a mile from the woods, then butchered and smoked by Andrew in nearby Burrington before being sold in farmers markets in Bath, Bristol, Wrington and Winscombe. Sausages include Toulouse, New York Italian, Luganeca, Russian with caraway dill parsley and onion, chorizo, Hungarian, a number of German Bratwurst, polish sausages and Greek loukanika.At 15 kg, it isnt supermarket cheap but it works out at around 1.50 per sausage for slow-grown, ethically-produced pork thats well worth the money.In winter Andrew also creates a range of game products such as pheasant, Madeira and wild mushroom, pheasant and cranberry, rabbit and roast garlic with tarragon plus his best seller venison, elderberry and port.
For sheer indulgence he recommends Italian five months aged Pancetta and Prosciutto along with flavoured bacon such as Burrington Back which is cured in molasses and his cider classic Wiltshire cure.
His Crepinettes are a speciality packed with game and rabbit with no fat or offal. If your taste is for rabbit, partridge, pheasant and venison, then they are all locally sourced by Andrew.
One of the benefits of raising pork this way is helping Andrews plan to replant the woodland with native bluebells.
Last summer he picked thousands of bluebell seed pods and stored them over winter for replanting once the wild garlic has been controlled because pigs leave toxic bluebell bulbs well alone.With wild garlic consumed there is also space for less intrusive English fauna to flourish such as wood Anemones, toothwort, woodruff and purple orchids.
Throughout the cold winter months and early spring Andrew began coppicing areas of neglected 30 year old hazels. With a mobile kiln on site it takes eight hours for Andrew to turn hazel logs into bags of charcoal which will be sold to Tinknells in Congresbury.Andrew has also turned some of the poles into hazel benders as living quarters for the Tamworths and fencing, as well as wildlife habitats and dead wood for insects. Once the hazel has been cut and cleared young Tamworths are introduced, demolishing the wild garlic and their smell sees off Roe deer, foxes and badgers.
Andrew said: Roe deer are the main culprits of tree damage in our English woodlands and when they disappear young hazel coppice shoots up.Another benefit of coppicing is to increase biodiversity as natural light filters through allowing a greater varietyof woodland flora and fauna such as our native dormouse which has been in sharp decline.Alongside this, Andrew and partner Rebecca Lewis will make mushroom-growing logs by cutting beech and ash and inoculating them with shitake, oyster and chicken of the woods mushrooms to be sold at farmers markets.
He said: I want to approach woodland owners with my experience of land clearing and show I have a sustainable pork business alongside forestry management.Andrew was born in Uphill and with a father who was both butcher and farmer he had an early introduction to animal husbandry.After school he studied pig husbandry at Langford but then diverted to catering college and travelled and cooked all over Europe before returning to the UK. He said: I was naturally gifted and obsessed with creating good food. I eventually worked in 17th Century White Water House in Hampshire which was much loved by Conservative party. I cooked for Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet as sell as Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Van Morrison and George Segal.
On his return to Bristol he launched wild food forays supplying to Raymond Blanc and wrote The Edible Mushroom.
He said: Ive loved all Ive done but now I feel what I am working on is completely right for me.My eventual aim is to create blueprint and portfolio of this project and create a future prospectus for woodland management with pigs clearing and managing land naturally.
For more information on www.wildfoodlarder.co.uk telephone Andrew on 07772 398 957 or 01934 838 217 or email him at Andrew@thewildfoodlarder.co.uk