English pork hits the Old Spot

PUBLISHED: 16:15 15 June 2009 | UPDATED: 15:08 20 February 2013

Gloucesershire Old Spot

Gloucesershire Old Spot

Phillipe Boucheron raises a glass to the traditional English pig

Phillipe Boucheron raises a glass to the traditional English pig

Pork always seems to run a poor third to beef and lamb, and that's a pity because free-range English pork offers excellent value when it comes to Sunday roasts or inexpensive midweek meals.

The pig is a generous animal that not only provides pork but also hams and bacon and miles of sausages. There are still a handful of master butchers who prepare their own bacon and ham, as well as producing quite outstanding sausages. They will always help you select the joint suitable leg or loin for your Sunday roast, but always look for meat with a firm pink flesh which shows no sign of moisture; whitish and damp flesh indicates a factory farmed animal whose meat will be bland.

Roast pork is most accommodating when it comes to wine. Lovers of red could indulge themselves with a decent bottle of a majestic Beaujolais Cru like a 2003 Moulin-à-vent, while those who prefer white could spoil the family with a lightly chilled 2002 Chablis 1er Cru. However if you can lay your hands on a Verdelho from a good Australian producer you could be in for a relatively inexpensive treat.

In Alsace, the true home of the accomplished gourmet, they serve their loins on a bed of freshly braised sauerkraut, garnished with bacon and sausages and accompanied by some simple boiled potatoes. The meat and sausages are cut up and presented on a large platter that is placed in the centre of the table so that everyone can help themselves. This dish is best partnered either by an Alsace Riesling or a simple Tokay Pinot Gris. The mineral acidity of the Riesling, with its hint of kerosene, adds distinction to the dish, but careful with the Tokay Pinot Gris as the really top ones can be rich and honeyed.

The Normans cook their pork with prunes and cream. Not for those on a serious diet, this unashamedly rich casserole is a wonderful opportunity to serve an equally sweet wine. My choice would be a demi-sec Vouvray, a delectable white wine from a plateau to the south of Tours where the chameleon-like Chenin Blanc can be blessed by the autumn mists with a visit from the Noble Rot of botrytis cinera, that wraps its fungus around the individual grapes shrinking all their precious sweet juice into a few drops. But as ever with sweet wines, do take a small portion of the dish before tasting the wine whose unctuous sweetness will be tamed and dried out, creating a harmonious combination that you will remember with pleasure for many years to come.

They say that the only part of the pig that is not used is its squeak. In France they use those parts of a pig's entrails, that are never mentioned even in the crudest of societies, to create andouilettes. These powerful sausages are definitely an acquired taste, but true aficionados will swear by their preferred choice of wine that can range from simple village Rousanne from the northern Rhône to the rarefied delights of Rosé-des-Riceys, a still pink champagne made exclusively in the villages of the southern Aube that are closer to Chablis than Epernay.

Chinese style barbecued spare ribs are taken from the pork belly. Choose long narrow strips with plenty of flesh and fat, and then marinade them in a mixture of soy sauce, ketchup, sugar, ginger and garlic before grilling them. Serve them with a bottle of not too heavily chilled New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Belly of pork, either rolled and roasted or braised, makes a delicious inexpensive midweek dish. Served with creamy mashed potatoes to sup up the precious succulent juices and accompanied by roast or braised vegetables, it richly deserves a regular place in our culinary repertoire. When it comes to wine you can choose a low tannin red, such as an Italian Valpolicella or a bottle from Navarre in Spain, while a dry un-oaked Entre-deux-Mers from Bordeaux would hit the spot for a white.

Last, but by no means least comes the humble pork chop. Once upon a time this came with a lump of kidney attached, but now this is removed by the meat inspectors. Some people like them pan-fried with butter or olive oil, but I much prefer mine brushed with olive oil and then grilled. They are also great cooked on a barbecue, with the fat cut off and cooked separately and enjoyed with a large glass of Chilean Merlot.

Always insist on free-range English pork, it is well worth paying that bit extra over imported or intensively reared meat. So please do your bit to support our own pig farmers who are having such a difficult time.

Photograph supplied by the Gloucester Old Spot Breeders Club

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