Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management/Chapter XX
GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON THE COMMON HOG.CHAPTER XX
General Observations on the Various Breeds of Home and Foreign Pigs, Manner of Cutting Up, Table of Prices, etc.
The hog belongs to the class Mammalia, the order Ungulata, the genus Sus Scrofa, or swine, and the species Pachydermata, or thick-skinned. Its generic characters are a small head with a flexible snout. When fully matured, say at twenty months old, it has 44 teeth. viz. 24 molars, 4 canine teeth, 4 tusk, 4 corners and 8 incisors. The hog is one of the few animals which possess teeth at birth. These number four above and four in the lower jaw, and are so sharp when the date of parturition exceeds the normal period, that it is frequently necessary to break them off in order to prevent the little newly-born pig biting the udder of its mother or the cheeks of its young neighbour. By the time the pigling has arrived at the age of four or five weeks, twelve of the temporary molars will have appeared, and the eight temporary incisors be developed. The principal changes in the dentition of pigs take place at periods of about three months, so that all the temporary teeth will be present by the time the pig is a year old, and all the permanent teeth in evidence at eighteen months, although these will not be fully grown until the pig has reached the age of about twenty months. Our veterinary surgeons declare that the variations in the detention of pigs are less than in any of our domesticated animals, but this opinion is strongly contested by exhibitors of pigs.
From the number and position of the teeth physiologists are enabled to define the nature and functions of the animal; and from those of the hog it is evident that he is as much of a grinder as a biter, or can live as well on vegetable as on animal food, though a mixture of both is plainly indicated as the character of food most conducive to the proper maintenance of its physical system.
Though the hoof of the pig is as a general rule cloven, there are several remarkable exceptions, as in some of the pigs in the United States, Norway, Illyria, Sardinia, etc., in which the hoof is entire and uncleft.
Few domestic animals are so profitable or so useful to man as the much-maligned pig, and no other yields him a more varied or more luxurious repast. The prolificacy of the pig is extraordinary; even this is increased when the pig is under domestication, but when left to run wild in favourable situations, as in the islands of the South Pacific, the result in a few years from two animals put on shore and left undisturbed, is truly surprising, since they breed so fast and have such large litters, that unless killed off in vast numbers both for the use of the inhabitants and as fresh provisions for ships' crews, they would degenerate into vermin. In this country the sow usually has two litters in each year; the breeding seasons are generally between January and October; the period of gestation is about 112 days or 16 weeks; the strong and vigorous sow will probably carry its young a few days longer, whilst the old and young sows, which are not so vigorous, will generally farrow their pigs a few days before this period has expired. The number of the litter cast will depend upon the breed; the larger and the cross-bred sows will average ten to twelve in a litter, and the small breeds eight to ten each trip. Instances have been recorded of a sow having as many as twenty-three pigs at one farrowing. Much greater care has of late years been taken in the selection of young sows from those litters which are the produce of sows which are not only prolific but which are good sucklers; by this means the average number of good pigs in each litter has been increased, and of course the breeding of pigs has thus been rendered more profitable.
Even within the last quarter of a century it was frequently declared that a pig was very subject to many diseases caused by its gluttony and its manner of hurriedly consuming very large quantities of food. This idea has become exploded, and it has been proved that it is not so much the large quantity of food which a pig will consume which occasionally causes bilious attacks and feverish symptoms which, if not relieved by medicine and exercise, frequently end in the death of the pig, but illness is more generally due to injudicious feeding on too rich foods, and the neglect of giving to the pig some corrective in the form of coal, cinders, chalk or mere earth whilst the pig is kept confined to his stye. Another exploded idea is that pigs availed themselves of every opportunity to rub themselves against any post or projection in order to open the pores of the skin, blocked up with mud and to excite perspiration. The fact is the pig does not perspire; this renders it so very subject to the risk of death from over driving in the hottest part of a hot summer's day. Even this risk is greatly mitigated, if not wholly avoided, by applying some cold water to the head of the pig between the ears, whereas if the water be thrown over the whole of the carcass of the pig, death will almost certainly follow.
It is a boast of the Chicago pork packers that every particle of the cracass of the pig is converted into something useful. The skin can be tanned, when it is used to cover saddles, it is also capable of being dressed and pressed in imitation of well-nigh all fancy skins, crocodile and other, then it is used in the manufacture of purses, bags, port-manteaus, the covering of chairs, etc., and even a patent has been taken out to utilize the skin of the hog in place of the rubber tyres on the fashionable carriages of the monied classes. The hair of the wild pigs, and even of the semi-domesticated pig in Russia, Servia and other countries is still used in the making of brushes, as it used to be largely utilized by shoemakers in the sewing and stitching of boots and shoes. Prior to the Americans keeping such vast herds of pigs, which they feed largely on Indian corn or maize, the value of the fat of the pig was greater than of any other portion, as this was used in the manufacture of lard for domestic use. Now millions of fat pigs are annually slaughtered at Chicago and five or six other centres in the States, where the fat of the pig is rendered and, report has it, mixed with a considerable proportion of cotton-seed-oil, and exported to this and other countries as lard. This and the great change in the tastes and habits of the inhabitants of the British Islands has led to quite a different type of pig being kept, and to a shortening of the life of an ordinary pig by at least one-half.
Varieties of the Domesticated Hog.—The distinct varieties of English hog are comprised in those having their interests looked after by societies formed for the purpose, amongst others, of keeping a register of the breeding of the pigs of the following breeds: Berkshire, Large Black, Tamworth and Yorkshires, subdivided into the large, Middle and Small White breeds. There are other local breeds of more or less importance—the Sussex, the Dorset, the spotted black and white sandy pig in Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire, the Cumberland, the Lincolnshire or Cambridgeshire, the Welsh and the Essex. Foreign breeds of pigs, such as the Chinese or the Neapolitan, the Poland China, have been imported into this country, but they have been absorbed into the English breeds.
There has not perhaps been so great a change in any of our domesticated varieties of stock as in the pig. This is due to many causes, of which the two chief are the great change in the style of living amongst residents in both town and country, and the introduction of the system of mild curing bacon and hams. Both of these changes date from about the same period, some thirty-five years ago. The enormous increase in trade and the consequent large addition to the salaries of the employees of all classes led to a desire for more expensive kinds of meat, small joints of finer quality beef, mutton and pork in lieu of the very general salt pork which used to do duty in the homes of a large portion of clerks, artisans and mechanics. The system of mild curing bacon and hams enabled the bacon curers to carry on the manufacture of cured meats all the year round, so that no difficulty was experienced by them in satisfying the greatly increased requirements of the public, a totally different style of pig was needed for conversion into bacon, a comparatively speaking light and only partially fattened pig best suited the tastes of the consumer, who had begun to look with disfavour on the heavily salted fat pork of the olden days, when it was actually necessary that the meat should be fat, since the lean meat became so hard and indigestible when heavily salted. Small hams, of some 12 to 15 lb., were called for in place of those huge masses of meat, weighing from 30 to 50 lb., which formerly did duty as hams; the more expensive cuts of bacon also became in far greater demand than the cheaper parts of the side of bacon, so that the curers in self-defence were compelled to ask the breeders of pigs to produce fat pigs with as much as possible of those parts, such as the ham and lengthy sides which, when cured, realized the highest price, and which were most in demand. Again, the demand for the early fattened pig, weighing some 60 lb. dead weight, increased to an enormous extent in London and in many other of the large towns; this too tended to the reduction in the size of the pig generally bred, as the jointer or London porket pig is considered to be as profitable an animal to produce as any of our domesticated animals. The producer of fat pigs in the Midlands and southern counties of England has therefore two markets to study—the demand for the porket pig with a carcass of some 60 lb., and the bacon curers' and retail butchers' pig, which will weigh about 160 lb. when dressed. In the northern counties, where the temperature is cooler and the general customer of a somewhat different class, fat pigs of 300 lb. are still sought and in common demand. The severity of labour in the so-called Black Country may also have some influence on the kind of food required.
The manufacturer of meat, like the producer of any article for consumption, must consult the wants of his customers; this requirement has had a strong influence on the form and quality of even our different breeds of pigs. For instance, the Large White Yorkshire and its ally, the Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire, white pigs with many blue spots on the skin, has of late years become a general favourite amongst pig breeders, because it has so readily conformed to the present-day wants, early maturity and quality of meat. In the olden days the Large White Yorkshire was a quick-growing pig, strong in the bone, coarse in flesh, skin and hair, and remarkably slow in maturing. At the present time no variety of pig will so quickly become of the weight desired by bacon curers and butchers generally; not only so, but the form of the carcass and the quality of flesh, skin and bone is equal to that furnished by any kind of pig. This great change has been brought about by selecting for breeders those pigs possessing hard flat bone, thin skin, fine silky hair and early maturity. As can readily be understood, a pig of this type must be a profitable manufacturer of meat, since it has to grow nothing which a good cook is unable to convert into food for man. The present day Large White Yorkshire has rather a long head with a light jowl, the shoulders are light and obliquely laid, the ribs are well sprung and deep, the back is long, the loin is slightly arched and of fair width, the flank is thick—indicating lean flesh and much of it—the quarters are lengthy, the ham long with meat to the hocks, the bone generally is fine and the hair white and silky. Both boar and sow are docile and very prolific With such characteristics it is bound to be able to furnish a carcass of pork suited for the London provisioner, the bacon curer or the butcher in the northern counties, where larger and fatter pigs are in demand.
The Middle White Yorkshire has of late years been vastly improved, its early maturity, fine quality of meat and suitability for supplying the wants of Londoners and dwellers in large towns with small and luscious joints of pork, has rendered it a general favourite amongst pig keepers, who have the command of hotel and dairy refuse. Many thousands of Middle White pigs and crosses of this breed are now kept in the neighbourhood of large towns and fattened on meal of various kinds, mixed with soup manufactured from the odds and ends of bread, meat, potatoes, etc., collected daily from the large hotels and other public and private establishments; this collection of bread, bones, etc., is thoroughly steamed or boiled, then the bones or pieces which will not dissolve are strained away, the soup is allowed to cool, and when the fat is skimmed off the liquor is fit for mixing with the meal; the mixture is fed cold in the summer, whilst in winter the soup is warmed, so that the digestive organs of the pigs can at once begin operations instead of a certain amount of animal heat being needed to first warm up the food on which the pig is fed. The pigs so fed grow and fatten rapidly, furnishing a carcass of fine meat weighing some 65 lb. ere they are five months old. The points of a Middle White are somewhat similar to the Large White Yorkshire, but on a smaller scale and more compact; the head, ears and legs are shorter; still, if the Middle White be kept until it reaches the age of some nine or ten months, it will furnish sides of pork suitable for the country butcher's trade, and weighing 90 to 120 lb. each. Boars of the breed are in great demand both at home and abroad for crossing on the coarser breeds of pigs for the production of London porkets and small pork pigs, of which many thousands are imported into England each week from Holland, Belgium and Denmark.
In years gone by the black and white pig—which has been known as the Berkshire—and the Small White Yorkshire occupied the positions now largely taken up by the Large and Middle White Yorkshires; the Small White has pretty well ceased to be bred, whilst the Berkshire has undergone as great a change in its formation and size as it has in its colour, which is now, according to the standard set up by the British Berkshire Society, a black pig, having a white mark or blaze down the face, four white feet, and a white tip to its tail; indeed, so strong are the prejudices as to colour, that it is quite an unusual thing to find a Berkshire judge giving a prize to a pig of the breed which fails in its "markings."
The breeders of Berkshires have considerably altered the type, form and character of their favourites during the last thirty years. The present day pigs are shorter and deeper in the carcass; they have shorter and heavier heads, and are altogether more compactly built; to such a state of this kind of perfection have the breeders brought their pigs, that a well-fattened Berkshire is one of the most successful fat show pigs of the day. A cross between the Berkshires and the Middle Whites is very common and very successful for breeding London porket pigs; the white pig is considered to be more prolific, and the cross-bred pigs grow faster when young than the pure bred Berkshires.
The admirers of the red-haired Tamworth pig claim that some of the good properties of the old-fashioned Berkshire were obtained from the infusion of a considerable portion of the blood of the bronze coloured pig, which was extensively kept in olden times in the forests of the midland counties, where they picked up their living during the greater part of the year. These pigs were of a tawny or sandy colour, with black spots on the skin when young, but gradually assumed a grizzly bronze hue as they grew older; they were very prolific, and the sows were good sucklers—qualities which are not so much in evidence amongst the present fashionable light red pigs, which still retain the long snout, somewhat thick shoulders and short backs, with drooping rumps. Their aptitude to fatten has been greatly increased, and the disposition of the sows has been much improved. Some few years since considerable numbers of the improved type of Tamworth were used to cross on the black sows in those counties which supply the Calne and other bacon factories with fat pigs; this is not so general now, since the crosses were found to be too short from the shoulder to the hip and too light in the flank to furnish enough of the so-called streaky part of the side of bacon, which realizes much more money per lb. than any other cut.
A new candidate for public favour in the form of the so-called Large Black pig has been considerably boomed during the last five or six years. At present the type is not quite fixed; the sources from which the material from which the breed has been evolved are mainly two, Cornwall and Essex, but the type of Large Black pig found in the two counties varies greatly. At the present time the lop-eared, somewhat heavy jowled, thick shouldered and round boned Cornwall type is most successful in the show yards. The sows are prolific and first-rate mothers, and the young pigs are hardy and quick growers, whilst the matured fat pig is of great weight, but there is still room for improvement in the head and shoulders and in the length and quality of carcass. The fat pigs sell readily amongst the miners in Cornwall, but it is doubtful if the consumers in the eastern midlands and London will purchase pork very freely which is made from the present fashionable type of Large Black.
The Blue-Black pig found in Sussex has many good qualities; it is a good forager, is easily kept, is prolific and hardy, and the pigs give a good return for the fatting food when they have become matured, which is at rather a late period of their lives. This want of early maturity may have been one of the causes for the crossing of the Sussex sows with the Berkshire or Dorset boar. The cross bred pigs by the Berkshire are said to fatten more readily and to produce somewhat better quality of pork; this may or may not be correct, but the cross bred pigs are certainly of a more pleasing appearance and carriage.
The Dorset was also of a slate colour and, like the Sussex, sparse of hair, but very few, if any, pure bred specimens of the breed can now be found; the breed was very considerably utilized for competition at the fat stock shows held in London and other places some thirty years since. It is asserted that the exhibitors crossed their Dorset sows with the Small Black boar, in order to increase the ability to fatten readily. In this the breeders were very successful; some of the so-called Dorsets exhibited at the Smithfield Club's shows were certainly marvels of obesity, but the carcasses proved to be mere bladders of lard, which lost their high value when the enormous quantity of American Lard, manufactured from maize and cotton-seed oil, was imported into this country.
The so-called Oxfordshire or plum pudding pig, found in parts of Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire is nearly lost at the present time. The use of Neapolitan and other boars of a black breed has well nigh converted this local breed into one of a black or a black with a little white colour. Sows of this character have many good points; their ability to rough it and to withstand the far too general neglect with which the midland counties farmers' pigs are treated, renders it a favourite. The sows are good mothers and the store pigs grow fairly fast, and when put up to fatten make fair use of the good food fed to them; the fat pigs also furnish a large proportion of lean meat, which however has cost rather a high price to produce.
The Cumberland or North County pig was a prime favourite for supplying the well-known and much appreciated Cumberland hams in the days of old-fashioned curing, and when large hams were not objected to as they now are. The pig itself was of considerable size, but not as bulky as the Large Yorkshire; its bone was fine, its skin was thin and hair sparse, and its flesh was inclined to be fat, too fat for the present taste; but the Cumberland hog is still another of the local breeds which has almost ceased to exist in its old form. It has been well nigh crossed out of existence. The pigs found at present in the northern counties are of no particular type; they appear to be mainly crosses of the Yorkshire boar on the country sows, their age and substance varying according to the local demand for pork which is ruled by the calling of the inhabitants.
The pig country, par excellence, is North America, where the porcine population is said to total some forty millions. A very large proportion of these are Poland Chinas, Durse-Jerseys, Chester Whites, Victorias or Cheshires; all of these breeds are claimed to be new breeds of home manufacture. This may or may not have sufficient foundation. The Poland China is a compound breed; its present appearance—fashion in pigs changes as much in the United States as fashions generally do in this country—is very similar to a Berkshire, of the thick-shouldered, heavy-boned type, save that the ears are somewhat longer, and broken or bent in the middle instead of being pricked, as is the ear of the Berkshire. There is no doubt that the Poland China is a marvellous pig for the manufacture of lard out of Indian corn, or, as we term it, maize. The Durse-Jersey is a red pig of much the same conformation as the Poland China; its breeders however claim that it is more prolific. Chester Whites and Cheshires are white in colour; the former is a somewhat coarse lard-producing hog; the latter is a longer pig, and more of what we should term a bacon hog of indifferent quality. The Victoria is a compound pig of a white colour, which is due to the use of a white boar of the so-called Suffolk or Small Yorkshire breed; these breeds in turn appeared to be really importations of Middle White or Small White pigs from this country. The Berkshire and the Chester White sows appear to have been used to build up the Victoria pig, which is very similar in appearance to many of the cross Middle White and Berkshire fat pigs shown in the Middle White and cross bred classes at the Smithfield Show in London. The pork packers in the States have been endeavouring of late years to induce pig breeders to pay more attention to the length and quality of flesh and bone of their pigs, in order that they may capture a share of the high class English bacon trade; their success so far has not been great, as not only is it necessary to have the right type of pig, but it is also imperative that the pigs must be fed on a mixture of foods, of which maize forms only a comparatively small proportion during the latter part of the fatting period.
Pig breeders in the British Isles are more likely to find far stronger competition in the bacon manufactured in Canada and Denmark than in that produced in the United States. The pigs in the Dominion were of a mixed character, and more suitable for the production of mess or barrel pork, such as is used up country in the lumber districts of Canada; these barrels of fat pork and the other necessary, but not very varied, supplies of food are sent up into those parts where the lumbermen will work for some months entirely separated from the world. The cold is intense, so that a great amount of fat is needed to keep up the warmth of the body. Some twenty or more years since one or two of the chief pork packers in Canada imported a number of Large Yorkshire pigs from one of our best herds. The improvement in the form and quality of the pigs was so great other importations were made. Then a few Tamworths were tired. These also tended to increase the proportion of lean in the country pig, so that at the present time nearly all the pigs killed and cured in the bacon factories—of which several have recently been built—are of the Yorkshire crossed with Berkshire, Tamworth, Poland China and native pigs. At the present time Canadian bacon is very largely consumed in this country, where the price realized for it is greatly in excess of that made of the American bacon. This for two reasons: the quality is superior, due to the pigs having been fed on a mixed diet and dairy offals, instead of mainly maize, and the form of the side of bacon and ham is better, the finer quality parts forming a greater proportion of the side. The marvellous improvement in the quality of the Canadian bacon is clearly shown in the following extract from a speech recently made by Mr. F. W. Hodson, the Live Stock Commissioner at Ottawa, a man to whom the Canadian farmers are deeply indebted:—
"Twelve years ago we exported $600,000 worth of inferior bacon; now we are exporting nearly $15,000,000 worth of superior bacon. The measure of success achieved is mainly due to breeding along one line—the line of bacon hogs. We have not yet gone as far as we should have gone. In Denmark they use one breed only (the White Yorkshire), and the result is that Danish bacon sells at five to ten shillings per long cwt. above Canadian bacon. The Danes do not feed better than our people, but they breed better. You cannot produce the first-class bacon required to build up our export trade in this line if you use the thick, fat American breeds of hogs as your foundation stock. By using the right kind we can share in the monopoly of the best bacon trade in the world (the English), which is now divided between Denmark, Ireland, a small part of England and ourselves."
This remarkable and correct speech clearly points out the sources of supply of the enormous quantity of breakfast bacon now consumed in England. A few years ago Ireland furnished us with all the imported bacon, then Germany and Sweden. After a time the protective duties on feeding stuffs so raised the price of the raw article, that the fatted pig was too dear to be converted into bacon at a profit. The bacon factories in these protected countries were closed, and others opened in Denmark, where the Government has greatly helped the farmer and the bacon factor by giving a bonus on every pedigree breeding pig imported from the best herds in England, and in charging the lowest possible railway rates on pigs and bacon. The Government also sent experienced men over to England to inspect all the noted herds of Yorkshire pigs and to purchase specimens; these last were bred from in Denmark, their breeding and fatting qualities were noted, and their product in the form of bacon compared. The result was a number of both boars and sows were purchased from one old breeder during several years; herds were thus established in Denmark, so that now only occasional boars are imported to secure a slight change of blood; and Danish bacon is fast approaching the value and quality of the Irish bacon. This last has certainly not made anything approaching the improvement of late years which has been noticeable in the Danish product; the Irish bacon had already acquired a high character, and the importation of the finest Large Yorkshire pigs from England has not been on a sufficiently extensive scale; the result has been a slight decadence instead of an improvement in the form and quality of the ordinary Irish country pig. The Irish bacon curers have apparently done their best to arouse their countrymen to the certain loss of the best English market unless the quality of the fat pigs is kept up; but the natural apathy of the people and the alleged desire of the Dublin officials to keep the trade in pure bred pigs in Irish hands appear to render null and void the loyal attempts of the curers to benefit the Irish farmers and themselves at one and the same time. How great the importation of bacon into this country is does not appear to have been realized. In an article written by one of our specialists, and published in a recent issue of the Journal of the Board of Agriculture, it was stated that 250,000 tons of bacon, valued at some twenty-five millions sterling, was annually imported. Surely our farmers and pig keepers are neglectful in allowing this enormous amount of money to be sent yearly out of the country principally for an article which we, with our fine breed of pigs and our wonderful climate, ought to produce at home. It does seem strange that you might almost count the English bacon factories on one hand; it is true that at one of our largest factories the finest bacon in the world is manufactured, but this only proves that we could produce a large proportion of the twenty-five million pounds' worth of bacon which Denmark, Canada, the States and other countries now send into this country.
The wild pig has long since disappeared from this country, nor is it largely consumed even in those foreign countries where it is still found. One of the chief uses to which it is put is the furnishing of sport. In India pig sticking is very popular, whilst in Germany, Austria and some other countries wild pig shooting and hunting is held in high esteem. Again, in Russia and Servia immense droves of pigs are kept in the forests, where they mate at their own pleasure and pick up their living unattended by man and even unnoticed, until the order goes forth for the slaughter of a certain number. The mere fact that none of the pigs have been operated upon, and their food having consisted of roots and the seed of oaks, chestnuts, beech and other trees, is sufficient to give a very good idea of the quality—or want of it—of the meat. In this country such stuff would fail to find a market, unless it were for the conversion into the lowest priced sausages in some of our large towns, where the poverty is so great that anything in the form of meat is looked upon as a treat, to be enjoyed only occasionally.
Within a quarter of a century of the present time, pig breeders were supposed to breed and feed their pigs for particular markets. The little sucking pig of 8 or 10 lb., which was looked upon as an ideal dish in the cold weather, was only obtainable when the usual depression in the value of pigs came round, after the three or four years of enhanced value of pigs. Then many litters of pigs of about three or four weeks old would be slaughtered and despatched to the large or centres of population, where they would realize some 6s. or 7s. each, thus paying the breeder far better than they would have done if kept longer. This slaughter of the innocents and of the breeding sows is followed for a few months, when the shortage of pigs becomes noticeable, and every one who had recently cleared out of his stock of pigs is equally as anxious to become the possessor of some of those which the more thoughtful neighbour had continued to breed. The natural result follows: the price of pigs is rushed up, the weanlings become of three or four times as much value, and the supply of roasting suckers becomes a thing of the past for perhaps three or four years. The period varies, as other factors, such as the general state of trade and purchasing powers of the masses, have a strong influence on the value of pork and pigs. The necessity for the consideration of the market for which the fat pig is intended is not now as noticeable as it was some years since, when the pigs required for conversion into bacon were considered to be unsuitable unless they turned the scale at 400 or 500 lb. at least. Now the fat pig of about 150 lb. dead weight is exactly what is sought by the bacon curer and the meat purveyor in the southern half of England, whilst a somewhat heavier pig is still in more general demand in the northern counties.
Unwholesome Pork.—There is little doubt that in the olden times, under entirely different sanitary conditions, the flesh of the common hog was at times diseased. The parasite Trichina spiralis, was by no means unknown in this country; whilst in Germany and other countries, where the eating of raw pork in the form of ham and sausages is common, cases of this disease are still reported. The presence of this parasite in the human body is most painful, and generally results in the death of the sufferer. Mere salting, smoking, or subjecting to a moderate heat will not kill the parasite in infected meat; thorough and complete cooking alone is sufficient to render the meat innocuous. Fortunately no recent instances of trichinosis have been recorded in this country. Diseased pork, which in olden times went under the name of "measly pork," has not of late years been found in this country. It was due to the presence of the parasite Cystersus cellulosæ, found in the form of a small cyst about the size of a pea, imbedded in the tissue. Thorough cooking also renders this parasite innocuous. Under the insanitary conditions which fattened pigs had been kept in the olden days for a much longer period than is now considered necessary to fit them for the butcher, tuberculosis was not infrequently developed, but even this dread disease has never been proved to have been communicated to human beings by eating the flesh of animals suffering from tuberculosis. The medical profession are still warmly discussing the question of the similarity of this disease as it exists in human beings and in our domesticated animals. The present enlightened system of housing farm animals is fast reducing the number of cases of tuberculosis amongst our live stock.
To Choose Pork.—In the good old times the quality of pork was most variable; the long so-called store period of the life of the pig, when it had to hunt for its living to such an extent that starvation diet was frequently its portion, to be followed by a period of stuffing on more or less rich food and without a possibility of exercise and a breath of sweet air; all these undesirable conditions injuriously affected the quality of the pork produced under such insanitary conditions. At the present time pig keepers are cognisant of the fact that pork made from young pigs which have been well fed from their birth realizes so much more on the market and pays them so much better, that a large proportion of the pigs kept in this country do not know what the old-fashioned store period in the life of a pig was like. There is little doubt that the manner in which pigs were kept in other days was the principal cause for the prejudice which exists against fresh pork as an article of diet. This prejudice is fast dying out now that sanitary arrangements are attended to, and the fatting pigs fed on common sense and humanitarian lines. This improvement is especially valuable to the lower classes, who find pork the most economical meat food, since it can be cooked in so many appetising ways, and every portion of the pig can be utilized for the food of man. It can also be produced at less cost than other meat, and consequently can be sold more cheaply. The percentage of loss in killing is only some 23 per cent. against nearly twice as much in the case of cattle. There is now far less necessity for care in the choice of the joint of pork, since well nigh the whole is of far better quality than a few years since. The fat of the best pork is white, the lean of a brownish hue, ingrained with fat; the rind should be thin and the bone fine but solid; these last are generally accepted as sure indications of good quality of meat.
Ham.—The sources of supply of the finest hams are now far more numerous than a few years since. There is also a great change in the size, form and degree of fatness of the ham now desired. In place of the 20 to 40 lb. hams, by no means uncommon in the past, the highest priced ham is one of some 10 to 12 lb.—a nice, plump long ham, fine in the skin and bone, fairly fat, and cut off a carcass of pork furnished by a pig which has not lived more than seven months. This kind of ham is delicate in flavour, short in texture, easily digested and economical. At one time the cold fat ham was one of the standing breakfast dishes in the houses of the wealthy; now a hot ham is far more frequently a favourite course at dinner. Its reappearance in the dining or breakfast room is seldom, so that on economical grounds if on none other, a small ham is preferable to a large one. At the present time Irish hams realize the highest price in the London market, but Canadian and Danish hams are pressing the English and Irish hams very closely. A considerable number of Cumberland and Yorkshire hams are still sent to the southern counties, but the purchasers of these are old-fashioned housekeepers or others having large families to provide for. At one time hams were cut in various fashions; now that the majority of the hams are cured with the side of bacon, the shape or cut of the ham varies but little.
To choose a Ham, select one fine in the bone, then run a skewer in close to the bone to the middle of the ham. If it comes out clean and smells sweet, it is good, but it it smells strong and has fat adhering to it, choose another. If the ham be cut, see that the fat is white and not streaked with yellow. All meat first goes bad near the bone. A ham may not be rancid, yet not of the best quality; it may be too salt or flavourless, owing to improper curing. Connoisseurs still prefer a ham which has been kept for some months, but the difficulty in obtaining them is far greater now than formerly; this is due to two causes, the vastly increased consumption of hams and the change in the system of curing. In a few country districts it is still possible to obtain a supply of aged hams by arranging with an old-fashioned local curer to take a fixed number at certain periods. Of course the purveyor has to charge an extra price to cover risk of loss, interest on capital, etc. There are various ways of keeping hams; the most common is to inclose them in brown paper and calico bags; others again place them in a box covered with malt combs or broad bran.
To Buy Bacon.—In choosing bacon, similar action can be taken, but as a rule the shoulder is the only part likely to be tainted. The enormously increased consumption of so-called breakfast bacon, for which the streaky—or that portion of the side extending from the shoulder to the hip, and about three-fourths of the depth of the side—is most in demand; consequently it realizes much the highest price per lb. Many economical persons now purchase the shoulder and cut it ham shape, so that it often does duty as a ham. It is not so fine in texture and has more bone, but it is certainly an economical joint. The following is a list of the parts into which a side of bacon is now cut in the southern counties, with the current price of each joint of the very best quality:—
|Weight about||Price||per lb.|
|Cut through side nearest the shoulder||12||1||0½|
|Corner of gammon||4||1||0½|
|Back and ribs||9||1||0½|
The best and most humane way of killing pigs is to strike them with a heavy hammer between or just above the eyes; the pigs drop down senseless, then the butcher inserts his knife into the chest, piercing the heart of the pig, which very quickly bleeds to death. The hair is removed in two ways, either by so-called scalding, i.e. immersing the body of the pig into water of a certain temperature, or by placing a bundle of straw round the carcass, setting fire to the fuel and burning off the hair; this last plan is not much followed, save in Somersetshire and two or three adjacent counties. The followers of this practice assert that the flavour of the meat is improved. The scalding is certainly far the cleaner plan, and is in more general use. The best weight for a bacon curer's pig is about 220 lb. alive. The loss in dressing a fat pig varies with the age, size and degree of fatness of the pig; small porket pigs will dress from 70 to 75 per cent.; fat pigs weighing above some 220 lb. will lose about 23 to 25 per cent. of their weight in dressing, whilst very fat and old pigs will sometimes dress as much as 85 per cent. of their gross weight.
The system of bacon curing has completely changed of late, as has the cutting up of the pig for curing; now the pig is merely divided down the back, the head is cut off, the shoulder bone taken out, and the backbone and the major part of the lean meat is taken off. When the side of pork has brine or pickle forced into it by means of what are termed force pumps, the sides are then packed on each other, a layer of salt, etc. being used between each side. The sides are thus left for about a fortnight when the curing is finished, and are baled and sold on the large markets, whence country bacon merchants purchase, smoke and retail them to the provisioner. At most of the bacon factories a certain portion of the bacon is smoked for the retail trade, the quantity varying with the orders received. Sausages, pork pies, etc., are also manufactured in some of the factories.
Salt pork is commonly made in farm houses; somewhat small fat pigs are killed, the roasting parts are cut off and the remainder of the carcass cut up into pieces of about the size which will subsequently be required for cooking, and placed in an earthenware pot in which brine had been already placed. The meat is covered by the brine, and pieces of it are taken out as required for use. It is advisable to use the leaner pieces first, or they may become too salt.
The usual joints of small fresh pork are the leg, the loin, which in turn is divided into fore—or, as it is sometimes called, the crop or spare-rib—and hind; the hand, the spring, the belly, middle cut and the head. The respective prices of these parts varies somewhat according to the season and the district. The heavy fat pig is cut up in various ways; in the north of England, where large fat hogs are now mainly killed, the legs, shoulders, belly and the fat, after the roasting parts taken off, are generally salted lightly and then boiled; the loin, spare-ribs, etc., are roasted whole, save when converted into so-called pork-chops, which are considered to be very rich and suitable only when the weather is very cold.
The Names of the Several Joints are as follows:—
|1. Spare-rib.||3. Spring, or belly.|
|2. Hand.||5. Loin.|
|4. Fore-loin.||6. Leg.|
The weight of the several joints of a good pork pig of 6 stone may be as follows, viz:—
|The loin and spring||6||„|
|The cheek||from 2 to 3 lb.|
(1) Spare-rib.—Generally roasted.
(2) Hand.—Usually slightly salted and boiled, to eat either hot or cold.
(4) Fore-loin.—For roasting.
(3) Spring, or belly.—Generally salted and boiled.
(5) Loin.—The best roasting joint, but rather fat. Large chops are cut from it.
(6) Leg.—The most economical roasting joint in this as in most other animals. It is less fat than the fore-quarter. Used also for raised pies.
Besides these joints, the following parts of the pig are sold for food:—
(7) Head, also known in various parts of the country as "cheek," or "chopper." Weighs 5 lb. to 6 lb. and can often be bought very cheap. Is generally slightly salted and made into brawn. Can also be collared or boiled.
(8) Feet, or pettitoes.—Generally boiled and served hot or cold. Not unfrequently they are boned and stuffed.
(9) Liver, sweetbread, and some of the inside fat are often sold together under the name of pig's fry.
(10) Lard.—Any part of the fat is melted down and sold in bladders, tubs, or by the pound, for pastry making, frying, etc. The lower the heat at which it is melted the smoother and less granulous it is. Occasionally it is said to be mixed with flour or starch. Much is imported annually from America. It has a lower melting point than beef or mutton fat and—partly for that reason—is less suitable for frying than other fats. It is better adapted for making pastry.
TABLE OF THE RELATIVE VALUE OF VARIOUS JOINTS OF PORK
In the following tables the different parts have been carefully tested with the view of finding out which are really the most economical. It will be seen that the leg of pork wastes less than the loin, and that the best part of bacon is the cheapest when boiled.
|Name of Joint.||How usually
|Cost per lb.|
|Leg of pork||Roasted||6||8||4||9||4¾||0||9||1||1|
|Loin of pork (hind)||Roasted||4||3||2||7||6½||0||10||1||4¾|
|Liver and fry||Fried||1||10||1||1||5½||0||6||1||1¾|
TABLE GIVING WEIGHT OF BONE, SKIN AND WASTE IN JOINTS OF PORK
|Name of Joint.||Weight of
|Leg of pork||6||8||1||0||0||15||1||15||4||9|
|Loin of pork||14||0||1||0||3||8||4||8||9||8|