I’ve been buying pork from the first Saturday Boxgum Grazing came to the Capital Region Farmers Market. I fell in love at first bite. Plus, Sam and Claire are so lovely, a crucial factor in attaining my loyal custom. Of course the reason why their stall stood out in the first place, is because they produce free-range pork. Pigs are such clever creatures, and the conditions in the mainstream pork industry in Australia are absolutely horrendous so I make particular effort to buy free-range. I’ve been using Boxgum Gazing pork to make my bacon since that first time we met. It produces are superior, naturally sweet finished product. Their Toulouse sausages are incredible, and of course they sell every cut of pork I could want, each as delicious as the first. I was overjoyed when they said they’d open their farm gate for an open day. I could go and meet the sweet, happy little (and some not so little) pigs! Murringo is about a two hour drive from Canberra, but a very pretty one.
Boxgum Grazing run cattle and pigs. They run the cattle in a single herd grazing them in a relatively small area for a short period of time, allowing the grass up to eighteen months to recover before the cattle return. When the grass has been cut back by the cows, the pigs can be introduced to enjoy the young sweet shoots of new grass and turn over the soil with their inquisitive noses. They too will be moved on in a few days, allowing a diverse array of grasses to regenerate, and the soil. The difference between the Boxgum Grazing pastures and those of their neighbours was markable as we drove into the farm. Boxgum have diversity in the pasture with lovely long grasses, where their neighbours had short grass all over with much bare dirt in the paddocks. With a healthy environment, the pigs and cows need little medication or other health interventions. In addition to being environmentally sound, the animals have a very happy lifestyle and make very tasty meat. The natural swetness of the pork surprised me when I first tried it, but makes more sense now I know the pigs are eating the sweet young grass.
I’ve been making my own bacon for over twelve months now. I use an old fashioned dry cure technique that’s free of nitrates and hot smoke it on my balcony. The finished product is delicious and lasts for ages in the fridge. I am very happy with the results I get with Boxgum Grazing pork compared to other free range pork I’ve used in the past. I thought it would be nice to do a bacon making demonstration on the farm for the open day so other people could see how to make it for themselves. It went down a treat. It’s not scientific but I walked everyone through the curing process. I simply rub a 3-4 kilogram piece of pork middle (belly and loin) with molasses, then brown sugar, then scatter it with rock salt. Stick it in the fridge for two weeks, turning once halfway through. I took a pre-cured piece along with me and got the smoker going with some chestnut from the farm. We all had a look around (while the bacon smoked) for two and a half hours and I sliced it up at the end of lunch. It’s always hard to resist eating the super smokey edges of the bacon as soon as it comes out of the smoker, so we sliced those up into bite sized pieces for everyone to share, then carved the rest to go on the BBQ, but it looks so juicy and delicious straight from the smoker that many of us were keen to eat it as is. Hopefully there’ll be a few more people around the district making their own nitrate free bacon now, with free range pork.