Saturday 19th November | Fern Verrow

Saturday 19th November

Spent the day on Monday bringing young pigs from the old squash field to their winter quarters. The ground is far to wet now to leave the pigs there for much longer, not good for pigs or soil structure. The move entails getting eleven “teenage” ginger pigs into a trailer. Easily done as they will always follow a bucket of feed… but there is always one! A nervy little chap, and not at all keen to walk up the steel ramp. So plan B let’s outwit him, and try to catch him and handle him into the trailer, no mean feat , pigs are very tricky to handle, as they are low to the ground, solid muscle, wriggle like a toddler having a tantrum, and squeal at such a pitch that your ears hurt. We tried all our usual tricks, by now he was even more on edge and kept well away from us. We decided to pretend that we were leaving, so we drove away to the bottom of the field, he meanwhile had decided to see if we had left any food in his house. Whilst he was inside we crept ninja style up the field. Harry grabbed the tail board, got it three quarters closed,but as it was slippery with mud (and other things) he lost his grip for a split second. Mr Pig shocked and surprised went for the gap in the door in the most spectacular fashion. He resembled a stock car in a rally, jumping over a stack of cars. Yeeee Ha, he flew out of the trailer sideways flying through the air Dukes of Hazzard style. The frustration that we had been feeling, soon was made up for with the amusement of the stunt. By the way he is still at large.

On a more serious note I would like to talk cabbage. Such a staple for us, and very much part of the British winter seasonal food. We are asked a lot at the Arch on how the varieties we sell differ in taste and how to cook them. Cabbage has never been a big favourite of mine, school meals and mother – in – laws holding memories of  a sulphurous stench filling the air. However times move on, and I have always persuaded my children to eat cabbage by the way I have cooked it, and Harry is a massive cabbage fan. So we would like to pass on our cabbage tips. They are a pleasure to grow, as they are very beautiful and prolific. We have over the years chosen our favourites to grow and eat. Organically produced cabbage i.e. slower growing and without the use of pesticides produces a sweet cabbage, without the harshness that tends to taint conventional Brassica. This and freshness, is probably the most important quality in a good cabbage.

Red cabbage A favourite for Christmas lunch, braised in butter and onions, with  a good glug of red wine and cider vinegar and a large sliced  Bramley apple that melts into the sauce and adding and matching flavour to the peppery flavoured red cabbage.

Savoy- The blistered leaves of the savoy are very attractive. The darker in colour they are, the tastier they seem to be. A great cabbage to grow as they withstand the colder temperatures, and improve in flavour with a touch of frost. We prepare our savoy by shredding finely, ” wilting” the leaves in butter over a low heat, seasoning with salt and pepper and squeezing lemon juice at the end. The whole cooking process takes about three minutes, and produces a soft crunch and holds all the goodness for you to ingest.  A tablespoon of Creme fraiche at the end turns this vegetable dish into something no one can resist!

Hard white cabbage probably the most hated of all, but at present this is our favourite. We think the secret of good cabbage cooking is not to introduce too much water, so no boiling please. Again we wilt this, you can use olive oil too, a quick hot fry is good, but always retaining the crunch. This cabbage, as well as the red make very good coleslaw. Such an unfashionable dish, but if made well, you can appreciate why it has always been around for so long. Mix the cabbage shreds with grated carrot, apple if you like. The sauce can be mayonnaise, or  a remoulade mix of olive oil, salt, lemon juice, dijon mustard and creme fraiche.

January King- a white cabbage with red satins, very fine tasting, attractive cabbage which  performs well in any of our suggested cooking methods. definitely one for the cabbage connoisseur

In addition to our usual seasonal crops, we have our own lamb for sale this week, and smoked bacon and ham joints.

Information about our Christmas poultry  and opening days will follow next week.

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