Pannage is the practice of releasing Domestic Pigs to eat wild, fallen acorns. This is an historic event, which was a right or a privilage for local people to let their pigs feed on the common. Customarily a pig was given to the Lord of the manor depending on the number of pigs loosed de herbagio, as the right of pannage was entered.
Pannage is still done today, in the New Forest, where the pigs are released for 60 days to eat the fallen acorns, which could be harmful to ponies and cattle that also graze on the land. The duration of the “pannage” is decided each year, by the court of Verderers, and varies from season to season. Prior to the pigs been released they have nose rings fitted to prevent them from creating too much damage and rooting in the grounds.
The practice of “pannage” is ancient and has been practised in Spain (as here) for centuries, where they are known for creating the worlds’ finest Ham. The Jamon iberico de bellota are Black Iberico pigs (the original swine of Spain) which immediately after weaning, the piglets are fattened on barley and maize for several weeks. They are then allowed to roam in pasture and oak groves to feed naturally on grass, herbs, acorns, and roots. At the time of slaughter, the diet may be limited to olives or acorns for the best quality jamón ibérico. The hams will then go through a very long curing process, from 12 – 48 months to produce a prized ham with a smooth texture and rich and savoury taste. This ham sells for an average of £42/kg.
So bearing all of the above in mind….. We have let our saddleback pigs out into the woodlands for the last month or two and now, as Autumn is here and the acorns are falling, our Annie and her not-so-little-piglets are having a feast! While we are not going down the road of curing and producing a fine ham, we are going to be preparing our pigs for a Hog Roast (or two).
We have a stand at the Ulverston Dickensian weekend at the end of November, where we aim to serve our Pigs, which will be slow roasted, and served with hot slices in a large soft roll, with spoonful’s of homemade stuffing, lashings of apple sauce and crackling! Its guaranteed to warm you up – a must for hungry shoppers and passers’ by.