July 10, 2018

Sometimes I Miss Having Pigs

Waldo and Polly. Photo taken June 2015.

I think of the various farm animals Dan and I have had, pigs have been a hands-down favorite. We had American Guinea Hogs, a small heritage breed native to the South. They were good foragers, friendly, excellent at turning all food scraps into manure, but hard on fences. So when our fences began to experience a lot of collateral damage from falling pine trees ...

A lot of them fall over roots and all. This one
made a handy get-away hole under the fence.

This one fell on top of the fence.

As did this one.

This one is leaning just inside the fence corner!
Another fence disaster just waiting to happen.

... we decided to sell our Waldo and Polly until we could deal with the problem and repair our fences. That seemed a better alternative to keeping them penned. Eventually, we will have pigs again.

I miss them most at times like now, when I have a surplus of milk.

I'm currently milking three does, one twice a day and the others once a day because I'm milk sharing with their kids. Total, they give me a little more than three-quarters of a gallon per day. That isn't much by cow standards, but for two people who don't drink milk, it's a lot. And it accumulates quickly! I use it to make cheese, kefir, and ice cream, but sometimes I have more than I can attend. Feeding it to the pigs was an excellent way to deal with a surplus.

The other thing the pigs were excellent for was consuming whey. Whey is a byproduct of cheese making and since there is more water in milk than milk solids and butterfat, cheesemakers end up with a lot of whey.  The chickens and cats aren't interested in that, but the pigs loved it!

Whey leftover from 3 half-gallons of milk

There are a number of things can be done with whey. I use it in place of water for all my cooking and baking. (As it sours it is excellent with baking soda as a leavening agent). It can be used to water plants. My favorite way to use whey is to make gjetost and primost.

Gjetost is Norwegian goat whey cheese and it is absolutely divine. You can read my "Gjetost (Norwegian Goat Whey Cheese)" post for details and the recipe. Primost is similar, the difference being that it isn't cooked down quite as long as gjetost and so is spreadable. I make both, which one depending on how far along it is by bedtime (in other words, I don't want to let it continue to simmer down overnight). Besides being delicious, both products use up all the whey.

Makes a wonderful sandwich spread on toast with jelly.

I also like to make the more traditional whey product.

Whey Ricotta

I use ricotta for a lot of things. Lasagna and cheesecake are traditional favorites, but I also use ricotta in my no-fat ricotta biscuits, gnocchi (Italian dumplings), and gelato (Italian ice cream without the cream). You can read how I make whey ricotta in my "A Simple Ricotta Cheese" post.

But! Ricotta still leaves whey, and that brings me back to missing having pigs. Looking forward to the day they can be part of our homestead again.


Anonymous said...

Need to be careful while standing near the fence. Thick milk good for health! Yummy spread!

Gorges Smythe said...

Both of my sets of grandparents had pigs, but my folks never did, nor I. The neighbor used to have an old sow that would take your toe off if you got careless at the fence, though.

Leigh said...

Weekend-Windup, definitely need to stay away from that fence! That one tree seems to lean a little more every day!

Gorges, some pigs are definitely aggressive! That's a big reason why we like the American Guinea Hog. Also their smaller size.

Caroline J. Baines said...

Leah, goat milk freezes beautifully. I used to drive four hours round trip to buy raw goats milk. I bought six gallons at a time and we froze it when I got home so we'd have it for a month.

Idea: Use the whey to soak the chickens' food...

imsovintage said...

Oh how I wish you lived closer to me! I would be so happy to buy it from you! I'm always looking for goats milk because it is also so good for dogs!! It is the only kind of milk they can drink and I've healed a number of skin issues on my seniors by giving it to them. But it is extremely hard to come by in SE TN!

Mama Pea said...

I'll bet something else you miss by not currently having the pigs is your own nutritious, delicious pork. You can't purchase anything as good as or better than that!

Leigh said...

Caroline, but I have no room in my freezer!!! I do freeze mozzarella and paneer, but there just isn't room in there for much more. Pity, too, because that would be a good way to have it handy for kefir during the dry season.

Jan, interesting about your dogs! I didn't realize that. I think it's difficult to come by in most areas, although someone on our craigslist sells her surplus for pet food. That can be done without certification. My supply varies a lot though, so I'd hate to have anyone expecting a continual supply.

Mama Pea, yes!!! I got one of our last pieces out of the freezer last week. It had been brined and Dan slow cooked smoked it on the barbeque. It was absolutely heavenly!

Cozy Thyme Cottage said...

Hi! Whey to water plants. That was interesting bit of tidbit for me. Pigs. Ugh! They are my least favorite animal. I use to get in the pen and play with the calves and bottle feed lambs and ride horses but pigs are my least favorite. Of course if I had a homestead like you do it might be a different story! Nancy

Mrs Shoes said...

My goodness... our two (Baconator & Odorific) would SO love to help you with your problem. If we were only closer.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Gjetost is, hands down, my favorite cheese. I have been known to make a meal of a block of it.

I have never had pigs, but from everything I have read they are very useful and versatile animals.

Leigh said...

Nancy, it takes the right kind of pig! They aren't all the same and some breeds are more aggressive than others, some are more docile. I particularly chose a breed known to be friendly. And they had personality too, which is one of the reasons why we really liked them.

Mrs. Shoes, yes, pigs love milk and whey. And I especially have lots of whey! Too bad we aren't closer. :)

TB, yay! I could easily make a meal of it. :) Pigs truly are useful and versatile. The only things they can't provide are eggs and milk. :)

Ed said...

I know from experience, it is very tough to fence in pigs unless you ring their noses. They can really dig otherwise and will always root under them. But then you lose the obvious benefits of their rooting. The other method was to use electric fencing but it takes some time spent acclimatizing (both sides) before that was effective. Without ringing or electric, we never could build a fence that stood up to them long term. We even made an enclosure out of 3" round pipe and they would crush the pipe flat in their jaws and then fatigue it by pulling it up and down until they had a hole big enough to get through. Plus they are just plain smart animals and could pick just about any lock that was easy for humans to operate.

The one saving grace to it all is that the pigs never went very far after escaping so we always eventually got them back into a new/repaired holding pen.

Renee Nefe said...

I miss your pig stories. Waldo and Polly were always good for a great story.

I'm trying to catch up on reading your blog before I go make my lunch...but all your posts are making me very hungry! :D

Susan said...

That is my favorite breed of pig - I had two, early on in my homesteading adventure, but Ethel (Merman) died suddenly of an aneurysm and I couldn't find a companion for Kate (Smith). I ended up selling her to a young family in Virginia. I think they were my favorites, too. I give my whey to the chickens and ducks, who love it. I need to get back into cheese-making!

Leigh said...

Ed, that's a lot of good reasons not to get pigs, LOL. Seriously though, these are the kinds of things people need to know. They are truly intelligent animals, and polite pigs are a pleasure.

Renee, thanks! Good to hear from you! I hope all is well in your neck of the woods. Are you still blogging?

Susan, I wish my chickens and ducks liked whey! That would help a lot. AGHs are hard to find, however, so it's great you found a good home for your survivor.

Unknown said...

I have wanted to try gjetost since I learned about it a few months ago. I have three piggies on a bottle now (mom was a bit of a dud in mothering), and I am wishing I did not dry off my two does in May.

Nancy In Boise said...

Those Heritage breed sound like such a wonderful thing to do!

Leigh said...

Nina, gjetost is really tasty stuff. And it's nice to put whey to such good use. I agree it's too bad you dried off your does before your piggies needed it! But there's never a way to know things like that.

Nancy, for anyone wanting pigs, I would definitely recommend American Guinea Hogs!

Donna OShaughnessy said...

We've had pigs for decades and love them too, especially the Red Wattle breed. Electric fence, two strands works well for us. Of course someone will at times forget to plug the fencer in, or it will get grounded out by the pigs plowing up a huge hill of dirt and then we have pigs wandering near the house but we have no neighbors and a bucket of milk always brought them running. Hope you get more soon Leigh!

Leigh said...

Donna, that's hopeful about the electric fence, although I suppose at least some escapes are part of the adventure. Good thing they love food so much!