Exhibitor of the Week: Rectory Reserve

sandringham food festivalWelcome to Rectory Reserve, home of the Curly Coat pig in Lincolnshire.

Based in the Wolds, an area of outstanding natural beauty, we have been breeding this distinctive rare breed since 2007 although our other animals – horses, dogs, cat, ducks and chickens – have lived with us here since 1999.

Since moving to Lincolnshire in 1999 they have built up a collection of dogs, horses, chickens, ducks and a cat – but Brian always had a particular yearning to own ‘some pigs’. He mulled over the idea for a number of years but it proved impossible to persuade Sylvia who, amongst other reservations, was convinced that horses and pigs would not mix!

In early 2007 Brian discovered the story of the original Lincolnshire Curly Coat pig. It had been the cottager’s pig, orpigs4 the ‘wage’ pig, owned by many rural Lincolnshire families and farm-workers. It was famed for its docile nature and its ‘lardy’ meat. Many families kept one at the bottom of the garden, fattened it for Christmas and lived off the meat through the winter months. Anyone who didn’t have one themselves knew someone who did! It was part and parcel of the landscape of the county.

Government subsidies for lean meat production coupled with changing tastes and agricultural mechanisation following the 2nd World War led to its decline. By the mid-1970’s it had become extinct, the last British animal to do so before the Rare Breeds Survival Trust was set up. Fortunately, however, during its hey-day several hundred pigs1Lincolnshire Curly Coat pigs were exported to Austria and Hungary to cross-breed with their native Mangalitzas.  Brian heard that a number of these Mangalitza Curly Coats had been imported to Britain in November 2006 and that they carried the original Curly Coat genes. And that was it really. The combination of their curly hair and the opportunity to bring them back to Lincolnshire melted all resistance. The first two pigs arrived in April 2007 and were quickly followed in May by two more. Rectory Reserve was born when the vision grew from ‘owning curly coat pigs’ to ‘breeding curly coat pigs which would have a sustainable future in their ‘native’ county’.

The enthusiasm which greeted the arrival of the first piglets at the end of November 2007 was astonishing. Ever since, wherever and whenever people come in contact with them they are enchanted. The breeding herd isnow established. Their reputation is spreading and with it the market for their products. However, the vision of securing a sustainable future for these Curly Coats will only be achieved when the following combination comes together:

–          sufficient breeding pairs to provide security in the event of disease and to develop the gene pool

–          broad dispersion of the animals throughout the County’s numerous farm parks and visitor centres and

–          demand for, and availability of, their products in the market place

Curly Coat pigs are extremely versatile; their black skin enables them to live outside under the hottest sun whilst their dense coats keep them snug in all but the harshest of winters. Furthermore, they love people and, in our experience, other animals too! This makes them ideal for the ‘cottager’ and ‘smallholder’ as well as for farm parks and other centres where animals are ‘visitor attractions’.

Our vision is to develop a sustainable future for the Curly Coat pig in Lincolnshire. This encompasses breeding and pigs3selling the pigs whilst also developing a market for their products. Their meat is as distinctive as the animal itself: marked by an unmistakeable nutty flavour. It is ideal for smoking and curing, lending itself equally to ‘Parma’ style ham and piquant ‘chorizo’ type sausages and to more traditional ‘English’ sausages and flavoursome bacon. The lard is pure white and slow to carbonise which means that it can be cooled, stored in the refrigerator and re-used. Additionally, research has shown it to be low in cholesterol and high in Omega 3 which is particularly appealing to the health-conscious cook too.