Old Hall Farm, Woodton, between Norwich and Bungay | www.oldhallfarm.co.uk
Rebecca Mayhew of Old Hall Farm sings the praises of marvellous Mangalitsas!
A heritage breed, prized for flavour and not suited to industrial farming, and they look amazing. What’s not to love about the woolly sheep pigs: the Mangalitsa?
The breed was developed in the 19th century by the then Austrian emperor who crossbred wild boars with Hungarian and Serbian breeds. Mangalitsa literally means, ‘hog with a lot of lard’! They seldom produce more than eight piglets per litter, and it takes around a year to reach market size, but the best things are worth waiting for and gourmet chefs and devoted gastronomes are willing to pay more for the meat, which many believe is the best tasting pork in the world.
For the last 50 years or so, commercial pigs have been bred to have less fat on them and reach market weight more quickly, but less fat also means less flavour. Also, more subtle scientific analysis is now demonstrating that the nutritional profile of lard type pigs like the Mangalitsa is anything but a health disaster. In fact, Mangalitsa meat contains impressive levels of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, particularly when they’re fed a more traditional soya free diet and allowed room to roam and root for their food.
Mangalitsas are the only remaining woolly breed of pig – sadly, the others are now extinct. Covered with a sheep-like fleece that can be black, red or blond (our boar, Hercules is a blondie), Mangalitsas have a very distinctive appearance. Their wool is coarse (think more brillo pad than merino wool) and doesn’t have a practical use other than keeping the pigs warm in winter.
Here at Old Hall Farm, we’ve been cross breeding our Mangalitsas with Large Black, Tamworth and Oxford Sandy Black pigs (all rare breeds of course), and can’t wait to see the results later this year. We are pleased to be working with Marsh Pig to create superb charcuterie from our pork and in particular, the Large Black x Mangalitsa will be off the charts amazing, and it’s all to do with that wonderful fat.