Pinky and Porky

The other weekend, I quizzed a couple of stall-holders at my local food markets about the medium-rare roast porc noir de bigorre that I ate recently on holiday.

Should I serve his wild boar a little pink? The game seller at our village’s fortnightly farmers’ market blanched at the thought. “Oooh, no…it’s still pork – you should treat it like chicken, you want to cook it right through”. The traditional British view.

For a more continental perspective, I interrogated the man (also British, I think) at the Goods Shed (the permanent covered farmers’ market and restaurant in Canterbury) who sells charcuterie and other delicatesserie* from Spain and the Basque area. He sells iberico ham from the Spanish black Iberico pig, a relation of the Noir de Bigorre, although he says the Spanish raise the pig principally for its hams and sausages. He looked surprised when I said my roast pork had been served positively bleeding, but said that it was always preferable to serve any meat on the rare side, as it has a better flavour.

At lunch the next day, my aunt mentioned that my cousin – who used to work somewhere high up in the NFU – had told her that British pigs are currently raised to welfare standards so much higher than those on the continent that the risk of catching a bug from under-cooked British pork is minimal. I must ask him how rosé he would go, next time I see him.

I’m now quite curious about my rare cut in Paris. The waiter didn’t ask me ‘how I wanted it done’, as they would have done for a beef steak, and I suppose one can’t really cook to order a whole spit-roast. But I can only assume that they served it rare because that was how it should be served. The meal was delicious and I had no ill effects whatsoever. With hindsight, I wish I’d asked.

This was all suggesting to me that the British tradition of cooking pork like chicken – ‘till the juices run clear’ – was an Edwina-ism long overdue a re-think, except that my sister’s fiancé has never been served rare pork in his native France either. I assume that if you eat good quality, well-reared pork you are unlikely to be risking your life by eating your roast pork a little pink. But can anyone tell me why we don’t serve pork as rare as beef?


* delicatesserie: Okay, I made the word up, but you know the stuff: hams, terrines, preserves, olives, conserves, confits, tapenades, etc.


~ by jobes on April 23, 2008.

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