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How many Kunekune pigs should you start off with? A breeding pair isn’t optimal.

Over the last few months, I’ve seen a major surge of interest in Kunekune pigs and what we have available. Most of the inquiries have just been informational, from folks not quite ready to add pigs, but curious about it due to a desire to have their own pork (that’s a pleasure to raise). Our goal is to produce more pork producing breeders.

Some have been pet-related, from folks interested in making quarantine a bit less lonely. This isn’t the optimal time to add a pet pig, however. Not to mention that as pork producers working to conserve this fine breed, we aren’t in the pet pig market.

In the interest of transparency, and my desire to see those starting off with Kunekune pigs to succeed and have happy, healthy and productive herds, I wanted to mention some of the best ways in which to start off with Kunekune pigs.

First, I don’t recommend starting with a single pig. Kunekune pigs are highly social, herd animals. They need to be with their kind. Other pets or barnyard friends won’t cut it.

Second, a young breeding pair raised together from piglet age will often not breed. There’s numerous reasons why. Young piglets raised together often develop a brother/sister relationship and don’t see each other as mates. Young males sometimes need to observe other males breeding, or be able to participate in “horsing around” with other males, and play breeding- mounting one another, engaging and interacting. They’re often fine with a barrow with which they can interact with. Sometimes a young male will need another male around to inspire rivalry, sometimes not. When we had our first sows, we had no older boar, and our first was very young. No one was getting pregnant. When we brought a more mature boar to the farm, the females came into heat almost immediately and displayed obvious signs of it. There was no guessing.

So, what is the absolute best way to start off with the breed?

Sometimes, it’s as simple as starting off with barrows- whether you raise them as meat, or you just keep them as barnyard mascots, they give you experience in learning about pigs. Their care, feeding, health, behavior, etc! A barrow is a castrated male, by the way. 

Another option is a barrow and an intact female.

But if piglets are your goal, whether for potential future breeding stock sales, or piglets to grow out for meat, you do need to explore a few possible scenarios for your best success.

Option 1: Two barrows, a boar and a gilt. Separate them all at six months, housing boar/barrow in one place and gilt/barrow in another. Keep them separate until ready to breed. (We always keep our boars and females separate)

Option 2: One barrow, a boar and two gilts.

Option 3: (and probably the best option!) Two boars, two gilts.

Option 4: (piglets + pork) Two boars, two gilts and two barrows.

Most people new to kunekune pigs make the common mistake of trying to always house their pigs together. They don’t separate them. In these situations, time is lost because they have to separate pigs, add new pigs, or just end up giving up altogether. Always separate males and females when they’re not breeding.

To Build a Herd…

I write this at the start of the fifth year of our journey of raising Kunekune pigs. We’re currently at the point where our herd is primarily all pigs that were born here on the farm, out of pairings we selected. The pigs in the album below represent all of the influences that our herd has seen throughout this process- whether they’re pigs we utilized, or opted not to utilize. Pigs we retained but then chose to sell, or sometimes to harvest. This album doesn’t contain our currently retained prospects, only pigs that for whatever reason, have come and gone. Sometimes there’s financial reasons for those hard decisions, and the regret that comes along with it.

Conservation breeding of Kunekune pigs isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s complex and challenging, at best. Any purebred livestock tends to be.

Your goals and vision change many times over the span of time. But eventually all of your hard work and decisions begin to converge towards a central, consistent point.

We started off with two sows, and three meat pigs. We had our first litters in Spring of 2016 and harvested our first meat pigs a few months later. As of this writing, our 38th Kunekune litter has just been born, and our herd greatly reduced to focus on consistency, quality and an intense focus on our goals.

Here’s to the many pigs (all registered stock) that brought us to this point! I’m sure that I’ve missed some, but I did my best to recall all of the faces that we’ve seen over the years.

I’ve heard people say that Kunekune pigs are like potato chips, in that you can’t settle on just one. The truth is that to me, they are like crayons. As a child I coveted that 128 color box with built in sharpener, but I often had a smaller box or broken crayons, or odd colors… and I made due with that and expressed my creativity. Kunekune pigs are much the same. There is no perfect pig. Every pig you own on your path with this breed will have some of the things you desire, but not all of the things. There will be mistakes and triumphs, deep sorrow and elation.

Stay true to your goals.

Kunekune “Suckling Pig” Oven Roaster – Sweet & Spicy Rub

 

This preparation was a “suckling pig” sized oven roaster prepared October 2018. I say “suckling pig” because this is a small roaster pig, approximately the size at which a regular farm breed suckling pig would be around weaning. In this case, it was an older Kunekune piglet, about 4 months old. The hanging weight for this roast was 18 lbs. This is about the largest size that could comfortably be done in the oven, unless of course you halved the roaster and did one half in two pans on two oven shelves.

This roaster was brined in my usual brine recipe (Sea salt, bay leaves, fennel, star anise, juniper berries), then liberally salted and peppered and rubbed with my sweet & spicy rub (recipe here).  Skin was scored and the rub worked into the crevices.

This was slow-roasted at 200F for about 6-7 hours, approximately. The final result was a perfectly cooked, tender and falling-apart-at-the-bone oven roaster.

This roaster was enjoyed by folks at an AKPR Sanctioned picnic in October 2018.

Petite Kunekune Whole Loin-Halved Wrap Roast

Originally prepared for Easter 2019, we brought in a number of half and whole loins as a special holiday offering. This recipe features the entire primal cut loin section of a smaller pig.

We’ve brined the loin, then cut the loin in half, seasoned with a sea salt/black pepper/brown sugar/garam masala rub, and stuffed with apples, shallots, garlic, rosemary. The two loin sections are tied with cotton twine, rubbed with olive oil and pierced with cloves, and roasted at 325F for 20 minutes per pound.

The result? Perfection! This is a true statement centerpiece dish for any holiday meal or special occasion. This recipe was inspired by a half wrap roast prepared by Lonedove KuneKunes.

Each photo has a caption describing the process.

Kunekune pork pork loin primal cut
Whole loin section from a younger pig. These halves range in weight from 8-11 pounds
Kunekune pork pork loin primal cut
The loin is halved and ready to be seasoned and stuffed.

Brine Kunekune pork tender pork
But first, a brine. My go-to brine is sea salt, fennel, star anise, fennel seed, juniper berries and bay leaves.
Submerge in the brine for several hours.
These two loin halves will be stuffed with apples, garlic, rosemary and shallots that are drizzled with olive oil, sea salt and pepper.
Stuffing the loin.
The loin is tied, then a dry rub of sea salt, black pepper, brown sugar and garam masala is rubbed all over the entire two tied roast pieces.
Cloves are pieced into the skin and scattered on the top with more olive oil.
325 F for 20 minutes per pound. Skin is crispy, deepest center portion of the meat is at 160F with a meat thermometer. Remove the ties and enjoy!
Ready to carve, slice, pull… however you want to cut it!

 

How to Render Kunekune Lard

This post was written by Connor and originally appeared in his August 2016 4H blog.


Yesterday, my Mom and I rendered Lard for the first time using fatback from the two KuneKune boars we had processed.

Things you will need:

  1. A slow cooker
  2. 1/4 cup of water
  3. 1 piece of fatback
  4. Sharp Knife
  5. Cutting Board
  6. A piece of cheesecloth
  7. 1 Strainer
  8. A meat grinder or vegetable slicer

Steps:

1. Cut the fatback up into smaller pieces to grind into shavings. (Make sure to cut off all the meat on the fatback) If you don’t have a grinder, you can cut it into shavings with a knife.

3. Add the 1/4 cup of water and the fatback into the slow cooker. Cook till the pieces of skin named cracklings in the lard are golden brown.

4. Separate the lard and the cracklings with cheesecloth and a strainer. Then pour the lard into a mason jar and let it cool off before putting it in the fridge. 

5. Fry the cracklings with the pork fat they are covered in and some salt. These are yummy toppings to put on salads and dishes.

The lard turned out to be a perfect snow white. For how much fatback we added to the crock pot I am thought there would be a lot more. At least it perfectly fit in the mason jar! We have leaf lard rendering right now it looks like it will fill two jars. I am very excited to cook and bake with lard for the first time.

Pan-seared & Oven-finished Sirloin Chops, with Whipped Lardo and Chanterelles

Sirloin chops, also known as sirloin steaks, are cut from the back section of the loin, in the hip area. With sirloin chops from lard breeds, tenderness is typically not an issue as long as the meat is properly cooked (i.e. not overcooked, it will still have pink color). In regular “bacon breeds” (pigs bred for leanness, low fat and more common pale color), these chops tend to be tougher and are best braised or slow cooked.

Again, with lard breed chops you needn’t worry- tenderness is built in thanks to the intramuscular marbling and overall fat quality.

I used some of our Rosemary & Garlic Whipped Lardo to prepare this meal. This is used in place of cooking fats, such as olive oil, in this case. It’s whipped pork fat with seasonings. To sear the chops I used the same method I’ve written about in this post: “How to cook a Heritage Pork Chop, featuring Kunekune Pork“, only when I put the chops into the oven to finish, I added a liberal dollop of whipped lardo to each chop. This melted, infusing the chops with flavor from the rosemary, garlic, sea salt, pepper and vinegar.

Fresh beans and farm-foraged chanterelles also enjoyed the same whipped lardo seasoning, although the flavoring was a bit heavy on the chanterelles. Butter or olive oil is best for those.

The final plating, a delicious and perfectly cooked sirloin chop with beans from our garden and chanterelles from our woods.

This recipe was originally shared on Facebook in July 2018.

How to cook a Heritage Pork Chop, featuring Kunekune Pork

How to cook a rare breed heritage pork chop! These are Kunekune chops…

Liberally salt and pepper, sear on all sides in a hot pan. Add some Olive Oil or Corva Bella Farm Whipped Lardo and sear some more! Get sizzling!

Preheat oven to 450F, put your chops in a baking pan, add a little more whipped lardo on top (or butter or olive oil), cover with foil… and oven finish until your meat thermometer reads 135F.

Let rest about 5-10 minutes until internal temp reads 145F

Enjoy!

Yes, the meat will still be pink on the inside. If it’s completely white, you overcooked.

Mangiamo!

Sweet & Spicy Rub for Pork Bones or Ribs!

Originally posted on Facebook, August 2018:

Last night we made roasted #kunekune pork bones. Let me tell you… this was quite possibly the most tasty and finger-licking good way to make use of these bones, ever! My son and I barely waited for them to cool, before we dug in and stood in front of the stove, gnawing the sweet & spicy seasoned morsels off the bone. It was incredible, and we’ll definitely be cooking up the rest of the bones this way.

This is a great way to cook ribs, in particular!

From the post I made last night: Whole Hog Eating — pork bones! We got two big bags of pork bones back from our recent processing, as the meat was all utilized for sausage making… so we had a lot of bones! And there is still meat on the bones, honestly several meals for us. Out comes a tasty dry rub, and a long, slow roast in the oven. After the meat is off, we can make pork stock with the bones. Nothing goes to waste!

The rub recipe is an adaptation of one I found online- adjusting some of the herbs and spices. I’m sharing my version of it, as I’ll most definitely be using this rub again!

Amazing Sweet & Spicy Rub

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup smoked paprika

4 tbs salt

1 tbsp chili powder

2 tbsp onion powder

2 tbsp garlic powder

2 tbsp black pepper

2 tbsp sage

Ultra Crispy Slow Roasted Kunekune Pork Shoulder

Originally published on Facebook in August 2018
We are working our way up to doing an oven roaster sized pig, but for now I’m experimenting with a few different recipes and techniques- utilizing a quartered oven roaster weighing about 4.25 lbs.
 
This first recipe was for slow cooked crispy pork shoulder, it roasted all day long at 250 F after being rubbed down on both sides with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Then back into the oven to crisp the skin at 500 F! This is the first time I’ve ever successfully achieved crispy pork skin on a roast, so I am pleased!
 
 
We *may* be able to offer oven roasters this holiday season, also commonly known as “suckling pig”, although our oven roasters will be 4-5 months old. Also known as “Porcelet” or “Maialino”
 
The deep red meat color and marbling is something that comes with age in our pigs. Younger pigs will always have paler meat! It is still incredibly tender, however!

Kunekune Whole Loin Porchetta – Easter 2019

A masterpiece! Kunekune whole loin porchetta. Deboned 10 lb whole loin, stuffed and rolled.

This was prepared for Easter 2019, with variation on traditional porchetta recipes.

Stuffing includes ground Kunekune pork, liver, minced onions, olive oil, chopped pignoli and pistachio, chopped figs, sherry, sea salt, black pepper, sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley and oregano. It’s not traditional, but I also like to add bread crumbs to my stuffing.

Wrapped and tied, on a bed of carrots, parsnips and shallots, decorated with more fresh herbs.