We were away for a couple of weeks in February and, just as we left, the big freeze set in. A friend who went round to check on the house reported that the inside temperature was -4.5C and that the water in the toilet bowls had frozen (she always tells me to leave the loo brush in the bowl for just such an eventuality so that’s OK then!)
It is at this, the coldest point of the year, that the family pig traditionally goes to meet his maker. La tuade is one of those big rural events, gathering together friends and neighbours in a massive common operation, which has become rare, although not entirely extinct. Not something that we have ever witnessed, nor, in all honesty, ever wished to. The business of killing the pig, letting the blood, singeing the carcass over an open fire in the yard, dismembering the beast, washing yards of unmentionable bits in freezing water, and then spending days turning the results into kilos and kilos of assorted delicacies requires very stong nerves!
But this is still a traditional post Christmas activity and, rather like the way that Seville oranges appear in the shops for marmalade-making in England, the butchers here offer promotional prices on half a pig or a quarter. The local agricultural supplies merchant lays in stores of jars and sterilizing equipment, and big sacks of salt, pepper and assorted spices appear at knock down rates.
Kate joined forces with a friend the other week end and produced 21 jars of pâté de campagne and a few more of spiced pork: great for apéritifs and picnics for our walkers later on in the year!