Honeysuckle and Seth run the pig club in our village. They fatten a dozen or so pigs from mid summer through autumn and slaughter them just before Christmas. Slow roasted belly of pork is the Christmas dinner of choice in this part of the world. It melts in the mouth and the crackling is to die for.
The couple raise their pigs on a remote smallholding deep in the woods on the outskirts of our village. The smallholding has been in Honeysuckle’s family for generations. Indeed it was on this very land that back in the 1930’s Honeysuckle’s great grandfather first bred the rarest of rare breed pigs the notorious Northamptonshire Nipper.
The gene bank for this legendary porker was based on a wild-boar crossed with a Tamworth and some other, more exotic ancient pigs in the mix. It produced an animal with the sweetest meat and the foulest temper. No wonder the motto of the Northampton Nipper Pig Society was ‘Vicious but Delicious’.
So evil was the Nipper that the Ministry of Food tried to ban it. In the war Churchill ordered Nipper piglets to be parachuted into Germany to disrupt the Nazi war effort.
When peace came, first MAFF, then Defra, and of course the various European agricultural bodies tried to stamp out the breed. Brussels and the Common Agricultural Policy had no place for the Nipper. Keeping Northamptonshire Nippers was internationally banned.
Today Honeysuckle and Seth are the only breeders of these rare and persecuted animals. Hidden away on their tiny and remote holding they managed to keep their enterprise secret – at least until last December.
Just ten days before last Christmas and five days before the latest batch of Nippers were due for the chop a tiny Citroen van chugged up the rough lane to the smallholding. Painted on the side was the legend ‘Porcine Inspectorate Europe’. The acronym PIE was spelled out in gold letters on the peaked cap of the man driving the van.
“I am ‘ere to check zat your pigs meet European regulations. We have been searching for your farm for some years.”
Seth swore at the inspector and refused to have anything to do with him. Honeysuckle shrugged her shoulders and invited her Belgian visitor to come and view the pigs.
“Don’t go too near” Honeysuckle warned, but the PIE man snapped back officiously “I must go into the sty. If zeese pigs are what I think zey are zey must be destroyed.”
Honeysuckle has never spoken about what happened next. But when we went to collect our Christmas pork we noticed the younger pigs were sheltering in a new ark. It looked like a tiny Citroen van stuffed with straw. Some wording on the side had been painted over. One of the piglets was sporting a rather natty peaked cap.
…and do you know Honeysuckle and Seth’s pork had never tasted quite so sweet and flavoursome as it did last Christmas day.