Seven years ago Dom Smith was running a successful electrical and plumbing business in Yorkshire. Then his father David bought a property in Dumfriesshire for his retirement having looked all over the UK. Somewhere along the way retirement got forgotten and Dom and David set up Sunnyside Farm in Sanquhar, South West Scotland. They’ve successfully grown a business supplying meat through farmers’ markets and direct to discerning chefs. They were visited by Gordon Ramsay when he was investigating rosy veal – one of Sunnyside’s specialities.
Sunnyside Farm is about 1.5 hours’ drive from Edinburgh and up to the last 10 miles it’s easy driving. The last bit of road is winding and has a tendency to have sheep straying all over it, somehow a fitting start to my visit to the farm.
On the Sunday in question, two sheep were lazily lounging near a gate post, numerous Muscovy ducks were milling about and a small black pig was attempting to get into the butchery unit (a favourite occupation for him apparently). In the distance I could just glimpse some fine Dexter cattle on the hoof and some wild looking sheep (Shetlands and Castlemilk Morrit). On a tour around the farm, I was introduced to Jeremy, a fine Jersey bullock (and ‘editor’ of their Facebook page) who comes in very useful when the cows need bringing in as they all follow him.
We then visited the sows and piglets. The mothers were understandably anxious at me peering at their offspring keeping warm under lamps, but were up for a tummy tickle or two. I was then introduced to some new arrivals – goats! The impression I gained overall was one of many, very happy animals, lovingly looked after. Along with many other consumers, I do like to know where my meat comes from, and to see the living conditions of the animals in person.
Once a month, Dom runs a Pig Butchery Course – a hands-on butchery experience based on all things porky. He gives an introduction to the different cuts of meat and then gives careful instruction into how to butcher the joints. In the afternoon, you make sausages to take home. It is an excellent introductory course and very good value at only £100, which includes a famous Sunnyside lunch. It is a popular course for teams, including some surgeons (talk about a busman’s holiday) who were very competitive!
Rather than do a course, Ross and I elected to share a pig and spend the day with Dom learning how to break the carcass down into joints and cuts. This was my second experience in the world of pig butchery for me. The first time I chose a little Gloucester Old Spot pig. Throughout the following months I received regular updates when I visited the Sunnyside stall at the local Farmers’ market. She always seemed to be getting into pickles when out in the field, which I rather liked. I did not name her, nor did I see her again until she was ready for butchering. I must admit it was a bit of a shock to encounter her in the flesh.
We gathered in the self-contained butchery area. The carcass has a clean, fresh smell. Once you’ve got started it was utterly absorbing. Keeping the knives well sharpened, we cut and followed seams and sometimes chopped our way through, breaking down the carcass further and further. Once you’ve cut the carcass down into manageable pieces, much of what follows is determined by how you intend to use the meat, which is quite a difficult decision, more so than you would think. If you decide you want to create lots of bacon, then that could detract from having plenty of roasting joints. I definitely wanted more bacon this time and cut accordingly.
I was quite frustrated with not being able to wield the cleaver as well as I had hoped – being short is my excuse. But by the end of the morning we had broken most of the carcass down and were ready for a well-earned lunch.
We sat at the kitchen table and chatted to Dom, David and Doreen (his mother) and munched our way through a table laden with Sunnyside products including hot water pastry pork pies and boudin noir. The Sunnyside team attend many local farmers’ markets, so we were also introduced to other local products including breads and cheeses, which were really delicious. Boudin noir is a new venture for the business: it has no cereal or filler unlike black pudding. We tried a very tasty version including sweetbreads.
Much of the afternoon was taken up with processing the meat. We had kept odd offcuts and some fat to make into sausages (a judicious amount of fat makes for a very good sausage). Ross had come well-armed with chopped chillies,shallots and ingredients for a Vietnamese mix. I’d gone down the Indian route with Panch Pooran and Moroccan with Chermoula spice. We went for a gluten-free filler for the sausages, potato based rather than rusk. After we had made a mixture, we would fry a little to see whether the balance of flavours was just right before making the sausages, and added more seasonings where necessary. We also prepared the cure for our bacon and ham, and we were going to collect this from Dom at the local farmers’ market when ready in a few weeks’ time.
Throughout the day we had been placing the cuts into the cold store as we had prepared them, so we were astonished to see quite how much we had achieved at the end.
What is next for Sunnyside? Dom’s hoping to experiment with some Wagyu, Japanese style, beef, so we are really looking forward to hearing all about his success.
Course Information and Cost
Ross and I split a pig. The cost depends on the weight of the pig, but allow £150 per person for the pig itself, all the products, the butchering and the wonderful lunch. You can either choose a specific pig and wait until it grows, or Dom will choose a pig coming to its prime for you. Contact Dom for more information. You can also order Sunnyside products online.
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Tel: 01659 50258
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