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Pork1Most pigs are slaughtered young, mainly because of the growing demand for lean pork. Those kept for breeding are older and fatter, and their carcasses are used in the meat processing and canning industry. Prime pork should be well developed, with small bones and without excessive fat - about 1.2 cm fat over the lean meat of a loin, for example, is considered ideal.

Fresh pork does not keep as well as lamb or beef, and needs more care in buying, preparation and cooking. It is used to be sold mainly during the winter months, owing to a superstition that it should not be sold during warm weather in the months spelt without an 'R'. It is now available all the year round, because of the use of fridges and scientific breeding methods. Over 90 per cent of fresh pork eaten in Britain is home-produced. It is highly nutritious, because it contains more B1 vitamins, which prevent fatigue and stimulate the appetite, than any other meat.

The fat should be firm and a clear milky-white colour. Avoid cuts with soft, grey and oily fat which leads to excessive weight loss in cooking and difficulties in carving. The lean should be pale pink, firm and smooth to the touch and with very little gristle. Freshly cut surface should look slightly moist and the bones should be pinkish-blue. A good butcher will present pork with clean-cut edges.

The skin, or rind, should be thin, pliable, smooth and free of hairs, in older pigs the skin tends to coarsen and thicken. For crackling, make sure that the butcher scores the rind carefully so that the cuts are close together and penetrate the rind, otherwise the heat will not reach to the meat.

All pork joints can be roasted and, with the exception of the loin, salted and boiled. Bear this in mind when buying, since it is often more economical to buy whole joints, such as hand and spring, rather than small portions. The joint can then be separated, by the butcher or at home, into cuts for roasting, boiling or salting, and chops for grilling and frying.

Pork has more flavour if cooked on the bone, but many joints are often sold boned and rolled ready for stuffing.

Belly, belly pork - This is sometimes known as streaky, draft or flank pork. In London and the Home Counties the flank is the rear end of the belly. It is fairly fatty, and the best cut is the thicker part of the belly which has a good proportion of lean meat. It is a cheap cut which is sold fresh or salted. Fresh belly pork is good for roasting and can be boned, stuffed and rolled. It can also be chopped up for stews or sliced for grilling. Salted belly pork should be soaked before boiling.

Blade - A small, reasonable priced joint cut from the shoulder. It weighs about 900 grams and may be roasted on the bone, or boned, stuffed and rolled for roasting.

Chops - These large, fairly expensive slices, generally 2.5 cm thick, come from the loin or the spare rib joints. They are all suitable for grilling, frying or baking.

Chump chops - Cut from the chump end which lies between the loin and the leg. They have a round central bone. A boned chump is cut into 1.9 cm thick pork steaks or even thinner and beaten flat into pork escalopes.

Loin chops - Cuts from either the end of the fore loin or from the hind loin. They all have a T-bone, and chops from the hind loin usually come with the kidney left in. If the chops are bought with rind on, it is advisable to snip through with scissors to prevent the chop curling during cooking. However, most loin chops are cut from 'hogmeats' and have had the rind and excessive fat trimmed off.

Spare rib chops - Cuts from the spare rib joint which have a smaller eye of meat than chump and loin chops. They contain little bone, however, and have a sweeter taste. Grill or fry. Do not confuse them with spare ribs which comes from the belly.

Fillet or tenderloin - This is the lean and tender muscle which lies underneath the backbone in the hind loin. It is obtained from bacon pigs when the carcass are cut up for curing. This choice cut for roasting, braising, grilling and frying is covered in a near-transparent thin skin which must be peeled off. For roasting whole, the fillet is best cut through half its thickness, spread with a filling and rolled up.

Fillet half leg - The top end of the hind leg. It is roasted whole on the bone or cut into steaks.

Hand - The lower part of the shoulder, usually more expensive than the complete hand and spring.It has a large area of rind for crisp crackling and is also ideal, boned, stuffed and rolled, for roasting.

Hand and spring - In north-east England this is known as the shoulder. It is the lower shoulder (the hand), with the jowl, the knuckle and trotter as well as the first three or four bones of the belly. Sold fresh or salted and relatively inexpensive. When buying this joint, look for one which is compact and well fleshed with fat. It is particularity economical when bough whole. The knuckle end can cut off salted for boiling, two or three steaks can be cut from the thin end and used for grilling or frying, while the centre portion can be roasted whole.

In Scotland, the hand and spring is known as a runner.

Knuckle - In Scotland this large joint is known as hough. It is cut from the lower part of the leg. Knuckle is fairly expensive and can be roasted whole or boned and stuffed. It is also excellent for boiling and stewing. On a prime joint, the knuckle bone should have a tinge of blue.

Leg - A prime, expensive roasting joint known as gigot in Scotland. A whole leg weighs 4.5 - 6.8 kilograms and is usually sold cut into two joints, the fillet half leg and the knuckle half. Both are excellent roasting on the bone. Whole legs are sometimes partly boned and tied by the butcher so that smaller roasting joints from 1.1 kilograms upwards can be cut.

Loin - Considered by many people to be the choicest cut of pork, the loin is also the most expensive. The whole loin weighs 4.1 - 4.5 kilograms and may be roasted whole, but it is more often cut into smaller joints. The choicest part of the loin (hind loin), which has the kidneys and the fillet attached, is usually dearer than the rib end (fore loin). The rib end is similar in appearance to best end of lamb, although much larger. It can be prepared by the butcher for a large crown roast to serve at least ten people, at a few days' notice.

When buying loin of pork look for a good proportion of pale pink meat to fat.

Neck end - A fairly inexpensive joint which is the upper part of the shoulder and consists of the blade and spare rib. It is known in north-east England as a chine. In Scotland it is called shoulder and is cut larger, weighing up to 9 kilograms. Look for a compact joint, with an even distribution of fat and a large amount of lean meat. It can be boned and rolled and cut into joints of varying sizes, or sold separately as blade and spare rib. Also used cubed for kebabs.

Spare rib - The cut left on the upper part of the shoulder after the blade has been removed from the neck end. Suitable for roasting, braising or stewing.

Spare ribs - In spite of the name, these do not come from the spare rib part of the belly. Rind and all excess fat are removed and the ribs are cut into single bone strips. Much used in Chinese cooking, for roasting and for barbecues.

Suckling pig - A young pig from three weeks to two months old when slaughtered. It is sally spit-roasted to obtain the golden crisp skin.

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