I often find myself thinking that some committed organic farmers should be. However, Hyden Farm Organics demonstrate that the practises of treating animals carefully and allowing them space and time to grow clearly result in meat of impressively superior quality.
Organic farming is becoming an increasingly used set of methods. Despite this, some don’t have a clue what it means. When I worked for a particular wine-merchant I mentioned organic wines to the boss who confidently told me, “Well, all wine is organic or biodynamic or whatever the hell they call it, because no wine contains animal fat.” I lasted another week with him: well done me!
The Soil Association tell us organic farming has nothing to do with animal fat but rather is a legally controlled methodology largely based around avoidance of synthetically-derived treatments. Whilst some of its ideas seem baroque or contrived, and I definitely favour pragmatism over dogma, I cannot deny the wines of many favourite producers have improved when they’ve switched to organic farming. Moreover, I am positive there is a real quality difference in meat that is produced in this manner. The past couple of days meat guzzling support this view.
Hyden Farm Organics were at the brilliant Hampshire Farmers’ Market last Sunday. I was drawn to their stand by the sight of perhaps the largest chicken I had ever seen – any bigger and it would have undergone gravitational collapse and become a black hole. Even though this monster was almost intimidating I was impressed to see such a vast bird as it suggested it had been given plenty of time to grow and mature. Most chickens have 6 weeks of life, this one had well over double that. Well treated chickens only get tastier with maturity and don’t become tough and stringy. The mammoth poultry made me want to see more of Hyden Farm’s meat!
There wasn’t much left on their stand by the time I had made it to the market, but once I stopped staring at the prodigious pullet I knew I wanted one of their glorious guinea fowl and some fabulously fatty back bacon from Oxford and Sandy Black pigs. I couldn’t have imagined I’d chosen so well.[image image_id=”5986″ align=”right”]
To be honest, even when sourced from the best butcher in Oxford’s covered market and cooked by the best chef in the University (at Lincoln College – he’s just retired so the old place has little draw for me), guinea fowl has always been an inadequate experience. Hyden’s birds were big, mature and, considering they were dead, plucked and in bags, seemed suffused with winning character.
When I opened the bag it definitely had character – meat kept in non-vacuum-packed plastic bags can get a bit of a high, gamey whiff. As I examined it, smeared it with butter and dribbled a little lemon juice on it I knew this would not be an ‘off’ night for meat – no, meat would fill our bellies and gratify us immensely.
I guessed the cooking times and temperatures for its size and was damned close to getting them perfect. My slight miss was made irrelevant by the stunning brilliance of the meat. It was moist, tender and tasted better than almost any bird I’ve ever tasted anywhere. The guinea fowl had clearly put much effort into relishing life and when it finally gave its all to make us full and happy it became the single greatest thing I have ever cooked.
I could hardly express the depth of the pleasurable experience that was swallowing that magnificent meat. I was so moved immediately after dinner I searched for Hyden Farm’s contact details and sent them an enthusiastic email thanking them for slapping a big grin across my face. The lady who replied seemed charmed.[image image_id=”5989″ align=”left”]
Given this extraordinary enjoyment I was rather looking forward to this morning’s breakfast with the Oxford and Sandy Black bacon. I know this to be a rare breed that produces flavorsome meat – Hyden Farm’s pigs did not disappoint![image image_id=”5990″ align=”right” size=”medium”]
Editor Daniel has impressed upon me the requirement to say he found the bacon too salty. Rubbish. Drivel. Utter nonsense. Sure, it’s quite salty but the predominant flavour is that of glorious, rich, meaty piggies enhanced by a subtle character from the cider and bay curing mixture. No back bacon I’ve had has come even remotely close to the quality of this. There are few boundaries too obscenely biological for me to cross in order to secure more of these stellar swine slices; luckily I only have to pay Hyden some money instead. Hooray!
Needless to say, I need more of their meat. It is so obviously fantastic that I have ordered one of their ‘oooh fancy!’ French Sasso chickens to have on Christmas day. I will buy plenty more from them at future Hampshire Market events and if you are in the area so should you. I have been feeling very ill for the past few days and yet eating Hyden Farm’s produce has made me happier than an Indian cricketer when introduced to a bookmaker. The link to them I give below is ranked must click and their meat will hugely gratify all but the terminally dreary: get some online, or wait until they appear at a Hampshire Market and get some, then indulge in the very deepest pleasure meat can deliver.[image image_id=”5988″ align=”left” size=”medium”]
Hyden Farm Organics, Hyden Farm, Clanfield, Hampshire PO8 0SD
Telephone: 02392 632683
Note 02/2012 – Streaky bacon
When it comes to bacon I want unsmoked, dry-cure, streaky – that’s the stuff. Hyden’s back bacon was an amazing experience but at last weekend’s farmers’ market I secured some of their streaky bacon.
Even as one given to florid prose I am simply incapable of describing how much I enjoyed this bacon. These are, for me, the perfect pigs rashers. The flavour is incredibly strong and highly attractive. Even Editor Daniel says he finds it brilliant with no silly comments about salt levels.
You can get them to post you little packets of this if you are really persuasive so even if you cannot make it to a Hampshire Farmers’ Market it is possible to get mind-warpingly good bacon. This far and away out-performs Silfield Farm in their long-past glory days so I cannot suggest strongly enough you find a way of encountering the lovely ladies and fellow of Hyden. Get some of this bacon, your perceptions of piggy pleasure will be expanded.
What a hugely enjoyable post, and the link was indeed well worth clicking on: being very fond of ‘forgotten cuts’ (so much more flavour!), I may give Hyden Farm’s recipe for lamb shoulder shanks a go. I agree entirely with your views on organic husbandry, agriculture and viticulture.
But let me reassure you about Oxford. I think Feller Son & Daughter’s beef is better than it used to be: it is still organic, but I suspect that they now hang it for longer. I got some delicious shin from them recently (we had to take the entire shin but got a lot of meals out of that), which was a big hit with blind tasters. And as for Lincoln, the wonderful Jim Murden has indeed retired, but his successor is his second chef, Richard, who was trained by Jim, so standards are being maintained.
Glad you liked it, Hanneke! You’d like their meat even more – I was staggered. Twice.
I’m pleased to hear Lincoln is still making quality food. Perhaps I will make it for a High Table meal at some point.
Feller Son and Daughter were always good, some sausages and bacon I had from them a couple of month ago tweaked my fancy no end, but even their guinea fowl never thrilled me. This was the first time for me. The first time I had it properly, anyway.
See you in the new year, I hope. I might catch you at the en primeur tastings in Town but we’d love to host you and Nigel for an obscenely high quality-themed meal whenever you can make it. Let me know!