Lisa and Tim Otterburn breed a very special type of pig: the Mangalitza.
Mangalitza, or Mangalica, is the name of a now rare breed of pig originally bred in Hungary. Also known as curly-haired hogs, these pigs were initially bred in the 1800s, when the demand for their fat, bacon and salami were high in Europe. However, the decline in demand for lard as household refrigeration was developed and the increase in nutritional awareness led to people opting for leaner meats with less fat. This meant the decrease in popularity of the sheep-like pig. By the 1990s less than 200 breeding sows remained. So how did Otterburn Farm in Helmsley, North Yorkshire, come to be a home for the Mangalitza? We caught up with Lisa to discover more about their unique breed of pigs.
How long have you been breeding Mangalitza pigs?
4½ years now and still loving it.
What made you want to start farming them?
As soon as I saw the pigs I fell in love with them-they were so lovely and cute. Then, after further research, we learnt about the numerous health benefits of eating Mangalitza produce, the mouth-watering flavour of the meat and the sense of fulfilment gained from slow farming.
Where did your Mangalitzas originate from?
Our pigs were some of the few original pigs imported from Austria and Hungary. We bought swallow-bellied Mangalitzas from a friend in Derbyshire who looked after them in a large walled garden. We also sourced blonde and red pigs from across the UK. The swallow-bellied were all from the same bloodline: Ringo was one of the first Mangalitzas to have her babies on UK soil, Harriet was her daughter and Badger and Angel are Harriet’s son and daughter. Badger himself is now a grandfather and Angel a mother. Ringo was too old to continue to breed but we wanted to give her an enjoyable retirement with her family.
Are they challenging to look after? What sort of care is required?
Because Mangalitzas are an ancient breed of pig, they are very hardy and can withstand both warm summers and harsh winter temperatures as low as -30°C. However they don’t like wind or rain so require shelter. We give them straw bedding which they also eat: it’s like their equivalent of bran flakes - a great source of fibre. They are lots of fun and have great personalities, but they can be challenging to look after when they work as a team - they are skilled escape artists! They also like to nibble and pull at your wellies and trousers.
How long does it take for them to reach the right size?
Mangalitzas are like a fine wine, they get better with age. The minimum advised life is 18 months, but we allow ours to mature for at least 2 years: the flavour is even better that way.
How would you describe your farming ethos?
These animals haven’t changed over the years and our aim is to keep it that way. We want to preserve the breed as it is and give the pigs the best life possible. After all, they are making the ultimate sacrifice for us.
What are the characteristics of a Mangalitza pig?
A Mangalitza should have a long body, a relatively straight back with a slight tilt to the rear end, a black tassel at the end of the tail, 10 black teats, black trotters, black ears with pink on the lobes, and there should be no pink on the nose. Mangalitza meat is a delicacy: it is endowed with a lovely marbling of fat which helps to enhance the unctuous, intense flavour. The blonde pigs are best for charcuterie, the red are meatier so better for steak, the black are extinct and the swallow-bellied are a cross of blonde and black pigs and the most versatile breed in terms of produce. We have the only swallow-bellied boar known to be left in the UK.
Black pudding has recently been hailed as a superfood-what are the nutritional benefits?
It’s crammed with iron, zinc, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Not to mention its high levels of protein and low carb content. The fat from Mangalitza pigs is also easier to digest than other pig lards due to its fatty acid composition. It is rich in omega-3 and omega-12 and is high in monounsaturated fat. To top it all off, the low levels cholesterol in the fat are mainly made up of HDL cholesterol (the good stuff).
What is your favourite way to enjoy Mangalitza?
As a joint I like it to be cooked slowly at a low temperature, the steaks work well pan-fried or even on the BBQ and the black pudding makes for a delicious gourmet mashed potato.
Otterburn Mangalitza Black Pudding is available now from the Delicatessen Counter in the Food Hall.