God knows I’ve eaten some weird things in my time – snake, scorpions, ducks’ tongues, udder, stuff like that – but surely nothing so weird as grammel. It’s not even listed in Chambers Dictionary. Even Google, on which you can find everything there is to find in the whole universe, is remarkably terse on the subject: grammel, it says, is f, -, -n (S Ger, Aus, Cook) ~crackling no indef art, no pl (Brit), cracklings pl (US), greaves pl – which is, frankly, gibberish to me, and in no way conveys the wonder that is grammel.
The story goes like this. Once there was a breed of pig indigenous to Lincolnshire, the Lincoln curly oat, so called because the porkers were covered in a sheep-like fleece to protect them from the icy winds that blow in off the North Sea. They were, says the invaluable Beast Book For The Pocket, by Edward Bendars, “Hardy, quick feeders, good breeders, attaining great weight. Pork juicy and of fairly good texture. Somewhat fat for bacon.” Sadly, the true curly coat died out in 1972.
However, the cause of the curly-coated pig is not lost entirely, because it turns out that the Hungarians have their very own curly-coated breed, the Mangalitza, which grew out of Lincoln curly coats exported there in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 2006, a small number of Mangalitzas were brought back to the UK, and some found their way to the Old Rectory Reserve run by Brian and Silvia Codling, where they have flourished.
So far so good. It turns out that, aside from being well-fleeced, slow-growing, fat and amiable beasts, the curly coats have another curious characteristic. They produce grammel, which is not crackling or greaves or, indeed, like any other porky product I have ever come across.
These porkers love to forage, and as they do so they naturally extract minerals from whatever they forage on. Some of the minerals they use in keeping themselves in fighting trim. Any excess they store in little nuggets in the fat along their sides, to be used in times of need. When the pigs are slaughtered, this fat is rendered, revealing nature’s own dietary supplements, and cleaned up, ready for human consumption.
In their cleaned-up state, they look like grape nuts, all nuggety and golden brown. The texture is like very dense fat, and they have a pleasant, nutty, fatty flavour, and are, I’m assured, chock full of nourishing minerals, fso they’re frightfully good for you in every way.
Obviously, we’re not talking industrial production here. The country isn’t exactly overrun by Mangalitzas, so the best way you can try out a mouthful of grammel is in the Rectory Reserve Curly Coat Chocolate made for the Codlings by Special Edition Chocolate of Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, which I am finding peculiarly addictive. It’s rather nice to know that you can take your dietary supplements in so agreeable a form.
For further information about the Rectory Reserve Mangalitzas, grammel chocolate and other porky products, contact The Old Rectory Fulletby, Horncastle Lincolnshire LN9 6JX. Tel: 01507 534071. http://www.lincolnshirecurlycoat.co.uk
Or for Speciality Edition Chocolate, try Willingham Hall, Market Rasen, Lincolnshire LN8 3RH. Tel 01673 844073 http://www.specialeditionchocolate.co.uk