Nose to tail says Fergus Henderson. So did Les Halles before him

 We all know the old adage that we can eat all of the pig but the squeak. Across Europe still today, come November and it’s time to kill the fattened pig to provide meat through the coming winter months. This is a village tradition as old as tradition itself and is a ritual engaging family and neighbours. The elders handle the sticking and bleeding – the fresh blood is treasured for the sausages that will be feasted on that evening. They also scrape and sear the skin to remove all trace of hair.

Your pecking order could not be clearer. The piece of pig you are given merits your standing in the group – and all pieces are treasured like jewels to the villagers. The task is hard – pigs are large, heavy beasts and a dead pig seems heavier still as it’s lifted onto the wooden stretcher for butchering. The animal is butchered whilst still warm – unheard of in an abattoir, but needs must in the country. Hind legs – the gammons – are salted and cured as prosciutto crudo. Sausage and salami are made from the lesser cuts like hocks, neck and fore-end. The belly is again cured and most times smoked as pancetta, poitrine fumé or speck.

Much wine is drunk, there’s jollity and singing. The ritual is a celebration of a life that will sustain lives and provide enjoyment at table for the winter. These pigs don’t die in vain like so many of their intensively reared counterparts that go for water and nitrate treated bacon, wet hams and suchlike.

The remarkable pieces are the extremities – the nose, cheeks, ears, tongue, trotters and tail. These are prized and are celebrations in themselves.

We tackle each piece with the love and care they deserve. A good butcher can provide them all if you give him notice. Similarly the tripes and offals – although these are at times reserved as ‘butcher’s cuts’. We talk to a chef who learned to bone out a trotter from the master, Pierre Koffmann. We delve into the archive of Au Pied de Cochon in what was Paris’ central food market, Les Halles. We bring preparations from villagers in Spain, Italy, France and Austria.

We celebrate this autumn pig like villagers before us and those today.