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Checking One Off the List

November 20th, 2013

*Warning* real butchering shots in this post, if you don’t like the sight of meat, read something from the archives.
pig butchery 1
In one of our podcasts, Mr Chiots and I each talked about the five things we have on our “want to do” lists.  His included things like: welding, riding a horse, sailing, etc.  Mine included learning seam butchery, which is one of the reasons we decided to slaughter the pigs ourselves.  Luckily I found someone locally that is skilled in this art and he agreed to come over and mentor us.
pig butchery 2
Neal came Sunday to help us with the slaughter and again yesterday to show us how to butcher the pigs. When he left the pigs were all portioned up. We continued working getting all the roasts, tenderloins and choice cuts into the freezer for safe keeping. The sausage meat and fat were all cut up and set to chilling in big bowls for grinding today. The bacon and hams were hung on the back porch to dry and ready for the salting, brining and smoking.
pig butchery 5
It was a great day, much less difficult than the actual slaughter day, which was emotionally draining. Yesterday was spent getting up close and personal with our food. We also enjoyed building friendships in the process and love that we are building our community all the while.
pig butchery 3
Overall it was a success. I started out the morning with much anxiety but that slowly melted away as we worked. I’ve got my work cut out for me for the next couple days, calculating brine amounts, salting, turning and hopefully producing a delicious variety of bacons, hams, and hocks. We’ll be eating our first pork roast tonight for dinner, we’re really looking forward to it. I am in particular because I don’t really like pork when it’s not cured or heavily seasoned in sausage.
pig butchery
Next year we’re hoping to plan a weekend long pig butchering event. We have a few other friends who are interested in learning these skills and we’d love to make it more of a community event like it was long ago. A time to gather with friends to celebrate good food and relearn heritage skills.

If you aren’t vegetarian, which is your favorite cut of pork?

18 Comments to “Checking One Off the List”
  1. kristin @ going country on November 20, 2013 at 6:30 am

    Ham. Real ham, not that nasty wet pink stuff sold in the store.

    I ordered a whole pig from a nearby farm about four months ago and never heard from them after giving them my butchering instructions, so I wrote them off as flakes and forgot about it. Imagine my surprise when I got a call last Friday to tell me the pork was ready to pick up.

    My husband is going on Friday to get it and I am SO EXCITED for dinner Friday night. We’re having ham steaks. I got both the hams cut into steaks, which are much faster to thaw and cook and also don’t result in a ridiculous amount of leftovers, like a whole ham does. AND we can make lard again. Whee!

    This is seriously about the most exciting thing to happen to me this month. Merry early Christmas to me! Bring on the pork.

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  2. Adriana on November 20, 2013 at 8:20 am

    I’m so glad it all went smoothly for you! Bacon is my favorite, of course! Sausage is a close second. I was also not a big fan of pork until we bought a half carcass from friends a couple of years ago. It was the best ham I’ve ever had. With all that pork in the freezer, I eventually learned to cook it in ways that I really loved. One of my favorites is pulled pork.

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  3. Myra S. on November 20, 2013 at 8:37 am

    I love a good juicy roast. Sausage loaded with just sage, salt and pepper is excellent. Pork has so much flavor on its own and it just needs to be simply seasoned with salt and pepper to be mouthwatering tasty. Or brined chops. Ham. Bacon. Oh my. Butchering time is tiring but some good memories are made over those days. Such a sense of accomplishment too!

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  4. Nebraska Dave on November 20, 2013 at 8:53 am

    Susy, It has been a busy week for you and Brian that’s for sure. You said that they were about 300 pounds a piece and my Dad always told me that a hog would dress out about half its weight. You should have at least 300 pounds of meat from those two hogs. That should last quite awhile.

    Good for you to bring back the community help events. I’m old enough to remember those days. It was always a happy day with lots of laughter. Of course the person with the animal ended up with less meat because payment was a share of the meat.
    My favorite cut of pork would most certainly have to be bacon. We had pork chops last night and they were yummy with very little seasoning.

    Have a great fat grinding day.

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  5. Deb on November 20, 2013 at 9:03 am

    We used to butcher at my grandparents almost 50 yrs. ago, doing the lard in a huge kettle over a fire and then using the sausage stuffer to do the lard. So love hot cracklins with salt. I helped put the br. sugar, salt, pepper, and saltpeter on the hams and such to cure in my grandparents’ garage. I believe some was smoked also. Didn’t have anything to do with that. Will be getting a half hog next fall from a very local grassfed farmer. Do buy sausage pkgs. from there when they have it. Also lard but will do my own next fall and if the other half doesn’t want theirs hopefully cna buy it from them, so I ahve enough to last. As we can only afford rotating years on 1/4 beef and 1/2 hog. Only 2 of us so hope to make it last 2 yrs. each. can’t stand the stuff anymore in the store. Now if I could just get a pasture raised lamb. Hoping maybe if I get some fenced pasture my parents will go with me to raise a couple lambs and then help with butchering as they did lambs each fall themselves. My goal, not sure how soon though. Saving money for fence. And a lamb isn’t so big so could get it used up. Love home cured ham and bacon, hard to say which. Bacon by itself from this farmer is $12/lb. Got 2 only pkgs. as that’s very expensive compared to the nitrite and nitrate free bacon in the store. They smoke and cure too. So wish I was 20 yrs. younger like you folks and could do all this myself, but my time has passed for doing all of this myself. Hubby didn’t do so much as I did but my experiences ended by 12 or 13 with helping and using all parts of the meat we ate, except for chickens.

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  6. Ann on November 20, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Boston Butt…by far. Slowly cooked so that the fat melts away leaving the very best meat behind.

    We grew out a hog last year but took it to a butcher to do the cutting up. We are both 60 now and the heavy work would just be better left to those you have the equiptment to make the heavy work easy. Our processor charges so little that honestly it is not worth our time anyway.

    But we are capable and have butchered chickens and rabbits. Yes, it is emotionally a hard thing to harvest but once that is over we can go on and get thru the rest with ease. Just bought some great new knives to make the job of getting thru the rabbit bones easier. They are some very strong bones compared to the chickens.

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  7. Melissa on November 20, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Those hams look great! So I’m curious- How are you figuring out how much spice and seasoning to use in your sausage? I’ve always wondered how you figure out if you’ve got it right before you cook it?!! Man, I can’t wait until we get some land and can process our own pigs. We are planning to at least break down a whole pig ourselves in the next year even if we can’t do the slaughter on our farm. We figured we could at least get a whole pig back and cut it down ourselves.

    Reply to Melissa's comment

    • Susy on November 20, 2013 at 10:37 am

      In previous years I’ve always gotten all of our pork ground without seasoning for sausage, then I mix it up for each pound as I thaw. This website has great recipes that can be mixed up with small packages. This year I’m thinking of making a few big batches of sausage and then keeping some as ground pork for mixing up others as I want them. The Alsatian Christmas Sausage recipe is great, not super savory since it uses mostly sweet spices, it’s different but very good, especially when drizzled with maple syrup after cooking.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  8. DebbieB on November 20, 2013 at 10:08 am

    I love pork – more than beef and chicken. I’m not sure I could pick a favorite! Roast, chops, ribs, ham, bacon, sausage – yes, please. :)

    The idea of a community slaughter is a good one – as the Amish say, many hands make light work, and light hearts.

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  9. Misti Little on November 20, 2013 at 10:18 am

    I think pork is one of the meats that I miss the most being vegetarian. I can live without chicken and probably turkey, but I do miss a nice pulled pork or Cuban sandwich. Some pork ribs….beef ribs…brisket….dang it Susy…now I’m salivating! ;)

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  10. amy on November 20, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Grand photos! It reminds me of that episode(I think it was, “Pig in a day”) of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s…. making every bit count. They used everything but the squeal….. I love pork… least favorite….sausage….. we choose the spices and amounts that go into ours….my family loves it…me not so much…..I however….feel that bacon is the perfect food….and next to shellfish can easily eat my weight in it:)

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  11. Marcia on November 20, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    I love pork but find that I have a strange reaction to it. I’ll break out in itchy red splotches on my face and neck after a shower when I eat it. Since the body gets rid of toxins through the skin, I always figured I was allergic and this was my body’s way of dealing with it. Maybe if I bought organic.
    Now, I don’t see any pictures of the head or organ meats. Please don’t say that you toss those. Head cheese, tongue, heart, liver, blood sausage, these all made appearances on my plate as a kid, to the great horror of friends eating over. Ahhhhhhh…memories.

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    • Susy on November 20, 2013 at 2:20 pm

      I always did too, until I started buying organic, pastured pork. I am allergic to most antibiotics, so I always assumed that there were just tons in the pork. I am also allergic to conventional eggs and break out in hives with those, I can eat eggs from organic pastured chickens without issue though.

      And no we didn’t toss the offal, some of it went to the dogs, some of it is being prepared. There’s a heart in the fridge for tomorrow’s dinner. I also am making jowl bacon with the jowls. The blood was saved to feed the chickens and to water the garden. In the future we’ll probably use more of those cuts to eat, but for our first time we didn’t want to be overwhelmed.

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  12. Jennelle on November 20, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    I love this. I’d love to have this skill. It’s important, I think.

    Reply to Jennelle's comment

  13. Chris on November 20, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    That would have been hard. Well done you three.

    Much respect to your pigs. :)

    Reply to Chris's comment

  14. Candace on November 20, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    I love bacon and Boston butt.

    What is that long cylinder shaped piece that Brian and Neal are working on?

    How can the meat hang on the porch without going bad?

    I don’t think I’ll ever look at pork the same again. This has been a real eye opener.

    Reply to Candace's comment

    • Susy on November 20, 2013 at 10:35 pm

      That is actually half of one pig.

      The meat can hang on the porch without going bad because it’s cold, when I started working on things this morning everything was frosty with ice crystals.

      Everything gets put into the freezer or into brine or salted within a week so it’s all preserved that way. The fresh pieces get worked on first, then you move on to the salted/cured pieces. The hams will go into brine for about a month and then they’ll be smoked.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  15. Tom on November 21, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    There isn’t a pork cut that isn’t my favourite.

    It’s interesting that you found the slaughtering stressful and were bracing yourself for the butchering.

    I’ve done a bit of hunting and have done the butchering myself. We also enjoy making sausages, whether from hunted meat or farm grown pork.

    Early on, like you, I braced myself for what I thought would be an emotionally draining experience. I was surprised at how naturally it all came in the end despite an initial emotional reaction. My kids, who were very young the first time I came home with a deer, had no problem at all with it — Ruthie was 3 years old when she walked into the garage early Sunday morning and saw a deer hanging. She and I worked several hours together quartering and then butchering it, and when they woke up my wife and older son joined us. That afternoon we enjoyed barbequed deer tenderloin steaks — I’m not a proponent of the “hang it for weeks” concept, I’m impatient and see it as a waste of time and space. We finished the day off with sausage making — as you say, this job is best done in pairs.

    Revulsion to meat as food is a modern, social phenomenon that is at odds with our natural human instincts to sustain ourselves. If we make the effort to overcome socially instilled prejudices and respond instinctively, like many things we discover it comes naturally and easily in the end.

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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