Monday, January 26, 2009

Pig butcherin' time

We butchered pigs on Saturday.

I guess, technically, we cut up pigs Saturday, because M. had already killed and skinned them on Friday. (M and his wife, D are friends from Colby who also moved down here. We have much in common--like wanting to raise and process our own meat.) D found pigs at an excellent price--for us, not for the farmer. We paid less than $100 for a 300 lb. pig. M and D have also done this several times before. I think they said they've processed over 50 pigs and 2 steers in the last 10 years. In my book, that makes them professionals!

Kev and M worked out in the shop, cutting chops and ribs and hams and steaks and grinding sausage. D and I basically wrapped the meat. We didn't season the bacon or hams there, but M told us how to do it, and we went home and worked on our own hams, bacon, and sausage.

For the hams, I found a recipe for a brine, so we are brining our hams. M showed Kev how to do the bacon--using a dry rub. If we had a smoker, we'd do that too, but we don't, so we've got bacon curing near the hams in the garage. (The temp in our garage stays above freezing, but it's usually around 40 degrees in there, which is perfect for curing hams and bacon.)

We had other commitments, so we didn't get to work on the sausage, but we're going to mix some ground pork with some of our venison and make a combo sausage. We'll probably make a simple recipe using sage and Cayenne pepper. We hope to get that mixed up tonight.

Cutting up a pig is much different than processing a deer.

Deer meat, you de-bone. Pork, you leave bones.
Deer meat is much much leaner, so it's sticky and dry and dries out your hands. Pork is definitely not lean, and your hands don't get dry, they get greasy!
Deer meat has a stronger, gamier scent. Pork smells like pork!

Kev and I were amazed at how easy it really was to see the different cuts of meat, and how easy it was to process. Granted, our chops are somewhat thicker than what we usually get, but who cares?

Yesterday, we had lunch with my folks. It was my birthday lunch, and Mom made me a Chocolate Cake with Carmel frosting. (yum!) But, as we were visiting, I asked if either of them remembered processing their own meat growing up.

Dad shared watching Grandad do hams and bacon. Grandad used a dry rub and Dad said he'd go down into the basement every night for a week or so and rub salt and seasonings on the meat.

Mom remembers more of her grandparents butchering, because she and her parents probably went down there and did several pigs together. So she didn't remember the rubs, but she remembered watching her mother and grandmother and aunts render lard and can meat and make head cheese, mincemeat and pickled pigs feet.

Both remember liking and enjoying hams and bacon, but neither really remembered being actively involved in the processing. Like Kev and I, they are curious to try some of our meat.

Doing this made me miss Grandpa tho. I'd asked him last year if he remembered his cure recipes and if he'd be my "consultant" whenever we tried doing our own pigs. He replied, "Well, sure, it's just salt and sugar. When you are ready, let me know and I'll show you what to do."

He's not here to show us, but I know he'd have been there helping out, or giving advice. And I know he'd be eager to eat our meat with us.

Isn't it funny...progress and prosperity for my Grandparents meant being able to buy meat already cut up and cured and done by someone else. Prosperity to me means I can do my own meat--where I know how it's raised and where I know how it's cared for till it enters my mouth.

Something to think about, isn't it.

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