Sunday, January 29, 2012

pork

The following post goes into detail about exactly what happens during a farm kill by a mobile slaughterhouse team. It is a graphic post, with both graphic words and photographic descriptions. If you do not want to read about the slaughter or see the pictures (which should start below the fold of this page, as a courtesy) than please ignore this post. I understand some readers may be upset, and we are all entitled to own our feelings about diet. I am not posting this to offend anyone, nor telling them that backyard meat is what they should do. It's what I do. I am proud of the animals and food I raise. So read on if you like, and if you don't, then simply shut the browser and check back later and I promise the next post will not include a dead animal (well, I certainly hope not!).

There were only two shots fired from Greg Stratton's .22 Magnum rifle. The first dropped Bacon instantly, and she fell into the pen's hay with a thrashing thud. The second took a few seconds to aim at, since Kevin was certainly confused by the commotion and ran around the pen, but he didn't run for long. Ten seconds later one shot hit him squarely in the head and he too hit the ground, flailing as much as Bacon did. Their thrashing was normal, it is what happens. It's not pretty and the combination of bullet holes and chaos made for a very messy end.

In Kristin Kimball's The Dirty Life she writes about how different animals die. How the steers seem to drop with a force stronger than gravity (she says so do sheep), how chickens flap and seem to panic, and how pigs scream and bleed and thrash. She said when she started farming, she thought these were the beasts' personalities coming out in their deaths: the calm steer, the quirky chicken, the charismatic pigs, but after a while that assumption died with the livestock as she witnessed more and more deaths. It was a series of synapses and nerves, a chemical reaction of the end of a life. I agree with her observation. What I saw in the pen was not a piteous flailing, but a last explosion of life, the mind's finale of fireworks sent through the parts it has always controlled and moved. The struggle was energy leaving the body and moved into another form. A mystery and a gift, that.

Soon as both pigs were shot one of Greg's assistants, a gentleman from the Eagle Bridge Slaughterhouse close by, jumped right into the pen and slit their throats. If there was any life left in the two hogs, it was gone within moments of that significant artery being sliced. The blood covered the hay that made their bed the night before. Jasper was about five feet away and showed zero emotion. His ears did perk up at the gunshot, but as they died he just ate his hay outside.

Once still, a large hook on a wooden handle as slid into each pigs' mouth and then the animals were dragged across the farm one at a time to the Stratton Truck: our little farming community's abattoir on wheels. While getting the pigs hocks onto the two hooks that would lift them up to chest level for skinning and gutting, Greg told me he did in three steers this morning for one of my coworkers. He had come recommended by the Daughton's, who used him for Tasty the cow a few weeks earlier. This was a man well appreciated and it showed why in his careful work, he was professional the entire time.


Once the pigs were both hooked, the skinning process could begin. First Greg sawed off the feet at the ankles, and threw them too the ground. I couldn't help but smirk and take a picture, there I was again, looking at carcass feet on a sunny winter day: this time, porker edition. Soon after the feet left their heavenly body, so did the heads. One of the gents cut out the tongue for me and asked me, while dumping it in the bucket of hot water, if I'd like to keep it. He held it right up to my face, and it felt almost like a character test. Could she handle seeing a tongue cut off a dead head and sloshed in a bucket and then still eat it? Darling, I wanted to say, as if a little tongue ever made me shy? Who do you think you're dealing with here, son?

Instead I smiled and asked, "I never ate pig tongue, before. Is it good?"

Greg chimed in at this, "A pig tongue is good eatin'. You boil it with bay leaves and it makes a great meal. Can't beat it."

"I'll take them!" What the hell. You only live once. It's the only tongue I'll be getting anyway next week.


After my lesson/recipe, the two pigs were skinned expertly, starting at their hoofless ankles, down around their inner thigh, and then the tail and bum area were removed. From there the pig skinned just like I would skin a rabbit, starting with shallow cuts near the skin and then peeling away easily. I watched the blood-soaked animals, all hair and chaos moments ago, being slipped off like a bad memory. As if their death was an outfit and instead of being naked, there was just food under their coats.

I was asked what I wanted to do with the heads, feet, offal, and such. I went and grabbed the wheelbarrow I mucked the stall with earlier this week and parked it right by the hanging pigs. That'll do the job, it has done worse.

Post skinning, it was time to disembowel. The animals were cut open right down their middles and their organs came out, clean and bloodless, in one package. This is called the offal, and it isn't awful at all. Because these fellas were experts no stomach opened or intestine shared their putrid inside smells. In fact, the entire process had no unpleasant smells at all. It was a beautiful 30+ degree day dappled in sunshine. The conversation was casual and happy, about the farm and how long I lived here, about deer harvests and their work. It's not a somber thing, at least not sad. Their death means so much bounty for this little farm and its guests. Folks coming to the farm soon as next week's mountain music workshop will be chowing down on slow-cooked shoulder roasts of pulled pork sandwiches at lunch. I celebrate these animals, and do so with respect in my joy. If that makes no sense to you, just wait till you bite into your first home-raised pork chop. Things change.

While the men went on with their work, Greg sidled up to me with a clipboard and order sheet. We went through a detailed list of packages and cuts. It was so detailed I got to pick how many slices of bacon went into a package and how many chops made it into another. I got to choose how heavy the smoked hams would be, and what kind of sausage I wanted (breakfast, Italian sweet or spicy, or meat ready to grind.) I chose all of them!

The wheelbarrow was filled soon with the pile of bloody hides, heads, feet and organs. It was set to the side, kinda of watching the whole thing go on. Later, I would carry the thing back into the woods to dump off the ridge down a steep slope. The crows would host a levee in my honor soon as they found out. I owe crows a lot, they are lucky to this girl, and I am glad to offer them dinner too.

Next the animals were to be halved, and this was the final step in the process. Greg plugged in his big ol' meat saw and made short work of the job. The halves were hanging in the sunlight and I looked on at them, at the barrow of dead parts, and at the four people who made this happen today. Then, realizing with a sheepish smile, it was far more than four people who would create hundreds of meals for me and mine. There was the breeder upstate who sold me his own stock, Tara who joined me on the adventure and helped me set them up in their new home. It was the folks at Wayside who offered their scraps as food saving me tons of cash) and all the folks saving scraps at workshops and birthday parties at the office. My pigs ate well, grew well, lived well, and died well. This is something to be proud of, and I am. Proud and grateful for all involved and enjoying my wolfish grin as I think about the recipes ahead and the ability I have now to barter and trade for things I don't have right now, like turkey or duck or a bed of vegetable starts.


So how did I feel about it? I didn't feel any guilt, nor any disgust, or anything beyond a scientific interest in what was going on and a desire to learn the trade myself. That doesn't mean I wasn't mindful of what happened, it's just that it gets easier and it gets to be more about the bigger picture than one or two deaths. I can only say that time offers this and it was much easier than last year's Pig. And I can not stress how lucky I am to have a professional team like this come out, for what I consider a good price: fifty dollars a pig, talk about a reasonable fee. Then I buy my meat back from him at the shop later this week, all frozen and packaged and ready to enjoy and the smoked pieces a week or two later. As a small farmer with a full time job and other things to tend to (this day also included a farrier visit and 30-bale hay drop off) it is a blessing having pros come and take care of this and then offer me packaged roasts and sausages for a dollar a pound (or whatever his rate was). I am expecting to pay around 280 dollars total for the whole ordeal. Not bad for 140+ pounds of home-grown meat.

Of course, it isn't about the money or the deal. It's all more than that, but what I want to stress before I head off to bed is this: You can raise your own bacon and hams. It wasn't hard, or expensive, nor did it take a lot of space or equipment. I built them a pen in the corner of a barn with hog panels, deep bedded them every other day, and offered them fresh water and food morning and night. There were no vets or antibiotics, wormers or pills, or anything unnatural used in their rearing. They got to keep their tails, keep their noses free of rings, and spent every day being scratched behind the ears and given space to root into the hay looking for corn kernels, tussle, and scratch their big asses on the wall. This kind of pork is rare in this country, but only because folks like us haven't had at it yet. If you have the land and space, I say give a pig a try next year if you enjoy pork, bacon, or hams. It is nothing a person with a house cat can't handle, and you don't have to be there like I was at their ends. That said, I bet there are mobile units like Greg's all over the nation and you can find out about them from livestock vets, auction houses, feed stores, and friends. You can do this too, if you want to. I promise you that.

Thank you for reading along. Hope some of you get to come over and enjoy their reincarnation as farm meals in the months to come.

47 Comments:

Blogger Cat said...

I've read about this in detail in The Dirty Life as well as other books. Thanks for sharing openly about your experience so we can learn from it.

January 29, 2012 at 8:32 PM  
Blogger J.D. said...

Excellent piece sensitively written &photographed.

January 29, 2012 at 8:34 PM  
Blogger Opossim Ridge said...

Thank you..

January 29, 2012 at 8:57 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Hey Jenna, I'm curious if you've considered getting into French cooking so that you can utilize more of the offal and even the heads for lovely country terrines... I'm sure the crows are grateful but pork liver pâté is so wonderful and not very hard to make. Would your butcher friends clean and split the heads in the future?

January 29, 2012 at 9:03 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I kept the tongues, livers, hearts, and leaf lard. So it didn't all go to the birds. But as far as heads, kidneys, and other somesuch: not yet. I agree and would love to use more of my cookbooks (my river cottage book is my meat bible and covers hooves to blood pudding) but it is truly a matter of time: I don't have it to experiment right now, so it will wait till I am a full-timer farmer.

I promise I will get there!

January 29, 2012 at 9:10 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Our pigs come in a month, and we can't wait. Could you ask the butchers when you pick up the meat how they would dispatch a animal if you wanted to use the head? I would think that a lead bullet would not be something to be in a cut of meat. Thanks for a awesome blog.

January 29, 2012 at 9:14 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

You sure do pack a lot in a day. Those guys sure will be tasty. I'm almost considering raising a couple of pigs. You are lucky to have a mobile slaughterer.
Did you keep the kidneys for the dogs. When I butcher rabbits I flip the kidneys to the dogs as I work.

January 29, 2012 at 9:16 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I will be sharing this with my students on Tuesday. I teach at a chef school and this year in our second year gastronomy class we discussed the loss of small abattoirs and what it means for small-scale producers. We also discussed the role of mobile abattoirs so this is perfect. Thanks again!

January 29, 2012 at 9:20 PM  
Blogger Flartus said...

Well done post, Jenna. I have a few questions: Do you still have meat left over from last year's Pig? And were these two a common, lean breed used in factory farming, or a fattier heritage breed?

Re: dumping the offal, doesn't Joel Salatin bury his in order to compost it? Is that something you can do, or does it require more than just burying it?

Just curious!

January 29, 2012 at 9:29 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Thanks Jenna...Excellent

January 29, 2012 at 9:46 PM  
Blogger Robin Johnston said...

I enjoyed your article, your thoughts, and your pictures as well. I was farm raised, but we had no livestock, just crops. As I approach 50 I find myself yearning back towards the homesteading lifestyle. Following your blog, among others, is step one of that journey, and I for one am grateful you had the camera, documented the process, and described the details, as well as sharing your thoughts.

njoy your fresh bacon!

January 29, 2012 at 9:48 PM  
Blogger georgie said...

That was very well written and interesting.

January 29, 2012 at 9:52 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

flartus: compost is the way to go for certain, but the compost piles i have are so close to the farm animals, i didn't want to risk drawing in predators or scavengers that might decide a Freedom Ranger is next on the menu. I would have buried it, but the ground is frozen a few inches down! So I dumped it off a cliff a half mile away. Not saying its best, but it is what i thought was best

the pigs were berkshire/yorkshire crosses. not very large or fat because they were young, just 5 or 6 months old, but plenty for one person!

January 29, 2012 at 9:59 PM  
Blogger Misty said...

My compost piles are nearby the animals and used for dead chickens, animal parts, and the like. The manure and straw I dump there tends to mask the smell of the dead animals and parts. Even in the winter, the manure tends to not freeze solid. I just make sure it's completely covered at least a few inches deep. I wonder if next time you could possibly wait to clean out Jasper's stall until after the pigs are done? It breaks down very fast and the manure masks the scent completely.

My dad used to make head cheese from the pig heads. I've never done it myself. The same with pickled pigs feet.

I've been meaning to try tanning leather and have gotten as far as skinning a squirrel and salting it. I wonder how hard it would be to tan some pig skin leather? Might be a fun project. (I wanted to do it when we had the cattle processed, but the processor told me I had to buy the hides back from him since he sells them. I didn't have the extra cash at the time to do it. Maybe another day.)

January 29, 2012 at 10:33 PM  
Blogger mustardmoonfarm said...

Well written post! We butchered our own two pigs just a few months ago! They were our first experience raising pigs and we will definitely do it again. I wasn't able to be part of the butchering because I was walking our gravel driveway, in labor with our third child.:-) My husband and a friend slaughtered hogs and after the few hours work was done, we headed to the hospital and several hours later I gave birth to our third boy! It will be a fun story to tell him one day..."the day you were born was the day we butchered out first home-grown pigs" :-) There's nothing like life in the country...and raising your own food is one of the best parts! Thanks for candidly sharing your hog butchering experience with us, Jenna-

January 29, 2012 at 11:14 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

Jenna, that was a fantastic and informative post. I never cease to be impressed by your strength and abilities. I could never do the things you do: off chickens and pigs.LOL I would love to grow my own meat but I would certainly fail at harvesting! I'm better off not knowing how my meats got on my plate. I do admire you. I really enjoyed the post w/pics.

January 29, 2012 at 11:51 PM  
Blogger Carissa Kennedy said...

Arg... that was intense. I could only get three paragraphs into the post before deciding I needed to wait until after dinner. As a vegan for over 3 years I've been incorporating meat back into my diet due to anemia and an iron deficiency because I don't think I'm feeding my body properly if taking supplements is necessary. I prefer knowing the process of where meat comes from but still have that belly-wrenching 'value all life, do no harm' argument in my head. I really admire you for facing it so head-on!

January 30, 2012 at 12:16 AM  
Blogger Debi said...

Excellent post Jenna, and kudos on filling your freezer,yet again, with healthy meat from animals that lived a wonderful life!

My Mom used to pickle the tongue and heart of the deer my Dad brought home, it was always a treat. I'm sure it'd be just as good with pigs, if you don't have other plans for them, you might want to give it a try.

January 30, 2012 at 1:05 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

I might add that if one can read this post and enjoy it as thoroughly as I did, that raising a pig or two must seem very doable indeed.

We have lambs raised on the farm I live on, grown by another farm memnber, and they are sold to members of a multi-cultural community who come and have a portable system like you describe. I have yet to take it in, the slaughter and ceremony of the dozen or so lambs, but one day I might. I've beeen invited. We have another fellow in our community, quick and professional who processes small batches of chickens the same way, and it was amazing taking our roosters and watching what he did. Five were done in minutes flat, and he charged me $5.00.

I don't think I could raise the animal and then turn them over to someone to do all of the work where I couldn't see and learn. There is something humbling about witnessing it all, to really connect all of the dots about food grwoing and harvesting.

January 30, 2012 at 1:26 AM  
Blogger Sylvia said...

I live in Georgia and to my knowledge, we don't have mobile butchers. However, I have used David Waldrep to butcher my last 2 pigs and my cow. He did a wonderful, humane job and was reasonably priced. If you are in North Georgia/southern North Carolina his telephone is 706/636-1711

January 30, 2012 at 6:54 AM  
OpenID alewyfe said...

Thanks for the descriptive post... also thankful that the frank disclaimer beforehand seems to have squelched any negative or critical comments!

Ditto what Megan said (and also that time is always scarcer than projects) but do try it sometime! Ooh, and save the feet to put in stock next time for super-rich (almost aspic-thick) broth- then pan sear a pork chop, set it aside, deglaze the pan if you want with some wine or your beer, then ladle in some of this super-stock, simmer for a minute, and finish with cream, mustard, or mushrooms for a fancy but fast dinner that's easily done for one or scaled up for many. Ok, now I'm hungry.

Never hurt to bribe your crow omens though, and critters gotta eat too.

Enjoy your bacon (and Kevin)... you've earned it, girl!

January 30, 2012 at 7:15 AM  
Blogger Sage said...

Thank you for the honest post about the slaughter. Congratulations on animals well raised and meat that will be well used!

January 30, 2012 at 7:18 AM  
Blogger Sage said...

Thank you for the honest post about the slaughter. Congratulations on animals well raised and meat that will be well used!

January 30, 2012 at 7:18 AM  
Blogger Beth of the Rocks said...

Thanks for the reminder yesterday morning to not read this post while eating! Although, I didn't think the pics were that bad - they weren't gory at all. Although I believe there may be more sensitive individuals who may think otherwise. But I didn't think so.

Thanks for the post - it helps to see real pics instead of just drawings, until I can see an actual butchering.

~Beth

January 30, 2012 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

at what weight do you slaughter?

did you notice any distinct personality differences between the two genders?

it sounds like from the day they were brought home until their slaughter date they never left the stall in the barn. given the land you have, is there a specific reason you didn't allow them access to an outside area?

seems like you took it all in stride. congratulations. i'll be a crying mess when its time to slaughter mine, i enjoy their companionship more than i'll ever enjoy their meat.

January 30, 2012 at 8:55 AM  
Blogger Holly said...

We have a spot over our hill that we call "the offering spot". It is where we place our expired chickens to offer to the coyotes as a thank you for leaving our animals alone. We have to coexist together and they need to eat also. We don't feed them that often though thankfully! Sorry that you feel you have to place a disclaimer on your blog though. People that follow you know that you are not vegan and you talk about the daily life of a farmer. If people really have that much of an issue with what you write should probably be following a vegan blog. Just saying....

January 30, 2012 at 9:02 AM  
Blogger Green Zebra Market Garden said...

I love the photo of them going at it with the meat saw...I always wondered how they sawed the carcasses in half. Now I know!

January 30, 2012 at 9:13 AM  
Blogger Misty said...

It's rather interesting that once the blood letting has occurred, the animal you cared for has become a "carcass" and must be processed so as to not go to waste. It's interesting that you felt the same way when the skin was removed, because then it is just "meat".

I think someone asked whether you could kill the animal some other way than shooting it in the head. To be honest, it is the fastest way to dispatch. It is an instant death when the bullet penetrates the brain. There is still muscle contractions, but that's just the leftover electrical activity of the body waning away. You could shoot the animal through the heart, but you would be wasting valuable meat that surrounds it, as well as the heart itself. Putting a bullet through any other part of the body would prolong it's life, making it suffer as well as risking contamination by intestinal leakage. Larger processors use an electric current through the rectum and that is not as "instant" as a bullet to the brain is, in my way of thinking.

January 30, 2012 at 10:15 AM  
Blogger Tina - Our Rustic Roots said...

There's a LOT to be said for knowing your meat isn't loaded with antibiotics and such. I'm tempted to ask you to find out what kind of saw he had, we could use one of those! :)

January 30, 2012 at 10:30 AM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

Misty, I'm curious to know where you heard of processors using electric current through the rectum? I've never heard of that. Most processors use a captive bolt pistol to stun the animl, then they get bled out. I have seen sheep get shocked by a device that goes on their head/back. Chickens are hung by their feet and their beaks drag through an electrified current, then they're also bled out. Seems to me that having to put electric current through their rectums would be a huge waste of time and not efficient and not efficient at all.

Now, male animals often have probes inserted into the rectum and subjected to slight shocks in order to collect semen. The very slight electric shocks cause them to ejaculate. That's a whole different subject though. ;-)

January 30, 2012 at 11:26 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

I don't think we have mobile butchers around here. Well not legitimate ones anyway.
I hated taking lambs to the slaughterhouse.
I guess you don't feed your dogs raw, because it sounded like quite a bit of dog food got dumped over the cliff:)

January 30, 2012 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

don't feed the dogs raw, no. a hit of pork entrails once a year would bring on a sprew of diahrea i am not dealing with.

January 30, 2012 at 11:45 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Wonderful post! Thank you as always for your frank and honest treatment of such subjects. We've been talking pigs for some time, and just found out that our local grass fed butcher will do the cutting for us, which is a huge relief. They're only about five minutes away and do excellent work. I've wrestled with whether or not I'd get too attached to pigs, but I've come to the conclusion that while juvenile pigs are pretty endearing, full grown pigs are pretty scary, and at that point have lost any character appeal for me (just like broiler chickens).

As for disposing of the waste, every time we butcher chickens (and we do a lot at a time) we always dump the non-edible offal in the woods for the wildlife. Between raccoons, coyotes, bobcat and vultures, it's cleaned up in short order.

January 30, 2012 at 11:57 AM  
Blogger lisa said...

Wow, I am really inspired by this post. If anything, what bothers me most about the way commercial meat is raised and processed in this country is that the animals are not given a chance at an "animaly" life, if that makes sense. I love that your pigs had such happy lives and were killed swiftly and humanely. I live in Iowa where unfortunately pigs on the whole are treated far differently but I now I am thinking raising and slaughtering a couple pigs is totally possible, once we have some land of our own.
I heard you on the Splendid Table, I think, yesterday also! I am starting my own backyard mini flock of chickens this spring so it was great fun to hear you. I will probably be picking up your book as well, seemed to be the universe telling me to do so!

January 30, 2012 at 1:10 PM  
Blogger seagrrlz said...

Thanks for the post.

I have never eaten anything that I personally killed anything other than fish. I have seen what happens in factory farming which disturbs me. This was not disturbing @ all. Thanks again for your candor and for sharing your life with us.

January 30, 2012 at 1:18 PM  
Blogger Kyler and Sylvia said...

Just finished the chapter on slaughtering pigs in "Growing a Farmer", and then your take on the same subject matter. Very good post! As a visual learner, photos really help tell the whole story. Good job and great post!

January 30, 2012 at 1:30 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

After your post a little while back about travelling butchers, I started looking for one in Texas. Still haven't found one! But who knows, I might just do it myself! :-)

Some of that Jenna-spirit is rubbing off I think! :-)

January 30, 2012 at 3:25 PM  
OpenID alewyfe said...

hey Jenna, you inspired me to write about my pig raising experience in FFA many years ago, about my long-lapsed vegetarianism and mindful meat eating, and to daydream about backyard pork again... but probably not anytime soon. I know Nigella pulled off a pig in Oakland but I'm pretty sure also she said she wouldn't do it again... we'd need more space at any rate, and a garage to hide it in. :-) Check it out if you like here: "The Whole Hog: heads, hearts, memory, and mindful meateating"

www.alewyfe.wordpress.com

January 30, 2012 at 3:36 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

i am so happy that this response was so kind and supportive. Thank you. I was expecting such anger and all I got was encouragement.

January 30, 2012 at 8:42 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

Great post! I remember you got the pigs in October. How big were they when you had them slaughtered? Where are the processors from? There was a couple over near me (I think they were in Montgomery County) who were trying to get government approval to run a mobile slaughter service, but every time they finally got everything in place, the regulatory agency (USDA, maybe?) changed the rules,and they'd have to start over. After several go-rounds over the course of a few years, I heard they ran out of money and gave up.

January 30, 2012 at 9:44 PM  
Blogger Trekout2 said...

Thanks for sharing openly about your experience so we can learn from it. When we were kids dad made blood pudding for us and it was very good.. If I remember it was pig guts.. I have to look it up to be sure.. Leave it up to the Irish to eat something like that :)

January 31, 2012 at 12:44 AM  
Blogger Sue Steeves said...

Great work Jenna!!!!!!

January 31, 2012 at 1:52 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Thanks for sharing Jenna. Not gross at all. My great-grandparents were farmers and I can imagine them doing the same kind of thing at their farm in Greenfield.

February 1, 2012 at 6:50 AM  
Blogger Natalie T. said...

thanks for sharing! i have 16 happy chickens about to lay, thanks to your book. now, i am off to tell the husband i want a pig because of this post. (he thanks you too. ;)

February 2, 2012 at 1:47 AM  
Blogger kringsrud said...

Truly fascinating. I'd much rather have my meat processed in this manner than from a factory farm.

February 2, 2012 at 11:08 AM  
Blogger farmgirlwanabe said...

Jenna thanks for sharing this - do you know you can make your bacon -its really easy - I just put my bacon from the two pork bellies I bought from the farmer I buy from (heritage breeds raised in a natural environment like you do) in my smoker this morning at 0630 for two hours and will be cutting up into 2 lbs pacakges and vacuum packing. You brine the porkbellies for 7 days - then roast for 2 hours at 200 degrees, cut off the skin while still warm and then if you want smoke it (you don't have to smoke it)

i freeze all my bacon because I do not use any nitrates - I control the salt and the sugar levels but do use the minimum required to brine - I make maple sugar/syrup bacon that i then smoke with maple wood, and tIen I also make a plain bacon that i smoke with applewood this allows me me to have bacon any size i want to slice or make lardons for stews etc. It take me maybe max 1 hour of prep to brine, 30 minutes to skin (did the skinning last night around 11 pm after having done all the chores aroun the house. A lot of people think its a lot of time and work but the time is having the pork sit in the garage for 7 days in its own brine and then flipping the bellies every 2 days. I work full time where I usually don't come home till 6 pm, am doing my MBA in Maritime Logistics through a university in Australia (reversed school calendar from north american) raising two kids, two dogs and a cat, referee soccer on the weekends and take care of a household (but I do have a wonderful man to help me out). If I can make the bacon that is so simple anyone can. If you are interested I can send you the recipe for the brining mix - the recipes come from Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie where he also talks about confiting pork in pork fat (similar to duck confit but pork) - that I am trying out afer I finish my exam period for my current course. I have been told confited pork is fantastic.

My hope once I finish the MBA this fall is to start blogging about preserving foods naturally (my kids eat homemade dried fruitleather from the apples in our backyard - living up here in NE Ontario I take full advantage of the natural freezer that is my backyard from dec to march.

February 3, 2012 at 12:57 PM  
Blogger farmgirlwanabe said...

OMG - I just read your post about the bad meat - I feel stupid for not reading the entire blog from the top as I normally start from where I left off - so sorry about what happened -

February 3, 2012 at 2:01 PM  

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