WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES AND DISCUSSION OF ANIMAL BUTCHERING.
“We butchered a pig this weekend”. The sentence sounds unusual to me as I explain to my co-worker. It was not what she was expecting to hear as a response to: “What did you do this weekend?”
I guess I could have been more delicate about it and said “We sent our pig to freezer camp” or some euphemism of the sort. But I didn’t.
This weekend, we butchered our Barrow. It had been planned from the beginning. We purchased two glits to have more babies and a barrow to fill the freezer. We always knew that was the plan.
It’s not the first time we butcher a pig. We occasionally process the Wild Hogs my husband catches when he goes hunting or Pigs we have bought off a neighbor, but this was the first time we butchered one that had spent any significant amount of time on the farm.
When we lived in the city, it was sometimes too easy to forget where our food came from and how disconnected we are from our food. How many miles it traveled to us and how many processes and checks and additives. It’s easy to fall into a Chipotle ad dystopian spiral where children think food comes from stores and not from farms.
For us it is a much more personal relationship. We cared for this animal. It lived with us and we fed it from day to day. He grew up and grew out on our pasture, rooting in our field, being fed from our scraps and feed we bought for him. Now he is giving his life so our family has good food to eat and we appreciate and respect that cycle.
We’re Cuban so when we butcher we keep the skin on, which added the added step of removing any hair. This is done by scalding the skin and removing he hair. From here, he is quartered and placed in our coolers, three total.
From our very basic and rough calculations it breaks down as follows:
|Carcass Weight||210||Fat, Bones and Skin||19%||39.9 pounds|
|Loin Chop||20%||42 pounds|
|Cured/fresh picnic roast||5%||10.5 pounds|
|Boston Butt||5%||10.5 pounds|
|Spare Ribs||3%||6.3 pounds|
|Feet, Tail and Neck Bones||5%||10.5 pounds|
Our original plan was to take the carcass, once cleaned, to the butcher and have him cut it down into manageable portions but as luck would have it, my husband’s mother and her sister from Cuba came for a visit.
With their help we were all able to process the hog and put it in the freezer. It’s not perfect or all the right cuts but it also came with no price tag attached.
We kept one shoulder out for cooking and vacuum sealed the rest with our Foodsaver. We bought the Expandable Heat Seal Roll which are meant for whole chickens and we were able to fit in the extra large pieces.
Tips for Butchering your own Pigs
- Be Ready!
This should go without saying, but have everything ready the day before. Hubby kinda caught me off guard and I didn’t have everything we ended and ended up making a frantic trip to get enough Freezer/Storage bags.
- Have the Right Tools!
I highly recommend having a Chopper/Cleaver/Butcher Knife. You’ll need it to get through the though joints. Also, several sharp Chef Knives and a good knife sharpener. We have a Manual Knife Sharpener and a Hone Sharpening Stone. You’ll be surprised how fast fat takes the sharpness out of a knife!
- Clear out the freezer before hand.
We had the foresight to clear out and clean out the fridge just in time. It came to be quite a life saver
- Have Enough Cooler Space and Enough Ice to Fill It.
It takes about 1 QT of Cooler space per 2 pounds of meat. This held true for us. We filled up our Yeti 65 Quart plus two additional Igloos we borrowed from a neighbor. I also bought 5 Ten pound Bags of Ice (on my frantic trip to the store) as our ice reserves were pretty much depleted.
In the future, We hope to get a 100 QT plus cooler so
- Let the Meat Rest Overnight.
You will be surprised how much easier it is to cut the meat once it’s cooled.
Watch videos like A Butcher Takes Apart a Whole Pig to pass the time!
- Your Freezer May Heat Up (Check Your Manual!).
We have a Frigidaire Chest Freezer we use for our meat and noticed it was heating up as we started to put the meat in.
So we checked our specifications! (… and no, we are not those people who have all our manuals perfectly organized in a Pinterest Type filing system … we found our model number on the side of the fridge and Googled up the manual ….)
We found that it is a quirk our freezer has to heat up as it is trying to compensate and bring down the internal temperature. This being our first chest freezer, that was News to us!
But being the worry-wart I am, I kept a very close check on it and even measured the temp with a Infrared Type Thermometer to find that it was ~130 degrees. I kept a close eye and by the morning it was back to almost normal.
If your Cuban, You’ll need a large Caldero to make the cracklings and a place to store the lard and Boy! Will there be a lot of it! I used the stoneware liner of my 8-Quart Slow Cooker AND the liner of my 3-Quart Slow Cooker! This lard will have a slight smell of bacon and is great for cooking meats and other savory foods or even for soap (I’ll show you how!)!
I set aside some leaf lard to make later in my slow cooker to make some odorless clean white lard for baking! Yes, there is a trick to it and I will share it with you in an upcoming post!
So stay tuned!
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