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I believe that animal butchery is an art. It takes practice and skill to become efficient and good at it. We are working towards that but we are by no means there yet. We prepared ourselves for the process by reading a lot of books and watching lots of videos. Out of all our searching the Farmstead Meatsmith seems to be the most proficient and eloquent butcher. He butchers pigs with elegance if such a thing can be done.
After we got the first part of the butchering process completed, we hung the pigs in a walk in cooler for 2 days. Having the meat nice and cold helps to make the parting out process easier. I did not get as many pictures of this part as I would have liked……. I was sort of covered in raw pork all day. The pictures I did get were not the best quality since I was using my cell phone.
Having good equipment for butchering animals is vitally important. You need to have the right kind of knives (We like this brand of knives) and they need to be very sharp. You also need to have a bone saw (like this one) , if you don’t, a reciprocating saw will suffice but its harder to control and definitely messier. Other things to consider are a meat grinder (I’d love one like this), packaging, and any equipment you need for that.
Warning: The following may not be for the faint of heart.
Butchering Pigs- Part 2
Parting Out the Pig
Step 1- Halving the pig. Farmer Derek and David worked together on this part. The pig was hanged up by it’s back legs using a gambrel. We used a winch to hoist the pig into the air. The pig was split straight down the spine with a meat saw. The head is also removed at this point before splitting. We cut the jowls out of the head for curing. It is very much like bacon.
Before moving on to quartering we removed the leaf fat (think beautiful, glorious lard) and the tenderloins. The tenderloins didn’t make it far, we were working up the pigs in a garage with a wood stove. I brought my cast iron skillet, some butter, pink Himalayan salt, and pepper. I sliced the tenderloin up into 1/2″ pieces and fried them. Talk about fresh and delicious! It was quite the treat for all of us working on the pigs.
Step 2- Quartering the half. If you want to see this done properly then I highly suggest watching this video by the Farmstead Meatsmith. When parting out the pig you want to be sure to only cut through meat with knives and only cut through bone with the bone saw. The bones will dull your knife and you wont get a clean cut. The meat saw will tear up the meat and again, not leave you with clean cuts.
The quarters are the leg, belly, loin, and shoulder. We started with the leg quarter then removed the shoulder quarter followed by separating the belly and loin. This is not something easily explained through typing especially when the one typing is not and expert butcher. The best way to learn and understand how to do this is by watching a video or in someone do it in person. Next round of butchering we plan to get some good video footage to share with you.
Step 3- Parting out the quarters. Now that the quarters are separated we worked on processing each section.
With the leg quarters we removed the trotters (feet). We also removed the hocks and kept them for curing. We left two of our four hams whole for curing as well. With the other two hams, we separated them into some roasts and used some for sausage.
For the shoulder quarter we also removed the trotter. We cut the shoulder into roasts (butt roasts and picnic roasts).
On the loin quarter we removed the skin by peeling it away from the fat and flesh. Then it was parted into ribs and pork chops.
The belly quarter is where the spare ribs are and of course the beautiful slab of meat that will become bacon. This might be my favorite part of the pig!
Step 4- Grinding sausage. We are thankful that Tonya and David have a good sausage grinder. We were able to grind up 46lbs of pork for breakfast sausage. We made our own seasoning mix out of organic spices and sugar. It turned out delicious. We also threw a pound of this in the skillet on the woodstove for a taste test. It passed with flying colors. We bought sausage bags online and used those for packaging.
Step 5- Packaging the meat. We were able to vacuum seal most of the meat with Tonya’s FoodSaver. There were a few roasts that were pretty large so we wrapped them in freezer paper.
We also had 2 gallon size bags with leaf fat and 3 gallon size bags with back fat for lard rendering. I am keeping the leaf fat and the back fat lard separated. The leaf fat is just so beautiful and has such a lovely consistency for using in baking. The back fat lard will be great for frying in and if I run out of leaf lard I can still use it in baking.
Step 6- Stock the freezer and enjoy the bounty. This was the best part! Our family has truly enjoyed and has been so blessed to have this delicious, clean meat available to us.
I cannot stress enough how great it is to raise our own food. It just tastes better, it is way healthier than anything that can be bought at a store, and you are so connected with where it comes from. I think raising and harvesting our food together as a family also brings us closer to each other. We enjoy sitting down each day at the family meal table and spending time together over delicious, nutritious food that we had a part in bringing to our family.
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