Sunday, January 28, 2007

Pig in pics

Pig pickup day was Friday the 26th. As we headed out our driveway, we were startled to find that there was a large, very freshly roadkilled doe next to our mailbox. What bizarre timing! On any other day, I think we would have thrown it in a wheelbarrow and processed it. As it was, there was no time to even contemplate it. We had places to be:

As the folks at Fries Frozen Foods loaded our half pig into our trunk, we had time to gawk at the next hog to come out of the cooler. It was a monster!

Back at the house, we instantly started to forget to take pictures. There's so much to do processing a pig. First we trimmed the leg and weighed it before putting it into a pre-chilled hard cider brine on the back porch. Our ham this year is 23.5 pounds. Awesome.

Then we separated the belly from the loin. There was some debate about where exactly to make the cut. Further up would mean more bacon. Further down would mean longer ribs. We ended up going straight down the middle. Okay, maybe a scootch toward the "more bacon" option.

Here's our friend L2, whom we recruited as slave labor--oops, I mean an intern--rubbing the belly with bacon cure. The cure is made of salt, brown sugar, black pepper, bay leaves, and juniper berries.

The bacon will cure for five to seven days. Every day I'll drain off the liquid that has accumulated, then rub in more cure and restack the pieces of belly. When it's done, it'll air-dry for a day before we start using it. This year, like last year, we're making an unsmoked bacon--basically a pancetta. Next year we may try to rig up a cold smoker.

And here is a not-very-informative shot of the front end, with the hock removed.

I took this while we were trying to decide how many large roasts we wanted vs. how much meat we should save for sausage. The decisions are the hardest part! Everything else is simple as long as you remember: Use the knife for meat and the saw for bone.

This is what we ended up with on Friday night:

At the back are two huge bags of meat that we've set aside for sausage. We're so busy right now that we've decided to save that part of the process for a future rainy day. Believe me, it took some doing to cram those bags into the freezer on top of everything else! But one advantage of waiting is that I'll have time to order some beef middles for salami casings. We already have the pork casings for the rest of our sausages.

Last year it was the brawn (AKA head cheese) that we saved for a rainy day. But this year I cranked it out immediately. First I soaked the head in a simple brine overnight. Then I cooked it, along with one of our two trotters, in a pot with onion, herbs, coriander seed, pepper, and cloves for four hours. Then I fished it out, let it cool, picked off everything that looked good to eat (there's a lot of gorgeous meat in a pig head!), mixed the chopped pieces with lemon and parsley, and set it in a terrine in its own gelatin. It's in the fridge right now, looking mighty tempting.

Ahhhhh. A job well done, and a freezer well filled.