As mentioned in my earlier post, we have a pig that we slaughtered earlier this week, and when you have that kind of meat coming into your house, you are best to have some sort of plan as to how you want to manage it. We did a lot of reading in advance (highly recommended), and arranged to have all of the tools/supplies need as well as cleared our calendar in order to take care of the meat. Now that we are all done, we have seen that it took us three days with multiple people each day in order to manage the task. This is definitely a group project!
Here is how we broke it down:
- Day 1: Slaughter
- halving of the carcasses
- removal of heads
- Day 2: Butchering
- cutting the primals
- deboning the legs and removal of hooves
- tying and packaging roasts, ribs and chops
- scraping stock bones
- setting aside fat and meat for grinding and sausage production
- cutting the primals
- Day 3: Production / Processing
- making stock from the bones
- seasoning for dry curing
- grinding of meat and fat
- sausage making
- vacuum packing (we also do a lot of sous-vide cooking, so having a vacuum packing machine is essential. I never knew how much we would use it until we had one!) It is a work horse!
Day 2: There are many ways of butchering a pig, and we decided that for us, we wanted to think about what were the pieces that were highest on our list to keep whole. We wanted:
- ‘Ribbe’ the traditional christmas eve roast pork belly
- the tenderloin
- the hocks (to be bagged and pre-seasoned for Ropa Vijea sous-vide.. recipe below)
- fat and meat for sausages (goal of 20kgs to be ground)
- and boneless belly for pancetta
- everything else was going to be cut into roasts
Before anything, we scrubbed and cleared everything away in the kitchen and set up stations for the various tasks. We are fortunate to have a kitchen that can accommodate these kinds of projects. It is by far the heart of our home, and food is a major part of our lives.
With everything prepped, we were ready to bring in the first half of the pig. We made a plan of attack and went at it. One purchase that we were happy to have made was a set of butchering knives. They were not expensive, we picked them up at one of the sports stores in the hunting section. We came across them by chance, as they were next to the meat hooks we needed. a Simple set of 4 knives with plastic handles in a carry pouch. Best deal I have seen in a while, and they worked like a charm, so you can forget going out and buying those expensive kitchen knives. We will use them often.
Lugging around a side of pork is not an easy task, these guys have carried their share of meat in the last week, trust me, that moment in the shed in the dark after a long day at the slaughter – with each of them hoisting a half pig while I was trying to get the hooks behind the ankle tendons in a dark shed lit up only by a flashlight is not a moment we will soon forget! The sides weighed in at just under 50kgs a piece. So now, how to process nearly a hundred kilos of meat:
Tip: arrange to have a bowl set aside for cuttings and scraps that are unusable. They do not add up to much, but glands, bloodmeat and arteries etc.. need somewhere to go, and keeping a clean setup makes this an easier job. Our scraps were given to our hens.
As for what you will need to gather in the process, pieces will quickly begin to pile up.
- Some are immediately ready for packaging (loins, chops etc..) have a tray or space set aside for them. Oven trays and baking pans work well.
- Have a dedicated space for fat trimmings, and a spot for anything that will later get ground up.
- Stock bones can either go straight into a pot or set aside for later use.
- Skin can either be left on and scored for roasts, set aside and used for crackling, or tossed into the bone pile for making stock.
We do a lot of sous vide cooking and love a cuban food. One of my favourite recipes for pork is to make it sous vide as Ropa Vijea. Often made with beef, we prefer pork hocks. So prior to freezing, I added the seasoning to the bags so that we can just take them out of the freezer and drop them in the water bath.
The recipe for sous-vide Ropa Vijea: (this really should be its own post)
- 1 pork hock, skin on in a vacuum bag with the following seasoning
- smocked, dried mexican chillies
- whole cumin seed
- bay leaves
- garlic powder
- cook sous-vide at 68.3 degrees for minimum 6-8 hours up to 24 hours
- open bag
- remove stock (it is divine! as it has all of the collagen and nutrients and minerals from the bone and skin)
- remove the skin, slice into strips, season with salt and fry as pork crackling snacks to enjoy while you make the rest
- the meat should be falling off the bone, shred with 2 forks and add stock, cook to reduce
- serve with rice and refried beans, fried plantain is a lovely addition!
OK.. back from my cuban side track! 😉
Last steps of the day, we knew that pancetta was something we wanted to experiment with. We have access to a place to hang the meat once it has been cured which has good ventilation and the right temperature, so we decided to bite the bullet and give it a try.
We used a recipe that was based on 3.5% nitrite salt (which has a 6% nitrate content) we purchased online here in Norway at godmiddag.net (disclaimer: I rarely mention where I acquire items, but we had such great service and advice from Kai, he shipped things out in a rush so we could have them in time and gave us great advice, I thought I would share the info). We combined: the nitrite salt, pepper, ground juniper berries, nutmeg, brown sugar, ground bay leaves and thyme. The pock bellies were rubbed down and every crevice covered. They are now packed in vacuum bags which will be turned every day in the fridge for seven days. Once done, they will be rinsed, dried, re-seasoned and hung to dry for 6-8 weeks.. we can’t wait!
Day 3 sausage making: coming soon!