04 September 2011

Butchering Half A Pig

I recently had a go at butchering half of a dressed pig carcass. Various relatives-in-law had raised 3 pigs this year. They got up to slaughtering weight while I was there on holiday. They were taken to a small processing place to get turned from live pigs into frozen packages of various cuts and sausage, but my father-in-law was kind enough to have them reserve half a carcass for me to work on.

It was fun. Quite gratifying. Harder than it looks but easier than you think. I first separated the tenderloin (and the kidney), then cut the ham off. Then split the remainder of the carcass lengthwise, leaving the belly side and the loin side. Cut the front shoulder & spareribs off and split that up into smaller cuts. Cut the hock off the ham. Separated some ribs from the belly to leave a bacon-ready cut. Cut a stack of chops then separated the rest of the loin into ribs and a boneless loin.

Rendered a couple big jars of beautiful, pure, white lard from various fat bits I cut off. Trimmed the loin and the chops to yield quite a lot of lovely, firm back fat. Made a nice pate out of the liver. The sausage turned out well. The pork chops were great. Lots of folks sampling quality pork for perhaps the first time. It's supposed to have flavor! These were happy pigs, well raised in a good-sized outdoor foresty pen, fed organic meal with lots of supplemental offcuts from the large vegetable garden.

Day 1: butchered the carcass, including some rough cuts for sausage, rendered some lard, made a rustic pate out of the liver. Pork chops for dinner.

Day 2: made 9 lbs of sausage, started the belly curing into bacon


zim said...

you are my hero.

JustJoeP said...

When they were still alive and happily roaming the barnyard, did you ever get acquainted with these pigs? As in, did they have somewhat distinctive personalities / tendencies? or were they "just pigs", blissfully semi-sentient, consuming whatever they were fed? I ask, because I've never butchered an animal I've known when it was alive. I've cut whole large birds up, and some pork and bovine, but had not knowledge of them (other than word of organic farmer) prior to seeing them in the frozen state.

JustJoeP said...

Three more questions:
I. Bones
Did the meat & ligaments nicely separate from the bones, or was it a case of fancy knife work, to keenly slice with sharpened blade along hardened bone and not cut into the hardened calcium? And a corollary, did you get some good marrow from the bones?
II. Self Injury
Other than perhaps somewhat sore hands / arms / shoulders / lower back, from the un-accustomed slicing and sawing, did you sustain any accidental punctures or cuts? The industrial meat working industry is rife with injuries and armoured metallic & polyaramid protective gear, but they are driven by SPEED and TIME for cost reduction, which I assume accounts for 99% of their injuries. I know you were being careful, but did you have any 'close calls'?
III. Disgusting Surprises?
Did you find any olfactory sensory smelly surprises, or any part of the process that was especially unappealing or stronger than you'd anticipated? I've smelled slaughter houses from afar, but have not rendered a full carcass yet.

You are indeed my hero as well, I second Zim's acknowledgment.

pyker said...

Did get acquainted?
No, I didn't spend enough time with them to distinguish personalities, but they all seemed content and pleasant. I think their more regular caretakers could see variance in personality. I quite liked them.

pyker said...

1. Bones
Note sure I understand your question. Separating bone from meat requires patient and attentive knife-work. It certainly doesn't just fall apart, unless you cook it a long time. It's not that hard to cut along a bone without cutting *into* the bone. A smaller, very sharp, slightly flexible blade works well. Trying to do the same with, say, a 12" chef's knife might see you gouging into the bone.
Did not get any marrow, now that you mention it.

pyker said...

2. Self-Injury
I think I might have managed to cut one of my fingers. Don't recall, exactly. Was surely being stupid if so (happens often, e.g. I start doing non-cutting things with knives still in my hands). I was *mostly* quite careful and it's honestly not a dangerous task at all provided you are using decent, and sharp, equipment. I was never really worries about injury. Trying to dice an onion with a dull knife is more dangerous than butchering a pig with a sharp one.

pyker said...

3. Disgusting Surprises?
Nope. Although this was a carcass and not the actual slaughter. The meat had been hung in the cold room at least 24 hours when I collected it (48-24, probably about 36). So it was given a good chance to dry out and firm up. Was a pleasure to work on. Smelled good. The only bit of offal still attached was the kidney, which itself smelled just fine. The meat was really good quality. Not a strong smell at all, but smelled like good-quality pork.

pyker said...

Oh, yeah, got the liver separately, which was also nice. Smelled like a good liver.

Nor did the fat have a strong smell. The rendering process was appetizing.

JustJoeP said...

thank you. that answered my questions quite thoroughly. The COLDNESS of the carcass would have caused me to take many pauses, as my hands seem to be rather non-cold-tolerant. When I make hamburgers, I mash the garlic, onions, mushrooms, salt and pepper into the ground beef with my fingers and by the time I shape the 12th or 13th patty, my fingers ache. The thought of wrangling a large cold carcass sends shivers into my bones.

I am quite surprised you did not get marrow... I saw the hack saw =) ...and I know your proclivity for the succulent stuff.