Ramble On

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Everything but the Oink

Here's David on Saturday morning after
breaking the loin down into chops
on the band saw.
“We use everything but the oink” was what I was told on the day the pigs arrived back in August. At the time, I was still on that self-styled agribusiness internship working with David at Public House Produce. The pigs were a great addition to the farm, and he was clearly enjoying having them around – he told me about sitting out there near the barn with his daughter on a warm summer night as they thought about names for the pigs.

The experience of “hugging your food” had suddenly gotten very “hands on” for me, and this time it wasn’t just about picking up a two-pound chicken running loose in a pasture. We were turning the animals into pork, a process that would take two whole days.

As we processed the whole carcasses, I was learning how true “everything but the oink” would be. There are aficionados for the organ meat – the heart, kidneys and liver – and there are people who eat these on their own merit. For us, they were mainly destined for the “pudding pot,” where we collected various cuts for use in scrapple that would be prepared on the second day.

Me, holding the "oink."

The meat saw here, hard to see, is used
to break the larger cuts down.
Once the pigs had been moved down the line in the butchering shed, the carcasses end up, usually in halves, on a table down at the end. Here, the loin is cut out, the racks of ribs cut, and the shoulder, ham, and bacon cuts are made. As these large cuts are done, we carried them back across the room to store them out of the way on the big table, since we shared the workspace on the small table and needed to keep it clear.

Here are some of the parts waiting for the
"pudding pot" - a small tenderloin,
and sausage cuts.
Time permitting on the first day, and it did for us, you might take some of the larger cuts and break them down further into small cuts that could be ground up into sausage. I did this with one of the shoulders, but some of the other butchers were taking both shoulders for this purpose. I put together 20 pounds of meat this way so that I could make breakfast sausage and bratwursts.

These are the big cuts that we had at
the end of the first day.  You can see a
ham or two, loins, shoulders, and ribs
in this photo.
So at the end of the first day, we no longer had pigs – we had pork – some of which was already recognizable as something to eat: the hams and shoulder roasts, for example. There was plenty to do the next day, although I was beginning to understand that the work would go fast now that the big physical part of the process was out of the way.

As our activities wrapped up and we were cleaning the shed, other family members began to show up to help with some organization for day 2, or to bring in some food and snacks. There was a good hour or two of socializing and catch up while things wound down. We planned for an 8:00 start the next morning, but I still had work to do, buying some spices and other goods for my sausage recipes.

I got home at 7:00 pm, grabbed a light dinner and some suds. I scrubbed myself down in a hot shower, and turned the lights out at 8:30. I woke up at 6:00 the next morning in the same position I went to sleep in, bone tired the night before, but refreshed and ready to go on a snowy Saturday morning.

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