Ramble On

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Butchers at Work

At the end of the first day, the carcasses have
been broken down into large cuts.  On the second day,
these get worked down further into chops and roasts.

My take away from the butchering experience last year was summarized by Ted, who had taken a lot of pictures during the event and offered some advice along the way: 

“From pig to pot to pan to plate…last weekend's visit to Luray where I helped brother-in-law Bill and others butcher 4 hogs. … the bulk of the butcherin' took place on Friday; sausage, scrapple, packaging, and clean-up on Saturday; and Sunday breakfast. We used to do this almost annually many years ago and this is the first time for me in many years. Back then, Ann and I would buy some pork, but this year was just to participate in the process for the social camaraderie and metaphysical benefits of doing so.”

Here's a picture of Chris with some "Iowa Chops" - he set the
saw up to cut the pork chops extra thick.
I knew I could count on David, Mark, Jesse and Bill for advice, as well as camaraderie and metaphysical benefits after last year, and I was hoping that my friend Chris, sharing the hog with me, would find that as well.  Catching a glimpse of him working on various tasks around the shed, I think he did – I kept busy myself, and know that I did.  Here I’ve got a few photos to share of us working on the hog; meanwhile, a little more description of the activities.

From where I left off yesterday, the pigs are moved down the line in the butchering shed, the carcasses end up 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.

Mary and I lost much of the ham last year due to freezer burn
after the power outages.  I decided to cut my ham down into
smaller roasts - here I'm skinning it prior to making those cuts.
There is also a natural break in the action during this part – the butcher pauses to process the head.  In our case, we don’t use everything, but we do save out the jowls and the tongue.  Chris wanted to send the jowl out to have it smoked; it was a great idea, and we should get some bacon out of it.  The tongue becomes part of the pudding meat, along with many other organs.

Time permitting on the first day, a second task is to take the larger cuts and start breaking them down.  Most of the time, this has meant breaking down one of the butts into smaller parts that could be ground for sausage, which is what we did.  We also took down part of the other shoulder for that purpose as well, ending up with a few roasts for pulled pork but with plenty of sausage meat – tomorrow's post.

So at the end of the first day, we no longer had hogs – we had pork – some of which was already recognizable as something to eat:  the hams and bacon, for example.  There was plenty to do the next day, but the second day’s work goes fast, since the big physical part of the process is out of the way. 

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