Ramble On

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Everything but the Oink - 2014 edition

When the pig Kevin Bacon went down, I was surprised that after two years of butchering my own hog, for the first time, I felt a little something for the animal.  I guess handling them a little more this year, compared to the past, meant something extra to me.  I reminded myself that this is why we raised them – and steeled myself for the next one.

Afterwards, Chris and I had a chat about how hard it must be for kids doing 4H and FFA projects with an animal, only to sell them off at the fair, and saying goodbye while knowing what lays in store for the animal you’d worked so hard with.  David’s perspective is much more practical, after nearly a year of raising these animals – on that morning, he says, “all I see is meat.”  That probably leads to a steady hand on the trigger, which is important, and makes this all that much more humane, ironically.

So we hauled the four carcasses over to the butchering shed and quickly got the next step under way – scalding, cleaning off the hair, eviscerating, and then breaking down the carcasses into big cuts.  It was a little frustrating for me that after three years I still can't remember the details of each step - it's good I have a solid partner for my share in Chris.  He cheerfully did a lot of the dirty work during the evisceration, and then pitched in with taking down the halves for the other guys to begin breaking them down.

One of the shares is taken by Jesse and his dad.  Jesse is prepared every year with a fairly detailed plan about what he wants to do, and they motor through the work.  It helps that they have been doing this for 10 years, but he told us he watches a few YouTube videos each year when it gets close to the season – it’s been a good source for things to try, besides the basic processes that are involved.

I resolved to take a little time to do this in preparation next year.  One of Jesse’s techniques was to separate out the shoulder (it’s also called the butt in butchering parlance), and the others followed suit.  I like this continuous improvement aspect of butchering day, and next year will go all the better for it, I’m sure.

By the end of the day, the four or five major cuts are all done – the ham, the loin, the side (where the bacon comes from), the ribs, and the shoulder.  Also, we’ve cut out the parts of the head that are to be saved (we don’t use it all, mainly the tongue and jowls), as well as the organ meat that will be used in the scrapple. 

And that’s where we leave things at the end of the day, with a table full of meat chilling over night.  On day two of the enterprise, which I wrote about on Monday, the first day of this series of post, we proceed with breaking down the big cuts into individual portions that eaters are more likely to recognize – the chops and roasts that I’m going to look forward to cooking throughout the year.

You can follow those posts with the "Pork Diaries" label - I've already got a few of those on the record from the last two years.  I'm particularly looking forward to the day I do the whole rack of ribs I managed to save this time (limitations on our packaging gear has meant cutting the whole rack down to two halves in the past).

To conclude these "Butchering 2014" posts - maybe somewhere along the way my motivation was to be a more sustainable eater, as @andrewzimmern says.  But there's also a good share of friendship and camaraderie that makes this event special - and that's what keeps me coming back.

1 comment:

posumcop said...

As a 4-H volunteer in Page County...I can officially say that the 4-H kids take it real hard when the shipping truck arrives at the barn to take away the animals.