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A long but wonderful journey

Posted: Sun Jan 26, 2014 17:48
by Butterbean
You might recall about two years ago I started with a new batch of piglets that came from crossing a blue butt with a Yorkshire hog. Here are the cute critters.


Once they got to size they were given a good warm bath and a shave.


After this all sorts of things were made from blood sausage to smoked sausages and to say I had a lot of pork would be an understatement and I must admit while it was dirty work I did save an appreciable amount on casings.

The hams were set to the side and cured. Cured hams - these two weighed 35 lbs each.


Once cured and equalized I smoked them in hickory for 120 hours. Once smoked they smelled of heaven.


They were then hung for a year and the smell of them tempted my knife each time I walked by them.


A little over a year later I thought it was time to give one a try.


The taste of this is pretty good. When it first meets your mouth you taste a gentle saltiness with a creaminess that fills your mouth almost like butter. The smoke is faint now but there is a slight nutty creamy flavor that is hard to describe.

IMO this two year journey was well worth the effort. Learned a few things along the way too. One of which is a pig will weigh a lot more than you might think. Another thing is eight pigs is way too much meat for one family but you sure can make your friends happy if you slaughter this many. Also, learned that by slaughtering your own and using everything there is very little waste in a pig compared to other livestock and just because the butcher cuts the meat up in certain ways this may not be the best way for those who like to cure meat. Oh, and while it was a lot of work it was also a lot of fun.

Posted: Sun Jan 26, 2014 18:53
by sawhorseray
The most heart-warning story ever, the pics of your hams are incredible!. Is the hair on a domestic pig actually scaulded, then shaved off? I've only butchered wild hogs and they are hung from a gambrel and skinned, just like a deer. I've also heard of taking a propane torch to get rid of the hair on a pig, tho I still wonder how smoke would penetrate the skin. RAY

Posted: Sun Jan 26, 2014 19:30
by Butterbean
The hair is the same on either. Shaving isn't really the correct term since you don't use anything sharp. If you get the water to the proper temp then it will essentially give the pig a first degree burn and the skin and hair will just peel off like a sunburn would. When done right its really easy but if you get the water too hot then you have problems or not hot enough will make it hard too. But basically you will just scrape it off.

You might find it interesting that even an old black wild hog that is scalding will finish out lilly white once scraped.

Posted: Mon Jan 27, 2014 02:16
by Chuckwagon
Well done, Butterbean! Mighty interesting information. Thanks for sharing. The photos are terrific.

Best Wishes,

Posted: Mon Jan 27, 2014 03:09
by Cabonaia
Hey Butterbean that ham looks fantastic. Congratulations on the "long journey." It's a little scary to wait a year or two before finding out if your project came out. I have a front shoulder dry's got at least 10 months to go. What formula did you use for your hams? Did you hang them in a curing chamber, or the open air? Any detail would be devoured, ha ha.

I butchered my first two pigs last summer. Didn't slaughter them, as there is an old hand around here who will slaughter, scald, and split hogs for $30 each, and I just can't pass that up. He scaled, scrapes, and gets some help from a blowtorch.


I didn't flush the intestines, but I saved and used pretty much everything else, including the fat, most of which has gone to lard. I've got my wife and daughters now baking and cooking with lard, and I have a new appreciation for it. And our iron skillets are performing like Teflon. I get an enormous kick out of using the whole animal inside and out.

To butcher, I used my Johnson Controls freezer controller to set a freezer at 33F, and kept large primal cuts just above freezing for several days as I worked my way through them. I have an outdoor setup, but have to butcher at night if I want to be outdoors in summer or fall, or the wasps attack. The flies have gone to bed as well after dark. Yes those animals are heavy. These were big pigs, and just carrying a quarter from fridge to butcher table was difficult. I found out that I really enjoy butchering. I have a lot to learn - most of my cuts were not very pretty. I've read books and looked at pictures and videos, but the most important thing I've learned about butchering is that you should ask yourself, "What do I want out of this hunk of meat?" and then cut for that This produces better results than trying to mimic what you see at the grocery store.

We also raise meat chickens. It is interesting to note that you can buy chicken a lot cheaper than you can raise it. But pigs are different. If you do your own butchering (let alone slaughtering), you will get your pork cheaper. By the time you have made sausages, hams, etc. of course you are really saving.

The one downside is electricity. Every month you run that freezer full of meat, the meat gets more expensive. I aim to cure more and freeze less.

Now there are a couple new candidates, ready by June if all goes well. They are Berkshires. Sorry for the terrible picture quality:

I hope all will excuse my long post!


Posted: Mon Jan 27, 2014 20:32
by crustyo44
Hi Jeff,
Apologising for a long post????? My mmm (rear end)!!!!!!.
Keep them coming, we all like to learn and see how other members do things.
I can only think of one other member that would complain without suggesting a better way.
Those cured legs look fantastic.
Keep up the good work.

Posted: Mon Jan 27, 2014 20:48
by grasshopper
Keep the info coming. The big obstacle in sausage making is dry curing. The information is greatly appreciated. My take, building a curing chamber is like going to the dentist. But you have to. Those hams are mouth watering.

Posted: Tue Jan 28, 2014 07:36
by Butterbean
Jeff, sounds like you have a good system and I agree with you about cutting them up. I can do a pretty respectable job mimicking the butcher cuts but like you I have found it is better to look at the carcass and decide what I want to use the meat for and cut from there.

A pig is a marvelous animal for the thrifty. So little waste. I recently butchered some sheep and noticed the waste bucket was nearly full when I finished the sheep but two pigs barely filled a third of the container.

I will cure hams different ways but these I used a salt cure on with the salt being split in two applications applied a week apart and the amount of salt I use is based on the hams weight. After that I will rinse them and hang in the cooler to equalize. I'm a believer in ample equalization time. Minimum of two weeks. After that its just a matter of hanging them to mature. I put these directly in the smoker and cold smoked them for several days. I don't use a chamber. I have also hung them in the attic and let them sit through the summer heat. This really brings out a nutty flavor but it also dries it much more than what my wife likes.

I look and see if I can find my notes on this cure because it turned out really nice. Just a mild saltiness to it and very supple and buttery.

Posted: Tue Jan 28, 2014 07:55
by Chuckwagon
Facinating guys! Keep it coming. There are many interested folks out there too shy to write in. We appreciate the dialogue as well as the photos too. Nice work fellas! :wink:

Best Wishes,

Posted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 05:13
by Carpster
My neighbor, who is a small hog farmer (200) delivers the hog he raises to us...we slaughter and skin the hog out. About 250 to 300 lbs. We then proceed to butcher immediately. All is done in about four hours with the help of my daughter 14 and my son 12 and my wife. I then cure the hams and bacon. This takes 8 days for the bacon and 30+ days for the hams. I also smoke the hams and the bacon, it is better than money can buy. We make pork sausage (breakfast) out of the trimmings. Summer sausage out of the picnic and bacon out of the belly....oh yea, St Louis style Ribs (the best). Pork chops out of the loin and rib loin, some boneless, some bone in. Oh yea, bacon out of the jowl (cheek). Pork steaks out of the shoulder. So excited!!! Getting ready to do one soon. We have also made Boudin out of the liver which being from St. Louis, is OK. It is awesome to home (Do) a Hog. Not much waist and a whole lot of good from a willing animal.

Posted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 09:32
by Chuckwagon
Carpster, you wrote:
and a whole lot of good from a willing animal.
Yup, bacon and eggs are a days work for the chicken, but a life-time investment for the pig. :shock:

Posted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 23:59
by Butterbean
Doing it yourself also gives you the opportunity to make blood sausage which is surprising good in spite of the fact there is no meat in it.


I guess you could call it vegetarian sausage.


Then there are the pork chops.


And the other


And the head is an added bonus. Bacon, souse and hog head stew.


Enough for several months.


Posted: Thu Jan 30, 2014 00:21
by nuynai
Love to see you've got the kids involved, as that's a dying art. Most kids now think meat comes from supermarkets.

Posted: Thu Jan 30, 2014 01:36
by Chuckwagon
Hey Joe, I recognize the Frank's hot sauce over the eggs, but is that honey and raisins over yer' biscuits? Shucks pal, that's how we start the morning too. The blood sausage is some of the darkest I've ever seen. Rich eh? ButterbeanO my man, you are truly a jack-of-all trades. A talented man, you are. Keep up the good work pal. :wink:

Best Wishes,

Posted: Thu Jan 30, 2014 09:01
by Butterbean
CW, Its pecan syrup. We grow a lot of cane and pecans so its one of those things that might be only found in this area. Funny story on this. State food police tried to shut down one of the syrup makers some years back for not "being up to standard". They actually did till the old governor dropped by to pick up a few cases he bought each year. Syrup maker was back in business in short order and a plane was sent to pick up the governor's syrup. :lol:

How boiling syrup poured in a sterile bottle can be a safety hazard is beyond me.