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Advice About Pork Fat

Posted: Sun Mar 09, 2014 13:29
by jscarbo
I'm still learning techniques and recipes and am going to make Italian sausage and bratwurst today. I went to my local butcher yesterday and bought the following meats:
3 kilos boneless pork shoulder, with fat cap attached
2 kilos hog jowl
2 kilos clean back fat
1 kilo veal

I haven't cut the meat yet, but from past experience I expect the pork shoulder to be fairly lean because hogs are slaughtered much younger here in Costa Rica than in most other countries (usually at 60 to 70 kilos).

I like a good amount of fat in my sausage, perhaps 25 to 30%, and am trying to decide on a mix. Assume the shoulder has only 10 to 15% internal fat. The fat cap may add another 10 to 15% and is good, clean fat but is much softer than the back fat I bought. There will also be a membrane between the fat cap and the meat.

So, the first question is whether to grind and use the fat cap or discard it and use only added back fat? If I use the fat cap, I assume the preferred technique is to remove it, cut into small cubes and freeze prior to grinding, cutting off and discarding any membrane and silver skin I encounter. I'm a little worried about clogging the grinder with the soft fat cap from the shoulder and am thinking about just throwing it a way and using only back fat but wonder if I'm being overly concerned and should go ahead and use it. The hog jowls contain a mix of pure hard fat and fatty, streaky meat, so I could also use jowl meat and fat to mix with the shoulder.

For the bratwurst, I'm planning to use a mix of 80% pork to 20% veal. Since the veal is even leaner than the pork, I bought the hog jowls with the bratwurst in mind, thinking that the higher fat content of the jowl meat would compensate for the lower fat content of the veal. Am I on the right track here?

Any thoughts and suggestions would be appreciated, particularly with regard to using or discarding the fat cap from the pork shoulder.

Posted: Sun Mar 09, 2014 19:26
by Carpster
I think the best use of the pork shoulder is the cap fat And all. If you still need more fat then back fat would be the answer in my opinion. I would cut the shoulder up in its entirety and then grind it through a 3/8 inch plate, fat and all.

As for the use of the jowls, I would use those for bacon!!!
If you have never made homemade bacon, jowls would be a great way to get started. They take very little room up in the icebox and the taste is awesome.


This is a little pork shoulder bacon.


Posted: Sun Mar 09, 2014 22:46
by ssorllih
I usually make bacon from a slab taken from the skin side of the shoulder butts. They always have a high percentage of fat. The rest of the butt is quite lean and makes nice fresh pork roast or rolled ham. I use the entire butt for grinding into sausage. The fat on the skin side of the shoulder butt is well up on the hog.. This is a good link for review for where on the hog the meat grows. ... mal&hs=Ham

Posted: Sun Mar 09, 2014 22:59
by jscarbo
Thanks, Steve and Ross. I'll take your advice about the pork shoulder and use the fat cap, adding additional back fat if needed. Your bacon looks awesome but I'm not ready to cure and smoke yet so I'll probably go a head and grind the jowls to mix with the bratwurst, which had been my original plan anyway.

In Costa Rica, butchers get whole hanging sides and break it down themselves so they generally have everything available except whole heads and you can get them too if you order in advance. I paid less than $1 per pound for the back fat and just slightly more for the jowls. The boneless pork shoulder was about $2.75 and veal was about $3.75. I haven't shopped for meat in the US for years so I don't know current prices but feel like I'm probably fortunate in both prices and availability compared to most parts of the US.

Posted: Mon Mar 10, 2014 01:28
by ssorllih
Your boneless butt prices are on the high side of average on the east coast. I can't buy jowls in this market. I try to purchase the heaviest butts that I can find.

Posted: Sun Mar 16, 2014 18:40
by Chuckwagon
Topic Split 031614@11:43 by CW. See: