From Piglets to Bacon- Part 4, by Animal House

I’m a grandmother who has raised her own small livestock and grown two female piglets into full grown hogs. This is my story. In the first three parts of this series, I have told how I began raising pigs, the selection process I went through, preparing their pen and securing them, growing them, and my plan for butchering them. The process didn’t go exactly as expected, and I’m in the midst of telling you what actually ended up happening and what I learned along the way.

Butchering (continued)

Butchering is something I have never done so I was flying blind. With my book next to me, I tried to follow the step-by-step directions. Several hours later, by the time I got both sides divided into legs, loin, hams, ribs, belly, and sides as well as the spine and trotters cut, I was exhausted. We put the parts into clean hunting bags and put them in two coolers. Even though the overnight temperature would be in the 30s, we covered everything with ice and transported the coolers up to the garage using the UTV for the next day’s processing and packaging effort.


Most hogs are processed at 200 or 225 pounds; my hogs were over 400 pounds. So when I say “shoulder”, it was two hour’s work to cut one into smaller, more normal size portions and then process and wrap those in freezer paper. I cut the Boston butt into three portions. I deboned most of the shoulder chops and loin, as I was saving the bones for bone broth. The pork tenderloin on this hog was 23 inches long and over four inches in diameter, and I cut it into portions for my family size. I divided the ribs and left an extra thick layer of meat on them. Then I had to figure out how to cut the pork belly for bacon. This took more time, because I was constantly referring to my book. The book now has well-greased fingerprints and slighty pink spots on many of the pages.

The Third Day

The next day, I processed and packaged the second side of the hog. That was a little easier than the first side, as it looked a tiny bit familiar! I ran out of freezer paper and had to use heavy duty aluminum foil to double wrap the remaining pieces of pork until I could get more paper.

The Second Hog

We had to wait another eight days to get the correct weather (40°F daytime and 26°F at night) to kill and process the second hog. We basically repeated the same harvesting process. However, this time, the whole thing provided its own quirky differences. I had doubled my order for more freezer paper so that I was sure to have enough. We did the first separations and cuts more efficiently. I was also able to cut the pork into smaller, more family-sized portions.

Lessons Learned

The weather and temperature is critical in harvesting animals, especially hogs. The weather does its own thing. So, when you have the right conditions, get the deed done.

The physical demands of slaughtering and butchering a hog caused my back to spasm. Thus, the second hog took longer than the first, because I had to stop every now and then to stretch and rest my back.

Additionally, the second hog was harder to kill. I really don’t know why, as she was shot point blank twice. I concluded that I need a larger caliber handgun to put down 400+ pound hogs.

We did not have the scales for the first hog we harvested so I “guestimated” it provided 230 pounds of pork. But before we harvested the second hog, I obtained scales. We found, from the second, smaller hog, I had 248 pounds of pork. Therefore, I figure I had at least 255 pounds from the larger, first hog.

I had to get a second freezer to get all the pork frozen. Five hundred pounds of wrapped pork will not fit in one, large, chest freezer.

Processing and Preserving the Pork

When I had physically rested from slaughtering and butchering the hogs, I began to process the parts. I needed to cut down the hams from the first hog as they were too large. My son used the reciprocating saw to cut through the bone to make the hams smaller, to fit our family needs, and to process.

Depending on the season you process/preserve the pork, you may use a cold garage or a refrigerator to keep the pork cold. You are limited by temperature control. You must be able to keep the pork at 40°F or below while curing.

Curing Hams

Following is an easy recipe for processing hams. You will need to adjust the amount of water, ice, and spices to how many hams you are curing at one time. The basic recipe below is for one 10-12 pound ham. I use a 50-gallon pot and brine about four hams at a time. So, I modify the basic recipe to fit my needs. You can use a cooler or whatever container fits in your refrigerator, but the brine needs to cover the pork and the container needs a lid or cover.

Basic Recipe:

  • Fresh ham (my hams are about 10 pounds each),
  • 2 gallons of cold water and ice,
  • 2 cups of coarse kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp whole cloves
  • 5 large bay leaves
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large onion, cut into large slices

Processing Hams

Keep the brine at 38–40°F. If you are using a cold garage, replace one quart of water with one pound of ice as needed. Use a thermometer to check the brine temperature. The minimum time allowed is two days (48 hours). However, I brine my hams up to four days, because I use such large amounts.

When your brining time is complete, remove your hams from the brine. Then, drain and dry them with a clean, cotton towel. Allow the pork to get close to room temperature.

To complete the process, either smoke your hams or roast in a 325°F oven until done, about 20 minutes per pound. The temperature may be set up to 350°F, but watch your ham so it does not get tough and dry.

Making Bacon!

Bacon comes from the belly of the hog. It is the underside of the animal. A 400 pound long-bodied hog gives you a longer slab of belly meat, which you season and turn into B-A-C-O-N. I ended up with four 2-1/2x10x12 inch slabs for seasoning. I use baking half sheet pans because I can stack them in my refrigerator, but you can use air tight freezer bags if your belly slab will fit in it. There are lots of bacon seasoning and curing recipes on the internet. Below is the one I like best.

Basic Maple Flavored Bacon Recipe:

  1. Rinse the pork belly in cold water and dry with clean cotton towel, dishcloth, or paper towels.
  2. Combine the maple syrup, brown sugar, salt, and pepper in a bowl and mix well.
  3. Using gloves or really clean hands, rub the seasoning mixture into all sides of the pork belly.
  4. Place the pork belly into a container and cover with plastic wrap or a lid, or use an air tight freezer bag and seal it shut.
  5. Store it lengthwise in the refrigerator for 10 to 14 days, turning the belly over occasionally. The bacon should be ready after 10 days, when it has a firm texture/feeling to it. Depending on your altitude, the timing may change.

When finished curing, rinse the bacon again and pat it thoroughly dry with or a clean towel or paper towels. Roast the cured bacon in a 200°F oven, until the internal temperature reaches 150°F. This may take about two hours, depending on your oven.

You can use a sharp knife or a meat slicer to cut your bacon to size. I like mine thick, so I set the slicer to ¼ inch thickness. Store your bacon in an air tight container or freezer bag in the refrigerator for up to a month or in the freezer for up to a year.

See Also:

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

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  1. I’m curious about the shot placement used for the killing of these hogs.

    In the past I have used a .22lr caliber single shot rifle with great effect. One shot into the brain and the animals falls and never get back up. A long bladed knife inserted under the neck back into the body cavity severs arteries and allows for a quick bleed out while the heart is still pumping.

    1. Mike, Per guidance I received from the book and from others, between the eyes or an inch above. Others have said under the ear towards the brain. The first hog was good shot but the second hog not so much.

    2. The one hog butchering I was part was a lot like what you described. A bit of feed on the ground to keep the hog busy, .22LR rifle shot from a couple feet away to the brain from the front and a quick knife to the front of the neck towards the body…then watched the little piglets drinking the fresh blood…from big guy on the block to food for the little guys in a couple of seconds! Butchering a still warm hog did not seem right, but my hands were well moisturized by the end with grease!

  2. It is best to butcher hogs before they get to the 400 pound stage…at that weight they can be very dangerous. We always seperated the hog to be butchered from the rest because they are smart and once they see one being killed, they can be difficult to handle when their turn comes. A .22 properly used in the brain will work on smaller hogs, larger ones, not always.
    Good article

  3. I am really impressed with your work and determination. Great Job! We raised pigs for quite a few years. The first year we decided to butcher them ourselves as we had always processed all our wild game and the chickens we raised. We didn’t have a tractor so my husband built a tripod and we used a come-a-long to pull it up. We soon discovered just how tough the pigs skin is! After that experience we decided to have our pigs processed. So instead of raising 2 we raised 4 and sold 2 and 1/2 pigs to pay for the processing and some money for our kids to help them learn the value of hard work. When my husband shot the first pig the other one just looked up and then continued to eat. We started training the pigs about a week before taking them to be processed to climb a ramp into the back of our trailer by putting their food up in the trailer. They then didn’t mind climbing up it and it was a rather simple job to shut down the trailer with them inside. Also when wrapping meat we double wrap with plastic wrap getting all the air out of it that is possible. Then we wrap it with butcher paper. This way we have had meat in our freezer for 2 to 3 years and it has never gotten freezer burnt. Also if you wish to create more room in your freezer you can always unthaw the meat and then can it and it will be good as long as it stays sealed)for 5 -10 years.


  4. In my limited experience, if you use lard for cooking, roughly 20 % of the dressed weight of the pig, it is worth raising and butchering pigs yourself, if you don’t you can buy the cuts on sale for about what it costs you to produce them. Not to say that for survival reasons, or for knowing what the pig was fed and how the meat was processed, you may well want to raise and process pigs. One major reason for raising pigs is the manure, they convert all of your organic wastes into a very good fertilizer in a few hours rather than months to compost.

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