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 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.
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.
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.
- 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
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.
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:
- 3 to 5 lbs. pork belly
- ½ cup pure maple syrup
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 3 Tbsp kosher, pickling or pink non-iodized salt
- 1-1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- Rinse the pork belly in cold water and dry with clean cotton towel, dishcloth, or paper towels.
- Combine the maple syrup, brown sugar, salt, and pepper in a bowl and mix well.
- Using gloves or really clean hands, rub the seasoning mixture into all sides of the pork belly.
- 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.
- 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.
- 1 – From Piglets to Bacon- Part 1, by Animal House
- 2 – From Piglets to Bacon- Part 2, by Animal House
- 3 – From Piglets to Bacon- Part 3, by Animal House
- 5 – From Piglets to Bacon- Part 5, by Animal House
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been part four of a five part entry for Round 75 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
- Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value), and
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).
Round 75 ends on March 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.