I’m a grandmother who has plunged into raising pigs, and I’ve worked with them from the time they were piglets all the way until they were full grown 400 pound hogs. Then, I’ve butchered two females and processed the meat myself. In the four proceeding parts, I have described this journey– from the animal selection to providing a secure pen, food, and water as well as developing my plan for butchering and processing. There has also been a difference between the plan and reality, and I’ve explained both. Well, actually, I’m now describing my real experience with processing. So, let’s wrap this up.
Processing and Preserving the Pork (continued)
We have gone over curing and processing hams and curing bacon. Currently, we are in the midst of talking about my favorite– bacon! I gave you a recipe for maple flavored bacon in the last part of this article series. Now, let’s talk about improving it further with smoke.
Smoking the Bacon
If you have a smoker, you can use it to smoke your bacon. I like to use hickory or apple/fruit wood shavings for flavor. Follow the directions of your electric, gas, or propane device. Smoke the cured bacon until it reaches an internal temperature of 150°F. Watch the temperature carefully or your product will be dry and tough. I have never used a home-made, fire-fueled smoker, so I can’t give you much counsel on it, except to check the internal temperature and humidity frequently.
Another option, other than smoking it, to oven roast bacon. Put your bacon in a shallow roasting pan or a cookie sheet (depending on the size of your slab). Roast the cured bacon in a 200°F oven until the internal temperature reaches 150°F. Depending on your oven, this may take two hours, or it may take less time if you have a convection oven.
Some folks use Liquid Smoke to get a “smoky flavor”, but be careful what brand and flavor you buy and how much you use. Otherwise, it can end up making your bacon taste awful. If you decide to use liquid smoke, baste the cured and roasted bacon with the liquid smoke using a pastry brush to evenly coat all sides. You can place the bacon on a cooking (or cooling) rack over a cookie sheet to catch any drippings and then let it air dry for 30 minutes.
Storing Your Bacon
Before storing your bacon slice 10 or 12 pieces to enjoy as a reward for all your hard work. Store bacon in an air tight, sealed container or bag. You can refrigerate it for up to a month or freeze it.
It is possible to can uncooked bacon in a pressure canner. (Note that a steam canner is not safe for canning meat.) What I am writing here is not a canning lesson. So be sure to follow cleanliness and safe canning procedures, et cetera. If you have never pressure canned before, get the ***Ball Blue Book***amazon.com/All-Ball-Book-Canning-Preserving/dp/0848746783/ and read it before you do anything else. Don’t skip steps; you don’t want to throw away contaminated food because you didn’t can it correctly. Also, you certainly don’t want to poison your family.
Tools for Canning Bacon
You will need wide mouth canning jars and lids that are properly cleaned and ready, a roll of parchment paper, something heavy, like a rock to keep the quart canning jars from floating. (There is a lot of air in the jars once you put the bacon inside. I use a small ceramic log taken from an old gas log set. I set the log on top of the second rack, which comes with the pressure canner, to hold the quart jars down.)
Tear two sheets of parchment paper long enough for your thick bacon slices, allowing a couple of inches extra on one side. Place the bacon strips side by side but not over lapping on one of the parchment sheets. Place a second sheet on top of the bacon; press and slowly rub with your hand to remove air bubbles and to ensure the parchment paper is snug against the bacon. Fold the parchment paper in half. (The fold should be sized to fit the sheet inside the quart jar.) Begin on the one side and carefully roll the parchment paper, making sure the bacon stays in place without wrinkles. Slide the rolled parchment paper with the non-folded side down into the quart jar. Having the non-folded side at the bottom of the jar allows the grease to escape the wrapping and stay at the bottom of the jar. Do not add water to your jars of parchment wrapped bacon.
Place the quart jars in your canner. Then, place a second rack on top of the jars and put a weight on top of the rack to keep the jars from floating. Process the bacon at 10 pounds (or according to your altitude) for 90 minutes. Once the time is completed, turn the heat off and wait 30 or 40 minutes for the canner to cool. Remove the pressure weight and open the canner. Place your jars on a clean cotton towel to cool.
Using Your Canned Bacon
When you want to use your bacon, open the jars and put the bacon in a skillet to brown and heat. You can use some of the bacon grease in the skillet if you like. Otherwise, save the bacon grease for another use.
There are several good websites on canning bacon, but I recommend this one.
I have freeze dried bacon pieces and bits to use as flavoring in vegetables or casseroles. I use both cooked and uncooked bacon and cut or break it into the size I want, which usually is two-inch strips and crumbles. We freeze dry it when we are doing other meats and package it in canning jars for storage.
I have freeze dried pork chops, loin, Boston butt, and shank hams, all sliced to fit the trays. I have done both cooked and uncooked pork, and they have all turned out great. The 25 to 30 year life of freeze-dried foods is a good investment.
The cost-benefit evaluation was positive. I spent about $950 on feed for the two hogs, and I had on hand all the items I needed for slaughter and butchering, except for buying a second freezer. The cost for pork that is free-range, organic with no growth hormones or antibiotics is higher than the grocery store price. If you look at organic meat sites on the Internet, pork prices range from $4.50 to $8.50/pound, depending upon the cut. Using an average price of $6.00 per pound, 500 pounds of pork is worth around $3,000. Subtracting the cost of feed and the freezer, I still had a profit of $1,500 as well as the satisfaction of all that pork for my family.
Raising, slaughtering, and butchering two hogs is a lot of work, but it is rewarding. It gives you experience and satisfaction that you can be more self-reliant and have a valuable skill that few of your neighbors, friends, and family have. Now I know we can survive without the grocery store. Plus, it is a really great story for my grandkids!
- 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
- 4 – From Piglets to Bacon- Part 4, by Animal House
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been part five 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.