From Piglets to Bacon- Part 5, by Animal House

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.

Oven Roasting

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.

Liquid Smoke

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.

Canning Bacon

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.)

Instructions

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.

Freeze Drying

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.

Conclusion

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!

See Also:

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:

First Prize:

  1. 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.
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
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  4. 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),
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
  7. Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value), and
  8. American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.

Second Prize:

  1. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
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Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
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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.




20 Comments

  1. Never raised my pork, but used to buy one on the hood from a local farmer. Kudos for doing 2 in a row. Mine were always a year apart. I used A USDA guide for purchasing freezer meat as my butchering guide. Pretty much just a cartoon pic of where the cuts originate. That and memories of 6th grade anatomy. A few things I’ve learned. 1. If you want sausage casings, stop feeding a few days before butchering so the intestines are empty. 2. It’s a royal pain in the neck to skin the head and feet, but if you want homemade scrapple both are a must. 3. I found it worth my money to have a local butcher cure my hams and bacon. But he’s out of business now, so thankful for the info on doing my own.

    1. Nurse Kim, Thanks for the comments on casings. As a novice I didn’t try to save the intestines, but next time I will try it. I just make my sausages into 1 pd rolls for now.

      1. Larry, you can change your name in the Name box under Leave a Reply. The software publishes whatever you type in the box. The editor does not handle name changes. & welcome.

    1. Larry, You are correct about a lot of fat! When we skinned the animal we took off most of the fat. I left about 1 to 2 inches on the carcass for cooling. When I did the butchering I cut the remaining fat off and saved about 6 pds of fat for sausage making, rendering for cooking grease and candle making.

  2. Thank you, Animal House, for this very informative series. I believe you have a very good chance of winning one of the writing prizes. You have a good way to describing what you did & what you learned, & I hope you will consider writing on another topic.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. When I started this journey I didn’t have a lot of info so I thought I would share my story to encourage others to try. Too many of us think we can’t do something, when we really can!

    1. Pete, The book is Butchering Poultry, Rabbit, Lamb, Goat and Pork by Adam Danforth. It is a Comprehensive Photographic Guide to Humane Slaughtering and Butchering. The website editors linked the word “book” to amazon for your convenience. You can find the link in the article.

  3. We raised six heritage pigs last season opting to co-opt three of them for friends and using three for our own purposes. We use the fat to combine game meat for sausage making etc. I use an old grain chopper from sears and roebuck, and source wheat, barley, and pea screenings as well as other gleanings to make feed less expensive. The feed chopper is flat belt driven by an old Ford 8N tractor. Co-opting pork can be less expensive with 4 families sourcing feed and resource’s. One with an apple orchard and another who farms alfalfa and hay significantly lessen the cost of raising pork.

  4. In my experience of hog butchering the hogs were killed using a 22 and were shot at all most point blank range in the forehead. I am just wondering in what part of the hogs body did you shoot?

    1. Anonymous, shot between the eyes, like the book advised. I was surprised the 2nd hog didn’t drop immediately. She went down in about 10 minutes, which was too long for my comfort.

  5. I have read elsewhere (maybe on SB) that the proper place for a kill shot is the center of an “X” drawn between the left eye and right ear and right eye and left ear. This supposedly holds true for any livestock.

  6. Nurse Kim, first great article. Thank you for taking the time to write this up. Second, as you found out a 9mm handgun is not the best weapon for dispatching a pig. The skull is just too heavily boned. A .45 ACP is on the edge too but far better than the 9mm. Use a FMJ bullet!

    What I have learned to use is a 5.56 Nato/.233 Win. round. A larger bullet isn’t necessary and if you have to use a follow-up shot on a running pig the round damages less meat.

    We put a pile of feed on the ground, shoot the pig between the eyes as it is eating and once the pig falls over, I put another round or two in the jugular which starts the bleeding process early. Bring the tractor into the pig compound, put a 3′ long piece of rebar in the previously cut rear leg tendon pockets. Fasten a chin to the rebar and lift up the chain, rebar, pig with the tractors bucket then properly slice the jugular.

    last, we make scrapple with the head and offal.I use my Grandmothers recipe for the scrapple with a few adjustments for our taste.

    Again, great job! Thank you.

  7. Warning, this is a bit graphic however it is as quick a method as I know… I use a 22 magnum rifle with the highest grain round I can find. I’d never use a pistol. The rifle has higher velocity and larger calibers cause more meat damage. I use a single shot rifle for safety. My goal is the X between the eyes, the trajectory of the round is into the body cavity. Then as quickly as I can while the critter is stunned I stick the pig with a rather long very sharp knife severing primary arteries deeply into the neck and toward the heart before it starts to kick, and jump out of the way. It takes a bit of courage but reduces thrashing to about 20-30 seconds. The 22 magnum always penetrates the entire skull but doesn’t damage meat. Its fairly easy to track the round if you need to know. If you get the trajectory right look in the lungs. I apologize for the graphic nature of this post, I figure, if your embracing self reliance,and survivability you need to know.

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