Here at Hickery Holler we have raised a pig or two every year. Fed from our overabundant gardens and supplemented with locally produced grain. Raised on the ground as opposed to stuck in a small concrete enclosure. For us the most expensive thing about raising our own pork is not in the feeding but rather in the butchering, processing and curing of the meat.
The extra pig we sold last year sold for 0.79 cents a pound. Processing fees for killing our pig alone ran almost $230.00. We did not make enough profit from the pig we sold to pay for our own butchering. We decided then and there that the next year we would do our own. So when pork butt went on sale the other day for $1.48 cents a pound we decided to start experimenting with making our own buckboard bacon. Buckboard bacon is bacon made from cuts other than the tradition belly meat that most purchased bacon is made from. A pound of a good cured bacon right now starts at about $3 and some even runs up to $6 a pound.
We already butcher our own chickens, turkeys, rabbits and deer. We already own a grinder, sausage stuffer, mixer, smoker and vacuum sealer. We process several deer every year including grinding our own venison burger and making venison jerky and sausage. So we made a decision to do our own pigs this year. We purchased for our first attempt a packaged mix for smoking above. We figured for a first attempt this would be a safe alternative. Complete with everything needed premixed and directions for use.
It was just a matter of trimming our pork butt into manageable slabs. Soaking in a brine for 10 days in the fridge. Then rinsing and soaking again. Then rinsing and allowing to rest for a certain amount of time and then smoking.
We smoked ours in a combination of hickory and apple wood until it reached the desired internal temperature.
Then allowing the meat to cool and slicing it for packaging. Since it was such a small amount, only 15 pounds we decided to slice it by hand as opposed to getting out the commercial slicer. That thing is a pain to clean!
Part of our pork butt became chunks of smoked pork for all those packages of red beans that I have frozen in my freezer. Not to mention all the jars of field peas that I canned that are sitting on the pantry shelf. This will make a great seasoned smoked meat for adding to those bean pots for seasoning.
Once chunked up it went into vacuum sealed bags and was labeled as seasoning meat. It would also be great in casseroles, soups, omelets and quiches.
The remaining was sliced as bacon.
This was also vacuum sealed and frozen.
We also fried up some for sampling. My favorite part : ) The taste was kind of a cross between the taste of bacon and the taste of ham. From what I have read that is what we were going for. Next we want to try smoking some pork loin which they say is similar to the taste and texture of Canadian bacon. If you use traditional pork belly meat then you get traditional bacon. As meat goes on sale we will continue to experiment and sample what we like best in preparation for processing our own pork once our hogs are ready to butcher.
One thing I did notice is that if you will look in the picture above there is very little grease in the frying pan. When you buy store bought bacon after just frying a few pieces there is so much fat and liquid in the pan. I wonder if it is because of the water they are pumped full of ?
But one thing about it was the taste was great. We look forward to trying our hand at mixing some of our own spices and experimenting with different cuts of meat.
This is a great tutorial on making buckboard bacon with recipes and lots of pictures.
This is a link for making home cured bacon in the oven from traditional belly meat
another site on home curing belly meat
This should be enough to get you started and I am sure there are more out there. I will be sure to keep you updated on future experiments into home curing and butchering. Until then...
Blessings from The Holler
The Canned Quilter