This week we did our second butchery of a half-pig (we just don’t eat enough pork nor have the freezer space this year with 48 chickens awaiting their sentencing later this month…) and had great fun!
Last year we got a half pig sourced by our neighbor who did the slaughter/evisceration for us (we don’t have the infrastructure/tools for it at this point), and then we brought it to our kitchen to butcher. He was a Kune Kune and like the name, definitely fat and round!! Ultimately we found that he was a great lard pig, but for most charcuterie purposes, NOT a great one for things like salami, as the meat was infiltrated with fat everywhere – making it nearly impossible to get the lean meat to fat proportions even close. We *do* have a prosciutto that’s been hanging for almost a year in our pantry, and will probably leave it to go another 6-12 months if we can handle the suspense 🙂
This year, our neighbor did not want to do the scald/scrape and only offered us a half pig if it was skinned. Since we are primarily a charcuterie family, and therefore that skin is super valuable (there ain’t no prosciutto without skin, y’all!), that was a no-go. She did donate the head to us for guanciale though which was pretty rad…and our dog got the snout and the ear, the latter pictured below as the only evidence of it as she first took off running with it hanging out of her mouth, freshly cut off the head (so much for drying it for a treat for her later, haha…), so I snapped this as she stood by the back door and found a way to swallow it in like 3 bites. (Yeah she was a bit gassy that night, paying the price for coveting it like that hahaha…)
Anyhow, then we went to a local farm down the street who does half- and whole- pig shares and yet again, even if we paid more, their mobile butcher refused to scald/scrape and would only skin (even for a whole pig)! For me it’s a heartbreaking thing to see a pig raised to not have its entire body used. Ironically, this is the same farm we’d gotten chickens from last year who decided that they would remove all the giblets and sell them SEPARATELY rather than put them in the body of the bird like normal chicken usually include. They also reacted strangely to us wanting all the offal and the head. Who doesn’t want the head for guanciale at the very least? We are definitely motivated to share charcuterie passion with folks here in our coastal town now, no doubt!
So um yeah, not a fit.
In that this last situation happened just a few weeks ago and finding a pig locally was proving to be impossible, I decided to check out our favorite pork producer in Portland, Tails & Trotters, to see what their half-pig program looked like. They produce a pork loin that makes me forget where I am it’s so lovely, and raise Berkshire/Duroc pigs here in the Northwest that are bred for creating a “Northwest Prosciutto”, hazelnut finished and all that good stuff. So yeah, when I emailed and asked him if they kept the skin on, it was “of course” from the owner, who has a similar respect for piggies. Suh-weet. And they were more than happy to just give us the half pig cut into primals (for easier transport since we’d have our dog with us and were guessing that she would not be well behaved with a half carcass next to her hahaha…) so my husband – a meat cutter and charcuterie lover himself – could do his own butchery at home. Plus they gave us a deal and didn’t charge cut fees like some places wanted to (one place locally wanted to ship the pig out to be processed 2 hours away – horribly stressful on the pig to be transported before kill – and still charge us for cut fees even though we didn’t want it cut…sigh…), and sent us home with some nice samples to boot.
This piggy was the same (~115 lbs or so) size as the last one but the meat/fat ratio was soooo different. The gorgeous back leg was a nice 25 lbs (after the hock was cut off for other uses) for our next prosciutto, there was still a nice amount of fat for lard rendering, the belly was gorgeous for bacon, and I am STOKED about the ribs.
For those who haven’t butchered, it’s definitely a good thing to tag team the process. As we knew after last year that we were going to be dog-tired at the end of the day (and it was my husband’s Sunday as we’d spent the prior day doing the 4 hour roundtrip drive to Portland to pick up the pig), we just froze all the meat set aside for grind and will make sausage later, and made my focus for the day packaging (amen, FoodSaver!), weighing, and labeling so nothing got too warm. It was a great thing as well that we’d kept the fridge that had come with the house, stored the garage (unplugged of course) this past year, as it had more than enough room for the primals to stay chilled until their time came up to go onto our kitchen island for cutting 🙂
Here are some pictures of the event:
Below is an overview what we ended up getting, minus the leaf lard, trotters, hocks and bones that I didn’t get around to weighing…
Berkshire-Duroc Half Pig
- Spare Ribs – 4 lbs, 12 oz
- Baby Back Ribs – 1 lb, 7 oz
- Pork Belly – 14 lbs, 13 oz
- Tenderloin – 8 oz
- Loin – 6 lbs, 11 oz
- Butt – 10 lbs, 3 oz
- Shoulder – 12 lbs, 7 oz
- “Li’l Ham” – 1 lb
- Grind – 9 lbs, 15 oz
- Fat (non-Leaf Lard) – 11 lbs, 11 oz
- Skin (non-Prosciutto) – 3 lbs, 8 oz
For piggy fans like us, what kind of pigs are your favorite to raise and/or butcher and why? Or for those who have never, what’s on your wish list…?