One thing that’s important to us has been tomake sure everything is used from the animals we butcher, or as they say when it comes to pigs, “everything but the oink”. And if you look it up, there is literally something you can do with every part of the pig if you make the effort. When it’s happening on your own property, you have the opportunity to do even more, like collect the blood to use for sausage at the time of slaughter, and use more of the offal for various dishes. This year, we got our half pig from Portland in primals, so we didn’t get every single bit, and somehow during their processing they forgot to get the head for us! Being that that’s pretty special to us, we were stoked when our neighbor up the hill texted to see if we wanted the head of a Yorkshire pig she’d just processed for someone. Oh heck yeah! I practically pushed my husband out the door to run up and grab it from her 🙂
Why? Guanciale, of course! Also known as “cheek bacon” or “jowl bacon”, guanciale is the ingredient for carbonara, my favorite pasta dish on the planet. And this gilt had great cheeks! The other bonus for my husband was that, unlike the Kune Kune from last year, she was a whole lot easier to cut for this purpose due to the more streamlined shape of her head (let’s just say Kune Kunes are more like the pug of the pig world, relatively speaking). We were able to get well over a pound or so of cheek, which this year we used Hank Shaw’s recipe for that we love.
Along with that, after our dog inhaled the snout and ears we gave her as treats (she was not even interested in having us roast and dry it, haha), we decided instead of trying our hand at making head cheese and more, we’d give the tongue, brains and eyes and stuff to our meat chickens who we’re working on fattening up in these final weeks of their lives. Then husband turned over the skull to me where I then did some serious stock making. Was that it? Nope. Afterwards we then cracked the skull in a few places and then put the bones out into the chicken tractor for them to pick clean. They loved it!
Here’s how we did the pig’s head from start to finish:
The bottom right photo is in the pantry where we hang our meat, so along with the two cheeks currently curing for 2 weeks, you can also see our year-old prosciutto that we started last fall and will break open next harvest! We use one of those fine mesh protective bags that you put over plants that has a drawstring and it’s been perfect to keep any optimistic flies away. 🙂
And speaking of what we’re also doing with our pork…
- Below left is our new prosciutto in progress, in the 2nd week of curing, slowly starting to suck up all those pounds and pounds of kosher salt that’s covering the garlicky paste goodness, being occasionally turned until it’s time later this fall to rinse it off, cover it with lard, hang it and….just try to ignore it for 18-24 months!
- Below right is the bottom half of our upright freezer with all of the pig my husband butchered and I then packaged and labeled. We learned our lesson on the belly and cut it up into smaller portions so we weren’t suddenly looking at 5 lbs of cured bacon in the fridge and eating it 24/7!
While we know not everyone chooses to eat meat, we do want to encourage those who do to take the next step in learning where our meat comes from and taking active steps to improve your decision making in a way that is not only informed, but healthier, humaner and more sustainable.
(Example: here in Oregon you hear a lot about Carlton Farms being the ‘best’ for local pork – heck, New Seasons carries it as does our local butcher in Astoria, so it can’t be half bad, right? Well, here’s the deal: they are NOT raising pigs! They are simply a distributor for farmers who contract through them! So you don’t go to their ‘farm’ and see the pigs that will someday end up in your grocer’s meat case or on the menu of your favorite woke restaurant. And also? Most of their pork is…not from Oregon! Only 5-10% of their pork is not raised here and the rest comes from places like Montana, Iowa, and even Canada! Yikes! Kind of like – but not AS bad – as the facade that Tillamook puts on of being an ethical dairy company, when a large percentage of their milk comes from CAFOs in Southeast Oregon…NOT the grassy meadows of Tillamook near the creamery!).
In the immortal words of George Michael, if you’re gonna do it, do it right…