Posts Tagged ‘home processing’

We’ve raised pigs in our pig tractor this year.  Once they’re full grown, what have we done with them?  The very first pig we butchered made his way to a pig roast.  For that pig, we (meaning my dad and husband) scalded and scraped it to be roasted whole.  The second pig we processed ourselves in the fall, and the third pig we just processed earlier this month (January).  Here’s a bit more on how we as relative beginners have been processing our pork at home.

We’re fortunate to have helpful and fairly knowledgable family, some past experience with deer (my husband) and general farm animal processing (my family), and the internet to fill in the gaps!

I’m breaking this up into several posts so the information isn’t as overwhelming, especially if you’re just looking for one part.  Here’s the “index” for what I’m adding right now, and I’ll throw in links for the pig tractor/pastured pigs, too.

A few thoughts on Sodium Nitrate

Homemade Pork Sausage/ Ground Pork

Homemade Bacon– sans sodium nitrate

Homemade Ham– sans sodium nitrate

Our current slicer– A cheap-o from Harbor freight- a review and a few tips

Packaging for the freezer- what we’re doing for now here

Pig tractor post 1– basic construction and little pigs in it- spring use

Pig tractor post 2– how it faired being used over the course of about 7  months- late spring, summer, and fall.

A few end notes on how the tractor faired into the winter is in my post here.

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We felt much more successful after completing our bacon from this pig.  This bacon was good flavored and didn’t end up too salty.

A few factors:

Our first try at bacon I used this recipe.  I rubbed 3 times, and believe we let it sit for 3 days after the last rub- 6 days total.  Then we soaked it to remove excess salt for 2 days?  It was okay, but not very good.  I still have to decide what to do with it all.

The belly itself seemed to be better flavor.  The first belly had a distinct “pig” odor to me, and mostly noticeable only to me.  Maybe it was the pig, maybe it was warmer vs. colder weather, maybe it was the male (although castrated) vs. female pig and the pee just contributes a “flavor” to the meat?  I don’t know.  I’m just glad it tasted a lot better to me this time!

The “cure” time was shorter on the dry rubbed version, and we tried a few more recipes to get better flavor(s).

The slicing process was easier; the cooking and chilling made a HUGE difference in how easily these sliced compared to my first try at bacon.  The details are below.

Note:  in both our first and second pig we processed at home, we did NOT have skin on our pork belly, since we skin rather than scalding and scraping our pigs.  I don’t think the process is  really affected by not having the skin on.

My first recipe was based on a post here at Craftzine, and another here at iamafoodblog.  The final directions I followed the first time (I would NOT repeat this!  see below for better options!):  1-5lb pork belly, 3/4 c salt, 3/8 c brown sugar, and 1 t pepper.  Dry rub once and put on racks over a sheet to drain of moisture as it’s drawn out. Flip and repeat the rub 1-2 times and make up more rub in the listed proportion as needed, cure 3-5 days more.  This was WAY too salty.  We soaked, re-dried, and sliced for the freezer.  We tried the same recipe as from our first bacon again, but with some changes, and it was better.  I only rubbed once and it didn’t sit as long, only 3-4 days total?  We still soaked off extra salt, but only for a few hours and it was tolerable before the soaking.

We tried some ziploc recipes this time as well.  I really liked the ziploc cured bacon better- less mess, easier to store in the fridge in less space, fewer pans to clean up or deal with the salt and metal corrosion, etc.  The only thing you need to be careful of is getting sugar and salt in the channels of the zippers.  It’s about impossible to get it out and have the zippers work again!  The dry rub also had a much higher proportion of salt that was impacting flavor.  I had no problems with anything spoiling with less salt.  These cured for 4 days and we checked them, they seemed to be “cured” at this point, but they sat for a few more days since they weren’t too salty, would gain additional flavor as they continued to “marinate” and I had other things to take care of first.

Recipe links and modifications:  I used canning and pickling salt for all recipes below, and each recipe I used on a 3-5 pound chunk of pork belly.  None of these had sodium nitrate, see my notes about that here.

Brown sugar and pepper–  I used 1/4 c brown instead of turbindo sugar, 1/4 c salt, and I only added 1/2 T, not 1/4 CUP(?!) of black pepper.

Molasses, white sugar, and pepper– I used 1/2 c sugar, 1 T molasses, 2 T salt, 1/2 t pepper.

Maple/faux maple , and a Honey version-  1/4 c salt, generous 1/2 c maple syrup or honey.  I tried one of each.  I didn’t have “real” maple syrup, so I used the fake stuff and added a teaspoon of maple flavoring as well.

The honey and maple mixes didn’t “rub”- I just couldn’t get it to stick to the meat, maybe it was too wet? I did combine them before applying to the meat- maybe if I had rubbed with salt first and then put on the liquid it would have worked better.  I ended up just putting it into the bag and I squished it around to help get all surfaces somewhat “covered”.  I put all the bags in a tub in the fridge.  They got flipped over once a day and “cured” for 4 days to a week.  I was pleased with all 4 versions.  I think I’ll definitely stick with this route next time rather than the dry rub.  It was easier all around.

This time I put these in the oven to “smoke”- see notes on smoking in the oven at the end of my ham posting.  The smoke didn’t happen, but I think this step helps to “set” the meat and the fat to make it easier to slice.  You just put it in the oven at about 200 until the internal temp of the bacon reaches 150.  Then cool and slice.  Another thing that helped a lot for slicing this time was to put the belly pieces in the freezer for about an hour to firm up.  They were easier to handle when manipulating them in my slicer and more of it was fully cut, so less was dragged back onto the working side.  Also, rather than crumpling and blocking up the food exit, more came out in perfect slices.  Some is still smaller or falls apart, but there was a higher quantity of the typical bacon slices you’d get at the store.  Then just package, label, and put in the freezer to enjoy later.


Check my “index” post for more on how we’ve been raising and home processing our pigs.

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We don’t have a vacuum sealer.  We’ve (so far) used ziplocks and dipped them (with meat inside) in a pan of cold water to smoosh out most of the air, zipping the last bit of the bag once the air is forced out.  It’s working okay for now.  I’ll have to see how they hold up over time in the freezer.

I’ve used a straw to suck the air out of the ziplock for twice baked potatoes (basic recipe here).  But I’m not doing that with raw meat.

We did purchase some 1 lb. ground meat bags that we’ve sealed with twist ties.  Unless they show excellent performance or I can find them more cheaply and/or locally, I’m not sure the expense is justified.  Not to mention my package was sent to MN originally (instead of NY- not sure how that’s possible) and I had track stuff down and have them re-sent to me…

I’ve put my ziplocks into shopping bags- actually 2 of them- to help protect a bit more in the freezer.

Labeling often is easier before you put stuff in the bags, but the trick is to know how many bags you need!

Check my “index” post for more on how we’ve been raising and home processing our pigs.

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Sodium Nitrate is also comes under the names of Saltpeter, Cure 1, and Pink Salt.  There’s a lot of controversy out there about this product.  I’m including a bit about it since I’m sharing some of my beginning home processing notes.  There’s posts around with definite opinions one way or another.  I haven’t checked any facts or accuracy of any of these, I’m just putting links so you can get a basic picture of the different positions.

One that gives some cautions as well as a recipe for ham without sodium nitrate is here at Sugar Mountain Farm.

One that gives some insight into the commercial hams cured without “added” nitrates is here at Health Castle.

Information that defends the use of sodium nitrate is here at the American Meat Institute. and here at Meatsafety.org.

I don’t have any particular opinion at this time on using sodium nitrate.  I didn’t use it because:

1) I didn’t have it on hand

2) I wasn’t sure where I could quickly get it locally

3) I didn’t want the extra expense (although minimal) to making the bacon and ham

4) I didn’t want to use it if it wasn’t necessary.  I cured all of these in refrigeration, so temp was not an issue.   All of my meat would be stored in the freezer- no country style hams hanging in our garage.  All would be fully cooked before consumption.  Why use it if it’s not needed?   My (beginners) understanding is that the botulism risk is related to improper temperatures, not being cooked thoroughly, and significant time passing with no ingredients to help counteract possible botulism action (like salt- not that salt will take care of it all, but it combats the formation, in my understanding of the process).   I ran across some information that the “curing” doesn’t happen below a certain temperature, so refrigerated curing wouldn’t work.  I have found (so far) that the meat is flavoring fine in the fridge.

5) My little girls can get in to A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G.  Sodium Nitrate is poisonous in quantity.  It’s one less “dangerous” thing in my house if I don’t have to use it.

I might possibly try it in ham in the future- that brown-grey colored ham doesn’t have a lot of appeal, but then again, maybe it won’t bother me that much.  I don’t think it will make any significant contribution to bacon- it cooks up brown anyhow.

Do your research and make an informed decision.

Check my “index” post for more on how we’ve been raising and home processing our pigs.

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We ground pork using 2 different kinds of motorized grinders.  For each we cut into strips or small chunks and put everything through the grinder twice.

I posted the recipe we use for breakfast sausage the other day here.

We formed most of it into patties and flash-froze them, then stuck them in bags of 10 in the freezer.  A few pounds we left in bulk.

We also made up some mild italian sausage from the first pig, but it was a pre-made mix my husband had from his deer hunting days, so there’s no recipe to share.  Some of this we formed into big sausage/hot dog shapes and froze, but most of it is in bulk form in the freezer.

We didn’t stuff any links.  We don’t have the right attachment for the grinder and it isn’t a priority right now.  Breakfast sausages can be eaten in patties as easily as links.  I haven’t ventured into making any specialty sausages or hot dogs and don’t have plans to do so any time soon.

Check my “index” post for more on how we’ve been raising and home processing our pigs.

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