Sunday was a huge day for us – our first pigs, Big Sister and Little Sister, went in for slaughter. It was a hard day, even though we weren’t going to be the ones doing the job. We’ve been to a hog slaughter before, and I’ll never forget having that experience, but unfortunately, we lack the proper setup to do the job right. If what we’re doing ultimately starts with trying to have a healthy respect for the animals we raise and the lives we take for the food we eat, how the animals are slaughtered plays a huge part in that.
Our other reason for taking them in is that we won’t be able to sell any meat that isn’t slaughtered at an inspected facility. We chose a small processing facility that does a very small number of animals on a given day. In this case, they do 10 hogs or less, once a week. I don’t know the numbers for cattle, but I do get the impression that they process quite a bit more beef. The facility was highly recommended by several farmers that we’ve spoken with, and I have no reservations about using them.
We’ll pick most of our meat up this Saturday, minus the smoked bacon and ham hocks. Everything else is coming home, and I do mean everything. I kept the hearts, livers, tongues… not sure what the plan is for that yet, but I didn’t want to let much go to waste. Everything else is either cut to order, or left for some plans we have.
Initially, I had planned on investing in the equipment to make our own sausage, but the expense is daunting for the right stuff. The Kitchen Aid meat grinder/sausage stuffer attachment does not have good reviews for any serious sausage making, and the LEM grinder and stuffer are pricey. I do have them saved, and we definitely will be acquiring them in the future. The processor we used makes award-winning sausage, and I’m happy to let him do the job.
We will be making three things from scratch that I’ve never tried before: lard, guanciale and bacon. The belly from Little Sister has been left fresh and in tact. Bacon work should start as early as next week. The guanciale will have a longer turn-around, and is going to require a little work to setup for curing in the basement, but I’m already dreaming of amatriciana with our guanciale, and sun-ripened tomatoes from our own vines. The timing ought to be just right.
The lard is probably the project I’m looking forward to the most. We’ve been without for WEEKS and it feels like an eternity. There haven’t been fresh biscuits in too long, and I feel like I’m failing my Southern in-laws. 😉 We’ll be making both back lard and leaf lard, the stuff used to make perfect, flaky pastry. I’m going to be a happy baker for quite awhile.
Overall, I think we set out to do exactly as we wanted with these pigs: learn. Our breeding stock Large Black Hogs will be here at the end of the month, and it’ll be NEXT fall before we have meat from their offspring, but the American Mulefoots will be coming in June, and we’ll have meat in the fall for sale. We learned a lot about fencing, feed, and what we don’t want from the animals we raise. We still have a lot to learn, but it doesn’t seem like such a large mountain to climb now. That knowledge is combined with the satisfaction that the work we’ve done thus far will stock our freezer for a full year.
We’ve met another huge goal in our quest for self-reliability when it comes to food. Next Sunday, I’ll be turning out a breakfast I can proudly say is all ours: bacon, eggs, thick-sliced toast, and a little dab of jam. It’s an accomplishment that we’ve been working towards for almost three years, and though it doesn’t seem like much, it represents an incredible amount of hard work and lessons learned.