Sunday, January 15, 2012

Processing the Pork - 220 lbs

We have spent the last two days processing the 220 lbs of pork we picked up from the butcher on Friday, a hog raised by friends from church. We choose to process this ourselves, it saves money plus it teaches the techniques that most of our grandparents took for granted but we have all but lost over the last 50 years or so. You can't let that type of knowledge die, it may come in handy when you least expect it.

For background, we do not live on a farm although we have five acres and some chickens for eggs. We are about an hour from the city proper and perhaps 20-40 minutes from suburbia, depending on how suburban you get, but we were raised in town. Money is tight in this economy and carpentry is not the best occupation to have right now, thankfully I also work outside the home and we can scrape by, but we are careful. We estimate this pork will cost us, include hog and butchering, $1.45 per pound give or take. I just saw bacon in Schnucks grocery for over $6, and I believe it was less than a pound. Pork steaks on sale are about $1.89, sometimes over $2. Pork Steak, for those of you not familiar with it, is a well known St. Louis cut using the shoulder or butt meat. You BBQ it slowly, the slower the better, maybe six hours with indirect, extremely low heat. They actually fall off the bone.

Now that you have some background, here we go. The photo above is one of the two long cut hams. It includes the back legs down to the hock which is just above the feet. It is attached because it will be used to hang the hams, making a Country Ham, like the kind you see unrefrigerated and wrapped in burlap. It will mold but that is cut off before eating. Keeping the hock attached helps to prevent something called bone sour which is when the meat begins to rot before the cure can work. It must be kept at a particular temperature during curing. This is an experiment for us so we will have to test for bone sour before we can eat the ham.

The same ham is used to make the normal city ham, quick cured and not aged.

Morton Salt Site

Combination Cure for Hams: Wet and Dry to lessen the chance of bone sour
Morton Smoke Flavored Sugar Cure for Long Cut Hams
Morton Sugar Cure for the picnic hams, bacon and jowls
Shoulder: No cure, smoked.


Cure on the long cut hams.

Inject the picnic hams. We are making our city hams out of the picnic hams, although you typically used the long cut piece with the hock removed.

Cure on the picnic hams

Set them on a metal try and wrap all in plastic. Store in fridge for 5 days, take out and put on more cure and then put back in fridge for 35 more days. Remove and soak in water, dry and replace for another 20 days for salt equalization so the salt is distributed evenly through the meat.


Shoulders were smoked for 12 hrs and then completed in the oven overnight at 225 degrees F.

Removed and pulled.

Very tender.

All that is left of it is a small bone. Here is a bone compared to the other shoulder.

Here is the large bowl after pulling one shoulder.


Bacon- look how meaty.

Side view

The bacon is double stacked next to each other with jowels in front. We smoked the bacon last year but we will just cure it this time. The jowels will be salted and smoked along with the hocks. The meat on it is incredible. I can't find packaged bacon anywhere with as much meat as this has.

The bacon was cut into about 1 to 1 1/4 lb packages, cured and packaged "skin" side down. It will be refrigerated for 14 days- about 7 days for every inch thickness. It will be stored in the refrigerator with the hams. This is the dedicated curing fridge we brought back from my grandmother's house after she passed away. We can monitor the temperature and make sure it's optimal since it's not opened and closed or additional items placed in it.


The jowls weighed in at 3 lbs each, cut into smaller sections.

The hocks are between the feet and the long part of the long cut ham. There's a link to a diagram below. The hocks were left on the long cut rear leg hams but removed from the front legs.


We'll grind the sausage, trimming the various pieces of large amounts of fat but making sure there is enough to add the flavor. If properly cooked, most of the fat melts out.

We have about 15 lbs of sausage meat. We will package this up in pound packages and make links if we want to later.

Tomorrow my husband will spend the day vacuum sealing.


Raised by church acquaintances who have a farm so they grow their own feed as well. It weighted out at 301 lbs before butchering, 220 was butchered weight. Some people believe the hog should not be so large, large equaling more fat; however, the farmer wife said this is exactly what you want. More fat on the hog- good fat-equals better taste. The big pork producers try to lean up the pig which affects flavor, not to mention whatever hormones might also be going into it that you don't know.

two long cut hams 25 lbs each
two picnic hams are 7 lbs each
shoulders are 11 lbs meat- after cooking: pulled pork
hocks - 2 for a total of 6 lbs
bacon about 1 1/4 packets for about 20-22 lbs total
neck bones
jowls - 3 lbs each for a total of 6 lbs
sausage meat from the misc parts- 15 lbs

We did not get (some by choice):
head- except misc meat from within the head such as jowels or sausage meat
feet (they are prohibited from law)
fatback- we will ask for this next year
Internal organs for casings, chitterlings, and other things many would find sort of gross but are commonly eaten.

The butcher shop is a family owned, very rural operation. The entire family is excited that someone is taking an interest in processing meat like in the old days, in fact they have offered any help or assistance we may need. We would like to get the food grade bags like they use rather than wrapping with a cling wrap.

link to pig parts diagram British and American


dr momi said...

thank-you for this. I so want to do our own processing next year!

3rnigerians said...

I agree with Dr. Momi. Thank you so much Kathy. It's amazing how much meat you got from that animal. I am looking forward to finding out how your "experiment" on the country ham works out. I hope it turns out fantastic. The bacon looks so meaty... in truth, every cut looks wonderful.. I am so happy and excited for you.

Lisa said...

I am absolutely amazed at what you accomplished! Way to go Kathy! Look at how much money you have saved and all the beautiful meat you have in storage. I am so impressed and will bookmark this post for future reference. You have encouraged me! Thanks so much for sharing this on my "Made From Scratch" Blog hop.


Kathy Felsted Usher said...

This is our second year doing this, but the first for hanging the big hams. I hope it all works out ok! Last year's meat was very good.

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

I'll have to remember to take photos when my husband starts cooking with it. He makes pulled pork pizza, pulled pork quesadillas, etc.

MarmePurl said...

How Timely! We were just discussing the possiblity of raising a couple of hogs in the coming year. You post has already answered some of the questions I was going to start researching today. Many thanks.

Candy C. said...

Wow, I'm impressed with you guys knowledge and skill in doing something like this! My hubby would never want to go "whole hog" into a project such as this one. I hope you remember to take pictures when ya'll start cooking with it!

Christy said...

My brother-in-law did this and they too saved tons of money!

Yahoobuckaroo's Blog said...

"We did not get... the head, ears, tail, Internal organs."

MacDonald's would have gladly taken them for their McRibs. :-)

"We would like to get the food grade bags...."

Why not just use butcher paper?

What did you do with the hocks? Sausage? Seasoning? We used to cut them into 2" steaks for seasoning beans etc.

Boy, that's a lot of time and effort with all the curing and smoking. I envy your patience. I've never done it and didn't know it took so long. My mom weighed 275 when she died. My dad weighed 410. Needless to say, I grew-up eating pigs on the hoof!

You might try using cooking bags for your pulled pork. You can cook as high as 400 with them and still have meat come out incredibly tender. They cook much faster in a bag too. (Make sure to cut a slit in the top of them.) I've never used them on pork, but I used to cook chuck roasts in them to make BBQ beef sandwich meat (like Rinks) and you can pull it apart with your fingers just fine.

Fun post!

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

McRib- never had one but my husband says they are the best. I am not a McDonalds fan, except their fries are ok. If I have to eat fast food it's Jack In The Box TACOS!!!! I just can't help it. Greasy fried tacos. Taco Bell is ok, the bean burrito with extra red sauce- not hot sauce but the stuff that is already in it. Maybe a Steak N Shake single burger, extra well done, with extra pickles and covered with ketchup. I have a terrible time stopping at fast food places. I hate their hamburgers and don't like chicken or fish sandwiches. Doesn't leave much, does it?

Food Grade Bags- for the curing. The bags the butcher uses looks like trash bags but you can't use normal plastic bags for this because they are not food safe. You could use ziplock but they are not big enough.

Hocks- you know, I forgot! It was two really long days! I never said what we did with them and can't even remember.

Yahoobuckaroo's Blog said...

I like Wendys burgers. Their cheap double stack is a great bargain. MacDonalds hamburger meat started tasting odd to me several years ago and still does, like there's a chemical in it now that's just wierd tasting. I like them before then. I can't hardly eat them now.

Andrea @ Frugally Sustainable said...

This is an amazing post! I love how informative it is. I'd be honored for you to share it today at Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways! Here's your link:

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

Thank you, Andrea. I'll link up!

Catawissa Gazetteer said...

Hey Yahoo!

I loves me some hocks! I salted them bad boys up extra heavy 'cause one's goin' int'a a big ol' pot a beans an' t'other is goin' int'a a big o'l pot'a greens. Collards is one'a my fav'rite foods!

What is it about cutting on pig meat that makes me want to talk like Jed Clampett? Or just like most of the Missouri boys I've worked with most of my life? Must bring out the hoosier in me (and I don't mean a person from Indiana for all you non-St. Louisans out there), which, admittedly, isn't lurking that far below the surface most times anyway.