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I am getting a pig - now what?

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 08 October 2015 at 06:37
My wife is definitely going to kill me, but with pork so expensive at the store, and the quality of said pork at the store so...mediocre...it was very hard to not get this.

I'm getting a pig from a local farm that has a very good reputation for their pork. A colleague at work has known the family for several years, and recommended them.

The pig has been fed barley, wheat and peas. 

The weight "on the hoof" is about 300 pounds. 

Butchering is scheduled for Friday, October 8th.

The cost is 1.15 per pound "on the rail," plus 0.65 per pound for processing.

I am no expert, but it seemed a fair deal to me, and certainly better than paying 2 or 3 times as much at the store for pork from who-knows-where.

Now, of course - how should I have it processed? 

I am preparing a list to go over with the butcher. I am trying to think ahead to barbecues next summer, but also to a few charcuterie projects over the fall and winter, and of course some good home-cooked meals as well. These are some ideas off the top of my head, just going on what I know of pork and from my experience butchering deer:

2 picnic roasts (skin-on)
2 Boston butts (skin-on)
Loin roasts (probably boneless, but I will see what the options are)
Chops (probably boneless, but I will see what the options are)
Back ribs
Spare ribs (trimmed St. Louis style, if possible)
2 tenderloins
2 bellies (skin-on)
2 sirloin roasts
4 hams - split (skin-on)
Shanks - (skin-on)
Hocks
Trotters
Country style ribs
Jowls (skin-on, glands removed)
Pork cut into cubes/chunks (as much as possible)
Ground Pork (anything that can't be cut into cubes or chunks)
Neck bones
Heart
Liver
Tongue
Ears
Tail
Back fat
Appropriate fat for rendering lard
Bones for soup, stock and the dog

I am sure that there is more, but I can't think of anything at the moment. My main concern is that I want to make sure I get a few things that might not normally be thought of, such as back fat, heart, trotters etc. I considered the head, but I am sure that The Beautiful Mrs. Tas will put her foot down on that, and probably for good reason. I will ask them to get every scrap possible for ground, though. A "whole pork shoulder" is something I've always wanted to do, but the reality is that when the time comes to put in the time to actually do it, I will probably wish that I hadn't - so, I split the shoulders - same with the hams. I considered the ears, tail etc. for various projects, but that's probably getting a little more into it than is realistic or practical. Part of the reason I am really wanting this pig is for curing and smoking projects, So I probably won't have any curing or sausage-making done at the shop, but will give that matter some more thought.

Any other advice on what to tell the butcher would be helpful. I'd like to do any curing and smoking myself.

Thanks in advance....

Ron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gonefishin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 October 2015 at 08:39
   Hi Tas, congrats!

      Every time I put in order in for a pig I contemplate if I should go with roast Vs cut (like chops, etc).  What I've been doing lately is getting half of the pig cut in roast sections and the other half cut in chop sections.  As you know, every time you choose a cut, you give up another possible cut.   Treating it like two halves has helped me.

    I always have them give me pork chunks, in 5lb packages, rather than getting it ground up.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it and what grind I may prefer...I figure I'll grind it and choose myself when I'm making my sausage, etc.

    Skin on or off?  I've done both and I'm not sure what I'll do on my next whole hog, this fall.  On every cut I ask them to leave the full thickness of fat, even when removing the skin.  Because I leave the full thickness of fat on, I don't get back fat from my pig.  This isn't a big deal...I just ask for a separate order of back fat.  Back fat doesn't weigh much and it's really cheap!  Even when it's frozen it cuts nice and easy.  When I'm trimming the pork to cook...because there is full thickness fat I can decide at the time how I want it trimmed.  Then render down any trimmings and save.  The bulk pork fat I buy is for sausages.  So, skin on or off.  I think I'll get skin off of every thing this time...then next pig I'll have to decide again...nothing wrong with mixing it up.  But I always make sure to ask them to save every bit of fat when they're taking the skin off...especially on the belly.

   Pork belly, jowl...I always specify that they keep it fresh and don't cure it.  Most times they cure both...be sure to specify you'll do that.  The hams...I like the way my place cures the hams...so I have them prepare them.   When you're going to cure the belly for bacon...don't forget to take a little bit off to braise, etc.  

   Don't forget that the fat in a good farm raised pig is quite different than store bought pork.  It will literally render at lower temperatures.  Because of this pay particular attention to how you cook or sear the meat.  It can certainly take a sear...but get it good and hot...sear it...then move it to a much more gentle heat.  Hams, if they're cured and fully smoked...only hit the reheat temp...no need to wring out every bit of fat from the meat...although it'll still be quite tasty.

   One of the the things I love about good beef and pork is the smell.  It smells like an animal!  The fat, the meat...it smells so much better!

   enjoy!
  Dan
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 October 2015 at 09:58
I always follow the philosophy of keeping my options open. In this case it means leaving the skin on (you can always remove it yourself if the recipe dictates it), and going with as large a cut as feasible.

Thus, I would rather have a full rack of pork. That means I can divide it into chops, if I want, or cut our the loin; saving the bones for stock of course.

Similarly, I would go with whole shoulders. You can always sub-divide as needs dictate.
But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 October 2015 at 10:51
Just have 'em deliver the whole hog and cook it up whole! We'll all come over and help you eat it Cool
Mike
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drinks Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 October 2015 at 12:43
Ron, I am sure any wetback would love to get the head.
The best tamales are made of head and anything else that is cheap.
Some of the best I have done was with gizzards, chicken or turkey as are available and with thanksgiving just over the hill, turkey gizzards are soon to be available.
Just cook the head in a large pot, separate the meat, strain the juice to mix the masa and get a bunch of corn shucks, cook the other meat, grind everything in a coarse plate, 8-12 mm, season as you like and start steaming.
I would say a 300 lb pig is a bit large for my taste, 200 lb is closer as I prefer more lean meat and less fat.
To that end, I just found a feral piglet, vacuum packed, in my freezer.
From the magic marker info on the package, it has ONLY been hiding for 2.5 years.
still looks good, sugar curing now, I should smoke cook it's little carcass in about 3 days.
I shall take a picture, before and after.
I estimate the live weight was about 15lb.
Only doing the front half, with shoulders at this time.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GarethM Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 October 2015 at 01:47
Ron,

This might be of some interest:
http://www.amazon.com/The-River-Cottage-Meat-Book/dp/1580088430

He also runs a course, and is sometimes known as Hugh Fearlessly-EatsAnything ;)
http://www.butcherbakerblog.com/2008/12/13/pig-in-a-day-with-hugh-fearnley-whittingstall/

Gareth

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 October 2015 at 06:45
Outstanding, everyone - thank you for the ideas and advice! Your suggestions make good sense; I've incorporated much of it into my modified list above, and will be discussing other aspects with the butcher, probably today. I've been going back and forth on a few things, but will probably elect to keep most cuts whole and in roasts as Brook advises, rather than in individual portions, for the sake of versatility. I definitely like the Dan's suggestion of having much of it in chunks that can be ground or used for other purposes as I choose.

Mike - It's tempting! 

Don - I thought about keeping the head - I honestly did - but for the sake of family harmony, I figured that I may just as well have it well-trimmed of usable meat. Besides, I'm not sure I have a pot big enough to hold a whole head! 

Gareth - outstanding suggestions. I've seen a bit from that River Cottage, and like what they do. I'll probably get the book as soon as I can, and will definitely read the blog.

Thanks again, guys - I consider myself much more prepared, now!

Reading around, I found that you can estimate your yield; according to the averages, 72% of live weight is the dressed weight. 66% of dressed weight will be the average final yield. But that's all dependent on the cuts you get, what you keep or discard, of course.

Recognizing that this is an estimate, I did a little bit of math, and came up with this:


YIELD

Estimated live weight: 300 lbs

x .72 per formula

= Estimated dressed weight:  216 pounds

x .66 per formula

= Estimated yield of processed pork: 143 pounds


COST

Estimated 216 pounds "on the rail"

x 1.15$ stated price for the pig

= Estimated cost of 248.40$ for the pig


Estimated 216 pounds "on the rail"

x .65 stated processing price

= Estimated cost of 140.40$ for the processed pork.


FINAL COST

248.40$ Estimated cost of pig

+ 140.40$ Estimated cost for processed pork

= 388.80$ Total estimated cost of pig and pork


TOTAL COST PER POUND FOR THE PORK IN THE FREEZER

388.80$ estimated total cost paid for pig and processed pork

/ 143 estimated pounds of processed pork

= $2.72$ final estimated cost per pound for the pork in the freezer


If my math is wrong, please let me know, but that looks like a pretty good deal for home-grown quality pork!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 October 2015 at 18:24
Alright, everyone - 

First, thanks to all for your advice, suggestions and feedback with this. I feel like I can have an intelligent conversation with the butcher about this, probably later today or possibly tomorrow.

I've got what I think is my final list above in the opening post and right here:


2 picnic roasts (skin-on)
2 Boston butts (skin-on)
Loin roasts (probably boneless, but I will see what the options are)
Chops (probably boneless, but I will see what the options are)
Back ribs
Spare ribs (trimmed St. Louis style, if possible)
2 tenderloins
2 bellies (skin-on)
2 sirloin roasts
4 hams - split (skin-on)
Shanks - (skin-on)
Hocks
Trotters
Country style ribs
Jowls (skin-on, glands removed)
Pork cut into cubes/chunks (as much as possible)
Ground Pork (anything that can't be cut into cubes or chunks)
Neck bones
Heart
Liver
Tongue
Ears
Tail
Back fat
Appropriate fat for rendering lard
Bones for soup, stock and the dog

Some notes:

For better quality (freezer life) and versatility, much of this will be in whole roasts or cuts, rather than individual steaks or portions. I tend to prefer boneless when possible, for several reasons, but there are some very appropriate exceptions, of course.

I intend to have the spare ribs trimmed St. Louis style, if that is an option, with the trimmings going to the grinder; if it is not an option, then no worries - I can do it. Also, since I am going to need to have two full racks of back ribs, they are the priority where the loin and chop sections are concerned; however, if there is any avenue for any bone-in chops that will not interfere with the back ribs, then I will get some bone-in chops as well. Any chops I do get will be at least an inch thick.

Since I will have 4 hams total to play with, I will probably have the two larger hams cured and smoked by the butcher, and will see about doing the two smaller hams myself. Any other curing and smoking, such as bacon, sausage etc., I'll do myself, just because this is a great (and possibly once-in-a-lifetime) opportunity to do some wonderful things. I will probably get some breakfast sausage, for the sake of convenience.

For the sake of versatility, I'll have most "extra" meat not covered by the main cuts to be put into chunks or cubes, rather than ground. This type of meat can be used in a lot of different ways for a lot of nice dishes - and can of course still be ground. Any trimmings that are too small or more appropriate for grinding can be ground.

If skin-on is available, I'll get it only on the roasts, cuts and bellies as indicated above. I don't need a bunch of extra skin lying around, but shoulder roast or ham with a nice, crispy, crackling skin on it is a real treat, and any skin that I trimmed off the belly or some other cut can be used for a number of purposes, as well.

The head is something that is just probably not going to happen, but I will have as much meat as possible trimmed for grinding.

I'll find out if the meat will be vacuum-packed; if it isn't, I will prepare to do it myself. Except for the obvious exceptions, I will be requesting 1- or 2-pound packaging, for the sake of knowing what I have when I pull it out of the freezer.

I think that covers everything and incorporates what I've picked up through this discussion. If I am leaving anything out, please let me know.

Again, I can't thank y'all enough for the assistance. This will hopefully be a fun journey!

Ron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drinks Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 October 2015 at 20:15
Both Amazon.com and ebay have a combination beef/pork measuring tape that, used according to the instructions, gives a very accurate live weight.
Anyone buying animals off a farm should have one, mine is over 40 years old.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 October 2015 at 13:30
Okay, I just got off the phone with the butcher. It was a little different than what I had planned, due to some circumstances, but it's all good. 

One good thing about dealing on the phone is that two people can discuss things back-and-forth in order to get a clear idea of what one side needs and what the other side can do. The bad thing is that a few details can get left by the wayside and forgotten until after the conversation is over. The other bad thing is that I'm not sure if I remember everything exactly correctly, but what follows below is pretty close.

I'll use my list as a guide, going down as follows:

2 picnic roasts - I might turn one into a ham.

2 Boston butts - I might turn one into buckboard or cottage bacon....or maybe something more advanced.

Loin roasts - one side boneless and split into three roasts for Canadian bacon, roasting, grilling or whatever. Other side bone-in for some chops, bone-in roast, maybe cured chops? etc.

Chops - as mentioned above but also some from near the sirloin etc.

Back ribs - one rack for sure - I wasn't clear but there might be two racks there. 

Spare ribs - yes - One set will have some of his "homemade house rub" so that I can try that.

Tenderloins - in with the sirloin, I think.

Bellies - yes, I think it will be cut in two sections, if I heard him right.

2 sirloin roasts - one side will be a roast, the other side will be steaks/chops and cubes

4 hams - I am pretty sure that after talking to him I decided on getting one whole "Christmas gathering ham" cured and smoked, along with one small ham that I will attempt to cure and smoke myself, and the remainder into ham steaks with some cubes.

Shanks - My kid was wailing in my ear about something, but I'm pretty sure he said that since there is no scalding, there isn't much use for these and they end up in the grind or as cubes.

Hocks - ditto above, I think.

Trotters - yes

Country style ribs - I think there are some included, but they might be going for cubes, which is just fine.

Jowls - yes - I forgot to ask about the glands but will deal with them if they are there.

Pork cut into cubes/chunks - yes, as much as possible

Ground Pork  - yes, anything that can't be cut into cubes or chunks

Neck bones - yes

Liver - for some reason, this was tossed when the pig was slaughtered, but next time I can ask ahead of time and get it.

Tongue - ditto above, no idea why.

Heart - I think so but it might be in the same boat as the liver and tongue. No big deal if that is the case.

Ears - with no scalding, these would be a mess.

Tail - ditto above

Back fat - yes

Appropriate fat for rendering lard - yes

Bones for soup, stock and the dog - yes

Other stuff:

Pig dressed out at 212 pounds.

No scalding, no skin, no worries.

With the amount of roasts I am doing, there isn't as quite as much opportunity for cubes and ground, but that's alright as there will be plenty, I am sure, and I like the versatility of roasts better anyway, which can be steaked or cubed...or even ground.

He advised going with a 3/4-inch chop, rather than 1 or 2, and made a good case for it, so I said sure, okay. 

Ground meat and cubes will be in 1-pound (or a little over) packages.

The meat will be wrapped in plastic, then vacuum-packed. To me, this sounds like excellent freezer life.

Some "cost analysis" (estimated):

212 pounds dressed weight x 1.15$ stated cost = 243.80$ cost for the pig.

212 pounds dressed weight x 0.65$ stated cost = 137.80$ cost for processing.

243.80$ cost for pig + 137.80$ cost for processing = 381.60$ total cost for pork in freezer.

212 pounds dressed weight x .66 per formula = 139.92 (round to 140) pounds total estimated yield from pig

381.60 total cost / 140 pounds total estimated yield = 2.73$ per pound for pork in freezer.

This is quite close to my original estimate. If I understood the butcher correctly, he was also going to "throw in" some extra fat, neck bones etc. as well.

I think that's it - I really enjoyed talking with the butcher. He was patient and helpful, and explained things well, including why he does what he does. I will probably send an email to confirm that I have a clear understanding of everything, but over-all I trust his judgment as he went out of his way to be thorough in discussing my issues. 

I am thinking that this will turn out pretty well, and am looking forward to it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drinks Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 October 2015 at 14:07
Your final cost is why I stopped buying live pigs or 1/2 pigs, which used to be reasonable.
The current ad for HEB has boston butts, bone in, $1. lb, ribs, $1.lb, boneless pork for carnitas, vacuum bagged , $1.49 lb.
Unless I raise my own and free range it, I cannot come even close to those prices, I still would have to kill, butcher, portion, bag and dispose of the trash.
I realize you may not have access to those sort of prices in Montana, however, I do in East Texas and cannot justify the prices you are paying.
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I'd put it on a spit! Buy a few cases of beer & call my friends.

PARTEEEEE!!!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 May 2019 at 14:43
As crazy as it sounds, we have not yet consumed all of this pig, over 3.5 years later.

We found a bunch of pork still in the freezer. We had a roast and it was excellent, literally still as fresh as the first roast we had. I attribute this to very good packaging, more than anything else, as there was not a hint of freezer burn. Our cuts were wrapped in good-quality Saran-type wrap, then vacuum-sealed.

The ground pork, however, was off, but only by a very slight bit. The meat itself was good, but the fat would have a bit of that freezer-burned smell as it rendered. Once the fat was drained, the ground pork left behind was quite tolerable.

There's still quite a bit left, actually, so we will be using it as quickly as we can before getting any more. We also, by coincidence, have half a beef coming soon, as well.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Wannabebwana Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 May 2019 at 16:16
I had half the ham today from the Berkshire hog I bought last fall. Still good, though not well wrapped. 2 packages of sausage and 1 pack of chops left. Then I’ll see about getting another half hog.

I have some venison/pork sausage from 18 months ago that was vacuum packed that is still great. No freezer burn at all.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gracoman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 May 2019 at 17:08
Vac packing is the way to go.  I've found things freezer diving that were up to 3 years old that were vac packed and still tasted great.   IMO a vacuum packer not a luxury but a kitchen necessity.  I know some of you folks here like to use the water immersion technique but vac packing gets my vote.
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