Monday, March 15, 2010

Hog Butchering Class at Nature's Harmony Farm

Early Saturday morning I set out on a day trip to Elberton, Georgia to visit friends and farmers Tim & Liz Young at Nature's Harmony Farm.  This visit was quite different from past visits: this day we butchered half a Berkshire hog raised on the farm!

When I started telling people about the event, their visceral first reaction was to think we were actually killing the hog.  This was not the case; the killing was done a couple days prior to our arrival to allow for hanging time and minimal processing like removing hair, taking out the internal organs and bisecting the hog into two halves.  Below is the half hog just before we started.
The class began with lessons on how to render lard, how to make bacon, and how to use some of the less-used cuts of pork like the head.  Tim explained the simple curing process for bacon and then we sawed off the hocks, all of which were placed in the smoker.  Liz then showed us how she took the head to make porchetta di testa: a deboned, rolled, and cooked pig's head.  Of course they were nice enough to share and we were more than happy to taste test.  Everybody likes bacon, but the real treat was the porchetta di testa - good job Liz!
 Removing the hock
 Tim putting cured pork belly in the smoker to make hickory smoked bacon.

For more information on porchetta di testa, check out the video below.

Around noon we took a break for a farm tour and a quick bite to eat, then class resumed - now it was time to get down and dirty.  There are a few different schools of thought on what constitutes a section or primal of a hog, but today we focused on three sections: the shoulder, the loin and belly, and the ham.  These primals are further broken down into smaller cuts that are more recognizable: the shoulder was separated into the Boston butt and the picnic ham, the tenderloin was removed, the loin was sliced into chops, and while most everyone will recognize a ham, we cut into ham steaks to fairly distribute the meat among the 8 attendees.  Enjoy a few pictures.
Check out video that Tim and Liz put together of the day's events.

The class was really fantastic.  While most of us were generally familiar with what cuts come from what part of the pig, actually breaking down this half of a hog was an amazing learning experience.  There are several more classes this year that include chicken, lamb, and turkey butchering, as well as meat curing and cheese making classes.  Details are here if you're interested. Thanks Tim & Liz!

1 comment:

Christine said...

This is also a very fine video from the Guardian on pig butchering- very interesting!

I'm fascinated by the lardo....may file it under "to try" projects.