Cutting Up the

Before freezers, the pig's fat was rendered into lard, with cracklings used as a people snack or animal feed; as much as possible was eaten fresh, and the rest was heavily salted for preservation. When saltpeter came along, what had been salted meat was shifted to "cured" ("corned" if it was beef) and the amount of salt and spices could be lessened. Now that we know more about saltpeter (all bad) and have freezing and canning options, the healthiest choice for your family is obviously to freeze all of the pig, or to make sausage (which will be frozen) of part or all of it— especially if it's a predictably tough old animal. By not curing what could have been cured for hams you'll have roasts, and what would have been cured for bacon is "side pork," which you can slice and fry much like bacon.

Some people start cutting it up while it is still hanging, but we bring the carcass in, a half at a time, and lay it on our big plywood cutting board, which is scrubbed in the tub with a scrub brush and then laid across the kitchen table. A pig is actually easy to cut up. I'll theoretically divide it into thirds. The front third is figured as if the head were still on.

Have Containers Ready: I use 4- and 5-gal. plastic buckets. One holds meat to be cured if curing is planned. Another holds pieces that are to be ground for sausage. Another holds bones for making gelatin, or to cook up with sauerkraut or beans. And one holds fat that will be rendered into lard. I also have ready meat-type wrapping paper and freezer tape with which to wrap the roasts, chops, and ribs that will go directly into the freezer after being cut. first, Trim: Trim off the dirty and bloodshot spots— everything that doesn't look like what you would want to eat. THE Head: There are numerous good ways to use the meat of the pig's head. They all require similar preparatory steps. Options:

• Prepare it according to the directions under "Headcheese and Scrapple."

Or cut off the jowl, which is the chin area, and make it into bacon, with the trimmings going into the sausage bucket (you want your bacon slab fairly neat-looking). Save the ears, too, to flavor a mess of beans, and you can discard the rest.

Jowl

Jowl

• Or cut off all the meat you can get at and put into your sausage bucket—and discard the rest.

• Or cut off all the meat you can get at and use it to make pork mincemeat.

• Or cut of all the meat you can get at in thin slices, package, and freeze. You can fry the sliced scraps like side meat.

• Or clean out the ears, nose, and mouth passages well with a cloth on a stick or just a cloth on your finger and rinse well with water. Then, in a big kettle (I use my canner), cook the whole head for hours and hours and hours until the meat falls off the bones. Then remove the bones and the more strange-looking stuff like eyes and the lining of the mouth. Skim off every bit of the grease you can get to go with your lard renderings. Divide, package, and freeze what's left to go with kraut or beans. That is my favorite way of preparing the head.

The Hind Third: This means one of the back legs. NOTE: Instructions such as "front," "back," etc., are generally given as if the animal were standing up.

1. If you haven't done so already, saw off the hind foot through the ankle (hock) about a foot up from the hoof. You can either set aside the foot to make pickled pigs feet, or trim off the meat for sausage and put the rest into the gelatin bucket.

2. Now cut the hind leg (ham) away from the body. You'll have the tail end of the backbone included in your piece, which you can trim out later to make your ham look nice. You're cutting in front of the pig's hip bone and getting off all the hind leg with this cut. Cut the meaty areas with a knife. Finish going through the bone with a meat saw. On a sow you'll have 2 teats included plus about 2 inches. In person talk we'd call it the pig's thigh. On a young pig it will weigh about 20 lb.; on an old sow it will weigh about 30 lb.

3. Trim it around the top to make it look neat. Make sausage or lard of the trimmings (depending on whether they are meat and fat, or mostly fat). Sausage trimmings are generally cut into approximately 1-inch strips to go through the grinder better. If you are planning to cure the ham, the skin is generally left on. Put the ham into your curing bucket. If, instead of curing it, you want it to be pork roasts, trim the skin off (and place the skin into your sausage bucket). Cut the ham into roast-sized pieces; the only rigid rule is that a roast has to be small enough to fit into your pan with the lid on. Other than that, a chunk of meat is a chunk of meat no matter what the experts say. Incidentally, if you plan to cure your hams and bacons with the skin on and you have a propane torch, you can use it to burn any remaining hairs off them. the front Third: These directions are meant for a young pig, the 200-lb. kind. If you are butchering an old hog, then you take the whole front third and cut up most of the meat to go through your grinder for sausage.

1. If you haven't done so already, cut off the foot at the ankle—about 8 inches above the hoof. Put it in the same place you did the hind foot.

2. Now cut off the leg plus the front shoulder. You'll find the right spot by cutting behind the third rib. You'll need your meat saw. You're cutting it off just back of the shoulder blade, straight up and down the body If you are making hams to be cured, take the big piece that you cut off (minus the foot) and divide it in half horizontally to the ground just below the lower edge of the shoulder blade. The resulting half that has backbone in it is called the Boston butt ham or shoulder roast and the lower half is called the picnic ham. If you would rather make roasts than hams out of your Boston butt and picnic hams, again cut them down into roaster-sized pieces.

3. Now trim out the backbone. Trim off the meat left around the backbone for sausage and put the backbone itself into your gelatin pile or bones pile.

4. The 3 front ribs that get included in the cut can be packaged for short ribs. Saw them away from the rest.

5. That flap of meat attached to the lower half of the front leg is bacon or sausage (or side meat if you'd rather). For bacon, cut away and make the edges nice. For sausage, cut it into strips. For side meat, leave plain and don't cure.

The Middle Third: That's what's left.

Separate the ribs from the bacon. You can see where the ribs are. The bacon is the boneless flap of "skin" behind the ribs. Stay out of the thick meaty pork-chop area along the backbone. You can peel the meat off the outside of the ribs, too, and make bacon out of it. Or leave it on for very meaty spareribs. That's what I like to do.

The "Bacon" or "Side Pork." You can take the skin off the bacon or not. (Personally, I like the skin off.) If you plan to cut the skin off, whacking the whole bacon section on the table as hard as you can, skin side down, several times before you start makes it a little easier. I like the bacon cut into squarish sections about 6 inches on the side. You can make them bigger—it doesn't matter. Put the trimmings into the sausage pile. I've made triangular bacon, but it slices up more nicely if it is square. Side pork is the same cut not cured; you can slice and fry it just the same for breakfast only it won't have the cured taste. Slice like bacon only thicker, season, and fry. Don't flour. Cook through. The "Fatback." This is the fat on the back of the pig, which you trim off with the skin for your lard pail, leaving only just the amount you like on your pork chops—VWA inch is plenty.

Chops. What's left looks like backbone. It includes the muscles that run right alongside of the backbone. You can either bone the chops out and have them with no bone, or saw them out and have a chunk of bone included with each one. I don't like bones out of chops, though that is easier to do. Boned-out chops don't look like chops anymore to me, and, though you only lose a little meat in the boning out process, on a chop that's a noticeable loss.

To bone them out: Cut the muscle away from the bone. Slice across the grain and package for the freezer in meal-sized numbers. The little muscle on the other side of the bone can be pulled out and cut across the grain into "tips," which means a mini-chop. The vertebrae can go into your bones department—the best thing I know for making gelatin.

To saw them out: The butcher does it with a power saw, which makes it easier for him, but you can do it by cutting the meat part with a knife and then finishing with a meat saw. Cut across the grain of the tenderloin the same way you would for boned-out chops.

The rear third of the "backbone" can be sawed into pork steaks (cut across the grain) or cut into a couple of sirloin roasts.

Continue reading here: Headcheese and Scrapple

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