Two Saturdays cutting up a pig seems like a big commitment, and the Accidental Locavore wants you to know it was a one of the best events I’ve been to in a long time! The first day was mostly about breaking down (butchering) the pig. Tom, the butcher/instructor, first showed us what the various parts were and different ways of cutting them, depending on what sort of finished product you were after. There were a lot of lessons to be learned, and not all of them were about how to cut up a pig.
- Dehydrating chiles: Our lunch for the first day was a Southwestern Chili made with tender bits of pork in a tomato-based sauce. Ancho chile powder was one of the big ingredients. Dan said they made the chile powder by dehydrating chiles and grinding them in a coffee grinder. Since I was working on the dehydrated sweet potatoes for the dog, it wasn’t too hard to just add a cookie sheet with some anchos. I seeded them and put them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. They were in a 170° degree oven for about 6 hours. I then ran them through my spice grinder (which is just a coffee grinder, drafted for spice duty) and got a great-tasting container of ancho chile powder –so much better than what you get at the store!
- My freezer: On the second Saturday, buoyed by the work of the previous week, a couple of the guys were talking about buying and breaking down their own pig. As tempting as this might be, real life gets in the way. First of all, my butcher block isn’t big enough for 50 pounds worth of pig. Even if it was, there is absolutely no way it would fit in the freezer. The worst part about that last statement is that we have a refrigerator-sized freezer. As friends of mine have said, you could eat out of that freezer for 100 years. Probably not, but possibly 100 days. I decided to challenge myself to see how long I could go without buying meat. So far, we’re at the end of week two and the only protein I’ve bought were some sole fillets, because we were eating so much meat. I’ll give you a rundown of what I’ve concocted from the freezer as soon as it looks like we’ve made a dent in it.
- Planning ahead and possibilities: Like so many things in life, when you’re butchering a pig, you need to have a plan. Surprisingly, there are lots of options and what you do depends on what you want to end up with. Ribs or roasts? Hams and shanks or osso buco of pork? Belly or bacon? If cut number one is halving the animal, cut number two is where the planning starts.
- Stepping out of your comfort zone: Besides the fact that the barn where we were was about 20 degrees, which is definitely not in my comfort zone, there were plenty of chances to step out of your food comfort zone. My most daring venture was probably the head cheese (tête pressée) and as it turned out, my favorite of all the things we made with the odd parts.
So those were some of the surprising lessons learned over a pig carcass. Stay tuned for what the contents of my freezer ended up being.