Thursday 9 February 2012

Chewing the Fat

Over the course of this past week, I have been processing the fourth of our pigs.
The bacon is curing, the meat has aged sufficiently, and so I've started to cut the pork up into package sized portions.  The bulk of the work is done in our little meat room downstairs. The final steps are taken in the kitchen. 

That is where we wrap and label the meat.  We also grind the pork and prepare the lard for rendering.
Kira takes care of the wrapping.
The wrapping is much like folding clothes, so as a male, I find it excessively difficult.

We use the stand mixer for grinding.
It has an attachment that allows us to prepare a variety of ground meat products, coarse or fine.
It takes some time, but it works well enough.
We also grind the fat for rendering.

Grinding the fat makes the rendering processing a little shorter as well as giving us a uniform size of cracklings.
What are cracklings?  Cracklings are the byproduct of lard rendering and can be used in baking or just eaten as a snack.  They're much like the leftover crispy bits in the pan after cooking up some bacon.
The lard itself will be used for baking.  If you have done any pastry then you know that real lard is hard to beat when it comes to flaky crust.
We also intend to use the lard for soap making.
Making soap has been on my personal wish list for quite a few years.

Meer didn't last long this way.
She wanted some milk and bedtime.

Soap is a product that we can make entirely on our own.
That means that we have the tools and materials to make our own soap without leaving or buying anything. Of course, if we want some fancy soap this year, we'll have to buy a few extra ingredients.
Don't worry. The soap event will be an important post.

Another potential byproduct of lard rendering is doughnuts.
No really!  I'm serious.
We have a friend whose Grandmother would only make doughnuts when lard was being rendered.
You just happen to have a big pot of hot lard so it seems logical that you should cook some doughnuts.
I'll talk to Kira about that.  
You're going to wish that our posts had samples to go along with them.

I have said before that I really enjoy producing everyday items ourselves.
The meat products are especially satisfying.
You begin with a live animal and end up with a finished product that is superior to most anything that you could buy in the store.
With the various byproducts, the experience and value is all that much greater.
Speaking of byproducts, it won't be long until the kids start asking me to make weiners.
I guess I'll have to start keeping the lips and....
....well, you know!


  1. Hi Andrew,

    As I said on my previous comment, we do have a tradition of keeping pigs for food around here. My parents do have pigs but my grand parents used to keep a pig on a neighbour's house (they were responsible for feeding processing the pig). In Portugal we say that we use all of the pig, and I'd like to ask you if you do the same. For example, we use the lard, of course, but also the viscera (I'm sorry if I'm not using the right words in english) for several kinds of salami; we also use the blood for a traditional dish "sarrabulho". (Am I going too graphic? Excuse me if I am.) Anyway, if you're interested in knowing more I can ask my parents (I only have memories of this processing since never did it myself) and share some information.

    1. Hello Teresa,
      In one of my reference books, the author says that you can eat every part of a pig except the squeak. It's true.
      However, we don't use every part.
      Part of the reason is cultural. Part of the reason is practical.
      If I try to explain, then I will be coming up with many poor excuses.
      Suffice it to say that we plan on using every part of the animal once we have more experience processing. In the meantime, nothing goes to waste. Our dog gets the larger organs and the leg bones. We eat the heart on the same day as the slaughter. The chickens get much of the remainder. The hide and the head go into the woods for the wild birds and coyotes. The blood goes into the ground close to our fruit trees. The little bits go into the garden. The intestines go into the woods. I like to clear them away. We will use them when we are better equipped, but I would prefer them away from the home. The garden would be good but the chickens would spread it out all over the place.
      All in all, there still isn't much to deal with once the carcass has been cleaned out.
      Pigs dress out so well. They are almost entirely meat.
      Incidentally, 'Viscera' is one of my favourite words. Generally Canadians use the word 'guts'. We have taught the kids to say viscera instead, just because it sounds more....