4Shoes 'BOOKENDS'; Morgan Horses

4Shoes 'BOOKENDS'; Morgan Horses
“Hold fast to dreams, For if dreams die, Life is a broken-winged bird, That cannot fly.” ~Langston Hughes *pictured: '4Shoes Bookends'

Friday, 6 January 2017

Freezer Camp

Not this kind of blanket...
 I'm afraid we have come late to the party (as the saying goes) when it comes to the pigs of 2016, in so far as we generally aim to have any stock raised as food harvested & into the freezer in October or surely by November. By October, it's generally cold enough to slaughter & hang without worrying about flies, but warm enough that the carcasses won't actually freeze. We're only 2 or 3 months behind schedule, NP.
 This years' porkers just needed a little longer in the pen to be ready to graduate to Freezer Camp. They were comfortable enough even though there have been some extreme temperatures; Mr Shoes sided the pig palace this year, so their little house was draft free. Boot even went out one cold day & sat in the palace with them; when he came in from chores, he proclaimed the palace to be a shelter that even he could spend a night inside. We did not take him up on his offer (could've been funny, but no), but we were happy to know for certain that Chops & Schnitzel spent even the coldest of nights snuggled up together inside the palace as warm as pigs in blankets.
Not these blankets either...

"The righteous man regards the life of his animal." ~Proverbs 12:10
 See, that's us, totes righteous. (eyebrows?) But for realz, when you know that you've done your very best by the animal, it is much easier to shepherd it along to serve as nourishment for your family.
 Tuesday morning was The Day... I won't go into details (to spare the squeamish), but suffice it to say that all went as planned & neither hog suffered at all. The worst part of the job was over in less than a second; then the real work began. Er, countdown to the real work, I mean.
Close enough...
The carcasses were dressed & hung from the tractor bucket (inside the shop where we can control the temperature) for the next 24 hours to allow the rigor mortis to pass from the flesh, leaving the final product much more tender.
 By 9:30 Wednesday morning we were knee deep into the amazing world of pork butchery... I say amazing because it was such a rewarding learning day for both Mr Shoes & I. This year we bought our pigs from a neighbour & friend who is an experienced butcher; when we bought the weaners, he & his good wife had agreed to teach us how to finish our own meat. 
 It was a long day indeed, but by 5:30 we were on our way home with so much wonderful cut & packaged meat! Roasts, tenderlions, pork chops, ribs, & some ground meat too. We also brought home 40 kilos (88 lbs) of hams & bacon that is brining as we speak. Every second day we will transfer the meat into a fresh container, pour the brine overtop & weight it down. This rearrangement allows every surface of each chunk of meat to be exposed to the brine so that it will soak evenly into the flesh. In 9 days, we will take the bacon back to our friend the butcher for smoking; the hams will go back to be smoked after 12 days.  

 Last year we hauled our pigs an hour away to a professional abatoire; unfortunately, we were very unhappy with the meat that we picked up from them 2 weeks later... which made us displeased to wonder if our pigs had even been treated well, because we believe that the meat from stressed or frightened animals will not be as good as meat from an animal who had an easy death & respectful handling.  
The shoulder steaks that we received from the "professionals" were larger than a dinner plate & the chops looked as though they came from a dinosaur! How, we wondered, was it possible that our 6 month old, gently raised pigs were bigger after being butchered than they were when we unloaded them? 
 Though tasty, unless braised for hours, every. single. cut. of meat was as tough as chewing on a piece of old leather. I blamed myself.... but how, all of a sudden, could I be doing something so wrong in my cooking methods that this meat we raised could possibly be so tough? I called the "professionals", who were absolutely no help at all. Furthermore, they did not even take my complaints seriously, which was an insult, as well as exceptionally poor customer service.
 Obviously (we realize now) the answer is that the meat we received back was from a much older, much larger animal than were the pigs that we delivered to them. Doing the figures, last year we received back only 2/3 of expected meat yield*, & we were also charged a ridiculous* amount! But, to give credit where it's due, they did make the best farmer sausage patties that we've ever tried; good job "pros", at least you got that bit right.
  
"Ham" ~ Link to Artist: Luke Chuen  


Why proceed again this year, some might ask. Because before we told about our all-around terrible experience with the "professionals", & certainly before we settled blame for such poor meat quality upon ourselves, we needed to try once more, doing things differently (different hog supplier, different breed of animal, kill-day at home, & different butcher). We swore that, if this years' meat was not substantially better, we would give up on raising pigs for the table altogether. So.... how was it?

 We arrived home so tired & with sore backs from bending over the cutting & packaging tables all day. We wanted nothing more than to sink into our chairs with cups of tea; but there was work yet to be done. W
e unpacked & set the meat to pre-freeze (to avoid overworking the freezer's motor by filling it with fresh meat), we started the brine & packaged the fat (to be rendered). 


Mr Shoes came in from chores with a brand new package of pork chops to judge. Cooking was the last thing that I felt like doing, but we just had to know! I seasoned the meat with only salt & pepper & set it under the broiler in the oven. Alongside of fluffy mashed spuds & green beans, I served the chops to my men & awaited the verdict. I saw smiles. I sat to join them &, with my first bite, I smiled too.      Tender! (imagine the sound of cherubs singing)   Delicious!    Glorious!!!

 And all the pigs in their heaven rejoiced also, to know that there will be happy hogs on the 4Shoes every year forevermore.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 *How ridiculous you may ask?  Well, our friend the butcher charged us what he deemed fair* for a days work + the smoking of the hams & bacon...  The bill we paid at the "professional butcher" was 8 1/2 times as much! & here's the laughable part - had the meat been good, we would have been repeat customers.

*We decided to wear our tuques just barely hanging onto the very back of our skulls & get all hipster about using as much of the animal as we could do, so... Aside from the meat, we also kept all the fat for rendering, all the bones (which I spent ALL day Friday boiling & straining & reducing to a rich stock for gravies or soups anytime), & the few bits of scrap went fresh to the dogs. Over the coming weeks, the dogs will also enjoy (look away quickly NOW if you're squeamish & cannot believe you have made it this far) the feet, the ears, hearts & livers, tail, & snout. Leaving only the hide, heads, & guts... which went out into the bush to feed the scavengers.

 *We decided to pay our friend double what he asked for, & we still feel that we got a bargain. We also feel very blessed for all that we learned from our friend & his dear wife, & thankful to have them pass on their knowledge.



14 comments:

  1. I do like a nice ham and I love how you were responsible to make sure that the pigs were happy and had a quick end.

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    1. Much easier to do it at home, we discovered.

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  2. I have never learned so much about pigs before. I love that you treat your livestock so well I'm so glad your meat was tender. I wish I was close enough to buy your meat! They are so cute. Okay I won't think about that again.

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    1. For me, the animals meant for food are cute right up to the last minute, then 60 seconds later, they are meat.

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  3. Honestly I think it it the only way to eat meat! In our neighbor village a woman do this with Highland cattle and it is the best meat I have ever tasted.
    I admire what you and your family do! And the story gives so much to think ...
    Enjoy your meals!

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    1. Thank you Sabine, though this is only the first start-to-finish animal harvest that we have done. Our Heroes are our butcher friend & his wife, who have been living the old ways as their entire world, have raised a dozen children, & who said that they considered it a blessing to be our mentors.

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  4. I think you're right about end of life stress. We went in on a hog with friends a few years back and didn't have anything to do with the rendering--it was the worst meat ever! It made me not want to do it again. What a difference handling the process respectfully, even reverently, seems to make.

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    1. This is true for us, and Thank God for it.

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  5. I'm impressed by the way you raise your animals and when it's their time you respectfully do what needs to be done. I'm not sure I could do it but I admire you for being able to see it through start to finish.

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    1. What? I feel like I'm blushing a little... what a super nice thing to say!
      I'm surprised at us too sometimes, I couldn't have imagined all this for us 29 years ago, but we are where life has taken us, & how blessed are we?

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  6. Years ago when we butchered our own pork my dad always cooked the head and I think he made souse with the meat. No one liked it but him so I don't know what it tasted like. I know he sliced it like lunch meat for sandwiches also he made head cheese but I don't remember that either.

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    1. Headcheese is just a step too far for me... this year, at least.

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  7. We got a pig butchered last fall as well, not one we raised but a friend of Neil's. They suggested the butcher and oh man the meat is so good! Glad we went with someone we know and trust cause I've had home grown pig before and it was so strong I did not like it

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    1. Lesson learned the hard way (we thought they were the PRO's!). Learning how & doing it ourselves is the most practical solution to being ripped off by "professionals". If I must say so, we did a much better job than they did last year.

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