Friday, December 20, 2013

Raising Pork Chop

We did a trial experiment this year raising a pig.  I wanted a heritage breed and I wanted a female, and I didn't realize the physical differences between the two apart from the obvious.  Well.....turns out we got a male and he'd already been castrated so they all looked alike to me!   So instead of starting a breeding program, we went ahead with raising our own pork.  We got a Tamworth, known for their deep 'bacon' sides.  They are also great at raising their own offspring, which is important since I don't want to be out there bottle feeding a dozen piggies.  We drove over 3 hours to get him, almost to the coast.  When we saw the size of his mom, my hubby and I looked at each other, eyes wide, wondering just what the hell we had gotten ourselves into!

Once we (meaning the breeder) had wrestled the piglet away from the rest, we put him in our small animal carrier.  He was about 30 pounds at the time.  

We brought him home and put him in the goat barn with our calf, Chuck.  They took to each other like long lost friends, prompting lots of jokes like "bacon wrapped filet", reminding us where they would each end up.  As usual, despite knowing for a month we were getting him, we weren't prepared, so hubby got right to work building a pen for him.  We used an upside down fruit bin as his house, and he quickly outgrew the opening.

 One night he went inside to sleep and grew so much overnight that he couldn't get out the door!!  Hubby had to run out and pick it up so Pork Chop could come out, then he cut the opening MUCH larger.

He was very well fed.  He got all the extra cow and goat milk, about 2 gallons per day, plus we got almost-free day old bread from the bakery in town, in addition to our scraps.

 I have a friend who gleans food from the grocery store, so he provided bins of fruit they would throw out.  We had friends give us some advice:  feed him fatty food, especially donuts!  So we started giving him a box of donuts a day.  I can't tell you how jealous the kids were that Pork Chop was able to eat donuts, when they weren't allowed to!  No, it wasn't very healthy for him, but we hoped that it would prevent the pork from being too dry.  He was a funny pig, kept us laughing, especially when we would try to wash out his milk bowl with the hose.  He would start 'huffing' at us, run to the bowl and flip it out....mostly over whoever was wielding the hose.  He would just get so incensed that we desecrated the milk bowl with mere water. Here's a video of him in action.

When we got our dog, she kept trying to herd him, but he would 'bark' right back at her, scaring her away, and then they would continue the 'dance' over and over again.

In September, my hubby took a pork butchering class and we had intended on completely butchering and processing him ourselves.  We bought a huge cutting board, 3'x5', large enough to fit a side of pork, good knives and luckily, a book with detailed pictures.  However, as life usually does, it didn't go as planned.  One morning, a few days before Thanksgiving,  I woke up to find that he had injured his hind leg.  Of course, that day was about 23 degrees and my hubby had a class to attend that afternoon.  After much discussion (screaming about bad luck and pulling our hair out trying to figure out what to do) we buckled down and started the deed of butchering him.  The thought of  seven months of hard work being put into raising Pork Chop to lose it all, made us ill.  So Hubby 'dispatched' Pork Chop, after I took one of the funniest pictures of him (he was a great subject) and I scratched him behind the ears for the last time and thanked him for his sacrifice for our family.

It didn't go smoothly and of course I was very emotional, having a soft heart and all, sobbing like a baby. Then we tried to truss him up, saving the hocks, but the ropes kept slipping off his legs and he would drop to the ground.  Finally we sacrificed the hocks and got him trussed up, and got to see just how HUGE he ended up being.  He was well over 300 pounds, and he made my very tall hubby look short!

As my hubby was butchering him, I sat on the trailer next to him reading to him from our basic butchering book and showing him the pictures (and trying to stay warm).

He had a lot of heart.  ;-)

We weren't going to scald and scrape the skin, instead we were going to skin him.  However, with the 23 degree weather, skinning proved almost impossible.  By the time we got done gutting him, my poor hubby was frozen through and he couldn't skin Pork Chop.  I had made numerous calls to both local and non-local butchers, trying to find a place that would take him and finish processing, but being it was so close to Thanksgiving and most butchers were overrun with deer, this was the hardest part!    We dropped him off to get processed and it took a couple weeks to get him back.  The weather turned extremely cold and the butcher's pipes froze at least twice.  We picked him up last week and couldn't wait to try out the meat. We ended up with 285 pounds of pork and a huge box of fat that I will be rendering into lard.  Hubby made Pork Chop pork chops and they were the best pork we'd ever eaten!  I love having our own meat processed, we get to choose the cuts and how it's packaged.  We ordered everything fresh, so we will be curing and smoking our own hams and bacon and making our own sausage.  Each bacon slab is about 25 pounds!!

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