Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hog Slaughtering and Salt Curing

Today we slaughtered a hog (my son does the work and I take pictures) and are preserving the meat by salt curing.  The hog weighed about 275 pounds and had been raised on pasture, corn and a daily dose of 2 gallons or so of fresh milk from our cow, Elizabeth. This post is a DIY guide for self-reliant types.

Warning! Somewhat graphic.

Disclosure:  While we do raise animals for slaughter, they lead stress-free lives out on pasture with sunshine, shelter, water, plenty to eat, and the company of other animals of their kind. The end comes swiftly; the animal has no idea what is about to happen and experiences no pain.

1: You will need lots of hot water. This is to scald the skin of the hog so that the fur/hair and upper layer of skin comes off when scraped. We have a 100 quart (25 gallon) pot for the purpose. A friend of mine taught me some welding and we made the fire stand in the photo.

2: I use the following tools. The rounded skinning knife is indispensable, IMHO. The sharpening stone is also indispensable - knives dull quickly and the job goes much faster with one person sharpening and the other working. Not pictured is a dull machete that I use to scrape the hair and upper skin from the hog after the scald.

3: Dispatch the hog.

4. Lay the hog on a (very sturdy) table or platform (or the ground, if you have nothing else) and cover it with an old towel. Take the boiling water from the pot using a small pot, metal bucket (we use a stainless steal milking pail) and pour it slowly onto the towel. The towel will hold the scalding water against the hog's skin. After a couple of pours, you should be able to pull the hair off with your thumb and fingers. If so, you are ready to scrape.

5: Meticulously scrape the entire hog removing the hair and upper layer of skin. This is the hardest part of the job. It took over an hour to scrape this hog clean. After scraping, rinse thoroughly with a hose.

When scraped, the hog should look something like this. I don't worry about scrapping the hog down to its toes, as you can skin the lower legs (with a skinning knife) for soup bones. The lower legs are not going into the salt. The hair on the lower extremities has been singed with a propane torch.

6: Disembowel and decapitate the carcass. If you can, suspend the hog from something. I use this device (not sure what it is called. I purchased it from in their deer processing section) using a boom on the back of my tractor to raise the hog. I keep the kidneys, liver, and heart - they are delicious and nutritious. The remaining offal goes to the chickens - they love it. Little to nothing goes to waste. Bones go into soups, fat gets rendered, ribs get frozen, and everything else gets salted.

7: Split the hog down the spine with a meat saw. This is about as much effort as sawing through a 2 x 4.

8: Quarter the hog. On the left is a ham that has been removed from the carcass. The bacons are under the ribs. I remove the shoulders, hams, and bacons from the ribs and backbone. These will go into the saltbox. The ribs and tenderloin will go into the freezer. That white stuff in the stainless steel bowl is "leaf lard" - that's the fat around the hog's kidneys. This is the fat that Parisian bakers prize for baking their delicate pastry. I also take the "fatback" (that's the fat under the skin and above the spine) for rendering. We use it for cooking. Since the hog has been raised getting most of its calories from grass fed milk the lard should be heavy in oleic acid - the "good stuff" in olive and canola oils. Or so I am told!

9: Wash and put the parts in the salt. I keep 50 pound bags of salt in the garage for days like today. I put the salt in a cooler and bring the cooler out to the processing platform. As soon as they are separated, I roll the hams, shoulders, and bacons in this salt. Notice that the hide has been left on. The risk of spoilage will be around the bone, so make sure that the "meat" side is well salted and then store in a cool to cold place. I check the weather to find a week of cold weather and slaughter then.

10: Pack the meat - here is the final product in the "salt box" (a cheap plastic tub from one of the big box stores). I put a top on and check it every day for the first week to make sure that they stay covered with salt. After 5 weeks in salt, I wash them off and hang them. When hanging, I cover them with an old pillow case to keep insects off of them.

After 5 weeks in salt and a couple months of hanging, they are ready to go. Sliced thin and eaten with grapes, cantaloupe, strawberries, or honeydew mellon, et al, the meat is out of this world!


Anonymous said...

You don't need to cook the pork?

Idaho Homesteader

Greg T. Jeffers said...

No. I eat this pork "crudo" or raw. Some people soak it in water and fry it as breakfast ham. I have tried that, but I prefer to eat it sliced thin with fruit as a "salty fast food snack".

I find the pork tastes like the prosciutto in the Italian Deli's in my home town back in NY, so I eat it the way we used to eat prosciutto when I was a kid.

kathy said...

This was good, consise outline of the process. I will confess that our hogs go off to the butcher and come back frozen. We did the turkeys and the chickens. 15 turkys was a lot of work. The beef we buy from a neighbor who raises them on grass. I can a lot of it and it still takes 3 huge freezers for all the meat and the fruit and vegetables. I sure hope we keep the grid going. Doing this much meat would be a lot harder with no electricty and we live nowhere near a salt mine.

Greg T. Jeffers said...


Some AMish friends of ours were kind enough to show us their strategies for preserving meat.

Beef is ground and canned - not salted. They grind every bit of it and can it. They boil every bone and can the resulting stock, too. Nothing is cut into "steaks".

Pork is ground and seasoned into sausage which is then canned, or mixed with ground beef and diced potatoes for a "hash" and then canned. Pork is also salted for a snack or field food.

Chicken is canned as a meaty chicken soup/stew (although the thickening and dumplings come after the cans are opened).

We still use the freezers for their convenience, but we do can a great deal of stuff. Of course, much of that was to practice, see what worked, what we liked (tuns out there is a great deal of home canned recipes that we really liked), etc... we have a generator to get us through a power outage while we run the canners like crazy - or at least that is the plan.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

Also, salt is very inexpensive ($9 for a 50 lbs bag), and is NOT destroyed in this process. Let the resulting liquids drain and reuse the remaining salt. A box of salt like the one in the picture will last you many years.