Category Archives: pigs

Bringing home the bacon

Last weekend, we picked uo 3 young shoats (that’s farm speak for pigs). They will be raised until June and then will be participating in the freezer restocking program.  
The last pigs we raised were on organic, GMO free, soy free feed.  While the meat was good and we believe in the principles of organic feed, the cost is just too high.  It was a hard choice, but we have decided to keep our farm on commercial feed due to the significant cost difference.   Regardless of the feed decision, we still firmly believe the locally raised meat is safer and healthier because there are NO antibiotics given to the animals.

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Makin’ Bacon! An adventure in smoking meat

As you probably know, last fall we decided to raise 2 pigs.  We sold 1 (in 2 halves) and kept the other one for our family.  Our ~200lb live pig yielded about 125lbs of meat.  However, our butcher doesn’t smoke meat, so instead of paying someone else, we decided to smoke our own meat.

First, I had to take the pork belly which was a full side of bacon and break it down into smaller pieces for curing.  One of the problems (in our opinion) is most of the bacon you purchase in the grocery store is cured with chemicals and given “artificial smoke flavor”.  So, with a little reading online and some Youtube videos, I decided to use a very basic cure: 2lbs of brown sugar mixed with 1 cup of Kosher salt.  I mixed the dry ingredients, sliced each side of pork belly into thirds, and rubbed the pieces with the mixture.  Each pork belly was about 11lbs of meat with the skin still on.

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Then we vacuum packed the meat and put it in the refrigerator for 12 days.  We also cured 1 of our hams and left the other one uncured.

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We already had a large 6′ grill.  Last fall I was going to sell it because we didn’t use it much, but I didn’t get any legit interest, so we decided to keep it.  The problem with the grill is the way it is built makes it very hard to control the temperature in the grill when cooking with charcoal and adding more charcoal requires shifting the cooking surface.  So I wheeled the grill into the garage to make some changes.

20140114_143334I had done some reading about smoker designs and decided to add a side mounted fire-box to funnel the smoke into the grill without using direct heat.

20140126_094039One of the decisions was whether I was going to cold smoke, or hot smoke the meat.  Other than the obvious temperature implication from the names, there is a bigger fundamental difference.  Cold smoking the meat imparts flavor into the meat at low temperature, while frequently debated, less than 120F is a commonly referenced, but less than 90F is generally considered better.  Hot smoking is done at temperatures above 120F but generally closer to 165F.  Hot smoking imparts flavor too, however, it also actually cooks the meat, which is not what I wanted to do.  I decided to cold smoke our bacon and ham.  Once I had the charcoal hot and the apple wood smoking, I loaded the grill with meat.

20140126_09410420140126_094057I had a few strategically placed thermometers to monitor the temperature.  It didn’t take long to figure out the meat directly over where the firebox connection was would be hot smoked if I left it there.  Luckily, with a 6′ long grill, I was able to quickly rearrange the meat to the other end.  For the next 5 hours, our meat was smoked at about 75F (it was in the teens outside).

20140126_115244The butcher had allowed me to borrow his slicer, so after cooling the meat, I cut the skin off the bacon and ham.  The ham went straight into the oven for dinner.  The bacon was put in the freezer for a few hours to stiffen for slicing.

20140126_210024Small farm pigs don’t give the same big huge slices of bacon that you get in the store.  But, we did manage to get the bacon sliced as much as possible.

20140126_210016 In the end, our pig gave us about 10lbs of packaged bacon, which means we lost just over 50% in weight from the starting point through the juices extracted by the cure and trimming the skin off the bacon.  Before the night was over, we tossed a few sample scraps on the stove.  The meat was very sweet (from the brown sugar) and had great flavor.  It was a fun experience, but I don’t think I will be going into the bacon business any time soon.20140126_210003

Here piggie, piggie

Next weekend, we will be adding 2 pigs to the farm!  These pigs will be raised on organic, GMO free, soy free grain, fresh fruits, and goat milk (the goats are also eating organic, GMO free, soy free grain).  We can not guarantee the hay for the goats and pigs is organic, however, we can ensure the meat will be raised soy free from the time it comes to our farm.

If you are interested in buying some local pork, keep reading!

The pigs will be about 2 months old when they arrive.  We plan to raise them to about 6 months old, which means they will go to butcher in January.  Based on the results from another nearby farm who raised pigs on the same grain and milk diet, the pigs should be around 300lbs live weight at 6months old. It is possible for us to take a pig to slaughter earlier if desired.

Instead of re-typing, (or copying) what I have found about how much a pig will yield, I will let you read one of the better write-ups about yield: http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2006/07/04/what-is-a-half-pig-share/.

There are only 2 pigs.  We will not be selling cuts, only a whole or half pig.  Our pricing will be $5/lb hanging weight (without the head) for a half-pig and $4.75/lb for a whole pig.  We will be keeping at least half a pig for our family.  Buyers pay the slaughter and butcher fees directly to the butcher when you pick up your meat.  We will likely use a local butcher in Preston CT.  The slaughter charge is expected to be $75/pig and $1.30/lb hanging weight for butcher fees (please note, these prices are estimates).

If you would like to reserve a half or whole, email me and then send us your deposit.  A deposit of $150/half or $200/whole is required to hold your pig.  A second payment of the same amount is due on November 1st, and the final balance will be due when the pig is slaughtered.

Stay tuned for pictures in about a week!