Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Eat Local Meat

Cutting Instructions for 1/2 Hog

As I have mentioned before, the easiest and best way to ensure the eating of local meat is to purchase it in bulk, as whole, half or quarter animals. This web site can locate you farmers in Illinois for your whole hog, etc. You can find other sites on the Internet for sides of meat from Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana. Although we have plenty of beef and lamb from our previous forays, we (mostly I) decided to supplement, nay add, with a 1/2 hog from Dennis and Emily Wettstein's organic farm.

A processed cow produces nothing if not a lot of hamburger, and when every last steak, roast, soup bone and bit of offal from our cow is eaten, we will still, have, I believe, hamburger. (Next cow we get, my wife insists we ask for stew meat too.) The lady at Eureka Locker, who is processing our pork, told me that pork is not so wasteful. There is trim, but it has to be used in a tidy way. At least she wanted it tidy. None of this, make a bit of brats, a bit of fresh sausage and the rest as ground pork. Trim needed to be proportioned evenly. Here's how we portioned our trim and divvied up the rest of the 1/2 hog, which is coming in at around 150 lbs:
  • Leg - boned, cured and smoked; after the smoking, they will cut two center ham steaks, leaving us two whole ham roasts. I plan on slicing at least one, maybe both of the ham roasts as lunch meats and re-packaging them in smaller baggies. Organic cure.
  • Hocks (2) - cured and smoked (organic)
  • Shoulder - One larger cut, 8-10 lb for a BBQ pulled pork; the rest of the shoulder cut into 5ish lb roasts
  • Belly - 1/2 cured and smoked (organic), 1/2 left fresh, packaged in one pound cuts
  • Spareribs - 3 or so lbs worth
  • Loin - One larger roast and the rest cut into chops 1.5 inches thick. I had wanted to get the chops cut in range of thicknesses, some thinner. The locker woman originally said she could do that, but as we talked it seemed easier to go with one size fits all. Because I asked for bone-in chops and roast, there is no baby back ribs
  • Offal - The nature of small America lockers does not allow for too much nose-to-tail eating. I am not quite sure all the reasons. We get the heart, liver and kidneys, that's it. See below for a bit of head talk. I wanted the feet for braises and the tail to use for beans or greens. Neither was available to us and forget about home made blood sausage or kishkes.
  • Fat - We have to render the lard ourselves, but we get all the fat, including the kidney fat for leaf lard. It will be cut in 1 lb chunks and packaged in five pound bags.
  • Trim - Italian sausage, bratwurst and packaged ground pork, which my wife did not so much approve she wanted more plain and less seasoned.

No one with a copy of a Fergus Henderson book could want a hog without its head, no? His latest tome, Beyond Nose to Tail Eating, has a stunningly, grossly attractive picture of a braised pig's head. Could I duplicate that? More likely, I am working on a trade with Rob at Mado. Anyways, I mentioned to Emily Wettstein the other day that I wanted the head. The head from a local hog can be had if requested. I requested. She forgot to mention that to the locker. Still, before I could get the least bit distressed, they realized their mistake and realized they were processing another hog next week. I could have that head. I asked the locker if they would split the head for me. They said no. If I wanted a hog head, I was getting a hog head. Smarty.

We pick up our 1/2 hog on July 5, 2008 at the Oak Park Farmer's Market. You know I'll have more to say. This year the Wettstein's will be at the market every week. If you cannot get the whole hog, you can buy your own parts, no head, each Saturday as well as organically raised lamb, chicken, beef and eggs.

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