You Bought Your Heritage Breed Pastured Pig, Now What? (Pt 3)
In the last post we discussed how much it will cost to pay the processor to butcher your pig.
In this post, we’ll finally talk about the different cuts of meat and what you can ask for and expect from the butcher.
How A Hog is Cut
There is a wealth of information available on the many different cuts of pork and how they are produced.
Basically, there are 4 primal cuts on a hog—the shoulder, loin, belly and ham. Some charts divide the shoulder cut into 2 primal cuts, the picnic and the Boston Butt. Each of these primal cuts is then divided into smaller cuts to produce the individual pork products you normally see for sale in the grocery store or butcher shop.
The shoulder is divided into the picnic roast and the Boston Butt. The loin yields the tenderloin, ribs, chops or roasts. The belly can be cut into the spare ribs and bacon. The ham can be cut into shank end and ham roasts.
Now comes the hard part, deciding just what you want of the smaller cuts. Here are a few things to consider.
Sausage and Ground Pork
The amount of sausage you will get depends on how you have your pig cut up. Sausage is usually made from leftover cuts and other scraps of meat that don’t normally get marketed as pork products. However, you can have as much of the hog made into sausage as you want. One customer asked for the whole pig to be made into sausage and ended up with almost 200 pounds of delicious breakfast sausage, enough to last a year!
If you wanted, you could easily get 50 pounds of sausage from your pig, or more, even if you take many of the other cuts. For example, because the processor does not cure or smoke hams, many people choose to have the ham meat made into sausage or ground pork. The choices are up to you—if you want as much sausage as possible, tell the processor and he’ll help you maximize the amount you get.
The standard sausage they make at Key Packing Co. is a sage-flavored, breakfast-type sausage. It is delicious and they can make it mild or hot. They also offer specialty flavors of sausage—Sweet Italian, Sassy Honey BBQ, bratwurst and chorizo. They will make the Italian sausage spicy if you ask them to. We have tried all of these and really like the Italian and chorizo sausage. The chorizo is spicy without being overpowering, it is excellent in soups and stews, and is great in Huevos Rancheros. Or, maybe try it in some of these, or these! It is a fresh, not a dried sausage, however, and is not as spicy as traditional Mexican chorizo, so if you want more spice, ask, and see what they can do for you.
For the specialty sausage, you must order a minimum of 25 pounds. You can have it made into link sausage instead of bulk sausage if you desire, but the processor will charge $1/pound to do that.
If you want to taste any of these sausages before you order them, let us know. We have most of them available.
Pork Chops/Pork Loin/Roasts
Pork chops are a very popular cut and most people ask for as many as they can get from their pig. The processor will cut them to the thickness you want. The standard cut is ¾”. That’s a good thickness for fried or smothered pork chop recipes. We often ask for half the pig to be cut at 3/4” and half to be cut at 1 ½”.
This thicker cut is ideal for brining and grilling or smoking, and is very similar to what you would get if you ordered one in an upscale chop house restaurant. Here’s an excellent recipe from Cook’s Illustrated:
The meat from our heritage hogs makes these chops well marbled and colored and full of flavor. One chop cut to this thickness is easily a portion size big enough for one person. But, once it’s off the grill and cut into, don’t be surprised if that person asks for more anyway.
Because chops come from the same area as the pork loin, we usually opt to have ours cut into chops. Pork loin tends to be dry, and if you choose to take that cut, you’ll have less available for chops.
This area is also the place from which rib roasts are cut. That’s an excellent cut, but it will mean fewer chops. Still, if you have a special event in mind, having one side cut into rib roasts is a good choice.
Pork Shoulder/Boston Butt/Hams
Your pig has 2 shoulders, the front 2 legs of the pig. These are very popular cuts because the can be used so many different ways–baked, grilled, smoked, barbecued, etc. They are a moister cut of pork, simply delicious. Typically, the processor will cut each shoulder into 2 pieces, the lower part being the picnic roast and the upper, the Boston Butt. Depending on how much they weigh, the butcher may cut them into 5-6 lb sizes, which we find perfect for our meals. Some of what is left from the shoulder cuts will go into sausage, so if you want to maximize these cuts, tell the processor to give you as much as he can.
The hams come from the back legs of the pig. We enjoy fresh ham, but it is significantly different from the ham you would buy in a grocery store. That ham has been cured, and probably smoked. Fresh ham is not. Its flavor is similar to the pork shoulder, but it is leaner. A fresh ham large enough for a family gathering, smoked for 9 hours over hickory wood and finished with a rum and molasses glaze is a real winner on the Thanksgiving or Christmas table!
Some people choose to make the hams into sausage or ground pork. Unless you have a favorite recipe or a plan for the fresh ham, that’s a good option. On the last hog we took in, we asked for fresh hams of about 6 lbs from the shank end and then used the rest of the hams for sausage. It worked out very well.
You can ask for your ribs to be packaged as a whole slab or cut into smaller packages. Ribs can be cut into 2 or 3 different cuts. As with the rest of the hog, how you cut it also has an impact on what other cuts you’ll have, especially bacon.
Bacon comes from the side and belly of the pig. If you’re like me, ask them to give you as much as possible, even if it means less meat for ribs. It’s bacon, after all!
You can also ask for fatback if you want to make lard or cook with it, or have it included in the sausage. Neck bones and livers are yours, also. Key Packing does not give you the feet, snout, ears or jowls.
Drop Off/Pick Up/Freezer Size
We deliver your hog to the processor on a Wednesday. You can work with us or directly with Key Packing to order your cuts. They will have your pork ready for you to pick up on Saturday morning. They close at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday so plan on an early start. The drive from Fayetteville is over an hour. Additionally, you’ll have to go back when your bacon is ready to pick that up. They will call you to let you know when it’s ready. If you can’t be there within a few days, let them know and ask them to hold it in the freezer until you come.
You will need 2 or 3 large coolers when you pick up your meat. More is better, because you’ll have to lift them when you get home to carry to the freezer and one extra-large, super duty, maritime cooler might hold all the meat, but you probably won’t want to lift it if it weighs 125 pounds! A whole hog will not fit into the freezer compartment of your refrigerator, so a chest freezer is ideal. It doesn’t have to be huge, and the chest type is more energy efficient.
If you are waiting for your hog to be processed, I’m sure you have more questions. Please call us and we’ll talk through it. We think it’s exciting to be able to have this quality of food grown right here locally, and you’ll be more excited when you can go to your own freezer for delicious food instead of to the supermarket. We know you’ll love the flavor.
Most of this season’s hogs have been spoken for, but we still have 2 hogs available if you are interested. This pork is excellent. Our heritage hogs have been raised in humane conditions in woodland pastures, supplemented with regular feed and have been kept together as a unit from birth to processing. They have received no hormones or antibiotics.
Call or email if you are interested in buying a whole or a half of one of our heritage breed pastured pigs.