Bacon And Chops

pork-cut-diagram_23-2147495145This past weekend was our date for processing the pigs we’ve raised. Growing and raising our own food continues to be a significant part of what we do here at Fernwood. Another form of our ‘home economy’ happens to be the meat we put into the freezer. Now that the nursery is closed for the season, the vegetables all harvested and preserved, the firewood in, and the hay stored, it is time to fill the last freezer with this year’s pork supply. The days we slaughter animals are never really pleasant ones. We know what we’re in for. We’ve raised these critters and because we are committed to following through with the whole process of raising our own meat from start to finish, it is certainly a day of thoughtfulness and consideration, and it should be. In 8 months the pigs have grown to a weight of about 280 pounds. That’s a lot of bacon and chops. Every year we change our decisions on the type of cuts we want. We have found that we eat more pork in the form of roasts than chops. We smoke a few of the hams and leave the others fresh. We consider what will go into ‘grind’ for sausage making and what we will be cubed for quick meals. The roasts we cut get smaller as the number of people in our household dwindles. Always decisions to make. Then there’s the bacon…….we never want to skimp on the amount of bacon we have on hand. Both the bacon and the hams ( and the hocks) will all be brined and then smoked here. The fresh bacon will be smeared with a combination of maple syrup, brown sugar, and salt, then left for about 10 days to cure. The hams and the hocks will be put into a liquid brine solution of hard cider, brown sugar, and some spices. After they cure, we will smoke them in a homemade smoker. The smoker is nothing fancy….a large wooden box with loose seams to let out some of the smoke and a small woodstove that fits neatly inside. The meat will hang inside or be placed on the racks we’ve made and then smoke for about 4-5 hours at a controlled temperature of 150-155 degrees ( a higher temperature will cook the meat instead of just smoking it). We are very grateful for this home grown/home processed food we raise. Our trips to the grocery store are fairly infrequent even in winter….and it’s nice to breeze right by the meat counter knowing all that we need is carefully and safely preserved back in our own freezers. Often, if we’re not starting our winter mornings out with a hot bowl of oatmeal, then a plate of fresh eggs, homemade sourdough toast, and strips of home-raised bacon may be on the menu. You may want to consdider coming for breakfast!

14 comments on “Bacon And Chops

  1. How Satisfying (?sp) that must be. Bacon and cheese are 2 of my favorites. Breakfast sounds wonderful. You are truly blessed. Lot of hard work but definately worth it. Wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy 2016,

    • Thank you Molly….Come for breakfast! I’ll fill your plate with bacon and cheese!! Yes, we feel very fortunate, it is hard work…very true, but we are committed to living a life that provides. A very Merry Christmas and Holiday to you as well….as well as health and happiness continued into the New year! denise

  2. The minute you mentioned smoking meat, you had Dennis ready to get in the car. 🙂 He worked as a butcher going through college and even when younger he helped his Dad prep meat for their family of 12. Besides the convenience of having your winter food prepped, the best thing is really knowing what those animals ate before being processing. P.S. My Pulmonaria are coming up, a couple of our trees have buds, and parts of our yard are still showing green grass from the recent rain. 😦

    • I think one of those most satisfying things we do here at Fernwood is to raise our own meat, as well as processing it here on the farm. Today I brined the hams in hard apple cider, brown sugar, salt, juniper berries, cloves, and bay leaves. ooh lala……ask Dennis if he thinks so! I could always send you some bacon strips in the mail….really quite safe seeing that it will only have to travel from Maine to New Hampshire! Thanks Judy!

  3. You had me drooling when you started describing how each cut is processed. How rewarding each meal must be, especially in the winter when there is very little fresh to gather from the garden. Freezers full of your own produce and meat is without a doubt the best feeling!

    • Yes, it is a great relief and comfort to have several freezers full of meat. And you are right, each meal has a history here on the farm, one we can trace back to it’s beginning. And, oh my……bacon…..there are not enough words to describe bacon! Wish your family were right here to share a meal…that would be a true delight!

      • Johnny butchered a goat this week with the help of the boys. They were completely enthralled with the process. I have never had freshly butchered pig meat but dream of smoked porkchops, something we ate often as a child, but have never been able to get here in Ireland.

        • Such a good lesson in understanding our food systems. I remember Noah being so interested in identifying each and every organ of an animal we butchered. At twenty he can now do almost any animal from start to finish by himself….a great skill. Glad to hear that your children are learning first hand some of these old and rural traditions. Will you save some goat for a meal at Christmas? I surely wish I could wrap several smoked pork chops in my fanciest Christmas wrapping paper and send it across…..

    • I think bacon is always the culprit when ever we consider wavering on whether or not to become a vegetarian. Nobody ever really says “I can’t be a vegetarian on account of my love for pork chops or chicken wing” It’s always the bacon. Happy Holidays to you……hope some of your festive meals include some cured and smoked pork belly!

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