This 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!