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Today is slicing day. I’m slicing coppa, guancialle, fiocco, and ham (for sandwiches). Of course, we make sure it’s all good as we go. That’s a more important step than one may think. After hanging for some time, the pieces ideally have some mold on them. This helps impart desireable flavors and keep the meat safe–if it’s a good white mold. Green and black mold are BAD. We’re constantly patrolling the hanging room for good molds and bad molds, and I also check as I’m slicing to be sure a given piece doesn’t contain an unpleasant surprise. When we see green or black mold it gets treated with apple cider vinegar. If it’s just a small spot, a spray from a spray bottle usually does the trick. Larger areas require some scrubbing and rinsing in the shop with the vinegar and water. Then the piece dries and hangs in the shop a day or two to make sure it got cleaned thoroughly before returning to the hanging room. Mold spores are airborne, so when I find a little mold on a piece I mist the floor and general area lightly with the vinegar as a precautionary measure. Last year we had more trouble with mold, but this year these measures have worked well.
Another lesson learned this year is that seasonality is an element in the quest for good vs. evil molds. The reasons for harvesting hogs in the fall when the nights are cold include the fact that the cooler temperatures retard mold and allow the pieces to go through the initial cure, when they are most moist and therefore most vulnerable, with greater safety. When the more humid summer months come the pieces are either done and in use, or have a protective layer that is dryer and less conducive to mold growth.
There are many other reasons to harvest pigs in the fall and many other ways to control molds in your hanging room. We discuss them in the classes, which are now all updated and available. Check out either the Saturday classes to jump into the process that interests you, or come to the weekend class to get an intensive experience!
The Hog Harvest classes are coming up! Here’s a cool video a friend of ours did about our pigs:
Last weekend was our first Hog Harvest class.
Day one saw everyone busy taking the pigs from the field to the cooler.
We saved the internal organs, including the heart, kidneys, liver, spleen, and brain. Here Mark is showing how to separate the caul fat from the spleen.
Day two was cutting the halves of the pig into pieces.
Day three is the yummy step: starting the curing process and making sausage.
This is a hands-on class, and everyone got their hands into every step. Along the way we ate great food and stayed up way too late discussing the world. Students remarked that it helped to see how the pigs were raised, and to see them as part of the bigger picture of the whole farm. They left ready to tackle raising and/or processing a pig or two. That’s what it’s all about!
Remember: Anyone Can Farm (and that includes you).
This past weekend we had a group of folks from Indiana who ordered pork and sent two families to pick it up. The benefit to the Ritzmans and Baughmans was some OJT (on -job-training). They got to help us to kill, scald, and scrape one hog, and pitched in to cut and package the 4 hogs they took back with them.
As we looked at the different cuts, we talked about various ways to prepare and preserve the parts of a pig–especially the not-so-commonly used ones, like the head, trotters, and brains. Actually, we enjoyed the brains scrambled into an omelet for breakfast. They end up being about the same consistency as the eggs and can pass unnoticed.
This is the thing we do that led to Anyone Can Farm. These folks did not get the benefit of a full-blown class. This was a utilitarian, get the job done session. Learning happens when hands are put to work, and that’s what Anyone Can Farm is all about. Plus, we solved the world’s problems, ate good food, and parted hoping to do it again next year.
We have two opportunities coming up for you to join us for a weekend and learn the whole process, from in the pig pasture to putting meat on salt to cure: October 25-27, and November 1-3.
We will be processing pigs through the fall and into December. If you’d like to purchase a half or whole hog and help butcher your pig, let us know! OJT is a great way to learn.
Among other things, Mark tells you on this video why the Hog Harvest class is for you!
Fat is flavor. Fat is your friend.
Our pigs are fat. At Hog Harvest, we will show you that fat has flavor and is a dish of beauty.
Besides rendering hog fat for lard, we will be making “lardo.” Lardo is simply cured fat. The thicker it is, the better the cure works. The result is a sliver of glistening, salty, herb flavored (or not) deliciousness. After trying our lardo and loving it, a friend shared this article with us:
We recently had a Celebration of the Farm here, hosting around 230 people. The bunkhouse was full, the campground was nearly full with tents and various other campers. It was an exciting fulfillment of a vision.
Part of the Celebration was a Hog Harvest Demonstration. People watched and helped with getting a hog from the field, scalded and scraped, split, and in the cooler. Folks really appreciated the opportunity to participate in procuring their food.
Part of any stay of the farm is experiencing the whole farm. You can collect the eggs for breakfast, milk the cow for lunch, and, depending on the time of year, browse the garden for dinner.
We’re are into planning for the Hog Harvest classes this fall. The pigs are fattening. We’ve refreshed our skills. We have the housing ready for those who want to stay with us (at no extra charge). You, too, can milk the cow, collect the eggs, and learn how to make fabulous lard, bacon, and ham! Hog Harvest: coming soon!
We felt successful in our processing training this fall in at least three cases.
Case one is Penny Kriebel from the OK CSA in Traverse City. Penny attended the chicken processing class with the MSU Organic Farm students. Penny has raised laying chickens for years, but never had ventured into the last purpose of her birds. She told us a week later one of her neighbors called and asked if she’d help put their few layers in the freezer and Penny was gratified that she had the knowledge to do that. That’s what it’s all about!
Case two is the daughters of a friend of ours. Our kids had been bugging and teasing the two girls for some time about coming to help and learning to process chickens. The girls raise about 100-150 birds every summer as a job, and our kids think it’s funny they won’t have anything to do with the end of the game. Finally this fall the girls mustered their courage and came along with the birds on processing day. I don’t think they learned Joe’s job at the cones (frankly, that’s the one job I don’t/won’t do either), but they participated in everyone else’s station. A weekend or two later Dorothy answered the phone thinking she’d have a nice chat with her good friend. The question, however, was, “How hot does the scalding water have to be, again?” There had been a couple of ne’erdowells left at home and the girls felt they could do the job themselves now. They told their parents, “That’s not so hard!” So, with their Dad’s help, they used their new knowledge and processed the last few birds themselves! Success!
Case three is a farmer who raises heritage hogs and markets them direct to the consumer. They also value making their own food and edible products. They do cheese and yogurt with their goats’ milk, can and pickle their garden abundance, and wanted to expand into preserving their own pork. To that end, they killed one of their hogs, loaded him into the pick-up, and brought him down. We spent a day of private tutoring to scald and scrape, seam butcher, and begin curing their big guy. He really was big–tipped the scales at 340 pounds without his insides! The bonus part of any Anyone Can Farm training is after-class consultation. So they called us the next morning with a question as they prepared to brine the two hams and were able to make sure they were on track. The other upside to our day with them is that I got to show them how to prep and use the internal organs. When you process your own animal you have access to parts that are very difficult or impossible to get back if you let the government ensure your safety. They have to make rules to cover animals that you really DO NOT want to eat the liver, spleen, lungs, or kidneys out of. If your animal has been raised properly, outside, and is strong and healthy, these organs are vitally full of trace minerals and vitamins your body needs. This was a part of the other chicken and hog processing classes that people appreciated also.
An interesting side note: Saturday we custom processed a hog for a Hungarian family who lives in Chicago. They took home extra lard and were thrilled to be able to get it. They told us that Illinois regulations dictate that the fat must be cut off pork and may not be sold. It apparently contains cholesterol and contributes to obesity. Yep. For real. Last year this family (and extended family–it’s a huge affair), made their sausage without any extra fat, just lean pork from Meijer’s. They were so disappointed with the result they could barely eat it. They were thrilled to be able to come here, harvest the pig and bring home some really good pork for this year’s sausage.
Part of the mission of Anyone Can Farm is to train people to be able to feed themselves and their neighbors. It’s old knowledge that’s been lost in our push away from the dirt and into an industrial system. We want to see people processing their own and their neighbors chickens. We want to see people raising, processing, and safely preserving their own meats and preserving the artisinal farmer heritage.
The weekend started out Friday afternoon with students arriving in 1′s and 2′s. They were dressed in warm clothes but excited to see what was in store over the next 2 1/2 days. It was a sunny day and the temperature was in the low 40′s. Perfect weather for what the day was going to bring. After a briefing and a get to know each other time, we discussed what each student wanted to get out of the weekend. With smiles and excitement, we moved over to the farm and started the process we were there for.
The day continued with the group processing 2 Hogs and walking through the steps to harvest, scaled, de-hair and prepare the animal for cutting up.
Dinner was wonderful with everyone sharing stories and tasting the wonderful farm raised foods that everyone brought and prepared. That night, some stayed at local hotels, some right there at the Anyone Can Farm Lodge, and a few brazed the elements and camped outside.
Saturday we proceeded to learn more about how to cut up the hogs from a chef. The chef had a hog half and each of the student groups got a half to cut up also. It was a time of learning and experimenting on how to best part up the hog so that the best cuts of meat could be used for charcuterie. The students also got to see the farm and how everything works to prepare the specialty hogs for charcuterie.
Saturdays meals were fantastic. Jill and the kids prepared a wonderful selection of vegetables and meat with everyone full to the brim after a hard days work.
Sunday was another beautiful day with the sun shining and the temperature perfect for preparing the charcuterie and specialty sausages. The chefs taught everything from how to sharpen the knives, to which part of the hog is best what pork product, to the fine art of charcuterie.
As the day progressed, everyone would make comments about how much they learned and how awesome it was to listen from these incredible chefs. At the end, a collective realization came over them as they realized that “Anyone Can farm”.
Hugs to all those that attended Hog Harvest Days. Great times and memories.