Pork-a-Palooza!

Pork-a-Palooza!

165 pounds of pig
165 pounds of pig

Here it is — our whole pig, butchered, cut, wrapped, with the hams and bacons smoked. Chuck drove over to pick it up and he said it was a very festive atmosphere over there — a big refrigerated truck filled with orders.

We paid $290 for this pig, which means we’re looking at $1.75 a pound for a local 4-H fair pig. We were late to go look at the animals with the kids, so what we saw was pigs and lambs being loaded onto trucks. It’s a rural ranching community here — that’s what happens after the fair, you sell your animal for meat, and put the money in your college fund.

pork chops, lots of pork chops
pork chops, lots of pork chops

Opening the boxes was like Christmas — ooh look! pork chops! there are lots of pork chops, and a whole ham split into two halves, and a lot of breakfast sausage, and ground pork, and bacon, and ham hocks, and roasts — they cut some of the shoulder roasts into smaller steaks, which will be interesting to play with, and they sliced one whole ham into ham steaks that are about a half inch thick — they’ll be great for a quick dinner or an easy breakfast. The only bummer is that I ordered half the belly unsmoked as fresh side pork, but didn’t specify for them not to slice it like bacon. So now we have a lot of fresh sliced side pork that I can’t really make pancetta out of — it’ll be good for paté, or I can play around with cures — it was one of those cross-cultural miscommunications that happen sometimes. Now I know for next year.

It’s the beginning of fall here in Montana  — the time of year when we all go peer into our freezers, seeing what needs to be eaten to make room for this year’s harvest. There are pigs and lambs and beef by the side or by the quarter, then the game starts coming in — elk and antelope and deer. Chuck doesn’t hunt, but he does let some of his friends hunt on his land, so he gets meat in exchange. It’s a funny time of year — not really cold enough to want to be eating big cuts of meat, but there we are. I made some Cinammon-Chile Short Ribs yesterday from this unbelievable beef that one of Chuck’s friends raises because well, we had a WHOLE PIG coming in, and room must be made in the freezer. I kept looking at him last night and saying “we have a WHOLE PIG in the freezer!” I’m the kind of person who stockpiles dried pasta when I start feeling financially wobbly, so you can only imagine how safe I feel with a WHOLE PIG in the freezer.

4 thoughts on “Pork-a-Palooza!

  1. I have been wanting to do this but my husband claims not to like meat that’s been frozen for any length of time. If I buy a steak from the grocery store and we don’t eat it in 2 days and so I freeze it, he says I’ve ruined it, and throws it out. (!)

    What do you say? Is 4-H bacon from the freezer just as good or better than unfrozen Hillshire Farms from a grocery store?

  2. Well, everyone here would starve if it wasn’t for the freezer — you can’t eat an entire elk fresh, for example. I’ve never had any issues with frozen meat — the butchers here all wrap for freezing — to bolster your case though, you might do a little research on how much meat gets shipped frozen, or go see if one of those wonky sites like Cooks Illustrated or Harold McGee has any info on freezing meat. Or just ask your local butcher … they’re a great resource. And as for taste — I’ve done antelope carpaccio from frozen antelope loin that’s as good as anything you’d ever want to eat. When I dated the Mighty Hunter, he also freezes a lot of game (you can see him if the Travel Channel re-runs last night’s Livingston episode — he’s Bourdain’s guide) — he’s a very picky cook and never complained about the quality of frozen game birds or big game.

  3. Thank you.

    I checked Craig’s List Central Oregon this morning and there’s beef for sale — 1/4, 1/2, whole — most butchering dates are in October. If I do that I’ll need to buy a small freezer! (We have a “modern” freezer with an ice and water dispenser on the outside. Except that it increases the amt of water my kids drink, it is such a waste of space! I’ve got 2 10lb bags of blueberries in there and it feels full already.)

  4. Great Jennifer! I checked with Bonnie Powell at Ethicurean about the freezing thing — she runs a meat CSA along with everything else she does, mostly pork, and she said that although the chefs she knows don’t love frozen meat, she can’t tell a difference — I just feel so much better knowing there are supplies, and from a nice clean local animal that didn’t go to a feedlot. And I can’t recommend buying a freezer highly enough — I totally rely on mine — for meat, for veggies from the garden that wouldn’t can well (greens mostly) and for ice cream and this summer at least, a few frozen pies. It’ll really change the way you think about your food supply.

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