Sunday, June 16, 2013

Pigs, Bacon, Ham and the rest

So a month after the pigs were dispatched it's time for a roundup of what's been going on.
We started here with one of the three pigs. Next task was to butcher them into manageable pieces this was helped by having 3 vets and watching this a few time

So the chopping continued and we ended the day with a car full of pig each and plenty to be going on with. We decided to leave some of the final decisions on what became what until we had a chance to think it over and see how much meat we had. So with it all bagged up we weighed in at about 45kg (not counting head and a few other bits).

So after a bit more work we had a plan, with the usual chops and joints taken out it was time to sort out how much bacon, pancetta and other bits of curing we could do and to delve into the internet and books for ideas, guides and tips.

So with the freezer full we were left with the following to do fun stuff with:
1 Whole Rear Leg
1/2 Rear Leg
2 Bacon slabs
1 Pancetta

The shopping list was forming but mostly consisted of Salt! All of the recipes were from the UK or US mainly so that lead to the fun game of translating into things that you can buy in Australia (or more importantly what they are called!) Trying to get the right kind of sugar was difficult so there was some swapping round and mixing done. Taking it as a fairly liberal approach that the recipes were more guidelines and suggestions than actual facts.
The best source of info was Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Meat & River Cottage Cook books and his Pig in a Day DVD, couple that with some annoying Americans who had some good methods but really offputting vids online. Using my new found knowledge I set about combining ideas scribbling notes and making a couple of spreadsheets to try and get the right amount of cure onto the different parts.

Bacon turned out to be the easiest with a dry cure of Salt & Brown Sugar with various herbs added. The Pancetta was again simple with a more slat based cure. The only beg decision was regarding Saltpeter ( -Major uses of potassium nitrate are in fertilizers, food additiverocket propellants and fireworks; it is one of the constituents of gunpowder.) The 2 viewpoints were it's essential or you pill poinson yourself & die and no need you can poinson yourself with it..... I opted for running out of time not finding any and not using any. This may prove to be a mistake but we will have to wait and see.

Next came the legs, the whole leg was destined to be an air dried version of Prosciutto, based on tips from HFW. I had to find something to cure it in with a lot of salt, but in a way that would be efficient in the use of salt. I decided to build something from wood which presented me the challenge of my limited woodworking skills :) the other challenge was keeping metal such as nails away from the salt to avoid rust.
This is my solution, the idea is that it can be reused and reshaped if needed for other curing duties, once the leg and salt were added the finished contraption looked like this
This was hidden away for a few weeks with some bags of salt on the top to press down.
The final job was the wet cured 1/2 leg. This used another of HFW's recipes with a cider, sugar, salt & syrup based cure. this was all popped in a large plastic bucket and hidden away for the required time.

So with everything either frozen or curing there was only time to sample one thing

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