Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cutting up a Pig

I recently cut up a pig, following this guide.

A few thoughts:

1) If your pig is skinned, as opposed to being dehaired by scalding or burning, you've got fewer options. My yield of lardo off this pig is terrible. Try to get your pig scalded if possible. Sometimes it isn't possible - e.g. a pig gets injured and you have to kill her to save the meat.

2) Try to get a lot of counter space. When you don't have enough space, you are more likely to cut yourself, your counter, etc. Or you'll take more time cutting the pig, or both.

3) I didn't have a saw, so I used my rib puller to debone the sides before cutting the belly off the loin. I didn't miss the saw at all.

4) Rib pullers are essential. Once you de-rib the side, you can break the rib off the spine. Everything gets easier. You can order rib pullers here, when they have them. Perhaps there's been a run on rib pullers, given all the upcoming butchery events.

5) You don't need a long knife. I used one of these. Mine is worn down, so its blade is just 3.34 inches (8.5 cm). It is good to have a sharp point, for scraping membranes off bones with the back of the knife.

6) It is important that the the slaughterer split the carcass down the middle, or pretty much the entire time you are working on the loin and neck, you'll curse him. The guy who did mine didn't. It is harder to get the meat off the side with the extra bone and meat. That extra meat winds up being trim too. If the slaughterer splits the hog badly enough, your neck and loin will be entirely trim; I've had that happen. I didn't cry, but I was thoroughly disgusted and dejected at the waste.

7) The slaughterer should strip out the leaf lard when the carcass is still hot. That's when it is easiest. Do it later and you'll waste time.

8) I'm not sure if I did the leg right. I got the "Nuss" out. I think I got the other pieces out. But in the end, I couldn't match them up to the pictures. I could not identify my favorite leg muscles, which I know from cutting into hams. The leg remains a mystery to me.

9) The neck has some soft fat in it, which separates two muscle groups in the middle of the neck. You can split that fat with your fingers, if you pull hard enough. I mistakenly split that fat. Don't do that or you'll wind up with mini-necks.

10) Be careful when you de-rib. Don't cut deep with your knife along the side of the ribs, or you'll cut up your belly.

11) Bag up the bones before you take them to the trash. I piled mine high in some boxes and carried them to the dumpster. You don't want people to think you are a serial killer.

12) Buy a metal glove. I stuck myself a few times. Mangalitsa Chef says they work great. You can splurge and get this one. But even a cheaper one will (according to him) stop you from getting stuck.

Overall, it was interesting and relaxing.

When I was all done, it was neat to think that I took apart an animal as big as me, with a rib puller, a small sharp knife and my two hands. If I ever need to cut up a pig, deer, bear, etc. I'm confident I can do it as long as I've got the tools.

The stuff I fabricated looks a lot better than the stuff I've gotten (or seen) from some professional processors. I'm looking forward to doing my next one, and doing a better job.

Christoph Wiesner does this stuff really well. He makes it look easy. My team, which he trained, does it well too. I'm not very good at this stuff. I really don't want to do what it takes to get good at this stuff; but I'm happy I can do it if I have to.

The overall tedium of the experience - made worse by the slaughterer splitting the pig badly - made me dream of the day when we'll grow meat in vats, and just keep the pigs around as pets, or perhaps just kill a few now and then, for celebratory purposes.

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