So, after finding out that the whole pig we were going to get for my husband to butcher an hour south of us at Nehalem River Ranch would require us to drive 100 miles into the Portland ‘burbs to pick up because they don’t actually slaughter/scald them onsite (if you’re going to get a whole pig to butcher, you do NOT want a happy, peaceful creature to be forced into a truck and transported in it’s last bits of life only to be killed upon arrival – the stress hormones fucks up the taste not to mention disrespects the animal…the ironic thing is they do have a mobile slaughter person who comes out there – but only if you want the entire pig skinned! For anyone who makes prosciutto, like we are planning to do, or bacon or pork rinds or cassoulet or a ton other things, the skin IS incredibly essential! So you either need to scald or shave/burn off the hair, not treat it like garbage.), we canceled that order and put out a call to our neighbor up the way who has extensive butchery experience and used to raise pigs herself. And sure enough, she knew a chef looking to split a pig with someone from a local guy selling one of his Kune Kune (which means “fat and round” in Maori, as they are originally from New Zealand) pigs only about 20 minutes from here. Sweet! While we’d have loved to get an entire hog, this was a great start and an awesome way for my honey to get his hands back into meat cutting, something he’s missed since moving out here to the coast…and our neighbor didn’t charge us a thing for her part in acquiring, slaughtering or prepping it for us to pick up to butcher. What a champion, as my husband would say.
So with that, as Dan was working on the day she was go to with her husband to slaughter it and bring it back to her place to do the cleanup/evisceration/splitting, she let me tag along with them to witness it. Some might ask why, but honestly we want to be as intimately involved as possible with the entire process – meeting the man who raised the barrow (def: castrated boy pig – once they get to maturity if they’re not fixed, the meat tastes a whole lot different), bearing witness when our neighbor shot it for us, and ensuring everything was done as respectfully as possible. When my husband went to “piggy camp” earlier this year he was able to be a part of it from start to finish, and while it definitely took some bravado on my part to be there for this, I knew I’d feel like a hypocrite if I could eat it but not have the nerve to be there with it when it was being killed to ultimately go to our table. As I’d seen the video from the workshop where Dan went, I knew that I was going to ultimately have an easier time watching the pig get shot than watching it be eviscerated (i.e., cut down the middle and pull the non-edible guts out like the stomach nor the intestines which we don’t have the patience/skill/experience yet to clean and use for sausage casings), but I made it through. As expected, the evisceration was not easy, but being present was a tremendous experience. While this is my husband’s project, I’ve been able to put in some hands-on labor into the process as well which makes me feel good.
So with that, here’s what the process looked like – if you’ve never been a part of this and feel you might be squeamish (but eat meat), I encourage you to look at these anyhow:
Our boy was the one in front, quietly slopping around with the others. Compared to their big mama and poppa pigs (not pictured) he looked fairly small at his estimated 350 or so lbs., but ultimately we got 119 lbs worth in our half afterwards – whew! Because it was tough to navigate in there and very very muddy (so getting the pig out once shot would be difficult), they couldn’t shoot him in with the others (pigs don’t like to be separated from their buddies and the other pigs don’t freak out when their mate is shot…like our neighbor said, they just go about their business, some even try to get in there and lick up the blood – I know, eww! but it’s good to know if you’re doing this), so they had to bring him into a spot on the outside and cordon it off with a pallet so he could see his buddies still. We needed to get him turned around and he was trying initially with grain and apples and he was having none of it, as his buddies had just been given an entire sheet cake (Costco leftovers the guy had delivered)…so I suggested we give him a cake as well considering it’s his last meal and all, and yep, as sure as that happened he happily turned around and plowed into the cake (you want to shoot them ideally while they’re eating as it’s a very exact spot on the forehead you want to hit – much harder than other animals…and a Kune Kune is especially challenging as their heads are way different than most other pigs – let’s just say a KK is the pug compared to a golden retriever.). Anyhow it was over quickly – yes, he did a face plant right into the cake and uneaten apple – and they put him up in the truck and we took him back to our neighborhood.
Once we got back to our neighbor’s house, the first thing we needed to do was give him a wash. Kune Kunes are VERY hairy and as y’all know, pigs are neither dainty nor clean, so it took some cleanup from the hose and some hands-on work from my neighbor and I (yep, I got to help a tiny bit!) to get all the gunk out of it’s very thick hair and then rinsed and dried. Why all this? Well they don’t have a scalding tank there, so we shaved it. First she got out her animal clippers and then he got out the torch to singe the majority of the hair off. With the head it was impossible to do this way, so they simply cut it off and left it for us to do. One thing I found particularly interesting was how (just like they say in science ‘zines) similar pig skin is to human skin. Getting up close and personal while gently drying the hair before shaving it gave me the chance to really see that, and it was quite moving actually. And yeah the next part you have to find the humor in because really, how do you not start giggling when she says to her husband “okay you get the butthole and I’ll take the penis”. Yeah, you have to delicately cut the butthole out so that poop doesn’t go everywhere, tie its bladder so you don’t get squirted with pee, and then in the front, cut it open and extricate and remove it’s extremely long…and with the bonus being that the chef dude who wanted the other half DIDN’T want the leaf lard, I got ALL of that to render for baking. Excellent! Anyhow, see all that white? This piggy had a LOT of fat, so much so that there’s only a minimal chance for traditional bacon, but other than that there’s a lot to look forward to for charcuterie lovers like my husband and I.
Post-slaughter, as my husband was in the midst of a work-week, the next 36 hours were about taking care of the leaf lard, organ meat, and head. Twenty-three pounds of leaf lard that will need to be rendered, holy cow! That got bagged and FoodSaver-frozen for future work. Cut up part of the liver and made my first ever pate (and yes once the meat got into the food processor with the caramelized onions, the house smelled like cat food so much so that I had to walk out a few times…it tastes good but definitely not something to gorge on as it’s super rich), Dan used our giant electric canner to scald/scrape the hair from the KK’s very strange-shaped head and then liberated those gorgeous cheeks for me to make guanciale (bottom left – this is what you use for carbonara!), then ground the leftover loin/lard combo for kielbasa, and after Dan had a work lunch of sauteed heart & kidneys on rice (yeah, that was a one-off and while good he said it was overwhelmingly rich haha), I froze up the rest of the organs for future use. And finally, popped the tongue on the stove for a full day of slow cooking to make spicy pork tongue tacos for Dan’s lunch – nothing like pasilla and chili peppers and salsa and black beans and tortillas and hot sauce and…tongue? Yup, tongue. Now I will say, trotters and I did not get along as I’d hoped – Dan scalded and shaved them so I could hopefully turn them into one of the many lovely-sounding Asian recipes out there, but me + cleaver + actual foot of a pig? I couldn’t handle it – got too emotional (even though Dan had already done the worst part of removing the nails) and asked him to take over. Well, proves I’m human.
And the biggest workload of all – getting the rest of the pig from our neighbor’s chiller to our island (yay for our big sturdy DIY island!) then cut into primals and subprimals of our choosing. Luckily this big boy fit perfectly on our island (took both of us to lift out of the back of the Subaru and carry into the house!), but Dan was immediately able to get into the zone with saw and knives, and with me in a supporting role (the FoodSaver being our hero, as every section that was not for grind – ribs, bacon, etc. – was immediately cut so that I could get things wrapped and into the freezer. Along with that, we did get a few charcuterie items started, namely the gorgeous prosciutto covered in kosher salt and garlic powder and crushed peppercorns. This was our #1 reason for getting a pig, I’ll admit, and hey, in 18 months, we’ll tell you how it tastes!
THE RESULTS! Here’s our upright freezer which also contains our recently acquired frozen chooks (raised by our neighbors over at Melville Farms) but is primarily pig-a-rific. I managed to document the majority of the weights of this sweet creature (minus the bones), which goes a little something like this…
- Cheeks (AKA Guanciale, AKA Carbonara!) – 3 lbs
- Liver (AKA Pate, Sausage) – 4 lbs
- Leaf Lard (AKA Baking Awesomeness) – 17+ lbs
- Fat (AKA Lard) – 21+ lbs
- Grind (AKA Sausage, Salami, Ground Pork, etc) – 18 lbs
- Fatty Loin Scraps (AKA Kielbasa) – 5 lbs
- Leg/Ham (AKA Prosciutto) – 19.5 lbs
- Loin (AKA Lonzino) – 1.75 lb
- Neck (AKA Coppa) – 4 lbs
- Spare Ribs (AKA delicious!!) – 2 lbs
- Shoulder (AKA Boston Butt + Picnic – pulled pork, sausage, stew, stir-fry) – 7 lbs
- Belly/Bacon – 11 lbs
- Back Bacon – 2.5 lbs
- Feet/Trotters – not weighed
- Heart/Kidneys/Ears – not weighed.