Shortly after Reed was born, we filled our freezer with half a hog. It was a beautiful sight, all the crisp paper parcels stacked in the deep freeze ready to feed us through the winter. The shoulder roasts vanished first. Then, during a split pea soup craze, the hocks. We made the belly into home cured salt bacon and quickly gorged our way through 2/3 of that. Even our seemingly endless reserves of pork chops dwindled.
By February, the majority of what was left were “project cuts.” Pork livers for pate (do I even like pate?). A giant bag of fat (that’s right, a giant bag of fat) to be rendered into lard. And the ham. The 25lb fresh ham ready to be thawed, cured and hung. But 25 lb hams are kind of intimidating.
This afternoon, Adam and I got that ham (#38) all boxed up in salt and injected with brine. It was pretty fun, sticking such a boulder of meat with a giant needle. For the next 40 days, I’ll be tending the ham like a tender little plant. And then we’ll hang it for months and months and months. If all goes well, we’ll have a gorgeous ham to hack beautiful slivers from come Christmas. Ham failure, I hear, smells quite putrid. Either way, I’ve been having a blast. The meat is beautiful, and I have really enjoyed working with it.
Working with meat used to intimidate me. I hated the factory farm meat industry (still do), and didn’t really know how to go about buying it. So, as a single lady, I probably ate meat once a month. If that. After I got married, Adam and I together began to figure out our ways, and I got more comfortable with meat, incorporating it into our dinners once or twice a week. But I still didn’t know a chuck roast from a flank steak. Then, last summer, I got this book. I read it cover to cover and carried it with me for weeks. I ordered half a hog from a responsible local farmer, butchered, but otherwise untouched.
We’ve been learning as we go. And not all of our “project cuts” have turned out perfectly. But it has been incredibly satisfying, and, truly, a good deal easier than I anticipated.
If you live in Wisconsin, you can find sources for local meat here. Let me know if you have had any interesting experiences with meat or making things you never thought you could make.