Green Shadow to the Rescue!

So, maybe not a superhero move here, but our neighbors continue to be pretty superb folks. While doing chores, my bride and I were discussing how we can help our pigs and chickens that live outdoors get their feet dry with the incessant rain we have been having.

Across the street from us, our neighbor owns Green Shadow tree service, so  I walked over to ask Chuck  about getting some of the wood chips from his piles to put in our pens. He stopped what he was doing, filled his truck and brought two loads to the front of our pens for me to load in with our tractor, without me asking him to do so. I brought a few more loads from his place with our tractor and the pigs were ecstatic, or at least I interpreted their crazy running around, rooting and jumping as such.

This is another example of the type of people and friends we have around us, and reinforces how grateful we are to live where we do. People who jump to help each other, and who go beyond the need to make sure each other are ok are not common enough anymore.

green shadow chipperIf anyone needs tree service done in the greater Bethlehem area, give Green Shadow a call – he has been in business for over 30 years and has a great reputation in the area.

 

Cooking a Pork Butt (pulled pork anyone?)

I have to say, pulled pork and barbecue of most types is one of my favorite foods. Because of that, you will note this post focuses on that, but I try to highlight different approaches. To some, an oven is sacrilege for this process and only outdoor, wood smokers will do. Others are just as happy with an oven and a little liquid smoke, though I suspect that is due to not trying the alternatives.

It is also worth noting that the term Pork Butt is a little confusing as it is really not the butt at all, but rather the shoulder area – there are some pretty funny suggestions as to why it’s called the butt, but I will leave that to you to read up on.

  1. First up is the website AmazingRibs.com.
    The reason I am leading off with this one is I think it is a great resource to get an education on this cut and style, plus it doesn’t hurt that they point out Berkshire Pigs are the ones to look for! (In case you didn’t figure it out yet, we raise Berkshire – mmm good) The approach in this article is focused on a smoker or grill, but could be adapted if you are desperate and can’t lay your hands on one of these options. (I am sad for you if that is the case – you should move to the country and make some redneck friends like mine to have true food options!) Also worth looking for on this site is the linked article on cooking times.
  2. The next option to look at is from the CookShack.com.
    While there is significantly less detail on this link, I like this site as they also provide a little balanced chat about the different mops / sauces.

  3. Jump on google or bing or however you search the internet of food and find your own great resources, and please, let me know your approaches.

The bottom line is that this is a great cut of meat, cooked low and slow. Pulled pork is best paired with coleslaw, beans and beer and served on burger roles but you will find your own approach based on region and taste.

Pig Cut List

In a prior post, I referenced the cut list that we were putting together as well as the source of our planning numbers. Please check that out for some background.

Here is a link to our Cut List as a PDF file. This list is for our pigs. At this point, we will ask that you save it to your computer and print it out, fill out your preferences and then email it back to us.

If you do not have a scanner, please feel free to take a photo with a camera phone and send that or simply mail the form back via USPS. In the future, we hope to have this available to fill out online, but for the next couple of cycles, we hope to work out any issues with this more manual approach.

 

 

Lessons in Commercial Pig Butchering

This being our first year butchering our own pigs, we learned some good lessons in how to manage our expectations and also what to expect from the process.

While we have purchased 1/2 pigs and steers from other farmers in the past, it was a simple agreement to the hang weight cost and then we got what the butcher cut. We approached the process in much the same way this time, but going forward we will be better educated, and in turn, those who buy from us will be. The options on cuts are significant, as are the ways to use the cuts and trimmings. We have prepared a robust cut list document that will be the subject of a follow on post, and will use that for all agreements going forward to help both us and our customers get the maximum value from their investment.

Note: The data here reflects estimates and approximations and there will be some variability. The source we are using as a base is the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture as they have a great resource available as a reference. You will note the parallels in that to how we structure the cut list for maximum clarity and ease of reference.

When butchering an animal there are a few weights to be aware of.The estimated standing weight allows you to estimate the hang weight. The hang weight is what costs are based on, and reflects the butchered animal, prepared for retail cutting at about a 28% loss of original weight. The retail, or packaged weight reflects all the trimming and related loss to final retail cuts and amounts to approximately another 20%. Some of this can be retained through selection of the trim for other use, including lard.

In related posts, we will cover some of the many options here, as well as recipes for these cuts for those of you who may be new to the array of options a whole or half animal represents.

Others peoples’ trash

We have used many items on our farm in a repurposed fashion. Large spools from a local antennae company for our goats, pallets under sheds to make relocating easier, IBC totes as shelters, spent grain from a brewery to augment our feed for all animals and junk apples off the ground to fatten our pigs. There are many other things that we are doing and using daily that contribute to our goal of sustainability but today my thought is about an event happening soon, we will be sending our pigs to be butchered. A local farm sits empty with a neighbor as the caretaker. The apples in the orchard have not been treated in 16 years. We have benefited from his desire to not mow around apples since he takes them into the bucket of his Kubota and brings them here. My neighbor is in his 80’s and prefers to not sit idly watching life go by. He and his wife of over 60 years came to see our pigs this last week, along with the remaining apples for the season. She had never seen a pig in person. I fed the crisp ones to the alpacas and llama to her amusement.

What a gift these apples have turned out to be. I’ve been brought closer to these lovely folks, shared some typical-to-me experiences with them and gave them some fodder for dinner conversation.

Berkshire Pigs

The Berkshire swine traces back to over 300 years ago, with importation to the United States happening around 1823.

“Three hundred years ago – so legend has it – the Berkshire hog was discovered by Oliver Cromwell’s army, in winter quarters at Reading, the county seat of the shire of Berks in England. After the war, these veterans carried the news to the outside world of the wonderful hogs of Berks; larger than any other swine of that time and producing hams and bacon of rare quality and flavor. This is said to have been the beginning of the fame of the Reading Fair as a market place for pork products.

This original Berkshire was a reddish or sandy colored hog, sometimes spotted. This would account for the sandy hair still sometimes seen in the white areas of some modern Berkshires. Later this basic stock was refined with a cross of Siamese and Chinese blood, bringing the color pattern we see today along with the quality of more efficient gains. This was the only outside blood that has gone into the Berkshire breed within the time of recorded livestock history. For 200 years now the Berkshire bloodstream has been pure, as far as the records are known today.” Source Credit, the Oklahoma State Agricultural Department.

We have selected the Berkshire for our farm for the rich meat and characteristics of this breed. They are good foragers, have a strong heritage / lineage and predictable growth as differentiated from the common hog.

Our line of Berkshires is coming from another local breeder, who we are working with to establish our  first boar and sow pairings. In our first year, we experimented with  a couple of breeds, including a Berkshire cross and a Landrace, and going forward our intention at this point is to focus on Berkshire, and potentially add one additional breed that might focus more on bacon production or be otherwise differentiated. All of this is part of our learning process and we have learned there is so very much to learn!

Reference Links