On the small farm hogs are an easy animal to raise as a source of meat. A family of four that grows much of their own food can feed the scraps from kitchen and garden waste to a pair of hogs and within months have a return on that investment that will stock the family freezer. Here is a great link to learn about skinning, butchering and processing hogs. Unfortunately for me, in addition to the rule against raising chickens, my community does not allow raising hogs either.
Swine are the most versatile of animals for use in culinary applications. Pork can be cured and brined, then smoked. In previous articles I have written about bacon …everybody loves bacon! and hams (other uses for ham here and here too), and about pork adobo and of course the traditional BBQ parts of the pig, like ribs and shoulder meat. Pork trimmings can be ground into fresh sausage and seasoned to taste.
When we consider different cuts of meat ie; tender -v- not so tender – “tough” cuts of meat, it is important to understand that the muscles the animal must use for locomotion will generally be tough. A tough cut of meat is not a bad thing if you know how to cook it properly. The less tender cuts of meat require a long and slow cooking process that often incorporates moist heat. The tender parts, like the rib and loin (also called the middle meat) for chops, can be cooked quickly on high heat. Roasts from the rib and loin are cooked slowly using dry heat. The middle meat is greatly prized for uniform leanness, low bone to meat ratio and excellent flavor. There is no need to use moist heat while cooking these cuts of meat because they are sufficiently tender as is. Here is a good link with tips on how to cook the different parts of the hog.
The shoulder provides a large amount of meat with a moderate amount of bone. The meat from this section contains a fair amount of fat making it tender, moist and flavorful. examples of cuts from the shoulder include; country style chops, shoulder roast, grind, shoulder/blade steaks, stew (like adobo), etc.
The back of the hog is well known for the ribs. There is plenty of bone, with little meat. However, ribs are delicious and as the saying goes, the closer the bone the sweeter the meat.
It is not often that I have pork ribs, but recently I splurged and bought a rack of St. Louis style ribs. I did my standard dry rub and let the meat set for about an hour. 2 and half hours roasting them in the oven was sufficient cook this rack through.
Belly is used to make bacon or for salt pork. Ham hocks are most commonly used to add a robust and smokey flavor to soups and stews, like Cassoulet. Belly, chops, ears, hocks, ribs, shoulders, snouts, everything except the squeal will cook up to make somethin’ tasty if you are worth your salt in the kitchen.
So many recipes and ideas to use pork. The possibilities are almost endless!
For this Independence Day weekend, I have been invited to a pig roast! The good people at Little Creek BBQ will be cooking a whole hog for the event and I will follow-up with pics.