Here are the notes I took during this podcast. Thank you to Brandon and Paul and anyone else who helped bring it to fruition.
Pigs are historically harvested the first cold snap of the year (end of November), which (hopefully) is at least as cold as a refrigerator outside.
Free water is the biggest culprit in the spoilage of meat. Salt removes water. Ambient humidity will hold water in the meat.
Dryness in the air is a huge advantage. Humid areas rely heavily upon smoking. A drafty smokehouse using wood fire to create smoke will absorb all the moisture in the air and puts off plumes of smoke which inhibits mold. Even in insane humidity, people have been processing pigs without the aid of refrigeration for a very long time. Smokehouses and salt are the key.
One person should be able to live off of one properly processed pig for three years.
Ruminants (perhaps because they eat only grasses) will keep fresh for a very long time unless it is very humid. In dry climates their flesh will often simply dry and turn into something akin to jerky.
Pigs have a more varied diet, they eat a lot of dirt, and because of the quality of their fat, their fresh flesh can be more prone to spoilage, which is why you don’t dry age pork (dry aging of pork needs to be aided by salt to pull out water).
A fresh pork chop from a healthy animal will keep in most refrigerators for about a week (perhaps 9 or 10 days). Do not put in bag or shrink wrap. Air flow is conducive to freshness - let it dry out. Perhaps put a small kitchen towel over the flesh and drain the plate regularly (again, available, or free or puddled water, is the leading culprit of spoilage).
If spoilage is going to occur, it is more than likely to start at the joints, which are heavily used and therefore have a lot of blood vessels which are blood/water soluble - CONCENTRATE SALT ON JOINTS.
Humidity is more important than overall temperature.
Boar taint is caused by testicles and testosterone and makes the meat inedible. Breeds that are closer to wild hogs are more likely to have taint (past 10 mos) as well as potbellies. A breed specific thing. Brandon has never had a problem with boar taint in animals that are 8-10 mos or longer - it is the animals that are older that are more affected. Most breeds are harvested so young (8-10 mos - adolescents, basically pork veal) that boar taint is not an issue. Breed and age are biggest factors.
Sexual maturity differs from breed to breed.
Brandon lets his pigs go to 8-10 mos since they are raised on pasture and he wants them to put on copious amounts of fat.
Mulefoot and Tamworth do not have boar taint issues as far as Brandon has seen.
Pigs will be impregnated the second it is biologically possible!
Conventional processors throw away 30% of the hanging carcass - unacceptable and a tragedy. Trimmings, musculature, bones, etc. 30% does NOT even include head, offal, shins and skin which are also thrown away.
Grass fed cows have a reputation as being tough and “gamey” because they are processed incorrectly [processed the same as grain fed feed lot cows].
A grass fed cow needs to be aged at least 28 days - it needs to break down because it doesn’t have grain fat, it has grass fat, which is saturated fat, which not only tastes better but is better for you. The fat in a grass fed cow is not as prolific. Fat is the key to tenderness. To compensate, because it doesn’t have grain fat, it needs to be aged for a month so that the meat can begin to break down and become tender through “a system of controlled spoilage” [it doesn’t go bad, it goes “good” - the proteins soften and become more chewable and tender]. No one on a small scale does this - they process beautiful grass fed cows as though they are the same as grain fed conventional cows, almost negating all the wonderful effects of the grass fed animal.
Brandon, nearly word for word: “Organic is a reflection of commodification rather than food production. The worst thing about organic is it allows consumers to not think about what they are purchasing and consuming. The greatest detriment to the entire food system is for consumers to not think about what they are consuming. It’s not necessarily that terrible things are being produced (it is terrible, obviously), but the only way in which [the terribleness] will be changed is that consumers demand that better products be produced instead (or produce them themselves). To demand more you need to know more, and to know more you need to do more yourself. These labels are mystifying - they are designed to make a person unable or unwilling to think about what went into the food. Organic is designed to sell things. Organic is a “market force”, it is not an agricultural force.”
Curing means removing available water from the meat.
Whole muscle curing: a slab of meat that is salted in some way, either in a wet brine or a dry rub of salt.
Examples: bacon, pancetta, prosciutto, lardo - basically chunks of meat that are salted.
The application of salt to the flesh creates an exchange through the process of osmosis. Water in the cell of the meat seeks a balance with the salt outside. An exchange occurs - salt pulls water out of the cell, thereby dissolving the salt, some of which goes back inside the cell but mostly the water is pulled out. This is basically binding water and removing water, which is done thru salting, which also makes life inhospitable to pathogens and spoilage bacteria, but very conducive to curing bacteria.
When meat is cured and dried out, jerky is the result. The pig is magical because when cured and dried, you get prosciutto. Salt is the means to the end, and if done properly, the end result of prosciutto is a rich, sweet, nutty flavor - not salty.
Salami: meat that has been ground and then salted.
Both can be eaten raw or, depending on the application can be cooked.
Consulting is not free and state specific. State Agricultural Department will farm off inspection duties to the county.
Potbellies should all be turned into bacon - their entire body. They are very fat and it is the best way to capitalize on their physicality. To get the most out of a potbelly or smaller pigs you cure all of it. Generally smaller pigs are lard pigs - not meat types. We’ve been turning them into pets so long that we forgot to breed them into excessively meaty, lean pigs, like the Yorkshire, so they have retained their lardishness, which is very good. They are extremely fat! A potbelly pig at a year old will be incredibly fatty - after 6-8 mos they stop putting on lean meat and start packing on the fat, all under their skin, to the point where the back fat will be 3-4 inches - so the pig will actually be more fat than lean meat in the entirety of the carcass. Fat has less water in it than flesh (flesh at around 70%), so these fatty pigs are much more conducive to curing. If you have fed them well, and they’ve been able to graze on pasture, they will have a higher percentage of saturated fat [if fed exclusively on corn and soy they will have lots of unsaturated fat, that is ok, but roast them whole]. Saturated fat has even less water than unsaturated fat and will cure very well.
Back in the day these pigs were not harvested for their fresh flesh (pork chops & spare ribs) - they were cured - every single ounce of them was cured so that people would not die during the wintertime [and also to eat extremely delicious food].
William Cobbet - “a pig is too lean if he is able to walk for 200 yards - lean bacon is totally useless for the working man and woman.”
His prescription for them was solid fat bacon - a belly that is 3-4 inches fat.
Jane Grigson: Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery
River Cottage Series
Knives: always buy used. High carbon steel - will have a patina on it, maybe completely covered in rust. Find stained, dirty knives at antique stores.
Knife sharpening is an art that takes years to master.
Cartercutlery.com, Knife sharpening DVD