By the time the second pig is in the scalder, the butchers are well on their way to figuring out the anatomy of the animal. The head is removed, and Jeff cuts out the tongue and cheeks, and trims the jowls. Karen holds the legs apart so that Rusty can deftly saw the animal in half with a butcher saw. Tal and I stand ready, each to receive a half. I initially grab the animal tentatively, so as not to bloody my coat, but I quickly realize that I must brace the 150 lb. side with my whole body in order to carry it the final 10 feet to the butcher table. Rusty demonstrates on the first half, and I follow along on the second half: I remove the tenderloin from the ribs. The ham and picnic (the front and back leg quarters) are cut off. The ribs are separated from the loin chops and the belly.
The second pig is brought into the barn, and we relax a bit. People with clean hands open beers or serve bourbon-soaked cherries. It’s cold in the barn and the propane heaters aren’t enough to take the chill out of the air. But the music on the radio is lively, and the spirit is good.
Before confronting the second pig, we break down the first one further: The skin and its underlying layer of fat (“back fat”) are removed for salt pork. The bellies are trimmed into bacons, and rubbed with salt and brown sugar to begin the curing process (in three weeks, when the curing is complete, they will be smoked to finish them off). Meat from the picnics are trimmed for sausages. Pork chops are cut to a generous 2” thickness.
By five o’clock the animals are all butchered. The bacons have begun to cure. The scrap meat has been set aside for sausage, as has the lard. The back fat has been salted.
Back at the house, Jeff has been busily preparing dinner: cleaning the kidneys to sauté, poaching the fresh tongues, making sauces. Drea is putting the final glazes on a chocolate cake. A stuffed turkey, the main dish, is already roasting in the oven.
We do a preliminary clean up of the barn and then take our much needed showers. Tal brings in the wines, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Pinot Noir, a perfect pairing for our dinner:
Sautéed Pork Tongue with a mustard-apple sauce
Sautéed Pork Kidney with a Tarragon Reduction
Turkey stuffed with Peachy-Mamas and Glutinous Rice
Fresh Mesclun Salad
Chocolate Torte with Rosemary Crème Anglaise
The next day, there is still much work ahead: processing the meat for sausages and prosciutto. But now we can add to the breakfast menu: Fried Pork Nuggets (Chicharrones) with Creamy-Cheesy Corn Grits and homemade, smoked chile salsa.
After breakfast, we divvy up the tasks for making sausage. Karen and I are appointed the official grinders. Brett seasons, and Jeff cooks-up tasters. For each of the recipes, we pass around samples to see if we like the recipe… a little more salt? a little more spice? a touch of vinegar? When we finally get it just right, Bob and Ron stuff the sausages into pre-soaked casings. Jeff pricks and twists them, and hangs them out to dry. Once they are dry, Brett, Drea and Chris package them.
We start with Chorizo, utilizing the hearts, some meat and 30% fat. We season with chilies, fennel, cumin, onions, garlic and oregano. Next comes Sicilian Sausage laden with garlic and freshly dried fennel seeds, then Classic Italian Sausage, Liverwurst, and then the dried sausages: Soppreseto and Pepperoni.
The day has its challenges: The non-commercial grade meat grinders overheat, we run out of sausage casings. Our tempo slows… my mood sours a little as I grind five gallons of liver for the liverwurst, the liver turning into liquid mush as it oozes out of the grinder. Jeff offers to finish the liver for me. But it sours him as well.
Bob drives off in search of more natural casings. (We don’t use the pigs’ intestines because cleaning them is not only very laborious but also very smelly!) We wrapped the grinders with ice-packs, and made a round of cleaning the kitchen. Even the bourbon-soaked cherries do not enliven our spirits.
Three hundred pounds of sausage is an ambitious task without proper equipment. (It wasn’t until the grinders overheated that we realized we did not have the proper tools).
By seven o’clock, we have ground and stuffed all we could. We are mostly done. The soppresetos are in the basement drying, and we begin to clean up. Shareholders pack their cars with sausages and chops; they will return to the farm later for the cured meats.
We are tired, but energized by our accomplishments.
As Bob is packing his truck he notices deer prancing in the fields. Bob and Rusty shoot a deer… but that’s another story.