Not many husbands get to say, as mine did recently, that their wives are running "pig errands." In that case, I was heading to Mt. Angel in Dave's pickup to fetch the half pig I'd ordered from Kendra Kimbirauskas (above, with her pigs) and her husband, Ivan Maluski, of Shimanek Bridge Farm in Scio.
Bungied and secure for the trip to Portland.
Waiting for me at Mt. Angel Meat Company was owner Eric Fietz, and while he finished a call I got to play with a feral kitten who'd discovered that a meat processing plant was a fine place to hang out. (Eric said he'd been working on taming the black-and-white cutie so he could find it a home, so let him know…) One of his butchers, a big burly guy, came walking out cradling my 125-lb. half as if it was a tiny baby and kindly loaded it in the back of the truck.
It's our fourth half pig in as many years, and I've slowly been learning the basics of butchery with help from Melinda Casady at Portland's Culinary Workshop. She was tied up with classes, though, so I called Ben Meyer of Old Salt Marketplace, hoping he could spare some time to help out, and he graciously agreed, even offering to hang the carcass in his walk-in for a couple of days until we butchered it.
The craftsman at his bench. Thanks, Chris!
The day came, along with a text from Ben saying that he'd come down with a fever and needed to change plans. With visions dancing in my head of me driving around the city with a half pig in the back of the truck, looking for someone to help cut and wrap it—yes, I can be a drama queen—Ben offered to see if his head butcher, Chris Carter, could step in.
Chops for days!
Spending a couple of hours in a freezing walk-in may not be most folks' idea of a good time, but watching a whiz like Chris work through a carcass is pretty awe-inspiring, and getting a few tips on deboning a belly and skinning cuts without mangling the meat was well worth it. (The right kind of knife and making sure it's well-sharpened are a great place to start.)
Bones roasted and ready for the pot.
Two hours later we were done, and I was on my way with my pig packed in nice white paper packages in a chest cooler. Of the 125-pound carcass, only the skin, less than five pounds, wasn't used—bones, fat, trim, leaf lard and meat all came home. If you're interested in the particulars, Kendra charges $3.50 per pound for the hanging carcass (after the internal organs are removed); the processing fee I paid to Mt. Angel was $32.50; and Chris's butchering fee was $50.
Just add water!
Frozen immediately after butchering, the meat will last a year, until we buy our next pig. We'll make stock (popularly known as "bone broth") after roasting the bones, and we'll use the leaf lard for baking after it's rendered. The trim meat goes into the grinder along with some of the fat to make bulk sausage, and any remaining fat will be rendered and used in frying and cooking. I call it a pretty darn good deal for a year's worth of very fine eating.
Pork Stock ("Bone Broth")
Bones from half pig, including backbone, tail, etc.
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 ribs celery, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
Preheat oven to 400°.
Thaw bones, if frozen, and place on large sheet roasting pan. Place pan on middle shelf of the oven and roast for 1 hour. Remove from oven and place bones in stock pot big enough to cover bones with water. Add onions, carrots, celery and bay leaves to the pot, then fill the pot with cold water to cover the bones. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to lowest setting and simmer for 12 to 24 hours, occasionally removing scum that may rise to the top. Cool and strain. Freeze in containers. Keeps for up to a year.