Monday, February 20, 2012

Pea Chops

   I love my pigs. They are cute, happy, efficient foragers, fun, look like black hamsters when born, act like dogs when grown, and give me kisses (the big boys anyway). But, they still are livestock. And, according to my rules, I don’t name the ones that get butchered.
   Unfortunately, sometimes one that is named will have health issues and need to be “put down” as pet owners call it. And, as they are PIGS…”put down” means butchered and put in the freezer. Sorry folks, but that is farm life.
   When Pea got to where her bowed back legs were just too painful and she wasn’t even wanting to stand up, we had to make the decision to take her in to the Chenoa Meat Locker. They butchered her for us, scalded her black hairs off, and sent her home. I had a hard time looking at the head…really hard time. But, the body is just meat now and we had to figure out what to do with it. Cure it? Freeze it? Hm.

   Last Wednesday was to be a visit with our great friend and chef, Chris Pandel. He is the chef and one of the owners of the restaurants The Bristol ( and of Balena ( His food is fannn-tasss-tic! Check out the websites and these two Chicago restaurants…Balena is to open soon. But, unfortunately Chris couldn’t make it on ham day. So…we forged ahead (no pun intended Pea) anyway. We’ll get his take on how we did next time he comes down for a visit and see if we did everything okay.

Here’s the meat…

Here’s the resident chef all ready to go…

Here’s the reference books…

Will helped Marty break the carcass down into pieces...hams (back butt), shoulders, loins (upper back section), and belly. We used a picture so we knew where to cut. It also helps that Will works at the locker in the winter.

The belly was for making our bacon. Four pieces were salted with a mix of non-iodized salt and spices, all was rubbed into the meat. Then they were put into a white 5 gallon bucket and placed in the basement. Each day Marty would drain off the liquid and re-salt them. He would restack them so the bottom two were on top. Did this for five days.
He'll rinse the salt all off, then dry it for a couple of days. We hung it in a pillow case to dry. And, then we will use some (yum) or smoke it over a very cool smoky fire for a day and then store it. We will smoke a couple of the pieces and put the rest in the freezer. 
We packaged up the cute little Pea Chops into bags and froze them, as well as some loin cuts.
One shoulder was cut up into chunks to make sausage. We chopped up meat chunks and then fatty chunks, mixing it half and half as we put it thru Grandma Hazel's old grinder.
We were VERY careful not to get our fingers in!
Check back for the next blog and I'll include the recipes we used for the brines and spice/salt mixes for the hams. I'll also include the sausage spice mix - it turned out wonderful!


  1. That's quite a process--and quite a yield. It looks like Pea won't be forgotten anytime soon, considering how many meals you'll be thanking him for. I wouldn't even know where to start carving at when it returned from the butchers. I'd be like: "where's all the dashed lines to cut along?" (like I seen in all the diagrams elsewhere)


  2. Boooo-hoooo! I know, I'm just soft-hearted. If I had seen Pea's face and eyes, I don't think I'd be able to have her as bacon or chops. In fact, I'm beginning to think I can't eat chicken or fish anymore. Veggies, here I come!