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Friday, April 24, 2015

Half Hog, 2.0

A couple of years ago when Steve and I bought our first half hog, we had a less than desirable experience with it.  First- I'd been told the hogs would be ready in October, and when I spoke with the owner, I asked her about feed prices going up and how that would affect her.  She expressed surprise that I would know about that.  So you can understand why I was surprised when she called me in August to tell me that my hog was done and to call the butcher for cutting instructions.  This was a full two months earlier than I had been told, and since I'd already paid for the whole thing, it meant I was getting far less pork for my money.  I think I worked it out to being a little over $8.00 a pound, which did not make me happy.  Then when we got down to 4 Star Meats in Eugene, they could not find our order, and we waited forty minutes for them to find it.  Plus, we had to pay them $65.00 for cutting on top of the pork and they did a really crappy job; the meat was not trimmed well at all.  This half hog purchase was all around not a good experience.  Needless to say, I would not use either of these outfits ever again.

This time, though, was a terrific experience.  The first good thing was the pork itself; Stroupe Family Farm in Aurora rears their hogs on grass, and supplements with fruits and vegetables- no animal products, and no commercial feed.  The second thing was that I got ten percent off my order because I'd been given a coupon by the S and H Logging driver when he delivered my mulch order; I didn't know the folks that own S and H Logging also have a family farm, so that was a bit of a revelation and I took advantage of the information.  The third awesome thing was the price, which was $2.95 a pound, based on hanging weight; this translated to $4.10 a pound by the time we were all done, and I'm not counting the extras I brought home, like the leaf and body fat, skin and bones, all of which I will use.  

The beef locker at Mt. Angel
The fourth awesome thing was the butcher, Mt. Angel Meat Company in Mt. Angel, Oregon, which by the way, I did not have to pay for because the butchering was included as part of the deal that Stroupe has with them.  The owner, Eric, was great and I was delighted when he was so agreeable to my coming in to watch my hog get cut up.  I asked if I could, and I really expected him to say no, so when he told me that he liked to think he had an open door business and sure, I could watch, I was probably a little over excited.  I got to go do that yesterday.

The owner, Eric
Eric had his butchering supervisor Dennis cut my hog and Dennis did just a great job.  He was really good about explaining what he was doing, and since I'd studied up ahead of time on pork cuts before going down there, we had a good conversation, and I know even more about the cuts of pork than I did before. 

Dennis cutting my chops
Dennis was also really good about making suggestions as we went, so I really think I got the most (and best) out of this half hog.  My hanging weight was 141 pounds, and I brought home 121 pounds. I did not bring home the trotters, the kidney, and the tail, and I'm going to guess the balance of waste was the small skin oddments, and perhaps the head, which was gone by the time I got there.

Just for kicks, here is what I had him cut:

2 bone-in shoulder roasts 
1 bone-in picnic
1 boneless sirloin (for a small [meaning fast] prosciutto-style ham)
1 spare ribs
1 baby back ribs
many boneless loin chops, some for schnitzel
4 leg cutlets (which he put through the tenderizer for schnitzel- this is the cut he likes to use for his own schnitzel)
1 tenderloin (and he left the fat on for me at my request)
2 fresh hocks (for a German dish Steve LOVES)
1 jowl (for guanciale)
1 belly (in 4 pieces) for bacon, which I'll cure and smoke
2 small, odd belly pieces Dennis said to cure because they're too good to waste
21 pounds of sausage 

Plus the leaf fat, the fat (which I'll render with the shoulder roasts) the larger pieces of skin (which Dennis said is good for wrapping other, leaner things or making pork rinds) and the bones.  I did not have him bone the shoulder and picnic but he did bone the sirloin for me.  I also did not go for a whole ham this time because I'd want to do it as a prosciutto and it's just not the right time of year for it. Prosciutto has to hang for several months and it's going to get too hot for that; ideally, prosciutto should be made in the autumn. 

Bryce vacuum packing belly
Additionally, Bryce did a great job of vacuum packaging the meat for me- he took the time to  lay out all my chops so that they made pretty packages, which I appreciated.  All in all, a really great experience and I was struck by the good attitudes everyone I dealt with had, in spite of what they do for a living.  
Lexy labeling and boxing my order
Or maybe because of what they do for a living. Maybe it's just working for Eric.  I don't know, but I am so doing this again.

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