After the initial killing, hanging and gutting, butchering a hog involves making the primal cuts.
Something we found very helpful was to have a cut chart handy. Even if you’ve butchered before, it helps to have a diagram available to guide your cuts. The one here is from the Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin “Butchering Livestock at Home”; I found it on Amazon and there is now a Kindle/ ebook version as well. Anyway, it shows you where to make those first cuts. Another diagram in the book shows how each part of the hog is typically processed; i.e. which sections are best cured, or used for specific cuts.
It says to use a saw to cut through the backbone, and we found that was necessary — John used a power reciprocating saw with a new blade; it was ideal for the job. We used it later in the day for cutting the bones as we made the pork chops as well.
This is what it looked like as he finished cutting the carcass in half:
We did it slightly differently than the chart; allowing both sides to hang. We thought it would make the cutting easier, and we actually hadn’t yet gotten out this booklet; at first we were working off another diagram that was not as good.
But working with two hanging halves was not bad, according to my husband and brother in law who were actually doing the work. I was inside making spice mixes and covering the counter with butcher paper (oh wait, John did that too; but I was holding the baby and a bit handicapped at the moment.)
While the day was cool, it was crisp and clear — a perfect fall day for working outdoors. Any sort of precipitation or high winds would have really made the work miserable since we don’t have a large shed or barn on our property yet. If you’ll be butchering a hog outdoors, be sure to check the forecast before you begin.
If you don’t have an A-frame structure (I refuse to discuss the fact that the one we used was our kids’ swing set frame, borrowed for those two days with the swings removed), a strong board hung between two trees works as well — as my brother in law discovered the next month when it was their turn.
Following the cut chart, the men soon delivered an array of meat pieces to the kitchen:
Those are some large sections of meat — they are resting on butcher paper covering the children’s table in our breakfast nook:
In the next post, I’ll show how we processed the meat after these initial cuts were made.