Sheared Bliss

January 25, 2010, 11:50 pm
Filed under: History, Museum | Tags: , , , , ,

Saturday was Pork and Beans day at the museum and all kinds of porky fun was had by all.  A bit of a disclaimer – Pork and Beans day does involve actual butchering.  That means that this post contains actual pictures of a pig being butchered – not pork chops neatly wrapped in cellophane, but a whole dead pig with head still on being cut into pork chops.  If that squicks you out, click away now.

Ok, to give the squeamish among us time to hit their back buttons, I’ll start off by showing you the lovely surprise that greeted me when I arrived at the museum.

It’s lambing time!  One of the ewes had dropped her lambs sometime Friday night so there was a pair of black twins waiting when everyone arrived Saturday morning.  Then, another ewe dropped her lamb (white and buff) at about 9:00 Saturday morning so I got to coo over three little wobbly lambies.  Awwww . . .

Ok, are the easily grossed out people gone?  Yes, good, on we go!

The museum raises pigs every year not only because the visitors like to see the cute little baby piggies (which, by the way, aren’t terribly cute once they put on a few hundred pounds), but also because they are an extremely historically accurate meat animal.  Pork was a large part of the typical diet in 1860s Colorado.  PioneerJ quotes a primary source which says something along the lines of “We ate pork and beans every day except for on holidays when we ate beans and pork.”  Pigs are easy to raise and pork is easy to preserve.  So, you spend most of the year fattening your pigs up on whatever kitchen scraps you have handy then butcher when it gets cold enough and process the porkers so that you use or preserve every little bit.

FarmerT and PioneerV did the actual butchering in the barn.

FarmerV served pork and bean soup, PioneerK and PioneerT made sausage, PioneerA ran the smoker, and PioneerJ and I rendered lard.

To render lard you take the pig fat and put it in a big pot with a little water.  Leaf fat (the fat from the outside of the rib cage) is preferable for use in cooking while the caul fat (the fat that surrounds the internal organs) is usually used to make soap.  Heat the pot slowly so that the fat begins to melt and comes to a simmer.  As the fat melts it will separate from the bits of skin and meat (the cracklings) that were clinging to it and those will sink to the bottom.  When all of the water has cooked off, the cracklings will float and the lard is done.  Strain the lard through cheesecloth and pour it into a container.  Narrower containers are better because the less surface area exposed to the air, the longer the lard will last.  Let it cool and solidify slowly then store it in a cool place.  Mmm, lardy goodness.

Well, that’s the way it’s supposed to work.  Historically, pigs had a three to five inch layer of leaf fat.  Our pigs had about and eighth of an inch of leaf fat.  So yeah, we got some lard, but actually ended up with more cracklings than lard.

And yes, that is an ironic grin from the vegetarian stirring the lard pot.


9 Comments so far
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Okay, what did I miss, which museum? I so would have visited.

Comment by Leslie

The Littleton Museum – The Sheep to Shawl event is coming up on April 17th, 10am to 3pm – come visit!

Comment by shearedbliss

Huh, that’s interesting about the amount of fat on the pigs. Is there any particular reason for that–have pigs been selectively bred to be leaner? Or is it just a luck of the draw kind of thing?

Comment by Steph

A couple of things are going on with the fat on pigs. Pigs have absolutely been bred to be leaner to suit modern tastes. A heritage breed of pig might have more fat, but for some reason heritage breeds of pigs are hard to find – not as many people are raising them as say heritage sheep or cows. Also, our pigs were fairly young and small when they were slaughtered. We could have let them get a little older and they would have had a little more fat on them.

Comment by shearedbliss

Oh, come on, the veghead has done worse than that!! Haha.

Comment by sarahstephens

Yeah, but I don’t have any pictures of me, elbow-deep in a turkey carcass 😉

Comment by shearedbliss

Remember when we thought the ham hock was the snout?!?

Comment by sarahstephens

Hahahahahaha. That was all you guys – I had nothing to do with that. Ah, good times.

Comment by shearedbliss

[…] butchering than last year’s pigs so we had better luck making lard this time than we did at Pork and Beans Day back in January. Leave a Comment LikeBe the first to like this post.Leave a Comment so far Leave a […]

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