Bringing home the bacon

Posted on November 19, 2010


I’m a great fan of local food.  It’s very reassuring to drive past an orchard and see excellent treats ripening before my eyes.  I enjoy meeting the people who grow what I eat, and listening to them talk about their work.  I enjoy meeting the good cooks, too, and watching them work their magic.  This week, of course, I have been taking you on a different kind of adventure, and I’m sorry if it has been a little difficult to watch.  It was a bit of a challenge for me, too, though not as much as I would have thought.  We’re almost done.  We’re at the part now where the pig who died in yesterday’s post (see Putting meat by) becomes sides of pork.  Meat that you might see in the butcher’s case.  

If you read yesterday’s post you know that Babs and I attended an old-fashioned hog slaughter on Monday.  When we got back to Providence Farm after our breakfast, Brad and Jess and Jen had finished dehairing the pig.  It had taken them two hours, and they were all plenty tired.  Now it was time to remove the intestines and organs.  It was astonishing how delicately they did this.  But the whole point is to protect the meat from contamination.  There’s a certain clinical detachment involved.  They started with a whole pig carcass and ended with two sides of pork, a bin of intestines, and a bin of food: kidneys, liver, heart, spleen, lard.  The lacy arrangement of fat that looks like a butterfly is “caul fat.” Brad says it’s supposed to be great for wrapping a Thanksgiving turkey for roasting. He’ll let you know how it works out. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All day long we’d heard shots from the woods. Monday was Opening Day for firearms deer season. Partway through the processing of the pig, Ryan Romeyn and his son Winter returned from their hunting expedition, buckless. I had to include a photo of the hunters at the hog slaughter.

Anyway, by the end of the afternoon the pig was completely cleaned and turned into sides. The sides would hang for a couple of hours, and then Brad would take them home to hang in his garage for another week.  After that, he’ll take the meat to another friend over on the Leelanau who will help him turn it into chops and roasts and cured meats.

I went home exhausted and all I’d done was watch. 

I think it’s worth noting that there’s a whole movement of young farmers who are learning as they go, helping each other, determined to make self-sufficiency and community work.  They’re bright, they study, they apprentice with people who know more than they do, they do hard things and they listen.  They don’t know everything.  They know that.  And that’s the beginning of wisdom, isn’t it? 

This isn’t going on just in rural places like Antrim County, either.  One day soon I’m going to visit Rob the Firefighter and the Lady Alicia in Detroit.  We’re going to explore urban agriculture.  I’ll show you that, too.  (Just vegetables and fruits though, I promise!)  More and more, even though I am an old bat, I feel optimistic about the generation coming on.

I promise that tomorrow’s post will have pictures of the Cowboy, Miss Sadie and Miss Puss at their handsome best with nothing dead anywhere.