This past Thursday I picked up a locally sourced pastured half hog to butcher at home (and by home, I mean in the kitchen on my wife's counter - I have the best wife btw).
Source - http://www.frolonafarm.com/ - josh Davis
Price - $3.50 lb hanging weight
Breed - American Mulefoot/Large Black Hog
Weight - 130lb was my half (liver, kidney, and leaf fat intact - head off, feet on, skin on)
Age - TBD
Sex - TBD
I have no experience. I've never butchered anything aside from cutting up a chicken or maybe slicing some boneless chops from a center cut loin. Didn't know the difference between a breaking knife and a chefs knife. Needless to say, i do now!
I watched about every video on YouTube I could find. I watched all of the Farmstead Meatsmiths videos as well. I'll add links to some of the better videos as I get back to this post later.
Books - if you are going to get one book - get the one by Adam Dangorth called Butchering (get the one for pork and poultry etc - he has one whole book for beef). This book is all about butchering and is exhaustive.
Also helpful was the CD that came with "The Gourmet Butchers Guide to Meat" by Cole Ward. The book was ok but the CD includes a PDF for each meat type - the pork section had over 250 detailed photos with step by step instructions. Very useful!
Knives - you'll need a good boning knife. I chose a Mundigrip 7 inch semi flexible boning knife from Mundial. Worked great. You'll need some larger butcher knife/cimeter/breaking knife for the larger cutting. I chose a 12 inch butcher from Old Hickory (high carbon, not stainless). I also picked a cleaver from Old Hickory but is too lightweight andi can't recommend it. You should also have a bone saw. I thought longer would be better and got a 22 inch. I see now where having a few different size ones would be helpful, along with some differing coarseness (?) teeth blades. I nice little 16 inch hacksaw would have helped a great deal. Get a honing steel and learn to use it. This is heavy work and your blades will needs attention along the way. Stopping to wash the knives so you can run them through your electric sharpener will slow you down a great deal!
Meat lugs - big heavy totes. Get a couple. You'll forever be trying to find a place to stick large chunks and you break it down and having three or four of these at the ready will help.
Bowls - you won't have enough and they'll be too small. I think that is a fundamental law of first time butchery. Have what you think you'll need and then add three to that. Varying sizes, stainless steel.
Bar rags - see section on bowls. Get a dozen.
Freezing - you'll need some way to package the cuts. I went the route of a foodsaver vacuum machine. You can also go the butcher paper and freezer paper route.
Meat grinder, sausage stuffer - self explanatory. And if you've not made sausage before, this is probably not the time to learn. Either practice doing it ahead of time with other meat or just plan to freeze your trim and fat to make a few days after butcher day. Wrestling with that Kitchenaid meat grinder attachment after you've been hacking away for hours on a hog is a recipe for suckage... Masochists only need apply.
Crock pot - for lard rendering. Other methods exist but I went this route. Painless and hands free.
Fridge/freezer space - clean your fridge out. Trying to figure out what to do with the leftovers from last week while your ham gets warm and slippery on the counter is not a good idea. If you have a walk in cooler, fine. But for the rest of us unwashed masses, space to keep stuff cold will be at a premium. No wonder they traditionally did this stuff in the cooler months. Having a table on the deck out back to toss the loin-belly section was awesome... Having it 34 degrees in the shade was even better.
Space - you'll need lots. Clean off your counters, get your cutting boards squared away. I'll be scouring craigslist for some sort of maple topped prep table. Not having to screw around with cutting boards would have been great.
Help - the more the merrier. But it needs to be proactive help. Part of the stress for me was that while my wife was willing to pitch in, and she did, I was the one with the master plan. If you have a willing accomplice, work with them on the plan so that they can have a understanding on what you want to do and what it means when you say, "okay, can you bring the picnic back from downstairs so I can trim it out?" Or "Can you vacuum seal these chops while I work on the shoulder?" Now that she's seen the
Recess and gets the whole picture, she'll be even more helpful next time... I might even get some extra knives for her and let her have at some of it.
This is huge. Have a plan. Know how you want to break each section down. What cuts do you want? The more you know about the animals anatomy, the better off you'll be. Understand that if you chose to go one way, it might exclude other options down the road (you won't have a Boston butt to smoke later if you are wanting to cure it for BBB).
I went into analysis paralysis for a while. Each video showed a different method. Each book had a different process. Cut here to get the biggest coppa. Cut here to get the biggest belly. Cut here for bone in chops and here for sirloin streaks. Aaaaah! Too many options. Find one process and go with it. Leave the complicated crap for the next go around. It helps to be familiar with some of the other options though... Becuase your plan will change on the fly based on what you see on the table... My animal was longer than I expected and had way more fat than I expected. So while I had a plan and had finally settled on a method, there was some reacting on the fly and had I not been familiar with the other options those hurdles would have been roadblocks.
If you are going to make sausage as part of this, mix your spices up ahead of time (when possible - remember you won't know how much meat trim you'll have until you have it on the scales). Mix your brines ahead of time. Put your cures together ahead of time for bacon etc... You get the idea. The more you do ahead will make it that much easier. Trust me.
Transportation - fortunately for me it was cold. I picked up the hog from the farm and tossed it in the back of the pickup. Was colder when we got it home than it was when I picked it up. Had it been summertime, I'd have done it in the minivan with many bags of ice and a tarp. Had help lugging into the house and getting on the counter.
Cutting - it's more physical than you expect. Those primals are heavier than I thought and getting them to and from as I went got old. I can see why butchers have strong wrists and forearms - you'll use muscles you don't normally use.
Be flexible - like I said, your plan will change. And that's okay. I had planned to brine the picnic but after boning other stuff out I realized that I wanted more trim for sausage so the picnic got cut up for sausage.
.... That's all I have for right now. The kids are requiring attention. Will post more and pics later this week. Hope this is helpful to someone.
Edited by starwars1138 - 3/10/15 at 9:02am