Now this is the fun part! I cannot recommend watching the Farmstead Meatsmith enough if you are serious about wanting to learn how to transform these animals you raise into a delicious meal for your family. Instead of hacking away at the carcass, learn to gracefully slice and pull. Use your fingers, instead of a chop saw. Never, ever cut meat with a saw. Only use a saw to cut the bone. I broke down this hog with a meat saw, a cleaver (which, honestly, I didn’t use that much) and a 6 inch flexible knife. Jeremie had halved the carcass before chilling, so I tackled this project one half at a time. This was late at night, after the kids were in bed, and it took 3 hours. I hope to get much much faster at this. It was the chops that took me so long. My saw is too big and unwieldy for such a job. I’d like to get a much smaller one for next time. So, first I took out the leaf lard. This is the white stuff right on the belly of the pig. it tears away using just fingers. Then I took out the tenderloin. This runs up along the back end of the spine. Start working your fingers around it from the head side towards the back end. It will come out using just fingers, as well. Now it’s time to cut apart the leg portion. This is what you could cure into ham slices, or preserve as a country ham, or spiral baked ham. The backbone comes down from the tail and makes a sharp angle, going down the back, towards the head. Make your cut right after the angled vertebrae. Then it’s time to separate the shoulder piece. This will be your Boston Butt and the Picnic roast. On the belly side of the carcass, you will feel the sternum. Make your cut right next to that bone and cut straight up to the backbone. You will need to use a saw to get through the backbone. Next, I separated the chops from the bacon. Looking at the middle piece of the carcass, decide how big you want your chops to be. I wanted as much bacon as possible, so I cut the chops just after the loin. See that circle shape that is a lighter color? That is the loin. You will have to cut this meat side down, so you’re cutting through the skin. You will feel the rib bones. Cut in between each rib and then go back with the saw and cut through the bone. Thinly and carefully slice the ribs away from the pork belly. This pork belly will be cured with sugar and salt for bacon. It’s gorgeous. The ribs that you cut away from the belly are the “spare ribs”.Now, see the top quarter of the hog? That is going to be chops, loin roast, and back fat for rendering lard and cracklin’s. The back fat peels away from the loin with quite of bit of effort with your fingers. If the skin is still on, cube that back fat and cook it up in a big cast iron kettle outside for delicious cracklin’s. Not to my liking, but everyone else here loves ’em. Regarding the chops, the only thing to remember is to keep each cut parallel to the last one. The chops will cook unevenly if one side is much thicker than the other. All the chops don’t need to be the same size, but they all need to be uniform. Make sense? Let the size of the animal determine the size of the chops.
After the chops are cut, you’ll be left with the rest of the loin. Trim off any excess fat and then it will be a beautiful boneless loin roast. I’ll discuss piecing out the shoulder and hams in another post.