Last week we talked about whole hog butchering. The whole idea of whole animal butchery is using every part of the animal that you can and letting virtually nothing go to waste. The only part of our pig that we didn’t use was the skin (we skinned it instead of scalding it) and hooves. There are things you can do with the skin and hooves, namely cracklin’s and… I don’t know, pickled pig feet? For this first time around we didn’t use them. But something we were very excited about using was the head for head cheese and pork stock. Oh buddy! It’s a twofer! Head cheese is awesome and it often gets a bad rap because it’s a weird name. Much like the very popular AMC Gremlin or Hoobastank. We’ll talk about the name in a second. I know there’s something called “head cheese loaf” you can get in the grocery store but let me assure you, that stuff is weird. Real head cheese is a delicious, rich mixture of fat and muscle with endless spice options. So let’s get on this salty meaty train and learn how to make authentic head cheese at home.
This past weekend marked four years since we moved to the farm. Not four years since we’ve been farming, because that first year was a lot of cleaning and moving. And honestly, we didn’t know what we were doing. But four years ago we started this weird journey. I remember sitting down by our creek and in our new house full of old people furniture from the previous owners and dreaming of what our life would be like in the future. We moved out here with the goal to be homesteaders; have a few chickens for eggs, a garden, maybe some livestock. Over the past four years we learned a lot, quit our jobs, started a business, expanded our garden three times, currently care for 100+ animals and met some pretty incredible people. We had some of those incredible people out at our farm this past Sunday to help us fill our freezer with delicious, heritage breed pork that we raised ourselves. In short, it was the best day ever. Oh, besides our wedding. Whew. That was a close one.
This week we took our first pig into the processor. We’ve brought other pigs into the processor for friends of ours, but this week was the first time we brought in one of our own. Another big “first” for us at the farm. When we first got our pigs last fall, we got 11 gilts turned sows that will be our forever mommas. Then we also got some barrows to raise up as feeder pigs. I knew this day would come, pasture raised craft pork is why we got into this racquet. Because responsibly raised heritage pork is delicious and amazing. And our breed, the Iowa Swabian Hall, is extra special and succulent. Raising hogs has been a great journey/comedy/soap opera during sweeps week and also a workout that’s better than any Richard Simmons’ VHS. God bless you, Richard Simmons. But it has also drummed up some emotions that I had never experienced as a farmer or a regular person. When people come out to the farm or even ask us about the farm, we always get asked similar questions when it comes to raising up pigs for meat, and I thought I would answer some of those questions here. Hopefully it will shed a light onto our experiences as hog farmers, animal lovers and also meat eaters and how it’s possible to be all three at the same time.
As we sit around, trying to think of good blog posts to keep you all interested on this cold and rainy January afternoon, we can’t help but think back to warmer days spent out here on the farm with our good friend, Rob. As we mentioned before, we lost our very good friend, Robert Corcoran Dixon IV (a.k.a. Rob, Robby, RCD4) last March. All of us out here at the farm loved him very much. His birthday was on July 7 so this past year (and every one after as far as we’re concerned) we decided to honor him with … Continued