The learning, doing and teaching that has gone on at our homestead over the last two years has begun to affect our extended family as well as us.  This past weekend my brothers, their wives, my mother, my son and a friend all got together and butchered a sow and created more than 200 pounds of whole hog sausage to divide among our families.  While it was a lot of work, the camaraderie we had, the time to visit, the jokes and stories told, along with laughter was priceless.  It was easy to feel how it would have been in the pioneer days when families would gather and move from one homestead to another to ensure that the meat for the winter was put up for each family.  Of course, we have the benefit of refrigeration, electric grinders, plastic packaging and freezers that allow us to accomplish in a few short hours what would have taken days for the true pioneers to finish.

Our project began on Saturday, with the killing and skinning of the pig.  This sow was between two and three years old, and had served her purpose for a friend who raises some of the best butcher pork in southwest Missouri.  She didn’t raise large litters of pigs for his production and he was ready to sell her, but didn’t want to pass her on to another production farm.  He made us a great deal, but with her size and age, we knew the best use for her would be in whole hog sausage.  We contacted some family and friends to see who needed sausage in their freezer and had time to help with the butchering.  It turned out, both my brothers and another couple, who have adopted us ;), all loved the idea.  Even though I had to work on the ambulance on Saturday, my brothers and their families gathered at the Homestead to start the process.  The hog was killed, skinned and gutted and placed in the walk-in cooler to cool out for processing on Sunday.  The video to the left shows the beginning of the strip skinning process we use, and is a bit graphic.  If you prefer not to see this part, just avoid clicking on the video.

As the morning began, the kids played outside and some of the crew began cutting away the fat and removing the meat from the bone on the carcass and cutting it into strips that would feed through the grinder.

While the outside cutting was being started, others began setting up the grinding area, labeling bags, and making sure our work area would accommodate the amount of meat we would be working with.  I worked inside mixing the large batches of sausage seasoning.  I had made a trip to an Amish store a few weeks ago to pick up larger quantities of spices with this project in mind.  Most of the spices in my recipe can be grown in my herb garden, but I didn’t have the quantities needed for a whole hog.  The recipe contains salt, brown sugar, black pepper, sage, crushed red pepper, sage, rosemary and marjoram.  The bulk recipe can be found and downloaded for free here.   Within this recipe, I also make my own brown sugar, with instructions here.  Since I had been working a lot of hours unexpectedly the past week, I hadn’t been able to mix the seasoning ahead of time.  When the time can for mixing enough for an estimated 200 pounds of sausage, the only thing I ran short on was black pepper, so a quick trip to the local Dollar General by a friend to pick some up, didn’t delay things much at all.

As the meat was cut up, it was brought to the grinding area, and fed through a very coarse grinding plate.  The sausage will be double ground, so the first grinding will be done coarsely so that the seasoning can be mixed more evenly and thoroughly.  With the meat grinder we now have, this process is actually really quickly done.  The meat can be ground faster than it can be prepared to be ground.  Once it is run through the first grind, it was placed into plastic tubs in approximately 35 pound batches.  This weight was for two reasons.  First, the plastic tubs we use hold 35 pounds nicely, and secondly, the seasoning recipe I created is based on 35 pound batches, so this worked perfectly.

The 35 pound tubs of ground meat were then divided into two tubs and the seasoning was added in three parts.  2 cups of mix in each half with 1 cup added and mixed, then an additional 1/2 cup, and then the final 1/2 cup was incorporated.  This made 4 cups of seasoning mixed into 35 pounds of meat.  All the incorporating was done by hand.  There are drum mixers that can be purchased to avoid the hand mixing, but it doesn’t take all that long to mix, and the arms muscles built during mixing are a nice added benefit.  😉  The seasoned meat is then returned to the grinding area, where a fine grinding blade has replaced the coarse one, and a stuffing tube has also been added.  The final grind, gives the seasoning a final mix, grinds any larger chunks or gristle down, and places it into bags, which are then tape sealed and ready for the freezer.

All four families ended up with 45 packages of country style sausage.   We had trouble getting just one pound per package and each ended up weighing about 20 ounces, but hey, at least we were consistent.  🙂  There were also two tubs of fat trimmings that were ground just before clean up that I placed in the freezer.  We will have 4 more hogs to butcher in a couple of months for our regular pork: ham, bacon, pork chops, ribs, etc.  When those are done we will take all the fat that is ground and render the lard from the ground fat.  For more information on the lard rendering process, you may visit this post.

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