Bacon and Ham from a Fresh Pig...
A friend of mine and I have harvested a pig that we have been raising. This is our first time butchering a whole hog. We are to cure/smoke/preserve the bacon and hams, but need help/suggestions.
I see a lot of bacon recipes on the internet. Many of these recipes use insta cure, is this necessary, or is any salt mixture recipe enough to cure the meat?
The hams I'm not entirely sure what to do with. I figured i would smoke them, is a cure necessary before smoking? We plan of smoking/curing them, then dividing them up and freezing to have them as needed.
Also I don't have a smoke house, but an offset and a Weber smokey mountain. How would I cold smoke with either of these for the bacon?
Any help wold be greatly appreciated.
Thirdeye has a great site with good info on Bacon.
Instacure is a choice.
It will give the cured meat the distinctive pink color and texture. It also kills any baddies that could cause botulism or other food born illnesses. So, if you only salt cure, you should be extra careful in your prep and handling and you won't have the color or texture you may be used to. I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but just a choice. We were using regular salt and spices for thousands of years to preserve meat before pink salt was ever introduced.
This guy goes about meat preparation in more traditional ways without pink salt. Worth a look to check out.
I'm sure others will chime in, I'm certainly not an expert.
You do not "need" insta cure or pink salt. It makes the meat pink and also adds some insurance against the growth of harmful microbes.
The best bacon and ham in the world is made with salt and a little sugar (+ spices).
You certainly don't "need" a curing salt, but, if you're expecting a certain texture or color, you won't get it with out it.
I would highly recommend vacuum sealing the bacon in a salt sugar mixture for the cureing process if you don't plan on using a curing salt, as air is your enemy.
A book that I highly recommend if you take the no cureing salt approach is "The Whole Hog Cookbook" by Libbie Summers.
The Whole Hog Cookbook: Chops, Loin, Shoulder, Bacon, and All That Good Stuff: Libbie Summers, Paula Deen: 9780847836826: Amazon.com: Books
As far as smoking the meat, if your temps don't stay below 40*, you'll either have to use a curing salt to prevent bacteria growth, or hot smoke the meat to 80% cooked or more. The local butcher here does it the hot smoke way so he can avoid the use of chemicals. I think that a bigger reason he does it that way is to avoid the curing process itself as it slows down production for him. The down side to not using a curing salt is that the meat won't last as long before it spoils...if it's around that long that is.
So, to answer your question, it can be done both ways, it just depends on how you want to get there.
Too much to go wrong your first time around, I would suggest using the pink salt especially because you are butchering the pig yourself. After you get comfortable with the process then you can experiment.
Air and temperature are definitely your enemy as you try to cure without a bacteria inhibitor.
But it is your call as you are doing the work.
Back on the old farm they used a salt box with some nitrates and nitrites. The salt dried the hams and the chemicals were for bacteria. They did not have refrigeration. That's why the pigs were possessed in the fall when the temps were low. How ever you cure don't take a chance with the baddies.
If you are cold smoking the bacon, you will need to use a cure on the belly meat. You will need to weigh the bacon to determine how much cure you will need. Be careful with the amount of cure you use as too much or too little can make you sick.
As for the hind quarters, commonly called hams, if you do not use a cure on them, you will wind up having roast pork. The meat will not taste like the ham you are accustomed to as it is the cure that gives ham that hammy taste. Once again you will need to weigh the hams to determine how much cure you will need. The hind quarters do not contain near the fat that the shoulders do so the hams have a lower finish temperature. If you want to slice the hams, 170º-175º will be your target temperature.
Lots of good info along this thread-- its not bacon or ham if nitrites are not involved:wink:... Even the the "nitrite free" contains but in the form of celery juice...
OP, Take a look at sausagemaker.com or Butcher and packer, not only are they great places to order curing ingreadients and supplies but both have nice articles
I bought my first pig last spring. The hams arrived whole - the entire back leg, that is! I should have asked the butcher to separate the hocks and to cut the hams in half and to remove the aitch bone. As it was, I sawed the frozen lump of meat with a new Sawzall blade. Worked OK. I brined it (using pink salt) for I think 8-10 days and smoked it to 150F but it wasn't right so I pulled it apart into big chunks and resmoked those, then put the chunks on the slicer and cut them real thin. Made for fine eating! The bacon I did just like it says in "Charcuterie" and it was off the hook delicious. A quality slicer is your friend here.
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