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Pork Preservation Success!!!

We’ve had a huge success here at Hillside Homestead with our historic meat preservation experiments. Hog butchering was Dec 13, 2012. Much of that meat was salt cured and some of it was stored in crocks in between layers of lard. And the larded meat has been a big success. Yesterday we opened the crocks and took out the first layer. One crock was packed with raw pork chops and another with cooked pork chops. All beautiful and good! A third crock with raw bratwurst in casings went   bad, I think that was because there was some air in the casings. More on that later and plans for butchering 2013

Packing meat in lard is a very old food preservation technique. This meat will stay good as long as they lard is cold and firm down in the cellar, i.e. probably till May. Here is the story in pictures….

putting meat into lard (4)

This is back in December. The cooked pork chops are in the crock on the left and melted lard has been poured over the first layer. The raw chops are on the right and again liquid lard.

putting meat into lard (3)And here is another cooked pork chop going in

larded meat openedand now for the beginning of the unveiling….. looks like and smells like fresh pork!

two of the raw pork chops excavated from their lard layer and ready for extraction!

two of the raw pork chops excavated from their lard layer and ready for extraction!

First beautiful pork chop comes out o the crock just as good as it was 3 months ago, without any electric refrigeration or freezing!

First beautiful pork chop comes out o the crock just as good as it was 3 months ago, without any electric refrigeration or freezing!

Here are two raw pork chops ready for the oven and two cooked pork chops. The lard only stuck to the cooked food and not the raw

Here are two raw pork chops ready for the oven and two cooked pork chops. The lard only stuck to the cooked food and not the raw

The 3 month old pork chops are dressed with my homemade kraut, caraway, sage, pepper and salt and a little lard. Ready for the oven

The 3 month old pork chops are dressed with my homemade kraut, caraway, sage, pepper and salt and a little lard. Ready for the oven

The final results! Yum! We forgot to take a picture before we helped ourselves, an honest mistake.

The final results! Yum! We forgot to take a picture before we helped ourselves, an honest mistake.

The pork chops were Delicious and preserved perfectly sweet! I feel a great success in recreating this historic food technique!

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  1. Don Speranza says:

    Congratulations on your success. It looks beautiful. My father tells me stories of his father butchering whole hogs, making it into sausage and preserving it in lard without refrigeration. It must be safe because Grandpa lived to 95 and Dad will soon be 100.

  2. The pork was very tasty! and I’m still alive. It is so much fun to discover and explore these old methods

  3. Jill Baker says:

    I’ve done confit before and am told that it’s the same idea: meat submerged in fat, which in turn preserves it. A friend at our hog harvest class came because he remembered his grandparents preserving pork in their basement just like you show. Very cool!

  4. Andi Houston says:

    Great experiment and congratulations on your success!

  5. Debbie Cox says:

    Wonderful! Might I ask what are the “average” temps in your cellar? Our garage is half underground…and stays relatively cool in the winter, but does not freeze. I have successfully stored sweet potato’s and onions in there over winter. I was wondering if it would work for the crock of pork? And, what about other “large meats” like beef?

    • The cellar has stayed around 35 to 45 this winter. In this historic cook books/record that I am aware of I have never heard of doing this with beef. probably because it was very common for folks to raise pork for meat. It is a rather easy family job to butcher hogs, beef takes more work and people. Also beef needs a lot more speical food to eat and fatten them, pigs are easier and cheaper to feed, well at least historically. When I do these experiments I stick to historic methods. Pork chops and sausage are fresh meat and easily stored in the crock till the weather gets warmer and the lard is not so hard and gets a bit softer set. Ham and bacon are salted and eaten in the summer time not winter time. Some cuts are kept in a pork barrel – salt brine. I’m doing that now too. haven’t tried any of that meat yet. Hope that helped and thanks for asking!

  6. Sasha says:

    Hi,

    Are you at all concerned about the risk of Botulism? I think I would be worried about it more with the raw pork than with the cooked pork but I feel that it is something to give some thought to. Botulism toxin can go through the skin so even though it’s unlikely that the toxin would survive cooking, if it does occur, the cook or whoever handles the raw pork could be at risk.

    • That is a good question and something I will keep in mind. I will double check with a good friend of mine who is a professional chef with extensive charcuterie experience. Now that said, I know that this process was used for centuries to preserve pork. Also I’m the only one who has eaten, it was a small experiment. And I am doing well no ill effects. But I do hear what you are saying. I can also say that I have many colleagues in the museum/ag history/food history field who agree with me that this is a safe process. Thanks for the comment!

      • Sasha says:

        I’d be interested to hear his/her response. I used to think botulism concerns were overblown then I learned that the word ‘botulism’ comes from the Latin for “sausage sickness”, which really gave me pause. I still think it’s not a major issue for some foods, especially those foods that are made from solid meat, especially meat that’s been cooked, like confit duck. But I think it’s also the case that some food are primarily protected by happenstance; we don’t use outdoor kitchens, many people don’t even open their windows anymore. In order for the toxin to grow, there has to be a spore. I think this can lead to a sense of false confidence since the odds are basically with us and I know of at least one case where a woman canned pumpkin butter for over twenty years without any problems until the one day when her husband nearly died.

        Thanks for the post. I often look for ideas about non-refrigerated storage. You can use a pressure cooker or canner for two or three days, even in the summer, I’ve found. It works especially well for soups or beans. I just heat everything back up until there’s a good plume of steam coming from the release valve and then plunk the weight back on and turn it off. So little air gets in that food keeps really well.

        • I should also say that my emphasis is on food history. I’m into this sort of thing as a way to untangle the historic record, to try the old ways for their own merit. I follow the old recipes because I’m a food historian. The pressure canner starts to become popular circa 1920, which is a little after my time. I follow recipes up to about 1910. Its just what I do. Thanks for you interst

      • terry whitlock says:

        hi susan

        i was wondering can you store beef this way as well or is it just for pork?

        • I’ve only ever heard of doing pork this way. sorry. pork was a very easy animal to raise back in the day. smaller than a steer/beef easier for a family to butcher. I will keep beef in mind while I’m researching and reading.

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