Using the electric meat saw, which is what you will see in any butcher shop, we cut the carcass into pieces; chops, bellies, roasts etc.
Almost a whole day was needed to pack and prepare the meat so there would be no waste.
The meat that we will eat within the next three months was packed into meal size portions in freezer bags and placed in the freezer. The rest of the meat was packed using the Vacuum seal machine which will keep it well frozen for twelve months without any freezer taint.
I buy the vac seal bags on-line, as they are much cheaper, and paid less than $1 per metre of vacuum bag rolls. I prefer to buy the rolls over bags so that I can make the bag sizes to fit the portions. My Vacuum sealer machine was purchased from our local "Barossa Online Classifieds" Facebook page. It was much cheaper than buying a new one, especially as I traded it for part payment in honey.
Something to remember when packing a large lot of unfrozen meat into your freezer;
Turn your freezer onto "fast freeze mode" or similar.
If using a chest freezer, rotate the packs of meat after approx eight hours. Bring the inside packs to the outside of the pile. The outside packs will freeze faster than the ones on the inside.
Be sure to get your meat into the freezer as soon as possible and aim for all of the meat to be frozen within twelve hours.
This is just my rule of thumb, there is no science to back this up, but this is what I feel most comfortable with. I'm a bit pedantic about getting the meat frozen asap.
After packing all the meat and placing in the freezers I started preparing the brine for the pieces of belly, the bones and legs.
We love bacon, but don't want to eat the nitrates that are in all processed meats; hams, bacon and some small-goods.
Put into a clean 10 litre bucket;
1 cup brown sugar
2 dessertspoons honey
4 litres warm water
(You can experiment with this and play around a bit. I didn't have enough brown sugar but I had white sugar so I added a dessertspoon of Golden Syrup.)
Stir until dissolved and let it cool before putting the meat in. Don't pack it too tightly, the brine must be able to get into all of the edges of cut meat.
It will look like a small amount of liquid, but it will come right up to the top of the bucket when all the meat is in there.
The meat must stay submerged so place a plate on top and weight it down.
Keep the bucket in the fridge for 5-7 days before ready to smoke in the smoker.
After three days rearrange the bits of meat in the bucket to ensure even brining.
Take meat out of the brine the night before you plan to smoke it.
(Dispose of the brine wisely, taking care not to allow into a waterway or near your garden. We spread it onto our gravel driveway, it kills the weeds.)
Spread the meat onto clean towels in the fridge to allow it to dry out as much as possible over night.
In the above photo the bellies are hanging on stainless steel hooks as Brian gets the smoker burning slowly in the morning. The aim is to cool smoke the meat, so it needs cooking before it can be eaten.
Later in the day he lays the belly pieces on the racks and turns them over to allow even penetration of the smoke. (Addendum Feb 2016; Brian lay the meat on the racks from the beginning, omitting the use of the hooks completely during the smoking process)
After approximately ten hours the meat is ready. You can see the rich smoky colour.
Here it is hanging in our cold room for a couple of days to firm up before slicing and packing into Vacuum seal bags before freezing. There are bacon bones too, for making winter soups. They will also go into the freezer.
In my next blog I'll talk about rendering the fat to make lard (for cooking and soap making), and preparing the offal for small goods.