Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Berkshire Hog. Breakdown for Dry Curing.

Location: Niederwald, Texas - Salt and Time HQ

I've had the pleasure of meeting, and working with, Ben and Bryan from Salt and Time for a few months now, and the day this breakdown happened has been the highlight.. Let me take a moment to say that Ben Runkle and Bryan Butler are true artisans. They've got a good thing going and in time, will have a REALLY good thing going, but I'll let them spill those beans...

The hog that's being broken down in this photo-set is one of superior quality to anything I've ever worked with - The first time I've even touched a heritage-breed hog: Berkshire. 

The process of removing the Tenderloin is fairly simple; remove the outer layer of fat, start at the butt of the Tenderloin - located at the beginning of the Aitch bone. Once the connection to the Aitch bone is severed, simply grip the butt and pull the tenderloin away. 

To Remove separate the Hind-Quarter from the rest of the hog, cut through the meat underneath the second-to-last vertebrae from the curve marked by the tail. Once the meat is cut... 
Before you remove the Ham, seam-out the Flank. Identifying the muscle groupings is hard for beginners, but once your eyes have been trained, this is simple to do.
You can see the Ham really taking shape!

Flip the primal 180 degrees to sever the vertebrae. This takes some strength to lift the hindquarter, but the motion is relatively effortless. 

Clean the Ham up and store in the cooler for further processing. Remember - temperature is key!

On the bottom right, you can see the beginnings of the Loin and Belly - hanging off to the bottom left, you can see the Flank (major muscle in the diaphragm).

Beautiful meat. 

At the bottom of the Spare Ribs, the breast is connected by cartilage that's easy to cut with a knife. No saw just yet...

Now to remove the Coppa and Palleta - In the same fashion as the Ham, count the ribs and mark your place.

Cut through the 'boneless' portion of the meat until you reach the bone...

You'll be working in multiple angles, but the actual cut should stay constant - you want to avoid fraying the meat as much as possible.

Once you reach the bone...

Continue between the ribs until all of the meat has been cut through. 

Then flip it over. Again... Absolutely beautiful. 

Now's time to work through the rest of the cartilage along the bottom of the ribs.

Once the cartilage is severed, work the piece away from the Belly, this is a quick, but precise motion - the less cells you expose, the better for dry-curing. 

This piece, once removed, can be further processed - set it back in the cooler until you decide what you want to do with it.

To begin the process of removing the Belly, mark a line on either side of the Loin just past the kernals of each side. 

The line you just marked is meant to guide your saw, so that you don't.... mess up. 

Saw through the bone... not the meat - Saws tear meat to shreds, they are to be used only when necessary. 

Any task your knife is capable of performing, use it. 

Bone in Loin; Bone in Bellt. The ribs on the left are the Baby Back Ribs, to the right are the Spare Ribs. 

To remove the membrane that rests between the Hog's Offal and the actual ribs/rib-meat, guide your steel between the vein on the fore-side of the rib and the membrane itself. From bottom to top, sever the connection. 
Once severed, grasp the membrane with one hand and firmly guide your finger through the rest of it. Again - Relatively effortless. 

Removing the Spare Ribs is pretty simple - let the pictures be your guide.

Before the Belly is done - there's a layer of fat that lays between the muscle grouping and the animal's nipples. Cut this away - notice the angle of the knife as it compares with the Belly. 

The hint of blood is quite faint in the picture, but to expand on the process of removing the membrane from the ribs; starting at the spine-side of the rib, press down and force what blood remains in the vein and follow the rib all the way down. This motion will force out any remaining blood and at the same time, re-opens the vein - this is where you guide your steel into to free the membrane. 

Now to bone-out the Loin. I've covered this in previous posts, so the details here will suffer a bit, but I'm assuming that if you're breaking down a whole hog, you certainly know how to bone-out a loin. 

The key difference in boning these guys out in a retail environment compared to the Norcino-style is that in retail, a lot of money is in the Baby Back ribs - it's a good thing to leave a bunch of meat on the bone.. for purposes regarding Salumi and Charcuterie, the muscle itself needs to be as intact as possible. The more exposed cells on the muscle, the more of an area harmful bacteria has to operate. 

Add caption

Saw the spine off of the ribs to make Baby Back ribs that anyone can easily cut through to enjoy - put these guys in the cooler and keep with the breakdown. 

Very gently remove the 'tail' of the loin, leaving the clear membrane intact. 

That's pretty much it, for now - Further processing will come later - Plenty of secrets to share. 

Thanks as always for visiting, there's more to come on the art of Norcino-style butchery.