Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Being a homesteader of modest size (the homestead, not me), I realize there are some benefits of being self-sufficient that we may not be able to experience. Like raising our own meats.
I have never been one to take on a project unless I am confident that I can do it properly, comfortably, and safely. When I decided to take the step from being a vegetable farmer to acquiring my first flock of chicks, I did so after two years of research and community involvement in order to learn all I could before bringing home tiny, little, fluffy lives that would be my responsibility.
After three years of successful chicken parenting and the immense delight that comes from cracking open your own farm-raised eggs, I toyed with the idea of going a bit bigger. After all, who doesn’t like bacon with their eggs?
Yes, I pondered raising pork. So, after another six months of research, meeting a few breeders and talking some friends into getting two piglets and visiting them a few times, I began to have second thoughts.
Deciding that Raising Pigs is Not for Us
The decision-clincher came one day while visiting our friends who had acquired the two piglets. (They had more land than me, and so they were easily convinced.) One day while visiting our friends, we went to see the pigs that, by then, had gotten to be good size. As we approached their fenced grazing area, we discovered they were not home. Off we went to search for the escapees.
We finally spot the pigs happily grazing on some lush grass, thankfully still on the property. As my husband approached them, they soon realized the jig was up and attempted to bolt. In one magnificent leap worthy of an Olympic medal, my husband flew through the air and gracefully grabbed both pigs, one under each arm, and landed gently on the ground face down.
Up he rose, proudly holding a pig under each arm like they were stuffed toys. We all broke into cheering applause and carried the critters back to their fenced area. As a lull fell over the crowd and I looked at my husband covered in pig manure, I knew beyond a doubt: Raising our own pork was out of the question.
Beginning Sausage Making
Plan B: Raise a lot more vegetables and support local meat farmers by buying our meat from them. We purchased a small hog from a local farmer and filled our freezer with 100 pounds of pork. I learned how to make my own homemade sausage.
I had never been a fan of sausage — so much fat and grease and preservatives and chemicals, and so on. For Christmas, Don gave me a meat grinder attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer. And so I asked a friend of ours who had sausage-making experience to lead me in my first session.
It was an exhilarating experience knowing I was making my own sausage with quality, locally raised pork and NO preservatives. I could control the amount of fat and flavor to my preference.
This was a two-day project worth every minute — I once again expanded my homesteading lifestyle. The process was fairly easy if only time consuming. On day one, the pork goes from freezer to fridge to partial thaw. When it is of cutting consistency, cut the meat into chunks, trimming away the larger amounts of fat and rind.
We then did the first grind on the course blade. I put the pork back in the fridge overnight after being salted. The next day ,we began the seasoning and second grind. We followed a recipe we chose from online and worked in 3-pound batches at a time, as we had about 13 pounds total of meat.
We also discovered that if we put the batches in the freezer for about 30 minutes before the second grind, it was much easier to handle and stuff into the casings. The results were the prettiest and tastiest sausages I have ever had.
I love learning new skills. Sometimes our homesteading dreams are so big that our real life can’t accommodate them. But with perseverance and networking we can still live a quality homestead lifestyle. And do it without smelling like a pig.
Susan Berry raises strawberries and heirloom asparagus on her North Carolina farm and sells the plants to local gardeners. Susan also raises a small flock of hens and encourages team participation between farmer and flock when it comes to gardening. Find Susan’s book, Inspired Gardening, on Amazon, and connect with her at Faithfull Farming, on Facebook and Twitter.
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