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Thursday, December 28, 2017

Salt Pork: 18th Century Style

I came across this video a while back while researching methods of curing pork. My family recently had a hog killed at a local slaughterhouse and I requested that one of the hams be left intact and "green" (untreated and not smoked).  It had been years since I helped my grandaddy process hogs and salt down the meat and I wanted to try my hand at it. I will not get into that right now as I plan on doing a separate post of my meat curing experience the "old-timey" way.  Anyhow, this video is quite interesting and informative. I may try to cure a shoulder or other parts using this method in the near future. 




12 comments:

  1. I have watched quite a few of Townsend's videos and just love 'em. I have also spent quite a bit of time searching for other things from the pre electric eras showing how people did things and what technology they used to help them survive.The Appalachian culture especially. My mothers side of the family was from down South but they are all long gone so I don't have the resources that I had when I was young and knew it all.
    There will come a time when this kind of information may save your life, I'm serious.
    This is lost information that used to be fairly commonly used by a majority of Americans not all that many years ago, not much more than a hundred anyway.
    Things like cold smoking, drying, ice houses and salting were pretty common ways to preserve foods before refrigerators became common.
    Somebody turns out the lights for a month and this kind of old school tech will be priceless.
    I for one would be quite interested in seeing your results and any other old lifestyle info you would care to share.

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  2. Thanks Phil. I too like studying the "old ways". Basically, for my ham, I did it the way my granddaddy and a few other old-timers I grew up with did it. I put a base layer in a tub, sliced into the area of the bone/joints and packed them real good with salt. Then covered the ham up "good and white". I used plain salt (no idonized salt for curing, it can leave a metal taste in the meat).The original Foxfire Book is an excellent reference for hog-killing and curing meats. Of course, the entire Foxfire set is an invaluable source for all facets of "pioneer" living. Baring any bad luck, I plan to smoke the ham using Hickory wood. Stay tuned for the rest of the story.

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    1. I actually have the first Foxfire book, my Grandmother bought it and I snagged it when she died.
      I have read it cover to cover several times and love that book.
      That's where I found out about " Leather Beans".

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    2. Yes. I remember reading about stringing and drying green beans (some refer to them as "leather britches"). I have actually done that. I bought my first Foxfire Book at the only grocery store in the town I grew up near that sold about everything from overalls to sweet feed to groceries in 1972 or '73. After wearing it out, I loaned the book to a friend in 1981. He still has it. I told him not long ago to hang on to it and bought another off Ebay. I think I have the first six editions on my computer as well as the hard copies. I found the downloads on the "interweb". Those people in the books were just like folks I grew up with in that they came from a time when everything moved at 4 m.p.h. or less and without electricity or running water. The same people saw the dawning of the automobiles, airplanes, later jets, and space travel. One thing that always stuck out in my mind about these people who grew up in rural setting and lived through the Great Depression/WW2 is that I hardly ever encountered anyone who wasted ANYTHING.

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  3. I remember Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, etc., hams were all quite different from one another back in the day. One (the Virginia?) was so hard a knife wouldn't touch it, wouldn't cut it at all before you soaked it 24 hours or so.

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  4. You know you are in the South when the menu lists “city ham” and “country ham”.
    I have all of the Foxfire books. Same rule about non ionized salt applies to smoking fish. Don’t use it.
    “I love smoked fish but they are hard to keep lit.”

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  5. I note he used a barrel. The expression “Scraping the bottom of the barrel “
    Origin: Derived from the historical practice in the early United States of storing food in barrels; when food supplies ran low, only what was on the very bottom of the barrel remained, and had to be removed by scraping.

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  6. My Grandfather used "pink salt" first then regular salt and black pepper. It was all hung in the smoke house with a small smoky fire. I don't remember what wood he used or how long. After that they were wrapped in cheese cloth and hung in the pantry. I remember him complaining about the "skippers" getting into the ham sometimes and ruining it. Wished I'd paid more attention to how they did things.

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    1. I'll tell the whole story hopefully in post in due time Mike, but I got a little worried about botulism, etc. after my ham had been curing in plain white salt for two weeks. The "worry" came from reading too much on the interweb. So, I dug the ham out of the salt and applied "pink salt" (not to be confused with Himalayan Pink Salt). This is also referred to as Salt Peter, Sodium Nitrate, etc. I bought it at Academy Sports near the deer jerky/sausage supplies. I think it called for two and a half Tablespoons per ten pounds. I wasn't really looking for a "sugar"/sweet cure as this is not the way I remembered country hams. However, I did wash off the white salt. I then patted the ham dry. I did not detect any signs of spoilage. I then mixed in with the pink curing salt some brown sugar and red pepper and rubbed it down good before re-burying the ham in white salt. Speaking of "skipper flies", I came across several recipes that called for applying a light "sprinkling" of Borax to keep the flies off the meat. I don't remember this ever being a problem when my granddaddy killed and smoked meat. Maybe because it was always colder than a well-diggers ass in Utah weather when we killed hogs and the fact that when the hams were dug out of the salt boxes, they were hung in a smokehouse and it was very smoky.

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  7. My sister has been sending me a Smithfield ham every Christmas for many years. Expensive, but the zenith. I have a picture of me gazing at the hams that were hanging on a wire during hog killing time at 'Ivanhoe'. My relatives say that I was enthralled with this every year. :)

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    1. She really loves you! If my wife could stand ham (she grew up on a farm that raised pigs), we could have it, too!

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  8. Patrick Obrian's wonderful Napoleonic era naval stories contain at least one description of cooking the salt pork and beef at sea. One of the privileges of the cook was the fat and scum that separated out, which he could eat or trade. If you have cooked corned (i.e., salt) beef, you will have seen the scum and likely thrown it away. How rich we are!

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