Instructables

Smoked Bacon from Scratch

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Every meat-eater I've ever met has a very special place in their belly for bacon. Quite simply, it is delicious, almost any way you cook it. In fact, we love it so much that we raise a couple of pigs each year to meet all our bacon needs, not to mention ham, lard, sausage, pork chops, ribs, etc.

Within this article we hope to run you through the real basics of bacon. How to raise pigs holistically, a summary of butchering, curing the ham and bacon, and finally how to smoke it (we even have another Instructable on how to build a smoker). Admittedly, this isn't for everyone, but the quality of meat you get from happy, healthy, pastured pigs is unsurpassed. If you don't have the space and resources to raise a pig yourself, it pays to get in touch with someone locally who can, or organize a pig-share.

Unfortunately, all our photos of smoked meat, seem to be of the shoulder or of hams. Sorry, you'll just have to think bacon when you see them!

For more information on raising and processing pigs, click here.
For other stuff we do, visit our website here.

Step 1: Pig Facts

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Here's a few facts about pigs for those of you who are considering raising your own pig or finding someone else to do it for you.

  • The size of a litter varies with each sow, her age and breed playing a big role. But let's say the average is 8 piglets. Of those 8, there will normally be a runt (which will always be on the smaller side and is best to avoid buying if you can) and a couple of extra big ones. The latter is what you want ideally when buying a piglet to raise.
  • Any pig will produce bacon, but a Landrace is usually longer than most breeds and thus will produce more bacon. It is also a fast growing breed.
  • Piglets are usually weaned between 4 and 6 weeks, and this is when they are sold to people to feed up. Prices for a feeder pig vary according to your location. Near us, they sell for about $40.
  • The perfect butcher size for a Landrace is about 240 lbs, which will give you about 150 lbs meat. A healthy animal on a good diet can achieve this weight at 6 months old, so 4 1/2 months after purchasing a Feeder pig.
  • If you have to buy all the pig's food (no pasture, kitchen scraps, etc.) you will need between 650 and 750 lbs of feed, costing roughly $150. This puts the cost of your meat at about $1.30 a pound, for all kinds of different cuts.
  • Pigs are omnivores, which means they eat a large variety of food, including grass, weeds, vegetables, grains, all sorts of kitchen scraps, any slaughter wastes from other animals (like poultry or rabbits). To grow well, they need a fairly high percentage of protein in their diet. So if you can't give them something like slaughter waste or meat scraps, give them a high protein plant like soy. For one or two feeder pigs, you can supplement their food considerably by picking weeds for them and giving them scraps. This will bring down the cost of raising them, and pigs love the variety.
  • Pigs are easy to house. They don't need much shelter really, except when they're small or about to give birth. They do however get sunburned, so shade is absolutely essential. Rain isn't much of a problem - our pigs always run out in the rain to play in the mud.
  • Pigs can't climb, so you don't need to make your fencing very tall. We use a three-strand electric fence, which they respect very well once they learn what it is. Pigs are very intelligent and usually learn fast.
For more information on managing, breeding and feeding pigs, click here.
 
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paxmodern1 year ago
Excellent post!
This is absolutely fantastic! :D
Very nice post. Thanks.
spacewood6 months ago

Great!

The temperatures , are they Celsius or Farenheit?

vincent75207 months ago

There are many ore things than raw meat you can make with pork. As the French saying goes "everything is good with pork".

As for edible goods you can make various kinds of sausages from the wiener to the big Morteauxsausage (great with sauekraut !), boudin (a French recipe of blood sausage), pigs feet are excellent for making aspic or again with sauekraut (they are a delicacy in Alsace country and Germany), saussicon is also a dried sausage made with pork and pork fat and a true delicacy when well made, and patés which are pork pies that can be kept in preserving jars for a long time, etc…

Then again bristles made excellent brushes in the old days, intestines were used for sausages or kept for other purposes (it was like the "plastic" of the time), skin was definitely not thrown away as it was used for obvious reasons (in fact it makes a very fine leather), and pork fat made lard and it was usually the only the only fat staple in families with a modest income. When I was a kid I was given the bladder : one of the men cleaned it and had it puffed by blowing air into it with a straw. After drying for a few days in a warm and dry corner of the fireplace it could be used either as a ball or a pouch of some sort. In ancient time it made for a perfect tobacco pouch, and some of them were beautifully painted by their owners.

That's why "killing the pig" in old time was hard work : kill the pig, immediately after slit the throat to take the blood in a big vase and stir it before it coagulates, then burn a straw ball over the animal on each side and wash it, clean and scrub it with tons of very hot water that had been kept boiling on a fire made in the garden near the pigsty, then suspend it on a trestle and butchering its main components, take the guts off and clean the intestines, which was not such hard work as it seemed as the pig had been left fastening for a few days for that purpose…. After that men could have a drink or two of the strong stuff … This took them a whole morning. It was a man's good day's work… Meanwhile in the kitchen women were just starting making the boudin (this was the first thing to be done as soon as the guts were cleaned), thenfine butchering the meat, cook most of it and make various sausages and saucissons, and cook the meats for different recipes (patés, chops, etc…) that would be stuffed in big preserving jars filled with oil or pork fat. Although deep freeze already existed among the wealthiest farms my parents' friends didn't have one at that time (mid 60's). This later work was only made by women (that's when I started to think that men were not so hard at work after all !…) and it was a long day's work that would never end before 11 pm or so !!… The only "cooking" work the house master would never leave to anyone was salting, seasoning, and wrapping in a clean cloth the two big hams legs he would tie up in the big fire place to dry and smoke. The process took about 3 months and each week he would check for any mold or flies laying eggs in it. As far as I can remember it never happened.

A pig gave a lot for a family. I remember that my stepfather bought half of the piglet his friend would raise and they would share the products in half : we had meat for the whole winter back in the city. And I still have a craving for the excellent home made saucisson and smoked ham of Lucien and Claudine (my parents' farmer friends).

The last time I saw a pig killing was in 1975 or 76 if I remember well, I was around 28 and to me it was as a feast as I remembered it from my childhood. I took many photos of the event and if I can find them in my mess I'll post them if anybody wishes me to : they'll get to see Lucien and Claudine, two simple French family farmers of the late 20th century. They were the last to keep the way of doing things are they were taught by their parents and grand-parents.

Anyway, thank you for posting and giving me the opportunity of telling one of the great memories of my childhood.

_-Damage-_1 year ago
Awesome post. About how much land is needed to pasture a few pigs?
velacreations (author)  _-Damage-_1 year ago
that depends on a lot of variables, including climate, condition of land, number of pigs, breed of pigs, and method of grazing.

Generally speaking, you want at least a few acres, but that could be less in different climates.
jxmorris121 year ago
I don't think that the main issue with raising pigs is the raising part. (If I wasn't clear, it's probably "the end")
velacreations (author)  jxmorris121 year ago
most areas have local butchers/processors that will do that part for you, if you are not able to do it.
Swakness1 year ago
I really love this post. Thanks for making such an effort to share your insights.

I just wanted to ask about the part on smoking the bacon. Are those temperatures in degrees F or degrees C?
velacreations (author)  Swakness1 year ago
They are in F
I love doing this and miss it. I don't have land anymore. Also what part of the northwest are you in? We are Salem OR. If you share I'll butcher it for you. Also I love that fact you make it a family affair and don't hide where the meat comes from. I grew up on a ranch and one of my first memories is of my mom and me going out the the rabbit shed and me picking dinner. Great memories and my kids know where there food comes from. As soon as I get land I will be doing the same thing.
streetrod51 year ago
You're doing exactly what we want to do! I'm sure the hardest part for us will be the butchering, so we'll be knocking on your door. (Luckily it's not difficult to find pasture-raised pork belly in the Northwest). Great Instructable.