How to Preserve Pork

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So Much Pork, So Little Freezer Space...
So Much Pork, So Little Freezer Space... (Image: Wikipedia)

Pork, aka "the other white meat," is known in just about every type of world cuisine, largely because pigs, unlike cows, don't require too much space to keep, and you can feed them on table scraps instead of having to invest in special kinds of feed. As with all types of meat, however, pork is prone to spoil if it is left unrefrigerated for too long, and in the centuries before the refrigerator was invented, people in non-frozen climates had two options at hog-butchering time: throw a big party so the whole pig was consumed at once or find a way to preserve the meat. If you, too, have a spare hog carcass on your hands and you do not have a really big freezer, you may wish to experiment with some of these time-tested preservation techniques.

Things You'll Need

  • Fresh pork
  • Smokehouse
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Saltpeter
  • White vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • Meat cure powder
  • Seasonings and/or marinade ingredients to taste

Smoke the meat. This is still a favorite method for curing ham and bacon. In order to smoke your meat, you will need to hang it up in a smokehouse, then build a hardwood fire below it and let the fire burn for two days. Do not overheat the meat or the smokehouse. 80- to 90-degrees F is best, over 100-degrees F is too hot. Be sure that your smokehouse is well-ventilated too, as you want to smoke the meat, not suffocate it.

Use a salt and sugar cure. You can do this by mixing 4 lbs. of salt, 1 1/2 lbs. granulated sugar (white or light brown), and 3 oz. of saltpeter, making sure that the ingredients are well combined. Rub the mixture over your meat (about 1 oz. per pound of bacon, 1 1/2 oz. per pound of ham), then let the meat sit or hang in a cold place (a refrigerator is good, but not absolutely necessary) for at least four weeks or more, if necessary (an additional two days for every pound over 14 lbs.). After curing, brush off the excess salt and sugar and let the meat hang in a cold place (or a refrigerator) for two to three weeks.

Pickle the pork. While this method is most often seen used with pigs feet and ham hocks, you can use vinegar to preserve other cuts of pork should you care to do so. You will need to mix one quart of white vinegar with 1 tbsp. of kosher salt and a pinch of meat cure powder (sometimes known as pink salt or Prague powder, this is readily available under brand names such as “InstaCure”and “Morton Tender Quick Meat Cure”), add in some spices and flavorings if you like (a few whole garlic cloves, some bay leaves, some chopped onion, a little red pepper), boil these ingredients in a large saucepan for a few minutes, then let cool in a large crock. When the mixture is cool, place about 2 lbs. of pork in the crock and place a weighted plate on top of the pork to make sure it stays submerged. Keep the pickling pork in a cold place (such as your refrigerator) for at least four days before using.

Dry the meat. Dried pork is a favorite Chinese snack, but you can also substitute pork for the beef in a jerky recipe. It is fairly simple to make, you just mix up a marinade to taste, using soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, pepper and five spice powder for an Asian flavor or Worcestershire, Tabasco, salt, pepper, onions and garlic for a more westernized version of pork jerky. Soak thin slices of pork in the marinade overnight, then place the strips on racks on top of cookie sheets in a warm (200 F) oven for 2 to 3 hours or until the strips are dried and crack (but do not break) when you try to bend them.

Tips & Warnings

  • Curing and smoking will not kill the bacteria that cause trichinosis - if you want to be sure the bacteria are all gone you will need to freeze your pork at -22 degrees F for 25 hours. or -5 degrees F for 25 days

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