It’s common to see farms selling hogs to families, which sales include cured hams and bacon. I often wonder, “Why?” First, this greatly increases the price of meat purchases. Second, it makes no sense in the 21st century.
“Curing” meat was a process used to preserve meat in days when there were no refrigerators or freezers. Smoke, salts and chemicals were used to dry out the skins of meats to form a “shell” that would prevent, or at least delay, spoiling. Curing is not necessary to enjoy the taste of delicious hams or bacon. Curing is necessary for preservation. If you’re putting your meat into a freezer…you don’t need to cure it! That’s what the freezer is for.
Many butcher shops have stopped offering curing services because they’re not necessary. Farms that sell cured meats to customers do so, I think, in a way that takes advantage of many buyers’ ignorance of the purpose of the process–or they just haven’t thought about it themselves.
When we send hogs to the butcher, we bring fresh or “green” hams home. These are not cured, like a ham in the grocery store, but are just frozen, fresh hams. We can prepare them however we please–as roasts, as steaks, sliced thin, whatever. Flavoring the ham does not require that it be “cured”. A small hog (200-250 lbs.) gives two 12 lb. hams, which can be brought home whole or, as Mrs. Michael prefers, in small 3-4 lb. roasts that fit into crock pots for easy cooking. You can easily find fresh ham recipes online, and Mrs. Michael will be posting recommended recipes over time.
Rather than for “bacon”, we send hogs to the butcher for “pork belly”. This is the meat that is cured and sliced as “bacon”, but that’s not necessary. A small hog (200-250 lbs.) will yield about 20 lbs. of pork belly, and delicious recipes can be easily found online.