Category Archives: Pigs

Traditional Hog Processing Workshop






Of interest to farmers, chefs and homesteaders, this three part workshop will highlight traditional hog processing techniques familiar to farmers generations ago, but lost to many of us in these modern times.


Dates for the workshop are:

December 10th, slaughter and processing, 9 – 4, in Dublin NH at Dancing Dog Farm.

December 18th, butchery, 9 – 4,  in Salisbury, NH at Henwyn Farm and

December 20th,  curing and preserving, in Dublin once again at Dancing Dog Farm.


Workshop Fee is $150 for all three days, or $60 per day. Workshop participants will be actively involved in all three days.


Contact Carol Lake, Dancing Dog Farm, 603.563-8122 or email at


Humane Slaughter & Processing

Students will learn how to slaughter pigs humanely, with elegance and utility. Edward Epsen  of Henwynn Farm will demonstrate specialized organ extraction, blood harvest, and preservation of the extreme parts to maximize value. Ed uses the technique of scalding and scraping so that you get a carcass with skin on. Other custom cutters will skin the animal, losing much of the value in the process. In addition to the overall loss of edible skin and hyperdermic fat, you would lose the value of the fatback, the head (including the jowls), and the feet.



Traditional Butchery

On Butchery day workshop participants will learn how to break down a whole side of pork into primal and secondary cuts with nothing more than four hand tools. This also increases the value of your cuts because they are made cleanly with a knife, which reduces oxidation and nutrient loss. Our approach will emphasize porcine physiology, identifying different muscular, skeletal, and connective tissue groups. You will learn how to render the carcass into an assortment of cuts that are most useful for your kitchen, how to minimize bone dust, oxidation, and waste, and how to wrap meat for maximum storage life in the freezer. Finally, we wrap the meat using clinging plastic and butcher paper, not vacuum-sealed packs, which can lose their seal when handled or shifted around in the freezer.

Preserving Pork without Refrigeration

For the third session we will cover a combination of curing, cooking, and sausage making. Students will learn the traditional art of preserving pork without refrigeration, which generally involves three categories of technique: wet-curing, dry-curing, and confitting. Possible special topics and fees include the following.

Fromage de tete (head cheese)
Black pudding / blood sausage
Pate de campagne (rustic pork liver pate)
Rillette (a kind of pulled pork confit that will last indefinitely in the fridge or cellar)
Fresh linked sausages

Things we start together and you finish:

Dry Curing


Wet Curing



Dancing Dog Farm is a family homestead farm in Dublin NH that emphasizes biodynamic agriculture and permaculture.  Henwyn Farm is a small-scale certified natural farm featuring rare heritage breed hogs raised on pasture and woodland, located in the Merrimack Valley of central New Hampshire.



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Raising Pigs Naturally


Our Pig Raising Philosophy

We do a number of things differently that commercial hog “farms” (and I use that term loosely).
As much as possible, we try to allow  the animals to do what they want to do. We give the pigs lots of space, to cut down on stress. We treat the pigs as gently as possible.

No Cruel Confinement
We don’t confine the pigs. There are no farrowing boxes, where momma pigs can’t turn around to be with their babies. There are no metal pens on cement floors.  The pigs are outside nearly all the time, including winter (if they choose to go out)  with access to fresh air and dirt. Most pigs are hardy and can withstand the elements well when provide them with additional shelter.  In the hot months, we ensure they can wallow and find shade. Pigs are exceptionally clean aninals, and will only go to the bathroom in one area, if given the opportunity. They need mud to wallow in, however, for a number of reasons. 1) Pigs like to play! 2) The mud protects them from insect bites and 3) the mud protects them from sunburn (especially the pink ones!) . We don’t ring the pigs’ noses, (a practice routinely carried out on other farms so that the animals do not root up the ground) so they may root as much as they want. In fact, we actually encourage rooting (the Tamworths were great at that) because the pigs make the very best “ploughs” around, rooting up compacted soil, eating grass, then grass roots, and fertilizing at the same time. They make a perfect rototiller, with zero soil compaction, and lots of happy microbes!

Minimal Mutilations
•    We don’t clip the piglets’ needle teeth at birth, as many farmers do.
•    We don’t ring their noses.  We want our pigs to root in up the dirt.
•    We don’t dock their tails. Docking tails is common practise on large farms, done because in confinement, and with little to do, pigs get bored, and start to nibble on each other’s   tails. That creates sores, which, of course in that environment don;t heal well, which in turn creates an infection, which has to be treated with yet more antibiotics. Yeesh.   We provide our pigs with enough space so that this is not necessary.
•    None of our baby boys are castrated, a practiec now banned in much of Europe. No boar taint (what folks refer to when their sausage tastes, well, like an old pig) is in our meat, because the shoats don’t get to breeding age, and therefore never have hormones in enough quantity to affect the meat.
No Drugs, Hormones or Chemicals
The pigs do not receive any hormones or sub-therapeutic antibiotics in their feed. Ever. Yuck. Nor do we feed the pigs synthetic nutrients like urea.
Natural Diet, No Herbicides
The pigs eat what they find pasture, which includes grass, weeds and roots. We also feed them a supplemental grain mix and a mineral supplement from an organic feed mill.
The pastures haven’t been sprayed with pesticides or fertilized with chemicals in years.
Low-input and Sustainable
The animals are moved to new pig areas before permanently destroying their pasture.  The exception to this is when we want the pigs to till up the pasture for planting; then the pig area will be left in this spot long enough to till the soil.

The pigs have plenty of space in the pig areas, so there are no waste issues.  Waste is re-incorprated into the pasture as fertilizer.

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Little Piggy!

A Gloucester Old Spot breed boar (male pig) at...

A Gloucester Old Spot (not our little piggy!)

We’ve started raising a few pigs, mostly for all my, shall we say… unsuccessful… cheese experiments and of course all that extra milk while I perfect my cheesemaking skills. Also because my family loves bacon, sausage, ham, and of course, pulled pork. I am a firm believer in healthy fats, (A La Sally Fallon and “Nourishing Traditions”) and it’s very hard to source good leaf lard for baking. Yum. So, off we go on another adventure!

I’ve raised Gloucester Old Spots, a lovely, quiet breed with a gentle disposition but poor fecundity due to a limited gene pool in this country, as well as Tamworths. Tams are really great on pasture, but are very active, and because of that slower to grow out. They are also escape artists, we’ve found, and are very very fast!! Peter and I picked up al ittle GOS crossbred pig, we are looking for another piglet for company for him. So far he’s happily ensconced under the barn, learning all about the wonders of electric fencing.When that lesson is firmly entrenched, he’ll go out on the pasture.

Here’s a little about our pig raising philosophy.

Though we have sold half of this pig, we’ll be getting another piglet or two soon. If anyone is interested in pasture raised, organic pork, contact me. We will sell by the cut, side or whole pig.

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Filed under homestead, Pigs