Thursday January 31, 2013 | 10:09 AM

In an effort to learn more about whole animal cooking I ventured to Giant’s Belly Farm in Greene Maine this past Sunday to meet Nate 'Iggy' Brimmer and Andrew Lindberg and observe them break down a hog. Iggy and Andrew had invited friends and persons interested in learning more about the source of their meat to join them as they slaughtered and butchered one of the hogs Iggy had raised.

The day before I arrived, Iggy, Andy, Daphne (the coordinator of the event), and crew killed, scalded (to loosen the hair), scraped (the hair off), and split the hog. They had removed the brain and small intestines, and hung the sides of the hog carcass in an outdoor root cellar to cool overnight. They had kept the liver, kidneys, brain, heart, lung, and spleen to cook.

When I arrived Sunday morning the crew were finishing up cleaning from the day before and prepping the butcher station. Around noon we headed to the root cellar, where Iggy took down one of the sides of the hog with the help of a couple guys. He then began breaking down a half side of the hog into primals (shoulder, loin, belly, and leg) using the seam style of butchering (following the muscle seams in the meat, rather than cutting through the muscle groups).

After taking off the front primal they brought the carcass inside and took the jowl (or cheek) off. This was the first cut, Iggy said because it is the front of the animal. Iggy and Andrew worked back from there. After removing the fat and tenderloin (lies flat against the spine near the hindquarter of the pig), they took the ham (leg) off, trimmed that up, pulled the ribs and spine off to make boneless loin roasts, and cleaned up the belly.

On the other half they did essentially the same thing, but cut through the ribs and made bone-in pork chops out of most of the loin.

Iggy and Andrew will hold a two-day class on butchering and dry curing April 27th & 28th. $350/pp includes many food treats, recipes for unusual organ preparations, and taking home 1/16th of a pig, cured and ready to be dry aged. For more information and to reserve a spot please contact Iggy directly at 207.415.4458 or

Following is a Recipe from Giant’s Belly Farm. The event’s kitchen coordinator Sean Emmons creates and/or adapts all the recipes Iggy and Andrew use in their classes. This pig heart recipe is adapted from a traditional 19th century dish.

Love in Disguise (Baked Stuffed Heart)


2 pigs' hearts
1 small onion
1-cup fresh breadcrumbs
3-4 bay leaves
The zest of 2 lemons
1 egg beaten with milk
2 Tbsp milk to beat with egg
2 tsp wine vinegar
Dijon mustard
1 canned tomatoes
Pork or chicken stock
4 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp well-seasoned flour

Wash hearts and trim away membrane, gristle and arteries; soak in lightly salted water for 10 minutes then rinse, drain and dry well; chop the onion and sauté it in 2 tablespoons butter; away from the heat, stir in the breadcrumbs, lemon zest, 4 tablespoons parsley and lots of salt and pepper; bind with egg and milk; stuff mixture in heart cavities, and secure the openings with toothpicks or cocktail sticks; blend the tomatoes, stir in the vinegar and add enough stock to make up to 2 cups; dust the hearts thoroughly with seasoned flour; melt 2 tablespoons butter in a casserole, stir in the leftover flour and let it brown a little; blend in the tomato mixture and make a smooth, bubbling hot sauce; lay the prepared hearts in the sauce and tuck the bay leaves among them; cover with parchment paper and the lid, cook at 325°F for 1 hour; turn the hearts gently and continue cooking for 1 to 1 1/2 hours more until meat is tender; transfer the hearts to a serving dish; stir the mustard into the sauce, add salt and pepper to taste; pour sauce over the hearts, garnish with chopped parsley and serve with creamed kale


Storey Publishing's Basic Butchering of Livestock & Game by John M. Mettler provides instructions on equipment, preparation for slaughter, killing and scraping a hog.

The Butcher's Guide to Well-Raised Meat by Joshua and Jessica Applestone has a step-by-step photo essay on pig slaughter in the chapter "Techniques and Tools." (Serious Eats also made this video of Joshua Applestone breaking down a pig)

Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing by Michael Ruhlman

Primal Cuts: Cooking with America’s Best Butchers by Marissa Guggiana

Freeport Knife Company - Iggy recommends this shop for knives

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About the Author

Sharon Kitchens is a neo-homesteader learning the ins and outs of country living by luck and pluck and a lot of expert advice. She writes about bees for The Huffington Post and stuff she loves on her personal blog,

When she is not writing, she enjoys edible gardening, reading books on food and/or thinking about food, hanging out by her beehives and patiently tracking down her chickens in the woods behind her old farmhouse.

In her blog, Sharon profiles farm families, reports on farm-based education and internships, conducts Q&A's with master beekeepers, offers tips on picking a CSA, and much more.

Sharon can be contacted at or on Twitter @deliciousmusing.

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