Cooking Tips:
Our pastured pork is grass & dairy fed which has a rich, delicious sweet taste. Do not over cook meat so as to keep it’s natural juicy flavor and tenderness. You can use ground pork where you would use hamburger in recipes. Slow cooking a large piece of meat such as a ham, roast or loin makes for wonderful meals, sandwiches and omelettes the following days.

Note: In June of 2011 the USDA Revised their recommended cooking temperature for all whole cuts of meat, including pork, lowering the internal goal temperature to 145 °F. For ground meats they still recommend 160 °F internal temperature. What this means is that the science has found rarer meats to be healthy so it is no longer necessary to cook it to shoe leather consistency. Enjoy! See the article “Rare Pork” for more details.

Sear in the juices with high initial heat and then finish cooking over a lower heat. Be sure not to over cook the meat or it will dry out and toughen. If you like well done, try medium since pastured pork is much more flavorful than corn fattened meat.

Brining – We brine fresh hams for our family’s table in 3 cups salt, 1 cup sugar or maple syrup, about 2 tsp cloves and black pepper in enough water to cover a 10 to 15 lb ham. Boil the brine, cool and place over meat in a glass, stoneware or plastic container – not metal. For large pieces of meat, debone or inject the brine to get good penetration. Soak fully covered with brine for three days in the fridge turning daily. Longer makes it more tender and saltier. Remove, from brine, rinse and bake 15 minutes per lb starting at 400°F for first half hour – then 325°F until meat reaches an internal temperature of 160°F. Remove from oven and let meat rest 10 minutes before serving.

Note there is the option of using curing salt (Prague #1 Cure) or celery salt (another source of nitrates/nitrites) in recipes but that isn’t necessary if you have refrigeration. If you’re just salting for flavor the amount can vary based on your tastes. Cure (Prague or celery) does change the color of the meat making it redder – this is a side effect of the chemical reaction and not due to the red dye used in the Prague. The red dye is to warn people that the nitrate/nitrite salt is not regular salt since a far lower dose can be toxic. The purpose of the toxicity is to kill bacteria. The color change in the meat doesn’t come from the tiny amount of red dye but rather from a chemical change in the meat. The coloration is really just a side effect that people have come to associate with the curing, it isn’t the goal. See:

Curing meat involves adding nitrite or nitrate among other ingredients such as salt, sugar and spices to fresh meat. Most commonly nitrite is added to meat because the cured color reactions occur faster and more reliably than nitrate. The nitrite, usually dissolved in water, causes metmyoglobin to be formed, which causes the meat to turn brown. Eventually, the brownish colored meat will form the cured meat compound, nitrosylhemocrome, when the product is heated. The nitrosylhemochrome is a pink colored pigment that is heat stable. This pink “cured meat” color will continue to be pink when it is cooked as well as if the meat product is reheated multiple times.
Cured Meat Color.

Also see this article on ham brining and this article on USDA cure regulations for more thoughts on the topic of curing.

Our family loves corned beef so it was natural that we look to make corned pork. We started with the brining recipe as our base, skip the sugar and change the spices to bay leaves, black peppercorns, dill, chopped garlic, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, mustard seeds and a few cloves. After corning, drain & rinse the meat. Bring a pot of water to a boil and simmer the corned pork for about 15 minutes per pound until tender. Late in the cooking you can add potatoes, carrots or other root veggies to the pot to cook them in the delicious meat juices. Rest for 10 minutes & serve.

Slow Cooking
My personal favorite is grandma Jeffries’ barbecue ribs in sauce. This versatile recipe also works with loin or pork roast. Begin by cooking the meat for one hour at 350°F – longer for a large loin or roast.

While cooking, prepare a sauce, ideally in a cast iron skillet or pot, of one chopped onion, 2 cloves chopped garlic, green pepper all of which has been braised in pork fat or olive oil for about 10 minutes. Add 1 and 1/2 cup paste tomato (crushed, sauce or chopped), 3 tblsp of molasses, 2 tblsp vinegar, 1 and 1/2 tblsp Worcestershire or A1, 2 tsp mustard and some red pepper to taste. Cook sauce 10 more minutes and then spread on baking meat. Bake 1 hour more. Let rest before serving.

How to Cook a Ham
Preheat the oven to 325°F. We slash the surface lightly in a cross pattern, rub it with brown sugar or maple syrup and pierce the junctions of the grooves with cloves. We then bake it at 325°F which is about 160°C until the internal temperature of the meat reaches about 150°F (65°C). That’s about 15 to 20 minutes a pound – use a meat thermometer, the best way, or cut a core to check color if you think it is done but aren’t sure.

While cooking the fat side should be on top so that the fat drips down over the meat. We use a pan that can collect the juices and holds the meat up above the drippings. After the first hour I baste the ham with the drippings time to time, maybe every 45 minutes or so depending on what else I’m doing.

Take the ham out and let it rest for about 15 minutes – it continues to cook internally. While the ham rests we use drippings to make gravy for potatoes.

Also see the Cooking blog posts and for desert check out the delicious Cupids recipe we made up. It is wonderful at home and for taking to pot luck dinners.

“It’s amazing just how great integrity, excellence in care and husbandry, and commitment to quality tastes in every bite of Sugar Mountain Farm’s pork!”
-Tom Bivins, Executive Chef , NECI, New England Culinary Institute

23 Responses to Cook

  1. Jeni Steinhauser says:

    I came across your site looking for ways to fix a pork butt or ham. My husband and I purchased half a hog and realized of course that the ham and bacon would not be as in the store. This is our first time doing this. We are switching our family’s food to be as fresh as possible. I found your site inspiring. I am going to try your brining method and recipe but had a question about what you do with bacon. Do you brine it as well? Could you add liquid smoke to the brine to get the smoky flavor? Thanks, Jeni

    • My first thought is to give the fresh pork a try and see how you like that. It is a different taste but delicious. Next, you can find my mother’s recipe for slow cooking it on the cooking page above – we use that a lot of many different cuts of pork. Then as you noted there is the home brining. We use that on both hams and bacon. We don’t do it yet but someday I would like to learn to smoke – hmm… that sounds funny! I’ve been reading some good books about it and should review them. Lastly, my son Will recently has been experimenting with the liquid smoke and gotten very good results. He puts it in while simmering the meat in the oven or on the stove. I know he has tried it on hocks and tongue.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Hi, I’ve stumbled across your amazing website and farm on accident…I live in NH and I am stumped with a cut of meat that I have from a pig my parents bought locally…it’s labeled as a “fresh ham butt”. Can I brine it and slow roast it as I would typically for a pork shoulder or a pork butt? I am looking for a pulled pork/chunked portions consistency when it’s done cooking. Help!

    • The cut you have likely came from the upper portion of the ham at the hip area. See the Pork Cut Chart on our literature page. Typically pulled pork is made from the Boston Butt. A second cut that is used sometimes for pulled pork is the Picnic Shoulder. My son makes pulled pork from the ham which is the same cut you have since we sell out of Boston Butt ever week so we never have it for our home kitchen. It works great. He cooks the ham and then to shred it he has taken to shredding it in the juicing blender in small amounts at a time – just a quick blend and it’s shredded.

  3. Cory Searles says:

    We are going to be slaughtering our own pigs and we were wondering if you cure your meat or is that the purpose of brining?

    • The word “curing” is used by different people to mean different thing ranging from aging to salting to sugaring to the use of nitrites and nitrates. Traditionally the goal was to tenderize the meat and to preserve it for later prior to refrigeration. Now the primary purpose is flavoring followed by the tenderizing since most people have refrigeration. See this search pattern and read this page on the USDA site about hams. They emphasize the use of the nitrates and nitrites.

      Nitrates and nitrites have a bad name left over from some studies offering potential links to cancer a few decades ago but recent research has shown that they are found naturally occurring in high doses in vegetables and may actually prevent some forms of cancer. See for more and links.

      When we make hams and bacon at home we don’t use nitrates or nitrites. We use sugar (maple or brown), salt and spices. See How to brine. At the smokehouse they are used in minimal amounts. I am not sure which way we’ll go, perhaps both, when we have our own smokehouse in a few years.

  4. Amy nelson says:

    Just slaughtered our first 300 pounder at home. Husband was sick, so I had to cut it up myself and have been in pork for 3 days now. I put the hams in the freezer with the intention of curing (salt, sugar, etc) them later. My friend who is a meat cutter says no can do after it’s frozen. Oh well. At least he caught me before I ruined it. My question is, will it still brine well after it’s thawed out?

  5. Carol Michano says:

    Have you thought of putting together a recipe book for your farm? I know many farms have done this to give people ideas for cooking their products. Many peole have lost the ability to cook and could use some instructions even for simple home cooking not the fancy stuff.

  6. Chris Duke says:

    You guys really impress me with all your doing. Especially with the home butcher shop (processing center).
    I was wanting to see your favorite recipe for your ‘ home canned pork’ you mentioned in another post I read earlier. At the moment, I do a lot of meat canning when the money is there to buy the meat, or it comes on sale, but don’t have much of anything for the canned pork other than a few BBQ sauces. By the way, canned chicken (old egg birds) make the best topping for a Cesar salad! Way better than fresh or grilled meat the way it blends in with the cheese and dressing.

  7. Craig Oliver says:

    Concering brining a fresh ham……we removed the skin and most of the fat from it when we butchered. Can this ham still be brined per the recipe above?

  8. Ben Wilke says:

    Hey Walter,

    Any suggestions for recipes on preparing a whole pig head?



    • Brawn. Many recipes out there. Essentially: Bake at medium low for a couple of hours, then boil, reduce to simmer for a couple of hours. Pick the meat off and save. Continue simmering the bones and cartilage to make the broth. Chop up veggies to small pieces. Remove bones and inedibles from stock. Reduce stock. Add meat and veggies with salt, pepper and spices. Simmer briefly. Pour into pans (we use tempered glass bread pans) which act as molds and chill so the gelatin sets. Slice for sandwiches. Trotters add more gelatin. Smoked trotters and more flavor.

  9. Jay Mac says:

    I’m slow cooking a 125 hanging weight hog. How much meat will I end up with after cooking it at 225 degrees. We are having about 100 people at this party.
    Thank you
    Love your site

  10. Charles says:

    Hi Walter,

    Followed you for sometime now on a couple of blogs! Your words have saved our “bacon” many times! Thank you Sir!

    Quick question, we tried and new butcher shop this year. They do not smoke the hams, instead we get many packages of “fresh ham slices” or ham steaks. Just wodering if you or anyone has ideas for these? We have and are using them up but, only have a few ideas to use them..

    Thank you in advance.

    • I treat them like roasts if they’re large and like pork chops if their thin cut say 1/2″ to 1″ thickness. Another option with steaks is to put them in a frying pan with maple syrup – an old time traditional Vermont recipe. You could also cube them up to use in chili and the like.

  11. This article has the recipe for a 10-15# ham brine. This part of your website says the same measurements for 30#! Shoot. I hope it is the correct measurements for 15#. I used those measurements and they’re on the brine right now!

    • You are right. The difference between those is the type of salt. The curing salt (Prague #1 Cure) is the difference. If you are making a ham to hang and dry for ambient storage like they used to do in the old days before refrigeration then the curing salt is important because it kills bacteria and preserves the meat. If you’re just salting for flavor then there is a large range of what you can do based on your own preferences. That’s why I mention that the Prague #1 Cure is optional. Either way, enjoy!

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