Converting Apple Drops into Ham

My hogs weigh in around 150 pounds now.  They are slower in growing out than their floor-raised counterparts for a number of reasons.  First, though they eat roughly the same amount, they don’t have access to food all day long.  Because they don’t have access to a snack any time they want they tend to be a bit leaner than they would otherwise be.  Also, they have room to run, exercise, fight and play which, not surprisingly, results in a leaner animal.  Finally, my pigs are expected to work for a living.  They aren’t laying on slatted concrete relaxing in the shade, inches away from feed and water.  They are out on the sun-baked pasture.  There are goodies buried in the brick-like soil and they work to find them.  After they work the soil I plant a few seeds.  They are happy with the work they accomplish.  They are happy to live life in the sun with a chance to fully discover the purpose of their design…well, not the reproductive parts.  My customers are happy because I deliver a lean, healthy, happy and, consequently, tasty animal to the locker.

Let’s make it even better.  Right now immature apples are falling from the apple trees at Aunt Marion’s house.  It is important to remove the drops from the orchard to control the pest population and limit disease vectors in the orchard.  The kids and I pick up a few bags full of apples each evening.  Later this week they’ll work with Aunt Marion (who recently celebrated her 94th birthday) to sift the good from the bad under the early ripening apple trees.  For now we just harvest from under the mutsu apple tree.

The pigs get a 5-gallon bucket of unsorted apples each evening for dinner which is the same as saying they get unlimited access to apples.  They really make pigs of themselves.  This will add flavor to the finished product giving a lean, healthy, flavorful pig you just can’t buy anywhere.  By the way, we’re sold out of fall pork.

7 thoughts on “Converting Apple Drops into Ham

    • Our pigs live longer than the apple harvest lasts with the trees we have. Further frost, drought, cyclical tree production or bugs may limit the number of apples available. Our goal is to provide apples for the last 6-8 weeks. Aunt Marion has 4 mature (overgrown) apple trees. The drops from those trees should provide enough apples for the 7 hogs. We feed more than just apples to the pigs but they get all the apples they can eat while they last.

      This satisfies the needs for orchard health and for animal health but since we’re hauling the apples from A to B it doesn’t satisfy the needs of the farmer. It would be far better if these were my own apple trees and I could rotate my pigs under a different tree or two each day.

      Hope that helps.

      We’ll probably throw in a pumpkin or two this fall as well.

  1. Love the applesauce comment. I think the most important aspect is that these open air hogs don’t have that “confinement” taste to the meat. By the way, Aunt M is 93. While her trees are over grown, part of the reason is that pruning is a difficult compromise. Aunt M wants them pruned then is afraid too much is being taken out. HSF is a fast and aggressive pruner because of his time constraints. When you add CR&F into the mix it gets really exciting but things do get done. 🙂

    • Oh. Sorry. I missed the party on Monday. (Angel food cake smothered with peach pie filling and I didn’t get any!)

      I would like to point out there are broken limbs where she made me stop pruning. The rest of the tree is strong and loaded with large apples…you know, the part I pruned before she could get out of her PJs. I cut the water sprouts then just got into the criss-crossed limbs when she came out. She sees the limbs coming out and fears for this year’s production. She doesn’t see the poor health of the tree because she doesn’t worry about future production. She has a different time preference than I do.

      She also prevented me from pruning the other trees altogether. The tree closest to her house lost one of its tops this summer. ONE of its tops. I’ll start with that one this winter…after I take care of those poor broken peach trees.

  2. I agree about the pork from open air hogs. We get ours from a guy down the road, and the difference between his meat and the occasional packet of chops from the store is huge. I can relate to the pruning issue, though I’m not 93, lol. My trees are really old, and hollow, but produce well. I am an incredibly slow pruner (it would drive HSF crazy watching me I’m sure), and also dither about what to take out and what to leave. I used to do it with my Dad. Even at 84, he could prune 2 trees to my one if we worked together…with him gone, I ended up getting a guy in to do them each year.

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