Preserving food was a changing art in the 19th century, and very different from today. Today we simply go to the market and purchase whatever variety of meat we'd like for our dinners. Butcher Shops were not uncommon in the 19th century but many also had to prepare their own meat from the farm. Below is a section from Mrs. Hale's new cook book: By Sarah Josepha Buell Hale ©1857 It's a good description of the various ways to prepare pork.
Curing Pork.—The pork being killed, several points require attention —first, the chitterlings must be cleaned, and all the fat taken off; they are then to be soaked for two or three day* in four or six waters, and the fat may be melted for softening shoes, &c.; the inside fat, or flare, of pork must be melted for lard as soon as possible, without salt, if for pastry. The souse should be salted for two or three days, and then boiled till tender ; or fried, or broiled, after being boiled. The sides for bacon must be wiped, rubbed at the bone, and sprinkled with salt, to extract the blood : the chines, cheeks, and spare-ribs, should be similarly salted. On the third day after pork is killed, it may be regularly salted, tubs or pans being placed to receive the brine, which is useful for chines and tongues. December and January are the best months for preparing bacon, as the frost is not then too severe.
The hog is made into bacon, or pickled.
Bacon—(The method of airing Malines Bacon, so much ad mired for its fine flavor).—Cut off the hams and head of a pig, if a large one; takeout the chine and leave in the spare-rib, as they will keep in the gravy and prevent the bacon from rusting. Salt it first with common salt, and let it lie for a day on a table that the blood may run from it; then make a brine with a pint of bay-salt, one-quarter peck of common salt, about one-quarter pound of juniper-berries, and some bay-leaves, with as much water as will, when the brine is made, cover the bacon; when the salt is dissolved, and when quite cold, if a new-laid egg will swim in it, the brine may be put on the ba con, which after a week must be rubbed with the following mixture:—Half pound of saltpetre, 2 oz. of sal-prunella, and 1 pound of coarse sugar; after remaining 4 weeks, it may be hung up in a chimney where wood is burned; shavings, with •awdust and a small quantity of turf, may be added to the fire at times.
Westphalia Hams—Are prepared in November and March. The Germans place them in deep tubs, which they cover with «vers of salt and saltpetre, and a few laurel-leaves. They ar« left four or five days in this state, and then are compk-tcly covered with strong brine. At the end of three weeks, they are taken out, and soaked twelve hours in clear spring water • they are then hung for three weeks in smoke, produ"-.ed from the branches of juniper-plants.
Another method is to rub the leg intended for a bun with half a pound of coarse sugar, and to lay it aside for a night. In the morning, it is rubbed with an ounce of saltpetre, and an ounce of common salt, mixed. It is then turned daily for throe weeks, and afterwards dried in wood and turf-smoke. When boiled, a pint of oak saw-dust is directed to be put into the pot or boiler.
Obs.—Dried meats, hams, &c., should be kept in a cold bui not damp place.
Smoked provisions keep better than those which are dried on account of the pyroligneous acid which the former recei\v from the smoke.
Hams superior to Westphalia.—Take the hams as soon as the pork is sufficiently cold to be cut up, rub them well wit! common salt, and leave them for three days to drain; throw away the brine, and for a couple of hatns of from fifteen to eighteen pounds' weight, mix together two ounces of saltpetre, a pound of coarse sugar, and a pound of common salt; rub the hams in every part with these, lay them into deeppieklinf;paus with the riud downwards, and keep them for three days well covered with the salt and sugar; then pour over them a bottle of good vinegar, and turn them in the brine, and baste them with it daily for a mouth; drain them well, nib them with bran, and let them be hung for a month high in a chimney over a wood-fire to be smoked.
Hams, of from 15 to 18 Ibs. each, 2; to drain, 3 days. Common salt and coarse sugar, each 1 Ib.; saltpetre, 2 ozs.: 3 jays. Vinegar, 1 bottle: 1 month. To be smoked 1 month.
Obs.—Such of our readers as shall make trial of this admirable receipt, will acknowledge, we doubt not, that the hams thus cured are in reality superior to those of Westphalia. It was originally given to the public by the celebrated French cook, Monsieur Ude, to whom, after having proved it, we are happy to acknowledge o'tr obligation for it. lie directs that the hams when smoked should be hung as high as possible from the fire, that the fat may not be melted ;—a very necea. sary precaution, as the mode of their being cured renders it peculiarly liable to do so. This, indeed, is somewhat perceptible in the cooking, which ought, therefore, to be conducted with especial care. The hams should be very softly simmered, and uot over-done. They should be large, and of finely-fed pork, or the receipt will not answer. We give the result of out first trial of it, which was perfectly successful.
Leg of farm-house pork, 14 to 15 Ibs.; saltpetre, 1^ oz. • strong coarse salt, 6 ozs.; coarse sugar, 8 ozs.: 3 days. Fine white-wine vinegar, 1 pint. In pickle, turned daily, 1 month. Smoked over wood, 1 month.
Obs.—When two hams are pickled together, a smaller proportion of the ingredients is required for each than for one which is cured by itself. .