Fresh Pork Hack

Pork is as high in nutritional value as beef, but much less expensive.  In fact, pork is even higher in niacin than beef.  However, the one qualm that I have with putting pork into home freezer storage is that most retail fresh pork has been injected with a weak salt-water solution, in order to increase cooked product moisture retention.  Hopefully salt levels are still low enough to not significantly promote fat oxidation.  Salt enhanced fat oxidation is a big reason why fresh sausages don’t keep well for a very long period of time when frozen. 

Why are some boneless fresh pork cuts routinely bargain priced?  Supply and demand is a big part of the answer.  Fresh ribs, which are about half bone, demand a higher price per pound than both boneless pork loins and boneless pork shoulder butts, because that’s what the market will bear.  The pork industry has wisely chosen to place economic emphasis on comparative lean bacon, lean ham and lean pork for further processing into a multitude of sausage items.  Indeed, approximately 75% of an average mainstream market hog carcass is further processed.  So as a consequence, mainstream pork chops lost their well marbled – eating high on the hog status of yesteryear.   

    

I paid $1.79 per pound for a whole boneless pork loin and $1.69 per pound for boneless pork shoulder butts.  Then, a few days later a local grocery chain store dropped the price of boneless pork loin halves to $1.37 per pound.  The pork shoulder butts were higher than they had recently been; possible due to it being peak barbecue season.  At great prices such as these, one would be foolhardy to not figure out some worthwhile and delicious ways to utilize these fresh meat cuts. 

 I have a little hand-crank cuber that I bought myself for Christmas.   It cost around $80.  So, all that was needed was to slice thin boneless chops and run them through the cuber.  The subcutaneous fat was cut off, cut into small pieces and then folded-in as pork was dropped several times through the cuber.  Market hog pork loins are already tender, cubed they were even more tender and had the rough equivalent of marbling worked into them.   As seen in the above pic, a bit of excess fat was trimmed off some of the rib-end chop.  But, not even that fat was wasted because it was used in producing ground pork. 

Cube steaks were placed 3 in a sandwich bag; with two pieces of wax paper between each steak.  The two pieces of wax paper make it easy to pry frozen cube steaks apart using  a table knife.  A double wrap was achieved by placing sealed sandwich bags into gallon size zip-lock bags.  There was one pork cube steak left over after packaging; so I immediately sprinkled salt and pepper on it and pan fried it to 140F internal.  It was delicious. 

Here is all the boneless pork shoulder butt meat cut into strips.  The small pile of removed objectionable material consists of  lymph nodes, blood clots, bone fragments, heavy connective tissue etc.  All subcutaneous and seam fat was left on the pork lean for grinding. 

 Pork was ground once through a 3/16 inch plate then lightly mixed by hand.  As you can see, this ground pork is still plenty lean. 

Ground pork was tightly packed into sandwich size bags, then 4 sandwich size bags of grind were sealed into gallon bags to achieve a good double wrap for freezer storage. 

To microwave thaw I run the thaw cycle long enough to temper the pack of grind to the point where it can be knife cut into smaller pieces.  Then those pieces are placed back in the microwave to quickly complete thawing. 

I make freestyle breakfast sausage quite a bit and also make other varieties using recipes.  If you want to see a way to quickly adjust batch ingredients (Click Here).  And, don’t forget to fry a small test patty before cooking small sausage batches.  You might want to add more seasoning. 

Written by George Wolfer

George Wolfer

Been associated with the meat industry pretty much since starting at a Vocational High school Meat Processing program in 1974. Like to learn and teach interesting and worthwhile livestock production, meat processing and marketing practices.

4 thoughts on “Fresh Pork Hack

  1. When you say “most retail fresh pork has been injected with a weak salt-water solution” do you mean even types not labeled as enhanced with X% solution of X?

    Do you believe the type of pork pictured in the article may be injected?

    1. For the following reason I think that fresh pork labeled “Natural” is injected with a salt water solution and if needles penetrate the cut some type of organic microbial inhibitor intervention is also in such pumping solutions:
      Hams have always been allowed to contain up to 10% added water (over “green” weight) without having to say water-added on the finished product label.
      Modern vacuum packaged fresh pork cuts look much wetter than what boxed and paper wrapped fresh pork used to look like.
      I once removed the subcutaneous fat layer from a boneless pork loin labeled Natural and could see a multi-stitch pump needle pattern in the silver skin.
      Another time I put the full recipe called-for salt amount in a sausage batch, where Natural pork shoulder butts were the starting raw product, the resulting sausage was way too salty.
      A little salt water increases cooked product moisture retention.
      For labeling purposes, salt and water are considered to be Natural products.
      The only real clue is, that such “Natural” fresh pork cuts will have a “Minimally Processed” statement in the fine print on the label. Why would it have to state Minimally processed if it was pork that contained only natural amounts of natural salt and water?

      Modern mainstream fresh pork is easy to dry out during cooking and salt-water enhancement adds to finished product palatability. Further, fresh pork retail cuts are still comparatively very inexpensive; so I have no problem using them. I just add less salt and water to my home further processing projects.

      Still, I could be wrong somehow. I you can enlighten us further on this topic, please do so.

      Thank you

  2. No, Thank you!
    You are providing the enlightenment.
    “…I once removed the subcutaneous fat layer from a boneless pork loin
    labeled Natural and could see a multi-stitch pump needle pattern in the silver skin…” Etc.

    I have nothing against clearly labeled products that have been enhanced, but was surprised that what I would consider “normal” pork might be.

    What sparked the question was some mild spoilage, more a change of taste, that friends had in their frozen ground pork and fresh sausage, made from supermarket pork, as in the article.
    I thought maybe it was frozen for years or the freezer was too warm.
    Not, they told me.

    The only problem with your blog is you don’t post enough!

    1. The “Natural” label cannot be used when sodium phosphate is part of the pumped-in enhancement. Those items have names like Moist & Tender etc.

      If you ever have meat industry questions I would be happy to try and find an accurate, unbiased answer for you.

      Thanks again for reading.

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