Episode-1253- Brandon Sheard the Farmstead Meatsmith on Curing Meats

Brandon Sheard came into traditional slaughter, butchery and curing right after finishing his graduate work in Renaissance English Literature. After marrying Lauren, he quit his job at Whole Foods in the supplement department and started work on a small, multi-species and pasture-based farm on Vashon Island.

After two years of working on the farm and managing the butcher shop, Brandon left and started Farmstead Meatsmith with Lauren. Largely self-taught in the art of traditional animal harvesting, Brandon and Lauren continue to provide the services of livestock processing and classes through Farmstead Meatsmith with a little help from 4 year-old Wallace, 2 year-old John Luke and 6 month-old Simon.

Their home and business is on Vashon Island, Washington and they join us today to discuss Fermented/Cured Meats.  I first heard of Brandon from our good friend and expert council member Paul Wheaton of Permies.com.  Brandon comes with Paul’s highest recommendation.

Join Us Today As We Discuss…

  • What is curing? How does the traditional approach differ from the conventional approach?
  • How has Bacon been commodified
  • How does what you do on slaughter-day affect what you can do with meat when you cure it
  • How will cured meats influence your kitchen
  • How has modern practices of butchery influenced grass-fed beef in our country
  • Why is most grass-fed beef trimmed of its fat
  • What are some resources to help people regain a traditional approach?
  • What is charcuterie
  • How do you make a ham
  • What should you do with venison

Resources for today’s show…

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41 Responses to Episode-1253- Brandon Sheard the Farmstead Meatsmith on Curing Meats

  1. AWESOME SHOW!!! This was great. I hope that Brandon continues to be a part of the TSP community.

  2. Amazing, Expert Council, please

  3. Haven’t listened to the show yet but I’m really looking forward to it.

    But I have to ask, why….why did you kill poor Wentworth.

  4. fabulous show! inspirational! This is something which more people, including me, needs to do. It was eye opening to learn how simple it all can be.

    Next someone to talk about tanning? what do people do with the hides from cows and sheep and, for that matter, deer?

    Someone wants to hunt on my land in exchange for some meat and that’s fine but he takes the hides to the dump, which seems to be the normal practice here. I once tanned a sheepskin and it turned out ok but it required using some battery acid in the process and disposal is a major issue. Not up for chewing the hides, either. Anyway, if anyone has a relatively simple way to make something usable out of the hides, I’d surely appreciate knowing about it.

    Pigs next year!!!! Got hungry just listening to this podcast!

    • It’s been a while, but I have tanned with brains on small hides (such as rabbit, fox and coon), and used a really old fashioned method of soaking the hides for a month or so in tannin water made from oak chips, oak leaves and water. That is in addition to the commercial chemical tanning agents. I haven’t done one in over a decade, but I know that there are usually back to basics-style workshops put on around the country that teach pioneer skills and tanning is one of them.

  5. I heard his podcast on Paul Wheaton’s podcast awhile back and was instantly sold on getting pigs (or at least just one pig that we raise with other animals). This was an even better podcast, particularly on the just numberable of actionable items. I can clearly take this podcast and run with it with a lot of these “recipes” or techniques. Very very cool, thanks for having this guy on because I’ve really wanted to hear more by him.

    • I just watched all 3 videos. This is must watch literature. While obviously completely inspirational (for a person to be able to do it themselves), it also is kind of aggravating. I can’t help but feel as though I (and my parents and beyond) have been completely been robbed of basic human preparedness, and knowledge about life and living. For what? To work some bullshit empty occupation to BUY real things (or nonsense). What trickery.

      Good thing about being aware and awake is you can change those things, and live a better life and right at least your own ship (and hopefully helping friends and neighbors along the way).

    • “To work some bullshit empty occupation to BUY real things (or nonsense). What trickery.”

      INDEED!!

    • I couldn’t agree more. I heard the Paul Wheaton podcast then watched the videos and was BLOWN AWAY. I couldn’t believe what Brandon was saying and more importantly – doing. Somehow it brought everything together for me. Lacto-fermentation, food preservation, lost arts of civilization, prepping, surviving/thriving. Just amazing. So I bought two pigs. I read and watched everything I could on the charcuterie subject. I had one pig processed in late October in a way that left the skin on. Boy is the pig an amazing thing! I had my hands full for 10 days trying to use everything I could. In the end I tried my hand at bacon (made the salt mistake), cured ham (delicious), rendered lard(did it wrong) and fresh sausage(good but I ground it too fine). The rest I froze. I’ve had mixed results but nothing went terribly wrong. Just need some refinements on a few techniques. I have a prosciutto hanging in my basement – the jury is still out on that one. Anyway, amazing podcast, amazing concepts, amazing man (Brandon). I long to make this my life but family and work commitments are in the way for now. Maybe someday…until then I’m still working towards building the better life for when times get tough or even if they don’t. Thanks Jack for another great show.

      • Great point and awesome on getting the pigs! We’re talking about doing the same. Rather than going all in and trying to “sustainably raise pigs” or have some sort of breeding thing going on, we’re thinking about just getting 1, or 2, that we’ll just put with other animals and see how it goes. Eventually I’ll definitely be looking at breeding pigs I think, particularly for the fats.

      • @Matt -
        Thank you for your post.

        No BS.. this is the kind of story that gives me hope for the future.

  6. Your podcasts are so informative. You do preparation. You ask the right questions better than anyone I’ve seen. You try to keep your ego out of interviews. Each podcast covers a subject so well with very helpful and useful information. Thank you so much.

  7. Thanks Jack, this was exactly what I was hoping for! I wonder if you could use jowels for bacon instead of belly fat for his recipe/method?

    • Yes you can! At least you can buy it at the farmers market I went to some years back in Kentucky… go for it!

  8. Fantastic show! His videos practically make me cry.
    Even though Parker country in TX doesn’t allow hogs, it might be time to sneak a couple into the back and make sure the neighbors get some bacon from time to time.
    Jack, think we could get Brandon down to TX for a TSP filled class?

    • Hey David, remember that there is no season or limit on feral hogs here in Texas, so if you can find someone with a feral problem that will let you come in and hunt some, you can get a good bit of side meat that way. I love the wild taste of the ferals, and they make good sausage as well. You can get details from the game warden department.

      • Wolf, I’ll definitely have to take a look. My wife and I are moving back to the state after getting out of CO in a couple weeks, so I have some readjustment to do. Picking up hunting and licensing in TX is definitely towards the top of the list. Great idea.

  9. Off topic from this show but thought I would share. The walking to freedom website was mentioned on the Student of the Gun podcast (11/18). They are big supporters of people leaving the “slave” states for “free America.” Just thought it was cool that the website is getting attention from sources outside the tsp community.

  10. This show was amazing and so timely, since I will be butchering one of our pigs very soon. It will be my first time attempting to do it myself and I’ve been a little nervous about it, especially making the cuts. Brandon’s videos make it seem so simple, like anyone can do it, so I thank him for that boost of confidence I needed. I was also glad to hear him mention to leave the skin on, as I was planning to skin him. I had not considered curing anything, but now I am excited to make prosciutto, bacon, and salami!

    Does anyone have any recommendations for a good brand of knives to use? In his video he says a boning knife and a larger knife, such as a straight steak knife. I’m quite sure that the kitchen knives I own are not up to the task.

    Thanks so much Jack and Brandon – you hit this one out of the park!!

    • On one of the videos he talks about the type of knife he uses, but I can’t remember what video. I did a search for “vintage butcher knives” and ebay has a lot for really cheap.

    • Will you be slaughtering and butchering yourself? It’s a lot of work – too much for one man. Even if you have it slaughtered and plan on butchering yourself I recommend having a few people to help. My local slaughter/butcher place took care of the kill, gut and hanging time. Then I had them break it down in quarters for me. Even after that I had my hands full for days trying to process it down further.
      On the knives, I heard Brandon say that his best knives came from flea markets and garage sales. The key thing he looked for was rust. If there was no rust, he wouldn’t buy it. What you want is a carbon steel blade not stainless steel. I researched some more and found that most butchers say the same thing. It turns out that you can’t effectively sharpen a stainless steel blade. I bought a cheap “High Carbon Stainless Steel Curved Blade Boning Knife” on Amazon for $14 and it worked very well. I still suck at sharpening but I’ve been able to keep it sharp with an arkansas stone. Good luck!

    • I’ve been using a knife from Cutco, called the Fisherman’s solution for years now. I’ve used it for butchering deer and love it, it has a good grip and holds an edge really well. They are made of High-Carbon Stainless steel. I have also used it for cleaning various fish. The blade has enough flexibility to get in and around bones as well. Best place to purchase is on Ebay.

    • I believe on Paul’s podcast he said he likes to get high carbon blades from antique shops. I think he makes a joke about getting “stained steel” instead of stainless.

    • Thank you everyone for all the great suggestions. I will be off to ebay to find myself some knives.

      Matt, it will be me and my 26 year old son doing the butchering, but I hadn’t thought about how much work it might be for even the 2 of us. The pig is rather small, only around 70 pounds live weight, but I thought that would be perfect for our first attempt. Maybe I should enlist some more help. My butcher won’t touch this pig because he’s not castrated and he’s afraid of boar taint (eyes rolling).

      • Hey gator bee, I stand corrected. I think you and your son can probably handle a 70 pound pig. Mine was 275! I don’t have any first hand knowledge of “boar taint” but from what I’ve read I’m with you-no big deal. Have fun!

  11. So good. I was excited about this episode last week, had high hopes, and was not disappointed. This guy REALLY knows his stuff, and enjoys teaching others about it, and that really shows.

  12. I was wondering how to make good use all the brine solution and even the salt that is removed multiple times off of the drying meat. I guess it would be good as a salt lick location for deer or other animals. Ideas / suggestions?

    I’m very excited to try some of these ideas. I have been getting to know a local butcher for a while now and may be able to get my hands on some good cuts of meat. Anyone know if the Amish use many of these practices?

  13. Holy-Guacamole Brandon is awesoooome! I would love to go through some of his classes he makes it sound so straight forward and the end products look amazing – I want a kitchen with meat hanging all over!!
    I have one hog ready next month and while I feel a little overwhelmed to go from zero-to-hero, next season with a little prep his videos make me feel I could do it! <-No I gotta do it!!
    Thanks Jack & Brandon :)

  14. This brought back some memories, but also inspired to plan on doing some of these processes when I move back to my family farm as a retired adult. Jack your shows are filled with amazing guests. Thanks for the wealth of knowledge this brought.

  15. Awesome podcast – terrific guest!

  16. Regarding boar taint, it’s real enough. Most people can’t taste it but a percentage of the population has the gene for detecting it and they find it makes the meat inedible…not just “off” but disgusting. Perhaps a young boar will not infuse his meat with the scent; perhaps it depends on his age. I don’t know.

    If anyone wants to hear a story of someone who is able to detect the taste, tune into the Checken Thistle Farm podcast of a few weeks ago and hear how Farmer Andy was unable to eat his pricey restaurant dinner due to this thing, while Kelly happily chowed down on the same stuff.

  17. EXCELLENT! podcast. My project list for this winter keeps getting larger.

  18. Years ago I bought a half hog from a local farmer. I ended up giving most of the meat away as my husband refused to eat it. He must be one of those special people that can taste boar taint.

  19. Great show, wanted to comment on pig harvesting hear in albuq. nm, we Hispanics and Mexicano’s call it a Matanzas, we soke burlap in boiling water then place on the pig until hair is easily removed with a sharp draw knife commonly used to remove bark from logs, covers a bigger area, we chop in small pieces and cook the liver, heart, kidneys, jalapeños and onions together until crisp and rap in cooked corn tortilla, give a try.

  20. I really liked this interview. I’m inspired!

  21. Definitely one of my top 5 favorites. Is there a video on making bacon? I know its simple but I’m having trouble picturing the tub. I would want to put a rack in the bottom of the tub to let the bacon drain. And how much salt? For Prosciutto, since its thick can you really just rub the outside? Is it exactly like making bacon except longer?

  22. I already listened to Brandon on Paul Wheaton’s podcast (as others have commented) so I *almost* skipped over this one….good thing I didn’t! This was yet another awesome podcast. I, too, feel like I have been cheated out of knowing what real food is. Thanks so much to Brandon for keeping this lost charcuterie art alive! I hope more farmstead meatsmiths pop up around the country :-)

    One question though – when Brandon talks about using sugar in his brine and other recipes, what kind is he talking about? I’m assuming it is cane sugar of some kind, but I’m trying to stay away from cane sugar. Not only do I eat too much of it, but it’s not local. Could we use honey instead?

  23. I was drooling through this entire episode :)

  24. Excellent episode. I had seen the farmstead meatsmith videos and heard his interview on Paul Wheaton’s podcast, so I knew this was gonna be excellent. Brandon makes me hungry. And, like Jack said, he makes me want to raise my own pigs. I’d definitely sign up for one of his courses if it wasn’t that far away (I’m in Europe).

    I love the way Brandon puts quality above all else. As far as trying to slow down the curing process and minimising the salt used in order to get a nutty buttery slightly sweet meat, that’s the best there is! We had a guy from Spain visiting at work a while ago who brought some jamon iberico with him (that’s cured like Brandon describes, for at least two years.) That stuff is very pricey, even in Spain, but it is by far the best meat I have ever eaten. It’s worth at least its weight in silver, and this was the “basic” version, not the super jamon made from acorn-finished pigs (that stuff sells for well over $1000 per ham), but even so it was better than any other meat I have ever eaten. Beats Cerrano or Prosciuto di Parma. Those are delicious, but somewhat more salty. The jamon iberico was exactly how Brandon described: nutty, buttery and slightly sweet. If he can pull that off, that stuff should be worth a ton of money. I envy him for his skills, and I have huge respect for his attitude towards what he does! The world needs more people (and butchers) like him.

  25. Just watched Brandon’s videos! They were fabulous! I always wondered how pate, blood sausage (Boudin in France) and head cheese. Great source of information.

    Now all I need is a side of pig..