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Friday, February 5, 2010

Hog Killin' - Part 1

Well, its been awhile since I told you a story about the "good ole days" so here is one you may like. To gather information I asked an "old feller" who has been killing hogs for more than sixty years to help remember details on the killing and processing of the meat.

In the early part of winter along about Thanksgiving it would be "Hog Killin' Time. Usually our hogs (we had two) were killed on Thanksgiving Day.

It was a two or three day process to get the hog killed, cut up and the meat processed. I remember my granddad saying we ate every part of the hog except the squeal and he was exactly right. No parts or at least not many of them were thrown away, even the hog bladder. You might ask what they did with it. It was washed out and a hollow reed stuck in it and it was blown up and tied off. It made the greatest balloon. We played a lot of volleyball with that balloon. It didn't burst like the store bought balloons. It was the only time we had a balloon to play with.

The night before we would carry water and fill the old wash boiler and the iron pot and all the dishpans so they would be ready to heat the next morning.

On hog killing day we would get up a little earlier than usual and it would be a long long time before bedtime. First, fires were built to heat the water for scalding the hog. After morning chores were done, the neighbors would start to gather to help. Hog killing was a neighborhood affair. That was back in the day when you knew all your neighbors and eeryone helped everone else.

After the hog had met his demise (usually by a bullet right between the eyes) he was lowered into a scalding vat or a barrel. If neither of those were available they would sometimes be laid on a wagon and covered with burlap sacks on which scalding water was poured. The hog would then be turned over and scalded on the other side.

The water for scalding had to be at the right temperature (usually around 155 degrees). If it is too hot the hair will set and you can't scrape it off. If it is too cold you can't get the hair off either. The old timers used a four finger method of checking the temperature of the water. One at a time you run one finger through the water, then the second finger, followed by the third finger. If you can't run the third finger through the water it is too hot. If you can run the fourth finger through it is too cold.

After the hog has been scalded on both sides the hair is scraped off. To scrape the hair off very sharp butcher knives or a homemade scraper (sometimes made from a hoe) was used. After the scraping he is hung up by his hind feet and the head is cut off and split into. Starting at the top of the hind legs the hog is split down the belly. I will spare you the gory details of cleaning and washing the inside.

The hog is then laid out on a table or a wagon and blocked out (quartered up). You end up with shoulder, middling meat, and hams. Each hog will have two shoulders for making into sausage, two middlings for bacon, two hams for curing, two tenderloins plus the head, liver, feet, tail, heart, brains, backbones and ribs.

While all this is happening the wives will get ready to start processing the meat. The fat is cut away and put into the washpot to be rendered into lard. There is a wide strip of fat at the bottom of the belly which also goes into the pot. To render the lard the fat is cut into small pieces and cooked slow over the fire. It is important that it be watched carefully and stirred with a long paddle to keep it from scorching. After the fat has been cooked down into lard it is poured into a tin can with a lid. Sometimes it was put into glass jars. This will be used in everyday cooking and baking. The renderings or pieces of cooked fat are called "cracklings" and are sometimes used in making cornbread.

The head is taken apart, the jowls will be salted down and sliced like bacon, the ears and snout wil be boiled and skinned, along with the other head parts will be used for making into souse meat (head cheese). The liver is sometimes fried with onions but is mostly used in making liver pudding (similar to liverwurst). The feet are cleaned and pickled. Some people cook the heart and eat it while others use it in the sausage. The brains are usually scrambled with eggs for supper or for breakfast the next morning. The backbones and ribs are canned. Except for the shoulders which are used for making sausage. The rest of the meat is salted down and cured to be eaten later.

Stay tuned for Part Two of this story (complete with photos) on the sausage making and curing of the meat.

That's it for today