OLE STUFF AND SUCH Winter Chores: Hog Killings, Part II
By Frances Lowery Garner
Butchering was done on custom made meat benches. These were made from split logs with the flat side up.
This resulted in a good sturdy bench that was also useful in other chores around the farm. Two men would cut on each end of the bench.
Naturally the head and feet would be the first to be taken off and saved (nothing wasted, as mentioned earlier).
An ax would be required to cut the ribs loose from the back bone (no electric saws at this time).
The favorite piece, the tenderloin, (quite expensive today, I might add) would be against the back bone.
This would be taken into the women in the kitchen to prepare for the noon day meal (it was always dinner to the country folks).
The ribs were removed and cut with an ax into cooking proportions and then work would begin on cutting up the entire hog.
The liver and heart would also be sent into the kitchen where it was prepared into a wonderful dish of “liver and haslet” seasoned with home grown red peppers, and cooked down making a rich gravy over the meat.
This dish was especially good with a baked sweet potato, which had been baked the day before the hog killing.
Hot homemade biscuits, homemade butter and syrup along with the tenderloin made for a delicious meal for all those helping and fresh ground coffee beans kept a good pot of hot coffee on the wood stove throughout the day.
Those who helped had to eat in shifts because there was the meat to be cut up, lard to be cooked out, sausage to make, and any stray dogs to be chased off the grounds.
The smokehouse, a must for families in the early 30’s had to be cleaned up and ready for the new meat.
Fresh pine straw had been gathered and laid out in the smoke (the size of the smokehouse was probably on an average of 12’x12’ with a dirt floor and a hole for the smoking right in the middle).
Overhead were rafters and poles laid across this for the meat to be hung.
The stuffed sausage would be hung directly across the poles while the hams would have to be tied with bear grass after cutting a hole in the small end of the ham or shoulder for the grass to be threaded through.
The smoking usually did not start of the day of the hog killing with so much else going on.
Some of the women (those who had very strong stomach) would have the job of cleaning the guts or chittlins as they were called.
This was done on a bench with plenty of tubs and water usually behind or beside the smokehouse or barn, away from the main house.
They would literally empty the intestines of the feces, wash them out, and then after turning them inside out, scrape and wash them again.
To further clean, they were put into a washpot and boiled until tender. They were set in the smokehouse until the next day.
The larger ones were for frying and the smaller ones were set aside for the sausage.
This is the way the casings for the stuffed sausage were obtained in addition to frying them as a main dish. For some, chittlins were a delicacy and in those days most everyone ate them.
Meanwhile, back in the yard, the men were hustling to get the butchering done.
Hams, midlins (sides of bacon as we know it), shoulders, pork chops, and all the meat that was not going to be used for sausage was cut up and ready to be laid on the fresh pine straw in the smokehouse before being salted down.
Usually this was done the next day after the meat had been well chilled.
A layer of salt was placed in the bottom of a wooden barrel and then a layer of meat. This was done alternating meat and salt until the barrel was full.
The salt preserved the meat for several months so there was fresh and smoke meat year round.
The skin had also been removed for cooking later. These could be used for seasoning if there was any left as this was a favorite snack of the children and adults in the family.
It really made good chewing exercise and may have been good for the teeth.
They also served another purposed and the residue was used to make lye soap, a staple that was a necessity for most households.
Some of the lean and some fat was reserved for grinding into sausage meat and the scrappy fat was cut into small pieces and put in a washpot over a hot fire and cooked until crisp.
This was called cooking out the lard. Depending on the number of hogs killed, there could be four to five lard cans full of the lard (five gallons to the can).
There would be no need for store bought lard for these families until the next butchering day.
Very carefully, the lard would be poured up from the washpot with two people holding a flour sack over the can to strain the hot grease and leave the cracklins behind in the washpot.
These were put in a pasteboard box and set in the smokehouse for later use in baking cracklin bread.
One had to be careful not to partake of too many of the delicacies or the grease might make you sick.
Old timers said the grease at this time of year was good for you as it would lubricate your intestines and give them a good cleaning.
Cholesterol was not even a word in those days. (to be cont.)