A better part of the fall was hog killing time (in the local patois—“hawg killin’ time”). With no electricity, no one had a refrigerator or freezer so the winter supply of pork was laid in after the first frosts when the meat would keep until it could be cured in the smokehouse. The bacon slabs, hams, and shoulders were usually salt cured; however, sometimes Dad would sugar cure a couple of hams. Most folks did not bother cutting pork chops but simply trimmed out the long pieces of tenderloin—the choice part of the hog—which we ate fried in slices while it was fresh. There was nothing better for a school lunch bucket than a slice of tenderloin sandwiched into one of Mother’s biscuits.
Nothing about the hog was wasted except, as the saying went, the tail and the squeal. I never did care much for pigs feet although many folks thought them a delicacy. The brains were cooked with scrambled eggs for breakfast, the fat was rendered into cooking lard, the ribs eaten barbecued, and all the scraps and leftovers went into the sausage grinder. A good country sausage biscuit is the next best thing to tenderloin for a school lunch. Some folks cleaned pig intestines and stuffed the sausage in them; however, we usually just made patties of the sausage. Just about everyone had their own private recipe for making sausage, most of them delicious. To this day I think one of the finest breakfasts in the world is biscuits with good sausage gravy and a sausage patty on the side.
To get back to the hog killings, everyone raised a few pigs just for winter meat. Usually Dad would get together with Uncle Coy Tygart and Uncle Claud Frieze at one of the farms and kill and butcher hogs for all three families, probably two hogs each. It was a devil of a lot of work and mostly us boys just stayed out of the way and helped to carry stuff.
Preparation was mainly digging a trench, placing a big metal trough over it, filling it with water (that’s where a lot of the carrying came in0. Then a fire was built in the trench to bring the water to a good rolling boil. When the water was ready each pig in turn was shot between the eyes with a twenty-two rifle and its throat was quickly cut to bleed the carcass. The pig then had to be carried to the trough and lowered into the scalding water to loosen the hair on the skin.
|Tripod for hanging hog|
A pulley would have been rigged to a tree limb or an A-frame made out of timbers so the scalded porker could be hoisted up by the hind legs. The hair was then scraped off and the pig gutted, saving the heart and the liver which had to be eaten in the next few days while they were fresh. The carcass was then split, laid out on a trestle table made of timbers across saw horses, and the butchering done.
|Scraping off the hog hair|
The women and children would “man” the hand-powered sausage grinder where all the scraps went and someone had to tend the big black cast iron kettle set up over an open fire for rendering the fat into lard. There was plenty for everyone to do. The slabs of bacon, shoulders, and hams had to be cured with salt and/or sugar before they were hung up in the smokehouse for the winter (never knew of anyone to smoke any meat but we still called them the “smokehouses”). The sausage had to have all the seasonings stirred and kneaded in and then the sausages were put down in big crocks in the plentiful supply of lard rendered from the fat. We ate “high on the hog” for a time after hog killin’ on fresh hog liver, brains, ribs, and tenderloins.