Hog Killing Time
When you lived in the country you tried to raise most of your eats, and that went for the
meats also. Dad always kept some hogs and usually slaughtered two every autumn to
supply us with meat over the winter.
We usually raised enough chickens to supply us with fresh meat in the summer.
After the first good cold spell of the year was the time to butcher the hogs so that the
meat would keep better in the smoke house in the cold weather. All the neighbors were
invited over to help with the preparation and each one would be given some meat to carry
home with them.
On the morning of the big day, the neighbors would start arriving about daylight, some of
them bringing extra 30 or 40 gallon wash pots. Yes, these were the same pots that were
used to wash clothes in but were used today to heat water to scald the hogs.
After everyone arrived and got their pots set up, filled with water and a fire started
around them to heat the water, then the first hog was killed. There was a large oak tree
near the well with a large limb that a block and tackle was attached to to hang the hog
from so that it could be raised and lowered by means of ropes and pulleys.
After the hog was hung by its back legs and pulled up in the tree, then a 55 gallon barrel
was placed underneath and filled a little over half full with hot water. The hog was
lowered into the barrel and left for a minute or two and raised out and two or three of the
men would take sharp butcher knives and start scraping the hair off. By scalding the hog
in the barrel of hot water, that would loosen the hair and make it easier to scrape off.
The bacon and hams were prepared with the skin left on, (the rind as it was called), and
they didnít want any hair left on when they went to cook it. This scalding process would
have to be repeated several times before all the hair was completely removed. This kept
someone busy carrying water from the well to the pots to be heated and then from the
pots to the barrel.
As soon as they finished scraping, then the hog was dressed out and quartered up. Now it
was time to kill the second hog and start the process over. In the meantime, some of the
folks started preparing the meat from the first hog. After the hams and sides of bacon
were trimmed of excess fat they were then treated with Mortons Sugar Cure, a
combination of salt, spices and seasonings. Just the aroma from this would make a
Some of the meat would be set aside to make sausage with. This meat would be ground
with a small hand cranked sausage mill and then peppers and spices would be added to
make the sausage. This was usually done after everyone had gone home. Being young,
this was about the only thing I got to help with. Mother would cut the meat into small
strips to go into the sausage mill and I would get to turn the handle to operate it. Dad
would put together the peppers and spices to add to the meat as mother and I got it ground.
After the last hog was scalded, then all the excess fat that had been trimmed from the
meat was put in one of the pots to cook the lard out. The lard was stored in five gallon
buckets for use during the coming year. In the process of cooking the lard out we got
some great cracklings. You buy them at the store today in packages labeled pig skins.
There was nothing better than getting a fresh hot crackling right out of the pot to eat. Of
course mother would make some crackling bread later.
A few days later, mother would take some of the lard and put back in the wash pot and
heat it up and mix some lye with it to make some lye soap. This was used to wash your
hands with, for bathing and to wash your clothes with. Mother usually tried to make
enough to last a year, until next hog killing time.
The ribs were not cured but left to be eaten fresh. As no one had any refrigeration to
keep the meat fresh the ribs were divided up and everyone that helped that day got to take
some fresh ribs home to cook that night.
After the hams and bacon were treated with the sugar cure they were taken to the smoke
house and hung from the rafters with wire. Later if you wanted some bacon you would
go to the smoke house and cut an end off a side of bacon hanging there. If you wanted
some ham, because of the bone in it, you would have to take the whole ham down and
cut off what you wanted using a bone saw, and then hang the remainder back up.
I can remember an uncle of mine telling about having one whole side of bacon left in his
smoke house at the end of January and the weather turned warm and rainy for about a
week. After that he went to get some bacon and found that the whole side of bacon was
completely covered with a thick green mold. He took the bacon down to throw it away,
but decided to cut a piece off to see what the meat looked like inside. He said that the
meat looked good, so he took the piece that he had cut off and washed the mold off with
vinegar and water, and sliced it up and cooked it. It turned out to be great tasting bacon.
So, the sugar cure really helps to preserve the meat.
Did anyone worry about cholesterol? Not at all! We ate all the fat meat we wanted and
everything that was fried was fried in pure lard. My granddad lived to be 92 years old on
this type diet.
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