Way back in 1971, my family and I moved to Sunfish Creek. The house we moved into consisted of a four-room house. We had no running water, no bathroom (just a backhouse or a privy, as those little houses were called).
But we had plenty to eat because we moved in the early spring, so we had time to put out a big garden. We had ad good Jersey cow that gave plenty of milk. So we churned and made our own cottage cheese.
We had a dozen good laying hens and a rooster called Clem for an alarm clock, one mule we called Kate, and two foxhounds.
Around that time of the year, someone in the neighborhood had one or two brood sows so there were always weaned pigs for sale to be raised up to become winter’s meat. These pigs were grown not fattened. They were given scraps and skim milk from the house and dish water. That is the way they fattened hogs to butcher. Then when the new corn crop was ready you started pouring the corn to the shoats and by November the hogs would weight 250 to 300 pounds each.
We always butchered on Thanksgiving because it was usually good weather, and, in fact, in those days, sometimes we would even have snow flurries. We always hoped for a cold Thanksgiving Day. That way the meat would keep; because if you butchered on a real warm day sometimes the meat wouldn’t keep.
So after the chores were done, cows milked, mules fed, as usual, we got up early to carry water to put in the kettles so we could pour hot water in a 50-gallon drum or even a bathtub. This was done to put the hog in to get all the hair off. That was called scalding. If you got a good scald, the hair would come off with a scraper. If you didn’t get a good scald, sometimes you would have to shave the hair off.
Getting back to the most important thing — the killing of the hog. My father-in-law had a medium-sized hog house with a front door on it. The front door was opened, and when one of the hogs came out, a .22 rifle went off with the bullet hitting the hog right between the eyes. The hog dropped dead, and a sharp knife was used to cut the jugular vein. The hog’s hind legs were slit where a single tree could be hooked so the hog could be lifted in a barrel or a bathtub to get scalded.
The head of the hog was cut off, and the fellow who was doing the butchering would take a sharp knife and cut the stomach open. Then, he took out the intestines, but he saved the liver.
The hog was carried to the smoke house where the meat was laid on a table to cool off. Some people would sugar cure a hog while another hog was being butchered. We usually killed four big hogs that weighed 250 to 300 pounds.
We would cut up the fat meat and put it in a lard press, put the lid on the press, and start to turn the handle. Turning the handle squeezes all of the grease out of the lard press into a lard can, and that was yours until the next butchering time (which would be the following year).
Incidentally, the fat meat was put in the kettle that was full of boiling hot water. This fat meat was cooked until it turned brown, then put in the lard press. Here came the lard grease into a lard can that was sitting near a spot on the lard press.
The fat meat was called cracklins and was liked by people and hound dogs alike. You can buy so-called cracklins, but the ones we made were the real McCoys. My wife liked the hog brains, so somebody had to take a handsaw and cut the skull right down the middle, and my wife would fry them.
A lot of people like liver puddin’, and it is surely good. It is made out of hog liver, sage and other ingredients. Also, we made sausage.
This was the time we all got together and told stories of hog butchering days of long ago!