In thinking back in time to Ma and Pa’s old place on their farm in Lyon county, at this time of the year or possibly earlier if the weather permitted, a big event took place. It seemed that the temperature had to be just right before Pa would announce that the next day would be a good time to kill hogs. He gathered together the two men on the farm plus any neighbors that wanted to help. They always got some fresh pork to take home.
Ma would have already sewn the sausage sacks to have them ready for stuffing when the day came. Some women would be helping her with cutting the fat off for rendering lard in the big old iron kettle that always sat in the same place in the front part of the back yard. Their back yard was partially fenced for the garden and then the front part was for the chicken house and laying nests and also the little houses for the old hens and chickens when the weather got warm. So the hogs were killed a little farther down the hill behind the chicken houses. I always made myself very scarce when time came for the slaughtering. I always knew how it was done and that it had to be done but I didn’t want to know the details. Their hogs were in a pen on the hill above the kitchen garden where they had a little pond and feeding troughs and most importantly, they were never named as Daddy’s breeding hogs were. They were just called hogs. That way, it didn’t seem so terrible to me. So the truth of the matter is that I didn’t know if they were shot or had their throats cut or just how it was done and I sure didn’t want to know. It may have been that Ma took me away from the house for that event. The first thing I saw was the carcasses hanging from a scaffold after they were dipped in hot water and scraped and they were gutted. By that time, they didn’t look like hogs and so I wasn’t bothered by the rest of the “hog killing”.
Ma had sharpened her butcher knives till they were like razors and as the men cut the parts off the hogs, she cut off the fat for rendering and the cracklings were the end result while the hot liquid lard was poured into cans to be kept in the smoke house. Ma’s cracklings had already been skinned so she could make crackling bread, cornbread with cracklings stirred in. That was always a great treat for me.
There were the backbones to be trimmed which meant taking off all fat to go into the kettle. Now, all country folks know about backbones. That is probably the finest part of the pork. Or maybe it would be the tenderloins which tasted about the same as backbones because they came from about the same part of the hog. If Ma had a lot of tenderloins, she would set them aside to be canned the next day. There were too many chores out in the yard to take time for canning.
She was definitely in charge of the sausage. After she had trimmed off most of the fat, some lean trimmings could go into the big dishpans for grinding her sausage. Nobody, but nobody, ever made sausage like Ma. Her sausage had lots of sage was one reason and one other reason was that her sausage was really lean. She would stuff those sacks she had made with sausage, using a “sausage stuffer”. The sacks would be attached to the end of the grinder and as the sacks filled, they were tied off and put into the smokehouse for smoking. She kept a big pan full of fresh sausage for frying and canning. The sausage patties would be fried and stuffed into a quart jar and hot grease poured over them. They kept all winter up in the attic or the cellar.
Pa was in charge of the hams and shoulders and bacon, all of which would be smoked. The hams would go into the huge wooden boxes filled with salt until such time as Pa declared them ready to smoke. The hog’s head would be trimmed, cooked and made into
”souse” but that part of this whole big day was so repugnant that I don’t know much about how that was done.
Ma would put some of the cracklings in a pan for me to eat when it had cooled and I remember that she cooked some sausage for supper after the whole process had grinded to a halt.
As for the other parts, such as the liver, chitterlings, etc., I don’t think any of that went into Ma’s kitchen. I guess that’s some of what the men took home, along with some ribs.
When compared with the process of butchering hogs today, it seemed such a lot of work and both Ma and Pa would have worked for many, many hours with more work for her the next day.
Though it was a big event on the farm, it couldn’t compare with making sorghum molasses or wheat threshing which would happen later in the summer. There was always something to look forward to on that old farm.
Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 and thank you for your questions and comments.