By the title of my page you should be able to tell that I was born and raised in a very rural area, and being so, we lived as much as possible off the land. That means you raise your own vegetables in the garden and as much as possible you raised your own meat or you hunted for it. For many years in the late 60’s and into the 70’s my mom and dad would raise one or two pigs for just that – and on Thanksgiving Day, or very close too it, it would be butchering day, no matter what the weather.
Butchering day was a big ordeal. Several families gathered at my aunt and uncle’s farm, bringing their hogs and it was really a community affair. This always started the night before. Mom and my sisters were gathering the supplies we would need, and I would go with my dad to load the pigs onto the pickup truck. Now, if you have ever tried to load a pig somewhere it didn’t want to go, they are very stubborn and very LOUD protesting this action. Ever heard a pig squeal?? My dad would start out calmly trying to get the pig or pigs to walk up the ramp, but they never went easily. The pigs would get louder, dad would get angrier and very loud, and it wasn’t a fun time. Oh, and if you knew my dad, he NEVER did anything on time or in the daylight if it should be, so my job was to hold the flashlight so he could see. I HATED those evenings. I could imagine what that would do to my blood pressure now.
The next morning at daylight, everyone would gather at my Aunt and Uncle’s farm, and yes it was daylight – every moment of daylight was needed because this was a big day. There could be as many as 20 hogs there for processing. My job at first in the morning was to watch and help to keep the water kettles boiling – eventually that became my job as I got older. Almost every part of the pig was used except the hair, and those boiling pots of water were used to remove the hair from the hogs. Later my uncle figured out a way to run a pipe from the scalding barrels to a device where we would build the fire only under that part and it kept the barrel water hot. He was proud of that method and it was easier to do. As the younger men scrapped or removed the hair, the ladies and older men would begin the process of cutting the hogs into the various cuts of meat, cutting up the sausage meet and cutting the fat into chunks for the lard.
Lunchtime! and oh what a meal it was. My aunt and some others had been working for days on this, and remember most times this was Thanksgiving day! What a meal we would have together! My aunt was well known for her rolls. Each one was usually the size of a quarter loaf of bread and they were numerous. Those rolls with homemade butter and jam were scrumptious!
OK, back to work, daylight was fading fast! My job now went from boiling water to cooking down the fat pieces so they could be rendered into the lard that everyone used to cook with the following year. The pieces of fat would be put into a lard press when they had been cooked enough and in addition to the lard, we now had cracklin’s to eat. You always looked for the cracklins with some lean meat on them, they were so good, but that was rare because the lean meat is used for the sausage so it was hard to find! There were lots of other jobs going on at that time too, like sausage grinding and seasoning (it was good being around when they were frying samples to see if it was seasoned correctly), making the salt cures for the bacon and hams, and getting other parts ready for the freezer. I will never forget the curing shed where the sides, hams, and shoulders were and the salt cures were rubbed in, the pieces were wrapped and put into cloth hanging bags and hung in the rafters. I never knew what a sugar cured ham was until early in my teenage years because we had the country salt cured hams and bacon. Miss those and even though there was a lot of salt I am sure they were much healthier than the processed hams and bacons we get now.
By the end of the day (well into the night actually) the process would be done and you would have a hard time finding parts of those hogs that had not been processed into something. Every part possible was utilized for the meat, or sausage, or lard. There were pickled pigs feet, puddin, and numerous other “delicacies” that were produced as well. It was a long hard day, everyone helped, and at the end of it, the community was ready to tackle the winter and the rest of the year with pork they had raised themselves. That was our Thanksgiving Day for many years, and yes the Good Lord was thanked many many times for the bounty he had given us to prepare. We didn’t watch football but we joined together as a community to work and help each other to tackle another year. It was a GOOD TIME! (And oh yes, it was only two days until the beginning of deer season so we had to get it done and I was on pins and needles about that too! That will be another story sometime.)
Until next time – Countrypap
Thank you so much for reading my pages, and please feel free to like or comment. I am doing this to remember as much as I can and pass this along to my daughters and grandchildren. Remember how we always say, I wish I had written that down? Well, that is what I am doing and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me to do so!