Posted by: patwogan | August 17, 2009

Hog Butchering

Grandpa and Dad raised hogs.  Then the family got together for the butchering.  I don’t ever recall them butchering  beef, and wonder if Ollie Bullock the butcher down the road did that for them.

Hog butchering was different.  Most farm families did their own butchering of hogs.  I did not see the gory beginning, but was only aware that a dead hog was hanging from a hook outside the barn.  I don’t know how the hog was scalded, but know that the hair had to be scraped from the hog after butchering.  I do recall that Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Dayton, Aunt Bess, and Mom and Dad were all involved in the hog butchering process. 

The main things I, as a little girl, remember were the preparations for preserving the meat after the hog was butchered and cut up.  I remember the hog head sitting on newspapers on the kitchen table.  It looked absolutely gross to me.  I think by then it had been boiled in a big pot outside, because I know Grandma had to scrape the meat from the bones both inside and outside of the head.  This meat was used to make headcheese (whatever that was) and souse.  Somehow this involved a type of gelatin substance and was used for sandwiches.  My impression was “yuck”. 

The fat of the hog was rendered into lard.  It was placed in a slow oven and cooked for a long time.  The remains of the fat which did not turn into lard was called cracklin’s.  (This is now sold as pork rinds.)  My impression of pork rinds was “yuck”.  The smell of the fat rendering was not a good smell as far as I was concerned. 

It was said that everything of a hog was used but the squeal.  I believe it.  I don’t think my people used the intestines, but maybe they did.  I do know that the brains were cooked with scrambled eggs for breakfast.  My impression again was “yuck”.

A lot of the meat was ground and mixed with spices to make sausage.  Now, you can’t beat homemade sausage.  I don’t know what all spices were used, but I do know sage played an important role.  I think they made both hot and mild sausage. 

The hams and the shoulders were both cured with Carey’s salt.  Dad had a big syringe and needle type thing that he filled with curing brine and injected into the meat.  It was then hung in the smoke house for curing.  I imagine they might have done bacon, too.  A lot of the side meat ( the part from which bacon is made) ended up being cooked as fresh side.  I was disappointed that the ham didn’t taste like the boiled ham we bought at the store.  My favorite sandwich meat.  If the curing wasn’t done just so, the meat ended up being quite salty.  Especially in the places that were closer to where the injection site was. 

My very favorite meat from butchering was fresh tenderloin.  Sometimes we had it for breakfast with eggs.  Delicious!  Makes my mouth water just to think of it.

I have read about sausage patties being cooked and buried in lard to preserve them.  I don’t believe this was done at our house.  We took the meat to the locker plant in Independence where the folks had rented a locker.  The meat was wrapped in family sized packages and taken to the locker.   I loved going to the locker because it was, of course, freezing cold inside.  Each person who rented a locker had a key to open it.  The contents were safe.  When you wanted anything from the locker, you went into the main storage area and unlocked your own particular compartment.  Sometimes hunting for the specific items you wanted took a little time and It got really, really cold waiting.  That part I didn’t like.

Pork had to be cooked well done because of the possibility of trichinosis, a disease transmitted from hogs to people via eating pork that was not well cooked.  This meant that by today’s standards everything was overcooked. 

As I remember hog butchering was done in the fall of the year or even the early winter.  Probably after fly season was over.  It was an exciting time to us kids in the family, but as I now read about the process, I realized it was a very hard job for the rest of the family.  Thank goodness for the supermarket and having others do the work for us now.



  1. Never heard you tell about this before but I can remember the love you had for boiled ham sandwiches. Me too though nothing seems to come close now and if I recall it was a delicacy for us when we had it in the house. I do remember the locker plant in Parsons and the block ice dispenser.

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