Monday, December 19, 2005

Community Pig Killing

part one - description

Killing a pig is not a small thing. Doing it in community, doing more pigs with more help, doesn't make it possible or any less work, but it does make it a little easier and way more pleasant.

The families and neighbors getting together for this event confirmed Thursday that, yes, indeed, we were on for Saturday morning, not trying to get a real early start, we would convene around eight. We sharpened our knives and made our plans. We would get our pig near the back of our pickup, shoot him and stick him ("bleeding like a stuck pig" really does become picturesque after you've done this), then load him into said truck to ride the couple of miles down the road to our neighbor's place.

This is a photo of one of our neighbor's pigs being carried to the scalding tub from their lot nearby. Their pigs, although younger, were bigger than ours. Theirs had been finished for the past 60 days on high powered hog feed, their trough never allowed to be emptied. Our pig had been raised from a youngster on excess milk and scraps, and had some corn in the last few weeks to help finish him.

This is the scald. There is a platform on one side to work from, fire underneath to heat the water to 150 degrees (chimney pipe in back you can see). The chain link is a very ingenious way to handle them in the water, making it easy to jostle them back and forth and turn them over. They are scalded until the bristles come free easily. This happens first on the ears and last on the flanks, so that when you can pull on the flank hairs and they come loose, it is time to roll him onto the platform for the scraping.

The next generation learns about scraping. He's cleaned of hair from snout to toes. An enterprising person could make her paintbrushes out of the bristles no doubt.

This is the beginning of the gutting, holding the urethra so as not to cut it and not to let the urine drain from the bladder if you do cut it. It is precise and skilled work.

More delicate work, this time with a hacksaw. The pelvis has already been sawed in two and now the breastbone. The urethra and anus are being held at the top -- the purity of the meat is guarded closely by those who are directly going to be eating it.

A wider shot of the whole scene. Six or seven hogs were processed in all in one morning by about 15 men in all.

This is the especially skillful man assigned to the butchering, and that is our pig he is cutting into various large pieces, like hams, shoulders, ribs, middlin's.

This was what the back of the truck of one of the participants looked like after his two hogs were butchered. His comment was, "It'll be a late night tonight and a long day tomorrow putting all this up."

And back at home, those are backbones ready to be wrapped and frozen, the bags are full of sliced tenderloin, and the bowl has scraps for stir-fry. We salted both hams and both shoulders, the entire middlin', and the jowls, which we decided to do because it preserves better and eats longer that way. We didn't make sausage at all, which lots of people we know grow one whole hog just to make sausage from.

We froze the heart from which to make soup later; cleaned, cooked and froze the feet for later adding to pots of beans (no part of the pig tastes like the feet they say and I'll see since I've never eaten them before); and the liver we ground, boiled, added our own corn meal and lots of spices, and made something called "liver mush" (mush being the old name for corn meal). It was delicious fresh but it was put into tubs where it will jell & be frozen, to later be sliced and seared for sandwiches.

And finally, my artsy-craftsy photo of the day:

There must be a weeks worth of blog entries gleaned from this day.


madcapmum said...

You know, I've never heard of a community butchering happening in this area. I wonder how many people are left who'd know how?

I was doing alright until that last photo, CG. It looks like the cover off the "Lord of the Flies." Erg.

Walter Jeffries said...

Fine looking pig there. Good sized. How much were the live and hanging weights?

dragonfly183 said...

I've never actually seen a pig butchered. Plenty of chickens and lots of Deer, but never a pig. for some reason my dad always took them off and paid to have them butchered.

the Contrary Goddess said...

madcap, yeah I know, but that's just my warped sense of humor and arteestic ability. I've more posts in mind about what it takes to have a community pig killing.

and Walter, no one weighed them. But I'll ask an old-timer for an estimate and get back with you.

H. Stallard said...

I used to help Mom make souse meat from the head. Never bothered me cutting the meat off but I never developed a taste for it. I loved to get pickled pigs feet from the store and gnaw on them.

Dan Trabue said...

You ever read Wendell Berry's Jayber Crow? There's a great hog processing scene in that book, if you're so inclined.

Stopping by to wish you Happy Holy Days, Merry Christmas or whichever blessing most brings a smile to your day.

Anonymous said...

Haven't seen that since my Grandparetns Foxfire Book.

I envy the sense of community there - that neighbors will get together for a time like this. I also envy the connection of people to food. There's precious little of that to be had in luxurious SW Florida.

the Contrary Goddess said...

for Walter, we're *guessing* that the pig weighed about 350 live weight. One ham is about 40-50 pounds, and the shoulders are bigger. He wasn't particularly fat so we didn't get great gobs of bacon out of him. But we did have a great Solstice feast of ribs which were very meaty and delicious.

Jim said...

People should know how their meat is raised, butchered and prepared.

I eat some of my chickens and have assisted in butchering a few goats and a couple of deer.

Being omniverous by nature and DNA I don't quite understand vegans.

Many of them seem to have a great contempt for the meat eaters among us.

The funny thing is they don't harbor the same contempt for lions, tigers, bears, coyotes and such, all carnivores themselves.

We're all part of the food chain but humans are a strange lot indeed.

Nice to see your larder filling up CG!

the Contrary Goddess said...

oh, you probably shouldn't get me started on vegans! And my very bestest friend has been one, and is a real committed vegetarian. But, well, that's why I put Tom Brown's book in the sidebar there, the story that is the introduction to that book. It is no less violent to pull a carrot from the ground than to kill that pig. And there isn't a carrot that is raised that didn't require an animal to be killed to raise it. And it seems to me to be really honestly "vegan" would mean to starve to death.

Ah, but I can assure folks (most of whom wouldn't really be assured) that there isn't a vegan or a vegetarian in the world who respects those pigs more than the people there with me that day.

Merry Christmas to all!

Anonymous said...

My two sisters and I had butchered our pig a month ago.Quiet daunting at first when I stuck it with the knife but we were glad and proud that we girls are self-sufficient to butcher a pig.

There's nothing like the taste of a freshly butchered pig!


Anonymous said...

Great to read that women like Veronica and her sisters are able to butcher a pig,don't have to rely on men.

Do you agree CG..?


Anonymous said...

I guess it would be nice to keep comments on vegetarian's violence out of this, as you may see no one has given an offensive comment...

Thanks for agreeing on your violence!

And please do not compare who loves animals more....
It is definitely not the one who can kill him or her :)

Oh well, you can write me at!

CG said...

seems I have missed some spineless anon comments! So sorry, especially Rachel who left hers so long ago.

Rachel, I think it is great when ANYONE regardless of race creed religion gender sex color educational philosophy nationality whatever co-creates (with nature) his own food. That you think that sex has something to do with it is, sorry, stupid.

And armadillo -- show me the food you have grown, and how you feed yourself and your animals without violence. People who live removed from violence just pay someone else to commit if for them -- about as cowardly and craven as it gets.