New Year is a comin' down on the farm!
It is time to watch the weather prognostications to see if the weather is going to be cold enough to kill hogs. It takes a few days of very cold days to kill, process and start the curing of the meat.
The last time we had a "Hog Killin'" was on a New Year's Day. We had eight hogs in the pens and we killed them all. Daddy would take the .22 rifle and carefully aim right between the eyes of a hog and fire. The hog would immediately drop dead. He always had a good butcher knife sharpened on both edges to "Stick" the hog with. "Sticking" means to stick the sharp knife into each jugular vein in the hog's neck to allow it to bleed good.
The next step was to drag the carcass over to the processing area with a mule or the tractor. There was a sort of platform of boards in front of a barrel that was laid at about a 45 degree angle and filled with hot water. The water couldn't be too hot or it would "set" the hair on the hog and make it hard to get the hair off. Also, it couldn't be too cool or it wouldn't release the hair. Experience from many years of hog and cow killings gave Daddy and Mother the knowledge of how hot the water must be.
After the water was put in the barrel, the carcass was slid down into the barrel, rolled over, then, after a set time, it was pulled out on the platform and the "picking and scraping" began. If the water was just right, it was pretty easy to just pull the hair off, then it would require a little "scraping" to get the remainder of hair off. It would take several "dips" in the water to get it all off. Then the carcass would be turned around and put in head first to get that end de-haired.
A slit was cut in the hind legs between the leg bone and the ham string. Then, from the platform, the carcass would be "toted" over to be hanged on the "Gambling Pole," a pole that rested on two high, forked posts. The bar that held the carcass up was called the "Gambling Stick." It would be placed through the slits on each leg and would support the carcass for the next step.
The next step was to "Gut it." The throat would be cut from side to side, then a slit was made from the neck to the rear end of the carcass. Then the ribs would be cut to allow all the intestines to be dropped into a wash tub for further processing. Then the inside of the carcass would be washed thoroughly and carried over to a big table that was mounted on the outside of the smoke house's side window to be cut up into all the various pieces to be cured.
Things such as the feet for "pickling;" brains to be cooked with scrambled eggs for the next morning's breakfast; shoulders for roasts; ribs for baking, back strap for pork chops; sow belly to be cut up for lard; bacon; hams; and other pieces to be ground into sausage. After the carcass was cut up, it was moved into the smoke house and placed in the "salt boxes" and be "salted down" for the initial curing process. The fat sow belly and other fat pieces would be cut into cubes of about one to one and half inches to be cooked to remove the lard. Other odd, more lean pieces would be cut up and ground into sausage, seasoned and either made into patties or "stuffed."
The intestines were separated from the liver, "lights" (lungs), heart, kidneys, etc. for processing. The small intestines were washed, and washed, and washed, and washed and used for stuffing sausage and some used for chitterlings. The large intestines were washed as many times as above and cut into strips of chitterlings. No use to say what was washed from them! The lights were cleaned and cured for cooking. The heart was cleaned and sliced for frying. The kidneys were boiled, and boiled to get the "impurities" out of them. We didn't do it, but some folks would take the bladder, blow it up, tie it off to hold the air in and make a football out of it. You had to carefully remove the gall bladder from the liver so as not to contaminate it.
After a period of time, all the cubed pieces of fat were put into the wash pot that had been scrubbed to remove soap out of. A fire was built around the pot and the lard was cooked out of the fat. After cooking the lard out of the pieces they became "cracklins." The cracklins were added to cornbread mix to make some great "cracklin bread." The cooked out lard was dipped up, strained and put in 50 pound lard cans and stored in the smoke house. The cracklins were also stored in a lard can.
Also, after a certain period of time, one of the farm hands would go out and find some "bear grass" (a form of palmetto) and bring in up, put it in a pot of boiling water to make it pliable and very strong. These tines were threaded into a slot cut into the meat and tied to form a loop. Then the meat was strung up on poles and placed across the roof joists of the smoke house. Mother would build a fire in the middle of the dirt floor, let it make some good coals, and closed up the door and windows. After the green oak wood got hot, it would hardly blaze up due to the lack of oxygen in the smoke house. It would just kinda simmer. The meat would be smoke cured. I don't know how long it had to be smoked to be cured. The cured meat would last for quite a long time.
The very few unusable from the hog killin' would be taken out and buried to keep the animals from getting into it.
A large amount of time was spent during and after "Hog Killin' Day" but there was lots of good eating afterwards. Seldom was anyone paid in cash for help on these times, they were paid in meat! But, it made for some good eating. Just think: Go out and slice off some cured ham for supper along with biscuits and "red eye" gravy: Cut off a piece of a side of bacon, bring it in and slice in into thick slices for breakfast along with fresh, fertilized eggs and biscuits with home made cane syrup: or having a big pork roast for Sunday dinner with friends coming home with us after church. Yum, Yum!