Amidst the carols, church services, and cookie baking - my family always butchers some hogs right before Christmas. It is a tradition that goes back long before I was born. And it has become a tradition here on this blog to share the day with you.
But if you don't like to view raw meat, or contemplate the origin of your bacon, please skip this post.
Saturday morning began early, long before dawn. We decided to spend the night at my parent's house so that Ed could help with the barn chores and the children could fulfill their desire to not miss one bit of the excitement. I think all our children were up soon after 4:00 a.m. Sheer craziness if you ask me, but they certainly didn't miss anything!
One of the first jobs is to get the water boiling in the kettles. Feeding the fire would be an all-day job.
A fire was also started in the scalding tank. The hogs are dipped into the hot water.
Then the hair is scraped off. This is one of those old-time traditions. Most butchers would skin the hog and not bother with scraping off the hair.
After the hog is cleaned and gutted, the halves are laid out on tables and the meat cutting begins.
With many hands, within a few hours, four hogs averaging 430 pounds apiece are turned into tables full of meat.
My dad trains in some of the younger generation to clean skins.
Adding wood to the fire to keep the kettles boiling is another good job for the cousins.
The meat scraps are combined with seasonings and ground for sausage.
We often buy casings for sausage, but this year, we cleaned
the intestines for casing.
Making sausage links.
Some of the meat is smoked in a smoker my brother made. Smoking for a few hours adds such great flavor to tenderloin, sausage, and pork chops.
A lull in the work is a good time to break for lunch.
The fat is boiled down to make lard and needs almost constant watching.
Nothing is wasted. Head meat and organ meat are also cooked.
These meats are used to make "puddin' meat".
Flour, cornmeal, and seasonings are combined with the broth to make pon haus (also known as scrapple depending upon where you live!)
My dad takes a break with a few grandsons.
Wrapping and vacuum packing the meat.
Pouring the pon haus into pans signals the end of another butcher day. Now only the clean-up needs to be completed. The bacon and hams are carried to the smokehouse.
We drift toward home with filthy dirty children, a trunk full of meat, weary bodies, and fun memories of working together.
Want to see more photos of past hog butchering day? Check out these links.