Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A good day for a Hog Killin'

little piggies
No, not these guys

   So, the other day I attended my very first hog killin'. And yes, it must be referred to as a "killin'". Not a butchering, not a slaughtering, not even a processing. That's just the way it is in the South. I imagine that very few people would ever have any desire to ever attend a hog killin', but I have been toying around with the idea of raising pigs for quite some time now, due mainly to my immense love of all things cured and made from pork, and was curious about the process.
   When I first entertained the idea of butchering my own chickens, I wasn't sure what to expect. As the chicks grew older, I never felt any real attachment to them, admiration and amusement for sure, but pets they did not become for me. So when the big day came, it was surprisingly easy. Now, killing anything should never be enjoyable, but after the kill was made it was smooth sailing. However, a pig is a bit different from a bird. And granted the hogs I would be watching were not my own, I felt it would give me a good idea of what to expect. Not to mention there would be a lot of food involved!
   The big event was held early in the morning down in a tiny little town called Woodland at the obscure Old South Farm Museum, which turned out to be a really neat place filled with all sorts of farming and food relics. I was shocked and a little inspired by the turn out, maybe 100 or so people total. My morning haziness quickly wore off in the midst of so much anxious anticipation, plus it was just damn cold. The instructor was a professor who specialized in meat science, which I had never heard of.
   The killing itself (first of two that day), went off without a hitch. The hog was shot in the head, immediately thereafter he was stuck with a knife in the jugular and allowed to bleed out quickly in the cold air. From there he was scalded with hot water and scraped of his white hair. Then strung up, gutted, beheaded, and divided into primal cuts.
   Witnessing the event gave me a much better understanding of what to expect and how one could feasibly do the same at home. It also eased my mind a little to know that the process was so quick, humane, and painless. Lastly, I felt I had respected and honored not just those particular animals, but every pig that I consume by not turning my face and hiding, but instead facing it's death and thanking it for what it provides me.
   The rest of the day was filled with nonstop demonstrations and classes on a wide array of topics, from sausage making and curing, to lye soap making and "chitlins" (the latter, I quickly discovered, I did not like). There were of course samples to accompany all of this, of which I believe I am still recovering from.

Frying pork skins
Mmm...pork skins

Making chitlins
Making chitterlings....um, yum?

   After all of the intense pork fat snacking, the day was rounded out with yet a second hog killin', followed by 25 lbs. or so of freshly made sausage to take home. During all of this, one could have easily gotten lost in the wide array of fascinating equipment and knick knacks laying about had it not been so blasted cold. Among them was this gem...

Vintage stove
I need this

and naturally my favorite...

Vintage cheese cutter

I can't help but think that this event fits into the year-long theme of CharcutePalooza perfectly. Even though the Old Fashioned Hog Killin' of 2011 has come and gone, certainly see to it that you attend next year's if you are in the vicinity. Who knows, maybe next spring a couple of piglets will find their way onto my property!

1 comment:

  1. One of my friends that grew up on a farm in Florida has told me several times of her father killing hogs and all the things that would come from it including "head cheese". I want to learn to kill, and dress an animal. I never thought it would appeal to me but I'm thinking about taking up hunting, bow hunting to be more exact. I figure if you want natural meat where better to get it than from a deer or boar? I may be consulting you in the future for some field dressing tips!