One of my most favorite memories from my younger days involved butchering. When I was little, my grandparents, parents, uncle, sister and a few cousins would take at least two days to butcher hogs.
If you have a weak stomach, this probably isn't for you. But animals are raised for food in our world. And I was always raised to understand that the pigs we raise are feeding the world, except for the one we butchered for ourselves every year.
When I was young, the process started with my Dad and Grandpa taking care of the killing and skinning of the pig. They would then take all the insides out and hang the meat to cool. It would have to hang until it was cold! And you could only butcher when it was freezing cold outside, so the meat didn't warm up and create bacteria.
Today, this is what the process looks like. We butchered a few weeks ago. We selected pigs from the farm that weren't going to our normal markets we sell to. My husband loaded up 10 hogs and they were processed quickly. And, like old times, they were hung in my Grandpa's barn to cool.
After they had hung for a few days, it was time to start "working up the meat." To me, "working up the meat" means deciding how you are going to cut up the hog. Do you want pork chops, hams, pork loins, shoulders, bacon (who doesn't want bacon?) and sausage? Some people don't want all of the individual cuts of meat, so whatever cut they don't want we just grind into sausage.
I typically want all of the cuts mentioned above. The only pork product I don't really need are the ribs. I might be the only hog farmer who doesn't eat ribs. They just don't like me very much!
Below, my Grandpa is cutting the pork chops out of the hunk of meat. Yummy!!
All of this works takes place in my grandparent's garage. They have meat saws, big knives, a meat grinder and enough freezer paper to wrap a house.
When I was little, around five years old, one of my first memory is helping my Mom and Grandma wrap the meat. Dad and Grandpa would make roughly one pound lumps of sausage and hand them to the women. We'd wrap it in freezer paper, tape it and write on the package what it was. I did alot of wrapping and taping, and not so much writing until I learned to write a spell a bit better!
As I've gotten older, I've been allowed to work the meat saws and grinders, but I still end up wrapping and labeling a lot of meat! My Grandma is shown below, showing our very simple process to get the meat wrapped.
We don't waste much of the hog. The skin is fried to make cracklins. Sounds disgusting, but oh so tasty! We make lard from the fat as well. And I can say from years of experience, the secret to making an exceptionally flaky pie crust is lard. Forget butter. Uses real lard! I don't use lard often, but sometimes you have to fry an egg in it too! Normally after I've run 5 miles.
We can't sell the meat we butcher for ourselves. Laws don't allow it. So we butcher only for our family's consumption. And my freezer is full. So full, in fact, that we had to buy another chest freezer for the cellar! We butchered a few head of cattle over Christmas too. So now I have two chest freezers full of hamburgers, steaks, sausage and bacon! And it is so easy to go to the freezer to find some sort of meat for supper. I don't buy meat at the grocery store! But the majority of my hogs that we raise end up on the grocery store shelves. And I can ensure the quality of those animals are exactly the same as the animals we butcher for our family meat needs. And they taste just as good!