Today people are so use to going to the supermarkets to buy meat. Their choice of meat for the evening meal is all wrapped and packaged and ready to be taken home. Our ancestors were not so lucky. In beautiful Scott County, Tennessee and the mountains of southern Appalachia in general many families today still practice the tradition we call, "Hog Killin' Time". This practice is slowly becoming a thing of the past and in many places it is just a country memory. This is my small way of trying to preserve some of our heritage and culture that I am very proud of.
In the late 1950's I was a child living with my family in the West Robbins community of Scott County. The month was November and the weather had turned very cold. A neighboring family was ready to butcher their hog for the winter. Usually this was done after the first, hard frost. Being a good friend of one of the son's of this family I was there to watch and help with this process. Even in the late 50's and early 60's hog killing was not the norm for most of the families in Scott County. During the time my parent's were growing up in the 1920's and 30's in Scott County the tradition of hog killing was a very common practice. I have decided not to go into every detail of this process because I think we all know where the meat we buy comes from today. The farms.
The process requires the killing, scraping and the butchering of the hog. Most families would slaughtered two hogs in very late Fall. All parts of the hog were pretty much used for one purpose or another. Everyone involved would be there at daylight. It would be an all day job. A large iron kettle would be filled with water and a fire was started under it to bring the water to a boil. The hog killing I went too the water was drawn from their well and carried to the kettle in buckets. Other families would have to carry water from a spring. There was a large oak tree behind the house. After the hog was killed it was attached with a rope and pulley to hang from a large limb of the oak tree. Scalding the hog with the hot water would loosen the hair and make it easier to scrape off. The men would take sharp knives and start scraping the hair off of the hog. This is one of the few chores my friend and I were allowed to help with. We were just small boys but I remember feeling very proud of the fact that the men would let us help. We also carried water from the well to keep the iron kettle filled and tended to the fire. The process of scalding the hog would have to be repeated several times before all the hair was completely removed. When the scraping was finished the hog was dressed out and quartered up. The bacon and hams were prepared with the skin left on and were trimmed of the excess fat. They were then treated with a combination of salt, seasonings and spices. There would always be some of the meat set aside to make sausage. This meat was cut up into small strips and using a hand cranked sausage mill the meat was ground up into sausage and peppers and spices were added. There are many recipes for making sausage and each family usually had their own. At the bottom of page I have added two common recipes many families used.
All the excess fat that was cut from the meat would be saved and used for rendering lard. The meat was put into a large iron kettle outside with a slow burning fire built under it to cook the lard out. You wanted it to come to a slow boil. This process would take a couple of hours and someone had to stir constantly using a large wooden paddle. You could tell when the process was done when the cracklings floated to the top. Cracklings are from small pieces of meat attached to the fat. The cracklings were saved to make "Cracklin' bread" later. Now it was time to strain the liquid through several layers of cheese cloth into your lard buckets. When the lard had set you would then stir it until it became creamy. Usually the lard was stored in five gallon buckets to be used through out the coming year hoping it would last until the next hog killin' season. Our ancestors would take some of the lard a few days later and put back into the iron kettle and heat on an open fire. They would mix some lye with it to make lye soap. They used this home made soap for everything from washing face and hands, taking baths and washing clothes to scrubbing floors and porches. They would usually try and make enough soap to do them a year.
MILD SAUSAGE: Take 10 pounds of ground pork and add 6 tablespoons of salt plus 4 teaspoons of sage and 3 teaspoons of black pepper.
HOT SAUSAGE: Using 10 pounds of ground pork add 5 tablespoons of salt, 4 teaspoons of ground red pepper, 3 teaspoons of black pepper. Add 2 teaspoons of dry mustard and 2 teaspoons of ground cloves. Complete with 5 tablespoons of sage.
By the way, I think pork chops are my favorite. Well, I am partial to fried country ham in the mornings and then again I sure do love bacon and sausage. Baked ham for supper sounds mighty good also. Oh well, it's too hard to decide I guess! he he