• 61°

A hog-killing day

The arrival of cold weather reminds me of a hog-killing day in rural East Central Alabama three-quarters of a century ago.

If cotton was the golden goose that put clothing on the backs of poor people, a hog fattened for slaughter was the animal that put meat on their table during the cold days of winter. 

Farm folks took great pride in their hogs, nurturing them from 25-pound pigs to 300-pound hogs with ample feedings of household slop, corn and surplus farm-raised fruits and vegetables. Nothing was consumed by a pig with greater vigor than apple peelings and watermelon rinds. 

The first cold day of fall – a hard freeze followed by two or three days of temperatures in the 30s and 40s – was the target for a hog killing. 

My family raised two hogs and slaughtered both the same day. 

Careful planning was necessary for a safe and successful hog killing. Two wash pots were set up and filled with water the day before. A fire was started under both to bring the water to a boil before the hogs were killed. 

At the same time, a tripod was set up to raise the hogs for the removal of their entrails and the cleansing of their carcasses. A wooden platform was built to hold the hogs while their hair was being removed, and a worktable was set up outside to hold the hogs while their meat was being processed. 

The hogs were shot between the eyes with a .22 caliber rifle, and their throats were opened with a knife to facilitate bleeding. They were pulled to the platform and covered with sacks. 

Boiling water was then poured on the sacks, and after a brief delay, workers used sharp butcher knives to remove the hair. The hogs were then turned over, and the procedure was repeated on their stomachs. 

The hogs had their entrails removed and were washed down with hot water while hanging on the tripod. Major body parts were then removed and placed on a table for processing. 

The first cut of meat to land in the kitchen was the loin, which came from the backbone. It was sliced, fried and served to the workers for lunch along with fried eggs, biscuits and  gravy.

Selected parts of the hogs were processed as sausage later that day, and other parts were boiled down as lard and cracklings the following day. 

A sugar cure product was used to preserve the hams and middlings for enjoyment later on.