Appalachian Food

Butchering Day was a Social Occasion

Sydney Saylor Farr more than moonshine

More Than Moonshine – Appalachian Recipes and Recollections by Sidney Saylor Farr

“Meats: Game and Tame

Butchering time during a cold spell around Thanksgiving was almost a social occasion up and down our creek. Neighbors came in to help Father kill his hogs, dress them out, and prepare the meat for storage. Father would help them in turn. I dreaded butchering day every year. I loved every animal on the place and hated to see them killed. If I could I hid somewhere out of sight and sound until the animals or chickens were dead. Then I came home to help in the preparations for dressing, cooking, and storing the meat for winter. If I were not forced to see the actual butchering I could manage a certain amount of objectivity.

On butchering day early in the morning Father would build a fire outdoors and heat water to boiling in the big iron kettle. The best marksman in the group would shoot the hogs between the eyes with a twenty-two rifle and then quickly cut their throats as they lay dying so they would bleed freely. Later they carried the animal to a trestle table and poured scalding water over its body. Using sharp knives the men scraped the hog clean. Then Father pushed a stick, sharpened at both ends, between tendons in the lower hind legs and the men would hoist the carcass to hang from an iron hook driven into the side of the smokehouse. The men finished washing and dressing the hog. Meanwhile, Mother would have scrubbed down the trestle table with gallons of scalding water. The carcass was removed from the hook and placed on the table. With sharp knives and a hatchet Father chopped the meat into hams, shoulders, ribs, pork tenderloins, side meat, and so forth. The meat was then carried to the smokehouse and placed on tables to await further preparation. Three or four men could butcher two or three hogs in one day. Sometimes we would have only one hog to butcher; that day Father would go on to a neighbors’ house to help, leaving Mother and me to do the final dressing and cleaning up.

It was a mountain custom to share messes of fresh meat with neighbors up and down the creeks who were not butchering that day. Father would tell them in advance and ask them to drop by for a mess of meat. Some would, and we would take meat to others. So butchering day would turn out to be a time of feasting for almost everyone in the neighborhood.”


I hope you enjoyed the small excerpt from Farr’s cookbook. It’s one of my favorite Appalachian Cookbooks.



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  • Reply
    O. P. Holder
    February 1, 2018 at 4:04 pm

    Exactly the same as I remember. Thanks for sharing

  • Reply
    Judy Lee Green
    November 22, 2017 at 10:08 pm

    I’ll pickup a recipe book with essays, memoirs or recollections a lot quicker than a cookbook without them!

  • Reply
    November 21, 2017 at 10:52 pm

    Hog butchering article brought back childhood memories. Memories that my children and grands will never have, times having changed so radically by the time they came on the scene. My dad was a genius at attaching motors to simple hand cranked grinders/choppers etc and that made the processing go a lot easier/faster. Even so, it was a lot of work, but we knew what those hogs had eaten and how they had been cared for –and how fresh the meat was, etc. Now the cracklin’s, those were a special treat for us kids.

  • Reply
    libby rouse
    November 21, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    Hog killing day was one of my favorite days ever! Loved to watch everything that was being done to the hog, and there was always a crowd of people to help in the process. Oh what a good supper of fresh pork tenderloin and biscuits! Thanks for the great memory!

  • Reply
    Don T.
    November 21, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    Well I know it’s getting pretty late in the day for a comment but I just now had time to read today’s BP&A post. Hog killin’ was a looked forward to occasion when I was growing up. We always had two and my grandad had two and with neighbors and relatives helping we did all 4 the same day. One of my favorite tasks was cutting up the fat for rendering lard. The fat trimmings were brought in in tubs and 6 or 8 of us would set around the table with little cutting boards about 6 x 12 inches and cut the fat into little cubes about 1 1/2″ square or so.
    Next day my granny’s wash house and kettles were converted into a lard rendering operation. Good memories those.

  • Reply
    November 21, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    I can remember well, my father helping all the neighbors butcher their hogs. He was the one that everyone wanted to do the butchering. Just as soon as they started cutting up the meat he would roast the kidneys over the fire to eat.
    The home canned sausage was delicious. I still like to find fresh ground sausage and can it.
    The cookbook sounds like it would be an awesome book.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 21, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    A skilled butcher doesn’t kill the animal with a shot to the brain as people presume. The shot is to stun them and so they remain unconscious while you stick (cut into the neck and sever the jugular veins and carotid arteries) them. The heart continues to beat and pumps the blood out of the body. If by any chance the hog is conscious when he is stuck, the stoppage of blood flow to the brain will cause the loss of consciousness within 15 or 20 seconds.
    People who use the blood prefer to hang the animal before sticking it. In that case you run the risk of having the animal regain consciousness while you are getting it hung.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    November 21, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    I have this book…love it! So don’t put my name in the hat!
    I love cracklin’ bread…and when I get the chance to bring in a bag of crackin’s I never pass the gift up!
    I have also bought them if I know exactly where they were crackled from…HA
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…all the folks that don’t win this book is for sure missing a prize…I just loved the read!

  • Reply
    Barbara Gantt
    November 21, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    This sounds like a wonderful book to have and read. My Dad raised hogs a few times. I remember my Granny making livermush and the canned sausage. Awesome memories. Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

  • Reply
    November 21, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    I hope I win the recipe book. I would love cooking up those good recipes!

  • Reply
    November 21, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    As a child, I remember the late fall in Upstate SC as hog- killing time. Many times I would see the hogs put in slanted barrels of scalding water to take the hair off and then helped with the scraping. My Dad ran a small family- owned grocery which had 2 large meat grinders. When the hogs had been cut and hung in the smoke houses, neighbors both black and white would come to ” Mr. Marvin’s” store to have the sausage ground. Huge galvanized tubs were back of the store and there the neighbors would add the spices to the ground meat while stirring with a large set of wooden paddles. When the stirring and spicing were done, everyone pitched in to stuff the sausage into boiled entrail casings. These would then be dipped in vats of paraffin wax , tied with heavy string and sprinkled over with ground up sage and peppers. Hard work, but wonderful to eat all during the coming year. My Dad was ” paid” by being given a portion of each farmer’s sausage,and if we were lucky, a fresh ham for our Christmas dinner. I remember the good natured talking and laughing among all those working together. It was a time to come together to prepare the bounty of food for the year and to have a good time together. Those memories bring me warmth and comfort as I see faces and hear voices of those now long gone , but precious to me. The good food, good neighbors and good times made hog- killing time really special .

  • Reply
    November 21, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    I can relate to Mr. Farr’s values, cause my Daddy was the same way. When he came from work the first thing he’d say was “where you at Andy?” This was a black hog with white spots, he slept on the porch with our Fiest dogs, but he wasn’t a “Poland-China” hog, we had several of those shoats too. Old Andy would go hunting with us, the dogs didn’t pay any attention to him, but he tried. He wasn’t even locked up with all the other hogs, we had 56 Sous and 6 registered Bores. Finally, Daddy made a friend promise not to ever eat him and let him have him for Free. You learn lots about life in the Mountains. …Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 21, 2017 at 1:17 pm

    I remember one year, when I was a teenager, helping some neighbors kill a hog. Their oldest daughter had married a young man from over at Lauada. We will call him Roy. He was a blustery and boisterous type and decided he was a skilled butcher. As with other similar situations I just stood back, watched and did what I was told. There were four or five of us big old teen aged boys there. Plenty to do the job efficiently you would think.
    Roy decided to dispatch the hog with his pistol, a .38 if I remember correctly. I was tending the fire when the actual act transpired. I heard a shot. A minute later another shot. Then again. And again. Thinking perhaps the hog had a gun and was fighting back I went to investigate. When I got there Roy had finally gotten the pig to lay down and was trying to stick it. It bled but there was not to gushing of blood I had seen at other killings. It continued to bleed as we dragged it to where the hot water awaited it.
    We laid it out on its side on a couple of old doors, covered it with tow sacks and commenced pouring water on it. After a few minutes the hair was slipping so we removed the sacks and began scraping. That side went pretty well and it was time to roll it over. It didn’t want to roll over. The hog began to kick and we couldn’t hold it down. It managed to drag itself off the doors, across the yard and out into the garden before Roy managed to reload and shoot it three more times.
    After all that wallering around the hog was completely covered with mud and we used all the water we had left give it a bath. That meant carrying more water and stoking up the fire again. Once the water was hot, we applied the tow sacks and began again. This time though the hair didn’t want to detach itself. It was set. No amount of hot water was going to make it come loose.
    Repeated applications of hot water was beginning to cook the poor animals skin. Scraping produced only gummy gray stuff. When this happens only shaving or skinning will remove the hair. Roy decided upon shaving. We whetted our knives and set to work. In only a few hours we were done. With the scraping that is.
    You know that November days are short. The day’s activities had taken its toll and night was lurking nearby. I had my own family’s pig to feed, cow to milk and wood to carry in, so I excused myself. “Thanks for the help! You come back tomorrow and get you a mess of meat.” I didn’t!
    PS: Oh, and if you wonder why I chose to call our fearless leader Roy, it’s because his name is Roy.

  • Reply
    Mick Fuller
    November 21, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    I had the privilege of helping a friend slaughter a hog he had raised. We live in central California, so the weather was not as cold as we would have liked (60+ degrees when we started and 70 by the time we finished). My friend is somewhat impatient and did not want to go through the whole process of scalding and scraping. Instead, he hung the hog nose down and we skinned it nape to tail. The head and trotters went to one of my friend’s employees and the rest was broken down into more or less recognizable pieces (roasts, ribs, chops, bacon, ham and ham steaks), packed in vacuum sealed bags and frozen. Some of the meat was grilled for a party that night and I took home a couple good sized bags and a few soup bones. My impatient friend didnt smoke or cure anything, mores the pity. I would have liked to try that, as well as rendering the lard and making chicharrones.

  • Reply
    harry adams
    November 21, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    I remember two butcherings. One when I was about 6 and the other when I was 16. of the first I remember my brother and I playing ball with the bladder and my grandpa cutting the hogs head open with a hatchet to get at the brains.
    Being much older the second time I can remember more of the process. I disagree with the way the book says they butchered. As soon as the hog was killed, the hog is hoisted up so it can bleed freely and the entrails removed immediately. Once this is done, then proceed with scalding and scrapping the hair off the hog. The entrails need to be gotten out to keep from contaminating the meat.
    I also remember an aunt cleaning the intestines so they could be filled with the sausage. I have often wondered what is used now for casings.
    These are good memories but I don’t want to have to relive the times.

  • Reply
    jim keller
    November 21, 2017 at 11:30 am

    Farr’s statement about it being a social occasion, was most definitely true here in East TN. I remember the anticipation the day before everyone trying to have everything prepared for hog killing day. There was one group of men that helped every year from a local community named “Bear town ” that were very skilled helping in hog processing that you only saw for that event. I think it did bring the family and community closer together.

  • Reply
    Granny Sue
    November 21, 2017 at 11:17 am

    Oh my, I’d love to have a copy of that book!
    I remember hog-killin’ time. The neighbors, the big steaming kettle of water, the sharpening of knives, the talk and laughter, frying up the tenderoins for the crew. And the work afterward–rendering the lard, making mincemeat and head cheese and scrapple and sausage, canning pork for the cellar, salting hams and bacons. Seemed like I worked a week to get it all done. But my oh my, the good eatin’ afterwards.

  • Reply
    Sallie Swor
    November 21, 2017 at 10:52 am

    My husband, a city-boy, learned to butcher by helping my family. A few years later he and a few college buddies and co-workers fattened a few hogs in a temporary pen in one of their backyards and butchered until some had physical conditions that made it harder to do. Almost forty years later we still recall the great memories of a family atmosphere with the work and great meals we had together. Looking back it tied us even closer as friends. I took pictures of one of the last years that my family butchered as well as later with my husband and his friends who became family. Great memories!

  • Reply
    Ricky Stonecypher
    November 21, 2017 at 10:37 am

    Memories from childhood killing hog’s with my grandparent’s. I was taught how to do everything even hanging country ham salted,sugar. Got in on canning because she helped sit me. Still have our saw used back then. Tenderloin biscuit my favorite. Loved sausage roll in mason jar. When kin come in from out of state it was sausage, Ham. Granny always cooking a big,big breakfast. Thank’s Tipper and reader’s comment read them all .

  • Reply
    Kenneth Ryan
    November 21, 2017 at 10:31 am

    I enjoyed the story on hog killing time. It brought back memories of the sights, sounds, and smells of hog killing time when I was a boy. We don’t do that any more, but I remember the times well. I’m hoping everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  • Reply
    November 21, 2017 at 9:41 am

    I certainly enjoy my pork, but I don’t believe I could have taken part in any of the killin part; I was raised a city girl so no chance there! (thank goodness)
    I so love cookbooks, when I get a new one I sit down and read it cover to cover. I do look on FB and the internet for recipes, but nothing beats a hands on experience of a bound cookbook.
    Many blessings for a joyous Thanksgiving 🙂

  • Reply
    Roger Jeffrey
    November 21, 2017 at 9:25 am

    Please remind your readers that are killing a hog to let the meat cool down before placing it in a freezer lf this is not done, the meat will spoil very quickly. Our church decided to buy a hog to barbecue. after the slaughter and cleaning it was placed into a freezer. Needless to say the meat spoiled.

  • Reply
    November 21, 2017 at 9:05 am

    I can still see in my minds eye the jars of sausage lined up on the shelves in the basement. We always had plenty stored op for the Winter by this time of year. Apples wrapped in newspaper, jars of peaches, pickles, berries kraut and several types of jelly (more blackberry than all the rest together) filled those shelves.

  • Reply
    milner smith
    November 21, 2017 at 8:59 am

    i remember when we killed a hog every november. one of my favorite memories is eating fried tenderloin, biscuits with Diamond Joe syrup that night. the meat was packed in a wooden box with salt, except what my mother needed for sausage the next day. she used a hand cranked grinder (my job) and put the sausage in prepared flour sack tubes for drying hanging on the back porch.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    November 21, 2017 at 8:45 am

    Hogs have glands that, if not removed, give a strong taste to the meat. This is made worse if they are agitated before they are slaughtered. That is one reason why store-bought pork is like rolling dice. Commercial operations done by machine cannot be troubled with such fiddley things. And so with a lot of things done quickly at high volumes. In some ways they rely on our ignorance. That is one reason I like farm markets.

  • Reply
    Richard Beauchamp
    November 21, 2017 at 8:37 am

    I would like to be included in your cook book give away. I love to see cook books from different areas.

  • Reply
    Barb Wright
    November 21, 2017 at 8:26 am

    I have always been around hog butchering. When I was young, my dad, uncle and grandfather were in charge. The women did the wrapping meat and salting it down parts. We cousins mostly played! We still butcher hogs and a steer. Now I’m the one taking care of the meat. The men still cut it up, and the kids still play…some things never change! This sounds like a great book..thanks for the chance to win! Happy Thanksgiving!!

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    November 21, 2017 at 8:25 am

    It must have been the winter of 1948, when Daddy killed his last hog. His only hog-killing. The meat didn’t get eat, finally none of it got cooked. It was like killing and eating our collie; our pig had a name, “Oinky”, and he followed us around the yard, oinking and grunting, all of that summer before. Daddy raised it to butcher. Ol’ Man Rogers took it all home with him and all of us were sad for a long time. Daddy was lost. Oinky should have had a decent burial but we never blamed Daddy who was trying every way to eke out a living for his wife and seven kids … his self. I was about six.

  • Reply
    November 21, 2017 at 8:20 am

    My grandmother lived with us in my growing up years, and she took care of the animals. i remember one year when we had a hog she called “Nootie”. She was right fond of that old rascal. I remember one time when he escaped his pen and came down to the river where we were fishing and waded into the water. Grandma told us that we had to get him out of the water, that if a hog tried to swim, it would cut its throat with its hooves.
    Daddy never killed “nootie” that fall, because grandma just couldn’t stand the thoughts of it. Instead, he gave him to my uncle and his family feasted on sausage all winter.
    Would love to read the book.

  • Reply
    Teresa Atkinson
    November 21, 2017 at 8:14 am

    I grew up in rural Northeast Georgia and butchering is something I remember from my childhood. Big Papa and Big Granny always butchered in COLD weather, so I remember freezing while we all worked — My job was to turn the sausage grinder – we attached it to the side of the table and then turned a porcelain covered dishpan full at a time of the ground meat. Granny (Big Granny’s daughter) would add all the seasonings and then package it — it was hard work, but I still remember the laughter among everyone as the work was accomplished.
    When Bobby and I tore down the chicken coop on the old farm where I raised my girls, we found a butcher board covered with the knife marks of many years. I have it displayed in my house.
    Happy Thanksgiving.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    November 21, 2017 at 8:11 am

    I too hid when it was killing time. I hated to see living things die.
    I must admit I enjoyed the results .
    We lived in town so Dad would leave early for the farm to do the killing.
    I tried to wait til Mother and my Aunt went a bit later so I would miss
    that part of the day.
    We always came home with a trunk full of meat. W hen we got home there was a lot of canning to do. We would go back later to get the smoked meat and any late season veggies for canning.
    My cousins and I would pick and the Aunts would do the canning.
    As I recall this was the time the menfolk sat on the porch talking about next years plans hoping the weather would cooperate.
    Great memories.

  • Reply
    Lonormi Manuel
    November 21, 2017 at 7:52 am

    “Store-bought” pork can’t hold a candle to my Uncle Toss’s home-cured bacon and sausage. He’s been gone 20 years, but I will never forget the taste of his “secret recipe” ham. Thanks for the chance to win, and happy Thanksgiving to y’all!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 21, 2017 at 7:17 am

    I remember that on about the third day after the slaughter began came the process of boiling the fat to make cracklin and lard. If you’ve never had cracklin cornbread you’ve missed one of the fine delicacies of country living!
    When the fat is boiled/rendered you get the lard/fat and there is a small amount of solid fatty material left overt called cracklin. About a half a cup of this substance can be added to a cake of cornbread and turn it into pure heaven!
    I know I sound like an old pro but I’m not. Slaughtering was not part of my growing up life. What I did was marry into a country family and I had the opportunity to learn how they did things and I was a studious pupil! LOL I liked that they found a way to make use of everything.

  • Reply
    Beth Durham
    November 21, 2017 at 6:28 am

    One of my favorite hog-killin memories is cracklin-bread. After the meat was cut and packaged Granny would fill her biggest kettle with strips of fat and cook it down into lard. The bits of crunchy meat that were left are the cracklins. Baked into cornbread, it’s one of the finest treats on the mountain. And it’s one of the things I crave this time of year!

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