Hog Killin Day by Keith Jones
When it starts to get cold in the fall, the old-timers would always say, “Getting to be about hog-killin time.” This was indeed a memorable time of the year. Many families slaughtered at least one if not two or three hogs to provide meat, lard, bristles for brushes, and more. I’ve always heard the expression used, “They just had a real hog-killin time!” by which it was usually meant that they had enjoyed a great frolic. But hog killin also involved a lot of work.
The hogs would have been fattened all year, being fed regular feed like dried corn, plus buckets of ‘slop’ (leftover food from dinner plates, sour milk, excess cooking grease, etc.). Some farmers also would feed the hogs the ‘skims’ from the syrup making process that immediately preceded or overlapped with hog killin time. Others would use the skims to sweeten up the mash for moonshine, but that’s another story for another time.
Usually families would join together and ‘make the rounds’ over several days, doing the same chores at several adjacent farms. It took a lot of dishpans, pots, canning jars, etc. to get everything done.
My uncle Blueford Dyer was the designated person at Granddad’s to do the actual killing of the hog. He had a 22 rifle that he usually used. He’d put a little fresh corn in the trough to attract the chosen ‘victim’, and knew the exact spot on the pig’s snout to lay the barrel against so that the bullet went through the hog’s sinus cavities without breaking much bone, and entered the spinal cord, which usually instantly dispatched the pig. Not only mercy was involved in this method. “Everything but the squeal” was used from a hog carcass, and the brains were considered a delicacy. My granddad always had scrambled eggs and hog brains for supper on the evening of a hog killin. But one year, Uncle Blueford put the gun against the pig’s snout, pulled the trigger, and after the shot, the pig just shook its head and went on eating. The 22 rifle short cartridge hadn’t had enough power to break through the hog’s snout! So Uncle Blueford got a 22 long rifle shell and fired it-same result. Just a little trickle of blood, and you could see the back end of the bullet embedded in the bone of the hog’s snout. Blueford got mad! He went to his truck and pulled out his 30-30 deer rifle. Needless to say, granddad didn’t get any brains to eat for supper that year. They were too full of bone fragments.
Once the hog had been killed, it’s throat was quickly slit and the blood drained. Some people caught this blood for use in sausage (remember, I said everything was used but the squeal). The hog was suspended by its back legs and hoisted up. The body would have been rinsed off somewhat, and dipped down into a barrel of boiling water to loosen the bristles from the skin. The abdomen would be slit open and all the organs and intestines removed. The intestines were chitterlings, but I never heard them called anything but chitlins until I was in college. After rinsing and washing out several times, the chitlins were cut up into small pieces and fried to eat. Sometimes people would use some of the cleaned intestines for sausage casings. The liver, lights (lungs), kidneys, and other organs were use for meat too.
Supposedly the large McEver Meat Packing Company near Talmo, GA was started because Mrs. McEver had anemia and needed to eat liver every day. The only liver available was hog liver, and that left the rest of the carcass to be disposed of, Mr. McEver sold the meat door-to-door until his company got established.
The meat was now cut up into tenderloins, loins, hams, shoulders (sometimes called picnic hams), etc. The meat from the head was used to make souse. Every bit of fat was saved and cooked down into lard, which was the farmers’ shortening for use in bread, frying, etc. The cracklins (bits of skin that cooked up from rendering the lard) would be saved to flavor cornbread. The hams and other cuts of meat would be seasoned and placed in the smokehouse for preservation. Bits of meat from all over the carcass were dumped together and ground into sausage. My granddad’s sausage recipe was a little bit hot. He put hot, fried sausage balls in sterilized hot quart mason jars, and preserved them by pouring hot lard over the sausage to cover them. When those were fried up, a little flour, pepper, salt and milk were added to the leftover grease to make sawmill gravy. Redeye gravy was made by adding water to the pan in which cured country hams had been cooked.
At supper after a long day of helping with all the tasks of the hog killin, there would be a big meal. Usually the main course was fried tenderloin, with scrambled eggs and ‘cat-head’ biscuits (called that because of their size). Of course, there was cracklin cornbread and sawmill gravy too. And after eating what you thought was your fill, and sopping up the last of the gravy from your tin plate, somehow you’d always find room to put a big hunk of homemade butter in the middle of the plate, pour on sorghum syrup, mix it up and sop THAT with a couple more catheads.
You’d be ‘wore out’ at the end of such a day, but you’d be full, happy, and would sleep the sleep of those who’ve done a REAL day’s work.
Hope you enjoyed Keith’s memories of hog killin day as much as I did. If you did-leave him a comment and I’ll make sure he reads it.