Appalachian Food Heritage

Hog Killing In Appalachia

Hog Killing Time

All one has to do is to take a walk through the local grocery store’s meat department to see the variety it holds. Back in the day-before meat was so readily available-pork was the staple meat for most mountain families.

In the very early days-before the chestnut blight-most folks in Appalachia let their hogs free range and forage for their own food. After the blight, and as the land became more populated-folks kept their hogs closer to home.

In my area of Appalachia-folks waited for cold weather to arrive before slaughtering their hogs. I recently read where folks farther south used blocks of ice to aide in their hog killing process-since a stretch of cold weather couldn’t be guaranteed as easily as it could in the mountains.

paul tipper maria

Pap and Granny never kept hogs, but I remember at some point someone in the holler did-maybe it was my Papaw Wade or maybe an Uncle. Whoever had them, kept them in a hog lot down below my Uncle Henry’s. One of my funniest memories from childhood contains those hogs.

My cousin, Maria, and me were walking along the road that ran beside the pig lot. We realized the hogs were out at about the same time the 2 big hogs noticed us. We took off running towards home-with the 2 pigs in hot pursuit. I think we knew they wouldn’t actually hurt us-but there was much screaming and laughing during the chase-and much teasing for 2 silly girls who ran from pigs afterward.


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  • Reply
    January 12, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    I probably would run from hogs too! LOL I never knew anyone who raised them.

  • Reply
    January 12, 2010 at 8:13 am

    Nancy-YES we have a HUGE population of wild hogs. More to come on that subject in a future post.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
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  • Reply
    nancy m.
    January 11, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Do y’all have wild hogs up there? They kill a lot of those down here. I sure wouldn’t want to run into one of them in the woods!

  • Reply
    Brenda Kay Ledford
    January 11, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    This posting sure brings back a lot of memories about my dad killing hogs ususally around Thanksgiving. It was something hearing the hog squealing. The hog was a pet and I hated to see it killed. I recall Mama and Daddy cutting up the hog, making sausage, and rendering out lard. It was something I couldn’t stand because the hog was my pet and I had fed it.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    Yeah, I recall the hog butchering. Never liked it but there’s no sausage better than the homemade kind we made. I guess that was my favorite part of the hog meat! I always hated the fact that the hog had to die, and Daddy always did the killing. I stayed far away from that part of it.
    It was a full days work but it was mighty fine eating during the winter. We usually killed hogs in November. We always had hogs, as well as all the other usual farm critters! Mom made souse meat but I never ate that stuff!
    It was hard work but a necessity back in those days, and a way of life.

  • Reply
    Chef E
    January 10, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    My friend who lives in Nicklesville took me over to her cousins farm and we saw the hogs and also they gave me jowls to bring home. My hubby was kind of freaked out about it, but he did not even know I had cooked with them, LOL! I think they make great bacon for breakfast…

  • Reply
    January 10, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    I can remember growing up and getting phone calls from our neighbor telling us that they had our pigs cornered in their yard again.
    I can remember when the truck used to come and pick them up for slaughter.
    Boy, those were sure the days.
    Thanks Tipper for the memory!

  • Reply
    January 10, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    When Bernie and I were first married I remember hog butchering days there. He is the oldest of 8 kids, 7 were still eft at home, so they would butcher 4 to 6 hogs at a time.
    The first time I was involved they thought it would be real funny to bring me, the city girl, a dish pan of blood to stir down for the blood sausage.
    Not funny! Thought I’d pass out.
    I never have tried to eat that sausage. Just gie me some good old panhaus or scrapple as some call it! Yummy, and that fresh lard for pie crust. Nothing better.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2010 at 11:21 am

    First, here’s my funny hog story. I’ll post my hubby’s memories of hog-killing time when the next post on this comes.
    We were at my uncle’s house. He had 3 boys, each about our ages to match me and my sister and brother. When we’d get together with them, there was usually some mischief.
    We went out to the pen to see the piglets. Then someone decided to separate the momma sow from the babies so we could play with the little ones. All I remember was standing in the pen with a branch and trying to get between the momma and her babies.
    She turned and charged at me. She’d had enough!!! The next thing I knew, I was riding a sow, backwards, being jarred half to death as she trotted full-speed to the electric fence line, determined to get me, the enemy, out of her pen. I landed right across that weed-eater fence and it cut some good welts across both knee-caps.
    I went crying to the house and once the grown-ups realized how it happened, that was the end of our fun for the day. But I can’t help but smile at the vision of a 9-year-old girl riding a sow backwards at full speed, with my teeth rattling in my head.
    –teresa in ky
    p.s. We are getting ready to go to my sister-in-laws’ house to help them kill one now. It will be the first time I’ve had first-hand experience in hog-killing. Wish me luck!

  • Reply
    January 10, 2010 at 9:56 am

    My grandparents had hogs. My Grandmother made the best canned sausage.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 10, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Tipper I can close my eyes and see you girls running and squealing!
    I have participated in hog killin’ a few times. It was a very interesting process.
    The Deer Hunter’s Papaw James and Grandma Lura had pigs every year for as long as they were able. All their sons and daughter in laws helped on hog killing day and a couple of days after. It took a few days to get the sausage canned, the meat salted, and the lard rendered. We won’t even talk about cleaning up the mess, Haha!
    My grandparents always had milk cows, pigs, and chickens. I was never around their pig killing because it was in the winter and we lived away from here so I was in school. Also my mother was a bit over protective and would not let me be there and see all the gruesome details!
    I did, however get to see my grandmother kill some chickens in the summer. she chopped their heads off with a ax. Now that was something to see. She gave me the feet and showed me how to tie a string to the tendons and make the feet open and close. My mother would have had a cow if she had known that. lol
    It was probably this very over protectiveness that made me such a curious adult!

  • Reply
    January 10, 2010 at 12:14 am

    Tipper, I can remember one time we were at Grand-ma and Grand-pa Burgess’s in Union County S.C. and they were killing the hogs , still remember as did others , “the smell” , but I still love bacon and ham , . One thing I will never forget is that I ask Grand-ma what they did with everything when they butchered the pig and she said. “Honey”, “We eat everything BUT the squeal” I’ll never forget that answer. Malcolm and Ciejay

  • Reply
    January 9, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    We had hogs when I was growing up and I remember hog killing days. I remember us grinding the meat into sausage. We kept them in pig pens, I remember dad mixing up the hog slop and pouring it in the trough for them to eat. And I remember the crunching noise when they ate coal.

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    January 9, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    Tipper: Never saw a hog slaughtered but have cooked a whole one on a spit.

  • Reply
    January 9, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    What a great memory. The Running of the Bulls–Appalachian style!

  • Reply
    January 9, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    Great blog..can’t wait to read more.
    Daniela from NC

  • Reply
    January 9, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    The farm was gone and the folks had moved to town by the time I came along, but my mom remembers hog butchering. One time the rope let go and dropped a hog into the boiling water, scalding her grandpa pretty badly. After cussing a bit he went right on working. Those old timers were TOUGH. I could have never “stomached” it; I’ve been a vegetarian for a couple of decades!

  • Reply
    January 9, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    Grandpa butchered hogs in November. Grandma rendered the fat and made lard. We also made lye soap.
    My uncle was chased and gouged by the neighbour’s boar that had gone crazy one time. It went right through the screen door, chased him through the house, overturning the table and out the back door. It caught up to him and ripped a 8 inch gash in the calf of his leg. It ended up that Grandpa had to shot it.
    Enjoyed your post. It brought back memories.

  • Reply
    January 9, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    When I first moved out here to my old farmhouse, a neighbor down the road was killing hogs one morning. Although, I did not know it. I went out for a run and ran by their farm. And there was a hog hanging from a tree. I “like ta died” right there. Went back and told my husband and of course he laughed at me.

  • Reply
    January 9, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    We only raised one hog when I was growing up~and I was scared of it. I remember once it got out of it’s pen and went running through our rural neighborhood. I’m sure the neighbors were not amused! I’ve never seen one be butchered, so I’m looking forward to the coming posts.

  • Reply
    January 9, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Never been chased by hogs only a few mean roosters! But, it’s cold enough to kill hogs here!

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeron
    January 9, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    I was always scared of the hogs-they would bite you but good Didn’t mind helping with butchering they couldn’t hurt you then.It’s stil cold- down to 25 this morning and that is cold for us. Ya’ll stay warm.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    January 9, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    For years, back when we kept a milk cow, we bought a pair of feeder pigs every spring, raised them on pigfeed and buttermilk, and butchered them when freezing weather came. We finally quit when we quit keeping a milk cow and when the winter’s were too warm to count on freezing weather. But we bought a Jersey heifer back in the spring and, with my son doing the milking once she freshens, we’ll probably get back in the pig raising game again. The pork you buy in the store just doesn’t compare

  • Reply
    Patty Hall
    January 9, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    I remember slopping the hogs w/ my daddy. He had built a hogpen up on the hill away from the house, kept them in there to fatten’em up. I remember “the day”. Thing I remember most clearly was all that meat lying around in the kitchen, waiting for my mom to do whatever she needed to do with it and she fried a pan of tenderlion and made some biscuits. So tasty. I also remember the brains being in the frig. Dad wanted ’em scrambled w/eggs but mom never could bring herself to do it. She made souse meat that yr too. Haven’t eaten it since, don’t think I could. Lookin forward to the next post about this.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    January 9, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    My Dad hated hog killen’ time…he said it was the most miserable time for him as a boy…his older brothers didn’t mind it so much…A lot of the time he said they used a ball pin hammer right to the center of the head…later on he said they shot them…still hated it…now this was back in 1911..he said if he ever got away from that farm he’d never have to deal with hog killin’ again and he did!
    They killed and processed their own hogs, cured their own meat and put in the smokehouse…Mother canned the sausage…
    Personally I can’t stand the taste of salt cured country ham..tastes rotten to me..
    but to each his own…

  • Reply
    petra michelle
    January 9, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Hilarious, Tipper! I can just picture the both of you!
    Would you believe I have this thing for piglets? Perhaps it has to do with having been born on my maternal grandparents’ farm!
    An interesting and fun post, Tipper! :))

  • Reply
    January 9, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    I remember hog killing days!!!

  • Reply
    January 9, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Thanks Tipper! So many I have spoken/written with do not realize how important pork is even to this day in the traditional dishes of Appalachia. A good fiction book that points to this is Gap Creek by Robert Morgan. And if you look in The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery you will see that without pork you were hurtin’. Chickens were mostly for eggs and cows were mostly for milkin’. Sunday dinner was occasionally fried chicken on special occasions. The rest of the meat came from hunting. Not enough pasture in the mountains to keep a lot of pasture fed livestock.
    Anyway, I had neighbors who kept hogs and have seen a slaughter on several occasions. You will never forget the smell of the shaving especially when cooking bacon afterward. 🙂 But, if you are ever privy to being present when a young boy takes a stick and pokes at the stomach and intestines until they burst – now, that’s an unforgettable smell. hehe Hog killing is an event. John did a painting of one called “Boyz, Let Me Show You How It’s Done”. It’s on his website if you would like to take a look. 🙂

  • Reply
    Just Jackie
    January 9, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    There’s not enough space here to tell the stories about the pigs we raised. I loved them. We had 2 each year. One for us and one to trade for a side of beef. My brother and I would play with the pigs. They let us ride their backs. I never noticed if they smelled bad or not.They were “pets”. My dad was a baker at Betsy Ross Bread and he would bring home the old cakes and pies for the pigs. My favorite pig of all time was Violet and she loved cherry pie. You conjured up some good memories on this cold winter day. (We all hid when the butcher came to shoot the pigs and take them off)

  • Reply
    January 9, 2010 at 11:59 am

    enjoy your blog so much, please keep them coming. thanks k

  • Reply
    Cindy Loven
    January 9, 2010 at 11:44 am

    I remember when my dad and uncle killed a hog, the part I really remember was the squealing hog and then I remember them frying up a huge iron kettle (outside over a fire) of chittlings. I probably wasnt even school age at that time. I dont remember what time of the year it was though.
    I never ran from pigs but we ran from the neighbors geese, they were MEAN..bite a plug out of you.

  • Reply
    the inadvertent farmer
    January 9, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Been chased by a camel but never a couple of hogs! Ahhh childhood and its memories….Kim

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