Thankful November

Thankful November – Hog Killing Day

Collage of 2021 photos

“I always had to stay out of school on hog-killing day to help out, of course. What I enjoyed most was getting the hog’s bladder, inflating it with a homemade reed, and turning it into a kickball. You had to blow it up before it dried. It was like a leather ball almost. Some of the men turned bladders into tobacco pouches to keep their tobacco fresh and moist.

Sam Gates, Mountaintown District, Gilmer County, Georgia – “Smokehouse Ham Spoon Bread & Scuppernong Wine”

I’ve never got to experience a hog killing day, but would like to. Pap told me many stories about the days when his family would kill hogs. He said it was the best eating of the year.

Here’s some posts related to hog killing from the Blind Pig and The Acorn archives.

Today’s Thankful November giveaway is a used copy of “Smokehouse Ham Spoon Bread & Scuppernong Wine” by Joseph E. Dabney. To be entered in the giveaway leave a comment on this post. *Giveaway ends December 2, 2021.

Last night’s video: How to Make a Traditional Appalachian Apple Stack Cake.


Subscribe for FREE and get a daily dose of Appalachia in your inbox

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Barbara Parker
    November 29, 2021 at 10:52 pm

    Tipper, your Blind Pig and the Acorn is such an interesting blessing. Thank you for bringing to mind one time when I was a little girl and we were at the neighbors house when they were working on doing up the hog and I experienced fresh fried sage sausage. I can remember that it was one of the best things I had ever tasted. There’s not much I remember about hog killing but I’m glad I’ve had those memories. You are so kind. Ive already won a book so you don’t need to enter my name in the contest again. I just wanted to thank you for the things you do to keep Appalachian memories alive and well.

  • Reply
    November 29, 2021 at 9:05 pm

    Hog killing day started out, getting up early and gather wood to keep a fire going. Dad would build the fire and we would carry water from the creek to fill this half of some kind of tub to put the hog in. It was an all day job. We had to take our meat for sausage few miles down the road to be ground. It was a store call Porters Gro. Then we come back home and Mom and myself would fry it all and can it.

  • Reply
    Ron Bass
    November 29, 2021 at 7:18 pm

    I remember hog killings very fondly. It was a lot of hard cold work but we all had a good time. Neighbors helped each other just like all other activities that required a lot of labor. It’s been over 40 years since my last hog killing and I miss it greatly. The pork we buy today doesn’t taste nearly as good as it did back then.
    Thanks for bringing back comforting memories.

  • Reply
    Joy Tilton
    November 29, 2021 at 6:36 pm

    I remember dad cut a big old metal tank in half and had a metal cradle like contraption welded on it. We would build a fire beneath it and when it got boiling hot he would shot the first hog. We would dip the hog down in the water using the tractor to pull it out. He’d put boards in the end of the tank and slide the hogs down the boards. We usually done 3 or 4 every year.

  • Reply
    November 29, 2021 at 6:09 pm

    Didn’t one of the Firefox books contain tells about hog killings? Memory doesn’t serve me as well as it used to, but I seem to recall that there were. I’ll have to see if I can find my FF books.

  • Reply
    November 29, 2021 at 5:06 pm

    I just remembered that the next day we had pork brains and eggs scrambled together for breakfast.

  • Reply
    November 29, 2021 at 5:03 pm

    My main job at hog killing was to keep the hot water supply going. We used Mom’s cast iron wash pot and a 55 gallon barrel sunk in the ground at an angle. The hog was slid into the barrel of hot water, pulled and scrapped. Then dipped again to scrape the other side. I had to dip out as much of the water from the barrel as possible and refill it between dipping. After the heavy work was done it was just our family left to render the lard, grind and cook the sausage and clean up the mess. I also had to have extra stove wood ready and wood for heating the water.
    After we got electricity and a freezer we just killed and gutted the hogs, deer and steers and took them to be ‘processed for the freezer.

    • Reply
      Donna Northcutt
      November 30, 2021 at 4:55 pm

      We used the 55 gallon barrel sunk in the ground at an angle as well. The main thing I did was help scrape the hog hair. It was a community/family event & everyone shared in the outcome. It was actually a lot of fun for everyone- except the HOGS – of course.

  • Reply
    Linda L.
    November 29, 2021 at 2:34 pm

    Because of your posts and videos, I have this book and absolutely love it. You’ve taught me much,, Tipper, but you’ve especially given me INSIGHT on how to better understand my relatives and ancestors. The way of life, their own raisin’ and ways. PRICELESS TO ME! Your readers leave the BEST COMMENTS and I learn from them too. THANKS TO YOU ALL.

  • Reply
    Jenny Young
    November 29, 2021 at 2:07 pm

    I’ve never experienced hog killing either but have heard lots of stories. I have friends in western Oklahoma who are building their own freezer so they can process their own beef & hog for themselves & their extended family.

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    November 29, 2021 at 1:32 pm

    When I was a young boy, I remember that my grandfather killed hogs. My father and several other people would come to help. The only part us little ones had in the process was eating fried tenderloin for supper.

  • Reply
    November 29, 2021 at 12:16 pm

    I loved Kat Swanson’s post, as it took me back and was exactly how I feel at times. When I was living the life and times it was like they would go on forever. Then poof time marched on, and I am left feeling as though I am looking back at another life.
    I am sincere when I say the memories keep you going. I can remember the sheets blowing in the cold wind, but also feel so blessed when I remember the sunshine waiting when you went outside to hang the clothes. The hog killing involved neighbors and Mom and Dad with a mile of freezer paper and tape. It seemed the meat was cut and scattered all over the kitchen as they packaged and put it in the long freezer. That old freezer was still going when Mom sold the house and land. The freezer had even been painted once. Dad being a carpenter had fashioned a bar with chairs bought from an old business, and they whirled around. We sat there at breakfast and ate the delicious tenderloin. I love all chores done out in the sunshine, because it takes me back to my roots. I feel I have gone above my raising, but not by choice. Maybe I should take off my rose colored glasses!

  • Reply
    Garland Gray Davis
    November 29, 2021 at 11:20 am

    Hog killing meant that I didn’t have to feed them any longer and by the end of the day, my arm would feel as if it might fall off from cranking that Darn (As a good sailor, I know many stronger words) grinder for hours.

    Skip me for the book. I have forty books in my Kindle “To Read” pile. I hesitate to add more until I pare it down a bit.

  • Reply
    Gary Griffith
    November 29, 2021 at 11:08 am

    I barely remember the last time we killed hogs on our farm. My daddy always regretted that he did not get to show me how to cut up a hog. I remember him often saying that they got the hogs really fat back them , because folks thought you had to have 2 or 3 50-pound cans of lard to make it through the winter. And I remember the women commenting that it was a long hard day of work. I also have the book.

  • Reply
    Sandra McDonald
    November 29, 2021 at 10:45 am

    One of my cousins had come to visit near hog killin time, and she wanted everything to be a pet. She got especially taken with one of the smaller hogs and named him Bobby.
    Well, the next time she came to visit of course Bobby was gone. The only way to console her was to tell her Bobby had gone to Florida.
    Well the next month her family went on a trip.
    And she called my Granny all excited because they had stopped at a gas station, and she saw Bobby on a trailer! She had to go over and talk to him. So her mother remembered to tell her he was on his way to Florida.
    My cousin told him to have fun and send her a postcard!

    • Reply
      November 29, 2021 at 2:28 pm

      Ha! What a great story!

  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    November 29, 2021 at 10:41 am

    I remember us killing hogs…I remember the big tree in the back yard where one limb was perfect to hoist up the pig…the big galvanized tub of boiling water nearby and rough table for the cutting up. It was always done after the first deep frost, and a woman could not be around it to do any helping if she was having her monthly flow.( it was believed that her contact then would spoil the meat)…so timing was important. I remember helping to form and fry the sage sausage patties and putting them in canning jars so mommy could pour in the hot grease to cover the patties. We did no other thing to the jars and they kept fine. …I remember mommy showing me how you could fry a potato in the lard to take that pig taste out of it. I am like Ron, sometimes all these experiences seem like they belong to another person’s life…they are so removed from my life each day now I was however having a deja vu monent last week as I was readying for Thanksgiving guests, I hung my tablecloths on the line outside in the cold sunshine . It was colder than I thought….the clothes felt like ice in my hands!! in winter…now I remember how that felt ! I am definitely above my raising…but I remember all that work . And when I go back to my old homeplace , I sometimes step in a sunk in spot in the yard and think …oh this is where our hog killing tree was…or step in a low spot on the other side of the yard and remember the outhouse. I remember it all cause THIS apple is never far from the tree.

  • Reply
    Kenneth Ryan
    November 29, 2021 at 10:28 am

    Hog killings bring back great memories for me. I would love to read the book!

  • Reply
    William Dotson
    November 29, 2021 at 10:19 am

    I experienced a lot of hog killing days over the years, the last year Dad killed hogs was 1988, he killed one for me and my brother, that’s the year I built a smoke house and he brought all the meat to me and we cured it and I really miss those days.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 29, 2021 at 10:07 am

    I remember a bunch of us going to Uncle Lon’s house and being invited to the back to see his hog. I had seen hundreds of hog’s before but I went along anyway. The pen was a little on the small size for a grown hog I thought. When I looked over the side of the pen there was a hog in there alright. Nothing but hog. That was the biggest hog I have ever seen. It filled the whole pen. Every nook and cranny was full of hog. That thing was bigger than a cow. A big cow!
    That animal was so fat it couldn’t stand up. It was all it could do to raise it’s head to eat. I wasn’t there when it was killed but was told they had to tear down the pen to get it out. I don’ know what the yield was, I doubt anybody could have weighed it. Not in one piece anyway.
    Why would anyone raise a pig to that size? Back then fat was an important part of their diet. They had no money to buy Crisco, corn oil, canola oil, olive oil, etc. So they relied on lard for biscuits, cakes, pies, gravy and cornbread. Almost every thing they ate had pork fat in it. Wasn’t that bad for their hearts? Well no. Many times they had weight problems but unlike people today their problem was keeping their weight, not losing it.

  • Reply
    Sharon Cole
    November 29, 2021 at 9:59 am

    Today is actually my birthday. My Mother would tell me the story of my Dad killing hogs on my birthday. She said my Grandpa had to go get my Dad so they could get Mother to the hospital. Oh by the way, that was 71 years ago today!! Take care and God bless.

  • Reply
    Patti Tappel
    November 29, 2021 at 9:52 am

    For a city girl and marrying into a farm family was a whole new experience for me. I married the oldest of 8 children, with 7 younger ones at home, hog killing day was huge. Usually there were 5 or more hogs killed.

    My first experience was when they carried the dishpan of blood across the road and told me to stir it, and DON’T let it clot. Little did I know it would go into the sausage making later in the day.

    Then there was the silly sister who would try anything on a dare and popped the pig eyeball into her mouth.

    Next was grandma cleaning intestines to put sausage in.

    By this time I was ready to go home for a bologna sandwich, I wanted nothing to do with that hog. Little did I know!

  • Reply
    GoodGriefLouise ( Bill )
    November 29, 2021 at 9:48 am

    I barely remember as a kid living on a farm in East Texas when we had a hog killin day. It was all day long and my granddaddy said at the end of the day they used every part of that hog except the squeal. Me and my brothers overheard a conversation once about making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. It doesn’t work today any more than it did back then. I know I saw at least one of your recipe videos from the “Smokehouse Ham Spoon Bread & Scuppernong Wine” by Joseph E. Dabney. So, I bought it and have enjoyed reading it. Still not through though. I looked up Scuppernong and discovered that this grape is the same as what we in Texas call Muscadine grapes and they make wine out of it as well but more importantly is the delicious jelly that can be found on some grocery shelves around here.

    Prayers to Randy

    • Reply
      November 29, 2021 at 12:17 pm

      Daddy liked to joke and say even the squeal was sold to General Motors. In the older GM cars when the bodies were made by Fischer the doors would squeak when opened or closed.

  • Reply
    Angela J Short
    November 29, 2021 at 9:36 am

    Thank you for sharing about this book. It sounds very interesting! angielovesgary2 atgmail dotcom

  • Reply
    Mary Anne Johnson
    November 29, 2021 at 9:32 am

    I absolutely hated hog killing day. I used to have to go with my dad to the hog pen to shoot the pig. Last time I remember I was 11 years old and then the pen was in the middle of a cornfield where the corn at all been chopped. I turned around to run and tripped and fell over a corn stubble cutting my bottom lip in half. I ran to the back door of our house and when my mother opened the door seeing all the down my chin and onto my shirt, She fainted. Of course I didn’t go to the doctor my dad medicated my lip and taped it and in three weeks time it was better. But I never had to go back to anothe hog killing
    my dad saw to that.

  • Reply
    Pastor Lon
    November 29, 2021 at 9:31 am

    Oh yea, I can remember some of those hog killin days as a youngster, my Grandaddy and many of the other folks (Men, Women& Children) in the community coming together on those days making it a joint effort because it was so much work involved. Plus that’s what community/country folks done back then they always helped one another out. I was so young that I really didn’t have to do much of the physical work but I have great memories of those days gone by. It was a lot of work those old timers made it FUN!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    November 29, 2021 at 9:26 am

    Tipper–Although I have the book and don’t need to be entered in the drawing, I would simply note for your other readers that as an author of cookbooks in my own right and someone who is keenly interested in the food ways of Appalachia, Joe Dabney’s book is exceptional. Not only is it chock full of recipes from scores if not hundreds of mountain cooks, he shares numerous anecdotes and tales connected with food. In my studied opinion (and there are numerous other fine cookbooks focusing on Appalachia from Farr, Lundy, and a whole bunch of others), this is the finest thing out there. The fact that it won a James Beard award attests to its merits, and someone is going to be mighty happy when they win it.

  • Reply
    November 29, 2021 at 9:23 am

    I have already commented, but I would like to add one more thing, my grandaddy did not want or let anyone else render out the lard. With him and I think this would be true with other families too, he had a great fear of scorching the lard because anything it would be used in would have a scorched taste if you did. I never cared for the cracklings made from cooking out the lard.

  • Reply
    Angelyn McLain
    November 29, 2021 at 9:08 am

    I have never experienced a hog killing. I know several people who did this but was not present for the actual doins. My freezer and my family benefited from it though. I have a picture of my Great Granddaddy Dodson standing beside one that they had strung up on a rope. It really showed how big the hog was and how tall Granddaddy was. He was 6’4”!

  • Reply
    November 29, 2021 at 8:59 am

    Dad killed a hog every fall when I was at home. He would have to wait until several neighbors or relatives could come help. The helpers were glad to be a part of the hog killing, as they knew they would go home with a fresh mess of ham for their family.
    The hog killing and watching mom wring a chicken’s neck didn’t bother me back then, but it would make a good excuse to become a vegetarian if I experienced it now.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    November 29, 2021 at 8:58 am

    I remember hog-killin days. That would have been late 50’s and/or early 60’s. As others have written here, it was a big production. Start early, work late with a job for all hands. Ours was sometime in November.

    Looking back and remembering now it seems in some ways as if it was a story told by others about somebody else. So very much and so very great change in my lifetime thus far. Goodness gracious !

    I think now my Dad could have been well content as a self-sufficient farmer. But he never really had that chance. Our homeplace was too small and too ‘sidelin’. And lifeways had already passed into requiring ‘cash money’ so it was too late unless one went backwards, or as is now said ‘off the grid’.

  • Reply
    Kathy Gautier
    November 29, 2021 at 8:52 am

    I was always allowed to stay out of school for Hog Killing Day. We started out early on a cold morning at the vat to scrape the hogs and then on to the cutting up. We made souse meat, cooked out lard and cracklins, stuffed sausage, made liver pudding and got everything ready for the big lunch. We made biscuits and fried up tenderloin and then we had “sausage hamburgers” for supper! It was divine! Then we cured the hams and shoulders and hung in the smoke house when they were ready. It was a lot of hard work, but a good time was had by all (and a good meal). Thanks again for another memory brought to the front of mind.

  • Reply
    November 29, 2021 at 8:26 am

    I have a copy, so do not want to be entered to win. But I just wanted to say “Smokehouse Ham” is one of my favorite books.
    I found it in a little mountain store seven years ago. Loving old family stories and wishing I was Laura Ingalls when I was little, I was immediately captivated. After moving to the mountains I gave a copy of the book to my new neighbor who was a huge help in getting settled and who became a dear friend. Our first foray guided by the book was making blackberry wine, and we are still making it and using some of the other recipies.

  • Reply
    Colleen Holmes
    November 29, 2021 at 8:22 am

    We ate hogmaw(the pig’s stomach). I remember it was delicious, but have no idea what was in it. That was many many years ago.

  • Reply
    Wanda Bramlett
    November 29, 2021 at 8:17 am

    I can remember hog killing when I was a child. It was a big day with a lot of work to be done. I don’t remember how old I was, but I was young enough not to have to do the hard work and so got to watch. I remember the big cast iron pot on a fire outside, sausage and cracklins. In later years the hogs were taken to the “locker plant” to be killed.

  • Reply
    November 29, 2021 at 8:07 am

    When I was young I can remember my Grandpa killing a hog or two around Thanksgiving. I’ve thought about raising a hog for this purpose, but haven’t got around to it. Please enter my name in the drawing for the book, sounds like another interesting book to read.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    November 29, 2021 at 7:50 am

    I remember an old couple in their 80’s when I was about 5. They had a big farm on the Virginia side of this mountain with a spring with fish in it, a greenhouse, a splendid apple orchard and hogs as big as a VW bus (almost.) We could go look but were strictly warned not to put any body parts in the hog pen to attempt to “pet the piggies.” It was made clear they could pull a child in and eat him or her!!! I loved going up there and slopping hogs is something to see. There would be literal dish water in that slop. As a kid, you’re just taken aback by it all, ya know???? I’d give a toe ( almost) for a fresh side of pork—-farm fresh delicious! I’ve been in kitchens that have large hooks and have been told these held pork sides and bovine sides for domestic use. What a hoot that would’ve been, huh? Getting plenty of meat whenever you wanted and no refrigeration or stores or inflation or GMO… that was the life don’t you guess???

    • Reply
      Wanda Devers
      November 29, 2021 at 11:06 am

      I would love to have the book.

      Margie, I think my grandmother (Mama’s mother) must have had one of those hooks because Mama would talk about Grandmother cutting off a piece of ham to cook for breakfast. My M-I-L’s mother had a family of nine to care for and my M-I-L said her mother would pay in bacon to hire help with all the household stuff–I believe maybe the washing. I’d wash, too if I could have some good old-timey bacon!

  • Reply
    Bill Rich
    November 29, 2021 at 7:50 am

    I remember hog killings when i was a child, and how happy and proud I was as a young married man when my dad and his brother came to help me with my own hog killing. Scalding, scraping and taking the hog apart, showing my young son where each dinner part came from. Watching my dad create sausage and souse, and helping my mom render lard to fill mason jars with snowy white goodness. We even froze the cracklins for mixing into cornbread later that winter. Maybe I’ll get to pass the knowledge on to my grandson before I myself pass on.

    • Reply
      Donna Brewton
      November 29, 2021 at 10:05 am

      Hog Killing Time sounds like a lot of work for the grownups!! Would love to have the book to read & imagine with. Thanks for the tales of yore….. or do folks still kill & dress their own hogs?

  • Reply
    Marilee J Godsil
    November 29, 2021 at 7:24 am

    My Grandma J had some stories for me about her childhood. She said her job at hog killing time was to keep a good stir going on a pot of hog blood. It really horrified me that my petite gram had this job! Bless her. She would be 137 years old.

  • Reply
    Matt Thompson
    November 29, 2021 at 7:23 am

    Oh man this brings back memories. I’ve been to one hog killing when I was a child and it was a huge shindig. We had one of the old cast iron vats, about 4ft around, filled with hot water to scald and a smaller pot filled with oil for frying. Butchering hogs always took place in the winter on a cold day. I lived in North Florida so a cold day is anything below 40, but above freezing. My grandfather would use ice cream to lure the pig to the area where we were working, kill it, and then 3 or 4 men would begin shaving, scalding, bleeding, and butchering. My grandmother would be waiting for fat back to make lard and cracklings while other women would be waiting to process and cook other parts. It was like an assembly line of people and I remember processing 3 or 4 that day. Early morning start and ran into late evening. Wow this and boiling down sugar cane are some great memories.

  • Reply
    Kimberly Moore
    November 29, 2021 at 7:16 am

    My brother-in-law’s family of SC raise and butcher pigs on their family farm. They provided bbq for the wedding festivities. Unbeatable.
    Years ago my then boyfriend and I went to a banjo party in NC. On a bathroom visit I was more than shocked to find our supper was marinating in the bathtub. Oink oink

    • Reply
      Linnie K
      November 29, 2021 at 9:43 am

      I remember two hog-killing days in my childhood in Louisiana. My uncle and neighbors got together for the day’s work as did the wives who did their job in the kitchen.
      When it came time to hang and kill the hog all of us kids ran into the house and covered our ears. The best part of the whole thing for me was the cracklins Mom put in her cornbread. She’d keep them in the deep freezer and I was always sneaking some out to eat.

  • Reply
    November 29, 2021 at 7:14 am

    I remember the hog killing days. There would be two hogs killed, one for us and one for my grandparents, each one weighting at least 500 lbs. Unlike today of the 225-250 lbs hog, they wanted them good and fat. My grandmother would also make sousemeat and liver mush. When I was a child I made myself sick by eating so much fresh hog liver at a meal.. Even though that was many years ago, I still do not eat liver, I would not even use it for catfish bait. I can still see my granddaddy rendering out the fat for lard in two cast iron pots that were also used by grandmother for washing their clothes. I now have these pots. I am now fighting depression and often think of the past, I find myself wishing there was a way of going back. The last week has been very hard for me and I did not comment about the smokehouse. We had a small building that was called a smokehouse even though we never smoked our hams.They were put into a heavy wooden box along with the shoulders and sidemeat and covered in salt and left until early spring before being washed off and being hung up on a nail and string in the smokehouse.

    The last week of Thanksgiving has been very hard, this is the first time in 50 years my wife was not with me. Please keep my family in your prayers. We also lost two other family members since last year.

    • Reply
      November 29, 2021 at 8:19 am

      Randy-I’ll continue to pray for you.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 29, 2021 at 6:59 am

    I did not grow up around hog killing but when I was married to Papa Tony his family killed hogs most every year. I was fascinated with the whole process…at least the part I was allowed to see. The women were not welcome where the killing and butchering was done. While the men were out around the fire and cutting up the meat the women were inside the house where the men brought dishpans full of meat and bones for the women to process and preserve.
    It’s really interesting to watch and it takes two or three days to get the meat all processed. It is also a lot of hard work for everyone involved.

  • Reply
    John Hart
    November 29, 2021 at 6:53 am

    Liver pudding is the best!

  • Reply
    Martha D Justice
    November 29, 2021 at 6:48 am

    I remember hog killing days from my childhood. Daddy and Grandpa would get a big fire going in the wash pot they had filled with water. Then they would go and get the pig from the pen, one shot right between the eyes , the pig felt no pain. They would douse it with near boiling water, scrape it and gut it. Now to cut it up and start rendering out the lard, my favorite job. I stirred that pot carefully so as not to splash out the hot lard. I would eat as many crackling as I could hold fresh out of the pot with a sprinkle of salt. I am so grateful for this memory.

  • Reply
    Wandena Swartz
    November 29, 2021 at 6:29 am

    I remember hog killing day at my grandparents farm. Granny and Grandpa weren’t always in agreement about whether or not it was cold enough but Grandpa made the decision. It was so much work. Once they started cutting up the meat a big pork loin was sent to the house to start cooking to go with a big pan of biscuits for pork loin sandwiches for lunch. Best food ever!

  • Reply
    Sandra henderson
    November 29, 2021 at 6:25 am

    I remember when daddy killed porky n Arnold, what I thought were pet pigs.
    Oh, I knew they were not pets. Still, I was young and became attached to aaalllllll our animals.
    It was simply life on a farm…
    I’m glad he taught us how to be self sufficient.
    My husband use to hunt wild hogs and deer and go quail n pheasant hunting.
    I sure miss having freezers full to go to now.

    Your thankful giveaways have really led me to some good books!

  • Leave a Reply