Time To Kentucky Farms
Wilson, Ph.D. - 1940
As I begin
this article, in November, it is hog-killing weather with brisk,
cold air, clear skies, and the promise of several days of the
same sort of temperature. It is not late enough in the season,
however, to kill more than one small hog to furnish fresh meat
for the family. I must admit that I do not know how much the
science and art of hogkilling has changed since my last contact
with it. I do know that some neighborhoods have a central slaughtering
place, but I would guess that the standardized festival of my
childhood is much the same.
are still popular in some communities of Kentucky. Amos Richardson,
second from right, a skillful pork butcher for many years, raised
this 500-pound hog. These friends and neighbors got together
on December 10, 2009, at Amos' farm located on Marcum Fork Road,
Breathitt County, Kentucky, for the butchering process. From
left is George Watts, Ledford Lovins, Amos, and Samuel Faulkner.
Amos is well-known in his community for his carpentry and farming
expertise and is still today a firm believer in raising most
of the food he consumes.
(Photo courtesy of Amos Richardson, Jackson, Kentucky.)
Sleeping was hardly necessary the night before this great annual
event. We had spent the day before in making preparations: cutting
sticks, putting up a scaffold, sharpening the knives, placing
a barrel for scalding, getting the big kettles ready, and building
the heap of wood that was to form the fire with several old bits
of scrap iron on it. We got up, like the women in Proverbs, while
it was yet dark and started our fire. Soon after an early breakfast
the neighbors, with whom we were swapping work came to help,
often bringing their wives or daughters with them. Quite early
in the morning, as soon as we felt the water was hot enough and
the irons hotter still, the slaughter began. Killing the hogs
and sticking them were arts that every farm boy and man knew.
The sun would be still far toward the east when the scalding
We poured some of the hot water into the scalding barrel and
then threw in some of the superheated irons, causing a great
splutter and popping. It takes great skill to scald hogs properly.
The skillful scalder, who is always represented in each neighborhood,
tests the effectiveness of the water, a common way being to try
the tail first; if the hair slips off well, then the hog is well
scalded. Scraping the scalded hog left a black deposit on our
hands that only time would remove; soap, even homemade lye soap,
was powerless with this blackness.
We hung the scraped hogs on our scaffold and proceeded to gut
them. Then the bodies hung and chilled through while we stopped
for dinner. After dinner came the cutting-up process. The whole
hogs soon were divided into lard, sausage meat, spare ribs, backbones,
heads, hams, shoulders, and middlings. I have seen great artistry
displayed in cutting up the meat, artistry that was so common
that no one realized that it was artistry. The small boys could
be useful for storing the joints away, until the salting down
would take place in the smokehouse after supper. The afternoon
and much of the night, with often adjourned sessions the next
day, were spent in grinding sausage and rendering lard. The neighbors
usually departed after the meat was cut up, taking some, of course
for their own use.
On into the night turned the sausage grinder, a vicious machine
that contained fearful knives and a heavy metal core. The modern
food choppers had not then arrived. Rendering lard required the
patience of Job. Sausage was sacked and later smoked in the smokehouse.
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