Food Products from a Hog-killing

Original Airdate: November 1 (2011)

This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Kim Patterson.

Each autumn in the early part of the twentieth century, many southerners made time for a hog-killing. The slaughter offered a change in diet but more importantly yielded enough food to help families get through the winter.

Longtime Waco resident Louise Murphy recalls that hog-killing was a family affair, with even children given responsibilities:

"They give me the intestines. I had to go get me some water, put them intestines in a pan of water. Then I had to get me a—a jar of something, get water in, hold his intestine up, and pour till it was clean on the inside. Then I put him on the table, and I would scrape him. I'd scrape him. I'd get a hairpin and put over, and I'd bring all that stuff out until you could see through that intestine just as clear as it could be. And that's what we stuffed our sausage in."

Murphy describes a few hog delicacies:

"The brains. I had a brother-in-law that had to have them brains and scrambled eggs. And my dad would save the liver and the lights. And my mother would go in and put her big pan on. And she put liver and lights, cook them together."

"Lights" refers to the lungs of the hog. Thomas Wayne Harvey of Waco remembers how his father handled the meat:

"Dad would hang the hog up, and he would quarter it out. And he had a wooden fifty-five-gallon barrel there, and it was—about four inches in the bottom was full of salt. And then he'd put a slab of bacon and then cover that with salt and then another slab of bacon and cover that with salt. And it was always all salt, pork and salt, hog all the way up to the top. And then his hams, they put all kind of seasoning on the hams they got over there. And he had a brand new tow sack bag. And they put that ham in there, and they hung it up. He'd go out there and tend to that ham. And by the time Christmas got there, you could take a ham and cut the tow sack off, and you could eat the ham raw because it was cured. It was really definely or divinely(??) cured."

The attitude in a hog-killing was waste not, want not, as Harvey explains:

"Most of the hide they made pork rinds out of—hog hides, nowadays you call them, but back then you call them cracklings. And then, of course, they used the meat out of the head for mincemeat. Even the—the feet was put in a solution, and the hooves was taken off of them, the hide was taken off of them for pig's feet, and they'd pickle pig's feet. About the only thing was left of the hog that was never (laughs) cured or treated was the tail, as far as I know."

Hog-killings as performed in the early 1900s have largely disappeared over the years. But some enthusiasts of homegrown, old-fashioned hog products still carry out the tradition.

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