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History Early Settlers Pioneer Hog Butchering


Pioneer Hog Butchering

The early pioneers in the watershed raised pigs for food. Pork was their main meat. Wild game like deer, turkey and sometimes bear would also be killed and eaten. Pigs grazed in the woods and savannas (grassy plains with widely scattered trees) during those years before fencing, eating acorns and roots. The hogs were either community property and slaughtered by a group of neighbors who had invested in them, or they were owned by individuals and branded for identification. 

  Hog butchering was done in the cold weather so the meat wouldn't spoil while it was being prepared. It was best if they had been fed some corn in their last few weeks, both to fatten them and to make them easier to catch. Corn might be put out by a spring where the pigs would be sure to find it. 

Salting and Smoking 

After the hog was killed and bled it was scalded to make the hair easy to remove. The bristly hair was scraped off, then the hog was hung from a tree so the innards could be cut out of it. Hams, shoulders and sides of bacon were cut. These pieces were salted and put in the smokehouse for several days.

After salting for awhile the meat was hung from the smokehouse rafters. A small fire of hickory wood was made in the smokehouse and the meat was cured for days in the hickory smoke. Cured meat would keep for a long time in hot weather without spoiling.

Sausage, headcheese and souse would be made from the other parts of the hog. Souse was made by cooking the ears, head and feet together. Lard was rendered from the fatty parts by boiling it in a kettle and straining out the crumbly renderings. Lard was the principal source of cooking fat, and was stored in the cellar in wooden or metal tubs. The renderings, called "cracklin's," were used to flavor cornbread. 

Related Articles
Modern Hog Raising:

Hogs and Feeder Pigs in the Ozarks

Local Hog Farmer Steve Young
Photo Story: Steve Young's Pig Farm
  Sources: Garden Sass: A Catalogue of Arkansas Folkways,Nancy McDonough Coward, McCann and Geoghegan, 1975, and The Black Kettle Ride, Cinita Brown, Ozark Publishing, 1997.