Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Farm Life

A newspaper has a description of farm life involving pigs, lard, etc.

Here's the part about the lard:

When it came time to butcher hogs, "three or four farmers would get together," Ted recalled.

Mr. Corne and Frank Clymer would often help at his father's farm, "usually in late fall, when it got cold. Hopefully, they'd pick a good day to do the killing."

The hog would be killed and hung up in a tree until it bled out, then lowered into a barrel of scalding water.

"They'd pull it out and scrape the hair (off) real quick," Ted said. "Grandma would spend all day cleaning the intestines to make the sausage," Ted said.

That required a board with a knife and patient scraping.

Hams and tenderloins would be cut and hung in the smokehouse. The rest of the pig would be turned into sausage.

Meanwhile, grandpa would render the pig fat into lard for cooking. The fat would be boiled in a big tub of water.

"He'd pull the fire out and put it back in so it wouldn't scald it," Ted explained. (Scalding would give the lard a funny taste and darkness.)

When it was about ready, grandpa would put the lard in a container and squeeze it down like apples in a cider press.

"The cracklings would fall out when they squeezed the lard out of it," he said.

Under his grandpa's care, the properly cooked lard "would be snow white," Ted said, "because it would never be burned."

Having been to a traditional pig-killing before, I've got the following thoughts:

It is very important to kill pigs on the right day. If you'll be outside, you want it cold but not too cold. You don't want snow or rain.

If your pigs have been infested with worms, Grandma won't have to clean the intestines, because the guts will be useless.

Did they really smoke the tenderloins? I've never heard of anyone doing that.

I'm impressed they were so concerned with keeping the lard snow white. I don't understand their bit about the fire, the scalding and the lard - but I've only rendered lard on a stove, not an outdoor fire.

They don't have much to say about what they fed the hogs to get the best fat. But that makes sense - Americans generally haven't been quality-sensitive when it comes to pork. People killing their own hogs in the 1940s were broke.

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