Now, I've been around Boot Stompers since I was about 8-years-old. So I contacted the editor, and wrote this piece for submission.
In return I got my first rejection letter, that wasn't from a romantic interest, in about 15 years!
She said my writing style was "Too Belligerent..."
How Awesome is that?!
I'm too Belligerent for a Punk Magazine!
So, With that in mind, here is everything I can tell you about Butchering your first hog.
I was at the big commercial farm store in town the other day and the cashier was trying to be sociable. She made some comment about this week's cold snap. I politely told her that though I detest any weather that prevents swimming, this batch of Tennessee weather was well timed, as I had a hog to butcher this weekend.
“You're going to kill and butcher it yourself?” she said with an obvious tone of both surprise and disdain.
“I could never do that!” she said. “I cry if I run over a squirrel.”
“I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess, then, that you’ve never raised a fucking pig,” I said matter-of-factly.
With shock in her voice, she said, “No, no I haven’t.”
“No, of course not, because if you had, you’d understand why putting a bullet in that bastard’s head is going to be the highlight of my month.”
I’m pretty sure once I left she reported me to the ASPCA...
Not a pet. Not a Friend.
But seriously, pigs are not cute. Though this one does look like a guy I use to know. Pigs are contemptible, obnoxious, invasive, destructive eating machines. They are not your friend. Don’t believe me? Get around one with the smell of blood on you (any smell of blood, ladies) or try feeding one by hand.
What pigs are, though, is living bacon. And that’s why we’re here today.
So, as my granddaddy use to say, “Let's get on with this hog killin’, I got shit to do...”
Now, to start with, I’m no expert. I don’t have a degree in swine anatomy with a culinary minor. And to be honest, this is my first time dropping and parting out one of these big bastards. I have processed probably 100 deer in my life though, and God knows what else that walks, crawls, swims or flies.
I’ve read a lot, talked to some old guys (and one Yankee chick with a bunch of big dogs) and I’m confident I’ve got this. And if I don’t, at least you have a front-row seat when I screw up!
Maybe you’re thinking, “Why the Hell would I want to go through all this for bacon?” To which I say, “It’s friggin’ bacon!” And you could, even if you raise your own hog, send it out to be butchered, but a big part of homesteading is being frugal and self-sufficient; having someone else do your dirty work is neither.
Co-staring in today’s show is my assistant and ex-wife E. She’s never done anything like this before, but she’s probably the one person on the planet more ready and eager to pack Francis (give yourself a point if you get that reference) off to freezer camp than I am! By a draw of straws we decided I’ll be doing the shooting and she’ll be doing the stabbing.
Maybe unconventional, but effective, the Stiletto was an Easter present from my grandfather the year I turned 13. Twenty-nine years later I found a practical use for a 5.5” “pig sticker.”
Why both? Do we really hate the pig that bad? We do. But there are practical reasons too.
Unlike a deer, a pig has to be bled thoroughly and quickly. And since it’s hard to get the pig in a position where it’s still enough to simply cut and bleed it out, he needs to be stunned. This can be done with a sledgehammer if you have the pig in a tight enough space to ensure a good clean hit on the first try. But if you don’t, then a quick headshot is preferable.
Mentally draw an X between the top of the ears and the eyes, and be sure you shoot toward the back feet instead of straight down. If you shoot down, you may put the bullet in his sinuses and really piss him off rather than kill him.
If done right, the pig will effectively be dead, but his heart won’t know it for about three minutes, giving you time to open him up and bleed him out.
Most old-timers do this with a .22, but I wanted to make sure I had some margin of error and decided to go with a bigger caliber. That, and I’m a fan of using the biggest tool possible for any job! So, the .357 Mag it is.
This all went well. Francis went down. E jumped on him, plunged and pulled, and jumped back just in time for Francis’s last dance. And it was a beauty! He jerked, he flopped, he stood up and bucked like a bronco, threw himself ass over teakettle down the hill for about a minute. I couldn’t help but hum a few bars of “Devil's Dance Floor.”
Before you start tearing up, it was all nerves. He was dead as he was ever gonna be a millisecond after his little pig brain was going, “What’s that in his ha...”
Once he was down and still, we opened him up like any other critter, from stem to stern, being extra careful not to cut any of the guts open.
Note: make sure you look up how to and be sure you free and tie off the large intestine where it exits the pig.
That’s not usually a necessity with deer. They poop raisinets. But it’s a pretty important step when working on a pig. Ask me how I know.
My little band of Akita/Border Collie pups are trying to figure out what to do with their first fresh pig ear. It worked well to keep them from getting under foot while we were working.
I think we have a future Pig Hunter in the pack!
This is Sausage (You'll have to ask Z), and she ain't scared of nuthin'!
With the guts free you can pick out the bits you want. You want the fat! Both kinds, the leaf fat and the caul. Leaf fat is more solid and flaky; caul is more gelatinous, kinda spider-webby. I personally refuse to eat filtering organs, but I decided to keep the liver, kidneys, lungs and heart to make dog treats, and just maybe to see if I can get any of the stoners I know to eat liver brownies.
Now you have to decide if you want to dip or skin. We chose to skin. So we hung Francis on a gambrel attached to a block and tackle in the shade of the carport. You can also skin a pig on the ground or a worktable, but I'm sticking with what I know.
Would you look at the cut E made?!
Once he was hung, we split the sternum and the hip and halfway down the length of the spine with a reciprocating saw to promote drainage and cooling. Then I cut off the jowls (many argue that jowls make the best bacon) and finally removed the head. Then we stuffed him with two bags of ice and went in to render the leaf fat and caul.
E finishing up the skinning after Francis had a little time to cool off.
To render the lard from the fat, separate the two kinds of fat and wash them in cold water. Leaf fat makes a higher grade lard that is better for baking. Caul is more for pan frying (once you’re out of everything else), wrapping pate and soap making.
To render lard, put several ounces of water in a heavy pot, Dutch oven or frying pan. Once it is just above simmering, cut or pull the fat into about one-inch pieces or smaller, and add to the water. As you stir occasionally, the fat will render, the water will evaporate and the bits will turn into golden brown cracklins. Once you have cracklins, strain the lard through cheesecloth into a heat-safe bowl.
A pot full of rendering lard looks surprisingly like a pot of chicken and dumplings. Be sure to keep the temperature just warm enough to melt the fat and evaporate the water. If it’s too hot you can scald the lard.
Cracklins go great in cornbread!
Once the lard is cool enough, put it in freezer-safe lidded cups and toss it in the cooler. It’ll keep a few weeks in the fridge or ’til you need it if frozen.