Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I've been to more festive pig slaughters.

It is always a lot of work for everyone involved when a pig is slaughtered but when you do it on a rainy, windy, 30 degree day people's temperaments get a bit strained. I can't imagine a worse day, weatherwise, to kill a pig than last Saturday.

I'm from a rural town in Wisconsin. There, a popular party is a pig roast. Those of you who have been to a pig roast - forget it. A pig slaughter is nothing like a roast, well, except that the pig ends up dead after both events and the people attending dine on pork. A slaughter is not a party, although there are a lot of people there and a lot of eating and drinking goes on. A slaughter is work.

Before anything, you must understand that we are talking here about a pig whose body is as wide as my kitchen table and longer. In other words, huge.

The work begins very very early - this is the men's part. They kill the pig, shave it, rub it down with boiling water and lemons, then start operating (ie: cutting it into workable parts). I don't know all the intricacies of this phase of the process since, as I said it's men's work and, while everyone is nice to me when I pop in for a visit, I'm really not supposed to be there. This I understand by the stares that David gives me when I do show up. That and the fact that all the women are in the house no where near this. I'm really observant, no?

This is the women's part:
Yes, those would be the innards being cleaned for sausage casing. (I can't wait for the day when technology has progressed to scratch and sniff pictures. Boy would you all be in for a treat if you could smell that one above. ) I won't go into a detailed description of just how the stomach and intestines are cut from the pig, then carefully cut apart from the maze they are in into one long tube (10meters to be exact when stretched out) and then how they have to have gallons of water flushed through them to get "the big stuff" out, and then how they need to be washed and washed and washed, turning them inside and out with lemon juice, vinegar and salt. I won't go into all that because unless you see it you won't believe that people go to this much work for something they can buy in any butcher in town. OK Ok, any of you knitters out there would understand that part. How many times have you heard from a non-knitter, "why don't you just go out and buy a sweater - it's cheaper and a lot less work" . Hello, not the same thing. And my two friends say the same about the real casing versus the purchased stuff. This year I was actually able to help (it's my 3rd year). I still haven't actually touched the stuff (maybe next year) but I did convince the women to use my kitchen to do the cleaning. As it was freakin' freezing, frosimminent their hands was immenent as they held them under the ice cold water (getting the "big stuff" out). My kitchen has heat (even if it was only a space heater - pellet problem persists) and warm running water. We have an electric hot water heater so after 3 hours of washing and rewashing innards, even my hot water ran out but at least there were 3 hours.

After this was over, we all did this for the remainder of the day:


  1. that's as interesting a description of a pig being butchered as i've ever read or heard. i'm also from wisconsin and i think i prefer a pig roast. question---why don't you italians just buy the casing??? you can still butcher the poor thing and not have to go thru the bad part. just can't tell those hard headed italians anything

  2. i'm back. must talk about the heating situation. when do you guess the pellets will be available? i'm getting more than a little nervous, although you did look good sitting on your patio in shirt sleeves. time for another hair cut???? just checking

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