Saturday, February 19, 2011

Butchering the Homestead Hog

Last weekend we butchered our second hog. Having done the same thing only a month and a half before, the process was streamlined and went much smoother this time around. It didn't hurt either that we had some of our best friends here to help us with the process.
We started at about 9am and were finished by 4pm. Everything was cut, wrapped and cleaned up. We did take the bellies and one leg to Taylor's to have them smoke the meat into bacon and ham. Taylor's offers a celery salt cure which is chemically nitrate/nitrite free. There are naturally occurring nitrates in celery salt. While we would like to be able to smoke our own meat and some point (Gavin has a smoker that is out at his parents) we just don't know much about it to feel knowledgeable enough to start. *There's a whole nother homesteading skill I'd like to acquire!*
Here are some pictures of how our day went. Warning: these may be graphic to some, totally normal to others. If you don't like the sight of blood or gutting an animal then please do not proceed.

Getting started: Gavin had already shot the pig and Ida is getting it nice and clean. Timber is looking on.

Gavin digging the hole for the guts. You can just take your guts to the dump but if you have the room on your property to bury them it certainly saves money and time.
Gavin and Rob beginning to gut the hog.
This is what the kids did for the gutting part. They built a fire and played. Once in a while they'd come over to see how it was going. We feel that it's important not only for our children to know where their meat comes from, but to have an appreciation for the animal and to know the work that goes into getting that meat to your table. With grocery stores now a days, I think we are far too removed from how the food we are eating, especially when it comes to meat, got to our plates.
Gutting the hog.
Removing the heart and lungs.
Skinning the hog. Now, most people don't skin hogs, they scald them. We are very new to the process of processing hogs so Gavin has just went with what he knows how to do well from hunting, and that is skinning. We could get the large drum of boiling water and scald it but we haven't ventured there yet. If you have any good tips or experiences with scalding hogs that you can share, pleas do share!

After the guys had skinned it, Ida and I went over the carcass and trimmed as much fat off as we could to make lard.

Removing the forelegs. Ida and I then went into the house and started cutting up meat. The guys continued outside taking the hog apart piece by piece. At that point I got a little sidetracked with it all and forgot to take many more photos!

Our backwoods butcher shop.

Some ribs and one belly reading for wrapping.

We buy butcher's paper at our local hardware store to wrap our meat. We cut the shoulders and one leg into roasts, the bellies go for bacon, the tenderloin, ribs, and chops are cut and wrapped, the other leg goes for smoking, and the rest is ground for use in sausage patties, tacos, etc. I have read a bit about making head cheese but I think my husband is too grossed out about it for me to try. Have any of you ever eaten head cheese? Or made it yourself? What did you think of it?

The Foxfire Book is a fantastic backwoods homesteading book that we've used as reference quite often when it come to butchering hogs. If you don't already own it, I'd recommend investing in it at some point.

If you have any good hog butchering tips or stories, I'd love to hear about them.


Heather's Blog-o-rama said...

Well, it's interesting to see the process, that's for sure. I think this is a good post, because it's important to see where our food comes from too :) :) Now you 'll have lots of good meat to feed your family :) :) When I can afford it, i buy organic bacon at my local Fred Meyer. It's so good and way less salty than regular brands :) :) Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather :)

Unknown said...

So cool! We hope to be able to do pigs in the near future too...always another thing to add to our journey of being self sufficient. :) I love the whole process...and enjoyed seeing how you processed your pig. Our kids are apart of EVERY part of our food production, like you, we feel it is VERY important to know what goes into the food we eat. Thanks for posting this! Enjoy that bacon. :)

Christa said...

We've only done chickens so far but hope to do more in the future. I never thought of butchering a hog at home. I just always thought we would bring ours (when we have one some day) to the butcher.
Thanks for sharing.


Mountain Home Quilts said...

We used to always have our hogs butchered professionally but of course, it cost money to have it done and for us, that meant we had to drive at least 1 hour (one way) to take it to be butchered, plus the kill fee and everything else. If you can do a buck, you can do a hog!
You guys can do it! Especially with your hunting Smith men!! :)

Kim said...

Good job! We just bought a half of a hog from a relative..we pick it up from the butcher next week. Someday I hope to have a spot for our own, but until then Uncle Joe's hogs will have to do!

I think I'm going to have to draw the line at head cheese though...*shudder*

lil red hen said...

I don't even know how I happened onto your blog, but this brought back so many memories. What happy times we had; usually Thanksgiving Day was our time to butcher when I was a child. There's nothing better than home cured ham. Also, I read about your quilts and the fair entries. I'm a quilter too and enter things in our county fair. I'd love to have you visit my blog, even though I am almost 70years old, I can still learn from you young women.

StitchinByTheLake said...

I remember hog butchering days from my childhood and I remember the scalding. Daddy had a big metal barrel - taller than I was at the time. He had a pulley rigged on the side of the barn and raised and lowered the hog with that, dipping it in and out of the water. blessings, marlene

Jill @ The Prairie Homestead said...

What a great post! And I appreciate your tip about the celery salt cure- we want to raise hogs in the future, but I was reluctant to use the chemical nitrates on the meat and was hoping to find a natural alternative! Thanks for sharing this at the Homestead Barn Hop. Hope to see you again next week!

Unknown said...

We're going to butcher our own for the first time this year. My husband just lent a hand to the fellow we cow share from to gain some experience in the process. He said it was much easier than doing a bull. They sent some scrapple home with him- that was new to us. He said it tasted like crab cakes, but couldn't get beyond what it was to eat the rest. I was too much of a girl to try. ;D

~ Janis said...

Hog head cheese is excellant.
I ate alot of it when I lived in rural Florida. I have no idea how to make it, but you can use old nylon stockings to drain it all.
Hog head cheese is excellant on a saltine! I am sure there are recipes on the Internet.
Come visit the herd when you have a chance:

Laura-Lisa said...

This was a great post! The pictures were very informative on how you were doing it. Did you use butcher knives or workshop tools to cut of the meat once you gutted it?

Christy said...

Super interesting - I would love to learn how to butcher a pig. My friend Butterpowered Bike just posted a head cheese "recipe" on her blog Hunger and Thirst. You should check it out.

Mountain Home Quilts said...

We just used butcher knives.
I'm off to check out that recipe- thanks!

marcia said...

Very interesting post. And so important to know where the food we eat comes from.

happy day!

Renata said...

This is very interesting! Thanks for showing us! I think it's good for kids to see where the meat comes from - ours have seen animals being cut up & they think it's normal (not that we've attempted it ourselves - we get a butcher or neighbour to help us). You did so well there - enjoy all that lovely meat!
Have a great day

Amanda said...

We live in town. I'm not sure what the regulations are for raising hogs, but we would LOVE to raise one.

What a lovely blog you have!

Jamie said...

I am so happy that you posted this,our son is loving this ans we are going ot move onto the Turkey post now.
I am a homeschooling mother of one boy,we live in Indiana and are learning to homestead.
Please feel free to stop on over and visit.

bucolic beauty said...

What a great post! We're currently raising 4 pigs that are scheduled to be butchered next Saturday. Since it's our first time(both raising and slaughtering), we have a mobile butcher coming to our home. I feel strange saying it but I'm rather excited. It's all part of the homesteading experience.

Gina said...

That is very impressive!!!!!!! My daughter asked me could I do that? I don't know but I have learned never say never. We bought three turkeys this year in hopes to have one for Thanksgiving and Christmas and give one away. I need to study your blog more.

Unknown said...


I have just ran across your wonderful blog and while reading this post it brought back such wonderful memories of this time of year. Every Spring when I was a little girl my daddy, grandpa and uncle would go to a neighboring town to pick out 3 yearly pigs which by fall would become LOTS of yummy treats. We never had Bacon but OH I remember the Country Hams we’d salt and cure. Granny gathered all the fat for her lard (Of course my mother and aunt’s was into Crisco and wouldn’t dare think of rendering lard) Might be why Granny’s cooking was 100% better than anyone elses…LOL They was meat taken to our local small town grocery store and butcher shop to be ground into sausage with my granny’s secret seasonings..Then all the ladies would Freeze and also fry the sausage patties up and can it to store in our old fashioned can house for the winter. NOW you asked about HEAD CHEESE? In these mtns of North Carolina we fondly know this as Liver Mush and YES I remember those PRIZE hog heads and livers getting cooked in our kitchen and seasoning added before forming the GOO as I call it into a loaf. Sorry I might be a MTN Girl but this is where I drew the line…LOL I am 43 years old today and everyone I mentioned in the process of the hogging as we use to call it is dead and gone now except for my daddy. OH how I miss my granny’s food cooked with that lard especially her 10 layered apple stack cakes at Christmas time. I make these today but I do so wish I could get my hands on REAL LARD to greese the cast iron skillets with. I envie you that you and your family have gone back to the ways of the land and if I can before the good lord calls me home I will have a small homestead/farm of my own.

May GOD bless you and yours,

Connie C

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