October/November was for hog killing – but only if it was cold enough. See, in the days before meat lockers, it had to be cold enough outside the pig to kill the parasites that naturally grow in the muscle, so that when the pig was slaughtered, the meat was safe to eat. Even then, most people cooked their pork chops and such well done, just in case.
But in October or November, Daddy’s brother would call and say that it was hog killing time and we’d load up in the car and drive from wherever we lived to west Georgia for the pageant. Most of the time, I went over to my other Grandma’s or Tot’s in town and stayed there, because if it was cold enough to kill parasite in a pig, it was cold enough to freeze a kid’s feet, face and hands no matter how much you covered up. I was just never a big fan of the process on account of the cold.
And the fact that Grandma had no indoor toilet, no central heat and no matter how much you had to ‘go’ in the night, that cold chamber pot would freeze a child’s butt right onto it if you sat on it all.
But the fact was, you didn’t really have to get out in the weather to know what was going on. From any of the 4 houses out on Grandma’s farm, you could stick your head – or just your nose – out the door and know what was going on. If you have to ask why, you’ve never been around when a pig was being laid open and either the hair was being burned off the skin (you can’t eat pig skin with hairs on it) – or the intestines (the chitlins) being cleaned and boiled in an iron pot. Talk about a witch’s brew. It had to smell worse than anything a witch could put together. Ask anybody who ever got near the smell, it’s something you never forget, but something that you’d really LIKE to.
But at the end of the weekend, the hog was chopped up into parts and most of it prepared for the smoke house, or already up in the smoke house. The sausage would be made during the week after we left because the meat had to be ground up. It’s true that you don’t really want to be involved in the sausage making process, because nothing gets thrown out, but a lot gets thrown into the grinder. But, with the right amount of sage and hot pepper and whatever else Uncle Boykin spiced up the sausage with, it was pretty tasty. I’ve never tasted sausage that I liked as well. There’s a lot to be said for eating sausage that the maker himself knew he was going to eat later. It‘s a pretty good bet there wouldn’t be non pig parts in it anyway.
The head cheese is something I don’t think I was ever offered and definitely never wanted. As someone once described it, head cheese contains “everything except the oink”. Use your imagination. Yes, that would be in it too.
Categories: Family Stories
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