We shot and butchered our last “eating” pig today.
I don’t know why I’m choosing to call it that; I just can’t think how else to refer to it. Something about calling it an “eating” pig makes me feel like I should be speaking with a back-woods drawl and dropping the ‘g’ from all my present participles.
What differentiates this pig from the remaining two (other than the southern twang), is that the surviving two are our breeding pair, Bubble and Squeak.
Unlike all of their dozen or so predecessors, Bubble and Squeak will not be killed and eaten, but will live to reproduce–starting sometime this spring.
We have finished a number of pigs recently and doing so in the cold and snow, rather than the warm weather processing we were used to, required yet another learning curve of fairly sizable proportion.
While many of the steps are the same regardless of weather (separating, shooting, bleeding, sledding, and soaking), there is a marked difference in the ability to efficiently scrape the skin and hair off when the temperature is below 40 degrees.
Even in warm months, we submerge the pig into a 150 degree tub of water for about ten minutes of scalding to soften the skin and hair to make scraping easier. After this, the pig is lifted out of the hot water and placed on a table where the scraping resumes until the pig is completely (or almost completely) free of skin and hair.
In freezing weather, this doesn’t work. The moment the pig’s skin comes into contact with the frigid air, everything cools down and the skin won’t budge. The first time this happened, we decided to leave the entire pig submerged and scrape it while it was in the tub. This was tricky because it was difficult to keep our hands under the hot water and, after awhile, the part of the pig in contact with the bottom of the tub started to cook due to the sustained proximity to the heat source.
This was not only problematic, it was also gross. One does not want to start cooking say, a pig’s back, prior to evisceration and butchering. It’s just not right.
We learned that the solution was to leave the pig submerged, but to shut off the fire underneath the tub. This allowed us to scrape continuously without burning our hands and to maintain a nice, warm temperature surrounding the pig, thus making the job much easier (and decidedly less gross).
This worked beautifully today and the process, from start to finish, might have been one of the most simple and streamlined to date. I had the unusual luck of not having to participate much at all, since there were a number of people here who were bigger and more manly than I.
I am, for the record, reasonably manly.
Despite this, I got to cook for the boys while they did all the work. It was like Little House on the Prairie up in here. By the time they were done, the table was set and the food was hot and waiting for them and all they had to do was wash up and eat. It made me giggle. I felt like I should have been wearing an apron and clanging a dinner bell.
There is something really nice about feeding hungry men, I must admit. Maybe this is one of the reasons I went into the restaurant business in the first place…