Monday, September 13, 2010

Pig Butchering Day continued

Four quarters of pig are hanging in our shed. According to most sources, hanging meat for at least a few days after slaughter tenderizes the meat and improves overall quality, that is as long as the temperatures are low enough. Our nights have been nice and cool, in the low forties, however the days have been on the warm side, high sixties and sunny. Our shed is the coolest place on the property right now and the air temperature where the meat is hanging hasn't been higher than fifties. As it is I'll feel better once the meat is packaged and in the freezer. My brother is coming over tonight to cut the meat into individual cuts.

On Saturday we gathered and begin to prepare to kill and butcher the pigs. Overall it went very well. The best part was that one bullet from a 22 gun, shot in the right spot, dropped that pig quickly with hardly a grunt. The other pig hardly took notice. There were four men and myself right there with several onlookers, mostly kids overlooking the process with much interest from a little ways away. The pig flopped around for a few seconds before one of the guys straddled it and slit it's throat and I held the bucket to catch the fresh blood that gushed forth.  Then the guys tied ropes around the back legs and used a winch (I think?) to gradually pull the pig up into the air.

At this point we started scrubbing the pig with hot soapy water. There were five kids between the ages of six and twelve and they were all eager to help with the scrubbing process. Now for the complications. When I first arrived we set up the propane tank to heat up a large metal trashcan full of water. We used a hose to fill the can. The can leaked, not terribly but enough we didn't know how much water would still be in there once it reached temperature. We set up boards and plywood on top of sawhorses nearby in a nice level area to work at. The problem was that pig pen was located fifty yards away on a steep north facing slope and accessed by a narrow windy trail. There was no level place to set up the water or work table nearby. Nor did the men think they could drag the whole pig that distance, mostly because of the steepness of the hill. In all of my reading the scraping takes place right after the pig is killed. So after scrubbing the pig we carried a couple pots of boiling water over gradually poured the water over a small section of the pig. Using cake spatulas (which was the recommended tool), I attempted to scrape the pig while everyone looked on skeptically. It was not as easy as I thought.

The men were eager to get the pig gutted. I could see that my desire to want the pig scraped was holding everything up and no one seemed eager to get in on the scraping action - and it meant carrying pots of boiling water back and forth and creating a huge puddle of mud where we worked. So, I gave them the go ahead to do their thing. The gutting was simpler than I thought. I guess a pig is a moose is a bear is a huge chicken when it comes to gutting an animal; the main point being to remove the organs and intestines and butt hole without rupturing the intestines and spilling poop on the meat. So while no one had ever gutted a pig, it was fairly easy to tell what was what. The heart, liver and fat went into one bucket. Some of the intestines were saved, cleaned out and scraped for sausage making. And I thoroughly scrubbed the head, and have it in my fridge still...trying to work up the will to tackle it...

The pig was halved and quartered. Then we were able to move it to our work area. Here was another dilemma, try and scrape it now or just leave it, harry skin on to be skinned after hanging. I managed to get one ham mostly scraped, and while my water was boiling and I did everything as I'd read, it took a ton of elbow grease and effort to get that small section scraped. I didn't mind getting splattered in wet pig hair. I was however worried about the meat side of the pig sitting in this hot hairy pig water and it certainly did the  opposite of the general rule of thumb which is cool the meat down quickly. In addition the day was warm and sunny and the flies were out. The biggest actual mistake I made was in not bringing game bags or sheets to wrap the meat in. I ended up using garbage bags, I know, a big no no.Thankfully the meat was only in the bags for about an hour and a car ride home before we wrapped it in sheets and hung it.

The second pig went a little smoother. They were able to get the hose to reach  down the hill and the pig cleaned up nicer. They decided to just leave their pig hanging there in halves wrapped up in a sheet as well. At this point we stood around, a couple daring individuals cleaning and scraping the intestines, while discussing what to do with the heads and how much salt to add to the blood to keep it from coagulating. All in all a positive experience: pigs dyed quickly without much trauma, not much wasted, beautiful day and grownups and kids all getting in touch with our food. Pictures coming.


Bruce King said...

As far as scraping goes, I've scraped pigs right after slaughter, and a couple of hours after. Immediately after slaughter has worked out best for me. It does take some elbow grease, but less so if you get a good scald. It took me 3 hours to scald and scrape my first pig; rougly 45 minutes now using the boiling water method. maybe 20 minutes with immersion.

The garbage cans usually leak a little, but heating the can will usually seal smaller leaks. Otherwise a big pot of water or a metal bathtub -- which allows you to do immersion, too.

After scraping it's handy to have either a razor sharp knife, disposable razors or a small propane torch to singe those pesky hairs that didn't come off all that easily.

I'm guessing you read my post at -- what could I have said to make this easier for you? Did the spatulas work for you, or did you find yourself using something different?

Emily said...

Bruce, I did read your article and took along a printed copy of part of it to use as a guide. The cake spatulas seemed to work the best. I should have taken a razor and torch - I assumed incorrectly that if I needed razors my friend would have some laying around.

The trashcan only leaked worse after it was heated and was almost half empty by the time it reached a boil, so we were heating up pots on the stove as well, but it probably led to me being stingy on the water.

The main issue though was just location. The area where the pigs were killed was just not an easy work area. After the pig was cut into quarters I was hesitant to still try scraping because I was worried the meat would spoil or get contaminated with the hairy hot water. I could have insisted on taking the time to scrape the pig while it was hanging, and I was hoping to get everyone in on the whole scraping party thing - but it wasn't catching - so I gave up.

Last night my brother helped me cut the quarters into pieces and that went really well and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I do have one nice ham that is decently scraped. I've spent a lot of time on your site lately and as always, I appreciate the wealth of information you offer in addition to the extra advice, thanks again, Emily

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to the photos! I am also looking forward to talking my wife into getting a pig at some point. We just don't eat that much pork... Hank Shaw had did a little research on the meat hanging thing, link here:

I'm lucky, as I get to read Bruce's blog and drive past his farm twice a day! I always like seeing thing show up at his farm and then watching for it to get "blogged".

What are you going to do with the blood?


Emily said...

Adam, I wasn't quite up for doing anything with the blood myself, however one of my friends is making blood sausage and I hope to try some. He scraped the intestines as well. I watched and thought that I should save some of the intestines as well, but at that point in the day I just wasn't up for it. I felt silly buying natural pig casings from the store afterwards. I'll check out the hanging link, thanks, Emily