October 26, 2003
Conducted by Joe Liles
We would have what you call hog killing days. We’d get up early in the morning. We’d put the water in the vat the evening before. Early in the morning, we’d build a fire under there. The water would get scalding hot. One, two, three dips, and it would be ready to scald. Just barely you would did your finger in there. It wouldn’t burn you, but it would be so hot you couldn’t make another dip.
Round daylight or shortly thereafter, we’d go to the hog pen. We would shoot the hog with the rifle. James was the rifleman. My father was mostly the sticking man. He’d stick ‘em in the throat and get the blood out. We’d drag one hog out of the pen and take him to the vat. Most of the time we’d have two, three, four hogs, and sometimes one or two for the neighbors. And we’d dress ‘em. Most of the time we’d have liver for dinner, from one of those hogs. Mother and them would be cleaning the chitterlings. We had no running water. They would have to take the water and pour it down through the chitterlings and get all that stuff out. They would turn ‘em wrong side out to clean ‘em. They’d soak ‘em so many days in salt water, and then we’d eat them.
Late in the afternoon, when it would start to getting cool, my father would cut them hogs up, salt ‘em down, and put ‘em in the box. Backbone, spareribs in one box. Hams, shoulders, and middlings in another box. He’d keep ‘em for about six weeks, and after that he would wash the meat and wash all that excess salt off. Hang it up to cure. And that is how we got our country ham.
You rub salt on ‘em when you first put ‘em in the box, but just before you hang ‘em up to dry, you’d rub pepper and a little sage on ‘em. That would give ‘em a certain kind of taste and help keep the skippers out. A skipper is a little worm. He’s not a maggot, but he’s a little worm that get in meat. He is something to destroy your meat. He didn’t have no kind of legs. I reckon he would ball up some kind of way, and he would hop and pop when you would lay those hams out in the sun.
The vat was a big wooden something about seven or eight foot long, about 3 ½ feet wide, about ten to twelve inches deep, with a metal bottom to it. The fire would come up on the metal, but you would have dirt piled to keep it from coming up the sides. You’d put the whole hog in there before you gutted him. When he was in there, you would have to shake him a little bit so he wouldn’t stick to that metal bottom. You’d have a chain under him. When the hair got to where you could pull it out good, you’d turn him on the other side and be picking that side. When they got loose enough on the other side, you’d pull him out on a platform and put another one in. Three or four of us would be finishing pulling that one while the two would be scalding the other. We had a pretty good little line set up.
The only thing you would throw away would be the hair and the hoofs. We’d keep the feet, the snoot, the ears, all that. Nothing wasted by the hair and the hoofs. Sometimes they’d take some of the hoofs and boil ‘em to get hog foot oil. That’s what you would rub your children in when they would get a cold or something or another. You’d rub it on their chests.