The Crew: Buster, Jon, Uncle Rick, Me, Tater Tot, Dad, Uncle Dean, Wingnut, Alex, Jackson, Erik, Rob *DT is missing
Last Fall, on the day after Thanksgiving, while most Americans were participating in the vulgar ritual of conspicuous consumption known as "Black Friday", I had the pleasure of helping my family to butcher 3 hogs that my dad had been fattening up since the previous Spring. It was a lot of work, but it didn't seem hard working with brothers and cousins and uncles. I vaguely remembered butchering from when I was little, but that was almost 25 years ago. It was fun and gratifying to be involved in the process as an adult.
By the end of the second day, we had 6 hams, slabs of bacon, ribs, shoulders, a tub of chops, mountains of sausage, gritswurst, sackwurst, and a bucket of rendered lard. Everyone got to take some home, and there was a ton in my parents chest freezer. My uncle Dean smoked one of the shoulders for our Christmas get together. It was phenomenal. We've have the bacon a few times. It was good, fattier than most store bacon, but good none-the-less. My mom baked one of the hams for Easter. It was awesome. The sausage has made its way into breakfast and pizzas on multiple occasions. The lard makes the most amazing (if dietarily incorrect) fried chicken and pie crust. Theribs are going to be barbequed when school is over. As for Gritswurst, if you don't know what it is, then you haven't lived a full life.
All of the delicious food pales in comparison, though, to the great memories and sense of accomplishment that came from doing honest, meaningful work with friends and relatives. My children, who witnessed the entire process from start to finish, now have an understanding and appreciation for where their food comes from that virtually none of their peers do. Our culture's disconnect from the source of our sustenance is one of a handful of issues that form the root of most of the problems we face as a society. Giving my kids the chance to experience this sort of thing connects them to our family's history, and gives them the grounding they will need to thrive in a future where we will have a much more visceral connection to our food. I sincerely hope that butcher day (and things like it) be come a more regular feature of our family's life.
The kettles were cooking early in the morning
The hogs were hung from a tree for skinning
Rob is trimming out a slab of ribs
The cuts of meat awaiting packaging
DT prepping a ham for wrapping
Yours truly sewing up a ham so it can hang and cure
Some of the fruits of our labor