Last year on the day after Thanksgiving, my family revived a tradition that I remembered from my childhood: A family hog butchering. We hadn't done one in 20+ years, and it was a ton of fun. I was happy earlier this year when my dad talked about making plans to butcher again this year. We butchered 4 hogs this year instead of 3. It made for a full 1 1/2 days of work, even though we had a local processor kill and gut them for us. In spite of all that had to be done, it didn't feel like hard work, and it certainly wasn't drudgery. Instead, it was a day of telling jokes and old stories, giving each other a hard time, and doing meaningful work together. Und viel Deutsch gesprochen wurde. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't easy. Friday lasted from 6:30am to 9:30pm. By 10pm, we were tired. But it was gratifying to know what we had accomplished.
This year's work netted us the following: 8 hams, 8 huge slabs of bacon, 60 lbs of pork steaks, a tub of pork chops, 4 big packs of tenderloin, 175 lbs of pork sausage, a few ham shank roasts, 9 sticks of liverwurst, about 100 lbs of gritswurst, and 4 1/2 gallons of snow white lard. Not too shabby, if you ask me.
Herrick Kimball's awesome blog, The Deliberate Agrarian, had a bit about a webpage for the Virtz family who held an annual hog butchering. Mr.Kimball noted that all of the photos appeared to be circa the 70's or early 80's, and also that there were virtually no boys in the pictures, only grown men. When he contacted the family to see if they still butchered, they said that they hadn't done so since 1998. If the younger generation isn't taught how to do things and made a part of family traditions, then those traditions will die with the last people who learned them as children. I mentioned last year that I hoped this would become a regular event with my family. If we keep this up, instead of saying "I remember back when I was a kid..." my children will be able to say, "Butchering? We've done this ever since I was a kid..."
My mother wasn't her usual shutterbug self this year, so unfortunately there aren't the plethora of pictures like last time. I'll leave you with a picture of this morning's breakfast: 'Burbstead eggs, homemade bread with my brother's apple butter, and fresh gritswurst. Delicious!