Monday, July 21, 2008

The Pig and I

Much has happened since my last cryptic post on Thursday. Friday of course was our planned slaughter day for the first pig. The whole week was a busy blur. We were trying to finish building and painting of the slaughter house/milk shed all week. By the time my cohorts arrived Friday afternoon for the pig slaughter we had finished all essentials but one: How to raise the pig. I had purchased a winch, but it didn't look like it was going to work well for our set up. So TS (I will use initials to protect the innocent) ran to the store to get a "come-along", and this ended up working fine.

We (or I) had had many plans over the days on how to get the pig near the slaughter house, but finally we decided to simply kill near the pigs pen in a small holding area, and then transport the carcass via my pick-up to the shed.

We lured the pig out of the pen and shut the gate. We had bowl of peanuts waiting, but the pig was more interested in the grass. Finally she came around, and I had my shot with my .22 Henry. I took it. The pig jumped back and started squealing and crying, (bleeding a bit) but didn't go down. The bruise on her forehead looked to be in the right spot, but apparently wasn't.

I retreated to the small pig pen and reloaded. The pig sounded angry, but now I understand that it was just hurt. The other two large pigs ran to the gate and cried with the shot pig.

I guess just as I took the first shot, my neighbor drove up to talk to the boys about work. When the first shot didn't take, my son asked my neighbor (whose killed hundreds of hogs in his 87 years) what to do. "Hit him again", he cried with a big grin. (I spoke with him on Saturday and he assured me that a miss had happened to him occasionally too-but he was still grinning!)

Well, that's what I did. About an inch lower, I took aim and shot. This time she went down instantaneously. TS and CT entered the holding area, and CT stuck the pig, (he was prepared to collect the blood for sausage, but we couldn't gather enough due to the first shot injury.)

We lifted the pig into the pickup after bleeding.

I had thought this pig was about 230 lbs., the smallest of the three-but I think I was mistaken. She must have been at least 250 lbs. if not more. Five of us struggled mightily.

The skinning started in the bed of the truck, with CT taking the lead. I was thankful for his leadership at this point, for my adrenaline was still going.

We brought the pig into the shed and hooked her up and raised her and proceeded with the skinning. This took longer than expected and was harder than the books portrayed. It didn't come off (and certainly didn't peel) as we expected. However, we did a good job; next time it should take half as long or less.

During this time, my boys (and Mrs. Curley) served as runners, picking up hack saw blades, ice-anything we had forgotten.

The shed is approximately 8' x 8'. I had brought out the window AC unit from our bedroom and we had a bath tub on one end with 3 fifty-pound blocks of ice. Later, we would add 100 lbs more of bagged ice. Still, the temperature in the shed, with 3 of us working stayed in the upper 70's. (At 5:30 AM the following morning with lights off and humans gone, the temperature reached a low of 66 F.) Obviously it was too warm to hang the pig overnight. So after skinning, eviscerating, and sawing in half, we wrapped each half in cheese cloth and put it on ice in the tub.

We finished at about 11:45 PM - having started with the first shot at 6:30 PM. A long day. We sat up for 2 hours drinking Guinness and re-capping the evening's events.

In the morning, after a hardy breakfast from Mrs. Curley, we butchered the pig. CT had brought a great book from the library Home Butchering and Meat Preservation by Geeta Dardick (circa 1986). It was an invaluable guide and much more detailed than the two pig books I had. This book covered goats and small game as well as pigs. It is on my short list of books to get.

I spent most of the butchering observing, wrapping meat as it became available and trimming for sausage. Mrs. Curley also helped wrap much of the meat. (We decided to butcher in our dining room after covering everything with kraft paper-having running water and utensils convenient.)

We started at 10:00 AM and my cohorts were on the road by about 2:30-not bad. A lot of pork. We didn't salt any for ham, but will do some bacon.

A book I have said that slaughter and butcher of a pig can take a family the better part of two days. It is very true.

We cooked up the small ham for dinner last night. We were excited and pleased with the results!

Earlier on Sunday a neighboring farmer came by with a truckload of watermelons he had which were smaller and too old to sell. He thought our pigs might like them!

I don't know how to end this post other than to say that God had blessed us greatly!

Oremus pro invicem!


TS said...

I had no idea it took that much time and effort to kill and skin a pig. Interesting read.

Jim Curley said...

It's not supposed take so long. Ideally Friday night should have taken no more than 2 hours: next time I think we can do it in under 3 hours. Saturday went pretty much as it should. (Of course a professional, with bandsaws, etc would go right through it faster.)

geeta dardick said...

I am so glad you found my book, Home Butchering and Meat Preservation, so useful. It is 20 years since my husband Sam and I wrote and illustrated that book, and the good news is that it is still in print in Australia and New Zealand; however, it is out of print in the USA, but there are lots of copies on the net. I like to say that it is the only "high conciousness" butchering book ever written.

Jim Curley said...

Wow! thanks to you and Sam for writing it. My friend got his copy out of the library-but since then I bought a used one on the net and was just reading it tonight as we have some goats which are about ready.

You say it is out of print in the USA-do you own the rights and would you like to see it back in print in the US?

If so, contact me via email by clicking on the "email me" at sidebar at the top right.

I think your book is the best on the subject we've seen.