by Zelia E. Davis

From: Goshen Trails, Vol. 18, No. 2 - April, 1982
Printed by permission

In March, as soon as things greened up in the spring, we were so hungry for something fresh and green.  We could hardly wait to go green picking.  Armed with a dishpan or bucket and a paring knife, away we would go.  We would gather dandelions, sour dock, tongue grass, lamb's quarter, wild lettuce, wild mustard, poke and speckle dick.

After a time or two with Mamma, we learned what to pick.  These must all be young and tender.  They were washed well and cooked in salt water until tender, then drained and seasoned with bacon grease.  Some liked to put vinegar on theirs.  We always picked a lot of wild green onions which were so tedious to clean but were so good with the greens and cornbread.  Our brother Jim never would eat greens--said he had just as soon eat grass.

Butchering time was a long hard day.  It must be cold weather, so neighbors shared their labor with this important winter task.  A fire was started in the large wash kettles in the back yard, and plenty of hot water was ready to scald the hogs after killing so that that hair would come off.  The tables where the hogs were laid to scrape off the hair were made of washed boards on top of wooden horses.  The process was to shoot the hog, bleed it by cutting the throat, scald it in hot water, scrape it clean and then hang it up to cool.  Then the hog was cut up into different pieces such as hams, shoulders, sides, etc.    The fat was cut from the meat and rendered (cooked) in the big wash kettles and strained into five gallon lard stands (cans).  This was our pretty white lard that we used for shortening.  The skins were rendered in the oven, and this is what is called "cracklins," for cracklin' cornbread.  Cracklins were also used to make soap.

White the men were killing the hogs, the women were baking pies and preparing the vegetables for dinner.  The meat for dinner was generally the fresh liver.  To make sausage was a skill, because you had to know just how much fat to put into the lean trimmings to make it just right.  Sausage was mixed by hands that were scrubbed for surgery.  We made long narrow white bags (like stockings) from flour sacks and filled them with sausage to hang in the smokehouse for later use.  The hog's head was cleaned good and ground for souse or head cheese, or mincemeat.

To make souse, the meat from the hogs head was cooked and then ground, adding salt, pepper and a touch of sage.  It was then put into a bag and kept in a warm room, suspended like a jelly bag, until all the grease dripped out.  It was then hung in the smokehouse to get cold.  It was sliced for sandwiches and sometimes sliced and put in a crock of weak vinegar.

No canned mincemeat is half as delicious as what was homemade.  In it were chopped apples, raisins, currants, candied fruits, spices, fruit juices or cider, and man times Mamma cooked a beef neck to add to the pork along with a little suet.  When I now think about it, I am surprised that Papa bought some wind for the mincemeat for better flavor.  Papa was strong against drink, being a Deacon in church.

The backbones and ribs of the hogs were left with a lot of good meat on them.  The pig's feet were cleaned well, cooked and pickled in stone jars.  Nothing in our childhood tasted better.  The hams, shoulders and sides of bacon were salted down and later smoked with hickory wood for three days in the old smokehouse.

Sometimes we put fresh side pork in a salty brine to keep it for spring use.  I remember the salt pork was soaked in water awhile then dipped in flour and fired.  Delicious milk gravy was made from the grease it was fried in.

Papa killed a beef once a year and pork twice a year.  He usually killed a sheep, too, and part of it was put down in salt brine to be eaten in the spring.  It had to be soaked in water before using, to draw out the salt.

I love the story about Papa's father, Levi Daily.  One morning after smoking the meat, they noticed that during the night someone had gotten into their smokehouse and stolen some hams.  They decided to never tell it and just see what happened.  Quite a while later some farm neighbors were visiting them.  During the evening this farmer said, "Levi, did you ever find out who stole your hams?"  Levi answered, "Not until now".

See "Hog Killin' Time photo!

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