Monday, November 25, 2013

Southern Thanksgivings (In Times Past) Often Also Meant "Hog Killing Time" !

In most southern rural communities, in days gone by, the first cold snap signaled the annual hog killing season. Thanksgiving Day was one of the most popular days chosen for this event.  By then, the weather had fully changed and the meat would "keep " and not spoil in the heat.  It, also was a perfect time for friends and family to gather.

Hog Killings were a neighborhood affair with several families participating and reaping the benefits.  Because many families were very poor, the meat and other products that came from the hog killings were what got them through the long winters, without going hungry.  Every piece of the hog was prepared for consumption, including the head (hog head cheese or souse ) the snout, the tail, the feet, the brain, the intestines (chitterlings/chittlins) and the skin (cracklins). 
Lard ( used for cooking grease) was made from the fat of the hog. 
Often, lye soap was made using lard, water, and lye.

A great deal of arduous work was involved in the hog killing process.  From start to finish, it usually lasted all day.  Activities would start at the "crack of dawn" and sometimes, even before daylight.  People would come from all around and everyone played a part in the grand production. 

I grew up in the country and attended MANY hog killings, as a child.  Because one of the main people in the area who held the hog killings lived directly behind my house, every year, from very early on in my childhood, I had a front row seat to one of the most exciting events of the year.
The "festivities" would begin around the crack of dawn and continue well into the night.  Most of the night time activities were more socializing than anything. That's when the cracklins were made in the big black pot and sweet potatoes were roasted in the open fire.  Some people even popped popcorn.   I remember lots of stories ..lots of jokes ..lots of laughter ...and lots of FUN.  As Thanksgiving draws near, many fond memories of those days dance in my head.  They are memories that I will always carry with me and cherish dearly.

Crackling Cornbread (Cracklin' Bread)

Crackling Cornbread (Cracklin' Bread) 
1 c. cracklings 
1 1/2 c. cornmeal 
4 tbsp. flour 
1 tsp. salt... 
1 tsp. soda 
1 beaten egg 
 1 1/2 c. thick buttermilk 
1 tbsp. bacon fat 

Sift the dry ingredients together and then stir in the cracklings. 
Beat the egg in the buttermilk and add. 
Have melted fat in hot skillet and pour in batter. 
Bake at 450 degrees until brown.

 LISTEN to poem "Hog Killing Time"  ...........