Phoenix Bird


By bear777

I've been butchering hogs and cattle since I was a little feller with my dad. It took a long time before I had the courage to shoot a hog or cow, scrape or skin, and even dress an animal by myself. After I took that first step and got over my fear of messing up, I realized how simple it was to do. When I started all the work and watching that I did over the years and all the animals I helped with came back to me and I fell into the task like an old hand. This again proves that sometimes it's better to keep your mouth shut and your eyes and ears open - you will learn a lot of things that may one day save your life.

To begin, there are two ways to prepare a hog, whether it's tame or wild. They are 'scraped' and 'skinned'. To be honest I've never skinned a hog before; I have however skinned many cows, squirrels, rabbits, and groundhogs. I've talked to several people who have and they say it's almost like skinning a cow, except it's harder to get the skin started away from the meat.

The first thing you need to do is get a couple of 50 gallon barrels and fill one with water and bring it to a rapid boil adding burnt lime to the water (adding this will aid in the hair removal and causing it to come off easier). Safety note: When setting up your barrel, try to set it on old tire irons (at least three). If you don't have tire irons use concrete blocks or flat rocks. This will insure a level surface and will allow for the barrel when filled with water not to tip over or spill causing someone to get burned by fire, water or steam.

After the water is hot (we never used a thermometer - just fill of it carefully to see if you think it's hot enough to cause the hair to come off) you go and kill the hog. We've always shot our hogs with a 22-cal rifle. We used hollow point rounds because they brought the hog down quicker and without suffering to the animal. I was always taught to aim about an inch above the 'between the eyes' site - this is where the round will enter the brain. Remember that this applies to a domestic hog, not a wild hog. The wild hog has a harder head and a hard shell around the front shoulders, so if you shoot a wild one, use a larger caliber weapon, and try to hit behind the front shoulder into it's heart.

After the animal is down, the next step is to stick a knife into its throat to drain the blood (by allowing the blood to remain in the animal, it will settle back into the meat and make the meat tough). Then you take the hog to the water and place it on a pallet for scraping. Remember at the first I said to get two barrels, but only used one for the water. The second one is to be used to put the hog into and pour water over and let it set and turn over to allow for a larger hair area to be removed at one time. We would dig a hole in front of the pallet and then set the barrel at an angle, with the lip of the barrel setting on the pallet; this allowed for the hog to be put into the barrel easier.

After the hog has been removed then you can start scraping. We use knives to scrape the hog. We also have picked up so called special hog scrapers the slaughter houses use, but found that knives are better. You put the rear end of the hog into the barrel also. After the hair starts to come off, you pull it out and scrape it like the front side. After the hog has been scraped, you cut slits into the hind feet to allow for a swingletree or skinning rod to be inserted in under the ligaments and using a boom on a tractor lift up the hog. (Note, when scraping a hog, if you don't have another barrel then you can place a burlap sack or heavy blanket (the blanket will not be useable after this) over the area to be scraped, pour the hot water onto it and let it set for a short time. Then remove the cover and start scraping if the hair has started to come off. If these items are not available then you can pour the water directly over the hog; pour the water slowly so as not to allow the meat to cook).

After the hog has been lifted up off the ground, you clean the body of the hog with warm and cold water, getting all the dirt and missed hairs off. Note: if a tractor is not available with a boom, you can use a chain or rope hoist, or a piece of leather, rubber, or burlap placed over a stout limb and a rope thrown over it. Pull the hog up with a vehicle, 4-wheeler, or a bunch of men. Sometimes you need to burn some hairs off with a torch. After the hog is cleaned, then you need to take a sharp knife and cut around the neck, behind the ears and remove the head. After cutting around and into the hog there will remain the neck bone which needs to be broken loose. Have someone hold the hog's front legs, get the hog by its ears and twist it until it breaks loose. Then you can cut what skin that is holding it away, allowing the head to fall from the body. After cleaning the blood where the head was removed, you start gutting the hog. The first thing you do is to start at the rear end. You cut a slice in between the hind legs allowing the legs to part. Cut until you hit bone. Then place another knife onto the bone and hit it with a hammer until it cuts through, being careful not to cut a gut.

Next cut a deep cut around the rear end of the hog, cutting it away from the meat, pulling forward as you do until it has passed the bone you broke with the hammer. Take a string and tie the gut so as not to allow for excrement to escape. Put your hand under the skin on the belly and with a sharp knife cut all the way to the neck, being careful not to cut your hand or gut.

After this is done take the gut you tied and start pulling it forward. Cut the guts loose from the meat on the inside of the hog with your knife. Before you get down to the neck you will once again will have to take a knife and hammer to cut the front legs apart. With this done it will allow the guts to spill out into a pot or onto the ground if one's not available. After the guts are out remember to remove the heart and liver, and smelt all fat that can be used to render lard. Once the guts are out, remove all fat inside of the hog to render into lard also. The hog is then sliced down the back with a knife and then sawn into down the backbone with a meat saw. If a meat saw isn't available lay the hog on a table on its back, taking a sharp clean ax or hatchet to chop the ribs along the backbone. Then chop the front and back shoulder/ham bones in two allowing the two halves to separate.

After the two halves are separated you cut out the ribs. Then cut out a choice piece of meat from the backbone area near the hams called the butcher's choice. Next remove the tenderloin from the backbone, then cut the backbone loose from the hog and cut into small pieces. Cut the ham, middling and shoulder away from each other. This completes butchering of a hog.

What you do with the meat will depend upon the individual. Some may want to have the hams and shoulders sliced and the middling cut into bacon and fatback, or they may want to have the shoulders and part of the middling ground up into sausage. They may want the tenderloin sliced, and the backbones and ribs fixed for making a stew. My grandmother would boil a large pot of backbones and ribs and when they were done she would remove them from the liquid, add potatoes, onions and cabbage, and add the meat back later or put the meat in the oven and barbecue it. Man what good eating! If it were good cold winter weather, then people would cure the meat either with salt or sugar. Some folks smoked their meat, but we never did it this way, so I wouldn't know how to tell someone to do it. Maybe someone else knows how to smoke it.