Thanksgiving was hog butchering day. I remember our family butchering on Thanksgiving from when I was a small child, too young to help. We continued the tradition until my Grandparents passed away in the mid ‘80’s. Granddad and Grandma would purchase pigs at the livestock auction in the spring. Raising the pigs was Grandma’s project. She would feed them a wet feed mixture twice daily along with corn on the cob. The weeds we pulled from the garden would also be carried to them. They would grow quickly and by Thanksgiving would normally weigh 225-275lbs.
When we were ready to begin Grandma would go in the house and turn up the radio so as not to hear the shots or the squeals if the shooting should go awry. Grandma’s attachment to her hogs ended once this part of the task was completed. Being the sturdy farmwife, she viewed the processing of her pets into the winters meat as just another part of life on the farm.
We actually did the butchering as a two day operation, Thursday we killed, scalded, scraped, hung, and gutted. Friday was reserved for cutting meat, grinding sausage, cooking lard, and applying the first of the sugar cure to the hams, shoulders, and bacons. Mom would refrigerate the sausage keeping it fresh until deer season the following week. She would always count on her successful hunters to provide venison burger to mix with the sausage and increase the lean content.
The old butcher kettle heating up for the hog scalding
Note the scalding barrel in the far right of the photo
With Thanksgiving being a very busy work day our family always postponed the traditional feast until Sunday. My brother’s wife continues this tradition, although we now call it the pre-Buck-season dinner. As for the butchering, I alone continue this tradition by purchasing a slaughter hog from market each winter. This year, as in past years since my mothers passing, my father will spend the day with my wife and I, and yes, we will have the “traditional” Butterball!
These photos were taken the Thanksgiving of 1971.